Witness Seminars

The Contemporary Histories Research Group includes, among its research interests, the role of witnessing events and provision of testimony. One way in which we can explore the human presence in recent events is to gather witnesses who were directly or indirectly involved in particular historical episodes, and invite discussion of their recollections. A Witness Seminar, as has been used by different groups of historians around the world, seeks to do this.

Witness Seminar Transcripts

These are the transcripts, as seen and agreed by participants involved, of a ‘witness seminar’ held at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus, Geelong, on 1 October 2014, as part of a conference on the History of Australia’s diplomatic representation in the United States.  These transcripts accompany further research now gathered in a book published by ANU Press: David Lowe, David Lee and Carl Bridge (eds), Australia Goes to Washington: 75 years of Australian Representation in the United States, 1940-2015 (2016).

The format was to invite groups of Australian diplomats who formerly served in Australia’s Embassy in Washington to reflect on their times, facilitated by senior journalist and former Washington correspondent, Jim Middleton.

The contemporary appointments (in Washington) of speakers on the panels were:

Ms Virginia Grenville, Minister-Counsellor (Agriculture) 2000-3
Mr John McCarthy, Ambassador, 1995-97
Ms Zorica McCarthy, Office of National Assessment liaison officer, early 1990s
Ms Meg McDonald, Deputy Chief of Mission, 1998-2002
Mr Tim McDonald, Deputy Chief of Mission, 1984-87
Mr Alistair Maclean, First Secretary and later Counsellor (Commercial), 1997-2001
Mr Jim Middleton, Chief Political Correspondent and Political Editor ABC TV News 1988-2007 and North American correspondent, 1980-86.
Air Vice-Marshall Kym Osley, Head of Australian Defence Staff, 2008-10
Ms Tanya Smith, Minister-Counsellor (Congressional Liaison) 2002-5

Those asking questions and offering comments from the floor were:

Emeritus Prof James Cotton (UNSW, ADFA)
Prof James Curran (Sydney)
Professor Joan Beaumont (ANU)
Assoc Prof Frank Bongiorno (ANU)
Dr Peter Edwards, (Deakin, honorary)
Mr Jeremy Hearder (DFAT, Historical Publications and Research)
Dr David Lee (DFAT, Historical Publications and Research)
Prof David Lowe (Deakin)
Prof Derek McDougall (Melbourne, honorary)
Dr Craig Snyder (Deakin)


PANEL: Jim Middleton, John McCarthy, Tim McDonald, Zorica McCarthy, Meg McDonald, Alistair Maclean.

[8] Jim Middleton: This is not going to be all about me, but to kick things off, I’ll give you a little bit of background. I was fortunate to be in the United States for a couple of, what I regard as, the breaking points in both politics and the relationship between. Courtesy of John Howard, I happened to be in Washington on September 11, 2001. I looked out the window and the secret service agent pointed out that the Pentagon was going up in flames, and we could see smoke across from the Washington monument. That clearly changed our relations in a particularly poignant way, bringing security back into focus and also, subsequently, trade. But I was also posted to the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] for the years of 1980 and 1986 where the transcendental influence of Ronald Reagan changed things significantly. Also, it was the cathartic climax of the Cold War, Gorbachev and so on. But also, in terms of Australia-US relations, it was the end of Fraser years, the crisis in ANZUS [Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty], the arrival of AUSMIN [Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation] eventually, and from my memory, it was the beginning of a much, much greater emphasis on trade, and contests about trade, than had been the case in the 1960s and 1970s. I seemed to be writing forever and again stories about arguments over access to Australian agricultural products to the United States and disputes about wheat, beef and meat substitution. It was a period of great change. Now, John [McCarthy] was here in Washington in one of the most cathartic moments in the relationship. In 1973-75, just after the arrival of the Whitlam Government and the winding down of the Vietnam War and Watergate drastically affecting Nixon’s presidency. I was wondering if you could give us a sense of what it was like to be in the Embassy at that time, which was a period of considerable change, uncertainty, and there was also a lack of preparedness it seems on both sides for what was occurring in the relationship.

[9] John McCarthy: OK, thanks Jim. I was in the political section and I was doing what we all did in those days: a chunk of foreign policy aspects dealing with U.S. policy towards roughly one-third of the world. I wasn’t directly involved in the bilateral issues between Australia and the United States. Those that were most involved were above all the Ambassador James Plimsoll, the number two, and I suspect although I wasn’t probably drawn into those discussions, quite obviously the Chief of Defence staff in the Embassy. Look, the comments I can make are very general, but I think they are probably reasonably right. First off, as is almost always the case amongst political staff in Washington, there is a concern that what Canberra does will be embarrassing or somehow upset the Americans. In all the three periods I’ve been in Washington that has been a concern in the Embassy in Washington. I think it is part of the fact that you are so absorbed in the atmosphere of the city and are so impressed with the people with whom you are dealing, that there is a tendency to sometimes forget whom you actually represent. I think I’m right on that. I’ve seen it three times and I’ve seen evidence of it plenty of other times.  I think this was particularly marked when the Government changed and Whitlam came in. It is hard for us now to see just how radical a shift Whitlam was. The difference in foreign policy between Labor and the Coalition was actually very slight in the details, particularly on alliance issues. Whereas during the Vietnam War it was very severe and you had, on the Labor side, Whitlam as a genuine, free-thinking intellectual of the [Hugh] Gaitskell-like mould. A type of Labor politician in Australia that was not very well known [in the United States] at that time, and you had a hard Right, not hard Right by today’s standards, but nonetheless a very conservative Nixon administration. So, when the change [Whitlam becoming Prime Minister] occurred it was really very severe because these were two countries that basically worked very closely together and our Embassy in Washington worked very closely with the United States. Then, all of a sudden, these statements came out of Canberra that were totally at odds with anything we’d being hearing for the previous 50 years or so. It was very difficult for the people having to deal with it. Now, those that I remember most acutely were watching Sir James Plimsoll, a man of extraordinary intent and decency but quite clearly seriously worried about what was happening in the relationship. We, in the lower reaches of the Embassy, didn’t know all the details but we knew he was very tired, very anxious. He was a man who, if things were going badly, got very tense and didn’t sleep. He came into meetings and we all noticed it. This clear-cut intellect coming through and at the same time, tension, banging the table, hitting his head with nervousness, which I remember. But, nonetheless, he had that capacity to get through to very, very senior levels of the American Government because he was so respected personally. Where this question – coming back to the way the Embassy in Washington tends to see the relationship with the Americans – that was another very clear aspect of what I saw there. And although I wasn’t working directly on it, the Watergate issue was evolving before our eyes. It was very clear to people reading the Washington Post and the New York Times, that there was a momentum growing, that was going to lead to something very bad, particularly towards the end when impeachment began. At that time, there was a tendency in the upper reaches of the Embassy, particularly at Deputy level, but also at Ambassadorial level, not to report the sense that all Americans were perceiving the demise of the Administration. There was a suggestion we shouldn’t really report in those terms to Canberra.

[10] Jim: Just to interject, why do you think that was?

[11] John: I think one reason was that it was partly seen as disloyal. I think the other was, and this is a problem the Embassy has had all along until probably the 1980s, they may still have it to some degree, I’m not sure, but there was a tendency very much to see things how the Administration looked at issues rather than the way that Congress looked at issues. I think that changed over the period and I think that was more of a tendency of those dealing with political issues than those dealing with trade issues. Nonetheless, it’s certainly a point I remember. The Officer, if the University cares to call him, who was dealing these issues at the time, was Peter Timmins in Sydney and he has long left the Department. He’d be able to help on that.

[12] Tim McDonald: If I could just add to that, John I was talking to Peter recently about the pressure on the Administration and Plimsoll. The latter said to him, “the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, has said that he is not involved, that he has not been dishonest, and we must accept that as the basis of our reporting.”

[13] John: I think it’s collateral. If the University or the report writers want to get more background, Peter is a very good person to talk to on that. But nonetheless, those are the two things I remember the most about my time there in that first period at the end of the Vietnam War: the change with Gough Whitlam coming in; and Watergate, all those things together. By the way, the end of the Vietnam War was something which preoccupied the Embassy very considerably for a few months but I think it was more than just discovering what was going on, and what was going to happen in the future. I don’t think there were particular concerns with the Americans in that 1975 period. It was more when the Government changed and Whitlam came in.

[14] Jim: Well, Tim, the Government changed, too, in the early 1980s and quite drastically. There were, in terms of the relationship, because of the existence of ANZUS and because of the New Zealanders in particular, it created significant strains and tensions. But also on the Australian side, too, because of nuclear ships as well, and MX missile tests and various other things. To what extent do you think the Embassy had changed in the way it dealt with the U.S. Administration by the time that crisis came along, by comparison with what John [McCarthy] had just recounted?

[15] Tim: I think it was a complete contrast, because there’s no doubt the Hawke Government was actually welcome in Washington. Notwithstanding the fact that Reagan was a conservative President, Hawke had excellent relations with a number of senior members like George Shultz, in particular, Casper Weinberger and others. And he used those relationships to great effect. Hawke also had a very clear concept about the importance of the U.S.-Australia relationship and that nothing should be done to diminish it. Throughout the ANZUS crisis, Hawke in particular, played a very deft hand, which I think was appreciated by the Administration. There were internal conflicts within the Labor Party to deal with. There was the left-wing of the Labor Party who were supportive of New Zealand. The job of Bill Hayden, who had a problematic relationship, let us say, with Bob Hawke, was to deal with this.

[16] Jim: I was going to ask about that in a little while but we may as well deal with it now. How difficult was it for the Embassy at that time to have always what seemed, in effect, two people trying to run foreign policy? And how did the Embassy deal, apart from diplomatically, of course, with that conflict?

[17] Tim: Let me give you an anecdote. Before I went to Washington, I did the usual round in Canberra and any fool could have told you there was conflict between Hayden and Hawke. There were all sorts of issues including at personal levels but I received a strong impression they were working together in a professional way. When I first got to Washington, one of the first people I looked up was a chap, let us call “C”. I had developed a close professional and personal relationship with “C” in previous postings. “C” at that stage worked directly to [William J. Casey] who was director of the CIA. He came around for dinner one night. After dinner he said to me, “Tim, what’s this all about? Hawke and Hayden, is this going to be an unstable Government?” So I said, deliberately, for it to be fed to the system, “C, look, it’s public knowledge that they don’t get on well, they have their personal differences but they are working together in a professional way and there’s a de-facto division of responsibility if you like. But Hawke is going to be primarily responsible for the relationship with the United States and Hayden will have a supporting role. Hayden’s role is to keep the left-wing of the Labor Party under control while Hawke goes about the role of managing the U.S. relationship.” By that means, and I use this in illustration of how the diplomat at the coalface can get a message through to the Administration via entirely informal channels that may have greater impact than any official statement reports. Throughout the two years of the ANZUS crisis there were notable examples of this conflict… Well, not exactly conflict, but differences of approach by Hawke and Hayden. Hayden didn’t get on at all well with Shultz; Hawke was a bosom pal of Shultz.

[18] Jim: Didn’t he call him “the Dresden Pork Butcher” or something or other, that was one of Hayden’s comments about Shultz?

[19] Tim: At one stage Hayden wrote a personal letter to Shultz… sorry, to Hawke, complaining about Shultz’s treatment of him: how badly he had dealt with him; how rude he was and how unreceptive he was. I never saw the reply from Hawke, perhaps there wasn’t one. Hayden was on board with the official line on ANZUS, fully in cooperation with the Hawke script, based on a meeting between him, Beazley, who was Minister for Defence, and Hawke. It was an enunciation of Australian interests as ally to be protected, and their policy towards New Zealand. The ANZUS issue in the end was resolved to our satisfaction. Hayden in his allotted task, which I described to C, and Hayden’s role in placating the left-wing of the Labor Party was successful. He played a clever game there as Hawke played a clever game with the U.S. Administration. Hayden put great emphasis on disarmament, nuclear controls, the renegotiation of joint facilities agreements, and the South Pacific nuclear free zone. All three to an extent got mixed up with the ANZUS crisis but, in the end, the resolution to the ANZUS crisis was achieved without reference to those issues.

We had, however, some really knock-down, drag-out fights with the Americans over arms control and, particularly, the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. I remember battles with Richard Perle, “the Prince of Darkness” as he was called in the Ministry of Defence at that time, who didn’t always see eye to eye with [Secretary of Defense] Caspar Weinberger. This, of course, raises another element of representation in Washington if I may digress a little bit, identifying and working the differences. Throughout the ANZUS crisis, in New Zealand it was particularly apparent that there was a gap between the political level and the official level. The official level had unrealistic expectations of what was possible to achieve and didn’t read the signs well at the political level. In the United States there wasn’t so much a division of actual policy in relation to New Zealand but divisions on how far the negotiations should be allowed to go. We worked with the official level to persuade the U.S. Administration to be guided by the Australian policy of not punishing the New Zealanders, being patient, allowing time to work something out, letting every opportunity be exhausted, which worked its way up to policy makers. We worked through CINCPAC [Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet] and through [Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs] Rich[ard] Armitage in the Pentagon, who were helpful, and Perle and Weinberger who took a harder line. The State Department was by and large on side, but George Shultz was taking a harder line. We worked with the National Security Council, who very often were the arbitrators when there was division between the different agencies. The inter-agency process had to be experienced to be believed, and to be involved in, extraordinary.

To come back to the role of personal relationships and diplomacy, and throw in an anecdote about the National Security Council, it’s just a decider, sometimes very difficult and occasionally quite important. On the way to Washington, I went through New Zealand. There happened to be an old friend of mine that I’d worked with in [New] Delhi. He had moved out of foreign affairs and was now working directly with [New Zealand Prime Minister David] Lange and this was before the New Zealand election. The New Zealand Labor Party policy, on visits by nuclear-armed ships, was being booted around in the Labor Party and shaping as official policy. I asked, “is this for real, is it going to happen?” He said, “I can assure you it’s going to happen. There’s not going to be any turning back. They are going to do it. They can’t afford not to. The Party is convinced of this. They’ve got public opinion on this. If they get into Government, prepare for a heavy ride.”

I guess I took that to Washington with me as background, and in negotiations that I was involved in over the next two years. And then, when I got to Washington, again I ran into Clair George, and I ran into another old friend whom I met in Delhi, Bill Brown. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for East Asia and the Pacific. That gave me some personal entree into their thinking; not that the Americans were ever withholding from us over ANZUS. They took us into their confidence all the way along. If it had been something where our interests were clashing notably, any amount of personal entree wouldn’t have made a great deal of difference, though it did help in establishing rapport. But coming back to my anecdote, I carried into Washington the assessment of this friend in New Zealand who was connected to Lange, I went to see a chap called David Laux, who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia Pacific in the NSC [National Security Council]. He said the Administration were very worried about the direction that Lange was taking the New Zealand Labor Party. I relayed what I’d learnt, which didn’t allay his apprehensions at all. Something he said struck me and stayed with me throughout the whole thing. As we walked down the corridor, he had to escort me out for security reasons, he turned to me and he said, “Tim, you know I’m a bit reminded of that scene in the film of Watergate, what was it called?”

