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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9627

STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP MR HOWARD BENDS TO ANY BREEZE

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: 13/06/1995

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 9627

PRIME MINISTER
STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP
MR 110WARD BENDS TO ANY BREEZE
Mr Howard's response to the Government's proposal for an Australian republic is a very
sad ctimmentary on the state of his thinking about Australia.
He has bad more than two years to think about it, but his contortions of the past few days
make it plain that it was too hard for him. Since last Wednesday night, he and the rest of
the Opposition have been making it up as they have come under pressure for a considered
response. What we have seen in the past week, with the headland speech and Mr Howard's republic
response, is a leader not only unable to lead, but one who lacks policy substance on any
front. On the republic, Mr Howard's position now seems to be this: he would hold a " people's
convention" ( to which his Government would appoint half the delegates); and if the
convention arrived at a " consensus", his Government would put that consensus to a
referendum. If no consensus was reached at his convention, he would put a series of
" 1options" to a plebiscite, with one of the options being the retention of the Monarchy. If
the pr%. ferred option arising from the plebiscite was a republic, he would put that proposal
to a referendum though he and any Government he led could not in conscience support
it because he thinks the Constitutional Monarchy is best.
Until yesterday, Mr Howard would not answer the question which counts above all others
in this debate does he want an Australian to be Australia's head of state?
In this morning's press he did provide the answer. He said he didn't want an Australian as
our head of state he wants the Monarchy.
Mr Howard now says: " If the Australian people want a republic, the fact that I support the
present system need not be seen to be in the way."

All those Australians who believe an Australian should be our head of state should take
note: Mr Howard says you can only have a vote on that when you have been through a
convoluted process designed and steered by him, a monarchist.
What chance would those Australians who want a republic have if a Howard Government
only dleigned to put a republic referendum under a sense of obligation? No such
referendum would have a snowball's chance in hell without the full commitment and
enthusiasm of the Government of the day. Mr Howard's option therefore effectively
mearns no republic.
Mr Howard's attempt to justify his convolutions over the last few days on the grounds that
they are more " consultative" and " pro-choice" is a manifest fraud. The Government has
put a considered proposal which will be put to a referendum the most democratic of all
acts of consultation. The referendum we propose will not take place for at least two and a
half years, in which time there will be extensive consultation and debate throughout the
community. If the referendum is defeated, the Monarchy remains, as it is now. That is the real
democ* ratic choice, provided for in the Constitution.
Now, in his desperation, Mr Howard apparently has seized on the erroneous idea that the
Government would put its referendum proposal to the people repeatedly, until it was
passed. This, of course, is a complete furphy.
The Opposition's response on this issue has been an exercise in high farce. It has left Mr
Howard looking pathetic. We have not seen its like since The Thingi that Matter. But
this is worse. 3Th igs that Matterreally didn't matter at all the republic does.
So does much else matter in the lives of Australians but of course Mr Howard has given
his word that he will not have anything coherent to say on these things either.
CANBERRA 13 JUNE 199S

Transcript 9627