28 Brief by Ashwin for Henderson

Canberra, 18 September 1979

CONFIDENTIAL

Subject-Call on Mr Scully

You are to call on Mr Scully at 3.00pm this afternoon to discuss matters relevant to the current exercise on closer economic co-operation with New Zealand.

[matter omitted]

Interdepartmental Consideration

[matter omitted]

  1. Paste your doc7. On 7 June in reply to an earlier letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs about interdepartmental arrangements for handling the closer co-operation exercise, the Prime Minister said that he did not wish to set up any formal interdepartmental machinery until after the New Zealand preliminary study had been received.1 As the New Zealand study has still not been completed and there is less than month left before senior officials discussions and only several months in which to submit a report to Ministers before the Christmas break, Foreign Affairs would see merit in the establishment of formal interdepartmental machinery now. We could expect that, in view of the close interest of the Prime Minister and the broad policy implications of the exercise, similar arrangements should be established to those set up in Wellington-i.e. a broad based IDC chaired by the Prime Minister's Department.
  2. Despite the close interest of our Minister and this Department in the exercise, we were not consulted by PM&C on the terms of the Prime Minister's reply2 to Mr Muldoon's letter of 16 August, about public presentation. We feel this would not have happened if there were some formal framework for interdepartmental consultation. Although we had no difficulties with the reply we believe the implications of the exercise for your and the Department's responsibilities mean that we should be fully consulted on all future correspondence and other developments.

Co-ordination in Wellington

  1. You are aware of Mr Border's strong views about STR's using the Trade Commissioner in Wellington as the channel of communication with the New Zealand Government on closer economic co-operation. Apart from co-ordination difficulties to which this practice gave rise (compounded by the fact that most of the contact is by telephone so leaving most Departments in Canberra as well as the High Commissioner in the dark), Mr Border was concerned that this could give rise to misunderstandings in the New Zealand Government about the focus of the exercise. Border believes the matter should be handled at the highest political level so as not to leave the impression that it is simply another trade negotiation by trade officials. This means keeping Ministers, particularly the two Prime Ministers, in contact and ensuring that the regular channel of communication is the Australian Government's senior representative in Wellington. We share Mr Border's views on this matter. In a telephone conversation last week, he indicated that he was fairly well satisfied with the latest arrangements; he was being telephoned regularly by Mr Flood and Mr Gates, the Trade Commissioner, was being telephoned by Mr Anderson, an FAS in STR. No doubt Mr Border and Mr Flood will establish a close rapport during the latter's present visit to Wellington but we need to ensure that Mr Border continues to be the main channel of communication.
  2. You might also wish to flag with Mr Scully the desirability of conducting business through the Diplomatic Communications network so that interested Departments are consulted and informed of all developments.
  3. As we need to prepare urgently a brief for possible discussions between the Minister and Mr Talboys3 in New York on closer association, we would appreciate early advice of the results of your discussion with Mr Scully.4

[NAA: Al838, 37011/19/18, v]