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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8485

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON PJ KEATING MP AUSTRALIA AND ASIA KNOWING WHO WE ARE LECTURE TO THE ASIA - AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE SYDNEY 7.15PM TUESDAY 7 APRIL 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: 07/04/1992

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 8485

I L-L; W--A I
PRIME MINISTER
EMBARGOED AGAINST DELIVERY
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP
AUSTRALIA ANM ASIA: KNOWING WHO WE ARE
LECTURE TO THE ASIA-AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE
SYDNEY 7.15PM, TUESDAY 7 APRIL 1992
In 1935 the magazine, Autralian Quarterly-, Carried a long
article entitled " Australia's Place in the Empire." It was
the text of an address delivered in London by Robert Gordon
Menzies. An address delivered in the circumstances he loved, to the
audience he loved.
Menzies love the English. Five years later in a speech
to the British and Foreign Bible Society he said that he
believed the English had " never., wilfully broken [ their]
word." Never.
The virtues of the English race and Australia's filial
loyalty were themes of his 1935 address. " The thing which
sticks firmly in the mind of the average Australian is that
he is British.." he said.
He told them that they should recognise our rel. ationship was
a " blood relationship" before it was a mercantile one.
And he asked themn a question which he said would determine
our relationship with Britain not merely for the next five
years, but for the next five hundred.
" Does Great Britain keel that its sons and brothers.. are its
own flesh and blood, or does it regard them as remittance
men?" Now, in my view, Winston Churchill gave Menzies the answer a
few years later. " Australians", he told Lord Moran, " come
of bad stock." I L. L. * nr.

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It is also my view that Churchill answered in more concrete
ways: in the abject disaster of Singapore and Malaya and in
the attempt to prevent the return of Austral. ian troops from
the Middle East to defend this country the country which
lost 60,000 under the Union Jack in World War 1.
But what I say is not what some people have called Ponbashing.
Nor is it Paul Keating's idiosyncratic view of
history. It is a view corroborated by any number of
respectable Australian and British historians whose
references I am happy to provide.
It is a view corroborated by fact.
Nothing I say tonight, and nothing I have said in recent
weeks, can reasonably be interpreted as criticism of the
British people, and least of all those British men and women
who fought and suffered and died in the war against Japan
and Germany.
My criticism is directed at those Australians or, more
accurately, that Australian attitude which still cannot
separate our interests, our history, or our future, from the
interests of Britain.
It seems to me an attitude which still exercises at least a
subliminal influence on our thinking persuading us that
someone or something will do it for us.
just as we went on believing that Britain would, long after
it should have been obvious that Britain would not.
I say that this attitude has long been, and remains,
debilitating to our national culture, our economic future,
our destiny as a nation in Asia and the Pacific.
I spent the last decade attempting to make the necessary
changes to the Australian economy facing it toward the
world and opening it up, to make us more competitive and
give us a chance.
I know just how entrenched conservative Australian thinking
can be on both sides of politics.
we're talking about cultural changes, new ways of thinking
and new ways of doing things.
I know how hard it is to change Menzeen attitudes. And don't
forget their economic manifestation: M4enzies believed in
what he called a " balanced economy."
In Britain the balance was between manufacturing and
protected agriculture. In Australia the balance had to be
the reverse. TEL: 7. Apr. 92 19: 48 No. 024 P. 02/ 12

TEL: 7. p TO R;. 024 P. 03/ 12
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It was all terribly simple and cosily interdependent: and
the cost to us was in the sort of inefficient manufacturing
which threatened until very recently to place us among the
world's economic museums.
We've altered a lot of the practices and habits of mind
which emanated from that way of thinking at least as far
as the economy goes.
We've also gone a very long way towards getting rid of the
industrial Culture of hostility.
But altering our political perspective, which includes
regenerating our spirit, pulling us together as a nation,
focussing our sense of ourselves all these things, I
believe, remain tasks for the nineties.
These things, I assure you, are not meant as a distraction
as some people have~ suggested. They are central.
They are centrdl to our developing relationship with Asia
and the Pacific.
I am pleased, though not surprised, by the positive reaction
in South-East Asia to the recent surge of independent and
republican thinking in Australia.
Let me go back to Winston Churchill for 8 moment and ask a
simple question of the people who say my talk of nationhood
is a distraction: Why should we have expected Winston
Churchill to have acted in our interests? Why, despite his
foresight and courage, should we have expected him to
perceive the world through our eyes?
Because of blood?
Now the truth is, Churchill has been, if not a hero, a
favourite historical figure of mine since boyhood. Menizies
preferred Chamberlain. I admired the Churchill who stood up
every week in the House of Commons and told those myopic
equivocating cowards in his own party that Hitler was a
criminal. That Churchill, and the Churchill who inspired his people in
World War II, wa~ s a hero.
But that does not mean, and should never have been expected
to mean that he would automatically act in Australia's
interest. John Curtin acted in Australia's interest when he insisted
against the wishes of Churchill and another man I've always
admired, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that Australian troops
be brought home not left in the_-Middle ast, nor diverted
to Rangoon where they would have been killed or captured.
Curtin insisted and won. He turned to America.

