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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8890

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP NSW LABOR PARTY STATE CONFERENCE SYDNEY TOWN HALL, SYDNEY 13 JUNE 1993

Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/06/1993

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 8890

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PRIME MINVISTER
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP
NSW LABOR PARTY STATE CONFERENCE
SYDNEY TOWN HALL, SYDNEY
13 JUNE 1993
We have won an inspired victory. One of the really great
victories of our history.
And the credit goes to the party and the movement.
Especially to you, the New -South Wales Branch.
Anyone who has not comprehended the dimensions of it
think of this:
Ten years ago the Social Democratic parties dominated the
political landscape of Europe.
They governed in Sweden, Austria, France, the
Netherlands, Greece and half a dozen other places.
Today, with the exception of Spain, there are no Social
Democratic parties governing in the European Community.
There are none governing in their own right.
But in Australia Labor governs.
None of us should underestimate the stature of Labor's
achievement. In the eighties the pressure on parties like our own has
been immense.
The necessity to confront new realities and yet keep
faith with traditional principles of social justice was
more than the Labor and Social Democratic parties of the
world could manage.
If they did not confront the new realities they were
overtaken by conservatives freshly charged with free
market zealotry.
If they confronted the realities but abandoned their
principles they lost their integrity, their traditional
supporters and, sooner or later, elections.
But we survived.

We did better than survive.
And we did it because we recognised that, just as it was
essential to internationalise the economy and make
Australia more competitive, it was essential that we
maintain the safety net and develop new and effective
social policies.
In fact, all the more essential.
Because the human consequences of the structural changes
made it imperative to maintain such essential supports as
a universal health system, a system of family allowan * ces
and other income supplements, social security benefits,
education, training and re-training, guaranteed minimum
rates of pay.
All those things which our opponents, in the interests of
imitating the social chaos and hardship of Thatcher's
Britain and Reagan's America, were determined to remove.
If in the next few years doubts arise in the hearts and
minds of Labor's people, be sure of this: on 13 March
this year more than the Labor Government was saved.
Australia was saved progressive, egalitarian Australia,
that is.
The Australia of the fair-go was saved.
The idea that Australia should be always in the front
rank of the world's advanced societies was saved.
Our success has been no accident.
We are still governing because we were prepared to make
the agenda for change our own.
We made it our mission.
We did not just react.
We didn't come along behind trying to flog old policies
for new and bickering over the rent we took the
initiative. We took charge of the fundamentals.
We led.
And it was only by doing this that we were able to keep
faith with the principles of Labor and Labor's people.
And, we must continue to do it in the next three years.
As I said in this same forum last year, the Labor Party
is a bit like a bicycle if you stop pedalling, it falls
over. We have been pedalling for a decade.

We will continue to pedal into the nineties; and we will
continue to undertake those great national projects and
reforms which give Australia not just its strength and
cohesion, but its identity and confidence.
Reform never ends.
In fact if Labor ever stops reforming, Labor's power will
end. But if we are going to keep up the momentum of
reform we are also going to have to look at ourselves.
We are going to have to reform the Party.
We did this in the late seventies and into the eighties.
We did it to make the Party flexible enough to cope with
the challenges, strong enough to be politically
effective. Today we should start the process of reinvigorating the
ALP once more.
We need to broaden the base of our membership; we need to
open our forums to more ideas; we need to make sure we
select the best candidates.
We need reforms which will reinforce the national nature
of the Party.
I've asked the National Secretary to start the
Organisational Review process.
I've asked him to get discussion, debate and agreement on
the future structure of the Party.
I've done it because on our strength, our ideas, our
remaining in office, depends the momentum of the nation's
progress as a fair, prosperous and enlightened community.
But we also need more than reorganisation, we need to
rethink our responses to new realities.
How will we meet the challenge of an increasingly
internationalised economy?
What system of industrial relations will deliver the
flexibility we need to compete in the world while
preserving and improving our wages and living standards?
How will we meet the greatest challenge of all how will
we get back to full employment?
Our opponents swing in ten year cycles between torpor and
aggression.

