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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7849

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER NATIONAL PRESS CLUB CANBERRA - 7 DECEMBER 1989

Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/1989

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 7849

CHECK AGAINT DELIVERY EMAGOED UNTIL. DELIVERY
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
CANBERRA 7 DECEMBER 1989
A 60th birthday is not the occasion for a policy
statement from me.
But like turning 21, or 40, turning 60 is a landmark at
which it is permissible to engage in some personal
reflection. And when half of those 60 years have been
spent in public life it is natural that such reflections
should traverse public matters including, to put it
quite frankly, my hopes for my children and my
grandchildren not just as family but as citizens of the
Australia of the future.
It is of this future that I wish predominantly to speak.
But we are, each one of us, the product of our history.
And therefore if I am to speak meaningfully of my vision
of the future and how my Government has been laying the
path to that future I must, briefly, allude to the
history of my own time and experience.
Let me take four precisely divided points in my own life
to indicate how my outlook has been shaped.
19i29, the year I was born, was the mid-point between the
two great wars of this century. It was the eve of the
Great Depression. Mankind was dramatically, tragically,
demonstrating its incapacity to handle economic and
political relationships within nations and between
nations. ' The war to end wars' was coming to be seen to have
taught us nothing. An increasing economic autarky was
inexorably laying the grounds for the devastation of 1939
and the next five years.
The great paradox of the twentieth century was beginning
to emerge the enormous gulf between the human genius
for scientific and technological advancement and our
backwardness as social and political engineers.

This paradox was reflected at the end of the Pacific war
in the classic dilemma of harnessing and controlling the
power of the atom, a dilemma which has haunted us for the
rest of the century.
1949 was a seminal point in Australian history. Australia
turned back to the conservatives after Labor's leadership
in the war and in post-war reconstruction. There followed
the generation of lost opportunities the opportunity to
restructure and make more competitive the Australian
economy, the opportunity within a commitment to the
Western Alliance to forge a position of independent
relevance in the international arena in general and our
region in particular.
And frankly, the Labor Party must accept some
responsibility for this generation of lost opportunity.
Our preoccupations with our internecine conflicts
understandably led the electorate to conclude that if we
could not govern ourselves we were not ready to govern
the nation.
1969 was a significant year for me, being elected
President of the ACTU. We were still in the mire of
Vietnam where a conservative Government reflected abroad
the lack of understanding of historical realities and the
confrontationism it exhibited at home.
It was to be the decade of the successive oil price
shocks which, together with other factors, changed the
world economic environment.
It was for me a decade in which I was given a unique
opportunity to understand the Australian economy the
trade union movement, the business sector, and a range of
community organisations. I learned about its domestic and
international dimensions in a thoroughly practical way. I
learned the art of conciliation and industrial dispute
resolution. This led me to say in my 1975 Presidential Address to the
ACTU Congress, in the context of pointing to a
significant shift from profits to wages:
" The indisputable facts are that a continuation of
recent trends in the division of national income
would mean that Australian workers would have less
opportunities to obtain employment and would pay
very much more for those things with which to
sustain themselves and their families. It is
essential that the self-interest of particular
groups be balanced against the interests of workers
as a whole.

