29. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon, Washington, March 16, 1973.1 2

March 16, 1973


Ambassador Plimsoll of Australia called on me today to discuss the SEATO and ANZUS meetings. During the discussion, he pointed out that it is the Australian Labor Party caucus in Parliament, not the Prime Minister, which selects from among its members who will be Ministers. The Prime Minister merely assigns the portfolios. This is not the case in conservative (Liberal and Country Party) governments where Prime Ministers exercise the right to appoint and fire Ministers.

This was one of several facts that he advanced for the difficulties Prime Minister Whitlam has in disciplining his own Cabinet (some of whom made some most unfortunate remarks three months ago). There are, of course, many other factors involved, including the fact that Labor has been out of power for 23 years and no member of the Cabinet has had Executive Branch experience previously.

Plimsoll (who incidentally is an excellent ambassador and a strong supporter of the U.S. position in Indochina) indicated that Whitlam is seeking to get things under control after a bad start but the big showdown in the Party will come at its conference this July when the leftists will try to throw overboard all military alliances and eject our highly classified U.S. defense space installations from Australia.

Whitlam took a firm public stand personally today in support of and in protecting the secrecy of our several highly classified defense space installations in Australia.

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At a Press Club luncheon in Melbourne, he was asked about the discrepancy of his position now and his position before the elections, when he — like other ALP members — had said there should be no secrets about the functions of foreign installations in Australia. He said straightforwardly that this was one campaign position he was reversing. He was not going to reveal any secrets about the installations.

[signed] William P. Rogers

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 504, Country Files, Far East, Australia, January 1972–December 31, 1973. Secret.
  2. Rogers reported on his conversation with Plimsoll.