Between doing nothing and beating the hell out of
ordinary people; between letting the social fabric slowly
fray at the edges and ripping it to shreds.
Just now they're in limbo.
They are waiting to be called.
They are not sure which way to go, so to give the
impression that they are thoughtful and busy, they are
playing the role of spoilers.
I won't spend much time on our opponents today, but let
me say this about them.
The one big thing about Australian conservatives is their
supposed belief in the-rule of law.
They have always preened themselves about that.
And, no doubt, if the High Court had decided that
terra nullius had in fact existed and native title in
fact did not; and that there had been no act of
dispossession to speak of, or injustice or brutality or
prejudice; and really it had all been pretty well the
Aborigines' own fault, the conservatives would have
extolled the virtue of the Court and waxed lyrical about
its wisdom.
But because the High Court decided otherwise: because the
High Court decided that this country had been occupied,
and that the indigenous people had been dispossessed and
still suffer the effects of this; and that native title
does exist and is a means to a just resolution of an
historic injustice: because this was the High Court's
decision, the conservatives have made a small adjustment
to their opinion of the rule of law.
With one or two very honourable exceptions, at best they
have accepted it grudgingly, and at worst not at all.
The conservative view is how dare the High Court
recognise the unquestionable truth that Australia was
occupied in 1788?
How dare it say that native title survived the
acquisition of sovereignty at settlement?
And how dare the rest of us try to find the mechanisms
which will give national expression and fulfilment to a
decision of the Court?
This is spoiling on a grand scale.
This is national spoiling.
But Labor will not give up on this.

We must not.
The Mabo judgment does provide the best chance yet of
finding an enduring and just basis for reconciliation
between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
It is the classic evener up.
And finding the way to reconciliation must be one of
Labor' s ambitions.
I am certain it must be one of Australia's ambitions.
I believe this because the history and contemporary
reality of Aboriginal Australia is a blight on our
reputation, our traditions of fairness, social justice
and inclusion, and our self-esteem.
It is, therefore, a true Labor cause, and I call on the
entire Labor movement in Australia to get behind it.
But we have to avoid the extremes.
This is not about ensuring the success of Aboriginal land
claims over people's backyards or farms. Nor is it about
enisuring that development can go ahead ignoring native
title. In this as in other things we will get the
balance right.
We must give Aboriginal Australians justice but we have
to do it in a way that keeps the country cohesive.
In this as in every other national issue, we will best
counter our opponents by continuing to do what we do best
making the changes which have to be made, projecting
and defining the vision, and keeping faithful to those
social democratic ideals which is our reason for being.
So what are the challenges facing us in 1993?
To steer a course through these very difficult economic
times towards renewed prosperity.
To maintain and improve our standard of living and extend
opportunity. To define and enlarge Australia's role in the world and
our country's sense of national purpose and vision.
And, above all, to be the country which finds the
solutions to unemployment.
We should be under no illusions it will not be easy.
We are necessarily subject to forces beyond our control.
Working against us are international factors over which
we have little scope for influence.

But in the long haul, worse than anything that might be
done to us, is what we might to do to ourselves.
That is why I talk about a national effort.
Having gone through a decade of structural change, having
made sacrifices to ensure the changes work, and having
seen sure indications that they are working, the worst
thing that could happen to us now would be to succumb to
the instincts of parochialism.
The worst thing would be to trade Australia's future for
petty self-interest.
We really do have very considerable advantages.
We proved in the last decade that we are a people who can
make changes.
And, reflecting this capacity, we now have in large part
both the necessary cultural outlook and the mechanisms
and institutions.
Today Australia has an unquestionable ability to be
flexible and adaptive.
It does no harm for any Australian to remember that for
all our problems, the great majority of other comparable
countries have more of them and bigger ones.
I think we have reached a crucial point in our progress.
We've come so far: we've done many of the things which
other countries have yet to do; and, among those who have
done them, few have managed to do less damage to the
social fabric in the process.
This has meant that we have come out of the eighties
essentially stronger and more cohesive.
In many of the fundamentals we are ahead of the pack.
Unlike many other countries, we do not have to re-build
the social net only improve upon it.
We don't have to re-educate a generation in social
responsibility only lead by example.
But for the same reasons of social responsibility, we do
need to turn this present slow recovery into sustained
growth and jobs.
I believe that will only come when Australian business
unequivocally throws in its lot.

