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Address to the True Believers Party, Canberra



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PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP ADDRESS TO THE 'TRUE BELIEVERS' PARTY, GREAT HALL, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 23 MARCH 1993

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Thanks Brian (Howe), ladies and gentlemen. I think this is one of the very few elections where it's actually felt better a week later. Where a week later it actually felt bctter than election night, because I think it's actually crept up on us. Many people have said this week I've had a smile on my face all week. I have and I know many of us have, and it's a

great thing. What's great about it is what Brian said a moment ago, it's a celebration of the triumph of Australian values.

It was an embrace by the community of the values which we fought for over a very long period of time. Notwithstanding the recession and the misery which it has brought, the public were not as distracted as our opponents thought they would be. So they would let them pilfer their income, change the shape of income in this country and make it harder

for ordinary Australians to live.

We are able to articulate all those things. The great things that the Labor Government has done through the 1980s and tell the story perhaps as we've not been given the opportunity to tell it before. Because in telling the story I think Australia voted for the bigger, broader,

deeper values of Labor, which of course are the broader, deeper values of Australia.

The election was very much, I think, a referendum on the way we live. We said it would be a referendum on the GST — it was in part, but it was more a referendum on the way we live because while the GST was in there, it was those other bigger values that I think were up for grabs. Because the Tories did think that distracted,. the public wouldn't notice them

upending their health protection, cutting the protcctinu nf.iheir.wards, ripping away at the social wage, putting them on individual wage contracts. In their brazenness I think our conservative friends faltered and the public, as always, conscientiously listened through the static for the value and determined where their vote would be. And if this election

proves one thing, it proves just how conscientious the Australian electorate is. How much

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they are preparcd to listen, to decipher, to look for value in the noise and then think about what was being said to them because I think this as in few elections people did that. They were getting a very large cacophony of sound from the conservatives and from the media and they were wondering about it and our campaign was essentially pushing messages out

towards the electorate for their digestion and dissemination and our campaign in that respect was absolutely marvellous.

What they have given the Government, the Australian people have given the Government is a renewal mandate. Our primary vote has risen, the number of seats we hold in the House of Representatives has risen, we are entitled to say that the public have asked us to re—shape our Party, re—shape our policies, fashion ourself for the 1990s and to get on with it and get on with it we will and we made a very big start today in the election of the new

Ministry for these next three years and we hope through the 1990s.

It was I think, it gave us as a Government a chance of generational change. Few Government's are ever given these options. What mostly happens is after defeat, to ponder ones failings, to repent at leisure. But on this occasion we were given that option as few governments have been — to think about the future, to think about it in office and to

give us the possibility to make the change to become a newer, fresher government able to take on the challenges of the 1990s from the stock of the Caucus, of the panics of the 1980s with that very important addition of new members which have joined us and that great historic opportunity is one we will seize and I think that given the fact that we have

been able to put these great building blocks of social and economic progress into place over the last ten years, we truly have the option of being one of the great social democratic parties of the world.

I don't think that is an idle claim or an idle objective. I think that is something we can actually do because I don't think any government has over such a prolonged period of time so carefully threaded and weaved a social policy as this has, changed Australia but changed it co—operatively and together, put the two pieces together — economic policy and social policy — which gives us I think an option and the opportunity, the chance of

truly becoming one of the great social democratic parties and for the great purpose of establishing a great Australian social democracy. Because it is that Australian social democracy I believe Australians voted for the other day, it is that Australian social democracy where Australians not only understand the values they should attach to

themselves, but understand the identity that those values should have; the fact that this country will now be a country made in its own image where its identity is as clear as day and where the things we stand for will be universally accepted.

We have a tremendous support amongst young people in this election. I think this is one of the truly uplifting features of it. And to bring young Australians into the faith — the Labor faith — is a chance of renewal of course most parties don't often have, but to have them come so enthusiastically and in such numbers was heart rending indeed and restores

one's faith in what is good and what is valuable for Australians and for young Australians. I hope that our decision to press on with an Australian republic lifted their minds and

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lifted their hearts because I think it has the potential to do more than anyone imagines to enlarge a country's faith in itself and to enlarge their faith in themselves.

There are some who say it is a constitutional change of limited value, but it is not about the change in a technical sense it is about what it means. It is about what it stands for and I think it may be one of the reasons why so many young people supported Labor on this occasion.

Brian mentioned sticking together and unity being strength. Well of course, that is an old refrain for Labor and it was a refrain we used to manage ourselves as a party and as a movement right throughout the 1980s and I think we all believe that together we can do more than we can ever do apart and that has meant that that sticking together means that we govern for everybody, that whether it be the disadvantaged or the dignity for working Australians or support for the original Australians, where ever it might be in these things

that it is that sense of inclusion of doing it together which I think is going to matter.