[20] Jim: All the President’s Men.

[21]Tim: Yes, All the President’s Men. [Bob] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein. The two journalists go to see Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee. They’ve got all this information on Watergate and they want to publish it and Bradlee says to them “well you’d better have this right, because we are dealing with the Presidency of the United States.” And David Laux said to me “we’d better get this right because we are dealing with the future of ANZUS.” That was the background against which the whole negotiation would take place. The Americans knew, we knew, it was probably fairly obvious in a way. But that was it. We were dealing with the future of ANZUS and that was its significance. It was that important. One could go on about the way in which Australian policy was very centred on the preservation of ANZUS. New Zealand membership was sacrificial, if you like. We didn’t believe in the New Zealand policy. It caused great worry for the Hawke Labor Government because of some internal left-wing pressure within the Labor Party to have a deal with the American Administration, which might be as good as the New Zealanders to prevent the visit by US nuclear-armed ships to Australian ports. So, all the while we were at great pains to make sure the Americans remained strong on their policy of “neither confirm nor deny” [NCND] doctrine. They didn’t give anything away that would embarrass us.

The personal relationship between Lange and Hawke was abysmal. They had a meeting in Papua New Guinea not long after Lange became Prime Minister. It was a disaster and Hawke came away with a very low opinion of him, which I think was carried through the negotiation. There is another anecdote that sticks in my mind, too, which emphasises this point that Australia was very intent on protecting ANZUS and its whole position on NCND. The latter put us in the same corner as the Americans, which was enormously helpful to us in Washington. We had a public position, one that was rather softer than that. You know: “we’re not part of all this”; “it’s up to the U.S. and the New Zealanders to work out”; “we don’t want to be seeing the U.S. punishing the New Zealanders”; “we want to give time for things to work themselves through”. The official position was actually quite a bit tougher and that was brought home to me one day when the head of Pol Mil [Bureau of Political-Military Affairs] in the State Department came back from Australia in the midst of the crisis. I saw him to get a run-down on it. It was often easier to find out what happened in bilateral meetings from the Americans than it was from Canberra. So I asked, “how did it all go?” And he said, “I’m a little bit puzzled with this. I was very flattered to be invited into the cabinet meeting, where I got the official position that I understand quite well. I was very flattered to be talked to, and I came away thinking I had the position fully covered. But the Prime Minister took it upon himself to walk me out to the car. As I got into the car, he stood at the door and he’s put his head in the door and he’s said, ‘don’t you let that bastard Lange get away with the bloody thing, will you’.” He asked me, “is that the [Australian Government’s] official position?” I said, “well, the Prime Minister’s said it, it’s got to be the official position.”

[22] Jim: It’s very nice to have confirmed what I always felt, which was that Bob Hawke and David Lange were never made from the same planet. So, Tim, on the basis of what you’ve been saying, I was wondering if there’s anyone else here who could add to this account of what it was like working the relationship at a time of this very considerable crisis over ANZUS, among other things: either directly in relation to those security issues or, indeed, in working in others’ areas or other parts of the relationship?

[23] David Lee: Can I ask Mr McDonald a question? Just on the MX Missile Crisis, do you have recollection of how there was a big crisis in the beginning of 1985 when news of the MX missile testing was revealed, then Mr. Hawke went to Washington early in February 1985? Was there anything done by the Embassy to help resolve the MX crisis?

[24]Tim: There was a bit done by the Embassy. The really critical moment was when Hawke came and he left Canberra just as the MX missile crisis was, no pun intended, politically “exploding” in Australia. Hawke came to Washington. The [Australian] Ambassador [to the U.S.] Rawdon Dalrymple organised a dinner for Hawke. He invited Weinberger, Shultz and a host of other luminaries to the dinner. Quite a large dinner of all the senior people. Hawke arrived, jetlagged of course. Hawke said he wanted half an hour with Shultz and Weinberger before dinner and so we rang around and got them in early. The three went into the library of the residence – just Hawke, Shultz and Weinberger. They came back in half an hour, happy smiles. Before that the signals we were getting from the Americans were really savage. The Pentagon was really upset. This whole issue had come about because we were having second thoughts about the MX missiles tests falling in waters that weren’t, as the Americans saw it, all that close to Australia. What happened then was Shultz and Weinberger got on the telephone to their respective administration people and said, “by tomorrow morning, we want on our desk a solution which will get Hawke out of his problems with the Labor Party.” They worked throughout the night and they came up with a joint paper between Defense and the State Department, which altered the trajectory of the MX missile so it would not land in waters which were sensitive for us. Hawke was able to announce it, and the remarkable thing – and this is what I was saying about the importance of personal relationships that Hawke had – is that not only did he effect that quite remarkable turnaround in the Americans, but that they did him this great favour against the concerted wishes of people down the line at Defense. At the dinner, Shultz gave the most amazing eulogy of Hawke, talking about him in terms of a great statesman. In the end, Hawke was crying, he was actually weeping. It was an extraordinarily moving moment. So that was the story behind resolving the MX missile crisis.

[25] Jim: I do remember sitting on that same night – not at the residence or outside the library – but with [Finance Minister] Peter Walsh and [Political Adviser] Peter Barron from Hawke’s office, and they were very dark, very worried, and very angry with Bill Hayden. They felt he had undermined the Prime Minister. But the thing you’ve left out there is what happened behind the doors of the library.

[26] Tim: That we never knew. I asked some of my contacts in the State Department and they said, “we don’t know.” We don’t know. They worked out this deal, we got the order, “fix it” and that was it. There no record of the conversation as far as I know.

[27] James Curran: A question for Tim, which also covers the period John was talking about, the low point in the Whitlam-Nixon period. Was there a sense in the early years of the Hawke Government, judging from some of the CIA and the State Department reporting that I’ve seen, you can tell that they are still scarred by the Whitlam experience that John mentioned. It’s obviously very clear that Hawke, and to some extent, Hayden, go out of their way to dissuade the Americans that this is a re-run of the Whitlam Labor Government. Did you pick up any of that from your interlocutors in Washington? Was there ever any sort of discussion about “we’ve got another ex-Trade Union leader as Labor Prime Minister? Is this going to cause any trouble in the relationship?” In the early days of the Hawke Government, did you pick any of that sort of exorcising the ghosts of Whitlam?

[28] Tim: Not really. By the time I got there it was April 1984 and the Hawke Government been in place for about a year. There may have been a few among the hard-line Republicans. There is a chap who entered into United States history later on, to divert a little, called [Alan] Keyes, a black Republican who subsequently became remarkable for the fact that he was the opponent to Obama in his first bid for the local State Senate. In the end it turned out to be a no-contest as Keyes had to withdraw due to some scandal. Not only that, but Keyes was actually so far out of right field. In the Reagan Administration he got a political appointment in Policy Planning, fairly late in my time. In policy planning, I went to see him and I couldn’t just make any sense of the man. He was just so far out there on the Right. He probably carried those sorts of convictions about the Hawke Government; that they were no better than Whitlam. They were really outriders in the whole thing in spite of Keyes’ appointment in the State Department. No, by that time, it had settled into a good relationship and the message had come down from Weinberger and Shultz and others that Hawke was on the right train, so to speak.

[29] Jim:  John, scars, fears, mistrust, shadows, echoes?

[30] John: Nothing quite as dramatic. A couple of points. First, on the Hawke-Hayden question and the way the Americans reacted when Labor came back again.  From 1985 to 1987, I was in Mexico and I had a very clear mandate from Hayden. They weren’t interested in Mexico. They were very, very interested in what was happening, particularly what was happening in Nicaragua and El Salvador, which was a huge issue domestically in the United States and was an issue of considerable interest to the Left of the Labor Party. My instructions were very clear, and I actually found it very interesting to go down there but you got a very clear impression that this was Uncle Sam’s finest hour in the way they conducted their foreign policy. It was pure Monroe Doctrine really. On the sharp end of Monroe Doctrine. A couple things come back to me, one was when I went back to Washington for consultations. Tim was there then but he may not remember this. I remember very clearly. I was coming up for five days because I like Washington and I wanted to spend a bit of time there. But I got something that was around from my mates in the political section: Rawdon didn’t want me to stay more than three days.

[31] Tim: Ambassadors don’t usually welcome competition on their patch.

[32] John: And he certainly didn’t want me talking about Central America. I remember going in to see the “Mighty Habib” who was one of these roving Ambassadors. One of these formidable men in the United States apparatus and he was a sort of “take no prisoners” Ambassador. He was very good at what he did and I went to see this great man a touch nervous, but prepared to have perfectly normal conversation. The first thing he said was, “look, why are you so interested in Central America? Why is Australia bothering with Central America?” I explained it, “it’s the politics of the Labor Party and the Left are very interested in it.” And he seemed to accept that. There was this infragility that we could be involved and this was because of Bill Hayden and the Left of the Labor Party. It came back years and years later when I was visiting a part of Japan. In Okinawa, actually. The American Consul came up and he said, “I was in Canberra, and you won’t remember this. I was covering Australian foreign policy at the time” and he said, “I actually had to keep an account of the number of times you visited Nicaragua, because we really couldn’t figure why you were going down there quite so frequently.” The answer was “the Labor Party” and the answer was “Bill Hayden” and the fact it was an interesting place. I probably went a bit more often than I needed, but nonetheless, there was a policy imperative for it. The second point is New Zealand and this takes me back to the time when I was Head of Mission in the mid-1990s. Reflecting on what Tim said, a couple of points come back. One was, in early 1996, the New Zealanders had shifted their policy a long way, or at least their thinking a long way, from the days of Lange and they really were interested in a much, much closer relationship with the United States. They were working quite hard on this and there were indications that [William] Perry, the Defense Secretary at the time, would visit New Zealand at the time he visited Australia. I think it was in the context of an AUSMIN meeting and he would go on to New Zealand. I reported this back, well, I picked it up, and immediately there was a very strong reaction, remembering the Howard Government had only been in a month or two. It came back from Canberra saying they didn’t tell me what to tell Perry, fortunately, but they made it very clear that a rapprochement with New Zealand, was really not something they wanted to see unless the conditions were really very clear. I can’t remember the exact conditions, In other words, they didn’t want to see New Zealand get away with it unless New Zealand came back to adopting the sorts of policies Australia was adopting. The message was extremely clear and it was in response to a conversation I’d had with Kurt Campbell who was then a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Campbell had essentially said, “what if?” – and he was only talking conjecturally – “what if we got closer to New Zealand, would it be such a bad thing?” I reported this back quite clearly and the reaction from Canberra was, “we really don’t want to see it.” The subscript was “…unless New Zealand really changed to accept the policy very close to what our current policy is towards the United States.” In any event, the New Zealanders were terribly serious about this and [Deputy New Zealand Prime Minister Don] McKinnon came to Washington in April. The idea was to invite Perry and, in the end, he decided not to go. Although the Americans had been advised of our position, we hadn’t taken a position on whether Perry should go to New Zealand. I certainly didn’t think it was our business but nonetheless we hadn’t taken a clear position on that but they knew of our general discomfort or the acute discomfort in Canberra about rapprochement that might be happening. Now, years later this came back again. It was when I was in Jakarta, which was about four or five years later. I got a call from [Australian Foreign Minister Alexander] Downer who said he just spoke to McKinnon, the Deputy New Zealand Prime Minister, and they’ve been in a sort of reflective mood just discussing things in general. McKinnon said he was worried about the strongly New Zealand perspective about the number of people in the Australian apparatus. He detailed some of the names, some which won’t be surprising to some of you but one was me and I regarded myself as totally neutral in this issue so I was really quite surprised. I said “I had never really taken a position on this. I don’t have any strong views.” Anyway, the story goes, and this is anecdotal, and interesting and shows how sometimes things work. Somebody on McKinnon’s staff had been at the ANZAC Day reception, which had that year been in the Australian High Commission. McKinnon had been there, five or six New Zealanders were there and Perry came. The New Zealanders in this time were all in the process of working up this invitation creating an opening for Perry. I walked off and I saw Perry to his car and I had a short conversation with him. I saw him off and that was it. Now, what happened was somebody on McKinnon’s staff was deaf and he couldn’t hear a thing. But he could lip read and he told McKinnon that as I saw Perry off in the car, he thought he saw that I had suggested to Perry that he shouldn’t visit New Zealand. I said “that’s just not right.” Downer said, “why don’t you fix it with the New Zealanders”. I tried to ring McKinnon and I spoke to their permanent head and said, “this is actually nonsense.” They went to McKinnon and he came back and said, “I stand by my account of that.” So I said, “go back to McKinnon and say ‘bullshit, it is just sheer nonsense’.” What happened was, I’d said goodbye to Perry and I said, “I gather you might be going to New Zealand”. He had said, “well, I don’t know yet but obviously Australian views will count.” End of that conversation. I’ve then got onto something that was far more important: the dispatch of the Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Straits, which occurred at the same time and created a major crisis between China and the United States. I tell that anecdote of a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows that this issue went on way beyond the mid-1980s in the thinking of the bureaucracy in Canberra. The second thing is it shouldn’t be underestimated that New Zealand views on it, New Zealand concerns about the Australian approach, are very deeply held. They feel that we had a lot to do with the discomfort with which they suffered from the United States for a number of years.

[33] Jeremy Hearder: What you were saying earlier about Jim Plim [Plimsoll]… I have my opportunity tomorrow but there are just a couple of things I think I should mention. It might seem very fuddy-duddy because we all know what finally happened, what the outcome of Watergate was, to be saying if Nixon says he’s innocent then we have to accept that. But I go back to my time as a student in the University in California, in 1960 when Nixon was Vice-President and he was to become the President. All the students thought even then he was “Tricky Dicky” but in the hall it was the Vice President of the United States and this is the strange problem that Americans have. They don’t want to have a sovereign. They like to respect one if they can find one and so Nixon in 1973 had been eight years a Vice President, four years President. There was this tricky, difficult stuff that was going on in the media every day and in Australia. It didn’t look good. But Plimsoll’s point was being correct. He gave his credentials to Nixon as President and he was in a different position compared to a lot of his staff in a way. And the other thing is much more important: I think Plimsoll was scarred by this. A lot of his generation in the Department were by the years of [Billy] McMahon as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and the amount of leaking that he did. And then we had the Whitlam Government and there was a greater variety of people leaking. I think Plimsoll was really worried that, with the difficulties he’d had with the Nixon Whitehouse, about getting any access at all. He had achieved it because he was Plimsoll. But he’d lose it all if reports from the Embassy in Washington of what people thought about whether Nixon was going to be guilty or not, got out. That would make things very, very difficult indeed.

[34] Jim: A question about that to John, what impact does it have on the reputation of an Embassy if you have that sort of attitude being professed from the top in terms of its ability to prosecute or get across information on other subjects, if you have a approach like that which is so clearly at odds with the facts of the matter at the time? What does it do to the reputation of the advice and information it is providing to the Government more broadly?

