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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9789


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: 10/10/1995

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 9789

RE: Welcome, Prime Minister
PM: Ron, thanks. Very good I'm very glad to be back here.
RE: We've got some good weather. You have been out to Claisebrook for
the opening of part of that Better Cities program down there.
PM: It's a very nice development, I think. And the thing I think is
particularly good about it is that it brings the, if you like, the Eastern
end of the the city, into contact again with the river.
RE: That was something that was lacking.
PM: Yes. Because the river sort of went around and sort of vanished
RE: Yep.
PM: There's a Casino on the other side, so it sort of makes that link,
doesn't it? You know, the new development makes the link down to
the edge of the river, across the river onto the Casino it gives the
city a continuity.
RE: And importantly, I think, it expresses the role of Government in with
the private sector in redeveloping our cities Government's can
actually provide the vision, and the structural things. It's very difficult
to ask the private sector to carry that cost always, but Government's
can do that.
PM: Well, I don't think an individual developer can do a thing like this.
You know, cleaning up the old drains, and cleaning up a century of

rubbish and refuse, and pollution. But now it's done, obviously there
will be more development, more housing built there, and the old
factories around it will get offers they probably can't refuse and we'll
see more housing. It will be a bit like, I suppose the best example is
Darling Harbour in Sydney, where once the Government of NSW did
a key part, they were able to do more. And that's what we thought
we'd do with the Commonwealth Better Cities Program, which we
have used here with Western Australia. And, of course, in Perth the
other one that springs to mind is Fremantle. When I was Treasurer,
we the Commonwealth Government invested about $ 30 million in
Fremantle in the middle 80s, and it was then the old port city, but a lot
of industrial archaeology there. And now, Fremantle is a great place.
RE: All my friends who come to Perth, they always say you must go to
Fremantle, because it's just got something to offer.
PM: It has. And it's a lovely outlook to the city here, and a sort of social
place and it really didn't exist like that before this Government put
the money into it.
RE: I have to raise a question Clarry Isaacs phoned me after
Claisebrook and said that he'd hoped that Aboriginal people would
have been invited to be part of that process. It's important, isn't it,
that we involve Aboriginals in...
; r P M: But they were involved. I mean, Clarry's only a grandstander, I'm
afraid, and you know, they were involved in it, but they're, sort of, he
was going I've got to get his permission to cross the Bridge, and all
this sort of stuff, I mean, it's just basically a bit of grandstanding.
RE: Yeah. So you don't take it any further than that you think that they
were effectively involved in the whole process?
PM; They were. Absolutely. And I mean, he had an identity problem it
wasn't me he should have been railing against, it was the Premier.
I'm the one supporting the Native Title Legislation.
RE: Right. How are you getting on this time with your visit, in talking with
the Premier?
PM: Okay. I mean, I don't like his policies, and I don't like his politics. I
made that clear today about Carmen Lawrence he defeated Carmen
in an election, he didn't need to go after her and try to destroy her
RE; Might he not say that he was entitled to find out whether or not she
told the truth to the Parliament and the public?

PM: Not at all entitled. I mean, what how would he go if I said well,
listen, I'm entitled to know what went on in the Howard Cabinets the
Fraser/ Howard Cabinets you know, why John Howard let all those
bottom of the harbour schemes go on for a few years, and we'll see
what each Cabinet Minister said to one another. They would be
screaming blue murder. And if he wanted to do that, why didn't he
put . the Liberals who represented Penny Easton's interests in the
Parliament for 2 years, Masters and the other chap?
RE: Lightfoot.
PM: That's right Lightfoot. I think it was Masters or Lightfoot who said on
radio here a couple of weeks ago a month ago quite brazenly, oh
no, we were representing Penny's interests, and we spoke to her and
she said no, I want you to go on. But the Premier puts the Terms of
Reference together, but only about when Brian Easton wanted to put
his views. But I thought the Clerk of the Upper House said it all, Mr
Marquet, he said it is his view I don't think I'm mis-quoting there
was a question of propriety about whether the then Premier Carmen
Lawrence should have intervened to stop Mr Haviland presenting
the petition. In other words, Mr Easton had a right to put his views to
the Parliament in a petition, and it would have been improper to have
interrupted or intervened in that process. And that is essentially what
I think the Clerk said, and that was a key point. I think it was the key
point I mean, these were the things also that were said by Mr Gyles
yesterday in the summing up. So, it was a spiteful little exercise, I
RE: But it damaged Carmen Lawrence, though?
PM: Richard Court said today oh, we don't attack people personally over
here, he said, responding to my comments today. No he's only
attacked her with a $ 5 million Royal Commission.
RE: But he has damaged her politically?
PM: Well, he's attacked her personally by arraigning the State against her
with a $ 5 million Royal Commission it's the worst personal attack in
history, in this country, I think.
RE: So you will repudiate any of the findings from Commissioner Marks?
PM: Look, I think that if the Commissioner picks up the points Mr Gyles
made yesterday, that it's immaterial whether Carmen Lawrence knew
these things or not, the key question is did Mr Easton have a right to
present a petition to Parliament? The answer is he did. Was the
petition presented correctly was it a breach of the privileges of
Parliament? A Committee of the Parliament said no, it wasn't. And
the Clerk has called in to question the rights of anybody to actually