So that was 1929, 1949 and 1969. And here we are at the
end of 1989 on the threshold of the last decade of this
twentieth century. This Australia, this region, this
world are almost unrecognisably different from that
Australia, that region, that world into which I was born.
It is the convictions born of my experience in this
period of the most dynamic change in human history that
have shaped my approach to government and my aspirations
for Australia.
And as we approach the next century what I want to see is
the evolution of an Australia attuned to and conscious of
this tremendous change an Australia with several
distinctive, deeply interrelated characteristics.
First, I want to see us become a modern, growing
Australian economy, shaken out of the old complacent
dependence on commodity exports, re-equipped and
restructured in its attitudes, institutions and
technology to be fully competitive in the world.
Second, I want an Australia self confidently and
vigorously engaged with the world economy, and in.
particular enmeshed with the dynamism of Asia and the
Pacific an outward looking country capable of
contributing to and drawing enduring prosperity from the
region a country which others wish to have as a partner
because they see that we have got our own act together
and are able to contribute.
Third, I want an Australia committed to maintaining and
enhancing the quality of life, not merely the quantity of
our economic output. We must not be panicked into a
strategy of industrialisation at any cost. We must
enlarge our commitment to social justice; to the
preservation of our natural environment; to the creation
of a tolerant, multicultural, egalitarian society a
society immensely vigorous because of its diversity yet
uniquely harmonious because of the deep and genuine
mutual respect each component group holds for all others.
And fourth I want a self-reliant Australia, drawing
strength from its traditional attachments to other
countries but attuned to and pursuing in a hard headed
way its own interests in a changing World; speaking with
an independent voice; not merely fitting in with the
world as we find it but helping shape it.
There is no final destination to this journey no point
at which we will be able to say, " There, we have done
it". It is a national commitment to a fundamental and
continuing prrag of modernisation guided by these four
goals that I seek.
I am perfectly open to debate about the pace of the
change but I shall fiercely resist developments that
would take the vital process backwards.

That is why when the Opposition would scrap the capital
gains tax, far more is at stake than some esoteric
question about tax policy. It is an attack upon the
social equity and economic efficiency which are essential
components of the modern Labor vision for Australia.
It is why when the Pilots' Federation gave us a practical
demonstration of the Opposition's recipe for industrial
relations far more was at stake than just an excessive
wage claim in one industry. It was an attack on the very
economic competitiveness which is at the heart of the
sort of Australia we wish to see.
It is why when the Opposition proposes pulling back the
helping hand to the sick, the elderly, the Aboriginal
people, the newly arrived migrant, we are not just
dealing with some peripheral re-ordering of Government
spending priorities, but symptoms of an ideology utterly
hostile to our Australian vision.
It is why differences over the environment are more tha n
differences over forests and streams; they are
differences over the very values we wish to prevail in
the country which future generations will inherit.
It is why when John Elliott proposes that Australia
become part of the European Community or when others in
the Opposition attack Asian immigration, this is not some
sort of sad joke or minor aberration but a literally
dangerous failure to understand our place in the 1990s
and beyond.
It is why when the Opposition is so sluggish in
recognising change in the Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe, when it childishly plays around with the concept
of an Asia-Pacific trading bloc, when it promises to
abrogate the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, when
it pulls back from sanctions against apartheid, we are
not just talking about some slight immaturity in foreign
policy but a deep-seated inability to come to grips with
Australia's future in the world.
In summary, it is why when the Opposition puts short-term
political point scoring ahead of long-term national
interests or when it reveals its utter confusion about
where those interests really lie we are seeing a
debauching of the political debate about the future of
our country. Labor the united Labor movement has
modernised and acquired a maturity and competence in the
pursuit of national goals. The conservatives divided
and immature remain locked in the mindset of the past.

So as Australia enters the 1990s we do not have in this
country two parties of the centre algreed on ends and
locked only in a constructive debate over means. We are
engaged in a sharply drawn contest against a party
ideologically driven by the right. It is no mere
academic debate but a battle with far reaching
implications for the daily lives of every Australian.
It would not be Andrew Peacock who would run a Coalition
Cabinet, certainly not on economic, social or
environmental issues. It would be the much harder men of
the right. Whatever sugar coating is put on the
Coalition's policies in its attempt to get into
government, who could really believe that Andrew Peacock
would have the fortitude, the sheer weight, to take on
the John Stones and the doctrines they represent when the
immediate electoral restraints were off? Andrew Peacock
is a genial disproof of Art Buchwald's lament " I always
wanted to get into politics but I was never light enough
to make the team."
So I do not for a moment deny that our opponents
represent change. Certainly they do but not change-for
the better change dreadfully for the worse.
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me take head on the questions so much in the
forefront of discussion, and certainly concern, in the
electorate the balance of payments, debt and interest
rates. These are, without question, totally proper and
understandable areas of concern. Indeed as a nation we
ignore them at our peril.
But first we must be clear about this: there is no one
single yardstick of how we as individuals, as families or
as a nation are progressing along the path to future
prosperity in a restructured, more competitive, more
cooperative and more compassionate Australia.
The Accord has been, under this Government, the crucial
instrument of economic and social policy.
There is a fundamental point to be made about the impact
of the Accord. The trade union movement has been
prepared to accept lower money wage increases in exchange
for significant improvements in that broad range of
benefits encompassed under the heading of the social
wage. I accept that current interest rates hurt that the
decline in real wages has hurt. But that is to tell only
part of the story.
For the following things not only do not hurt but in fact
positively add to the welfare of Australian families
and equally importantly they are the building blocks for
our better future:

a record number of new jobs have been created;
our children are staying on in the school
system, and massively increased numbers of
tertiary education places and Job training
opportunities are being provided; Medicare is
guaranteeing decent and fair health cover for
all Australians; superannuation is being
opened up to the great majority of the
Australian workforce; childcare places have
been trebled; pensions have been boosted in
real terms.
This list is not exhaustive. But it illustrates the
basic point: real wage restraint, accompanied by such
massive improvement in the social wage the restraint
with equity that I sought and that has been so
magnificently provided by the Australian community has
set the course for growth sustainable prosperity,
genuinely earned and fairly shared.
This sort of wage restraint has been the starting point
of a positive, dynamic process now under way throughout
the Australian economy.
The equation is crystal clear: wage restraint has meant
higher profits; that has lead to record investment; that
has sustained record employment growth.
Of course the investment surge is sucking in imports at a
level we cannot currently sustain by our own exports.
These imports constitute an essential part of the reequipping
and re-structuring for the future Australia.
But the present Australia cannot, precisely because of
current external pressures, maintain this level of
imports. The problem of high interest rates is the very
product of our success together in encouraging jobcreating
investment so vital to this country's future.
So tight monetary policy -supplementing already tight
fiscal and wages policy -must be used to dampen economic
activity, so that we can have a sustainable level of
imports.
The test of an active economic policy is not that there
be new decisions and new announcements every week or
every month. Our policies are not passive. They are
actively working on the economy day by day to achieve the
results we need.
Signs are emerging that this policy the policy for
Australians present and future is working.
As soon as it is consistent with my responsibility as
Prime Minister which is a responsibility not to secure
immediate electoral acclaim but to protect the future of
this country interest rates will be able to come down.

But I repeat there is no single yardstick not the
balance of payments, not foreign debt levels, not
interest rates that can adequately measure the health
of the economy, the wellbeing of Australians and their
families and our prospects for the future.
And finally on this point, I say that a realistic
awareness of present problems and constructive concern to
tackle them is one thing; self-fulfilling gloom about
the nation's future talking the country down
permitting some artificial crisis of confidence to erode
our immense strengths ignoring what is being done
these things are quite another.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I said at the beginning, today is not the time for the
policy speech. We can talk about that next year.
But it is right today that I bring together the essential
elements on which that policy speech will certainly be
based the guiding principles for leading us towards our
four goals for the 1990s principles we have already
firmly established in practice.
* Fundamental to everything that follows is
d~ i~ pined Acnomin policy not the pork barrel, not
gimmicks, not posturing.
That means there will be more of the already countless
hours in the Expenditure Review Committee, holding down
Government spending painstaking evaluation of programs,
not the indiscriminate wielding of a meat cleaver. It
means unyielding defence of a fair and efficient taxation
system. The commitment to an unrelenting drive for world
beRt standards in induntrv-infrastrunture-p and Rarvice
q~ Zotr must continue it must not be botched in the
welter of tough talk, ill-considered action,
confrontation and favouritism that is our opponents'
stock in trade.
Reconstruction has been a continuing and accelerating
process marked by significant achievements unparalleled
in Australian peace-time history. I again challenge our
conservative opponents, and any political or economic
commentator, to examine the document on micro-economic
reform I have released today, and point to any period of
conservative rule which has come within a bull's roar of
this pace and size of change.
Industrial rplationn nped gtability not a wing and
a prayer.

