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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10284


Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 27/03/1997

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 10284

E ZOThur-sday 27 March 19977
Thank you Ver much MW Kwak Leng loo, to Mr Craig Bell, to other distinguished
guests, ladies and gentlemen. Can I thank both the Council 4d the Federation for
providing me with this excellent forum on the first day of m4 visit to Singapore and
on the first day of a very importantjourney as Ptime Minist o Asrai to two very
important countries in our region. I
This fonvm is to say somnething about the relaionship betwe Australa and
Singapore and to put that relationship in the broader context If our regional
involvement and also in the broader contex of our joint conillituent to the cause of
economic progress of private enterprise and of czonornrc refofm and trade
liberalisation. I first visited Singapore long before I entered Parliament. In 1964 1 first camne to your
country. A very different country from what it is now. And I visited it long before 1,
of course, had any association with the Parliamentary political life of Australia.
I was shown around Singapore by a student who bad spent a ~ g part of her years
imtnediately out of school at Sydney University. She was a f ' nd of aL Close Cousin of
mine. And that little story is in some senses a metaphor for trrelationship that exits
at a people to people level betwveen so many Australians and sp manry Singaporeans.
It was infa ct the first foreign country that I went to. I didn't f y over it, or evcn just
through it, on the way elsewhere. And I did spend some time ~ iralthough, of
course, La going on elsewhert. r
Over that period that bAs gone by s ince then 33 years Shunapre has transformed
hersef and bas become within the world one of the outstandiug examples of what can
be achieved if you really pursu policies based on openness a trade liberalisation-
28/ 83/ 97 11: 89 Pg:

IZ* II28/ 03/ 97 11: 09 Ps: 2
Australia's ties with Singapore are very deep. TheyI are very' long. They are etched in
historical experiences, economic co-operation and a geography in an economic and
political fixture that brings us together as part of the fastst growing area,
economically, of the worcl. The contribution that Australia 4as made to the security
of Singapore and this part of the world in years gone by is well known and is properly
honoured by all Australians. We are at present partners in AjPEC and I watched with
some admiation the hosting of the inaugural World Trade O~ anisation meeting here
in Singapore, by your Prime Minister, at the end of last year.
I come here today, ladies and gentlemen as the Leader of a iu new Australian
Government which is absolutely committed to the deepest pcjssible involvement of
our couty ina the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region. I say not as some kind of
ritalistic repeating of a foreign affairs trade mantra but as a # eeply held view of mine
that the politica and economic destiny of Australia is very glach tied up with us
successfuly being a full time player in the Asia-Pacific regoi Te growt oa our
trade to this region, the increasing two-way economic flows ~ f investment and trade
between countries such as Australia and Singapore are test ents to the importance of
the region to Australias futue.
The APEC groupii4 of nations is in many ways oneoftemsexrrdny
groupings of ziafior~ s that the world has seen. It brings togc some very large
economics, in & 4ct the two largest and most powerful econo ' es in the worldith
United States and 1lpan. It brings the most populous nation cfthe world in China,' it
brings nations such as Australia and Now Zealand which ham a deep regional
economic and political future tied up with this part of the wor d but equally strong and
unambiguous ties with Europe and North Amerima It brings e grea t economic
success storics sucl# as Singapre and it brings tha remakabie ahievement of anation
such as Indonesia, which over the last 25-30 years has seen sme 3,000 islands hang
together in very effective political unison.
pSeoo, pitl eiss ao fq iutsit em eexmtrbaeorr dniantaioryn sg trhoeu ppirnogs paencdt tiht aist tah rgoruoguhp intrga dteh
being of those popu~ ations can be greatly enhanced. And I
opportunity of saying how committed my G-overnment is to
Achieving those APEC goals will involve adjustmient by all o
Australia is no exception to tha.
The process of domestic economic and political adjustment to
globalisation is not an easy one it does require political skills
level and a capacity to explain often to sceptical domestic popi
of trade fibemlisation. Your country in its way, Singapore, hal
example of ' having done that and Australia looks with some en
tha Singapre has chalked up in thw area. Lholds out to the
iberalisation the well
at to take ths
tAPEC goals.
vi domestically and
challenge, of
a communication
lIations the advantage
be= n a very successfal
Vto the achievements