interfere with the presentation of a petition. Now, I think that if the
Royal Commissioner keeps on those points, he can't go wrong.
RE: Right. If you had to sum up your tactics in the Parliament in relation
to the Royal Commission, do you think they were successful, because
certainly you took a strong line, didn't you?
PM: I did. There was no I mean, chit-chats in Cabinets or Cabinet anterooms
about what Ministers say, and then opening up like with some
sort of can-opener the whole question of Ministerial responsibility and
Cabinet secrecy once you throw those things out, you throw out the
whole workings of a Westminster style Government. See, if now no
Cabinet Minister in Western Australia can say well if I say this in the
Cabinet Room, how do I know that I won't be called to account for
these words in some Royal Commission in 3 years time? I mean, I
had better shut up I had better be quiet. And once that enters into
our into the free-flow of debate in the Cabinet, who is running the
place, and how can it be run? And that's what Richard Court see,
the Liberals always do this they break all the standards of Australian
politics. They did it in 1975 by refusing supply in the Senate, he has
done it now by breaching the confidentiality of the Cabinet with a
Royal Commission, and he has done it by chasing out an opponent
who has done nothing illegal, created no misdemeanour, but by
arraigning a Royal Commission against them. In other words, they
always if they have a choice of doing what is right and wrong, they
will take the wrong course.
RE: You have mentioned the question of conventions do you think that
when you began to debate the Royal Commission in the Parliament,
you may have broken a convention, because at that stage that really
was the case?
PM: No. No Mr Howard before I debated it, John Howard was asking
me questions about things that Mr Kovaks had said. They were using
all of the testimony in their questions. And how dare I refer to this.
So what I did was read the transcript. I said well, listen, I want to get
your point of objection clear about this you don't want me to read the
transcript of the Royal Commission, but the Royal Commissioner
publishes the transcript on a disc every afternoon. And the media
can read it, and the journalists can read but what? The Parliament
can't? Is that what you're saying? You know, their objections fell to
RE: Right. You mentioned John Howard if I can paint this picture to you:
you were at the Rugby League Grand Final there following the
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, I still call them that, like to call them
PM: The Bulldogs.

RE: Yeah. And they weren't really the favourites at the time, they had a
difficult year, and in fact, if anything you would say they were a bit
behind Manly when it came to the game, but in the end they won.
PM: They did.
RE: Do you see yourself in that role, a bit like up against John Howard
that you have had a difficult year, you're not in front....
PM: Except but I haven't got a champion to beat, have I? I mean, he's
not a world-beater.
RE: Dogged?
PM: I mean, no he's just stuck around. He's been around for
years, and that's about it. I mean, today on radio in Adelaide he
said he got asked by an interviewer, what do you think will
Industrial Relations be the big election issue, the big issue in this
election? And Mr Howard said no, I think the big issue will be that the
nation should be led by a new group of people. Not a group of
people that have got ideas, or a group of people that have got
policies that they will publish, not a group of people who understand
that we live in Asia, but by a group of people presumably who don't
want to know about Asia. And a new group new people like John
Howard, who was a Minister 20 years ago, and John Moore, who was
a Minister 20 years ago. I mean, it is going to take more for John
Howard to say I want my turn. You remember Ron, in the Parliament,
I used to mock him and say in this perennial debate and contest he
had with Andrew Peacock, I used to say John's view is Andrew got 2
turns, so he wanted 2 turns. Andrew got 2 turns at the leadership, he
wanted 2 turns. Now he's saying, look, basically our policy is that it's
our turn. Our policy is at the coming election, you should vote for us
because it's our turn. This other lot have had 5 elections on the trot,
and it's our turn. And we say hang on Mr Howard, what about your
policies? ( and he would say] oh well, I'm keeping those quiet until the
last gasp of the election campaign". And can I say, what was said
today by Cheryl Kernot, I endorse and that is, she said the
Democrats won't respect any mandate a Coalition Government will
have unless the people could actually see the policies they are
elected upon.
RE: Do you think that John Howard is being very smart, and not making
the mistake of John Hewson laying it all out, and in fact, keeping it
very quiet? And to that extent, it's making it more difficult for you? I
mean, they think it's probably working.
PM: But I don't think it does, Ron. I don't think the public want sneaky
behaviour. I mean, there's Andrew Robb two Sunday's ago on the

