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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9255


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: 14/06/1994

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 9255

14 JUNE, 1994
RM: Prime Minister, welcome home. You have come back to a barrage, a
media release today from the Leader of the Opposition saying the
Keating Government is in a shambles, it is about time you showed
some leadership.
PM: Yes, well that's what they all say. That's what they all say, Ray. I
mean, as you know on my European trip I met a lot of the leaders of
Western Europe, I mean, nobody there had 5 per cent growth, 1 per
cent inflation and 3.5 per cent employment growth. When they hear
those numbers they say, " Well, gee, if only we could have that". That
is the sort of problem that I am quite sure that Alexander Downer would
love to be wrestling with.
RM: All right, well let's borrow a phrase from Mr Downer, did the grovelling
with the Europeans work?
PM: Well the point is, you see, this gets back to Mr Downer's view of the
world, which was Mr Fraser's view of the world, and Mr Menzies view
of the world, that Australia should stay at home. You have a country
ringed by a high tariff wall, you don't have foreign investment in, and
you don't have foreign investment by Austraiians dbrbd. That's their
view. Whereas the view the Government has had is that you become
a competitive country, which we now are, and you go out to the world
and you take positions in it, and you invest in it. What has happened
to us in Western Europe is, I think, particularly in continental Europe,
they don't know enough about the modern Australia. They don't know
how we have progressed, how we have become independent as we
have been in an economic sense, how we are now back to a high rate

of growth, low inflation, and how we have made this cultural change to
the rest of the world.
RM: But Prime Minister, the French are pretty sophisticated, as we all know,
they would realise that we have liberty, equality and fraternity in
Australia, they would know we were independent, you don't have to tell
them that.
PM: Yes they know that, they also think, particularly the French, that
Australia is basically a sub-club of Britain.
RM: That's an old fashion, do they really think that? I mean, does the
President think that, does the Prime Minister?
PM: Part of the point of me going there was to say, " well hang on, let me
bring you up to date." Australia is not a mono-culture, it is now a plural
society, it is outward going, it is internationally competitive, it is making
structures for itself at home and abroad. I talked about APEC and the
Asia Pacific and President Mitterand said to me, " I have never heard
an Australian talk this way before." Let me repeat from the horses
mouth, Ray, Francois Mitterand said to me, " I have never heard an
Australian speak this way before."
RM: But he would be briefed, the same as you are briefed before someone
comes here. He would know as much as you are going to tell him,
wouldn't he?
PM: But it is not the briefing, people live by impressions. They live by their
own life experiences and they live by what they know. I mean, we
could all pick up a piece of briefing paper, I mean, I went to see him
and I could get a briefing paper about him and his Government, or
about his country, but it is not like talking to him, and that's the value of
RM: So, is this why you raised the issue of the republic there?
PM: Well, amongst other things, simply to say that Australia has now
changed its orientation from the ' 60s and ' 70s from an inward looking
closed place, to an outward looking confident place, that we pull the
tariff barriers. down, that we have made a big shift to exports, that we
are a multicultural plural society, and I said the Governmnent policy is to
reflect this by moving towards a republic by the year 2000.
RM: Did you expect to get the grovelling, cringing, sucking up to the French
PM: Well, I suppose I did. But I mean, you always get that from people who
have basically always shied away from dealing with the rest of the
world. And the thing about the Alexander Downers of this world, and