[35] John: I suspect it does affect your credibility to some degree. A lot depends on who. Credibility in an Embassy is partly seen in terms of the Embassy but a lot depends on the individuals concerned. And some individuals in an Embassy are very credible, including the Ambassador and [those in] the political section. Others aren’t. That’s life, and people in the system know that. But why don’t I ask Zorica [McCarthy], Al[istair Maclean] and Meg [McDonald] to comment?

[36] Meg McDonald: I would say that certainly, on the range of issues that were in the relationship at the time that I was there. In particular, the difference in the change of administration and the difference in those relationships and the credibility they had with it, really made an enormous amount of difference to prosecution of our particular interests. So we didn’t have that sort of…

[37] Jim: Have you got a particular case in mind you can recount? Was there something that was in process at the time that became more or less difficult as a consequence of that change?

[38] Meg: I would say resolving the trade disputes because we had two big ones while we were there at the Embassy. One was lamb and one was steel.

[39] Jim: I think I remember that.

[40] Meg: Which we, I don’t think dealt with as well for a whole range of reasons because of the domestic politics in Australia. But steel, I think, we handled in an exemplary way because of the smoothness of a lot of relationships.

[41] Jim: Do either of you want to recount why lamb was so difficult, yet why steel ended up so well in terms of Australian access?

[42] Meg: It seems from a more general point that in the period of the relationship that I was very familiar with, our knowledge of U.S. domestic politics very much increased. Putting it in a nutshell, I don’t think we knew at the time the complications of the lamb [issue] from a domestic political point of view and, in the end, it was favours owed to particularly important members of Congress and the Senate to the President as part of the impeachment deal, which was the final killer. We were never going to get what we wanted on lamb and we should have been able to see that from the outset. If we had, we might have helped save the domestic pain in Australia around it, if we’d just been able to say there was no deal going to be possible.

[43] Jim: And was that just simply because the information about that arrangement with Clinton was so tightly held, that was only something you were going to discover after the event?

[44] Meg: I’m looking at Al. I can’t remember it being something that was so intimately held. I just don’t think everybody had put the all of the various pieces together. Then, as the dispute escalated, it was at that point that the favour was called in and then realising that one phone call would freeze us out was enough. I don’t think it was an issue of not actually putting all of the pieces together and realising the full complexities of the domestic industry.

[45] Jim: From my observation and reporting on Australia-U.S. relations over a fairly protracted period of time, is that in the question of economic relations and trade in particular, it has become exponentially more important over time in terms of Australia’s diplomatic relations in the United States. If I go back to the early to mid-1970s, it seemed to be all strategic, all security. Yet, by the early 1980s right through to the FTA [Free Trade Agreement], it was a very rapid escalation in terms of the Embassy’s work and the demands upon it in that area. Is that a fair assessment and how did this happen?

[46] Tim: I think John [MCarthy]’s appointment as Congressional Liaison in the Embassy was something of a pivotal point.

[47] Meg: It was.

[48] Tim: Up to then, the Embassy’s performance in relations with Congress was pretty weak. Notwithstanding the influence that Hawke had on the Administration it was nearly zero in Congress where the trade matters were largely decided. Hawke at one stage, I remember – I was only ever on the edge of those negotiations – Hawke had come to Washington towards the end of the ANZUS crisis and the main brief was lamb, beef and sugar. He at one stage said – I can’t remember the exactly the context in which he said it – he said it to Shultz: “I think, you are making it hard for me if the perception arises in the Australian electorate that our strategic objectives are in conflict with our economic relationship with the United States.” That was about as far as he got, in my memory, at that point, in suggesting linkage. I think because of the relative neglect of congressional relations, that John was appointed to the senior position of Congressional Liaison Officer and from all accounts did a pretty remarkable job.

[49] John: Look, I don’t know about that. If you only knew what I didn’t do there, Tim. But the point I would make, though, is what happened in the mid-1980s. It was about 1986 and two things were about to happen that were going to affect Australian interests in a very considerable way. One was the Farm Bill which was due to go through about 1987-88. That was the Bill that dealt with wheat subsidies. The famous “Export Enhancement Program”, as it was called. The second Bill, which was due to go through the Congress in 1988, was the Trade Act or the Trade Bill, which would become the Trade Act. I think this went through every five years, but had all sorts of things in it that would affect our interests. Particularly, lamb was in the Trade Act. Some agricultural issues, because they were tariffs, were actually in the Trade Act. They weren’t in the agricultural but lamb, the sugar quota was in there, it affected us, it affected Queensland, in particular, and there were three of four other [issues]. There was growing recognition in Australia that we weren’t hitting Congress as we should. And more to the point, it was getting around in the Australian Parliament, that you needed to be people like them to be able to deal with the American Congress. In other words, you needed real men; Australian parliamentarians. Anyway, a few of the wiser ones knew just how different the system was and there was the idea that you put a senior person in to deal with Congress. Now, that helped a bit but I think the really important aspect was that it focussed everybody on the need to address Congress with as much, arguably even more, emphasis than you deal with the Administration because dealing with Congress is real work. In the sense of getting through to them, getting to the right people, understanding their own domestic politics, understanding the relationships between the committees, and the relationships between the House and the Senate. Whereas in the Administration, there’s normally somebody; personal contacts are everything. There’s somebody whose job it is to deal with you. Somewhere in the system. In the Congress, there isn’t really and that’s the problem. I think, about the time we began to realise this, a lot of other countries got much better at it too. The countries that had been good at Congress up until the early 1980s were essentially the Taiwanese, the South Africans and the Israelis. Above all, the Israelis. The next on the list would probably be the Brits, but in the early 1980s, everybody began to realise you really needed to work Congress as hard as the Administration. Really to get to the top people, the only person who could do it is the Ambassador and that really, really is a very fundamental shift in the way we work, or at least should work, in Washington. The other point I really want to emphasise here, and I forgot this. The big difference that I noticed was partly with the way I was dealing with Congress in my second stint, which was 1987 to 1989, that really the overwhelming set of issues were trade issues. Political issues for the most part were on the backburner. This was after Tim had left, the two and a half years I was there. They were really important. That’s where you were getting the heat from Canberra. That’s where you were getting the heat from Parliament. They were complicated and difficult to deal with. The other point I want to make – because we’ve got to make it at some stage – while you can make a strong argument on security issues, the Embassy in Washington has tended to see the American perspective above all on trade issues, very, very differently. The trade staff, and the trade staff in Washington are very good. It’s not about wandering around into an AUSTRADE [Australian Trade Commission] office and somebody will see you if they have time. They are very professional and very able on the whole. Their role is different because they have to spend their time arguing. Arguing the whole time and they are often in a position of conflict with American interests as opposed to being in a position that is 95 per cent consistent with American interests.  That I see as a very important aspect of the Washington Embassy’s work. In the trade area, the way the work was done, in my time anyway, was very different to the way we did the work in the political security area.

[50] Zorica McCarthy: It was early 1991 when I arrived in Washington. My arrival coincided with Operation Desert Shield – the response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which had been underway for some time, and Operation Desert Storm, which was the bombardment that was about to start. We, of course, had signed up to the coalition cause with the U.S. against the Iraqis. Strategic issues were the most dominant issues in the whole Iraq question. This was the dominant issue in Washington at the time and we were on side. The Embassy was in a very good place. The sense that John mentioned, that typically political officers were worried that Canberra would do or say things that would embarrass us to the Americans, relates to a different era. During my time, I would have described it as not unique to the Embassy in Washington but a phenomenon that exists in very few of our posts; where the post actually believes it is the custodian of a precious asset. I think it applies to the Australian High Commission in London, the Australian Embassy in Washington, it may apply to a couple of other posts but it is not a common phenomenon. Flowing from that sense of being the custodian of a national asset, of a very precious thing, is a tendency to disparage one’s own headquarters. I agree there. When statements are made the Americans don’t like, I have a very specific recollection although I handled intelligence liaison, I was not involved in bilateral policy issues or bilateral visits, but some recollections are very clear-cut. When Keating as Prime Minister started using the phrase, I’m not sure who penned it, “Australia would not like to have to choose between China and America.” The Americans thought this was a bêtise par excellence; one of the most stupid things they could imagine an ally could say. They made it very clear to us and we sprang to the Prime Minister’s defence and tried to explain it. But the reality is, I don’t think many of us had in our hearts the view what Keating had said and what our Government was saying was right, which is a reflection of what you see as the “localitis” that does tend to spring into Embassies like that. Without going into the intelligence stuff, although I am happy to go into that if anyone would like, I thought I could most usefully add some impressions again on the policy front. We were not, Canberra’s attitude, was not one of subservience to Washington so much as a determination to pick any fights very judiciously. Michael Costello as Secretary, I remember distinctly used to say, “we’re not going to upset America over Cuba, which doesn’t do too much to Australia’s national interests. If we are going to have a fight with them, it’s going to over something absolutely fundamental to our interests.” That was a very strategic decision on his part designed to eliminate points of friction that had existed and had been introduced into the relationship. Another theme on the policy front that I recall was a sense in Canberra that we Australian foreign diplomats would make the bullets and get the ammunition and ideally get the Americans to fire them. That we would come up with ideas that we might be able to get the Americans to espouse because they served both our interests and broader interests. I think that was distinct thread in policy settings in Canberra at the time. A sign of goodwill and sign of how attitudes can differ between us. Keating’s first visit as Prime Minister. His meeting with Clinton was deferred until the following day because of the summit of the signing of an agreement between [President of the Palestinian  Authority] Yasser Arafat and [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the lawns of the Whitehouse. The Americans invited Keating to attend that ceremony and Keating declined. Out of pique, we thought at the time, that his time in the sun with Clinton had been delayed. The Americans were absolutely flabbergasted that the Australian Prime Minister has turned down this opportunity. They said they might not have extended it to many other heads of Government had they been in Keating’s place and that this was a true privilege and a sign of our alliance and our friendship. Another policy recollection is that the Americans tended to be amazed and genuinely so, when we doubted their bona fides. I remember on one occasion, one of the Australian intelligence agencies wrote an analytical piece suggesting the U.S. might be willing to sell a type of missile called Sparrows to Indonesia, and I think because of absences in the political section, it was I who went into the State Department. Normally I only went to the State Department’s intelligence bureau, but it was I who went into the State Department to seek their reaction to that and I also went to the Pentagon. It was complete and utter disbelief that anybody in Canberra could be so juvenile, puerile, as to think the U.S. would sell to Indonesia, something that might undermine Australia’s security interests. This is not to say one should always take U.S. assurances at face value. It was a recurring theme that where we thought they might do something that would undermine our interests, not in the trade field but in the political field, it seemed never to occur to them that we would think they would undermine us in such a way.

[51] Meg: I was at the Embassy from 1998 to 2002 so it straddled quite a number of different areas. The first day I was in place, was the day Clinton was impeached, and I was Chargé [d’Affaires]. What do you write? That was why I was rather interested in the self-censorship because there was no way we were going to be self- censoring exactly why and how that had taken place, and there was intense interest in Canberra about it all. Mind you, I couldn’t understand why they need a cable about it because the public information was much more juicy in real life. I think during that period that the state of play with the Clinton Administration was very important with what was happening in the relationship, because I’d say the whole U.S. administration and the Congress was distracted. Australia was not the centre of attention that I think we had certainly believed that developments in our region were warranting at that time. In the first year that I was there, apart from the various trade disputes we were having, East Timor happened and that happened so quickly, and it had been triggered off by an event where the Prime Minster wrote to [Indonesian President B. J.} Habibie and didn’t tell the Americans beforehand. That really was the trigger for all those events.

[52] Jim: Meg, just as a matter of interest there, just how much did that then feed into the discussions and the attempts by Howard to get American boots on the ground and what influence did it have, if any, in reducing the prospects of that result? Because that was a very serious issue I recall In Canberra at the time.

[53] Meg: At the time, indeed it was. I don’t think the letter itself was, I think the…

[54] Jim: What about the failure to…

[55] Meg: While it’s always an incident at the time with the particular individuals involved, it wasn’t one of these profound differences. It was really what happened afterwards in setting off. I think it had more influence in the intelligence community among the analysts than anybody else at that early stage. Once we were into the crisis and it became very clear to the Americans that Australia was going to send troops in, things were happening very fast. We went over to the Pentagon to their huge situation room with all these multiple screens around with many, many, (a whole theatre full of) military. We had CINCPAC on one screen and various other agencies around the region. And we had a little video conference room in the Defence Department in Canberra at about seven in the morning with Hugh White and Jillian Bird and a couple of other people in this tiny little room at the other end,  really telling this enormous military might, “this is what we are going to do within a very short period of time and it was going to be a small force.” They all asked various questions, then the video conference went down and the lights went up. Canberra’s off the line and then the Americans start talking among themselves about what actually was going on and what should be their response – and forgot there were two Australians still in the room. So we sat very quietly. It was Adrienne, the defence policy councillor and myself and we just sat very quietly while they spoke and they were absolutely shocked that we were going to be doing this with such a small force and they were not prepared to go in such a small scale.

[56] Jim: They would not have been?

[57] Meg: They said it couldn’t possibly be done. So, then the whole battle began for the boots on the ground, which was ultimately resolved by Clinton going out to New Zealand for APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] and it felt like a very long time while we were negotiating that. And what that…

[58] Jim: Because it was, was it [William] Cohen who was Defense Secretary at the time?

[59] Meg: Yes, it was.

[60] Jim: He came out to Australia and volunteered twice in one day that the U.S. would not commit to providing ground forces. He was in interviews and wasn’t asked, but he voluntarily stated it.

[61] Meg: And it was really what had been going on in Congress. Their domestic preoccupations and the state that Clinton was in because you’ve got to remember, earlier in the year there had been the question of the Bosnian campaign and how much military involvement and how very difficult and very challenging that was. If you recall… who was the head of the military then? Colin Powell. There was a famous quote from Madeline Albright, “you’ve got this fantastic armed force, the best in the world but you won’t use it”. She was pushing. That had happened earlier in the year and we were coming in on the back of a lot of those other battles. They’d been scarred by the African, the Blackhawk down. “No body bags” was the mantra completely through the whole system at that point. I think Congress was very much on side at the same time. That was very much a colour of that first year and not being able to get Clinton to engage at all in any of those sorts of issues so we were very lucky that we had APEC. Or do anything because he was totally engaged about Monica [Lewinsky], let’s face it.

[62] Jim: Yes, there went the peace dividend in my view. There were a couple of questions just here.