It is business which will determine whether we make it in
this decade or not particularly small and medium sized
businesses, " clever" manufacturing businesses, exporting
businesses. This is their era. As The Economist magazine wrote
recently, the days of the corporate giants are passing:
In a broad range of industries, powerful forces are
moving against the big companies. New technology
has spread around the world, trade barriers have
come down, financial markets have been deregulated
and consumer tastes have converged across borders.
All these changes. . have granted business
opportunities to thousands of small and medium-sized
companies.
That is why the changes we have made in the last decade
are such good news now.
It is why the statement of February this year, Investing
in the Nation, aimed at small and medium business.
It is where the future is going to be.
It is where the jobs are going to be.
But we must remember these small to medium-sized
companies generally run lean workforces.
That means, quite simply, to create the employment we
need, we need a lot of companies. A lot of activity. A
lot of innovation.
And we need a trained workforce.
I will not yet again run through what the Labor
Government has done in the last decade to clear the way
for business.
There are still obstacles.
There are still things we can do.
But already the way is well and truly open for business
in this decade.
To invest. To manufacture. To export.
And don't let anyone tell you that there is some kind of
sacrifice involved in investing in Australia.
To use the words of McKinsey and Company in their report
on emerging exporters, the opportunities are " fantastic".

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And to help business seize them, there is low inflation,
a highly competitive company tax regime, a new more
generous depreciation allowance, a 150 per cent research
and development allowance, a vastly improved and
improving education and training system, and an
industrial relations culture more flexible than ever
before and delivering the lowest rates of disputation in
thirty years.
The McKinsey and Company report contains some
fundamentally good news. -The changes made in the last
decade have created highly successful export companies.
The structural changes have been partly responsible, and
so have the various forms of assistance the Government
has provided.
While finding 700 dynamic companies has to be good news,
the real story lies in the 90 per cent of Australian
manufacturers who are not exporting.
The challenge is to get more of them into the
international market, and to generate new internationally
competitive firms.
That's a challenge for all of us: government at all
levels, employers, banks especially banks and the
workforce, because to succeed in the modern world, the
quality of the workforce and the quality of its
relationship with the company is vital.
So I say again a national effort will be needed.
There is a collective responsibility to seize these
opportunities, if only because on seizing them depends
our chances of getting back to full employment.
A couple of weeks ago I delivered a statement on
unemployment and in it announced the creation of a high
level committee to assess current policy and consider
alternative approaches.
By the end of this year the committee will deliver a
discussion paper and in the first half of next year, the
Government will release a White Paper on Employment and
Unemployment, the first major study of the subject since
1945. As we all know, because it so seriously damages
individuals and families and has the potential to cause
long-lasting social damage, unemployment must be our
first priority.
In announcing the formation of the committee I suggested
that we needed to ask a few questions. Questions like
are we committed to full employment?

It was a rhetorical question. It seems to me that to say
that we are not committed to full employment would be to
say that we are not committed to Australia.
Of course we are committed to full employment, but we
have to do more than say so.
If we are committed to full employment, it might follow
that we are prepared to put self-interest and short term
gain aside.
That we might as a community change the set of our minds.
That companies might seek ways to employ rather than
disemploy. That unions might make every effort to see that labour
market programs which will give the unemployed a chance
in life are allowed to work.
That local governments might change the way they tend to
think and as far as possible reduce the obstacles in the
way of business.
In other words, if we are committed to full employment,
how are we going to demonstrate it?
By railing against government policies? But other
countries with different governments and different
policies have the same levels of unemployment.
By blaming the technology which is replacing workers, or
the new lean small companies emerging in the modern
economy? But that is an international phenomenon.
By finding scapegoats?
Of course, the policies should be up for scrutiny, and
governments are ultimately responsible. And technology
and the new shape of companies is a factor in job
shedding but does anyone think the Luddites were right.
But, again, the solution lies much less in what is done
to us than in what we do for ourselves.
Employers who decide to look for ways to employ might
come to the conclusion, as I know some have, that there
will be an advantage to those whose workforce is trained
and experienced when the recovery gathers pace.
And trade unions, I think, should do what they can to
make sure that those in need of training and experience
are not denied them.
And all of us if we think about it might come to the
conclusion that an effort now will save us a great deal
in the future in both budgetary and social terms.

