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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9703


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: 14/08/1995

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 9703

14 AUGUST 1995
EF: Prime Minister, thanks for joining the AM Program this morning.
PM: It is a pleasure, Ellen.
EF: What is the significance, in your view, of the celebrations for the
nation and especially for those Australians who, like you, grew up
after the Second World War?
PM: Oh, well I think what we are doing is celebrating the spirit of the
generation as we are celebrating the fact that this generation of
Australians gave us our peace and our freedom. They fought the war
and they saved Australia. That is why we are remembering it. That
is why we commemorate these events.
EF: And, indeed, over the next few days the focus will be on that
remembrance and on that idea of commemoration, but what do those
events of 50 years ago really tell us about the present and perhaps
about the future?
PM: Oh, I think they tell us that the people who fought that war were proud
of what was built here. That they loved Australia and they were
prepared to fight for its values and to maintain it and I think that is the
lesson for this generation of Australians that we can, in fact, very
much take the cue from them. They gave us an example to live by
and I think understanding that is to understand some of the lessons
and the other thing is the great loss and suffering has to mean
something it has to mean something. It can't just happen and with
the effluxion of time be forgotten and while it isn't in Australia, we
tend not to forget each Anzac Day. To remember indeed this 50 year
commemoration has brought poignantly back the events that
happened then to perhaps a much more innocent generation of

Australians than we are ourselves today. That they had to cope with
it and that they did.
EF Well 50 years on, the anniversary does provide another opportunity
for Japan, looking at the other side, to put the war behind it. In your
view, has Japan been able to seize on that opportunity this year?
PM: I think Japan will only seize on the opportunity when the Japanese
people face up to it.
EF And have they done that this year?
PM: It is not a matter of doing it this year. It has to be done over time.
Their children have to learn about it. The history has to be taught.
I think that is the point. I think many people would believe that, for
instance, the German nation have been more prepared to talk about
the history, than has the Japanese nation. As that happens, and I
have got no doubt that it will, as those lessons are understood, well
then I think many people, including many Australians, will feel that
that is as it should be.
EF Well that isn't taught in schools in Japan at the moment and many did
point to this year as a milestone for Japan to begin to come to terms
with it, to put the war behind it. Do you think Japan has in that
context really seized on that opportunity?
PM: Well I am quite sure that the 50 years are bringing up Nagasaki and
Hiroshima for a lot of Japanese, brings home the message that they
were the victims. Where, in fact, they were the perpetrators of the
offence and that will only come with the history and over time. So I
don't necessarily think this was the year when the Japanese nation
said to themselves, or itself, that they had committed offences against
the community of nations and, in a sense, were seeking to
acknowledge that. I think with the bombing of Japan at the end of the
war a carpet bombing and the fire bombing and then, of course, the
two atomic blasts. Much of the focus will be, no doubt it has been, on
those. But I think like all great truths, these things will dawn on their
younger generation as certainly as you and I are speaking here.
EF: Well the Japanese Prime Minister talks on Tuesday. That is exactly
years since the end the war. What do you want to hear from
Mr Murayama during that speech?
PM: I think an acknowledgment of the fact that these militarist policies
were pursued to great cost and detriment to the community of nations
around Japan and an expression of regret on his behalf on behalf of
his nation. But I think I would also like to hear a commitment from
him to tell this generation of Japanese people the full truth, the full
history, of what happened.

EF: You use the word regret there. There is often great debate about the
use of words in this particular debate. Is regret enough, is an
apology necessary?
PM: Welt I don't think the apology means anything without the truthfulness
being shown. That is I don't think the apology necessarily matters
without the nation of Japan knowing what happened and knowing that
a bad thing was done and that this history shouldn't repeat itself. I
mean that is, I think, what we want. I think the easiest thing to give is
the apology.
EF That is the easy way out.
PM: Well certainly the easiest thing, yes.
F: There had been an anticipation here in Australia that in some
quarters, at least, some people would indulge in anti-Japanese
sentiment at that time. What do you think it says about Australians
that, by and large, they haven't done that?
PM: Well I think Australia has a very great and deep sense of democracy.
That is where our tolerance and sense of freedom comes from. That
is why multicultural ism, I think, has worked in Australia. Why we are
tolerant to people who are not of anglo-saxon origins and descent.
How we have made this change in Australia work and those same
sentiments, I think, tend to also accommodate attitudes towards the
Japanese for that history.
F: How aware do you think Australians are 50 years on that Japan today
really underpins Australia's standard of living and Australia's
economy? Is there a general acceptance of that, an understanding of
PM: I think there probably is to some extent. But it goes beyond the
economic point. It is true that Japan is our largest trading partner.
But the greater imperative is for Australians to come to terms with the
region, not simply to come to terms with Japan.
F: Well still on the economy if we could, voters are insecure here in
Australia about their economic future. Is it now becoming clear, do
you think, that your Government is delivering them a style of
economic recovery that they just don't like and they are not going to
vote for?
PM: Oh, no, on the contrary. I think this Government is giving them
something that nearly a generation hasn't had.
F: But the private opinion polling does say..