Sunday program saying we have our policies 98% prepared. Well, if
that's the case, why not show the public? I mean, aren't the public
entitled to see what the leader of a major party, the direction in which
he will take the country? Now, he's saying no. On the other hand,
the Government publishes budgets full of details. When I published
the blueprint for the republic full of structure and details, you know.
Accord Mark VIII with the Unions, low inflation, full of structure and
detail. And he thinks he can slide through slip under the wire on
polling day saying " look, I'll give you 5 minutes glance at these
policies, and away I'll go". But, as I squeeze him to actually put some
out, you can see he doesn't represent much. He had one last week
on defence policy. And what was he basically saying? That we
should be very wary of South East Asia because they could still be
enemies. We have got to cuddle up to the United States. Now, you
have a look at Western Australia Ron, what we have done we have
made HMAS Stirling the major west coast base of Australia. Before
that, it was all in Sydney. The Liberals used to have the tanks at
Puckapunyal as if we were going to be attacked from Antarctica, or
somewhere like that. We have now got them arraigned in Northern
Australia we have got these bases across the North places like
Tindal. And we have got Singapore doing its flying training here in
Western Australia, its tank training in Queensland, we have had
Kangaroo 95 exercises with the Indonesian Army, and the United
States but John Howard doesn't like any of that. So when he
actually puts a policy out, the speech he made on foreign affairs and
defence, could have been written by Harold Holt. It could have been
spoken by Harold Holt in 1967 or 1966.
So, I think that I can see why he doesn't want the policies out there,
because when he puts them out a week ago, before that, he took a
view about Mascot airport. And you might say well, in Perth what
matters to us here about Mascot airport? Well, simply this he says,
Mr Howard says, I'm the leader to crack the last of the tough nuts:
our waterfront, courts, industrial relations, but what happens? On
Mascot he gets a bit of pressure in his own seat of Bennelong which
he holds by 3.5% and he wants to cut Mascot's capacity back by
This is the gateway to Australia this is the port on which all
the others work. You know, and what it reveals is the first bit of
pressure, and down he goes. So, he doesn't want to publish policies,
but it's very interesting I thought today that it was very revealing
when asked well, what do you think will be the big issue in the
election campaign Mr Howard, he's saying I think it's time we were led
by a new group of people. Essentially, he's saying he's trying to run
the " It's Time" theme of 1972. The difference was that Gough
Whitlam was a real leader, and Bill McMahon wasn't. Here, I hope,
the reverse is the case.

RE: We, incidentally, did ask John Howard to come on today he's in
Adelaide, and he said he's too busy. We've got the Prime Minister
Paul Keating with us.
( ad break)
RE: Paul, industrial relations, do you support the trade union blockade of
Western Australia that is foreshadowed?
PM: I got asked this question earlier Ron, and I made this point that this
year we have got the lowest number of industrial disputes in Australia
since 1940. That is seven working days lost per thousand workers.
When John Howard was last the Treasurer it was 690 days lost per
thousand worker. That is 70 compared to 690. It is an era of almost
unprecedented industrial peace and the reason that is there is
because we have a co-operative policy in place under the Accord with
the trade unions, that we run Australia at about 4 per cent growth,
strong employment growth and they do sensible things on wages. But,
there is no reason for industrial disputation in Australia. The fact that it
is on here is because of very unfair industrial relations policies by Mr
Court and Mr Kierath and the Western Australian Government. They
are going for peoples' throats and they are protesting.
RE: It does lead you to the ultimate difficulty though doesn't it, that they
have got a tactic on which is to put on an economic blockade in
Western Australia. The Opposition Leader Jim McGinty says he is
pretty uncomfortable with that. Would you similarly be uncomfortable?
PM: I have spent 12 years being uncomfortable with those tactics, but you
have got to be fair dinkum, you have got to be decent about these
things. If there was decent policies here this tactic wouldn't be there.
If there was decency being shown here by Mr Kierath and others these
people would not be proposing these policies.
RE: Did it worry you what Mick Young had to say to the backbench, that is
that the blue collar vote, the workers of Australia were deserting the
Government. That in fact after some time of enterprise bargaining
there was a feeling that no matter what happened their conditions were
going to be worse and that they responded to that.
PM: I think they did in Queensland, but I certainly don't think that is a view
shared nationally. Yesterday I spoke to the CFMEU the
Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy workers union in NSW the
bluest of blue collar type unions, I don't find anything but generally
warm support. Basically because the Government has delivered on
the key commitments it made. At the last election, the most solemn
commitment I made was to restore the economy back to growth and to
employment. We have had since then 16 consecutive quarters of
growth when in the quarter we are now living in, Ron, when those

