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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9903


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: 16/01/1996

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 9903

i) Y
16 JANUARY 1996
PM: I just thought I might open with a few opening remarks and then invite
questions. The first thing I would like to say is It has been a very
enjoyable visit to Malaysia. I have enjoyed again meeting the
Prime Minister and members of the Government, members of the
bureaucracy and the diplomatic corps at a very nice dinner last
evening and I had the opportunity to have quite a long discussion
there'WNith the Prime Minister and again today a very useful discussion,
In the formal settings, where we were able to go through a reasonably
long agenda.
These talks underlined, I think, how deep and strong our bilateral
relationship with Malaysia Is and how we can do much more together,
howi there Is so much compiementarity between our two economies
and, of course, with that long shared history going back so far, It just
makes fairly obvious that we should be doing perhaps more In each
others country and doing more together In third countries.
We talked about a number of specific areas in this regard the
environment, science, health, finance, building and construction,
communication, civil aviation and, as you know, we were very
pleased to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Education
Co-operation. You might recall that Malaysia has made a very key
decision to allow twinning of universities, which will mean you will see
Australian campuses here in Malaysia and we will be putting our
universities together.
I will be speaking shortly at a Business Forum which underlines how
much dynamiarrt and activity ejlsa * In our commercial relationships
and you might know that later on today I will be having separate
discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar, and also
Tun Daim. And then I go to a reception by the Malaysia-Australia
Foundation, which Is designed to emphasise the strengths of the
people to people links I have been talking about and I am very
heartened by the development of these two bodies.

I have very much enjoyed this visit and I said to the Prime Minister that
I would like to come back and have a more extensive visit one where
I can see more of the countryside and I have Invited Dr Mahathlr to
come to Australia.
So, all In all, it has been a very fruitful time and I have enjoyed it and it
just shows you, I think, how much you can cram Into a relatively short
period of time.
J: Prime Minister, how would you describe you said it was a very good
relationship, would you say now that the hiccups of the past as
Dr Mahathir described them are now behind us?
PM: Well I think what drives Governments and countries are the real
building blocks of relationships and the momentum they have as
societies, and that Is what has driven this relationship right through its
history. And now we are both doing more, we are both more open to
the world, we are prone to drive each other along faster and I hope,
together, do things to drive the region along faster. And the fact that
I am here, I think, is evidence that that Is what I believe and It Is
certahily what the Prime Minister believes.
J: Last night Dr Mahathir said that there was some negative elements In
both societies regarding the relationship. What did you take him to
mean by those negative elements? Do you think there are negative
elements In both societies?
PM: Well I have a penchant for positive elements. That might make me
unusual In some company here. But the fact Is we, I think, you see
Dr Mahathir and I have now had quite a substantial history In
multilateral bodies most recently, at the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting -and I think he made the point last night
convincingly and I reiterated the point in my talks that we all need a
contemporary snapshot of societies. You know you come to Malaysia
In three years time, It will be a different country than the one you are In
today. Go to Australia In three years time, It will be different again to
the one three. years ago. And, I think, that old, deep relationships are
often not only taken for granted but the stereotype remains In one's
mind about them. And the value of visits like this not just for Prime
Ministers and Ministers, but for business people, and for Journalists,
and for everybody else Is to see a contemporary reality. That 18, I
think, which makes very clear that we are countries that live In great
proximity to one another and will have a shared history in the region
and In the world.

J: Mr Keating, is it fair to say that in the contemporary reality, there are
still more differences between Australia and Malaysia in terms of the
outlook on the specifics of the region than there are with some other
countries like Indonesia?
PM: No, I don't think so. No, I think that we all see the sort of boundless
opportunity and the pace of the change doesn't leave much time for
scepticism, or cynicism.
J: Mr Keating, Dr Mahathir said this morning that the relationship was
" as harmonious as it could be". What do you think he meant by that?
PM: Probably what he said,
J: But he seemed to be indicating some reservations still.
PM: Well he thinks it is as harmonious as it could be, it means it is as good
as he thinks it can be and that is very good as far as I am concerned.
J: Mr Keating, what is your response to Mr Goh's proposition that
Australia and New Zealand could one day become members of
PM: Well I don't think we have been Invited. But, I think, what we want to
do is to see ourselves more Integrated with the region including the
ASEAN economies and the ASEAN economy. And you know we have
been speaking of the proposition of whether we might be able to see
Australasia Australia and New Zealand and AFTA do something in
concert and, I think, were that to happen we would goa'very long way
to drawing the best of the complementarities that might be available
from, if you like, both economies.
J: So trade integration is the first step before any political Joining in
PM: Well, I think Prime Minister Goh mentioned this the other day for
instance. I think all of us have an open mind about the structures of
the region. But the thing that we are all doing Is we are all in it.
We are Integrating ourselves further, all of us, in the trade and traffic of
the area and smoothing those things out, I think, probably matters
more than the political/ economic structures. So that is getting the
open access and the trade opportunities and the flux of business
moving Is the thing that matters. Now whether that happens
bilaterally, or multilaterally, I think, doesn't much matter. It may
happen somewhat quicker and better if it happens multilaterally and
that is why we are looking at AFTA and Australasia for instance.
The next step about some political involvement in ASEAN is really,
I think, for ASEAN to think about more than for us.

