82 Record of Discussion Between Fraser and Muldoon

Christchurch, 11 February 1980

SECRET NEW ZEALAND EYES ONLY

[matter omitted]1

  1. MR MULDOON referred to bilateral talks on economic relations and wondered what the Australians thought about the chats which were to take place a month from then.
  2. MR FRASER replied that before the two Prime Ministers met they would want to be sure that the real groundwork had been laid. When they got together on the economic thing they had to have made some substantive progress. He could see value in a further round of official talks and of the Prime Ministers' meeting a little later. But mischief could be made if the Prime Ministers met without real progress. Not enough work had been done yet. He wanted the Permanent Heads from the two countries to get together and then their work could be reviewed. There followed a brief exchange on the way the work was to be organised.
  3. MR MULDOON emphasised the impression should not be given that the talks were coming to grief. In his view, the best thing was to get the date for the Prime Ministers' meeting firm without commenting any further on the substance. They could say at the press conference that people were being asked to work harder, to raise the tempo. There were a lot of journalists on both sides of the Tasman who were only too willing to stir up trouble.
  4. MR FRASER agreed. There were two problems. There was the potential problem of holding the meeting a little later. On the Australian side they were not firm on the answer to this. The second problem, was the need to make progress before the Prime Ministers' meeting, because if no progress could be shown--of course no one was expecting a revolution-it would be put around that officials got on very well together but the whole thing blew apart as soon as Fraser and Muldoon got involved.
  5. MR MULDOON said that what Mr Fraser had said was entirely consistent with his own view. The press could be told the two Prime Ministers were going to meet to determine areas on which more work should be done. They would not be making decisions but would be giving directions, looking towards the subsequent meeting. In his view there was no problem about it all and he did not think there was even a need to disclose specific areas in which officials would be studying.
  6. MR FRASER thought there would be, at least on the Australian side, great pressure to disclose the areas.
  7. MR MULDOON felt that in that case it would be said a number of areas had been looked at, some of which had shown possibilities, others which were no good and would have to be forgotten. If the clash with the ANZUS meeting was a problem for Permanent Heads, Prime Ministers could of course put off the meeting for a month. However, he was conscious that the election thing would be a problem for Mr Fraser. All in all, he thought the sooner they had the meeting the better it would be.

[ABHS 950/Box 1607, 59/203/2 Part 7 Archives New Zealand/Te Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga 0 Aotearoa, Head Office, Wellington]