Robert Gordon Menzies called this " a great blunder."
All this, of course, might be called ancient history. it
might be called irrelevant. It might be said that Menzies
was a man of his time and should not be judged with
hindsight. But Menzies is a man of Q~ time too.
His unnaturally long political era made possible by the
split in the Labor Party his endless, and almost endlessly
rgeasia-~ gye era sunk a generation of Australians in
Anglophilia and torpor.
The Menzies attitudes are still with us, as we sew when a
few weeks ago I delivered a speech in the presence of Her
Majesty the Queen of Australia.
The sentiments I expressed then were nothing more then
thoughts on behalf of Australians who valued their
independence, appreciated the fact of our separate destiny
and our need to grasp it, and who esteemed the Queen.
The response from some prominent Australians indicated how
far we still have to go before we can say that we do have
the necessary independence of mind, the necessary
appreciation that we have to make our own future, or, for
that matter, the necessary mature esteem for our Head of
State. These things we need in the next decade if we are to take
our place in the region and in the world.
My point is that we can no longer be Australian in the way
Bob Menzies was Australian. And in making that change, like
John Curtin, we can say that it is without prejudice to
Britain. It is equally without prejudice to those generations older
than my own, whom I know regret the passing of the old
Australia. I know there is apprehension among them about the change
some of it takes the form of very vocal opposition to all
suggestions of reform or new directions.
I think their position should be respected but
conservatism has had its day, and, in truth, it was too long
a day for the country's good.
My responsibility is to this generation and succeeding ones,
and these echoes of Menzies cannot be allowed to get in the
way.
We cannot pretend to ourselves that we are insulated from
change in the world.
11 ONOMMUmm

In any event, the ol0 traditions of Australia will remain
with us.
We are not about disloyalty but its opposite. We are about
nationhood, and the democracy which is at the centre of it.
That is something I think Australians must realise: that we
don't go to Asia cap in hand, any more than we go, like
Menzies went to London, pleading family ties.
We go as we are. Not with the ghost of empire about us. Not
as a vicar of Europe, or as a US deputy.
But unambivalently. Sure of who we are and what we stand
for.
If we are to be taken seriously, believed, trusted, that is
the only way to go.
Sometimes, perhaps it's necessary to state the obvious:
facing Asia we do nothing more or less than face reality
and that is what Asia does in facing us.
We might learn something from the geophysics of the
situation. Geophysically speaking this continent is old
Asia there's none older than this. It's certainly not
going to move, and after two hundred years it should be
pretty plain that we're not going to either.
in 1992, we shouldn't think that we're anything less than a
rightful presence In the region.
It is sometimes argued that Australia's democratic
institutions and traditions of tolerance and open debate
somehow disqualify us from forming successful relationships
in Asia.
My starting point is that Australia's democratic
institutions and traditions are non-negotiable.
Many things have changed and will change in Australia our
ethnic composition and, with it, our culture; our economic
and industrial practices; our world view a great deal will
change. But traditions of democracy, fairness and personal liberty
which we have fought wars to defend, will remain this
country's guiding principles.
Sacrifice and achievements of Australians will not be
forgotten in the new Australia indeed in a less ambivalent
Australia their memory will grow.
We recognise that it is thanks largely to our British
heritage that we are a stable and mature liberal democracy
of long standing. -W g7-1T -4g-024-P. 05/ 12

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I cannot accept that this deeply rooted democracy is a
disadvantage in dealing with Asia. it is a region, after
all, which contains stable democracies like Japan and
India, and a number of societies whose economic advance has
opened the way to political liberalisation. South Korea and
Taiwan to name just two.
Given these developments in Asia, along with the democratic
revolutions of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, I
find it hard to accept that our going into the world will
mean compromising our democracy.
I incline very strongly to the view that, on the contrary,
Australia's democracy is an advantage.
In other words, In the growing political liberalisation of
Asia we're not an aberration, but a natural fit.
We don't need to be intrusive, but we have nothing to shrink
from and plenty to give.
What is true politically is also true economically.
It is important for Australians to realise that this
country's economic weight is considerable.
Our GNP is third In the West Pacific and equal to the
combined GNP of all the ASEAN countries.
We have much of what the countries in the region need
resources, space, a skilled work force, education services.
We have the English language, adn a rapidly increasing
number of young Australians who are competent in Asian
languages. In 1990, 53,000 Australian students were
studying Japanese in high school: this year the figure is
95,000. The success of multiculturalism in Australia, and increasing
immigration from Asia, have stimulated our awareness of
Asian societies and improved our standing in the region.
Recent changes in Asia are perhaps not so dramatic as they
have been in Europe, but they are greater than is commonly
understood. During the 1980s, North-East and South-East Asia constituted
the fastest growing region in the world, expanding at
approximately twice the world average growth rate. Together
these countries account for about 1.7 billion people.
That is change on a grand scale.
we do not yet know what the shape of Asia geopolitically,
or economically will be. But we do know that the key
question for Australia is how to position ourselves to take
maximum advantage of the changes.