We have proven that distinctively Australian institutions
work well when they are applied properly. The centralised
system has shown it can deliver the goods in testing
economic times responsible wage outcomes, reduction in
industrial disputes, award restructuring and record rates
of job creation.
Without these fundamentals of economic management no
facet of the vision I have for Australia economic or
social, domestic or international will, in the final
analysis, be possible. And I fear for that vision when I
see the Opposition embrace fiscal, monetary and wages
policies the combined effect of which must be higher
interest rates, industrial turmoil,. perversion of the tax
system and ultimately recession. They would in practice
destroy the formidable growth in Australia's productive
capacity that has been achieved by the Australian people
since 1983.
* Enduring financial constraints will mean that ancial
ipning musat continue to hP finely and fairly targeted
not debased by false, crude divisions of the Australian
community into " bludgers" and " workers".
My Government has proved decisively that we can have,
simultaneously, both greater social justice and fiscal
responsibility we can have both compassion and realism.
Critical to the challenge of social justice is the
crato through education and training, of
oppotunities forl young Au~ tralfans to lead fulfilling
and productive lives rather than being forced onto dole
queues as a blunt instrument of economic policy.
An Australia which prizes learning will be an Australia
where the life of individuals, and of our society as a
whole, is enriched. But, beyond that, an Australia
operating at the very peak of its intellectual capability
and skills in management, business, the professions,
the trades, science and technology is an Australia
capable of holding and improving its place in a
competitive world.
We must be committed not merely to the principle of
op~ pao rtunity, but to its achievement in everyday
life through legislation, affirmative action and
institutional changes.
It is precisely because we aspire to enduring social and
economic change that we have adopted National Agendas in
such areas as multiculturalism and the role of women.
And that is precisely the reason we are restructuring the
very institutional framework for Aboriginal Affairs and
expanding access and opportunity for Australians living
outside the major cities.

Where our opponents would backtrack on Annial
lugtinA, we shall look ahead to new issues and seek out
new solutions.
We are developing new initiatives for the 1990s in our
social justice program. This takes us beyond the
pre-occupation absolutely essential in the 1980s with
providing basic income support to disadvantaged
Australians. Our attention must now turn to the
inadequacy of basic services in local communities,
especially those in rapidly expanding outer urban areas
and in provincial areas. And we are working with ACOSS
to tackle these issues.
Protection of our natural environment must be ranked
alongside economic development, not as our opponents
would have it, a poor second cousin. The environmental
cause is no passing fad. It is a profound obligation
born of new knowledge and changing values an obligation
to our children. I shall be speaking more about this to
the Australian Conservation Foundation next week.
In a time of the most profound and remarkable
international change in post-war history, we must be able
to anticipate change, adjust to change, be ahead of
change not shuffle along behind like our opponents.
The change is of course most spectacular in Eastern
Europe, but it is most immediately relevant, most
powerfully felt, in our region.
When I started years ago pressing what I termed
Australia's " enmeshment" with Asia and the Pacific it was
not only to establish a fundamental tenet of a modern
Australian economic and foreign policy it was to
encourage Australians to revise their thinking on where
our future as a country lies. Thus there is a broader
context for such foreign policy achievements as the APEC
initiative and the Timor Gap agreement, and for our
commissioning of Ross Garnaut's report. I want such
steps to be consciously seen by the Australian people as
decisive indications of this country's long term
orientation. We must recognise that there is now the most intimate
connection between the future character of Australia
itself, on the one hand, and the world in which Australia
must function on the other. In this sense foreign policy
has become a key part of domestic policy, and vice versa;
and we must not rend that seamless web.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ours is a great country its potential is greater still.

When Australians lift their gaze to look ahead they can,
with every justification, see a future rich in hope and
promise. We have the human and natural resources to
bring it about.
So my reflections on turning 60 come to this that if
the kids of Australia grow up in a country like this if
they inherit a country more economically dynamic; more at
home in its region; more caring, diverse and tolerant;
more protective of the natural environment; more
educated; more able to adjust to a changing world then
they will have the best chance we can give them of lives
which are individually fulfilling and rewarding. They
will, moreover, live in a nation even more justly proud
of its achievements, a country where they, the next
generation of Australians, can look with confidence to a
place in the sun as we move into the 21st century.

Transcript 7849