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Address at the Playbox Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne



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PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING, MP ADDRESS AT THE PLAYBOX MALTHOUSE THEATRE MELBOURNE, 6 MARCH 1993

E&OE PROOF COPY

Thank you very much, Sam (Neill), and to everybody who has spoken and performed today and who has come along. Annita and I arc both delighted to be here.

Last year I was in Parliament making a point about social regression, and I talked about the example of a mother walking with her son through the museum of Australia. And she walked past all the icons of Australian life, the Qualcast mower, the Morphy Richards' toaster, the AWA radiola, the large stuffed deco lounge, and finally arrived at a case with John Hewson and John Howard. And the Son said, 'is this the past Mum?' looking at the pair of them. She said, 'no, that is the future.' On this set they would be just at home.

John Howard would be in his seventh heaven at the radio, and the particularly dowdy lamp stand. 1 am quite sure that John Flewson, as a nouveau riche, always thinks that nineteen nines art nouveau was really rococco, and that the piano, the upright, the Victorian, the Edwardian was really a concert grand. And of course nothing would win them like the mat, the carpet. It is . the essence of dull conservatism in design. And that's what they are in to. That's what they arc about.

1 support the Arts, unashamedly, and I do so because of one simple fact — that anyone who has had an emotional experience with the arts can do nothing but. I owe the arts more than I would ever be able to repay them, in whatever I do, for the balance of my life. And

that is because I have had those emotional experiences. I have had that opportunity to learn, to grow, and that cxperienc a of the sublime -which ordinary day life never provides us, is the thing that does produce the enlarging, and the fantasies, and the imagination, that no country can do without. That's what the arts are about.

I think it was Marina (Prior) who said that the arts define Australia, they define any country, and they have certainly defined this country. We are a unique nation, with a

COMMONWEALTH I PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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unique opportunity, in fact almost a different nation. In fact we are a different nation than we were even before the Second World War, and what we are now doing is see our arts defining us in ways which we would never have defined ourselves. But that imagining, that striving for something bigger and better is what marks out the differences in

Australian life.

Sam, in his eloquent address said that he came to our arts launch in Sydney, art is for Labor last week, and there I made the point about Manning Clarke's differentiation between the enlargers of life in this country and the straighteners and the punishers of life.

It is the enlargers that do the dreaming, that have the imagination that push the boundaries out, who arc softer judges who want to give people a chance, and give them an opportunity. Now we are four squared enlargers. You are enlargers, the Labor Party is a Party of culargemcnt. On the other hand, there are the people who have never believed in

progress but only the status quo, but only believe that even that can service if people arc some way stiaightcncd. That is, if their eyes are down, that they have to be conscious of their circwustauccs, there can be no gain without pain, and that they must wear penalties, and only with penalties can life's goods be delivered, and life's best things be delivered. They don't understand about the simple pleasures of life and they don't understand how

important they are. They don't understand how enlarging the place, pushing the boundaries out, helping people, giving people a chance lets them move forward, thrust forward, to lift us all up.

John Hcwson said it himself, perhaps in one of his most eloquent, but regressive statements in the Budget reply where he said, 'you said Prime Minister you should put an arni out and pull the poor and those with disabilities, or those in some way disadvantaged, up with the rest of us.' He said, 'don't you understand when you reach down to pull them

up, you pull the rest of us down.' Now I am not paraphrasing him, I am quoting him directly. That is in his Budget reply. But the John Hcwson of Fightback Mark I and Budget has been camouflaged by his minders to say now, kindly things. But of course in

office you would sec the hard heart of the Liberal Party governed by the son of policies that he is interested in.

Iie is interested in, he says, change. The Liberals are never interested in change. They can't stand change. But what he is interested in is radical regression. He is interested in radical change, but it is change backwards. They can't by definition move forward. It is always either stopped at the status quo or back. They are retreatists, they are always

retreating. And this man is promising change, but I am not sure the Australian electorate undcnatand what the change means, it is radical change, it is turning this country on its head. It is change of the likes we have not seen in this country before. It is change that we have worked a hundred years to produce and'to move on, and yet, the change he seeks to Lr+ make is change to take-us back.

