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Leak needs to be kept in proportion, says former diplomat

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard

Wellington, July 23 NZPA - Relations between Australia and New Zealand are not likely to be damaged following the leak of a diplomatic cable between the New Zealand High Commission and Canberra and the New Zealand Government, says a former diplomat.

The cable, obtained by The Australian newspaper, was believed to have been sent soon after Julia Gillard rolled Kevin Rudd as leader of the Australian Labor Party, becoming prime minister as a result.

It said Ms Gillard's staff had not wanted her to offer Mr Rudd a new role when she took over the top job, despite him wanting the foreign affairs portfolio.

Former New Zealand diplomat Terrence O'Brien said either the information was deliberately passed into media hands or the leak was the result of carelessness, "a document left on a table, picked up by someone and passed on".

That sort of error occurred from time to time in Australia-New Zealand relations, he told Radio New Zealand.

Mr O'Brien referred to a case in 2008 where Australian government notes on former prime minister Helen Clark ended up in the hands of media covering a Pacific Islands Forum.

The notes appeared outdated, but suggested Miss Clark was a left-wing control freak who trusted few people. Miss Clark laughed it off and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said it was regrettable blunder.

Mr O'Brien said the latest leak was an embarrassment but "not some sort of terminal blow to Australia-New Zealand relationships".

"There are no major national security secrets here, if anything, the information is a sort of footnote to history of a recent change in Australian politics...we need to keep a sense of proportion". While the information could have been intercepted, that was unlikely, Mr O'Brien said.

Labour leader Phil Goff said it was an "extraordinary" situation which could be damaging to the relationship between the countries.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is investigating the leak.

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