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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9518


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: 21/03/1995

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 9518

RM: . and on the line now is the Prime Minister Paul Keating. Good
morning to you Prime Minister.
PM: Good morning Ranald, how are you there?
RM: Just back from your trip to the meeting . well, the international
meeting on poverty, but you also went to a number of other countries
on the way. Just a quick question about your trip and the way that you
kept in touch with what was happening on the local scene were you
in any way perhaps, did you feel that you needed to take your
points and land your punches from overseas that you couldn't wait
until you came back?
PM: It was just that the travelling media roadshow feel that if they don't
have a domestic story running at the same time, somehow they are
dis-enfranchised from reporting news. I think that's more the problem.
RM: One of the comments you made which of course did make headlines
related to the appointment of the next Governor-General under the
Presidency, and also the question of whether we should follow the
German example I am just wondering whether you now have had
second thoughts about the way that the Governor-General should be
appointed whether you will go along with the suggestion I think Barry
Jones feels is a good idea?
PM: -Well, lam-saying this Ranald if people-want me to essentially give up
the exclusive right to recommend to the Queen the appointment of the
next Governor-General, I am happy to give it up. But it's in the context
of an appointment of an Australian person as the Head of State, that
is, to a republic. And that's why I believe... . more than ever, you go to
these countries in Europe and what have you, Australia is now so well
regarded not only in the Asia Pacific, but also in Europe as a
country. One of the points, for instance, that I made to Chancellor

Helmut Kohl was that you know this notion of the European Monetary
Union of the Maastricht Treaty and the so-called convergence criteria
for countries joining in a single currency in Europe? The only two
countries in the world this year that meet the criteria are Germany and
Australia. Now, we're not in Europe, and we don't want to join it, but
we are the only other OECD country that could. So Australia's
stanaing in Europe in Asia is very, very high indeed, ana to say " just
by the way, we are borrowing the monarchy of another country". See,
when I turn up to see the German Chancellor, normally when
Australian Prime Ministers have been through, they have had a little
chat with the British Foreign Secretary, and the Germans say " well,
here comes not simply Britain across the Channel, but some chip off
the block". I'm saying well forget all that that's all past. This is now
well and truly a country with an independent identity, culture and by
the way, we are thinking now of moving to an Australian republic with
an Australian Head of State, very similar to yours where you have a
Head of State, but you also have a Parliamentary Government.
RM: Just as though talking about Bill Hayden's retirement which is coming
up pretty soon do you therefore feel that it would be appropriate to at
least run a test and have an appointed or elected by the two houses
together the Senate and the House of Representatives in other
words, that you don't select him?
PM: I notice... . my very clear view of all this is the people are suggesting -I
notice Jeff Kennett I think he was suggesting on your program last
week, saying " well, this is not a bad idea", and I said " well look, when
Jeffrey decides that we will have a republic, then I will take his
suggestion seriously", and then he said " oh, it's outrageous raising
these matters overseas". This is the character that has gone across to
Greece and made an absolute meal out of trying to invest himself with
some support with the Greek community of Melbourne by trying to take
on a foreign policy issue in Greece, as a State Premier. He has then
got the front to say to me that I shouldn't raise, with the German
President, the fact that we are considering a republic ourselves, and in
that Republic in that structure we are thinking of these options,
including the appointment of the Head of State by both Houses of
Parliament, or in other ways.
RM: Of course, the other matter that you did discuss while you were
overseas was the Packer deal, and just where that was is that going
to continue? Is that debate between yourself and Kerry Packer going
to follow on, or do you think that should be left?
PM: I think we will just leave that and see what happens here. The thing is,
it will be not me condemning John Howard it will be John Howard
doing it himself . the position is this: I believe in media plurality. I
believe there should be a separation on the ownership of these great
media assets, and John Howard doesn't. So time will tell the proof of
the pudding of this will be in the eating.

RM: Well of course, the question is whether a deal was done, and I think
your own President Barry Jones said perhaps you put two and two
together and did it logically and then drew a conclusion rather than
actually having evidence that a deal was done do you have
PM: It's just like any front page story in the Melbourne Age, or the Sydney
Morning Herald you say to the journalists " what proof have you got of
that?", and the journalist says " well, I have got plenty of proof of that"
and you say " well, give it to me" and they say " oooh we are not
revealing our sources". You know....
RM: You're not revealing you sources?
PM: On these things, don't worry about Barry's view on this. The key view
on this is my own, and we do have media plurality for instance, we
have got now an independent radio industry we never had 10 years
ago, we have got television ownership which is now not associated
with newspapers, as is mostly the case with radio. We have now got
distinct rumours of private ownership diverse ownership of the
media, which I think is a good thing for Australia.
RM: Can I just move to your call for higher growth, and the discussions
about Australia's recovering economy overseas how can we achieve
higher growth without blowing out our current account?
PM: It depends the economy is now slowing from the 6% growth we had in
the September quarter of last year, because I think that was for us
unsustainable. But we don't want to go back my point was in a
European context I was really saying to a European audience where
European economies grow by 1.5% saying get yourself locked
into the Asia Pacific where the general growth is higher, and where in
Australia in the 1980s we averaged 4% and at the moment we are
growing somewhere between 5% That's the context of my
RM: Can you put a figure on it though what's the figure we ought to look to
as a satisfactory growth for the next decade perhaps, coming out of
our recession?
PM: We have got to grow at something like 4-4.5% to keep unemployment
coming down. And that seems to me to be a social and an economic
imperative to keep unemployment coming down. Now, part of the
European problem, of course, they have nothing like the employment
to growth translation that we in Australia get. If we have 3-4%
economic growth, we get 3-4% employment growth, whereas if they
have 3-4% economic growth in Europe, they might get 1 employment
growth. So, we are getting a much better translation, and that's why at
the moment we have had in the last year, 3.75% employment growth.