The Cold war strategic structure of Asia is fading.
The Cambodia peace settlement is a Striking example of the
benefits that derive from more relaxed relations between the
great powers in Asia.
We also welcome the two Koreas joining the United Nations,
and new openings in South Korea's relations with Russia and
China. Set against these positive developments, of course, there is
continuing concern about the possibility of North Korea
developing nuclear weapons.
Although Russia retains formidable nuclear end conventional
military capabilities, its projection of power in the
Western Pacific is constrained by economic pressures and
greater priorities nearer home.
Considered overall, the risk of military confrontation
between the great powers in Asia is now significantly
reduced. The economic dynamismn of Asian countries also contributes to
regional stability. So too do the related processes of
economic interdependence.
As we seek the Strategy most likely to succeed in this
generally favourable environment, three key questions
confront us.
First, what level of strategic and economic engagement with
the Western Pacific will the United States sustain over the
medium to long term?
Second, what quality of international leadership will Japan
achieve in the period ahead?
Third, depending on the outcome of the Uruguay Round of
multilateral trade negotiations, what type of trade
alignments are likely to evolve in the Asia-Pacific region
over the next decade?
The questions are obviously inter-related. The issues have
been much discussed and I don't wish now to add to the
available body of analysis and speculation.
Let me offer. instead, some comments on Australia's
OrAf~ rannc. 1 in each case.
1. The Bush Administration has announced a series of
phased reductions to its military presence in East Asia.
It is also currently withdrawing from the Subic Say
naval base in the Philippines.
At the same time, the United States has emphasised its
determination to remain a strategic power in the Western
Pacific over the long term.

I-
8
Even in a post-Cold War environmient, Australia
considers that US strategic engagement in the Western
Pacific, and the maintenance of existing US bilateral
alliances, make a vital contribution to regional
stability and confidence.
Maintenance of a close security relationship between
the United States and Japan is especially important. It
provides not only assurance for Japan itself, but sets
out a framework which helps legitimise Japan's defence
posture in the eyes of other Asian countries.
Despite increasing Japanese influence in the region,
the United States remains a key economic partner for
most Asian countries. The United States is still Asia's
single most important export market, though it has been
overtaken by Japan as the main source of aid and
investment. in recognition of the United States' continuing
importance as an economic partner of the Western Pacific
region, Australia welcomes its active involvement in the
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC process.
2. Japan's impressive economic achievements are widely
recognised, but their translation into international
influence has been uneven.
Given the perception that overall US influence in East
Asia may decline over time, there is lively interest in
whether Japan will fill the gap by assuming more
international leadership.
Our firm preference is for a more active Japanese role
internationally. We are pleased to be working closely
with Japan in the Implementation of the Cambodia peace
settlement. We would support Japan's participation in United
Nations peacekeeping. I am not talking here about a
wider regional Japanese military role, which in any case
is not sought by Japan.
3. Against a background of frustratingly slow progress in
the Uruguay Round, concern is often expressed that the
international trading system will gradually degenerate
into three trading blocs one in Europe, one in the
Americas, and the other in East Asia.
As is widely recognised, Australia has a considerable
stake in a successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round.
An unsatisfactory outcome to the Round would
undoubtedly Increase pressure on the multilateral
trading system. The GATT framework would remain in
force, but there would be increasing resort to bilateral
and regional approaches to trade problems.

T C. Z -_ 7-7 77. NO. VU 4 v ' L
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In the modern globalised trading environment, it is not
inevitable that the Americas and East Asia would
separate into rival trading blocs if the Round failed.
Even if they did, Australia would still have viable
trade policy options though undoubtedly inferior ones
to those a multilateral system offers.
Looking at our relations with Asia more generally, we are in
fact more successfully engaged with the region than we
commonly appreciate.
Vindicating the efforts of Australian business to expand our
commercial relations in the region, more than 60 per cent of
Australia's merchandise exports now go to Asia.
Those Australians who continue to doubt that this is where
our national interests truly lie should take note.
Those who know this but are still inclined to recoil from
Asia should, I think, take heart.
Every year our interdependence with Asia increases in
proportion to the rest of the world.
In 1991, the ASEAN countries became our second largest
export market, taking 12 per cent of our exports, and moving
ahead of both the United States and the European Community.
With levels of growth in most Asian economies well above the
world average, this upward trend in our exports to the
region should also hold good.
The opportunities for Australia cannot be overstated.
Asia remains a major market for our traditional commodity
exports, and these remain vitally important to our economy.
But the Asian market has broadened. Over the period
1983-91, Australia's manufactured exports to Asia grew twice
as fast as the traditional areas of our trade.
Exports of services grew even more rapidly. There was also
expansion, albeit less dramatic, in Australian investment in
Asia. It is all reason to believe that we can live and prosper in
the Asia-Pacific.
Most pleasing of all has been the emergence of new business
links between Australia and the countries of South-East
Asia. I look forward to seeing examples of this first hand when I
go to Indonesia later in the month.