numbers are published in November we will have the longest growth
phase since the Second World War. The longest continuous growth
phase since the Second World War. That was the key commitment I
gave. The other commitment was employment, to not leave the
unemployed behind. We have 680,000 job growth and the other thing
we committed ourselves to was a fair industrial relations act which we
introduced and we have now got enterprise bargaining and under that
the safety net. If you can't get an enterprise bargain you get an $ 8
increase or a $ 10 increase under the safety net.
Now, in the enterprise bargains we had a thing called the no
disadvantage test. A group of employees in a union can sit down with
the business and say ' look, we will dispense with certain conditions
providing it is compensated in the pay.' So, the test is applied so that
there is no disadvantage. In other words, the working person doesn't
come away from an enterprise bargain less well off. They can come
away better off, but not less well off. Now, of course, Mr Howard wants
none of this. Mr Court wants none of it. Mr Kierath none of it. As a
consequence I think that we have got a lively debate, but I certainly
don't accept the view that blue collar workers are leaving the Labor
Party. Can I just make this point, I don't think blue collar workers are any
different from white collar workers or any other worker. They want the
policies be implemented that they believe are actually best for
Australia. The idea that you can segment them out is so manipulative,
that we can segment you out and say ' well, you are a blue collarie, so
you have only got these interests' and if they get fixed up you will be
right. Blue collar people have the interest of the country at heart in the
broadest sense its identity, its ethos, its values, its place in the world
and they look at all of those things,, not just industrial relations.
RE: Is industrial relations going to be for you this time what the GST was
last time. That is the clear dividing line between yourself and the
PM: Again, there is a lot of rewriting of policy here, Ron. Not by you but by
commentators. The last election was won by the Government because
we believed in a broad, inclusive Australian society. The GST was just
an example of the unfairness. It wasn't won on the GST. It was won
across the board and across the board it will be won again. You see, I
think that when people say that industrial relations will be the major
issue in an election campaign, in fact they understate the case
because what we think about industrial relations defines our ideas of
Australia. That is, what sort of people we are, what sort of society we
should become. It is not just about pay rates. It is the values we have.
I think they measure how much we actually believe in the ties that bind
us as Australians. In other words, the right to a job, the right to decent
rates of pay, the relationship between employers and employees is

part of the bindings of Australia. It is not just a narrow thing about
money and wages. This the Coalition do not understand.
Can I say, at the moment the profit share in the economy that is, the
proportion of national income going to profits is right up against the
historic precedent having no historic precedent. So, what is Mr
Kierath and Mr Court saying? That they want to cut the wages of
working people? I just visited the nurses today. They can't get a
safety net increase of There is nothing rational about that, it is just
RE: Graeme Kierath says he wants to debate you about industrial relations.
PM: Yes, but when I get down to debating State Ministers, Ron, I'd have
them hanging around my legs wouldn't 1, from one end of the country
to the other.
RE: He says his dispute is not with workers, it is with only union officials.
PM: He says that, but he is quite happy to take a group of nurses, nurses of
all people, and firstly oppose them getting a safety net increase of $ 8
which is now a year late and secondly remove from them penalty rates,
overtime rates. I gave the figures today, most nurses work weekends,
part of a weekend or work at times out of normal working times. If you
take them back to ordinary rates, they lose about 20-25 per cent of
their income. It is just vindictive and mean spirited.
RE: If I can take us for a moment on the question of refugees. It has been
said that the Government has been mean spirited towards East
Timorese refugees, that we should be taking them because we have a
responsibility the Indonesian Goverrnent has not behaved well in
that occupied territory and that we should have a special role in
dealing with them. What is your response to that?
PM: We have very clear laws in this country about refugees. Refugees are
treated well here. There is a whole legal. process that has been
negotiated, in a sense, between the government and the courts. As
various pieces of legislation have been tested in the federal court we
now have a regime were people are assessed for refugee status.
Timorese people have Portuguese citizenship. So, they have no
refugee status though the Government has taken the view that Timor is
part of Indonesia, is a province of Indonesia, those people still have
Portuguese citizenship status.
RE: Isn't that effectively saying what the Indonesians could therefore do is
deport them all to Portugal then if we were to follow that line?
PM: Some people in Australia will still have, for instance, citizenship in
other countries in Great Britain many people in Perth would have an

