53. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, February 7, 1975, 1600–1645.1 2


3 March 1975
In reply refer to: 1-35059/75


SUBJECT: Meeting between US Ambassador to Australia, Marshall Green, and Secretary of Defense Schlesinger (U)


  • Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger
  • US Ambassador to Australia, Marshall Green
  • Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Major General John Wickham
  • Director, East Asia & Pacific Region, OASD/ISA, RADM William J. Crowe

Time: 1600-1645, 7 February 1975
Place: Secretary Schlesinger’s Office, Pentagon

(S) After some initial pleasantries, Ambassador Green made a few comments about the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Whitlam. When Whitlam came into office he had grave reservations about the U.S. bases, but has gradually come to appreciate the importance of these installations not only to the U.S. and Australia, but also to world peace. This was confirmed this week by Whitlam’s public and spirited defense of the U.S. presence. Significantly, Minister Cairns has not insisted on being cut in on the details of these activities.
(S) Mention was made of the Labor Party’s call for opening a PRG information office in Australia. Green believes that implementing this decision will take some time and that he may be able to prolong it indefinitely. In any event, he considers this an important but not vital issue.
(TS) Secretary Schlesinger expressed the opinion that U.S. installations would be allowed to remain in Australia as long as Whitlam is in charge. Green agreed, with two exceptions: (1) If Minister Cairns ever became head of the Labor Party, the U.S. would find it difficult to stay; (2) if current investigations in the U.S. became linked with Australia, the resulting storm might shorten our stay. A brief discussion ensued on the management of Pine Gap and there was general agreement that the arrangement should remain as is. If a change was desired, the Government of Australia should be consulted first. The Ambassador doubted that one year would be sufficient time to relocate and Secretary Schlesinger said that two years was more realistic. Green was relatively confident that he could arrange a two-year period if necessary.
(S) The Ambassador then proceeded to review the political picture. There is a good possibility that the opposition could bring down the government in the spring and given the country’s current mood, the ALP [Page 2] could be turned out. However, the country is experiencing profound economic problems and the Liberals may not feel that it is a propitious time to assume office. From the U.S. perspective, we are probably better off if Labor stays in office a respectable period. If the Labor Party was defeated, Whitlam might fall and Cairns replace him as the head of the party. It is unlikely that the opposition could solve the many pressing problems and when Labor returned it could be a disaster for the United States. In general, the U.S. is better off if the two parties alternate in power at respectable intervals.
(S) By and large, the game is played differently today than when Green went to Canberra. His initial instructions were to be hardnosed. Now, however, the approach has softened considerably. Despite some irritants in the relationship, it is clear that Australia is on our side on most important issues (nuclear proliferation, cartels, oil prices, food production, etc.). Green heartily recommends that we play down lesser subjects (e.g., PRO, Diego Garcia, law of war, etc.) in order to keep the focus on major problems. To do otherwise generates controversy and diverts attention from our vast common interests. Therefore, we should be considering priorities and put our emphasis on the positive aspects of the relationship. Secretary Schlesinger commented that as long as they behave, we should also.
(S) The Ambassador briefly sketched Australia’s economic problems and pointed out that their attitude toward the U.S. improved with hard times. During a recession they are more occupied with internal problems, welcome outside capital and have less resources to devote to defense — consequently, they better appreciate the U.S. security umbrella.
(S) The Ambassador closed this part of the discussion by stressing that what happened in Washington would have a lot to do with the future. We are presently muting the issues that divide us; we could just as easily heat up the crucible at any time, either accidentally or intentionally. In essence, he currently advises that we make every effort to keep a low profile.
(S) Secretary Schlesinger asked about nuclear powered warship visits. The Ambassador pointed out that most of the major Australian objections seemed to have been accommodated and that in his opinion it is time to raise the issue again with Mr. Barnard. The Ambassador suggested that we request clearance for a nuclear surface ship visit during the Coral Sea celebration (second week of May). He further recommended Fremantle (adjacent to Perth) as a suitable port. The Secretary commented, “Let’s push that.”
(S) The conversation turned to Diego Garcia. According to the Ambassador, the Indian nuclear explosion somewhat sobered the Australian leaders and we now hear less rhetoric about big power involvement in the Indian Ocean. The Australians will follow the Indonesian lead, but unfortunately the Indonesian leaders are not saying publically what they tell us privately. In the Ambassador’s opinion, the best course for [Page 3] Whitlam and his deputies is to keep quiet on the subject and he believes that we will hear less and less. In turn, it is to our advantage to keep them informed of what the Soviets are doing in the Indian Ocean.

Memorandum of Conversation
Prepared by: RADM W.J. Crowe
Approved by: [Crowe signed]
Director, East Asia & Pacific Reg. Date: 3 March 1975

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0058, Australia, 091.112, 1975. Top Secret. Drafted and approved by Crowe. The conversation took place in Schlesinger’s office.
  2. Green and Schlesinger discussed US-Australian relations.