TEL:
Just as Australia's economic engagement with Asia is more
advanced than is sometimes realised, so too we have more
scope to contribute to regional political affairs than is
commonly appreciated at home.
We start from the best possible position, having no
historical or fundamental conflict of interest with any
country in the region.
We have institutional strengths to draw on. We have
well-developed foreign policy expertise in the government
and academia.
We must be careful not to overplay our hand, but if our
timing is good and we choose things which genuinely serve
the wider interest, we can help shape the regional agenda.
Our role as a catalyst In the Cambodia peace process is one
good example. We have also played a useful role in launching
and helping advance the APEC process, and in encouraging
regional security dialogue in Asia.
As I see it, the quality of Australia's future relationship
with Asia very much depends on what happens with regard to
trade alignments in the Pacific.
The scope for Australia to achieve its broadest aspirations
in the region will be that much reduced if the countries of
East Asia see themselves as an economic bloc in rivalry with
Europe and North America.
That is why, without any illusions about the bad effects of
US trade policies on Australia, when President Bush was here
in January I put the case vigorously for continued US
engagement in the Western Pacific.
I mean a strategic presence and an economic presence and a
presence in our regional institutions.
The United States will be better for that, so will Asia.
All this points to the wisdom of Australia's effort since
1989 to establish and develop APEC.
The general virtue of the process is its promotion of
regional economnic cooperation within a framework which
embraces North America and East Asia.
A particular virtue is that it also provides a convenient
framework within which Japan and the United States can work
out their respective regional roles, without increasing
pressure on their bilateral relationship.
Regardless of the outcome of the Uruguay Round, APEC's value
will grow considerably if a process of non-discriminatory
regional trade liberalisation can be carried forward with
conviction. T7EL.: Rpr. 92 19: 48 No. 024 P. 10/ 12

TEL: 7ARpr. 92 19: 48 No. 024 P. 11/ 12
The objective should be to promote an open regionalism which
is compatible with a wider Multilateral trading system.
Another way of promoting cooperation in the Asia-Pacific
region would be to establish a process of periodic
heads-of-government meetings, say every two or three years.
The absence of such a process is conspicuous in a region
whose weight in global affairs is steadily increasing.
Various formulas for participation are possible, but I
personally would find most attractive a mechanism based on
APEC membership, because it embraces the most important
economic linkages throughout East Asia and across the
Pacific. I discussed this general idea with President Bush when he
visited Australia. I hope to pursue it as opportunity
allows with other Asia-Pacific leaders.
Without doubt the appropriate note on which to conclude is 8
positive one.
We have come a long way In the last decade: there is every
chance of a quantum leap in the next.
We won't make that leap in the way Bob Menzies might have
tried to make it. Blood will not determine it.
To do it, we need to recognise that we have become a player
in these affairs and have a stake in them not by
accident, but by initiative.
The key to our success now rests with ourselves. In
initiatives we have taken abroad. And in the ones we have
taken at home.
Sometimes it seems to me that Australians have ceased to
believe that we got here largely under our own steam.
In truth we did. in truth we've not done badly.
But we'll do best when we've removed all signs of our being
a branch office.
We'll never get anywhere but into trouble if we drift as
we did in the fifties.
In the eighties, we took hold of the rudder and set about an
essential economic transformation which leaves us able to
hold our own in Asia in the nineties.
We can confidently expect further success to follow in the
course of recovery and from the major Infrastructure
projects, investment incentives, huge investment in
vocational training, and continuing micro-economic and
industrial relations reforms announced in the One Nation
statement last month.

TEL 12
AS I said earlier, I have spent much of the past decade
engaged in structural reform.
That has also meant something equally as difficult perhaps
more difficult. I mean cultural reform, the reform of our
outlook. Success at home depends on this change. Success in Asia
depends on it too.
It depends on the individual and collective faith of
Australians: It depends on establishing beyond doubt
S that Asia is where our future substantially lies;
S that we can and must go there;
S and that this course we are on is irreversible.
What John Curtin said in 1942 is right for us in 1992: " On
what we now do depends everything we may like to do."
7: Flpr. 92-19: 48 No. 024 P. 12/ 12

Transcript 8485