[63] Peter Edwards: About ten days ago, I was at a conference somewhat similar to this one to mark the 15th anniversary of the arrival of the force in East Timor. Peter Cosgrove and Xanana Gusmao were amongst those who attended. There was a very interesting presentation by [Admiral] Chris Barrie who was CDF [Chief of the Defence Force] at the time. He went through some of the decision-making in the crucial lead-up to all of this, and he mentioned that he thought the then-CINCPAC [Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command, Admiral] Dennis Blair was crucial. According to Barrie, a crucial step was that [President] Clinton, on his way to Auckland, stopped in at Hawaii and, apparently, Dennis Blair had been having direct calls with Chris Barrie. According to Barrie, Blair was very useful in getting Clinton to focus on this issue, so that when Clinton went on to Auckland, and met Prime Minister Howard, he was primed to meet the Australians half-way. Does that fit with you?

[64] Meg: That’s true, that’s absolutely true. That half hour or whatever it was – the  refuelling stop – was really the opportunity where Dennis Blair did talk to Clinton and between Hawaii and Auckland, the turnaround occurred. It would not have happened without that refuelling stop and Dennis Blair. So it does come down to the breadth of those personal relationships and the degree to which they are worked through time. Through the good times so you can have those very blunt sorts of conversations during the times that you need it, very much as John said.  The other thing that I would add is that, after the Timor campaign, Cosgrove came back through Washington and did a three-day visit with all of the agencies particularly to give feedback on what had worked and what hadn’t. I have to say that was a really important visit because it demonstrated the extent of the admiration that was building in the Pentagon and various agencies, both the intelligence agencies and the Congress, that such a small force could achieve so much. And the learnings that came out, the great way in which Cosgrove was able to share that, taking the care to come back and actually do that, was really deeply appreciated by a lot of people. I think it was really effective. We certainly reaped the benefit of that later on through some of the Iraq build up and particularly with Afghanistan because it did cement a lot of relationships simply be the fact that he would spend those three days and come back and do the rounds.

[65] John: Can I just add a few things because I was in Jakarta while this was happening. A few myths build up after events take place about Timor, our role and what the Indonesians thought. First, the Timor exercise is the only exercise I can think of where the Americans reciprocated alliance dues to Australia, not by troops on the ground but by a very vigorous political commitment to what Australia was trying to do in Timor. All the other activities of a security nature are involving interventions of troops since the beginning of the ANZUS alliance have actually involved Australia going to work with the Americans on an issue of primary concern to the Americans, not a primary concern to Australia. Despite the lack of boots on the ground, which certainly from the viewpoint of Jakarta never suspected the Americans might do, it was familiar enough with Washington what was happening to see it as very dubious particularly if you were there to do it. Remember the “Deputy Sherriff” statement – the alleged statement, because Howard didn’t actually say it – but remember that? The Timor issue, there are a few points that people forget. One is, before we put troops in, however professional Cosgrove’s exercise was and it was very professional, the point was the Indonesians had decided not to fight. That decision had been made in Jakarta. Now the concern was that there was so much indiscipline in Timor, that you could find yourself in scuffles, minor engagements which would involve some loss of Australian life and other life. Basically although we didn’t really know it at the time, the decision had been taken not to fight. The reasons were complex, they were to do with Indonesian politics but the overwhelming reason for this, in my view, was the stance taken above all by the Americans but also the international community as a whole.  If you are looking at what are the representative points which illustrate that American attitude, they are the fact that Blair either shortly before the ballot or shortly after the ballot, I can’t remember when, made it very clear to his opposite number, and so did the Chief of the Defence Forces as well in Indonesia, that this was simply not on. They knew what was happening. That armed resistance, an armed attempt to gainsay a result of the ballot was simply not acceptable to the United States. That was repeated by Cohen and of overwhelming importance was the fact that Clinton himself took that approach publically and very clearly. I think it’s a matter of enormous good fortune to Australia the fact that we had that APEC meeting in New Zealand. It made a huge difference circumstantially because Clinton came to it, so then did everybody else. It was the issue of the hour, no question about it. Habibie was totally tied up in the crisis and the forthcoming presidential election that he sent Ginandjar [Kartasasmita], one of his coordinating ministers and as it turns out, the most intelligent of the four to New Zealand. Ginandjar picked up in no time at all what was happening. He went back and said effectively, “drop it, we’ve lost this one.” He was very, very clear on that. The point I really want to underline, I don’t think we fully appreciated, even to this day in Australia, how crucial that American stance was in turning the Indonesians around and changing the Indonesian minds. There is a view here that it was our politics and our army and the rest of it. Yes sure, I don’t want to underestimate that and I don’t want to downplay that, but that American approach was overwhelmingly important.

[66] James Curran: I agree with you that the American political muscle and their logistical assistance in that operation was absolutely vital, I couldn’t disagree with that. In terms of dues being reciprocated, I’m just being a Devil’s Advocate here, and remembering that John Howard spoke quite candidly of his conversation with Clinton about the whole question of ground troops. He did this a couple of years ago at the U.S. Studies Centre. In fact, he used the word “betrayal” and said to Clinton, “listen mate, we’ve been there for you, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere. How about it? Isn’t this time for you guys to show us a bit of reciprocity in terms of the boots on the ground?” So, I’m wondering did you get some of that sense of expectation. This goes to some of the historical and cultural baggage that I think some leaders bring to office. That sense of expectation that Australia has been there alongside the United States in the Pacific War or through the Cold War, therefore, it is the old insurance premium argument that you get so often in the scholarship. This idea that Australia has paid its dues therefore when the time comes we’ll pull our due back from the United States. Although on questions with Indonesia and the West New Guinean confrontation in the 1960s that was shown to have little save for us. I want to get that sense of betrayal, that’s a very strong word for John Howard to use. They only use that word in relation to the fall of Singapore in 1942. Anyway, just a Devil’s Advocate.

[67] John: I’ll pass this to over to Meg but in Jakarta, it wasn’t really a major issue for us in the Embassy whether the Americans would come in. That was really being handled between Australia and Washington. I’ll leave it there, I’ll come back to something else later on. No, I’ll mention it here because it is relevant. Just before the APEC meeting and during the APEC meeting, one of the big questions was how you put together an international force. This was being talked about in Wellington. One of the questions was should Australians lead it? There was no question that we should put in the bulk of the troops but the question, which would have made it a lot easier for the Indonesians to accept, was whether you should have an Australian General leading it? Howard was very strongly of the view that that had to happen and he won the day, including with Clinton. The view of those countries represented in Jakarta, and there was a small working group of about six or seven countries, was that, in order to persuade the Indonesians to swallow this reasonably smoothly, it might be no bad idea to have a General from somewhere else. Possibly an Indian, for example. Howard made it clear that wouldn’t work and people who were arguing, not so much arguing, mooting the possibility included the British and included the American ambassador at the time. But they were only mooting it, to be fair. They were just saying would this work? It was quite clear when once Howard talked it over with Clinton and no doubt others, that that wasn’t going to happen. You had to have an Australian, but the boots on the ground issue, that’s something Meg might want to talk about.

[68] Meg: Because I wasn’t at the Lowy lecture, I don’t know which particular conversation he might have been talking about. Was it the first one on the visit or was it by phone or was it by…

[69] James Curran: It was by phone and he gave the impression it was the critical phone call when the rubber was hitting the road initially as to whether or not the U.S. was going to put the boots on the ground. Wasn’t there some slanging match on CNN between Albright and Downer about this well from memory? Howard, this was at the U.S. Studies Centre, I think it was Paul Kelly interviewing him and he made it seem as it was the crunch phone call. He did use this very strong language.

[70] Meg: I can’t verify or otherwise because I don’t know which call it was. He did have a series of calls and I think the important thing to understand here was – John’s absolutely right – up until the point of the APEC meeting, there was still a disconnect between the U.S. people in situations of great authority, the Administration itself, and Clinton himself, because he was just distracted on a other things. It wasn’t until that APEC meeting that people really got to him and focussed him. I don’t know whether you also recall, [National Security Advisor] Sandy Berger was quoted quite late in the piece, and I think it might have been an Australian journalist, saying to him that things were getting messy in East Timor. He said, “so is my daughter’s bedroom”. There was quite a disconnect.

[71] Derek McDougall While we are on the East Timor issue, I wonder if any members of the panel would be prepared to comment on the allegations that during 1999, before September, Australia was manipulating intelligence going to the United States as part of an effort to influence U.S. policy on this issue?

[72] John: I knew nothing of it. Certainly nothing came across my desk that suggested it was happening.

[73] Meg: I was in the Embassy in Washington and I was coordinating all of the agencies and honestly, my answer’s the same: I knew nothing. There was no sense of any of that at all, and there was a lot of very, very close interaction and visits because things were moving so rapidly. In fact, I’m surprised by that.

[74] John: It would have been a very silly thing to do.

[75] Meg: The U.S. intelligence were as across this as we were.

[76] Zorica: I wasn’t in the Embassy at the time, my four subsequent years with ONA [Office of National Assessments] were also over by then, but I agree absolutely. It would be playing with fire to deliberately feed misleading information or politically biased information. However, what sometimes does happen in simply analytical differences of view, coupled with territorial conflicts, can lead to one agency pushing its cause extremely strongly with great confidence and creating the wrong impression. That happens the other way too. The North Korean nuclear issue in the early 1990s. One of my biggest concerns as Liaison Officer was to ensure that the very bullish, condemnatory analyses of the CIA did not obscure the somewhat more nuanced views of the State Department. It was the difference between, as ONA used to say, talking about the worst case scenarios as opposed to the more likely scenarios. I think it is quite possible that if there was something of that sort, it wasn’t a deliberate strategy so much as great conviction that was perhaps ill-founded. An earlier example, some years prior, was when apparently DIO [Defence Intelligence Organisation] did a piece believing they had found an explosives testing site. It alarmed the Americans because they had missed and it was found ultimately to be a pile of animal manure.

[77] Tim: Could I just add another question, I’m wondering if anybody knew, all being students of history, of the existence of an exchange of correspondence between [Australian Minister for External Affairs Garfield] Barwick and [United States Secretary of State Dean] Rusk. Barwick and Rusk during Konfrontasi where we pressed the Americans to say something to the Indonesians about the dangerous course they were taking. I have seen reference to an exchange of correspondence between Rusk and Barwick which resulted in Rusk writing to [Indonesian Foreign Minister] Subandrio, reminding him that the dispute which was going on in Borneo was within the framework of the ANZUS treaty. He left it at that but just to put that into play in the Jakarta establishment. I can’t recollect where I saw it, but I just wonder if anyone else has any knowledge of that as being an action on the part of the Americans within the ANZUS treaty supporting what we were doing.

[78] James Curran: All I’ve seen is the Barwick-Kennedy memorandum of October 1963, which is where the Americans do agree to come to the Australians assistance in Borneo in the event of an armed conflict with Indonesia. But they put so many caveats, it also empties the agreement of any meaning. Only if it’s conventional warfare, not guerrilla warfare. No boots on the ground, logistical support only and Australia’s got to consult with America first before it fires a bullet if they want the Americans to come in. I haven’t seen that document, although Peter may have.

[79] Peter Edwards: After, it must have been April 1964, which was fairly soon after we’d committed some army engineers to the Brits and the Malaysians kept saying to us can they “please give us more troops” and we kept saying “no, no, no,” we finally committed some troops. Barwick gave a press conference at Sydney airport, Don Kingsmill at his side, and said “these troops are covered by ANZUS”, quite explicitly. This was just after the government had gained a “piece of paper” we’ve been trying to get out of the Americans. Barwick had been like a barrister trying to say “we want you to sign the piece of paper”, to the horror of Menzies and Hasluck. Barwick clearly went too far and really annoyed the Americans. I think the Americans were relieved when about four days later he was removed from Minister for External Affairs to become Chief Justice.


PANEL: Jim Middleton, Virginia Greville, Kym Osley, Tanya Smith, Meg McDonald, Alistair Maclean.

[1] Jim: We will resume. As I said, I was in Washington on September 11, 2001 and as I recall saying, probably too many times: nothing will be the same again. It was a journalistic cliché at the time, but I do think that it is fair to assume that that day did mark a change in the way things were done. I was told by a sometimes senior figure in the State Department, that September 11, 2001 marked the moment they stopped going to meetings with each other in Washington because the security became so difficult. It was too hard to move from Foggy Bottom [the United States Department of State] to the Executive Building, for example. Whether that was more apocryphal than true I’ve never been entirely sure but certainly it did mark a significant difference. We have here some people who were in the Embassy at that time and I wonder whether it might be worthwhile initially just to get their impressions of how things did change as a consequence of what happened on that day in September 2001. Whether it marked a significant shift in the reality of going about business and in the relationship as might be popularly assumed.

[2] Alistair Maclean: We took our children up the towers about three weeks before they were attacked, on our way home from Washington on holiday. That’s my memory of it.

[3] Meg McDonald: I was DCM [Deputy Chief of Mission] from 1998 to 2002. I had two ambassadors while I was there. The first one was Andrew Peacock and the second one was Michael Thawley. We saw the end of the Clinton era and the coming of the Bush era. Certainly, 9/11 marked so much because we had been planning such a big visit for Howard to Washington at that time. The big agenda around that time was really around the Free Trade Agreement [FTA]. It wasn’t around security so much and it had been really quite an easy run in, being able to build up a lot of momentum around the Free Trade Agreement. He was going to do an address to Congress as well, so it was really looking at putting Australia on the map. We seemed to be getting the momentum and moving faster to get a Free Trade Agreement than any of the other countries around at the time. We’d built up a powerful set of interests in Congress because we’d been told by the Administration, “if you want it, you’ve got to get Congress on side”, and we had done that. That was the point of this particular visit, to mark that as a success. So the coming of 9/11 was one that fundamentally changed our world. It changed the emphasis in the relationship at the time and did for the rest of my time in Washington, and while I was back there regularly until I went live in New York in 2006. What I really think is, the fact that Howard was there, the way in which he responded personally in relation to the whole circumstance, in particular, his visit to the Congress on the day after 9/11 was an important symbol for many in Congress around the shared interests. And the way in which he went back to Australia, on Air Force Two, in fact, which was one of the few planes allowed to fly at that time. That was a very, very big move and an indication of the way in which the friends at the top, if you like, were responding to us. Secondly, the invoking of ANZUS sent a signal back to everybody and from then on, the intensity of the cooperation at the intelligence level was quite different because of the sense of shared interest at the time. That just went all the way through every arrangement that you made. I certainly think you will hear that from Virginia [Greville], Tanya [Smith] and Al[istair Maclean], that also went through any of the trade relationships, the cooperation with Congress, the people just responding in a very different way after that emotional response.

[4] Jim: I remember this visit to Congress very well but where did that idea come from? Was that Howard’s own idea or did it emerge from within Congress as a consolation prize for the fact that he could no longer make the address to Congress, that that would have to be postponed to another visit?

[5] Meg: It actually came from him. He was due to be there and we were back and forth with them at the time because they were having the sitting of the House. In that wonderful American way they were very apologetic, in that something that was important to him was not going to happen. And we just batted that away; it was a natural thing to be there because it was so historic and important. I don’t know whether Howard understood the importance of the symbolism and how it would be taken by everybody, but he certainly felt it was the decent thing to do. There were all sorts of other discussions about whether we should give blood, and pitch in around what was still an unfolding event.