4 GA I ZUIII 28/ 83/ 97 11: 09 PS: 3
1 also speak to you today as thc Leader of. 4 GoyCcrunnt in 4ustralia which is very
heavily committed to a program of sensible economic changp and reform. Reforming
and changing anr economy is never an easy task and in the 1190' s, which are in some
ways a little more sceptical towards the cause of economic rformn than were the
19901S) it is a particularly challenging task.
We act ourselves when we were elected to Goverum a nurraber of important
economic and~ c political goals. We set ourselves the task of fl.' cal consolidation. We
inherited an underlying budget deficit of about 10 billion Ai~ stralian dollars. And we
set ourselves the task of achieving an anderlyig balan~ ce ove; a period of over some
three years.
We are making vezy solid progress down that path but it is nq an easy dorestic
political challenge.
we also sct ourselves the challenge of significant industrial rilations reform.
Awrtralia has many mtengths as an economy-It is a stable, open, profoundly
democratic society with a very predictable and absolutely in" rraptible legal
But it has also unfortunately had a rather arthritic old fashiom' out of date industrial
relations system. Arnd, although, over the last 10 or 15 years has shed some of the
undesirable features of that system, the progress and the pro" s has not been nearly
rapid enough, And one of the thiings of which I am paticul4 proud is that over the
past 12 months we have dramafically bastened the process of dustrial relations
reform. -And as a result of the Australian Government's new ! Tork Place Relations
Act we are now drivyig towards an industrial relations system which is based upon a
numbe of fundamcntal principles.
The first of those is that we should encourage to the maximum extent possible the
maliing of agreements between employers and employees at the individual work place
leveL Because, it is through that process that you cmn best enhance optimum
productivity outcomes in each individual enterprise.
We are also strongly committed to the principle of voluntary association. Under the
Work Place Relations Act Australians are guaranteed the righ to join or not to join a
trade union without any fear of sanction or discrimination according to the choice that
is taken. We have re-established the rule of law within Australia in relation to certain
forms of industrial behaviour and industrial conduct and in a very general sense we
are driving towards an industrial relations system which puts tle greatest possible
emnphasis on contractual udsadngs and undertakings between employers and
employees. I
The response to that legislation has been very strong and very positive and I tbink it
will help to build even further on the deserved internatonal repplation of Auwal~ ia as
being a stable, reliable, c-ohesive couhtry in which to invest. Wp have also embarked
on a progam of conomic change and economic reform in other areas where the
proess of change has not been rapd enough. And I have in mind in areas of
communications wher on the first of July this ycar we will have an essentially
deregulated comnctons system within Australia.

œ AUVI 28/ 03/ 97 11: 09 Pg
I think also, Of changes that we have in mind in relation to the waterfront and Ihe
forts in Australia which in the past have sometime contribute to the occasional bad
international newspaper notice so far as Australia's economic performawnce is
concerned. We are embarking vpon an intelligent program of privalisatiort. We have secured
Parliamentary approval to a sale of one third of Telstra which is Australia's uational
telecommuvications company. Incidentally, out of the procceds of that one third we
will be investing over one billion dollars in the establishment of the natural heritage
trust of Australia which will fund the largest ever capital investment in Australia's
history in the environmental renewal and regeneration of Australia.
Over the pust couple of weeks we have announced a number of very signiiant
changes and reforms which will directly boost small business in Australia. We still
have in Australia an unemrployme~ nt wae at the unacceptably high level of 8.5% with a
youth unemployment level of around 27%. 1 believe, and my Government believes,
that revitalising and giving incentives to the small business community of Australia
will do much over time to reduce the level of unemployment in AustraUla
We have dramilti ally liberalised the capital gains tax regime for smnall business in
Australia. We have brought in more sensible rules for einployee dismxissal in
appropnaeu circumstances and we also ame providing sigaificant Governnt funds to
encourage the start up of the small and medium sized firms with an emphasis on high
technology. Now I mentioned some of those things. ladits and gentlemen, not so much to give a
dttailcd litany of what has been done by my Government over the past 12 months.
But rather to give an indication of some of the priorities that we have sud they arc
priorities based upon the belief that I think has driven successive governments herm in
Singapore and tOm is through a strong and vigorous private sector you have the best
hope of providing jobs, you have the best hope of providing continued economlic
growth. You need intelligent policy settings. It is the role of a responsible Govrnmnvt to
provide a table maqrucconornic environment. It's also the role of a responsible
Government to effectively educate the citizens of the nation it governs. It's also our
role to provide decent infrastructure.
Bcyond tha and having set the climate and established the rules, as your Prime
Minste said to me N~ hs morning, it isrally up to theprivate sc or to zewpond to that
very positive climate. And I know that the Chamber and the Coxncil in their own
ways are doing very important thing to provide tWa stable and predictable economic
climate for business investment and business exchaniges. Not only heme in Skqgpor
and in Austra but between ouir two societies.

