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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8125


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: 13/09/1990

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 8125

WENDT: Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time
this evening.
PM: Pleasure Jana.
WENDT: You are heading off to Tokyo to try to convince
Olympic Federation members that Melbourne should get
their vote. Are you convinced that a Melbourne Olympics
would be a profitable venture for Australia?
PM: Yes, I believe so. The last two have been and there
has been very very meticulous planning gone into this,
not only at the governmental level but importantly, from
the point of view of the business sector as well.
Melbourne's very well placed to conduct a successful and
profitable Olympic Games.
WENDT: Your former Finance Minister, Peter Walsh, says
that Australia would actually lose money on this. What
do you say to that?
PM: Well Walsh is a professional pessimist. If you look
at the reason he gave, it's contradicted by the facts.
As I said in the Parliament, Peter Walsh never lets a few
facts get in the way of his well-honed prejudices.
WENDT: You say that you are confident in the unions'
ability in Victoria to deliver on all of this. Are you
prepared to go so far as to give a guarantee that any
works that are undertaken would be completed on time for
any Olympics?
PM: Yes indeed, and that's what I'll be saying at the
meeting in Tokyo..
WENDT: I did want to raise with you another persistent
and more senior Labor critic of yours, and that is former
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. He's criticised you on the
basis of our Gulf commitment, he's criticised you on the
basis of Aboriginal land rights, on privatisation, on
education, on arts spending. It's a long long list. Do
you take any of it on board?

PM: No, I don't. As I said before, when it gets to the
area of economic criticism it's equivalent, as I said, to
getting advice on firefighting from Nero. I would've
thought that the last area that Mr Whitlam would want to
be talking about would be anything that involved
Australia's relations with Iraq. I don't want to develop
that point but anyone who knows anything about the
politics of this country knows exactly what I mean.
WENDT: His track record on that isn't exactly good, is
it? PM: Well you said it Jana.
WENDT: I'd like to move on a bit to our involvement in
the Gulf.
PM: Sure.
0 WENDT: In retrospect, and leaving the principle aside,
do you think that you may have been hasty in committing
us in the way that you did?
PM: Absolutely not. I wouldn't have done one thing
differently. WENDT: Can I get just some of the chronology straight.
Did the United States ask us to commit to the Gulf?
PM: No, I made it quite clear. What happened was that
discussions arose in Washington about the issue of forces
in the Gulf. There was no request from the United States
nor offer from us out of the discussions that went on in
Washington and the discussions that went on here. I came
to the conclusion in discussion with my relevant
Ministers that it was appropriate in terms of Australia's
interests and in terms of Australia's global
responsibilities that we should be part of a
multinational naval force.
WENDT: So there was no formal request from the United
States? PM: No, the issue just came up in discussions about
there were going to be multinational naval forces and in
those discussions the questions arose of, well, Australia
could be there. When it came to me for consideration and
decision, I had absolutely no doubt as to what the right
decision was and neither did my Ministers.
WENDT: There has been a degree of confusion about the
terms of engagement. Today we hear from Senator Ray that
our ships will have to contact him before they fire. How
practically will that work?
PM: How practically will it work? I mean we have modern
and very swift means of communication. That's how it
will work. And may I say that this has been worked out