And when we had 590,000 job growth since the election which is
RM: Well, what John Howard has just said on another station, can you
guarantee that there won't be an interest rate hike soon after the or
immediately after the NSW election? Is there going to be an interest
rate increase?
PM: This is one of those other shabby he said this in the 1980s after an
election then, that the Reserve Bank had connived with the
Government to hold interest rates down during the State election this
is in 1987. And Bob Johnson the then Governor said of John
Howard he rebuked him at a private lunch and said of him " relations
with this Government" he said in his departing speech, " with the Labor
Government, have been entirely proper, but one has to be an insider
to know that this was not always so', this is a reference of course to
Howard when he was Treasurer. So, after Mr Howard's disgraceful
performance in the House of Representatives, being party to the
asking of a question he knew was intended to mislead the House of
Representatives by Mr McLachlan...
RM: About Hindmarsh?
PM: He admitted on John Laws' program last week that he was at the
tactics meeting that he sat down with Ian McLachlan, that he agreed
that Ian McLachlan should ask a question which had no truth in it, that
had no integrity to it, which said that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs,
Robert Tickner, had photocopied and disseminated information that
was the charge in the question when in fact, they both knew it was
them. I mean, if I did a thing like that Ranald, you would never hear
the end of it it would be on for weeks, months, months and months.
Here is John Howard caught red-handed caught red-handed at a
sort of smart little tactics meeting throwing a question around which
had not a shred of integrity to it, and of course, now he wants to forget
that it happened McLachlan has resigned. And the question we say
is " if McLachlan resigned because he asked a question he knew to be
misleading in the House of Representatives, why too shouldn't John
Howard do the same, given the fact that he authorised the question to
be asked?".
RM: There is a certain irony, isn't there, John Howard is down here in
Melbourne for most of this week and you have not exactly played any
significant role, I would have thought, in the NSW elections both of
you come from NSW, both of you come from Sydney why have you
not actually weighed into the state election up there?
PM: I was on the John Laws program this morning, which is basically a
NSW based radio program, and I discussed a number of issues in
NSW. Could I just say the problem with NSW is that the Government
here is dead on its feet we are having a sort of pretend election, that

once we can sort through the election, the thing will come back to life.
I mean there is more Ministers fallen out of this Government.. . you
know there is this question about the film studio. In the Cultural
Statement, I got Rupert Murdoch to agree to do up to three feature
films in Australia, and he wanted to do them in Sydney. John Fahey
can't even get the studio built he can't even give him the space to get
the studio built to start off an international feature film industry through
Fox in Australia.
RM: Might it come down here to Melbourne, as Jeff Kennett said?
PM: Jeffrey is out there touting for business I know he has got the Grand
Prix, and he's got Lloyd Webber. I1 mean, you wonder these days
whether State Government is show business or what it is.
RM: Looking at the NSW election it is interesting, surely, if you say that
the budget, sorry the Government is dead on its feet, that on the
opinion polls, they look as if at least they are slightly ahead, and may
have a sporting chance of remaining in power do you think they will?
PM: Last time the polls showed the same, and Bob Carr came within a seat
or so of winning, and I think he has got a better opportunity on this
occasion. But there is that fellow Pickard, the former Solicitor-General,
there was Packard, there is Terry Griffiths there is that many
Ministers and MP's Smiles who have fallen out of that Government.
It is staggering along nothing happens in NSW, I can assure you.
The only thing that happens are basically Government projects there
is no substantial private projects occurring there, and it is also as if we
are saying " ooooh, let's not talk about that let's see what they can do
later". Well, what they will do is they will fall in a heap, I think. This is
a Government which is, basically, the quicker it gets put down, the
RM: All right. You are talking about a tired State Government what about
Federal Government you have been in power for 12 years I know
you have only been Prime Minister for a few of those, but as a
Government, would you say that how would you reject a suggestion
that you have had a long time in power, and perhaps you are tired as a
Federal Government?
PM: Have a look at the last three weeks look at us, look at the Coalition.
The week I was away, John Howard's antics his principal trick was
throwing dishonest questions in the House of Representatives. The
week before that when I was there, he was asking me about
supposedly dishonest how-to-vote tickets proposed by the Labor Party
in the local Canberra election, which was not dishonest at all. In the
same period, we have had in that same week I had him cave in and
pass the Aboriginal Land Fund Bill a social and cultural milestone in
Australia. Last week, we had 7 0 the High Court supporting the
Native Title Legislation, also the week before that we had 91,000 job

growth for the month. So, if you are looking at substance and quality
and change the thing about Howard is you can't get him into the stalls
on any major issue until the field has jumped, Ranald, and when he is
in there, he goes in backwards.
RM: As an alternative Prime Minister, you reckon you have got his
measure, do you?
PM: The thing is, look, the key-point about Howard is that he is no different
than he was in the 1980s, and it won't be me who says it it will come
out of his own mouth. You could see that in the House of
Representatives two weeks ago when he did this stunt with
McLachlan, you could see it the previous week when he was trying the
stuff on me. There is no policy substance all of the changes.... I can
walk around Europe with the German Chancellor regarding Australia
as one of the countries which has really made great changes in the
last decade, we can walk into APEC which we have had a large part
in creating and have the same view of ourselves right throughout
South-East Asia, we have got an international standing that we have
never had, we have got 170 countries at CeBIT the technology fair in
Germany -we have got great social and identity changes in Australia
and this has come from the Labor Government, and it is still
happening. What has come from Howard think of one national
initiative you associate with John Howard just one.
RM: All right. I'll have to leave it on that note, but many thanks for talking to
PM: Thank you.
RM: Thank you Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia.

Transcript 9518