Australian passport and a British passport. They would have
Australian citizenship and they would have British citizenship they
would have dual citizenship. These people have dual citizenship
therefore they cannot argue that they are refugees.
RE: I have never felt comfortable about East Timor though since the
invasion period, I think Australia probably owed Timor a bit more and
we should have given them a bit more and this maybe is one of those
PM: But what happened, 20 years ago there was a civil war going on in
Timor. The Portuguese did nothing with the place, they left it
undeveloped and had it gone to a free vote, it is often argued, that the
people there would have voted for incorporation of Timor into
Indonesia. As it was Indonesia annexed Timor. Here is an island in
the archipelago in a state of civil war with the Portuguese, just about
the worst colonial power, and people were surprised in the final
analysis that it was annexed and incorporated into Indonesia. It may
have gone that way in a free vote, but Australia has a relationship with
Indonesia which is built on many foundations. It is a nation of 190
million people. It is a nation of great diversity, of great diversity in the
cultures and there is, I think, a substantial tolerance that exists
between the interaction of those cultures in that very complex country.
RE: Would you hope to get relations with Malaysia onto as good a level as
we have with Indonesia?
PM: Can I just say this about Indonesia, we can't throw it up the flue and
say well look, because we don't like all the things that are going on in
Timor we will rupture the relationship with you across the board. I
have never believed that was in. Australia's interests. But what we
have because we have a stronger relationship with Indonesia we do
push the case very solidly about Timor. When ever I get the
opportunity to speak to President Soeharto I raise these issues and I
am quite happy too. But we can't have a phoney campaign about
refugee status for people who enjoy the citizenship of Portugal.
RE: So, would you like to have the relationship with Dr Mahithir in Malaysia
that you have got with President Soeharto?
PM: I haven't got a bad relationship with Dr Mahithir. It is a-co-operative
one, Australia is doing a lot with Malaysia and I think doing it cooperatively
and reasonably well. They are all important to us. A few
moments ago: I made-reference. to what Mr Howard-said, but I would
just like to get this point across to people. He said that there were
unresolved, tensions between the Government's focus on defence
partnerships for instance, flying training by the Singaporeans,
Indonesians coming to Kangaroo 95 tensions between the
Government's focus on defence partnerships with the region versus
~~ rj~

the region as a potential source of threats. This is simply code
language for fear of south-east Asia.
Why should Australians not have a good relationship with our largest
nearest neighbour Indonesia? It is imperative we have it, with
Malaysia, with Singapore, with Vietnam. John Howard wouldn't see
the leader of Vietnam when he came here two months ago, but that
person Do Muoi went home to meet the US Secretary of State.
This idea that we reject the community around us, we live in an
isolation and then we run off to Washington and say ' please look after
our interests', I mean, is a dreadful way to protect the security of
Australians and to lose that engagement.
RE: Final quickly, employment for over 50s, there is a problem of
unemployment for over 50s. Can we make a special effort to do
something about that, we were talking about that earlier today?
PM: This is what we introduced Working Nation for and that we are now
starting to get very large effects from it. This year we have had about
400,000 job growth, of that 400,000, 100,000 has gone to the longer
term unemployed because we are now case managing these people.
We can now get to find out about their aptitudes, their work
experience, what they are doing, give them a job subsidy and get them
moving. In that huge employment growth we have had in the last two
or three years, we are starting to make inroads into both the younger
and the older unemployed groups as we have never done before.
RE: Paul, it is good to see you, earlier I mentioned the grand final involving
Canterbury-Bankstown and Manly, are we getting to the finals time in
terms of elections. Are we building towards that and how far off in the
future is it?
PM: Ron, I have had three Opposition Leaders now in this Parliament Dr
Hewson, Mr Downer and Mr Howard all saying we are going to an
early election. Well, here we are in October 1995 and the Parliament
expires about March or April of 1996 and we still haven't had an
election because I don't think the public appreciate governments being
tricky with them. They don't want Prime Minister's who are tricky with
them trying to call polls, to slip past the Opposition in a bad phase or
something like that. I have always thought the Parliament should run
its full term.
RE: OK, Paul Keating, thanks for joining us. Good to see you in Perth.
PM: Good, Ron.

Transcript 9789