[6] Craig Snyder: Around that decision to invoke ANZUS. Who made that decision and was there debate about it or was it just Howard saying, “yes we have to, it is an obvious thing we have to do”?

[7] Meg: I think you have to read the Howard book and all the other books that were written around this time. Certainly the decision was made and Cabinet consulted, because there were various phone calls from Air Force Two as it was flying across. There was a lot of work going on behind the scenes around that so that it could be dealt with immediately once Howard got back.

[8] Jim: My memory of it was that the initial discussions were between Howard and [Foreign Minister Alexander] Downer with Robert Hill – I think he was Defence Minister at the time, and the National Security Committee of Cabinet and I don’t know if the full Cabinet was ever consulted. It was either those two or…

[9] Craig: And was it a political decision not a bureaucracy-driven decision?

[10] Meg: It was definitely a political decision.

[11] Tim McDonald: John Howard cleared it with [United States Deputy Secretary of State] Rich[ard] Armitage first. John Howard rang Rich Armitage in the U.S. Administration and said what do you think? He gave him the all-clear as I understand it. [Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] Ashton Calvert went back to the Department and said “what about doing this.” The Department came up with a very legalistic view saying, “absolutely no need, under Article 4 it’s automatic.” It was essentially a political decision to go ahead and do it as a symbolic gesture on behalf of the Australian people.

[12] Meg: There was a range of people in the system that it was discussed with. Whether it was Howard himself who did that directly, I couldn’t say.

[13] Tim: [Former Australian Ambassador to the United States] Michael Thawley might know about that. I’ve got an idea it was Howard.

[14] Meg: Howard was in the residence for about 24 hours and there was a range of discussions but I don’t think it was he who made that call.

[15] Joan Beaumont: In the early session, people talked about the “localisation” of the Embassy. If we use the old phrase of ”going native”, if we still use that old term. Do you think the fact that the attacks of 9/11 were on Washington and New York where Embassy staff were based made it difficult for the Embassy to have an objective position on 9/11? Was everybody so emotionally involved in the events that they ceased to perform the function of being a source of advice about what Australian interests were at stake?

[16] Meg: I would say that while it had a personal impact, I seem to recall that within an hour of the Pentagon, we were in session in the Embassy reviewing across all agencies, the safety of individuals and resuming all of our normal business. It wasn’t something that you would say that there was a personal, emotional reaction and a professional change, not at all. Naturally, because there were a lot of dead and there was a lot of concern about that. We were definitely participating as part of the community. I wouldn’t say there was any change in the professional attitude of people in New York, people I got to see a lot of afterwards or in Washington. These three were there at the time.

[17] Virginia Greville: I was the Minister Councillor for Agriculture for the years 2000-2, which in the context of the Free Trade Agreement was quite significant. I was also there for 9/11 and I have a lot of 9/11 stories that I won’t bore you with… Let’s go back one step, until that point, my relationship with my interlocutors was friendly, cordial, but there were some adversarial elements to it. Australia and the U.S. had some agriculture issues and, in the context of the FTA, it was agriculture that was perceived at that time to be the sticking point. So my job was always to argue and to be pushed back. So, I loved them but I loved to hate them. Come 9/11, and you saw what it did to the Americans. Just as an anecdote, either after or the day of, Congressmen and women stood on the steps of Congress and sang “America the Beautiful”. I would have thought that a very strange thing to do if I hadn’t been there but, because I was there, it actually resonated. There was this out-flowing of nationalism afterwards; everybody had an American flag on their car. I guess I got that in a way I never would have if I hadn’t been there. But I don’t think it impacted on our capacity to analyse our national interest. It certainly didn’t change our attitude about the Free Trade Agreement and my fundamental conflict with American agriculture interests. But the fact that we were there for 9/11, the fact that John Howard was there for it and the fact that he behaved so extraordinarily well, in a kind of statesman-like and civilised and wonderful manner, did improve our overall relationship, and I think that impacts..

[18] Joan: With respect, that very description of him, I would find loaded.

[19] Virginia: Well, to me it’s not loaded because…

[20] Joan: It’s quite obvious that I’m of the view that since 9/11, Australian foreign policy has been problematic particularly our very close alignment of the United States in Iraq. So there is an argument that really, our very emotional response to 9/11 was inappropriate rather than statesman-like.

[21] Virginia: I understand the argument you are making but you asked what the reaction was in the Embassy, and I’m saying that in the Embassy there was a genuine, and, probably, a more emphatic feeling of sympathy to Americans for what had happened than perhaps was the case in Australia because you were further away. I don’t think.. well, you’d have to ask John Howard about whether being there was a fundamental determinant in him invoking the ANZUS treaty. I agree with Meg though, his demeanour did have an impact on his stature in Washington and, therefore, our stature in Washington, which was useful for some of the things that we did subsequently.

[22] Jim: And Virginia, did it have an influence then given you were in the midst of the hurly-burly leading up to the FTA, hopefully, at that stage in how you were treated as an interlocutor, as to whether Australian interests were viewed in any way differently after rather than before?

[23] Virginia: That’s a really good question and a difficult one to answer. Again, just to go back one step and to pick up on what John [McCarthy] was saying in his time as the Congressional Liaison person. In my day it was Andrew Todd, and then Tanya [Smith] arrived after that. We had this extraordinary campaign of getting to talk to every person in Congress. That meant Michael Thawley, and whoever was the appropriate advisor, would go with Michael on that day. I went with Michael to meet every member of Congress and every member of the Senate who had agriculture interests and that was a lot, sadly. So we were already engaged in this process and the battle we were having at the time, which I’m not sure people are aware of, to get them to agree to negotiate. We hadn’t started the negotiations, we just wanted them to agree we could negotiate a Free Trade Agreement. Part of our argument was “we are the good guys in world trade and you purport (in an international sense) to be good guys as well. So, if you can’t do a Free Trade Agreement with us, who the hell can you do one with?”. That had some resonance among the trade purists, not so much among the agriculture people. But 9/11 did change things. Certainly in my association with Michael, though, when we went to see Congressional interests, we were absolutely adamant that we would not play the 9/11 card and we will not play the “we’ve invaded Iraq with you” card. That was not appropriate to use in a conversation about trade. It’s probably indisputable that our stance had an impact and there were probably people who felt more warmly about us than they would have otherwise, but we were completely  punctilious about not doing what at one stage somebody accused us of having done – reported in Inside US Trade, that well-known source of all trade intelligence in Washington. We made them issue a rebuttal because it was so important to us that people understood that while there were things about our relationship we would use, the arguments that were most appropriate and most cogent were the arguments about where we stood in an international trading regime, not the fact that we were allies in a security sense.

[24] Tanya Smith: Can I elaborate on that? Tanya Smith, I was head of the Congressional Liaison branch from Christmas 2001 to mid-2005. I was there in the aftermath of 9/11 and just to close off on that point, I think the shadow of 9/11 was apparent for the next year at least in Washington. It was quite interesting and strange that almost every event you went to couldn’t start the formal conversation or seminar without acknowledging 9/11. It was just hanging there so obviously in the ether and you needed to acknowledge it before you could get on with the business of the day. So it was very palpable and, therefore, being in Washington made you aware that it wasn’t yesterday’s story yet. It was still very much front of mind for a lot of people for a long time. In terms of the more broader community, let me share this little anecdote. On our street when we moved in, there was an American flag on the house we were renting, we put a little Australian flag next to it and that went down really well with the neighbourhood and others starting doing the same thing. So they had their American flag and a flag of another nationality they had a connection to. There was this sense of solidarity that was important, and did carry through into the relationships. But I agree with what Virginia said: it didn’t alter our approach to analysis or our professional judgment. It was all an important part of the context. The point about the impact that Howard’s appearance at Congress had – I can attest to this – it really carried through for the next two to three years; the remainder of my time in Washington. I agree also with Virginia: we were very, very careful to make the case for the FTA on the grounds of what was going to be in the interests of the particular Congressman or Senator that we were dealing with. And that meant really focusing the discussion on what were the trade investment issues at stake for them. Whoever we were dealing with might have said that “Australia was an important ally”, and they would often draw a contrast between Australia being an “ally” and countries that were “friends”. That was clearly important in the way they thought about Australia. It’s not something that we played up in that sort of context. I also want to say it would be incredibly simplistic to think the FTA was some kind of reward for us for our stance post-9/11. People were saying to me, Congressional observers who had a lot of networks on the Hill, six weeks before the vote, “it’s doubtful you’re going to get a vote on this, let alone will you get the votes to pass.” It was a really huge hill we were trying to climb. There were several steps we had to get through: we had to get TPA authority; there was getting agreement to the feasibility study; then getting it through the committees; then we had to get the vote scheduled on the agenda. There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through and we were working the Hill relentlessly, going back time and time again, trying every sort of angle, every sort of relationship – whether it was with Governors, or Mayors or other people who could influence the votes of Senators and members. We had to work those angles assiduously for several years.

[25] Virginia: And we had lobbyists, which we’d never had before. It was an interesting decision because, until that time, we’d never hired professional lobbyists. But it became very clear to us, if we hadn’t already known it, that’s how you get things done on the Hill. We ourselves could only do so much and to have American lobbyists on the Hill, working in our employ when we couldn’t be there, was actually quite important. Just a moment of levity: getting back to the ANZUS treaty and the issues between New Zealand and Australia and the U.S. Because Australia wasn’t the only country agitating in the U.S. for a Free Trade Agreement, and they already had negotiations underway with Chile and the CAFTA [Central America Free Trade Agreement] countries. It was very clear we were head, shoulders and torso above New Zealand in that race. We were very happy about that.

[26] Jim: New Zealanders ended up with China, didn’t they? The question is, how do you think it got through those various thresholds? First of all, to request to negotiate, then to negotiate, what was it? Were there single things that cracked it or was it a combination of elements? And if so, what?

[27] Virginia: I think we’ve all got an opinion on that, so I’ll express mine. Understand I was an agriculture negotiator, so I worked on agriculture issues. Then I came home to Australia and worked on the FTA as part of the agriculture team. Then I became the person responsible for implementing the whole agreement, which was much more than agriculture.  But all of my interests in the time I was in Washington were in agriculture. I think the agriculture issues were difficult but, at the end of the day, they weren’t the most difficult. A lot of it was about the arguments we used, in terms of the impact of international trade. That, if we couldn’t show the rest of the “bad guys” in the trade world (like the Europeans) that two countries with an interest in free trade or fair trade could do a deal together, what was the future for the international trading regime? I think Michael Thawley’s relationship and friendship with Bob Zoellick, who was the USTR [United States Trade Representative] at the time we negotiated, was important and, indeed, his relationships with other senior people on the Hill were important. I think John Howard’s relationship with George Bush was important – because it was about getting the political will to make the difficult decisions reflected in the negotiated text. You had to have the political will to do that, so our focus was on getting that political will, from wherever you could, and to get it, we had to convince them that things would be alright in the end.

[28] Meg: I agree with all of that but I also think that its important to look at there being commitment by the Government, or the people, to making this happen, because it took a lot of agencies – not just DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] – to make it happen. We then mounted a very systematic and relentless campaign, but very strategically positioned. We used a lot of private sector supporters who have much more heft than we as an Embassy alone would be able to exert. Really putting all of our assets to work for us, winding them up, getting them to work for us and getting them to work strategically, and then having luck on a number of different occasions, as well, in terms of the timing of certain things. Really getting them to work for us. But it was that solid, full-court press that was waged over a couple of years to get to the end point of an FTA, and being very clear with everybody that that was our end objective. Certainly, the response that a number of the people around Washington gave to me even after it was done, was they were impressed by the sheer professionalism, and the way we did pull all of those assets together to make it happen. That’s the way Washington works: you’ve got to have everyone pulling to get the numbers, to get it across the line. That was the thing I think that really characterised that whole effort. It was a set of individuals, but it was also a system-wide commitment to getting it done.

[29] Virginia: At the risk of getting down into the weeds of agriculture negotiations, Meg was saying that luck played a role and I think that’s true, and some events unfolded assisted us.  But there were also a couple of events, in an agriculture sense, that went against us. The FTA was widely criticised because we didn’t get the beef access that we wanted and we didn’t get additional sugar access at all. We already had 86,000 tonnes from the Uruguay round. But the fact is that the BSE [“Mad Cow Disease”] outbreak in the U.S. that happened just before the negotiations was the death knell for us getting the sort of beef quota increase we wanted. The American beef industry had gone into panic and thought it was the end of the world. And the fact that the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., which had been completed sometime before and went public in December 2003, when we were due to finish ours in January 2004, included 125,000 tonnes of sugar access that the U.S. had agreed for the CAFTA countries. If I ever write my memoirs, I will describe that as one of Bob Zoellick’s worst miscalculations, in terms of his capacity to influence things on the Hill. He wasn’t popular on the Hill anyway, in my view, and he didn’t manage Congress very well. But this 125,000 tonnes – which is not a lot of sugar in the overall scheme of things – sent Congress into a tailspin. Zoellick seemed completely taken aback by how vilified he was in Congress for having allowed this outcome in CAFTA. So, when we came back in six weeks’ time to talk about what our sugar access was going to be in the FTA, it was just out of the question that we would get more; let alone even have a discussion on what it might be.

[30]Tanya: And as we all learnt, there are 26 states that process sugar in the United States.

[31] Virginia: Only six hundred cane growers in the entire U.S.

[32] Tanya: The business coalition that the Embassy set up, AAFTAC [American-Australian Free Trade Agreement Coalition], was important in those early days in getting the initial support, particularly from the New Democrats, on the Hill. We knew we were going to lose a bunch of Republicans because of the agriculture issues, so that meant we knew we had to get a lot of Democrat votes to get it over the line. It was a pretty hostile environment for trade while we were there. That was one of the other unlucky things, in terms of timing, because we were in the lead up to the 2004 [U.S.] election campaign. We had a pretty crowded Democratic primary race going on. All of the candidates were tripping over each other trying to prove their anti-free trade credentials. It was very hard to persuade Democrats to come out and support the FTA. But we had to get business to back it, then we had to get core people in Congress to get behind it, then we had to demonstrate that we could persuade enough people to get it to a positive vote. Only then would the serious, big end of town, American corporates come on board. So, we had the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbying for us in the last six weeks, but they weren’t going to lift a finger before then. We had to do all the heavy lifting up until that point.

[33] Jim: And was there something that got you to that point where you could get a vote on this, which then enabled those heavy hitters to come in? Or was it just constant hard work?

