Bob Hawke

We [ with Brian Mulroney and Rajiv Gandhi] went to the meeting in Canada [the 1987 Vancouver CHOGM] and I said to them there that sanctions weren’t working; they were just being busted. And it did seem to me that one way that we could bring the apartheid regime down would be if we did mount an effective investment sanction.

When George Bush Senior [George HW Bush] was getting his alliance together to go into Iraq – to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait – he rang me up. I was very close to George Bush Senior; I got to know him well as Vice President to Ronald Reagan. And George rang me up and said, “Oh, Bob,” he said, “I’m having trouble with Brian [Mulroney].” He said, “He’s got a big wheat trade with Iraq, and he doesn’t want to upset that.” I said, “You leave it with me.”

I was used on a number of occasions by the United States and China as a conduit. For instance, I was up there talking with the Chinese leadership and they said to me that they were a bit concerned that the Americans had a misunderstanding about their relationship with the Soviets. There was some suggestion that there was a rapprochement developing between China and the Soviets, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

One other thing: at the meeting in Canada, [there was] the coup in Fiji. This comes to an important part of the Commonwealth: the role of the Queen [Elizabeth II]. I had absolutely just enormous respect for her as leader of the Commonwealth. You could talk to her about any of the fifty-one countries of the Commonwealth and you could have an intelligent conversation with her about the economics, the politics. She really immersed herself in the Commonwealth.

I think there are a number of reasons, not least of which is the personality of the Queen [ Elizabeth II]. It’s very easy to underrate her significance. I think she finds the Commonwealth and her position as Head of the Commonwealth infinitely more interesting than being the Queen of England, because she has no significant role in the latter.

I rang Brian [Mulroney] up. I said, “What’s this bloody nonsense. You’ve got a wheat trade with Iraq and you won’t come aboard?” I said, “We’ve got a bloody big wheat trade too, so get your priorities right.” And he said, “Okay, Bob. I’ll come.” I rang George and he was very appreciative.