PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9239


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: 16/05/1994

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 9239

MAY. 16 ' 94 6: 56PM P. 1 e~~
MONDAY, 16 MAY 1994
GC: The Prime Minister, Paul Keating, visiting our city and joints us for a few
minubes. Nice to see you.
PM: Good, nice tobe here.
GC: You've been out at Skifford school today talking about all kinds of
things. It went well, good to see the kids?
PM-It was a realty nice day and the Premier and I got such a nice welcome
from the kids and we were delighted. The cause of going was tha
Wayne Goss promoted, at the Council of Austrian Governments, the
Premier meeting, the notion of a national Asian languages strategy
which we were happy to join the states with and to join Wayne with and
It will mean that we will be focussing on Japanese, Chinese, Korean and
Indonesian in the first instance in schools in Australia. And, out there at
Stafford today there was a Chinese class which really did tremendous..
It is very interesting to see a bunch of Australian kids speaking Chinese
with a very enthusiastic techer of Chinese.
GC: * You wouldn't have thought it a few years ago would you?
PM: No. And, Wayne tells me there are 100,000 kids in Queensland
studying Asian languages right now. So, Queensland has been the
leader an this and I took the opportunity to congratulate the Premier on
his initiative in this respect because for Australia joining the world I
mean, when I grew up all we knew was basically that Australia belonged
to the. Commonwealth and that sort of thing, that we were part of Europe
and North America and wouldn't have known that much about the

MAY. 16 ' 94 6: 56PM P. 2
region, you certainly couldnt have spoken the languages. So, to be
able to do that is going to be a tremendous fillip for this country.
GC: So, when you were out there with the children and you were looking at
their young shiny faces full of potential and prospect and the rest, do
you allow yourself ever to think about our country 40 or 50 years down
the road when they in turn are having their children. And I wonder if you
allow yourself that thought, what kind of county it will be at that time?
PM: I do and much of what I do is about that Thats what motivates me and,
I think, that kids will have a much more interesting life then than we had.
Not that we didn't have good lives, but were they as interesting as they'll
have? And the answer is, no they weren't. Theirs will be far more
interesting and I was just making the point to them today, talking about,
particularly young children, the messages have got to be ones that they
can digest You know, the 747 jumbo jets changed all of our lives.
When I was a teenager the only destinations from Australia were all met
by sea. They were not met by you know, when in half a day being in
North Asia or South-east Asia. And, given that mass transportation is
going to change the opportunities for people to move around this area
of the world are going to be tremendous and in employment and in
incomes. So, it gets back to what I said in the Budget. We want this to
be a high wage, high productivity, culture and the way to get it is
through training education and training.
GC: Just talking about the schools for a moment We've had several calls
this afternoon, Prime Minister, concemed about the story about the
republican kits going into schools.
PM: This is a story in today's Sydney Morning Herald. Somebody has given
a journalist a lead in Canberra, but the Government didn't actually adopt
these proposals. It was for the development of an enhanced
understanding in our educational institutions of the Constitution,
because the Republican Advisory Committee, which was chaired by
Malcolm Tumbull, that Committee discovered that to their chagrin one of
the problems we had was people understanding the Constitution and, in
fact, that is understandable when even an institution like the federal
Cabinet is not mentioned in the Constitution. It mentions, in terms of the
Executive Council, the thing that advises the Governor-General. So,
there is all this code in the Constitution that people don't understand
and a lot of the kids today are disillusioned about public life and politics
and if we can't at least communicate to them things about the
Constitution, well, where are we going to begin.
So, it was a proposal to do that, but the Government didn't adopt it. We
might in the future, but we haven't yet.

MAY. 16 ' 94 6: 57PM 3
GC: Does that relate, some of the things you just said then, to that wonderful
line you dropped with John Laws last week on this radio station, when
you talked about a culture of criticism-Can you expand on that a little?
PM: Well, I think, that the culture of criticism in Australia has got tothe point
that instead of the media standing back saying, look, there are some
good and important things happening here and my point was, that
Australians had earned the recovery, that they had earned the right to
be accredited with meeting the challenge of economic transformation
which they have in the last ten years. We have gone from an Inward
looking, shut little place to an open, aggressive trading country. And
here we are now teaching languages in 3chools and the whole culture is
changing. Yet, instead of that positive compilation being presented to
the public of a nation which is at the leading edge of change, certainly in
western world terms, growing faster than any substantial western
economy, low inflation, big shift in education, big shift in the productive
culture, this is not getting through to the public, it is all niggardly stuff..
Journalists are in the position now where if they present the positive
things, their peer group pressure is such, that somebody says, hang on,
you're going soft on the Government or soft on this Minister or soft on
that Which, I think, is a pity because the public are looking for,
listening for the value. They are listening through the screen of noise to
find the bits they know have got some value to them.
One of the values of doing radio interviews like this is that you ran talk
about these things. But, by the time it gets filtered through the media..
GC: Maybe it is media driven, but I wonder if it is wider than the media in that
Lee Kuan Yew comes to Australia and wants to tell us how to run our
race when, in terms of any country on the planet, we are doing all right.
Is there an underlying lack of confidence perhaps still residing in our
country, that we are prepared to accept that critical assessment all the
PM: I think, if's not so much that we are prepared to accept, we politely
accept it. There is a diference between being polite and uncritical
acceptance by us. One of the things I was pleased to say a week or two
after Mr Lee's visit was that productivity per person in Australia was
much higher, say, than Singapore. much higher. That's productvity per
person. The only measure that is really worth, if you are-tialking about
the productive quality of the countries, the only measure worth having.
The thing is, Australians have got faith in themselves and they believe
that Australia can do, as a nation, good and important things and we
have done them. I mean, in the last ten years Australia has been
through a most profound transformation and it's still going on. Ten
years ago, only three kids in ten were completing school. This year it's
eight in ten. it will soon be nine in ten and by the White Paper changes
we're going to make sure that no kid who drops out of school isn't