 [35] Virginia: There were two hurdles. The first one was getting the U.S. to agree that we would negotiate, and that happened in November 2002. That was a letter from Zoellick to the Congress saying that he, as USTR, had agreed the U.S. would enter into negotiations. Then we began negotiations in March 2003 and finished them in January 2005. As negotiators, we were exhausted by that point, but, to be honest, that was when the real hard work started – both in Washington, and also in Australia. Not only were we fighting this enormous battle in the U.S. to get Congress to recognise that it was a good agreement, one that didn’t do the U.S. any harm, and it was in our best interests overall, we were also fighting a battle in Australia. A different battle, because the executive has treaty making power, but the deal had to go through JSCOT [Joint Standing Committee on Treaties]. Then there were two Select Committees, and there were two sets of legislative amendments that had to go through both houses of Parliament. All within a timeframe that was enormously difficult. So, we were fighting battles on both sides. And, right at the end in October 2004, when it was due to enter into force on January 1, 2005, when our second set of legislative amendments were going through, we were still having fights to the death with USTR Zoellick. Michael Thawley was still in Washington and I was back in Australia, but we were fighting about how these new legislative changes would be interpreted by the courts, if they ever went to the court. As those of you who are lawyers know, that is a ridiculous conversation, because you don’t know how courts will interpret legislation. We had to tell him anyway. We had to write letters saying “in our expert opinion, were the courts of Australia asked to determine what this means, this is what they would say” – which is a ridiculous situation. This was in October/November 2004, so even then it wasn’t by any means a done deal.

[36] Jim: I don’t know if anybody has any questions about this section? It reminds me of the fact that whenever I travelled overseas with an Australian Prime Minister, there would come a day when trade was the issue of the day, and I would turn to my commercial colleagues and say, “well, you can go to the pub, can’t you, because you’re not going to be reporting it. It’s only going to be the ABC that’s going to be reporting it.” I’m not sure how many actually watched the stories that I wrote on it back in Australia, but I wrote them, and I’m interested in them. We might move on to the security and defence side of things, and it may sound like a banal question, but I’ll ask it anyway: just how substantially did the defence and security relationship change after 9/11 and how?

[37] Kym Osley: I was over there from 2008 and 2010, so a little bit after the events happened. In a nutshell, quite obviously the relationship dramatically improved during that decade, from quite a strong start in 2001 through to  2010, when I left. A lot of it was due to the contribution we were making the Middle East. Also, a lot of it was due to the fact that we were buying a lot more materiel from the U.S., and that probably is not realised by too many people. So, in the period 2007 to 2010, we were the fifth largest procurer of U.S. military materiel behind the normal “suspects”: Saudi Arabia; Israel; and others. Fifth is quite important, and is about $6.4 billion over that period 2007 to 2010. We were significant in a way and, of course, without going into great detail, the intelligence relationship had dramatically increased. And  the point there is that Australia was in a quite unique position in the Asia-Pacific to provide a perspective that the U.S. didn’t have. They saw us a “special” ally, which allowed us to be invited along to various meetings, and to provide a perspective that often the U.S. Defense Department didn’t quite have, and relied on us to provide. That’s what the real perspective of nations might be. How they – the U.S. – would be perceived in the Asia-Pacific. We generally found that if there was a U.S. meeting there would be a U.K. and an Australian representative in the meeting.

[38] Jim: So fair to say Australia was in greater demand. Is that…

[39] Kym: Yes, I think so, and quite obviously we saw that all the way through the decade. And, finally, I think the key thing there was the U.S. really began to value the senior military and defence opinions, and this was borne out when we had the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement being negotiated. The U.S. was very interested, at the end of 2008, in getting its own agreement with Iraq to have its forces remain. So much so, there wasn’t much time for us to negotiate ours. At the end of the day, the U.S. supported, and Iraq supported, only the Australians that were embedded with the U.S. forces, and these were one/two star officers, and colonel-level senior people that were in key positions of command. Senior staff positions in the Middle East. These were the officers the U.S. would find hardest to replace and these were the people they really wanted. The other Australian forces over there were important to them, but were not irreplaceable. It was those 40-odd people that they had embedded in the most senior positions that the U.S. went in to bat for and made sure they were allowed to remain.

[40] Zorica: I wonder if I could just make an addendum on the intelligence relationship? One thing that’s overlooked, or perhaps people didn’t know, is that the intelligence relationship, although it is significantly from the U.S. to Australia, is also enriched by Australian diplomatic people, from and on locations to which the U.S. doesn’t have access. The U.S. intelligence community, as well as the U.S. policy community, over the years made it very clear how much they value what we have been able to produce on such occasions to the extent – and none of this is on the public record – that during my time, parts of the U.S. intelligence community suggested that it would be extremely useful if Australia could reopen an Embassy in Tehran, so they would have a better flow of reporting. It is just a tidbit, an addendum.

[41] James Cotton: Just a comment and a question. The comment is: I distinctly remember having a conversation with a senior member of one of the agencies in September 2002, and he’d just been to Washington, and come back. I said, “don’t you realise, getting involved in Iraq is going to be complex. We might even end up with a country that dissolves as a country. It’s an artificial entity.” Didn’t you say that to the Americans, “everybody here is saying it, all the people who know about Iraq”. He said, “the comment I received from them was, ‘we are hard-wired for Iraq’.” They didn’t want to hear our opinion. All he was doing was going there to hear what it was we were meant to do when the time came for us to do it. We have to get that clear on the Iraq position. I can’t see any evidence to contradict that, but what I want the answer to is a different question. As a number of people said to me, including people who work in the Department, that the idea of originally invoking ANZUS was Michael Thawley’s. I don’t know whether anybody can verify that, or whether that’s just a story that got out there. Can anybody tell me?

[42] Tim McDonald: I wasn’t there at the time, but together with my colleague, Don Debats, we did a study on the significance of Howard being in Washington in 9/11 and we interviewed all the major players except for Meg. Sorry, we missed you. The other exception was [former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet] Max Moore-Wilton. He didn’t believe in public servants talking about what they did as public servants. We tried to persuade him that, as John Howard had talked to us, maybe he should too. He said, “that’s John Howard, and not me.” As I understand it, there was a very significant conversation that took place over dinner at the residence on the night of 9/11 with Thawley and John Howard and various members of John Howard’s staff. Then a number of decisions were taken. One of them was to address Congress, and when we talked to Howard he said, “I’m not sure where the idea may have come from, it might have been mine”. Similarly with invoking ANZUS, I think he said, “it might have been mine but I’m not sure.” But actually, Alexander [Downer] suggested it to me. We talked to Downer, and he said, “no, actually John Howard may have said, but I don’t remember suggesting it.” Sometimes these things just emerge from the fog of diplomacy. It was probably a combination of discussions between Thawley, John Howard, Ashton Calvert, and Max Moore-Wilton. We got the impression Max Moore-Wilton was a bit preoccupied with the Ansett crisis at the time, and didn’t figure much in it. We speculated that’s why he didn’t want to talk to us. He wasn’t, we felt, much of a player in it; but I may be quite wrong on that. The recollections of people were that these ideas stem from a collective discussion that took place and then various people said they happened to act upon it. If I could also comment from our research, on the point Joan raised, was that about half the people we talked to declared themselves not being great admirers of John Howard and wouldn’t have voted for him. But they all said, without exception, that he acted in the most professional, considerate, highly responsible way and were filled with admiration for his performance. These were Australian people. I guess that may say what history may record is his performance on that day.

[43] Jim: Further on that question. Could I get some soundings on the nature of Australia’s military commitments to both Afghanistan and Iraq that were discussed, and to what extent they were Australian initiatives and Australian responses? Also, if anybody is able to talk about discussions that there may have been, and reporting that may have occurred, about the quality of American intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. I’m not sure if anyone can deal with those, but they are pretty important questions in the relationship of the past decade and a half.

[44] Zorica: Just on the question of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, I have an enormous amount of sympathy for John Howard when he says he felt “deceived” and was “very disappointed”. As I said, the air war in Iraq – the first Gulf War – happened within the fortnight of my arrival, and in the ensuing four years that I was there, we were briefed regularly both by State’s intelligence bureau and by the CIA on Iraq. It was a frequently recurring agenda item. It’s true that most of the information came from defectors, and defector reporting is notoriously unreliable, but the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. My familiarity with that issue ceased in early 1995, so I can’t give firsthand knowledge beyond that. But I think that, given it was a situation where you couldn’t get reliable signals and intelligence, where you were utterly dependant on human intelligence – which is interesting in the context of the Snowdon affair – that turns issues on their head a little. The human intelligence was tragically wrong at the end of the day, but I think it would be wrong – I personally believe it would be wrong – to assume people, policy makers, politicians, acted with ill-faith on that issue. The evidence available at the time pointed to a weapons of mass destruction program.

[45] Tim: One point, the fact is that on 9/12, the day after 9/11, John Howard gave a press conference in Washington, in which he said the Australian Government will support any action that the U.S. Government takes in defence of, or not even in defence of, to hunt down and destroy the terrorists that perpetrated these acts. Those words, in effect, were an Australian Government commitment to any future action that the American Government would take. To the extent that objective intelligence played a part in our decision to go into Iraq, I think it was probably subsumed within that commitment the day after 9/11. Would you agree Meg?

[46] Joan: But Iraq had nothing to do with the Twin Towers. We all know that.

[47] Tim: But the commitment was any action which the U.S. Government takes against the terrorists we will support and it was unequivocal. Meg, what would your take on that press conference be?

[48] Meg: The first commitment was to go into Afghanistan. Iraq was really part of a discussion, but the focus was definitely Afghanistan at the time. That is, really, I think you’ve got to think about those things quite separately.

[49] Jim: And at what stage, Meg, from your memory, did Iraq start to become generally more central in the discussion?

[50] Meg: Like Zorica, I left, in terms of being part of the system, in mid-2002, but I can corroborate what she is saying. The weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were an ongoing intelligence effort and there was a lot analysis around pre-9/11 as well, because you’ve also got to remember there was a series of Embassy bombings. You had the bombing of the USS Cole. There was a very serious effort to really look at what all of these various terrorist activities were, and where they were coming from. At the same time, you still had the issue in Iraq. There had been bombings in Iraq, and I’m not quite sure when they stopped, but there were bombings in Iraq at the end of 1998, and over the course of 1999, which were NATO because the Brits were involved. The whole issue of Iraq has got a clouded history because that was definitely a long term part of the intelligence effort.

[51] Kym: The bombings by NATO in the no-fly zones: that occurred all the way up to the end of 2001, and it got quite significant there in 2000/2001. I deployed with the RAF [Royal Air Force] out to the Middle East with a Tornado squadron, and they were actively going out and taking out surface to air missile sites, and other illegal activity that was occurring out there. If a missile site threatened any of the aircraft in the no-fly zone it was a legitimate target to take out. The combat operations were underway.

[52] Joan: If I could push what I said a little earlier. What I have heard is a reference to being a custodian of special asset. I’ve heard discussion about the depth of the relationship with the United States, particularly since 9/11. I sometimes feel that these arguments have got an internal, self-fulfilling logic. Of course, if you work in intelligence, you like to get a lot of intelligence from the United States. Of course, if you are in Defence you like to get new weapons, you like to feel you are in the inner circle … I put to you, do we have the capacity to critique this relationship? I think it was in the National Security Paper of the Gillard Government that the United States alliance was listed as a pillar of Australia’s defence policy comparable to maintaining harmonious relationships in the Asia-Pacific region: as if it had become a national interest in its own right. So my question to all have worked in the Embassy is: as a group do you have a capacity to critique this relationship? Has this capacity gone with the politicisation of the bureaucracy, or are we now trapped, locked into an anachronistic  way of thinking about the U.S. alliance?

[53] Alistair Maclean: No, I don’t believe so. I’m Alistair Maclean, I was at the Embassy 1997 to 2001, trade counsellor, working on trade policy and environment issues, particularly climate change. Climate change as an area, certainly ten, fifteen years ago, and I know since we haven’t lost the capacity to critique U.S. policy and our relationship with the U.S. with respect to climate change. My experience at the Embassy at the time, and certainly since, through the contacts I made then and having worked on the issue in different respects since, is that we were quite hard-nosed about our interests, which were quite often at significant variance to the United States at the time. The fact of every kind of relationship with respect to security, or intelligence, or the preparations for the FTA negotiation, didn’t affect very robust exchanges with the Administration and the capacity both in the Embassy and in its relationship with Canberra to develop policy, to develop negotiating tactics, to see them through with the Administration. I would just question, because a significant plank of our overall relationship with the U.S. is the alliance, doesn’t in and of itself take away our capacity to critique the relationship. I would argue strongly.

[54] Joan: I don’t hear it.

[55] Alistair: You don’t hear it?

[56] Joan: I, as a member of the public, don’t hear any critique. I wouldn’t hear it from you because you are not able to engage in public debate.

[57] Jim: I think you’ve just had a description of it in couple of serious areas of policy, as a matter of fact.

[58] Alistair: I’ll give you an example of it.

[59] Jim: More often than not. May not be in security or intelligence.

[60] Joan: Not in security. Security you don’t. I mean I did hear it at the time of the FTA.

[61] Alastair: I think the FTA… I’m self- interested here. The FTA and the Kyoto protocol, and the various meetings in the Kyoto protocol over the next several years, were points of real tension with the U.S. Administration, in particular, and of a very considered, concerted and consistent campaign to prosecute Australian interests for the Embassy in the U.S. market, for the want of a better term. The FTA negotiations, when I was there, I was on both sides of the FTA a bit like Virginia [Greville]. I was in the Embassy when we were preparing and laying the early groundwork, especially for Congress, working our way through the “Ways and Means” committee, and going with Michael Thawley to speak with every single member of Congress. Similarly, we worked very hard on the climate change [issue] and, a couple of times, there were just serious points of tension with the U.S. I just argue strongly, I don’t think the alliance took away the capacity to critique and prosecute our interests.

[62] Meg: In fact, I think both sides of the relationship, if you look at security and the economic interests, I think there’s an acute sense of national interest in both, certainly in my experience in the Embassy, in always thinking about, what is in our national interest. I personally dislike the term that you use that it’s like buying things. It’s not that you like doing things, it’s actually when you are there in that role, or even running the policy back in Canberra, that you are actually thinking about what is Government policy and what is the best way of prosecuting that for the national interest. The point at which you think that there is something in danger then that’s the thing that, at senior levels, you are required to challenge.

[63] Joan: I think people like to get equipment.

[64] Meg: Well, who doesn’t? But it’s not a point of making a choice because you like it.

[65] Kym: I’ll let Defence speak for itself here. Obviously you’ve made an accusation that either we have bought a lot of our equipment because we are close to the U.S. That it’s a part of the deal.

[66] Joan: It’s not an accusation.

[67] Kym: And I think the reason why we are one of the leading customers of U.S. technology, at this point in time, is for a couple of reasons. A: they have the best technology at this point in time in many key areas. Previously we’ve bought French, and we’ve bought U.K., and we’ve bought other nationalities. But the whole thing here is we go out to actually select the best equipment. It’s like playing poker: there’s no prize for having the second-best hand at the table. If the U.S. happen to have it [the best equipment], that’s what we would like to have, too. At no time has there been a “we must buy this or else”. Perhaps the F-35 [stealth fighter] would be an example where, publicly, it has appeared we have been pressured to buy into this big program; that’s $400 billion globally. That’s the largest program ever in the world for a single type of equipment. We’re not buying that because the U.S. is forcing our hand on it. We are basing decisions on realpolitik and that is from an Australian industry point of view, and the “best equipment” point of view, and we made those decisions over a decade. In fact, I would go so far as to say, during my time in Washington, 2008 to 2010, the Administration was less behind the F-35 than Australia was. I think we had an interesting twist where we were probably more for the American equipment than the Americans were.