Sam talked about the politics of selfishness and how, if we make things good for the millionaires then the trickle down effect will drag the rest of us along. The fact is, the kind of change he is about is change so radical that it will simply push Australia back and retard our country. Because if we just apply that to the arts, the arts will never flourish in

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a straitemal society. They will keep trying, but they'll never have that freedom, that vent which they ought to have in a society which is looking up and looking out and not one which is looking down.

John Hcwson says that principles for which this country have stood such as universality of opportunity in health should basically go. You pay your way in health, he says we'll slash Medicare, he won't say the words — slash Medicare — in fact he takes the cowardly way out, he says we'll keep Medicare while the substance of his policy changes it. And the policy is basically to say you insure yourself and you pay $39 up front to a doctor and if you can't afford it, bad luck for you. That is one of his changes.

The other change is to set up a legal framework to take away 100 years of industrial endeavour in the workplace. To make these laws which give Australians minimum rates of pay, sick leave, annual leave, conditions of severance, maternity leave, all of the other things which Australian workers have struggled for over the years and which have

produced in Australia now one of the most cu—operative environments in our history in industrial relations, one where productivity if it is to be a measure of what we've achieved has never been higher, one where industrial disputes have never been lower, one where the inflation rate is a third of a percentage point for the year. What is his problem with

Australian industrial relations? What is the problem? But no, he wants to scrap it. He wants to take away the framework and he wants to leave people now their only protection being the master and servant provisions of the common law, 19th century provisions of

the common law where each individual Australian is filleted off individually to negotiate for themselves with recourse only to the common law courts taking upon a barrister. But then he says you can go to the office of employee advocate. That is he'll set up the most Stalinist of all institutions — a government union, a government managed union. So you would go to the government union.

This is the Liberal party which have decried all these things in the last thirty or forty years when they were the Cold War warrior%, but now we are going to have the office of employee advocate where someone goes to a government union not having the right to have collective agreements amongst themselves as we have under our Accord arrangements. He wants to tear it all down, to tear down that which has been, if you like, an icon, a measure of the advancement and freedom of Australians, the right to negotiate as a group and the right to put in minimums in terms of employment. And of course, in

wiping it away, wiping away the very essence of co—operation which is giving us a future.

His other changes are cuts in government spending, where he then takes $10,000 million out of the social wage, out of social security, transfer payments to the elderly, to the young, to the sick, cuts in payments to education, to the States, of course to the arts, to the ABC, to SBS to everywhere else. This Is the change he markets. " And then of course it is '-_° t ` ti dy ti k{` Y:

the GST, the Goods and Services Tax, the tax we don't need and the tax for which he has ,icver itiade a case because his whole case is built around abolishing a state tax called payioll tax. A tax which has been advanced by a whole host of Liberal State governments over the year, but which for a relatively modest effort on his part in the Commonwealth budget, certainly much less than he now says he'll say could be abolished without a goods

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and services tax, without having a goods and services tax. He says he'll look people in the eye, but he has not looked them in the eye and told them why, why this country should have a Goods and Services Tax which will be pernicious, which will move through our society and our economy in ways which do to us like it has done to all of the other

Anglophone countries - Britain, New Zealand, Canada - put them back, straighten them, flatten them. That's what he is about with his GST for Australia.

So these are the changes. But of course they are radical departures from the norm, they are radical departures from the status quo, they are evert radical departures from the policies of the Liberal party of the past. This guy is going back, this is retropolicy, back rapidly. But Australians I'm not sure understand just what the changes mean and just how radical they

are and how wrong headed they are. He says he has a plan, it is a pollster's word but it is the wrong plan. It's not a plan it is a tax. It is a miserable, insidious tax with a whole lot of other miserable policies wrapped around it like ripping away at Medicare.