J: So you agree with Dr Mahathir that now Is not the right time for
Australia to become part of ASEAN?
PM: Well we haven't been Invited to become part of ASEAN. Musing about
It is something that has been done from time to time and
Prime Minister Goh was doing that this week.
J: Prime Minister, you said In your speech last night that Australia was
not attempting to become " Asian", yet Dr Mahathir has specifically said
that we can't expect to be part of Asia until our population mix changes
in that direction. How do you reconcile those two views?
PM: Well, I think, quite easily. I think he Is saying is Australia an Asian
country? What I Baid last night was no, It Isn't. And he is really
saying It would only be an Asian country when it was actually Asian, or
predominantly Asian. I wouldn't have thought there Is any need to
reconcile those views. I think we are coming to the same question
from a different angle. Australia is not an Asian country, but it Is an
integral part of the Asia-Pacific economy where we supply half of
East Asia's raw requirements for steel, for energy, for coal, a large part
of its requirements for food, as well as the higher technology areas we
are . n6w seeing our markets grow in and, I think, that Is the point.
So whether you call it us being part of Asia, or the East Asia
hemisphere, or the Asia-Pacific, I think what matters Is that we are an
integral part of that economy and it happens to be the fastest growing
economic region of the world. 1 think that Is what we are speaking of.
I wouldn't want to see Australia described as an Asian country It Isn't.
It Is Australia. It is not European, it Is not North American It Is
J: Mr Keating, despite what you have just said, there Is no doubt there is
still tension In the relationship between Australia and Malaysia
Dr Mahathir referred to it and it bubbles up from time to time.
Where do you think that tension comes from?
PM: Well I only had just a briefing as I walked In about the remarks he had
made to you as a group outside of his office and I don't think there is
anything he said that sustains your point.
J But he said that in his speech last night, talking about the hiccups and
how they do come up, we have got to deal with them.
PM: Well hiccups come in all relationships. I mean of course they do.
But they come and go. It Is the strength that underlies it that matters.
J: Mr Keating, was there any discussion on the Dr Mahathir's Idea for the
East Asia Economic Caucus and the possibility of a formal relationship
between Australia and the EAEC?

PM: No, we didn't discuss the East Asia Economic Caucus proposal.
I think, though, what we do welcome is regionai cooperation. That Is
the point I just made to you a moment ago and I am going to have
more to say about that In Singapore tomorrow. I think for us APEC
provides perhaps a core piece of political architecture in the
Asia-Pacific because It Includes the largest country, China, the largest
economy In the region, Japan, and the largest economy In the world,
the United States, as well as the countries of South East Asia and
those other continental countries like Australia.
J: So you have changed your view that the EAEC is Irrelevant?
PM: Well I don't think there is any value In adding to what I thought was a
very succinct answer, Glenn.
J: Prime Minister, were there any discussions about closer defence ties
and was the issue of the Indonesian defence treaty raised by
Dr Mahathir?
PM: No, no, In fact I spoke to the Prime Minister about It last night and said
that I regarded It very much as a declaration of trust between Australia
and-l1idonesia. That Is, that Issues In the past -back in the 60s and
other things which have now passed through we are saying that In
the language of the treaty that we have common strategic Interests,
Australia doesn't have territorial designs on Indonesia, Indonesia
doesn't have territorial designs on Australia. There, Is nothing In the
area but good things to be done together and to. cooperate. And that
cooperation will also extend, of course, to defence cooperation, which
we are already doing. So, In a sense, the treaty, Is a further
development of that defence cooperation which, I think, the Prime
Minister well and truly understands and, of course, that makes the
area much more solid again, compiementing the Five Power Defence
J: On defence, did you make a plug for Transfield and the patrol boat?
PM: I don't go around making plugs that is for other people to do. But we
talked about the value of developing, you know, core regional strategic
Infrastructure and, obviously, a naval ship building capacity In this part
of the world Is a strong asset. It Is a very strong asset for Australia.
We are, obviously, prepared to share that technology and that asset
with Malaysia. But that Is essentially a decision for their defence force
and their Government to make.
J Mr Keating, Is trying to Integrate with Asia the plan of your Government
alone or the future of Australia?

PM: Oh, I think it is very much an imperative for Australia. That is, we live
in this part of the world, we trade in this part of the world, more and
more of our people to people contacts are in this part of the world, half
of our migration intake is from Asia, the cosmopolitan, multicultural
character of Australia means, I think, that we will look at this part of the
world. This has already become the central focus, I think, of
J: Mr Keating, you have expressed your Interest to attend the
Asia-EU meeting in Bangkok. Did you discuss this with Dr Mahathir?
PM: No, I haven't no. There are many issues in the sort of International
constellation out there that is one. It is not one that the Australian
Government has put great store on.
J: Is Australia keen to attend the next ASEAN-EU Summit?
PM: Well it depends. We will see how the first one goes.
J: Did you receive an undertaking that Malaysia would not oppose your
presence at the next summit?
PM: We didn't discuss It at all. Not at all. I have never raised the EU-Asia
meetings with Prime Minister Mahathir, or any other leaders of
J: Did Dr Mahathir accept your Invitation to come to Australia?.
PM: No, but he knows it is there and he knows it is a genuine one.
J: Mr Keating, on a personal level, how were relations? I mean how did
you get on with Dr Mahathir?
PM: Oh, good. But I always do. I had a good meeting with him in
New Zealand and we ended up together a couple of times in Osaka
and, of course, here we had a very, very nice evening last night with
Dr Mahathir and his wife.
J: Dr Mahathir mentioned last night, in his speech, trade agreements.
Is there anything new in the pipeline in the way of formal Government
to Government trade agreements?
PM: No, but we are thinking about what is going to be best for us. We are
not dealing with the same sort of economies and countries we were
when we were speaking about this on the last occasion and I hope
today's discussion will be good for both of us who are thinking about
what that should be. Anyway I found it very encouraging.

Transcript 9903