[68] Joan: Sorry I must have misunderstood you. I thought you suggested that in some ways that this was a development out of 9/11, that there had been an increase in military purchases.

[69] Kym: I guess what I’m saying is, the security relationship went up over that decade. It went up for a number of reasons. One was because of 9/11 and the operations that went on, and the American perspective of the competence of the ADF [Australian Defence Force] in Afghanistan and Iraq; the competence of our staff officers in senior positions. It went ahead because it increased not as a direct relationship, but because we happened to be buying a lot of U.S. equipment so suddenly across many different areas within the U.S., suddenly we are much more engaging. The other example I’ll give you: we had 415 defence staff in North America, so, numbers count. I think Defence was by far the largest Australian Government representation in North America.

[70] Craig Snyder: What’s that comparison for other countries? What did Canada have?

[71] Kym: We were about one sixth of the U.K.

[72] Craig: Of that embedded in the U.S. military?

[73] Kym: That’s right. So, the U.K. embedded across in-training positions had two or three thousand people over there. In fact, just in resources, the U.K. spent about six times what Australia did on defence diplomacy or representation in the U.S. Personally, I think, my opinion, I think we had a good bang for our buck. We had good influence based on the amount of diplomacy we had.

[74] David Lowe: I just wanted to ask a general question along those comparative lines. We’ve heard a little bit today about New Zealand in Washington at times, I think John reminded us that the Brits were quick off the mark in looking at Congressional activities and so, Washington is a busy place and it gets even busier by the year in terms of the activities of the diplomats representing different countries. I wanted to ask the panel, from your memories of the 2000s period, which other posts were models and which were menaces in terms of getting in the way in Washington?

[75] Tanya: We always admired the Kiwis for being really focussed and efficient. They were very well-targeted and took a no-nonsense approach, but they had fewer resources. They did do a really professional and effective job but, without being immodest, I reckon we were right up there in the 2000s period in terms of our coverage, our networks, the creativity in our approach to reaching out to different segments that were going to be influential. As Meg said, it really was a whole of Embassy enterprise that was one of the great things. I was a cynic about the FTA before I went on the posting, but somebody said to me, “the great thing about the FTA is that it gives you a reason to talk to people, particularly on the Hill.” It gave us an excuse to have a conversation with a whole variety of people, the sort of conversations we weren’t able to have otherwise. So, I think we were right up there. As John said, the Israelis or the Taiwanese were always going to be regarded as the most influential on the Hill. I think we would have been the next cab off the rank.

[76] Kym: Just a quick comment to answer that. I think the Israelis were the most focussed from my perspective. Certainly from a defence point of view. They really engaged well at the Congressional level. Their military, their defence attaché, all the others I’d say spent 80 percent of their time almost focussed on the Congressional level, and they did it in an incredibly organised manner. The only time they ever engaged with the rest of the defence attaché community was to give briefings about their operations, which was a way of disseminating their point of view, and of course by cable around the world. I agree that I think the Australian Embassy has been quite effective, for a couple of reasons. If you look at our Ambassadors, we’ve put in people that are very politically well-connected. We’ve put in people, in the case of my first Ambassador, Dennis Richardson, who came back to run DFAT and then to run Defence. So, you can see here is a person who is very well-connected as opposed to perhaps some of the other organisations who have people who are not going to go on and do that sort of thing. The other one is looking at some of the other people, if I take Defence as a point of view. I hate to say it, but many of the Embassies over there had people – including countries we have spoken already – who were going to retire straight out of the job. I hate to say it, but it is not a good use of the position if you put a one or two star into the head of Defence staff position, and that person is not going to get another job. Historically, we’ve done that over several periods of our history, and it hasn’t led to really good outcomes, necessarily. I don’t want to denigrate the individuals involved, and what’s much more effective is the Israeli model. The defence attaché for the Israeli Embassy in Washington when I was over there is now their Chief of Defence Force. Now, imagine the conversations that that person can have and the influence that that person can have, rather than putting someone in who’s going to retire and act as an outside commentator.

[77] Meg: I want to add that one of those things that we haven’t talked about, and Kim is talking about it now – or is alluding to it at least – is the Embassy’s soft power. It has, through time, built up quite a big cultural program, which has proved to be very influential in being able to draw people into the Embassy. We couldn’t do it like the French, because we haven’t got quite the assets, but we used what we had and really pooled a lot…

[78] Tanya: We used Keith Urban.

[79] Meg: Yes, we used Keith Urban. So, really being able to pool all those elements of the Australian culture that Americans find immensely attractive – and certainly the Sydney Olympics during my time at the Embassy was a very, very powerful attraction for getting attention – and really being able to influence people. Getting people knowing something more about you than your particular bad issue of the day, which is inevitably going to happen at some point in time. So, really being able to utilise all of that, and really utilising the depths of those relationships that had been built through time. I used to be part of the U.S.-Australia Dialogue, for instance, which was very, very important in being able to establish depths across a number of different sectors, and relationships that could be used and utilised very effectively for access, and keeping that collective knowledge: the asset that Zorica talked about, really all more broadly shared than just the individuals shared than having to occupy the role at the time. Bringing it back on to both sides of the equation.

[80] Kym: Just on the events you mentioned there. Maybe others might disagree, but I think the biggest event that the Embassy has in Washington is ANZAC Day. They don’t celebrate Australia Day at the Embassy in Washington.

[81] Virginia: I was going to say the trade branch Christmas party was the talk of the town.

[82] Kym: Part of the reason why you don’t celebrate Australia Day is that it is snowed in, and you aren’t going to get the senior people along.  Also, they had big events up in New York and “G’Day Australia” out at L.A. ANZAC Day, that is the Ambassador’s day and not the military, and the events on that day and around that day and up at the National Cathedral. We have 600 to 800 people in the National Cathedral, and the Ball, and the Dawn Service. So, obviously the security relationship is important, as influenced why ANZAC Day is so important, and why we get the people to come along.

[83] Joan: You have an ANZAC day Ball?

[84] Kym : No, it’s nothing to do with ANZAC Day, it occurs at a different time of the year.

[85] Meg: There’s a reason why the Embassy doesn’t have Australia Day, because it does snow. The one time, in my time, Andrew Peacock had insisted we not have an Australia Day, because the drive would snow over, and he didn’t want people in the house anyway at that time of the year. So, when I was Chargé [d’Affaires], I organised with everybody in the Embassy that we would have an Australia Day function. We prepared for it, it was going to be bigger than Ben Hur, because we were going to do it right this time. And there was a blizzard the day before. The Government shut down, and we had to give the food away. So we never had another Australia Day while I was there.

[86] Jim: There are a couple of comments.

[87] John: The most important question we have not addressed today is Joan’s question.

[88] Jim: I was going to come back to that in a moment.

[89] John: We probably need quite a lot of time to talk about that whether it’s now or after.

[90] Jim: We will, in fact I was coming to you on that very question. One remark here.

[91] Jeremy Hearder: Given these comments on our culture, I want to clarify this one. Exactly how much time did Andrew Peacock spend at the track? He used to go to Baltimore, but was this a big preoccupation or was this only incidental?

[92] Meg: It was only incidental.

[93] Jim: You said that with a straight face too.

[94] Meg: No, I’m serious. During his office hours, he was pretty assiduous about being there.

[95] Jim: That’s another subject I’d like to address, not immediately, but once we’ve heard what Kim Beazley’s had to say, the question of calibre of individual ambassadors – not  necessarily individuals, as such but the whole question of political versus career – I think might be useful once we’ve seen what Kim’s got to say. We might have one more comment or question.

[96] Derek McDougall: I was going to say something on this issue of public diplomacy and the comparison with Israel. Israel has quite a big advantage in having an extensive lobby; perhaps not so much Jewish organisations, but evangelical Christians who are pro-Israel. I get the New York Times on email and it is interesting to see how often or infrequently Australia features in articles here. There was a report in reference to a study that showed that, with the heat waves here last year, it was definitely due to human activities. But a couple of weeks earlier, it had an article about Hillsong as an export to the United States. And, apparently, in Los Angeles there’s a Hillsong congregation of about 100,000 people. One might ask is that part of Australian soft power but more broadly, with the public diplomacy our focus in on the Australian Embassy in Washington, how much liaison is there with the various Australian Consulates throughout the United States? I lived in North Carolina in the early 1970s and, must say, at the time was appalled at how ignorant people were about Australia. One time I was at Duke University and we did have a visit by [James] Plimsoll as the Australian Ambassador; and a lot of the more liberal academics at the time associated Australia with South Africa. Australia, in Asia, was like Apartheid South Africa in relation to Africa and issues about White Australia Policy and treatment of indigenous people. The white southerners, if they knew anything about that, and some people would ask of Australia, that’s one of the newer states. If they were aware of those particular aspects of Australia’s role in the world, they would have been sympathetic. There is a question in there somewhere. Wondering how much the Embassy liaises with the Consulates in terms of the public diplomacy and how much emphasis there is into getting into the real America.

[97] Kym: From a Defence point of view, generally the Consulates, apart from Honolulu, are not a great conduit for us to pass our messages, except for ANZAC Day and things like that. Honolulu is incredibly important as a Consulate because that is our main engagement with Pacific command. As you may be aware, America divides up the world quite neatly into a whole bunch of commands.  Pacific command is ours, as in, we fall within it. The Pacific commander has a strong influence over the security relationships in the region, so is very important to us. The person in the Consulate in Honolulu is always a professional, Band One SES [Senior Executive Service] officer, with the attaché there is across to talk to PACOM [Pacific Command] quite regularly.

[98] Virginia: Another reason why the FTA was so important is that it didn’t only get the whole Embassy behind one objective and give us something talk about with the wider community. It also got the network of Consulates coordinating and cooperating on getting the message out. Some of our Consuls-General were very effective in working with Governors, for example, or key Mayors we knew would be influential in terms of how certain members of Congress or Senators might vote on the FTA. And in terms of getting out and meeting real people; the other half of my job was covering political developments, and following election campaigns. Doing the treks out to Iowa, and New Hampshire, and South Carolina; so we did get down and dirty sometimes.


[1] Jim Middleton: The subject has been raised and I’ll go back to you, John, if that’s all right. I do have a cheat sheet here. You say you have one reservation about the relationship, which Joan raised as well, and that is the almost unquestioning, bipartisan support for American security policy from the Australian political class, and the exclusion of some of the deeper thinkers in Australia on Australian security. Would you like perhaps to expand on that for a moment, and then we might get a bit of discussion before we wrap up?

[2] John McCarthy: There are people who have got questions so I don’t want to take too long. The point about exclusion… I don’t want to make too much about it, but I’ll perhaps handle that last and I want to be pretty brief on this. Really, what I come down to is the way I see the relationship with the United States now: since I’ve come to live in Australia five years ago, to the period when I was in Washington and up to, essentially, 9/11. I think the big changes took place after 9/11. I have first of all, just to make it clear: I’m not a critic of the ANZUS [Australia, New Zealand, United States Security] alliance. I’m not a critic of the United States. I’d hardly have been Ambassador in Washington if I were. I have doubts about the way policy is currently being handled. There are several aspects to this. First of all, I’m talking essentially about the security relationship, not the trade relationship. There’s plenty of light between the United States and Australia on economic issues. We stick to guns on those, we always have and we always will. On security issues, there is however a difference, and I think it comes down to the change after 9/11. Several things are apparent when I talk about this. First is the degree to which there is almost no debate in Australia about security issues. I’m not quite sure why this is the case, but certainly, if you look back to the 1980s, there was plenty of debate. There was plenty of debate even in the 1990s. Part of it may have been what is essentially the emasculation of the Labor Left on security issues. They were robust, if in some cases rather ill-informed, but they did debate. You don’t see that now, and it is partly because nuclear issues have a different perspective. It’s partly because of the changes in the Soviet Union – I dare say – but it is different now. Where this came through to me so clearly lately is the fact – and it wasn’t really noticed in Australia – that there was no debate in the Australian parliament about our lending air support in Iraq. Both the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition said it wasn’t necessary. The Greens asked for it. Well, let’s leave aside for the moment that the Greens are a bit strange for most people in the electorate. There was absolutely every right that they had in asking for a debate. Watch the UK under a Conservative Government. Equally, the Labour Party in the UK is very pro the alliance, but at least there was a debate on this issue, and a debate that resulted in a fairly proscriptive definition in what the Government had to abide by, in terms of deployment. That is a very healthy thing. Now where this becomes worrying, I think, is there are a couple of aspects that come to mind. One is, above all, that there is such a high degree of inter-operability between the Australian military and the United States military that really, if it came, in a hypothetical situation, to hostilities, you have to largely question to a considerable degree, whether it would be possible for us to stay out. Even though there’s everything in the treaty to say we could. I look particularly, as an example, that we have considerable deployment in what we used to call CINCPAC [Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet] or Pacific Command, of very senior officers in the command structure, and last year we had a Destroyer deployed as part of the Seventh Fleet. It comes back to the question: if the Seventh Fleet are ordered, for example, off the coast of Taiwan, in a situation of potential hostilities, could we pull a boat out of our particular defence unit at the time? I very much doubt if we could. So there is very little knowledge of this in the Australian population. There is really no thought of the fact that we’re in an alliance, and in the case of potential hostilities or elsewhere, we actually might not be able – in a practical sense – to exclude ourselves from hostilities. I think that’s a worry, and there’s not the sort of debate on this issue in this country. I think that is a problem. I think there is a second problem with what I would call the security establishment tin Australia. Two points. Firstly, it has become almost universally supportive of the alliance without debate as to what the alliance really means, or what all the implications are for us. And, secondly, I have the strong suspicion that over the last five to ten years, the decisions are moving more and more away from the civilians in the hierarchy towards the military. Decisions are being made within the military that affect a larger question. I think the naval deployment to the Seventh Fleet is a classic example of that. That, to me, is a very big worry. There is not enough debate and too many things are being done automatically. The second point is this: the closeness of the relationship, the fact there is almost no daylight between the Untied States and ourselves, on security issues, is taking the political energy out of our dealings with Asia. Now, there are two aspects to this. The first is as I suggested, the interoperability. What is that doing to our relationship with China? Actually, it’s a question… I don’t really have an answer for it, because I don’t think the Chinese take us very seriously in a security sense. I think they find us irritating, and so on. I think they really take us seriously because of the resources relationship, and for that reason want to maintain the relationship with Australia on an even keel. Equally, you can’t really say it causes a lot of damage for us in Asia. It’s a plus in Japan. It’s a plus in India. In Southeast Asia, it causes us damage in that we are not seen to be talking about security issues with an independent voice. Now, where does that matter? It matters when it comes to seeking to look at new shapes, new architecture in the region as the situation evolves over the next ten or fifteen years. If we want things to take the shape and the form that suit our interests we have to universally be seen as speaking independently. And frankly, right now, on security issues, we are not. It comes back to one more question I have to put and that is the question of political energy. The statement will be made that, of course the Australian Government is capable of looking after all international interests in the Middle East. Or just a suggestion now and again even as far afield as Ukraine. That’s right to some degree, and you can argue to some degree that international threats to security are different to twenty years ago. I’d buy that. What, however, is worrying to the way our relationship is proceeding right now, is that all the emphasis is on areas distant to us. Whatever people say, we don’t have the political energy, in a country of 22 million, to be focussed on the Middle East and on Europe to the degree we are currently and have been fifteen years, and to look after our interests in Asia, which are evolving and changing. That is really what I want to say in a nutshell. The most disappointing thing in Australia right now is the lack of debate in the country. The fact that the Government and the Opposition are taking advantage of this lack of debate, and we are sailing more and more – almost entirely blindfolded – into entirely new international situations without real consideration. I think what is happening in the Government security community, and those associated with the Government security community, in this day and age is not that they are being treated poorly, or badly. But there is just a tendency to exclude them, because they are saying things that are not consistent with mainstream thought. Perhaps I’ll make one point about the Middle East right now and Iraq. If you’ve heard Gareth Evans, who I have a very high opinion of, talking about the Middle East, he has talked about endorsing intervention but only in one particular context. That is, in responsibility to protect context. Which means going in and protecting a particular group, and when that is done, coming out. Not what is now being talked about in the last three of four weeks in terms of Australian, British and American deployment in the Middle East, which is going a lot further. I think it is playing on the natural fears of citizens that very, very unpleasant acts, which regrettably have always happened in wars, have come into people’s living room and are scaring people. Enough from me, anyway. Jim.