PM: Well you asked the question, let me give you the answer. That is,
this is not a boom, this is a low inflation recovery. There is a very
great difference. Australia has always had booms and it has had
busts. People are looking for the boom to see their asset prices rise
and then they are hoping to be able to position themselves for the
bust. This time it is not going to happen. We are not going to have
the boom. We are going to have solid, low inflationary growth,
accompanied so far by huge employment growth 670,000 jobs since
the last election. And I think it takes a bit of getting used to. I think it
takes a while for Australians to understand that, you know, house
prices won't be rising 10 per cent a year. Wages won't be rising
per cent or 8 per cent a year. But they will still have a more
secure future and a better standard of living. I think that is what we
are living with now. We are living with something that should have
always been in these years, that is where we did have, if you like,
much stronger growth on a sustainable basis.
EF: You are saying that that will take a while for Australians to
understand. Is it possible then that the political cost to this low
inflation recovery, that you have put in place, could be a defeat for
Labor at the next Federal election, if that understanding is not gained
in time?
PM: Well I mean governments can be defeated at all elections. But I
mean at the last election, what was the principal undertaking I made?
It was to restore growth and employment and we hoped we would get
to 500,000 jobs in three years. Our opponents said we were pulling
everybody's leg. In fact, we have got to 670,000 in two-thirds of the
time. That is well let me put it to you this way. It took us 200 years
to get to 6 million in the labour force by the early 1980s. We are now
at 8 million and we have added 10 per cent of that figure, that is the
6 million, in 2 1/ 2 years. So in terms of the principal commitment that
I gave not to leave the unemployed behind, to restore the economy
to growth and we have had 4, 5 and 6 per cent growth through this
period and now back to a more sustainable level the Government
has honoured those commitments, the hardest commitments of all.
Strong growth, strong employment growth and low inflation. So on
what basis, therefore, would you believe that the Government might
be defeated.
EF: Just finally, very briefly if we could Prime Minister, today the
High Court is expected to hand down its ruling on
Carmen Lawrence's application for an injunction in relation to the
Easton Royal Commission. Now against that background, there is a
perception that support from within the Government, and indeed from
yourself, for Carmen Lawrence could be dwindling, Is that the case?
PM: That is completely untrue. I noticed I got asked some questions the
other day, after I was asked about Martin Ferguson and I am quite
happy to say that in that context, we have seen Martin's selection for

Batman now on an unopposed basis, which shows that at least the
Federal Labor Party, the national organisation of the Labor Party,
works unlike our opponents. But at the same doorstop, I was asked
about Carmen Lawrence, a series of questions, and I said look
Carmen will have her day to put her view. That shouldn't have been
taken by anybody as any diminution of my support for her. I mean
what is happening here is a very nasty thing. You have got the
Government of Western Australia, through the machinery of a
Royal Commission, extending its arm back into the business of the
former Government. Let me give you the example. What would
people think if in 1983, Bob Hawke and I had a Royal Commission
which went into why John Howard allowed the criminal tax avoidance
industry to flourish for seven years? Why he ignored the telephone
book of letters from the then Commissioner of Taxation, Bill O'Reilly?
How would the Liberals have felt if we had of asked Mr O'Reilly to
appear in a Royal Commission to say what did he say to the
Treasurer, Mr Howard, on that particular day, what Mr Howard said in
Cabinet meetings, what Mr Howard said to the former Prime Minister
and what did he say in return? You would hear the cries and the
wails going up, you know the hand wringing in the Conservative
journals and the editorials. But this is a very nasty extension of the
executive against a Member of Parliament and that is why the
Commonwealth Government is supporting Carmen Lawrence in her
High Court action.
EF: Prime Minister, thank you.
PM: Thank you indeed.

Transcript 9703