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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8429

THE PRIME MINISTER WITH JOHN LAWS ON 2 UE, FEBRUARY 28, 1992

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: 28/02/1992

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 8429

PRIME MINISTER
THE PRIME MInITERM WITH JOHN LAWS ON 2U3, FEBRUARY 28, 1992
8 3O PROOF ONLY
LXWS: We]. l, you promised us excitement and vitality when you
moved into the top job. You've certainly given us excitement.
PM: Well, I just. I mean it's really our friends in the
Opposition whio've picked up quite un.. on quite unremarkable
remarks by me when I spoke both to and with the Queen last week.
What I was Baying was, simply, that as Britain moved more
towards a Coimon Market in Europe, we were moving independently
of Britain and Europe more towards the Asia/ Pacific. Andi, of
course, I waon adding, and I had already said before I said that,
that the Queen was part of this independence when she became
Queen of Ausjtralia. So, it was quite unremarkable but I'm
afraid our friends in the Opposition have this sort of
propensity to so rt of bow and scrape and that one can't even
sort of express Australia's independence without it being a
matter of some coimment.
LAWS: Well, now the British people have reacted in what I
consider a most defensive way to the comments that you've made.
They've been critical of you: we have one gentleman who
suggested that you've ' mauled' the Queen, we have another one
suggesting that your wife was less than courteous. And, as I
was just sayiLng, -we have a lot of British migrants in Australia
who must shudder at the attitude of their countrymen in light of
what happened. Now, while you were saying that we were moving
towards independence, I have never heard you at any time want to
rush the issUe Of this place becoming a Republic. And while you
were saying what you were saying, the delightful Duchess of Kent
was in Brisbane saying precisely the same thing. You were not
aware of what she was saying because she was saying it about the
same time. And she said that Australia's grown up, they can get
by without the help of other people and, obviously, she said if
I was an Australian, I would be thinking about becoming a
Republic too. But, of course, we'll always be good friends,
won't we. And she said it as nicely as that. Now, in essence
that's what you were saying, wasn't it?
PM: Yes, except I did not., no, I wasn't even saying that
much. I was just simply making the point, John, that Australia

naturally.. I was remarking about the fact that she had been
crowned 40 years earlier. It was a speech of congratulations on
her coronation 40 year. ago, and to say that in the 40 years so
much had changed. That Britain had become a much more European
country in terms of its outlook and its arrangements. Australia
had become a more Asia Pacific country. That was all I was
saying. LAWS: i That, of course, what you're saying is undeniably
true, isn't it?
PM: And the Queen had herself recognized this change that
years after her coronation she adopted the royal style and
title of Queen of Australia. She doesn't come here as Queen of
Great Britain, she comes as Queen of Australia. And that was
the point I made. But of course, Palace authorities, when
questioned about this who were travelling with the Queen,
thought it entirely unremarkable and couldn't quite understand
what the kerfuffle was about.
LAWS: Well, why did John Hewson and John Howard, in
particular, and Tim Fischer not that it matters a great deal
what he think. but they seem to consider it is remarkable.
PM: I know. Because, you see, it's all part of this point
I made yesterday, the sort of torpor which Menzies put the place
in, a sort of forelock-tugging business. I mean, if it was left
to these people we'd still have knighthoods and we'd still have
all these sorts of things. And we'd be still tied up to a
country 12,000 miles away. It wasn't until 1986 that the Queen
signed and gave royal ascent to the Australia Act.
LAWS: Yes, in fact, it's next Monday, will be the exact day
that in 1986, 2nd March, 1986, that she did that.
PM: Yes, that was the thing which finally severed the
links between Australia, the Constitutional links or the
Parliamentary and Appeal links to their Privy Council and where
the British Parliament could change the Australian Constitution
by Act of the British Parliament. She severed that link as
short a time ago as 1986. So, it took us all that long to
actually cut the knot. But our friends in the O) pposition who
want to tell us that they're the people of the Nineties keep
extolling the virtues of the 1950s, And now they Ire in there
telling us what a great period of tranquility and progress it
was in the 19~ 50a and sort of saying ' isn't it a pity, really,
we've got to change from all of that'.
LAWS: The opposition will say,. and have suggested that the
whole thing, -the outburst and it was an outburst because you
were very firmn, did you lose control?