And then today he has another stunt saying he will hold a GST summit to how best implement his policies in office. Of course, he won't hold it before the election, he'll hold it after the election and then the story says crucially the summit would not consider changes to Fightback, in particular the rate, scope and application of the GS'I' would be

iiu:iiutable. What a joke. Yet this is the man sitting on a report he commissioned - 40 chapters on how this tax will apply to every area of the economy. The Cole report, and it is still not published. It is finished, he has kept it secret, the high cynicism of it is just breath taking and yet it remains to this day a secret document. Could you image a Labor government being let off with a 40 chapter tax report which goes to the minutiae of how a

Goods and Services Tax would apply to every area of society. And yet he sits with a tax, with the tax structure, the tax plan in secret and then, of course, he says the GST is what we need, he vilifies me, he blames me for every problem the country has, but this morning he advertises the fact that I secretly support a GST, he even needs my advocacy, false as it

is, to support his policy.

And of course, this tax will go across the economy. 65 per cent of national production is in services - you arc a service industry, the arts are a ser vice industry - 65 per cent of all we produce is in services. They've never been taxed before. they will now carry a 15 per cent tax, all that production will carry a 15 per cent tax. That's why this tax collects so

much money, this is why this tax collects over half the income tax and it is why it is so pernicious.

And of course it won't create one extra job, it won't add at all. Now, of course we have been in the position, we've had the boom of the 1980s, we've had the business cycle going virtually off the screen. We talk about the roaring'20s, but there was no decade like the 1980s, . it put the '20s to shame and the result has been in the correction of the business cycle a recession all around the world - in the United States, in Britain, in Japan, in

Europe, in Australia, in New Zealand, cc cetera.

Here it has been sheeted home in some respects to me, to the goveriuncnt. Of course governments are not infallible and this government has had its share of mistakes. But

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there is a temptation now on the part of some people to think let's give the other side a go, they couldn't be any worse. I say to people, don't fool yourself, these people can be much, much worse. So much worse in fact you couldn't believe, and those changes I've just referred to, these radical regressions, this is changing our society and our country as we know it. Slashing Medicare, changing the law in industrial relations, cutting the social wage and then putting this unnecessary pernicious tax on people's back is not progress. It is not the change we need and people can be much, much worse off.

Some people might think to themselves, in all this maybe we ought to take the others and punish the government. They have got to be very careful that they don't punish themselves, because this is the nastiest program in Australian political history and I can assure you that the other regression you'll see in office is John Hcwson rcgrcssing to

Fightback I. You'll see it in all of its political ugliness — the attacks upon renters, the attacks upon people that don't have children, the attacks upon people that don't drive cars, the attacks upon nurses, the attacks upon teachers, the attacks upon the ABC, upon the

Central Bank, upon the tax administration, upon the journalists, upon anybody who dares question this radical prescription.

That's what we'll see. We won't sec the John Howson with the kind election face on, constructed by the cosmeticians of the Liberal party or their lackeys, the ad agents or the pollsters. What you'll see is the raw, real John Hewson, the Fightback I John Hewson, the one that wants to tear the fabric of Australian society down.

I think it was, I'm trying to remember who said these profound words earlier, I'm not sure but somebody talked about the redemptive power and truth of the arcs. We arc going to need a lot of redemptive power and truth in this country in the face of this sort of attack upon our society and its values.

All the people that have looked at these proposals and in an academic way have dammed them — Professor John Head, Professor Frccbaim, Elizabeth Savage, she says two thirds of working households will be worse office, Profess Freebairn says there will be no increase in employment and Dr Chris Murphy says under the GST if it moves into inflation and wages there will actually be higher unemployment which gives support to the point Sam Neill makes that wherever these prescriptions have been tried unemployment rises. And ii would rise in Australia as well.