[3] Jim: Among other things, the questions raised there are: have the benefits of closeness and increasing closeness blinded us to the costs and the consequences thereof?

[4] Kym Osley: Just a quick comment, just the first point, I won’t disagree with anything else there. The first point about how essential is the Australian military and how integrated and can the U.S. operate without those units from Australia within it. I won’t go into any great detail, but I can tell you the U.S. is not reliant on the Australian contribution to do whatever they want to do in the region, and in the wider community. You mentioned the U.S. Deputy Commander of the PACOM [Pacific Command]. They have about three or four Deputies, so there is no need to use the Australian in any particular operation. They can easily bypass that person and have their own U.S. deputy. They are never reliant….

[5] Audience: So what does that guy do? Why is he there at all?

[6] Kym: Because, you have a number of various Deputies doing various activities.  So, you’ll be the Deputy for a function within the organisation and another would be the Deputy Commander for “such and such”. They have the ability to inject an American in there, if need be, should the operation require that. I looked after air operations over Iraq in 2006/07 working for an American General. They had the ability there that they could have an American, my Deputy step into my position if there came a point where I couldn’t do it, because of Australian limitations. That’s fairly normal.

[7] John: Could they do it with a ship?

[8] Kym: Yes.

[9] John: If the ship was already deployed sailing towards Taiwan could they pull that ship out in practice?

[10] Kym: In reality, the way that would work is, an operation would be planned. You don’t move the ship until the Australia Government agrees to it, if it’s going into an operation.

[11] John: They can be deployed on 24 hours’ notice after an incident, and if the ship is part of a battle, you can’t really extract it.

[12] Kym: Yes, you can. In practice you can. Again, I’ll just say that, they have other ships at Pearl Harbour. Not every ship out of Pearl Harbour sails when they have an issue like that. There will be others that will be sitting there that can be put into their place. They are not going to deploy the Australian ship into a combat situation without getting Australian Government approval.

[13] John: That’s where I say in practice it would be difficult if you have an Australian vessel as part of a battle group sailing with the Seventh Fleet. That particular battle group is 24 hours off Taiwan. There is an incident in that area. Would you be able to extract the ship in practice? In theory, of course you can, but in practice, extracting that ship from the battleground to take it back to your task force, then put another vessel in, and still make the incident in time, you couldn’t.

[14] Kym: You would be able to meet the aim to the best of their ability without that Australian ship being there. For example, that goes all the way through. We have Americans and UK and other nationalities embedded within our Australian forces, and as you’ve heard, we’ve got Australians embedded throughout the U.S. military. We have them at CENTCOM [United States Central Command] and all the other places there. Before an Australian deploys on operations with U.S. forces you have to get approval. For instance, with East Timor, we deployed F-111s and that sort thing for “reccy” operations over East Timor. We had to get approval from the U.K. and the U.S., and the U.S. aircrew in the F-111 represented over ten per cent of our capabilities. So, you have to get approval.

[15] John: So, in practice Kym, if you’re an Australian Government, and there is an incident between Japan and China, and you have a ship deployed in the battle group out of Yokosuka, and that battle group is deployed to that incident. Do you think that in those circumstances, it would be easy for the Australian Government to say, “no, we’re pulling our ship out”?

[16] Kym: You use the word easy, and it may not be easy. I’m saying is it possible.

[17] John: I’m talking about what is practical.

[18] Craig Snyder: The point of the integration is practicality, and this is an example from the 1960s in Canada. The Canadian military is very much through NORAD [North American Air Defense Command], integrated with the American military. When the Americans went to high status during the Cuban Missile Crisis, so did the Canadian military, but without anyone’s critical authorisation. The then-Minister for Defence found out about it and said, “you’ve got to get in touch with the Prime Minister.” Once he was told the Canadian military had gone to alert, he then personally authorised it retrospectively, but he couldn’t get in touch with the Prime Minister. Then the Prime Minister retrospectively did it. So, there is a danger of graver integrations, the military will just roll along and do it.

[19] Kym: My experience is that… and I guess it is from having led the air ops and being involved in the military for almost 38 years, and working as part of the U.S. during the Cold War. It’s practical for it not to happen and it’s not easy. There are pressures, we put pressures on the U.S. to have their people remain in our units when we deployed for East Timor, and ultimately they were withdrawn. We had to get other people. It causes problems. Did we still operate? Yes.

[20] Joan Beaumont: The question I actually asked was whether we have the capacity to have this debate within the Department and among those people who advise Government. I think it’s not just the emasculation of the Labor Left, I think it is the emasculation of Labor.

[21] Jim: The question is, why is it Labor’s responsibility? It’s a national responsibility.

[22] Joan: In the old days of the independent public sector, there was this concept of frank and fearless advice to Government. Of alternatives being proposed. What I was asking was, can the Embassy, can the Department, can Defence, now present alternatives?

[23] John: In terms of radical policy? It might be in terms of how you handle policy, but in terms of major shifts, no.

[24] Joan: So it is debate … about ISIS or has the executive branch of Government become so dominant that really we have no debate?

[25] John: You would need to ask somebody in it.

[26] Jim: There’s some other comments…

[27] James Curran: I couldn’t agree more with what John said about Iraq and the lack of debate, and even Obama’s top counter-terrorism official in the first Administration said the debate in the U.S. had been a farce. The threat advices had been ludicrously overinflated, withstanding the barbaric treatment that has been happening. What’s the end game here? What does it mean for political reconciliation in Iraq? That really is the issue and taproot of this crisis; not Obama’s withdrawal of troops in 2011, but rather, the original invasion in 2003. So, I wonder what the end game is and what the air strikes will achieve. This is not a conventional army that will be out in the desert and show you their materiel. They will melt into the night. Getting back to this question of the debate. There is some discussion going on within certain agencies in the Government where they are questioning the way in which the alliance is conducted and managed. How widespread it is, I don’t know, but it certainly is going on at very senior levels. Broadly, John has put his finger on the issue of debate and the alliance. I want to say two brief things. On one hand there are the alliance boosters and cheerleaders that you do get with the leadership dialogue, and there are plenty of examples that have made it out into the public about how little questioning there was in the dialogue leading up to the Iraq war in 2003. On the other hand, in the post 9/11 era you have seen attacks on the alliance, that Australia has lost its independence, which I think has resulted in the loss of that middle way of understanding. That in the alliance there has been, since the treaty was signed, doubts about what the alliance means, and there have been significant areas where our interests have diverged. That’s why you saw in the Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating periods all to a greater or lesser extent, this tradition of greater self-reliance within, and without, the alliance. That just really doesn’t get an airing in the public debate. You only need to look at the reaction to the Darwin base in 2011. There was no left-wing critique of that. Only Keating and Turnbull expressed doubts. And then you need to look at Mark Latham 2004. His political descent started when he was seen as a sceptic on the alliance with the troops home by Christmas. It’s almost like Australian political life from 1901 to the mid-1950s: you could not get elected to Parliament if you were seen as a critic of White Australia. Now, in the post 9/11 era, I don’t think there would be too many politicians who would come out as a critic of the alliance because they know their political future would be in question.

[28] Frank Bongiorno: I think John’s comment about the Labor Left is an important one for particularly historic reasons, coming out the Vietnam War. You had youngish anti-war activists who became participants in debates around defence. The Left was engaging with defence sometimes in an informed way, other times in an uninformed way. Someone like [Australian Defence expert] Des Ball from that period [belongs to the former category]. I also think the last point James made is absolutely correct, because of the political price paid coming out of the Iraq war. We might regard the Iraq War as a disaster, but I tell you who it was disastrous for: the federal Labor Party. Ask Kim. It seems to me that is the price the Federal Labor Party paid in the early “Noughties” is imprinted on the current political leadership. The Gillards, the Shortens, and so on… I think that legacy has been a pretty powerful one, hence, we have no parliamentary debate over current thinking.

[29] Tanya Smith: Surely it wasn’t just a price paid by the Labor Party. It was a price paid by the intelligence community. The subsequent revelations that there weren’t WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction] in Iraq caused a huge crisis of confidence in the States. I imagine that would have caused people to be extra cautious and to double-check their analysis, and seek more rigorous peer review of their assessments before channelling them up the line. So, while I agree that on the policy-making side of the equation, frank advice must be provided within the parameters of what the Government wants and taking account of the constraints of what you can do. You need to bring forward alternative options. In terms of the intelligence assessments side of the equation I would have thought there would be a lot more rigour, post the revelations about WMD.

[30] Frank: In the end, all Labor got to say was “I told you so.” That has been small comfort, really. In terms of the hard politics, Labor is, in the end, harnessed to the alliance and that’s how it votes in the 21st century. And that was of enormous benefit to the Coalition. It ensured their longevity in office; they were very shaky in office as late as August 2001 and I think Labor’s learned a very severe lesson from it. A lot of its caution has been as a result of that.

[31] Jim: In the context of this discussion, what is the role of the diplomats in this? Is this their role, to be the white and black team? Or is it their roles to simply execute policy? It’s not really about whether Labor was right or wrong; it should be where the Embassy sits in this and where should it sit in this.

[32] Audience: It is on the record that [former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael] Thawley was very close to [United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz and [Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Richard] Armitage and all those people who were the architects of the whole Iraqi adventure. So, it was most unlikely he ever fed back to Canberra some of the doubts that some other people in Washington were expressing. And, I would guess in industry, where they might be enthusiastic about a policy direction, it is certainly their obligation that not everybody necessarily always agrees with that analysis. I think we are getting away from the some of the more specific questions we should asking and I wanted to make an observation on something that “Bomber” Beazley has said. “The TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement], we need the TPP to facilitate access to our most important market. Oh, wait a minute, China is our most important market, and America is number three. The TPP locks China out.” I couldn’t believe he said that.

[33] John:  Did he mean Asia as a whole?

[34] Virginia: I think he meant Southeast Asia. He was talking about the road, and then the path, and there was going to be six billion of them. The key argument he made on that in terms of the TPP is that we both need to lock in that market because that’s where America’s and our future lies.

[35] Audience: We do more business with the Chinese than all of Southeast Asia.

[36] Joan: Of course, he also spoke about Australian capitalism, which I thought was rather bizarre for a former leader of the Labor Party.

[37] Jim: Zorica?

[38] Zorica: Joan’s comment was an excellent one, and I think John’s elaboration on the question was also very useful. From my perspective, gone are the days that existed in the late 1960s, or very early 1970s, in the Australian foreign service where there were senior diplomats who were really willing to challenge the Government on policy issues. That’s probably a matter of fact rather than opinion. The Department has become more and more like the body politic, and more and more like public opinion on the question of relations with the U.S. Everybody can have a go at the U.S. or individual U.S. politicians in one way or another. The handling of an issue, they stuffed up in Iraq, or whatever. But everybody treats the relationship with the U.S. as a sacred cow. It is impossible to have a branch and roots review of it all, that’s a fact. But the Department and Government agencies, and so on, are no more culpable than the rest of Australian society. It probably says something profound about us a society.

[39] Peter Edwards: It also relates, in part, to the whole question of the balance between political and official wings of the executive government starting with the reforms under the Hawke Government – I think John Dawkins was the Minister primarily responsible – which made the Hawke Government determine they weren’t going to be governed by Mandarins. This image of half a dozen senior public servants having lunch at the Commonwealth Club, and running the country from there, was extremely strong in the 1970s and the Hawke Government clearly decided that was not going to continue. Since then, there have been changes by Governments of both political persuasions to reinforce that approach. The culmination  was the Paul Barratt case, in which Barratt was sacked as the Secretary of the Defence Department. He took the case to the High Court which determined that if the Minister loses confidence in the Head of Department for whatever reason, the colour of his tie etc., he or she is out instantly, and that’s that. Although all the public servants will say they have not ceased to abide by their duty to give frank and fearless advice, it’s hard to imagine that’s totally the case. Increasingly the public service, including in Foreign Affairs, simply acts to implement decisions that are taken elsewhere. Most of the real decisions are taken, not in the Prime Minister’s Department but in the Prime Minister’s Office.

[40] Tim McDonald: There have been instances, notably our commitment to Vietnam and then later the commitment to Iraq, where the bureaucracy was positively prohibited from offering advice. At the time of the commitment to Iraq, both the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs have said to their respective Ministers, when Cabinet was about to consider this, that we are proposing to do a joint submission on the pros and cons of this. They were prohibited from preparing a paper and submitting it to Cabinet. So you’ve seen somewhat of a cowering of the public service over recent years. Although I think the tradition of trying to give frank and fearless still exists, very often the opportunity to do it is just denied them.

[41] Jim: David, I don’t think we’re going to get any further. We’ve had an excellent exposition of the history and some of the foibles, some of the qualities of Australian diplomatic representation in the United States and the relationship over the past half century. We appreciate all your contributions and thank you for the opportunity.

[42] David Lowe: Can I add my thanks to everyone who’s been bearing witness. It’s been an incredibly stimulating day. We’ve ended on a debate, which is entirely suitable. In the organisational elements of today I’d like to thank David Lee and Tanya Smith for helping, and of course Jim Middleton. It’s been great to have your expertise and enthusiasm here, so thanks again.