PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8080


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: 13/08/1990

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 8080

JOURNALIST: ( inaudible)
PM: Well, it's the most serious decision I've had to
take as Prime Minister, in consultation with my
colleagues. But in the end, it's not a hard decision in
that one knows that you can't sensibly follow a policy of
appeasement in situations like this. It's of course, my
hope that by the time our men get there in these three
ships the need for their presence will have
evaporated. But I was terribly impressed by the spirit
of the officers and men with whom I had the opportunity
of speaking. There was no sense of wild jingoism, there
was a sense of understanding of the potential danger into
which they were going and a very sober assessment of
that, but a serious commitment to undertaking that
mission and undertaking it successfully. I want to say
to the people of Australia that they are entitled to feel
very proud of these 600 men who are going on these three
ships. JOURNALIST: Given it is such a serious mission, do you
think it was wise not to have actually got the formal
approval of Cabinet before committing our forces?
PM: Well, I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't thought it
was wise.
JOURNALIST: And what about the criticism that's emerged,
some of it even from within your own Party, about the
wisdom of this decision, particularly the suggestion that
we're once again playing hand maidens to the United
States? PM: Well that, of course, is a nonsense. If that sort
of reasoning had been allowed to stand, then you would be
giving signs of encouragement to dictators who feel that
they can simply invade and annex a small neighbour. This
is not simply a United States issue, this is a world
issue. Just as in the 1930s, appeasement was wrong then
and the world paid a terrible price for it, so would
appeasement be wrong in the 1990s. The important thing
we've got to understand is this that the Cold War has
come to an end, we are entering a new era and in that new

era where the threat of superpower conflict has gone,
then it's terribly important that the world shows that
it's prepared to act and to act together to enforce the
principles of the United Nations Charter. And Australia
cannot, certainly should not, shirk its responsibilities
in that situation.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, talking to the family of one
sailor there today, they expressed the view to me that
what difference do 600 sailors make. What would you say
to that?
PM: Well, you spoke to one, I spoke to many more than
one and overwhelmingly, I mean, as far as I was
concerned, without exception, families to whom I spoke
expressed the view that this is the right decision.
JOURNALIST: What about the, if we could turn to one
S other topic for a moment
PM: No, wait a minute. Is there any more on
JOURNALIST: What were some of the comments you were
getting from family members
PM: Well, there was obviously sadness that their loved
ones were leaving and going into a situation of potential
danger and that's precisely what you would have expected.
But, as I say, all of them understood, that's all I spoke
to, understood the decision and supported it.
JOURNALIST: And walking around the ships, how did you
feel, like, how did you
PM: As I've said this is, in a sense, the most serious
decision that I've had to take in my period as Prime
Minister, but while I thought long and hard about it and
discussed it with my colleagues, in the end it was not a
hard decision because the issue was clear.
JOURNALIST: Do you, by having taken this decision, what
do you feel for the Australians trapped in Iraq and
Kuwait? Haven't you raised the prospect that they are
going to have a fairly uncomfortable if not
PM: They were having an uncomfortable time any rate, as
were the thousands of Americans, British, Australians,
Europeans who are now confined within Iraq and Kuwait and
we have been ceaseless in our diplomatic attempts, both
directly through our own representatives and through
other friendly powers and the representations that have
been made for the safety of those people.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any reason, any more reason for
optimism at this moment given those contacts that you've
had though?

PM: One must honestly say that in regard to the people
that are confined within Iraq and Kuwait that we haven't
any evidence at this moment of any saner, more humane
attitude on the part of the Iraqi authorities, but we
will continue to press them to ensure the safety of those
people. JOURNALIST: Would you consider calling back the ships if
they started to
PM: That's a question I'm not prepared to address.
JOURNALIST: If we could deal with just one other issue.
The Left meeting yesterday on the not privatisation,
on Telecom and on the airlines, how much harder does that
make it for the Government to reach a rational decision
on those two questions?
PM: I've got no public comment upon the processes that
are going on within the Party. I welcome the fact that
discussions are taking place. I'm confident that in the
end we'll get sensible decisions.

Transcript 8080