In this city, this great city of Melbourne, which has always been a city about ideas which has always been out pushing the harriers in art and in politics, which has always been making its way in Australia, I don't think that this city is going to go for this regressive stuff. To say that we are going to slash Medicare and take away universality of access for health or to say that the children of low to middle income parents can't get a place in a university unless Mum and Dad's cheque hook is big enough to pay for it. I don't think they are going to say these things any more than they arc going to say that they will support the kind of legislation that Jeff Kennett has brought in industrial relations, to denude people of the protections they've had under the law in an industrial relations

system that has worked, to punish ordinary people for a problem that they didn't create. I

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don't think this city is going to take that and I don't think it is going to take the unnecessary imposition of a Goods and Services Tax which is going to change the way we live for ever, which is going to straighten Australia, which is going to see transfers of wealth from the low paid to the high paid, which is going to get people's gaze down and keep it down as it has in Canada, as it has, in Britain, as it has in New Zealand.

I think this city is better than that and 1 don't think it will embrace the negative regressive culture of the modern Liberal party. It might have been the foundation city of Bob Menzies' Liberal party that at least believed in a social wage, that at least believed in keeping the industrial tribunals that never ever considered a pernicious tax like a GST and

thought people had a right to health protection and housing and the rest. The Melbourne of those days might have accepted that, but the Melbourne of these days will never accept the retro-vision of John Howson and these tough and heartless, indecent and unnecessary policies.

We all know what the GST is going to do - it is going to tax the theatre, it is going to tax the cinema, it is going to tax opera and dance, it is going to tax knowledge, information, education, it is going to tax enlightenment and it is going to tax the simple pleasures of life. These are things which it will do and of course it will do us no favour in doing it, it

will just make the fabric of all that weaker.

I think the arts have defined Australia in a way that the nation and its historians have been unable to define it and it keeps on pushing the boundaries out and it does lift people's spirits, they do know there is something better and they do know that the creators and the enlargers out there arc trying to do something for them. We have just such unique opportunities in this country. We are the only nation on earth with a continent in one of the most interesting areas of the world. Indonesia with 180 million people in society 900

years old, close proximity to Asia and all of the complex societies of North Asia, we are in a wonderful position to be able to make our way and to define ourselves as something different.

And we saw with Christopher Young on the woodwind and Toni Lewis on the didgeridoo just what opportunities we have in moulding the culture of our Australian non-Aboriginal society with our Aboriginal society. I said in Sydney and I'll say here; whatever the arts have been able to do in Australia to this time it will be nothing like they can do when we

really come to terms with Aboriginal Australia. That is when we say sorry and mean it, and we arc one nation and one family together. That's when Asia will truly open its heart to Australia and we'll go there as a united country governing ourselves, managing ourselves. A republic of Australia, out there in the world making its own way proudly.

That's when our arts will flourish, that's when they'll really come of age and that's why this election is so important. To sec those big themes pressed home, to see the engagement with Asia pressed home, to sec the closer drawing of our identity drawn properly, to see the enlargement take place and to see the opportunity which includes all Australians in

society continue and to not go to the miserable straightening, punishing policies of a party basically bereft of the kind of humanity Australia now desperately needs.

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So I say this to you; keep the faith, keep your faith, don't ever let the stiaightcncrs and the punishers ever let you believe there is an alternative to enlargement. Don't ever let them believe with their miserable taxes and their vicious policies that they have any answer and don't let people traffic on the recession and believe that they can't be worse off, they can

be much worse off and I think Australians are now starting to realise it.

But could I thank you for supporting the Labor party fulsomely, unambiguously because we have helped many groups in this country, but in this cicctiou there has not been so many. The business community which we changed dramatically have laid quietly taking our largesse, our low inflation, our higher profit share, our better tax system and saying

nought. The arts have spoken up and I thank you for it most sincerely.

ends