So a national effort demands an attitudinal change I
would even go so far as to say we should re-define the
way we think about Australia.
I believe it should be one of our fundamental aims in the
next couple of years to build among Australians a more
general sense of identification with national
aspirations. I mean this in a context which is broader than, say, our
republican hopes, or reconciliation with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islanders.
I mean a broader consensus on our social democratic
agenda, on the necessity to develop an inclusive society
not just because it is fairer but because it is also
stronger. And not just a broader consensus, but a greater sense of
pride in our social goals and achievements. The sort of
pride we ought to take in, for example, our achievements
in raising the status, security and life opportunities
for Australian women.
I also mean a broader consensus on the huge opportunities
which await us in Asia and the Pacific, and what it will
take to be successful there. Not just a broader
consensus, but a sense of common purpose.
And I mean a broader consensus on the necessity to work
nationally, to make the nation work.
That, of course, was at the heart of One Nation. The
port developments, the rail highway, the roads, the new
airline system and the electricity grid are essential to
allow Australia to reach its full potential.
But it must also be understood that they will allow
regions to reach their full potential.
Regional development is a matter of high priority.
The process of structural adjustment has had geographic
dimensions which we cannot ignore. The dimensions are
unemployment, hardship and disaffection.
It is reasonable to assume that the search for ways to
correct the imbalance will also deliver ways to stimulate
new energy and economic activity throughout Australia.
Last month the Minister, Alan Griffiths, announced the
establishment of a new Office of Regional Development.
Very soon we will be announcing the appointment of an
expert Task Force on regional development and I am
hoping that Bill Kelty will agree to head it up.

There is a lot to be gained from success in this: the
stimulation of industry and employment in regional
Australia; the maximum use of our natural and human
resources; the opportunity to see those small and medium
sized businesses proliferate because very often regional
industries have that specialised character which sells
abroad; and the resuscitation of communities which are
presently in danger of drifting to decay.
Regional Development means national development on a
regional basis. It means not parochialism but
partnership. It means pulling the regions of Australia
into the national grid.
It will require a spirit of collective responsibility
between communities, business and trade unions and
between the three tiers of government.
I think it is fair to say that in each case the proper
starting point will be to ask not what can the
Commonwealth Government do for a region, but what can a
region do for itself.
The role of the Commonwealth will be not to deliver money
by the drayload but to assist the regions to take
advantage of their potential.
For local government, especially, it is a chance to play
a more creative role in the life of the community and the
nation. We have been through some very rocky times together in
the last eighteen months. I suppose there is nothing new
in that but there is something to be learned from it.
And I think it is this: we are a pragmatic party and we
know that change is difficult and usually incremental
rather than thunderous and rapid. We know we must be
nimble-footed sometimes and at other times absolutely
immovable. We are both the mountain goat and the
mammoth. The election should remind us that we must never let our
inspiration waver or put our beliefs in our back pocket.
Our inspiration is our ultimate weapon simply because it
is always greater than theirs.
As we translate our inspiration into government and
policy, you can be sure we will remember this.
Because a Labor government without courage and conviction
is not a real Labor government.
So we can't fall back.
We have to keep the shoulder to the door: With social
policy, industry policy, structural change.

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With enlarging our national purpose and our place in the
world. We have to speak for our generation and in doing so
create an Australia that will excite the involvement and
affection of the next generation.
There won't be any backing off. We'll listen, we'll take
notes, we'll accommodate, we'll diverge where necessary.
But our eyes will stay fixed on national goals.
And at the end of this next three years we will be much
closer to those goals and much further ahead of the
people who want to hold Australia back.

Transcript 8890