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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7900


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: 14/02/1990

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 7900

14 FEBRUARY 1990
JONES: very significant visit to the Soviet Union.
He spent three hours with Mikhail Gorbachev and at the
-time expressed optimism about the changes which were then
S -gaining momentum behind the Iron Curtain. Of course, in
many areas the optimism was greeted with scepticism. A
scepticism which now has been proved to be grossly
misplaced. During that visit Mr Hawke invited the Soviet
Prime Minister, Mr Ryzhkov, to Australia and here he is
in Australia now. A very insignificant ( sic) visit. The
importance of it can't be understated. He's number two
in the Soviet hierarchy, he's most senior Soviet leader
ever to visit Australia, he's here just days after the
Communist Party in the Soviet Union took the first steps
towards a democratic multi party state. He's regarded as
the key manager of the Soviet economy and he personally
drew up the blueprint for the restructuring of the Soviet
economy. And make no mistake, as I've said, the Soviet
Union faces enormous economic problems which have placed
tremendous strain on the Soviet leadership. The Prime
Minister, our Prime Minister, will be discussing with Mr
Ryzhkov the Australian economy and the Soviet economy and
other things later on in the day, but the* Prime Minister
is on the line. Prime Minister, good morning.
PM: Morning Alan.
JONES: Thank you for your time. I know you're very
busy. PM: Pleasure, Alan.
JONES: This is a very significant visit isn't it? I
mean, in many ways, it's surprising that he got here?
PM: Well, we had our fingers crossed, Alan, because we
would not have been surprised and, of course, would have
completely understood if he'd cancelled at the last
minute because, as you've indicated, these are times of
absolutely momentous change in the Soviet Union and it is
a credit to our country that at this time the Soviet
Prime Minister is coming right across the world. He's
only really coming to Australia he stopped in Bangkok

just for a few hours on the way, not overnight and he's
d6oi'ng the same thing in Singapore on the way back. So
for him to come to Australia I think is an indication of
the importance of our country and what a relatively small
country managing its policies can do to play some
part in what's happening within the world.
JONES: Yes. It's interesting isn't it, having arrived
here yesterday and given the problems that exist in the
Soviet economy, that he first wanted to head off to a
food packaging outlet in Australia. Did he express a lot
of interest in that?
PM: It's not surprising at all, Alan, when you think of
it. The major problem facing the Soviet Union today and
it's indeed one of the things that I talked about with Mr
Gorbachev and then wrote to him about subsequently, was
the whole question of the food chain, by which I mean the
tragedy, in the first place, is that the Soviets don't
produce enough food to feed their people and secondly, in
respect of what they do produce, they have enormous
problems in transportation. Some estimates suggest that
up to a quarter of their actual production may be wasted
in the distribution system
JONES: It's just such a phenomenal land mass isn't it?
PM: It is a phenomenal land mass and, of course, all
these years of an irrelevant economic system has produced
unbelievably archaic and irrelevant systems and so, quite
fundamentally, Alan, I think one of the things that we
can do and what I'll be talking about with Mr Ryzhkov is
to apply the great experience that we have in the food
chain. I mean, really there are very few countries that
have that experience from, as we do, massive production
and then experience in a great range of food processing
and of distribution. So I believe that this is an area
both, one, of fundamental importance to the Soviet Union
and two, one within our area of experience. All the
words in the world are important about welcoming change
in the Soviet Union, the important thing to do is to
in areas of irrelevance.
JONES: And see what it will produce. What commercial
opportunities are there for us as a result of this visit,
for example, that wouldn't have otherwise been? I mean,
what are you going to be negotiating with him today apart
from fishing? I mean, we all know about the fishing
negotiations. What else?
PM: Well, related to the fishing is the commodities
agreement because the Soviet Union for some years had
expressed interest to us in having a fisheries agreement
and we said, well, yes we could look at that. But we
wanted to make sure that out of those negotiations we got
something of importance to us as well and so we've
negotiated, sort of in the complimentary fashion with the
fisheries agreement, a commodities agreement which will

be signed today and that includes a schedule listing
quantity indicators for several important commodities for
Australia that we sell to the Soviet Union that's
wheat, we'll have a commodity target there, bauxite and
sugar and manganese. So that out of these negotiations,
there'll be benefit for the Soviet Union, but very
significant benefits also for Australian producers.
JONES: You're looking at someone who's a bit of a
political chameleon in a way, though, isn't he? A fellow
who was, going right back to Andropov, was at the centre
of this Communist system and yet now we're told to
believe that this is a fellow who's embraced the notion
of change. Do you get that impression from the limited
discussions you've had with him to date?
PM: Yes, I had the opportunity when I was there he was
my host in the Soviet Union at the end of 1987 when, as
I think you've been kind enough to say, we were somewhat
ahead of the game and he indicated to me then that before
he and Mikhail Gorbachev had come to their positions of
power, they had known one another in their respective
ministries. Gorbachev was in agriculture and Mr Ryzhkov
was in the overall economic planning area and he said
at that stage, before they'd come to power, they'd
realised that the Soviet economic system was in chaos,
was inadequate, to meet the needs of the Soviet people
and that they had exchanged ideas at that early stage.
So I don't think it's a matter of some late dawning of
understanding after he became Prime Minister. It's quite
clear on the evidence that he and Gorbachev, going right
back into the earlier part of the eighties, understood
that the Marxist Leninist system
PM: organisation had failed.
JONES: Yes, sure. And is he happy to talk? Have you
raised this question of multi party systems with him or
will you be doing that today?
PM: We'll be doing that today. We, of course, had
started at the edges of those discussions in ' 87 because,
you know, in the discussions I'd had then I'd indicated.
that when you're talking about economic reform, that real
economic reform which involves the capacity for private
decision making and so on which must be a necessary part
of moving towards a market economy, necessarily entails
move towards political freedom and
PM: And that's precisely what's happened in the period
since the end of ' 87 when I was talking about these
things with both Mr Gorbachev and Mr Ryzhkov and it
certainly is going to be fascinating, Alan, to get at
first hand now a description from a man at the centre

PM: precisely how things have worked out.
JONES: Extraordinary. Look, one final thing before you
go and this is perhaps the most serious question of the
morning. I do have a rugby union commitment out of
Sydney on 24 March. I just want to know No,
seriously, I just want to know whether I register the
postal ballot or whether I'm safe to go and not worry
about anything. 24th March, Prime Minister.
PM: Thank you, my dear friend. Wherever you are, I know
you'll and whatever the day is I know you'll know how
to vote
JONES: You're not normally so evasive. I'm asking you
specifically. March 24. The dogs are barking.
PM: No comment, my friend.
JONES: The dogs are barking.
PM: Are they?
PM: The dogs are barking at Andrew's heels
JONES: Yes, I thought you might have been announcing the
result today. If it's to be on March 24, when's it got
to be announced by?
PM: If that were to be the date, it would have to be
announced very soon.
JONES: OK, look forward to hearing from you.
PM: Thanks very much, Alan.
JONES: Prime Minister
PM: Bye, bye.
JONES: OK, bye bye.

Transcript 7900