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WikiLeaks reveals shrewd US views on SA politics

Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Author: David Washington, Indaily

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WIKILEAKS' latest release of US diplomatic cables shows US operatives had shrewd insights into turbulence in South Australian politics in the 1970s - including the power of Premier Don Dunstan's political strategy, and the root causes of division in the Liberal Party.

The so-called Kissinger Cables - more than 1.7 million diplomatic documents from 1973 to 1976 - also describe battles between then Premier Don Dunstan and his on-the-nose federal Labor colleagues.

They detail, in blunt terms for diplomatic cables, the failed political strategy by Opposition Leader Bruce Eastick, who was contending with a split of the Liberals into two parties - his own Liberal and Country League, and the breakaway Liberal Movement.

One cable, from October 2, 1973, records a visit by the US Ambassador Marshall Green to Adelaide.

First up was a meeting with legendary Chief Justice John Bray, who dressed formally for the occasion:

"Ambassador Green arrived in Adelaide the morning of Sept 18 and paid his first call upon the Chief Justice, Dr. John J. Bray, who received him in his century-old chambers, impressive in his wig and court dress of scarlet satin, white cummerbund and stiff collar. The discussion centered on differences in Australian, American and English jurisprudence and, particularly, the problems of interpretation of certain parts of the Australian Constitution, such as the famous "trade between the states shall be free" clause."

The next meeting was with Dunstan. The Premier, the cable notes, was pushed for time, but was keen to talk and only ended the encounter "under pressure from his aides".

The content of the discussions was mostly Dunstan's annoyance with the Whitlam Government.

"Mr. Dunstan was extremely candid and forthcoming in his remarks, particularly as an ALP member when criticizing the government in Canberra for changing in the new federal budget the tax payment procedures for wine producers from time of sale to a yearly basis: this, the premier said, would cost so much that most small firms would be forced out of business. He was also disturbed by the budget reclassifying brandy into the same category as whiskey and liquor, thereby considerably increasing the taxes and duties on the product. Since 80 percent of Australia's brandy is made in the state of South Australia this reclassification and the preceding tax change would cause considerable hardship, if implemented."

Dunstan also canned the Federal Government over a postponement in federal contributions for the Dartmouth Dam, and the "interference" of Rex Connor, Whitlam's minister for mineral resources and energy, in the state's attempt to develop the Cooper Basin's natural gas discoveries.

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