the Malcolm Erasers and the Bob Menzies is they kept Australians at
home, and the consequence was that we have fallen from having the
second largest income per capita in the Western World to number 18
by 1983. We just kept simply back as that rest of the world moved on.
RM: But then whatever happened to the so-called London convention? The
idea that you don't raise domestic issues when you are overseas,
clearly the republic is a hot domestic issue?
PM: That was only something Bob Hawke said to suit a particular
circumstance at the time. The London convention isn't anything.
RM: So it is fair game. If you are overseas you can call Mr Downer two
faced, anything you like?
PM: Well you see Mr Downer was over here saying he wants clean politics,
while he is trying to link Graham Richardson with prostitutes in the
Senate. He is saying he -wants-an-' economically reformed country
while he is saying we shouldn't have foreign investment. And I just
thought it was time to point those inconsistencies out.
RM: But isn't this a bit rich from a bloke like you who, in the one sense,
wants to get rid of the monarchy, but then accepts a ride on the royal
yacht Britannia to look at the Normandy re-enactment?
PM: Of course not. I am the Australian Prime Minister, I was invited by the
Government of Britain.
RM: As against the Queen. It is the Queen's yacht isn't it?
PM: And the Government of France. And the Queen as Head of State of
Britain was involved in those ceremonies. So, anyway I don't accept to
be I noticed some journalist said, " Oh isn't it shocking, Mr Keating is
talking about a republic after enjoying the Queens hospitality."
Apparently if you have a cup of tea and a scone, that's it, she has got
you for life.
RM: But if you call Alexander Downer two faced and then turn around and
do that, aren't you guilty of the same crime?
PM: I don't follow you.
RM: Well if you say that you want to get rid of the monarchy, and in the
same breath you say, yes, I will have a ride on the Royal Yacht
PM: I don't think there is any inconsistency there at all. I have said this to
the Queen directly. Remember I met the Queen in Scotland, in
Balmoral a year ago, and had a long and frank conversation with her

about how Australia could no longer make its way as a sort of society it
has become with the Head of State of another country. I made that
clear. And I said to her that itzwas the Government's policy that we
should move towards a republic by the year 2000. And you might
remember the Queen authorised me to say that these were matters for
the Australian people and she would accept the advice of our
Ministers, and you might remember, Ray, that Prince Charles said
much the same thing when he came to Australia. This is a matter for
Australians, and why shouldn't they have such a debate he said. In
fact the Queen knows exactly where I stand on this.
RM: She still invites you on the yacht?
PM: The meetings I have had with her have always been absolutely first
RM: Are the fl. g_ and the republic as one, are they combined? Do they
have to go together?
PM: No, I don't think so. But were Australia to become a republic, you will
probably see a manifestation of that in all of its symbols, including the
RM: Are you still sticking to the target of the year 2000 for a republic?
PM: Yes.
RM: And what about the flag, is there a timetable for that?
PM: No, I mean, I have got an opinion on the flag, but I don't have a plan
for the flag.
RM: What's your opinion? How close to your heart is a new Australian
PM: Well, whenever I'm asked I always say what I've said before and that
is, that I don't think that I mean, this was essentially, the flag we had
was essentially the flag of the British Merchant Navy, to which we
added some stars for the Southern Cross. There was a very
interesting article in today's Australian making that very point.
RM: What about the nervous nellies as you like to call them in the Labor
party the flag waiverers. Are you being told by anybody to back off
on the flag issue?
PM: No, not by anybody. But, you see Ray
RM: Malcolm Turnbull says that he told you that. That he asked you to
please move away.