MAY. 16 ' 94 6m: 57PM 4
picked up, that the transition from school to work is a good one. All of
those sorts of changes which are primary to a culture which is about
productivity, innovative products, research and development, exports, it
is a shift we've made and the public are enrtitled to get a tick for it.
GC: We only have four minutes ahead of the news. Two questions I want to
put to you. One, our listeners have talked at great length this afternoon
about whati's happening in Rwanda. There is much confusion and
people hear you talking abotithe prospect of us being Involved in the
UIN force. Is that on the cards and if it is, why?
PM: We have been asked by the United Nations if we would be willing to
provide military assistance to ensure the delivery of humanitarian
assistance in Rwanda. No formal security council decision about the
operation has yet been made, so we don't really know what the
character of such an operation would be. Now, in the past we have
given sympathetic consideration to what we might usefully do to help
with difficult humanitarian problems. In this place there have been
200,000 deaths already. Well, it is inconceivable in Australian terms,
but the first thing we need to do is to see the shape of the proposed
operation before we make any decision. But~ essentially we expect the
UNoperation to be aimed at assisting relief operations and not
sepsiriffng the waring parties. So, we wouldn't be in there trying to say,
hang on, we're going to be the referee here, but rather assisting in the
humanitarian operation. So. we don't know what the UN is proposing
and at this stage we haven't made a decision about it although we have
responded to the UIN in similar situations around the world.
GC: There remains a risk none the less doesn't there. We had a caller a litte
earlier about to go to Rwanda in a couple of weeks from now, said he
had been in Somalia and elsewhere and whilst our motives can be
applauded, when you get on the ground over there the bottom line
question, is it worth risking one Australian life to help these people who
seem not too keen to help themselves?
PM: Well, we either subscribe to the notion that we have an international
order and the governing body is the United Nations and support that
body or we don't. As you know, the same argument could have been
mounted in the mid-west of the United States when same mother said of
her child, why should I send him to the South-Pacific? Why should they
fight in the Solomon Islands or anywhere else?
GC: But we knew who the good guys and the bad guys were.
PMV: I know, it was a more obvious thing. But I mean, in these things, I think,
there has to be a view about Australia's role in the world and we are very
careful about the conditions under which we commit people as were in
Somalia, as we've been in the Middle East. But, good things do

MAY. 16 ' 94 6: 58PM
happen. We've been involved with UN operations as part of peace
keeping forces in the Middle East, we've done that long enough now to
see the Israelis and the Palastinians come to a peace accord which will
change the character of that area. So, we are either in the business of
helping and seeing better world outcomes or we're not. But, again,
these are on-balance judgements and we look, at each time, the nature
of the operation.
GC: We are a better and larger and more decent country than sometimes we
take the time to think of ourselves aren't we?
PM: Well, we play a larger role in the world. Always, I think, we have played
a role in the world larger than our relative size and that is a compliment
to Australians I think, the fact that we can take it I mean, look at the
settlement in Cambodia as a case in point in our own area.
GC: South Africa. Just talking about South Africa I was faxed a, I think, a
head line from the New Zealand Herald today and it ran this story the
former Deputy of white supremacist Dr Juan Smith in the church of the
creator organisation, is understood to be leaving South Africa for
Australia. South African sources said yesterday that Mr Youhan Grieff?
had applied for residency in Australia and that we might be already on
his way here having left South Africa Should we be letting people
like this into our country?
PM: I don't know whether he's applied or he hasn't, but we don't, generally,
try and import into this country extreme views and, I think, that is a pretty
good policy.
GC: So, if it was likely this fellow turned up on the front door?
PM: I can't say. I'd have to find out all about it.
GC: OK, in the meantime your Canterbury Bulldogs sit atop the premiership
ladder. They are looking good.
PM: Thats right, they are doing really well and the other side I support
Collingwood in Victoria are in the middle of the field and rising. So, I'm
going for the yearly double, annual double.
GC: It's good to see you. Next time you visit come by and we'll talk some
PM: OK, Greg and thanks very much.

Transcript 9239