We have heard a loc talk about the phrase 'true believers' and Bob (Ellis) has taken his appropriate due for both the phrase and the writing of the story of the Chifley Government and the Curtin Government, but of course the phrase 'true believers' stands for belief in Australia and in the end any of us in the Labor Party who describe ourselves as true believers that is what we really believe in — we believe in this country, we love this

country and we are going to see this country built in an image of itself which will give it a place of substance and quality in the world which I hope few can emulate.

But this is now more thaii a celebration about victory. It is a celebration for all the people who helped put it together and I'd like to pay tribute tonight to some of the people involved in putting it together because we have got some very important people tonight.

I'd like to start firstly with Hoggie on my right. Hoggie has been at more victory parties and wakes than I'm sure he cares to remember, but this was the one to be at Hoggic and as you arc retiring from the position of National Secretary I hope this is the kind of send off you could have hoped for yourself. Anyway, fought the fight and fought it wisely,

unflappably and in the end that is what matters.

On Bob's (Hogg) right is one of the great soldiers of the Labor movement Joan Kirncr. They used to call Joan and me the odd couple. When I was Treasurer and she was Premier, I don't know how we hit it off but by God we did. If ever anyone laboured under the toughest circumstances in any electorate it was she in Victoria in these last couple of

years and to come out of that with the Victorian labor Party together is one of the reasons we are here tonight. Of course she fought on through the campaign and waited until it was over to most gracefully and graciously concede the leadership, tuna the leadership over to Jim Kennan and the act of transmission I thought was something that brought great pride

to most of us in the Party and we wish the Victorian parliamentary party well.

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Sue Mackay is with us tonight, she is the State Secretary of the Tasmanian Labor Party. I want to particularly thank her for her role in bringing Tasmania perhaps more than ever back into the fold of Labor with these stunning victories across the State.

I'd also like to thank Jennie George who ran the ACTU campaign because if ever there was an effective mobilisation of forces it was in the campaign run by the ACTU with the most generous donation of funds and support and personnel we have seen probably in our history. I want to thank her for that and I had the privilege last week of going to the

ACTU on the occasion of its bi-monthly meeting. I have to say it was one of the greatest good spirited events in my life in the Labor movement. If ever there was a time we were all together, all the factions, all the bits and pieces, the Left, the Right, the Centre, the spit offs, the renegades, they were all there, all happy that we were home and it was a great thing.

I'd like also to thank Hoggie's offsidcrs Ian I Iendcrsoii - Hendo, and Gary Gray and their staff who turned in a tremendous effort.

I'd also like to thank Singo for another successful advertising campaign, in propagating the Labor faith. Singo's conversion years ago was something to behold, but he has kept the faith and built on it. He is like any reformed person, he is so filled with zeal that it does one good to behold - thank you Singo and thank you to your staff.

I'd like to also thank those who have the thankless task of heading into the field to feel the pulse of the nation and here I am talking about our pollsters who did a tough job under difficult conditions and did it well.

I'd like most particularly also to thank the members of the arts community of Australia who stood up when they thought the country's values were being threatened by the miserable policy approach of our opponents and instead of sitting there and copping it and saying if we speak here something might happen to us, retribution will be taken, they

stood up and were counted right across the country and if that is any indication of where this country is going to go in the 1990s as it recovers itself from the recession and we pick ourselves up and get moving, to have the arts in such a frame of mind with such spirit augurs well for the nation 1 think.

I'd like to also thank a few other people who are here tonight and welcome them here. I just say this: you can't have a fifth election victory without a fourth and the bloke who gave it to us and his wife Bob and Hazel are here tonight, thanks for coming Bob. And it

wasn't a fourth it was a third, a second and a first and that is a record nobody is going to take. So thank you Bob and thank you Hazel.

And of course tonight as well Bob's deputy of such long standing, the longest serving Labor Minister, Lionel Bowen is here with Claire tonight. Now normally we have him telling stories, he is a great raconteur but we will not be calling on him tonight, putting that demand on him, but it is great of him to come along and to be part of this celebration because as much as anybody he contributed to it.

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Could I also take the opportunity to thank Roger Foley who decorated the hall tonight and made the arrangements for our celebration who also, of course, produced the A rts for Labor event in NSW. Thanks Roger.

Could I thank also the Bangarra dancers and Yothu Yindi who are here tonight to perform for us. We appreciate that ever so much and I'm sure every member of the Pa rty thanks you most sincerely for being part of it.

Can I conclude by thanking my colleague Brian Howe. No one could have asked for a better deputy in the course of this last twelve months or election campaign. I thank him for his kind words tonight.

I thank my colleagues who have joined us on the top table, those serving and those past and most particularly, of course, right on the end, me dear old mate Mick Young. Lovely to have you here Mick.

Ladies and gentlemen, could I thank you all for coming most particularly and finally the greatest thanks to the broad Australian community who showed again their preparedness to listen and to think and to put their faith in the party of the true believers.

Thank you and I hope some of that is for my girl.

Thank you.