PM: I can't recall Malcolm saying this to me, but whether he did or not
doesn't move heaven and earth-Look, the fact of the matter is that
Australia is an independent, plural country. It is now economically
competitive, we've made a huge shift to exports, we've changed the
culture of business in the work place, we are a much more dynamic
society and we've made great linkages into Asia and, indeed, into
northern America and to western Europe. It just follows that one can't
go on in the future marketing Australia saying that we are an
independent place while our head of state is the head of another
country. In fact, just in passing coming back in the plane reading the
British Economist, in an article about Australia it just said in the last
line, not with any great fanfare, but just as an attitude from a journalist
only colonies continue to borrow the monarchies of other lands
Now, Australia is not a colony, but we are still borrowing the monarchy
of another land.
RM: What about Bob Hawke's suggestion that the new flag and the republic
are inevitable, but there is no need to divide the nation.
PM: Well, I don't think it divides the nation. I think it is an issue, it's a good
sound cultural issue for this country to actually declare itself a republic.
It is something that would make the country not only feel better about
itself, but be better.
RM: But what about if a majority of Australians right now don't want that?
PM: Well, we are not going to have it now.
RM: But to the year 2000?
PM: Well, I think the majority will.
RM: And will we have a new flag then too?
PM: Well, the Government has no plans to bring in any legislation other
than as I've said in the past. First of all we have no plans to do it.
Secondly, only when there is popular support for it. But again, don't
under estimate Ray, the fact that the Olympics are coming up in the
year 2000 and the whole sense of nationhood and national pride is
going to be there, let alone the changes we've made in the last 10 or
12 years.
RM: Do you fear at all that the flag and the republic are going to be major
issues in the next election campaign?
PM: Well, I think, it is Mr Downer who fears they might.
RM: You'll be quite happy if they were?

PM: Remember this, leaning towards the republic was part of my policy
speech in the 1993 election.-
RM: But it wasn't an issue, the GST was the only issue then. But now if
they make this a prime issue, does that worry people in the Labor
PM: Well, I don't think so, no. Let me tell you this, as sure as you and I are
speaking here Ray, Australia will become a republic. Now, sensible
people in the Liberal party like Nick Greiner say this any day you want
to ask them, the only discussion is about the timing. What Alexander
Downer is saying is no, we should keep the monarchy of Great Britain
as our head of state.
RM: Have you seen a flag design that you like, a new flag design?
PM: I haven't, no.
RM: Not up tonow?
PM: No, I mean I don't take any notice of flag competitions. There is a lot
of them.
RM: But clearly the point that Malcolm Turnbull and others make is that it is
hard to sell anything if you don't have something to show people. If
you can't say this is the flag we should have.
PM: That's probably -right, but I'm not out there selling a flag. Let me just
repeat the point. I have an opinion about the flag, but I don't have a
plan for the flag.
RM: What would you like to see on the flag?
PM: Well, I've never really refined my own thoughts about it.
RM: Kangaroo? Southern Cross? Emu? Didgeridoo?
PM: I don't think so, but I've never seen a design that actually suits me.
But, the key point is this Ray, Australia is now a modem plural society
with an inflation rate of 1 per cent and 5 per cent growth, we in this
country are doing something right. All of us. We've made a great leap
into the Asia Pacific, we are now setting up structures like APEC. -In
other words we are remodelling Australia inside and we are
remodelling, recasting it from the outside. It is untenable to wander
around then saying, oh by the way, excuse us, we'ye done all these
things, but by the way our head of state is the monarch of another

RM: Let's go to some of those things, on the front page of the papers today
the report that the Government is looking at a radical plan to make
elderly and chronically ill peopletin Australia pay more for Medicare or
for health care. Is that true.
PM: No basis to it. Carmen Lawrence debunked that today.
RM: Absolutely no basis?
PM: No basis.
RM: What about a wealth tax?
PM: There was no basis for that. I noticed that Duncan Kerr one of my
ministerial colleagues was reported as referring to that over the week
end. He never did. In fact, I don't know where that came from.
RM: So, he didn't refer to it?
PM: He didn't even refer to it.
RM: No reference to the rich actually being taxed heavier?
PM: No, what he said was that Australia was going to have to keep an eye
on its revenue base. But he never talked about wealth taxes or
inheritance taxes of any kind.
RM: But that's widely reported?
PM: I know, amazingly.
RM: Well, can you do a George Bush and say'read by lips, no new taxes?'
PM: Well, certainly not those taxes.
RM: Certainly not, maybe some other taxes?
PM: No, no, just that what the Government Ray, what the Government
has done just less than a year ago is give major income tax cuts,
reductions in tax.
RM: So, how are you going to pay for things? What about privatisation?
Are you going to sell off 49 per cent of Telecom?
PM: No, but that is not to say we won't sell some things.
RM: Telecom, part of Telecom?