PM: Oh noI no. It was the very essence of control, I'm
quite clear about what I wanted to say.
LXWS: i YOUL said it very loudly.
PM: I wanted to make it quite clear that Dr Hewson and Mr
Howard would. be better in the Constitutional Museum we're
thinking of creating at the Old Parliament House an a sort of
pair of Fifties relics. And not anybody who'll likely be
leading Australia in the 1990s, given that they're quite happy
to still dof f the old hat, you know, tug the forelock to the
British Establishment, which is what they're about.
LAWS: Wha~ t you said, you said with a great deal of
strength you did it say it with some venom and you obviously
meant it. They are going to say it was a deliberate ploy to
bury John Hewbon's reply to your Economic Statement.
PM1 well, he was going to get his reply and that'll give
us both the same amount of press attention, it was just to make
the point. They say that they have concern f or the position of
the Monarchy and the Queen but they did their best to score from
it on the day in question and score in a way which paints them
back into thel sort of fogey corner of the 1950s. And I mean it
just is remarkable that two relatively young men, relatively
young men, should be such ' old' young men. You know what I
mean? LAWS: Yes, I understand what you're saying.
PM. That they are trying to say, well ' we're the people
from the Nineties' when, really, they're harking back to the
Fifties or Sixties and isn't it a pity that we don't have all
these arrangements just as they were between us and Britain and
the Monarchy. I presume they'd be quite happy for the Queen to
be still Queen of Great Britain and Australia and to be playing
' God save the Queen', instead of ' Advance Australia Fair'.
LAWS: In your reflective moments since yesterday, do you
regret any of the things you've said?
PM: Oh, God, no. Oh no.
LAWS: You obviously don't mind upsetting the British.
PM: No, look, those British tabloids I mean, God,
they're the pits. I mean, the fact of the matter is Australia
has every right, we have every entitlement for Australia to be
aggressive about ' its own future, about its independent place in
the world, about its culture and not to be seen by our leaders,
Hewson and H~ oward, as Some sort Of cultural derivative of
Britain. It's finished. It's over.

LALWS: i Can we af ford to alienate the British# and do you
think we have or you have alienated the British?
PM: I'Im speaking about a period past. I'm speaking about
a period in the Fifties and Sixties which in past as far as I'm
concerned with Britain. The people who operate Britain today
have a very clear idea about all this. The British Government
have a very -clear idea about all this. The only people here
that don't have a clear idea is the Leaders of the Liberal
Party, the Leader of the National Party and former leaders like
Mr Howard.
LAWS: PM: So you don't regret anything that you said yesterday?
Not a bit.
LAWS: Do you regret any of the comments you made about the
Second World liar?
PM: Oh, no. That was entirely true. I mean, here we were
in the 1960s, as Menzies had us in this sort of time warp and
torpor, as Britain was trying to break through and sign the
Treaty of Romre and join the Common Market and leave all our
agricultural exports behind, all the former markets of Australia
and New Zealand leave them behind, as we had to beg to get our
own troops ba~ ck to defend ourselves after the attacks by the
Japanese. After all that period they were still plugging the
forelock and bowing their knee.
LAWS: And you are aware I imagine, that when we did try to
get our troops back af ter the f all of Singapore, Churchill said
that Australians who wanted to go back to the South Pacific were
like rats auaee~ ing a sinkJig sip,
PMg Wel2l, I wasn't quite sure abc
history of all this is quite clear and
when Menzies bec'ame Prime Minister thi
history behind us, and then by the Si
attempting to join the Common Market th
have said ' Australia is entitled to an
its own and we'll have to trade it. we
region. But instead of that, it waited1
Minister came along to change the nation
Whitlam in 1973.
LAWS: Yeah. And prior to that, of
ref erred to ZJohn Curtin, who was a fin
' wretched second rate man' and now
critical of you as Australia's Leader bec
you have made about them. It's a littJ
the kettle blatck, isn't it? rnt the words but the
one would have thought
Bre in ' 49, r with that
xties when Britain was
at then, even he would
independent position of
iy in the world in its
: ill another Labor Prime
al tempo and that was
course, Churchill had
e Prime Minister, as a
Britain chooses to be
ause of comments that
Le like the pot calling

PM: Not the sensible people in Britain, not the sensible
ones that I run into at international meetings or the people
that run the major business institutions. It's not them they
understand it. all, it's just these sort of ' throw-backs' that
still inhabit. some of the cracks and crevices of the British
Establishment. LAWS: Well, am I say, you promised us excitement and
vitality, you certainly gave it to us yesterday.
P14: I tell you what I 1ll give you always,# John. I'll
always give you a pro-Australian view. And we'Ire not going to
be doffing ou~ r lid or tugging our forelock to anybody.
LAWS: Well said. Thanks for your time, good to talk to you.
PM1 Thanks, John, good-bye.
LAWS: LPArWiSl: n e Minister of Australia, Paul Keating.

Transcript 8429