Fax from 28/ 83/ 97 11: 09 Pg
The relationship between Australian and Sinlgapore which is dependant on m~ any
things, and riot leasn the people to people links, is a dynamic relationship and one that
is constantly being renewed. Last year my predecessor, Paul Keating, signed the new
partnershiP Agreemuent with the Prime Minister of Singapore and I am very happy to
say that the goals and aspirations of that new partnership wec warmly endorsed by my
Government And one of the stable constant elements in3 the relationship between our
two countries is tha there is an essentially bipartisan approach between successive
Australian governments towards the relationship.
I don't pretend that as a result of the change of government in Australia nothing at all
has changed so far as foreign policy is concerned. Obviously at diffcrent govornment,
a new government, does things differently and has a different emphasis but the
essential thrust which has now been a bipartisan constant of Australia's foreign policy
over 25-30 years and that thrust is towards an ever increasing cornuzimct to the
Asia-Pacific regionj
It is sometimes forgotten that the foundation stone of the association between
Australia and Asia economicaly was laid by John McEwen who helped write the
Axisiralia-Japan free trade agreement in 1957. The people to people links that was
sporned by the great Colombo Plan started not long after World War HI is, of course,
something of which mn~ y people in Singapore and cisewbere in the region arm very
conscious. And over the years Prime Minsters and Trade Ministers, of both sides of Austraa
politics, have made a particular contribution, And today I am happy to say that the
Prne Minister of Singapore and I ann unce a new aviation agreement that is going
to dramatically increase the flow of traffic between Australia and Singapore and
beyond. It will resuilt in somethiing like a 37.5% increase in the number of passengers
carried by air between our two countries. It will inrae by 100% the available
freight carriage out of Australa into Singapore. And given the importance thai my
Government places on the Supermarket to Asia strtegy which involves, amongst
other things, the capacity for Australia to export effectively into the region fresh food
that new capacity will mnake a very important contribution.
That is but one of many examples that continue to occur of the deepening links
between~ our two societies. We do live in a world which has been rewiered very
different by the end of the Cold War, the collapse of commrrunism in Eastern Europe
and all the other changes that followed that development. In many ways the world in
which we live has had taken away from it some of the predictable antagonisms that
govern the foreign relations of most countries from the end of World War 1I. And
some have thought that has introduced a new volatlity jt0 the conduct of our affairs
and not least into the conduct of the affairs of the region.
But beyond that we live in a world of enormous opporwuifty and it is impossible to be
a political participant in dhe affairs of the Asia-Pacific region without feeling some
sene of excitement a& W real hope about what can be achieved. When I met the
leaders of the othe meniber of the APEC community in Manilla towards the end of
last year I felt that I was in a small way, but in a very important way, par of a proces

Fax from 28/ 03/ 97 11: 09 Pg: 6
which if everybody held their nerve about it lifted up the hopes and the aspiratons of
millions of people who lived within those conimunities. if we cmn achieve that ideal
of greater trade liberalisation, if we can miatch the aspirations of those goals, if we can
continue to carry our domestic political constituencies with us in the cause of trade
liberalisation then I do believe that the hopes that many people placed in that
organisation will not be disappointed. Because economic prosperity and economic
co-operation between nations has in the past been proved to be the foundation of
peaceful co-operation. And the stability of this part of the world and the stability of
the political association, for example, between Australia and Singapore owes as great
deal to the economic maturity of both of those societies.
Ladies and gentlemen, Australia is a very open and tolerant society. We are proud of
the fact that, amongst other things, in the late 1970' s we took more Indo-Chinese
refugees on a per capita basis than any other nation in the world. We ame immensely
proud of the contribution thAt Australians of Asian descnt, whether of Chinese or
Indian, or from any other part of Asia, we are immensely proud of the contribution
that those Australians are making to the future of oujr country.
The people of Singapore whether they come as visitors or as students, or ais business
men and women, or as migrants are very welcome in Australia. The bonds that keep
our two countries close together are personal bonds, they are political bonds, they are
ties of history, they are ties of common commitment against tyranny and oppression
and they ane also ties of hope about the economic future of our two societies.
I come here as the head of a Government that has great goodwill towards the people
of Singapore as the head of the Government that has a very strong commitment to the
deepest possible involvement in Australia in the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region. I
believe tha the best yeas of the association in prosperity and in political partnership
between Australia and Singapore lie before us-
Thank you.

Transcript 10284