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Wednesday, 8 June 1994
Page: 1490

Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Why, on every overseas visit, does Mr Keating apologise for Australia's history and heritage, this time saying:

we were not a derivative of any other society which we had cultural associations with . . .

Does he not appreciate that Australia's historical links with Britain went far beyond just cultural associations? Why did he confide in the French President in the silver room, I think, his intentions in relation to the Australian republic? Will the minister now confide in the Australian public in a way that he will not and tell us what the government's intentions are in relation to the Australian republic?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Prime Minister Keating has one characteristic that is manifestly not shared by Senator Hill or anyone else in the opposition and that is genuine pride in our country and a genuine understanding of what makes our country unique and distinctive. Mr Keating has an understanding that the Australia that we now live in is a proudly independent nation. It is a nation with a cultural heritage of its own—a many stranded cultural heritage; a cultural heritage that has many dimensions, one of which is unquestionably British. One dimension that is unquestionably important in our cultural history and our demographic history is the British dimension, but it is not the only dimension.

  If we parade ourselves simply as clones and derivatives of that one particular culture, we demean and diminish ourselves. That is what Senator Hill and others like him seek to do. It is a latter day variation of a very old phenomenon—the phenomenon of the cultural cringe. It is a phenomenon that brought this country to its knees through successive decades of dependence on great and powerful friends—successive decades of dependence first of all on Britain and then on the other great and powerful friend across the Pacific.

  These days we are not dependent on any great and powerful friends. We can proudly stand up for ourselves. We can be proud of our independent capacity to look after our own destiny economically, proud of our capacity to look after our destiny in defence and strategic terms, and very proud indeed of our capacity to present ourselves to the world culturally as a unique and distinctive multicultural society. That is the particular message that Mr Keating was putting abroad on this trip, as on so many others. He ought to be proud of it, as Australians should be proud of him for conveying such a message.

  Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Before I call on Senator Hill to ask his supplementary question, I remind people on my left that interjecting is disorderly. You are the champions of the standing of this Senate and the orderliness of this Senate. If you are going to interject constantly following a question that is asked by your leader, how can order be maintained?

Senator HILL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. If Mr Keating is so proudly Australian, why on every overseas trip does he continually talk down Australia? Why is he embarrassed by the Australian flag? Why is he embarrassed by the Australian constitution? Why is he embarrassed by the Australian heritage? Why is it that he is willing to confide in the French President his intentions for a republic in Australia when he is not prepared to confide in the Australian people? Is it that in fact the Prime Minister is more comfortable on the boulevards and in the antique shops of Paris than he is in Australia with the Australian people?

Senator GARETH EVANS —This, presumably, is an example of the bright-eyed, bushytailed, squeaky clean new leadership that plays the issue, not the man. This is the sort of leadership that is now being given by the man who would be the school captain of Australia. This is the sort of issue that those opposite are now wanting to make their own. They will find out soon enough how this issue plays with the Australian public; this sort of issue does not play at all.

  The overwhelming mass of Australians do not see this as talking down Australia; they see this as talking up Australia. Demonstrating that we are not a derivative culture, that we are a proudly independent, distinctive and unique culture, is something that does wonders for Australia's reputation abroad and is something that those opposite do not even begin to understand.