PM: No, what we are thinking of is the Federal Airports Corporation and
' Australian National Line and in this year we will be selling Qantas and
last year part of the Commonwealth Bank. I mean, the Commonwealth
is always acquiring assets, it's got to sell some too, particularly where
we think they can be more advantageously managed by the private
RM: But, can you rule out tonight selling off any part of Telecom?
PM: It has never been on our agenda Ray.
RM: And is not, all right. Now, what about an old mate of yours the old
Labor stalwart Jack Ferguson, said at the weekend, it's still a case of
us against them, the workers against the millionaires. Do you agree
with that sentiment?
PM: Well, Australia has right at the moment the highest profit share it's ever
had in its history. That's the highest share of national income going to
profits. It has no historical precedent. So, therefore, the notion that
the Labor party is sort of somehow run by the politics of envy against
people who invest is wrong. Now, it is a minority view now and I think
it has always been a minority view.
RM: So, it's not us against them?
PM: Of course not. If it ever is, we'll never develop as a country probably.
RM: Is privatisation, just quickly getting back to that, is that going to be a
major issue, a battle ground for the Labor party in Hobart at the
national conference?
PM: You'll always have these, I mean, you've been reporting national
conferences of the Labor party for years and most people in public life
have. Every two years we have a national conference. Every two
years we have some matter which gets the focus, or a couple of
matters which get the focus of the debate and no doubt, privatisation
well get a good run for its money.
RM: All right, but you're confident that its not going to split the party?
PM: No, it never does.
RM: All right, a bigger worry then, how close to war are we in Korea?,
PM: I don't think we are close to war. What's happening there is that the
Koreans are defuelling a nuclear reactor the so-called spent or old
fuel rods can be reprocessed for weapon grade material and the
international agency inspecting all this, International Atomic Energy
Agency wants to see that there isn't a diversion of these materials from

spent fuel rods into weapons. Now, the North Korean government
won't allow the inspections and it is that which everybody is upset
RM: But, there appears to be one of those inevitable movements we have
infrequently thankfully, but a movement towards confrontation.
PM: Well, there is an element of confrontation about this, but part of it is, I
think, the United States and others saying unless there is international
inspections here there should be a movement towards some
international sanctions.
RM: Would we be part of that, economic sanctions?
PM: We would be because we believe that there should be curbs upon
nuclear proliferation and weapon proliferation and that all states
should be subject to the scrutinies of the IAEA, particularly states
which are signatories to it.
RM: What about if it became a bilateral sanction between the Japanese
and the Americans. Will we join that?
PM: If there is a set of UN sponsored actions we would join that.
RM: But the Americans, the Japanese acting independently, we wouldn't
join that?
PM: We'd have to see what was proposed, but it would be unlikely.
RM: What about troops, would we commit troops?
PM: I don't think we are at that sort of stage.
RM: Are you in touch with Washington, are they keeping you up to date on
PM: We keep in touch with the developments and have been, but I think,
that the United States wants to move towards some kind of sanctions
and I think, the United Nations will consider that this week.
RM: All right, just quickly while on Asia, there is a copy of Asia-Week
arrived on my desk, someone showed, me with a horoscope, your
horoscope in there. Do you realise that you are a water sheep?
PM: I'm a Capricorn.
RM: Apparently 1944 makes you a water sheep. You are not aware of

PM: I'm not aware of that, no.
RM: Let me just read you what your-horoscope says then. They say that
water sheep are infinitely adaptable and can, if they decide, make their
neighbours love them.
PM: Well, I hope that is a good omen because our neighbours are pretty
important. Not just at home, but abroad.
RM: Well, I thought I should let you know about that as you're about to go
to Indonesia.
PM: I'll tuck that one away Ray.
RM: All right. PM thanks very much for your time.
PM: Good on you Ray, thank you.

Transcript 9255