in full conjunction with and co-operation with and
endorsement of the Royal Australian Navy.
WENDT: But literally, how practically does it work. Is
Senator Ray attached to the phone all day long, or how
does it work?
PM: You know, we live in a modern world with marvels
of communication are there. This is the way it should
happen. It's the way the Navy expects it to happen.
WENDT: Prime Minister, I'd like to move on again, to
China. In the wake of the Tienanmen Square massacre your
Government imposed severe restrictions on Parliamentary
visits to China. Why did you do that?
PM: Because we had to give an immediate indication to
China of the fact that what had occurred was unacceptable
and like the rest of the world we made a range of
decisions to register our protest.
WENDT: Why then give your blessing to the visit of a
Federal Minister, Dr Blewett?
PM: Because as I said at the time, we in Australia, as
indeed in the rest of the world, had to walk the
difficult line, Jana, between continuing to let China
know the unacceptability of their actions but also
keeping open the lines of communication and economic cooperation.
Because what's in the interests of the people
of China, as it is as much in the interests of the people
of the world, is that there be economic co-operation so
that there be the opportunity for the further opening up
of China to the rest of the world. The worst thing that
could happen for the people of China and for those people
in China who want to see change, would be to see the
world cut China off.
WENDT: Gareth Evans conceded that the visit of Gough
Whitlam to China would give the Chinese some comfort.
What do you think was the propaganda value of Dr
Blewett's visit?
PM: I have no doubt, Jana, that in some ways the
leadership in China would try and maximise what value
they could from it. But if you just said, and the other
countries of the world just said well there is a risk
that a visit would be propagandised, then as I say, we'd
just close ourselves off entirely from China. That would
not be in the interests of the people of China.
WENDT: Premier Li Peng has said that the clouds
attempting to isolate China are dispersing. Have we been
partly responsible for conveying that message to the

PM: I can assure you that Dr Blewett was assiduous in
detail in making clear to the leadership of China our
continuing rejection of what happened last year.
WENDT: But Mr Hawke, when Mr Fischer in the Nationals
was to go to China, your Foreign Minister flayed them for
even suggesting it.
PM: Yes, and there is nothing reprehensible about that.
We were in a stage where we had said from the beginning
that the policy towards China would be one of continual
review. We didn't believe it was for the Opposition to
be taking an initiative in the area of foreign affairs
which was inconsistent with what the country, through its
Government, was doing.
WENDT: Mr Hawke, what is the difference? You have a top
level mission going to China.
PM: The Government is the one which sets the policy for
the country in regard to its relations with the rest of
the world. It is appropriate that people and
organisations within a nation should operate within the
framework of the policy set by Government.
WENDT: Isn't it logical though that China would now
assume that our memory of the Tienanimen Square massacre
is fading?
PM: If you read precisely what Dr Blewett had said, and
with a great deal of firmness to the leadership in China,
including may I say a declining on the part of Dr Blewett
to see Li Peng, you would understand that both by word
and by deed there can be no misunderstanding on the part
of the leadership of China about Australia's position in
regard to the events of last year.
WENDT: If they are your Government's feelings, why
reward them on a propaganda level with a visit by a
senior Australian politician?
PM: Well obviously you've got your view Jana. You don't
want to be persuaded by facts and there's nothing more I
can say other than to repeat to you what I've said. You
don't want to accept it but I'll say it again because its
relevant to the question you put again, and that is that
it is in the interests of the people of China, it is in
the interests of the people of China, the people that we
are concerned about and what in your questions I assume
you are concerned about, it is in their interests, and it
is so recognised by others, that the worst thing that you
could do for the people of China, including those who
want change, is that China should be isolated.
WENDT: Mr Hawke, wouldn't it also be logical to conclude
that your own display of emotion on this was just in fact
a display, if this is your attitude now?

PM: That is a despicable and contemptible observation
because you have no reason to believe, and there is no
reason in fact to suggest that my emotions were anything
other than the totally genuine reflection of the
abhorrence that I felt. I find your observation
repugnant in the extreme.
WENDT: And yet you are prepared to hold hands on an
official level with that government now.
PM: I'm not holding hands with that government at an
official level in a way which says anything other than
the repugnance that I felt last year is as deeply felt
now. We continue to say to them that their record on
human rights is unacceptable. As far as our judgement,
and the judgements of others is concerned, that the best
thing that we can do for the people of China in terms of
maximising the chance that they will get a regime and a
practice which recognises human rights more effectively,
is that they are not isolated from the rest of the world.
Those are positions which I've taken in total good faith.
WENDT: Would it be fair for an outsider to say that it
looks like, well, we need them commercially so we'll
jettison our values?
PM: Jana it would be fair for you to say that if you are
absolutely intent upon not accepting the good faith with
which I put my position.
WENDT: Mr Hawke, we'll leave it there. Thank you.
PM: Thank you.

Transcript 8125