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Tuesday, 13 December 1983
Page: 3639

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Attorney-General in his capacity as representing both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to an interview with the Minister for Foreign Affairs this morning in which he said that he had had a telephone conversation with Secretary of State George Shultz who is in Madrid, in relation to the confusion and head of steam which has arisen over the statements by the Minister for Defence, concerning the visit of HMS Invincible, and its implications for visits by allied naval vessels, particularly from the United States. I ask the Attorney- General: Have officers from the United States Embassy concluded the discussions with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs which Mr Hayden said would be held this morning? Have these talks 'nipped in the bud'-to use Mr Shultz's words-any misunderstanding, confusion or ambiguity which has resulted from the confusing statements by the Minister for Defence in relation to the HMS Invincible visit? What assurances are being sought, have been sought or have been given to the United States at today's talks?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am advised that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, did speak with the United States Secretary of State, Mr George Shultz, by telephone this morning. Mr Shultz was in Lisbon at the time, in transit. Mr Shultz volunteered that there was a need to 'nip in the bud', as Senator Durack said, very quickly any misunderstanding which might have been generated in the public commentary on this matter, especially insofar as that commentary might be related to United States attitudes. In consequence of this discussion, the United States Charge d'Affaires, Mr Lyne, was shortly to have discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs. I am not clear as to whether those discussions have taken place or are now taking place; they were certainly, as I understand it, to take place very soon.

The discussion between Mr Shultz and Mr Hayden was, I am told, extremely cordial. Secretary of State Shultz stressed the strength and the welcome nature of the relationship that existed between Australia and the United States. He particularly expressed his pleasure at the fact that both the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, and the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, have established a confident and mutually self-respecting association with United States Administration officials such as himself. Such association allows direct and immediate communication such as that which took place on this occasion to take place on matters of interest to the respective parties to the Australia-United States alliance. It is very apparent from the terms of this exchange this morning that the United States Administration does not share the concern being unjustifiably developed in some quarters about what are the purported as distinct from factual circumstances about HMS Invincible; nor does the United States Administration wish to contribute to that concern.