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Transcript of interview with Tom Elliott: Radio 3AW: 25 January 2013: 'Bodyline' 80th anniversary; an Australian Republic

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THE HON WAYNE SWAN MP Deputy Prime Minister Treasurer


25 January 2013


SUBJECTS: ‘Bodyline’ 80th anniversary; an Australian Republic

ELLIOTT: The Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, wrote a really interesting editorial in The Age today, drawing a link between the events of Bodyline test cricket series of 80 years ago and why we should revisit the issue of the Australian Republic today. Mr Swan has been good enough to join us now. Wayne Swan, hello to you.

TREASURER: Good afternoon Tom.

ELLIOTT: Thank you for making the time to do this

TREASURER: That’s okay, it is good.

ELLIOTT: I was intrigued by your article because why do you think that the lessons of Bodyline, if there are lessons, should lead us back down the Republican path?

TREASURER: Well, because it was a very interesting period where I think Australia, after that, did assert a great deal of independence. If you go back to that period, it was the Great Depression and the British were enforcing on Australia massive cuts in wages and austerity. And in many ways, Bodyline was seen as another way for the British to punish Australia for, if you like, the opportunity of them taking an independent stance, particularly in relation to what was going with the Bank of England. So that’s the background.

I’m a pretty keen cricketer and I like my sport and I think the whole Bodyline series is pretty interesting, but it took place in a wider context and I guess the point that I was making in the article today is that we ought to revisit this debate, I think we ought to have a respectful conversation about it. I don't think it’s going to happen anytime soon, but I just happen to have the fundamental belief, that went to the core of the debate around Bodyline and the Great Depression, that every young Australian should have the opportunity to be our Head of State, which they can’t have now.

ELLIOTT: Of course, Republican supporters exist on both sides of politics -

TREASURER: Yeah, too right they do -

ELLIOTT: It doesn't go down neatly down middle between the Coalition and Labor. What do you think it will take people such as yourself who are Republicans to do to get the issue back up in the form of a referendum again?

TREASURER: Oh look, I think it’s going to take a long time Tom. It was not very successful in the 1990s, I think anyone who went through that experience realises it will take some time. But I think it is worthwhile having the discussion. I mean, Australia now plays a much bigger role in the world than we did even in the 1990s, and certainly greater than we did in the Great Depression. We are now we’re the world’s twelfth largest economy - and we’ve changed. And I think it’s worthwhile having the conversation. And that’s not meant with any disrespect to the Monarchy or for that matter any disrespect to the British. You see, one of the interesting things in Bodyline was that Larwood - who was the fast bowler - actually moved to Australia and became very close to Ben Chiefly of all people. So, I think we can have this debate in a really respectful way, it doesn't have to get into some of the stereotypical characterisations that you find from time to time.

ELLIOTT: I do recall either the Queen or Prince Phillip was reported to have said a decade or so ago at a dinner about this issue, they said, all you have to do is ask us to leave - we’re not holding you back, it’s up to Australia to make the decision.

TREASURER: Sure, and I agree with that. It is up to Australia. And I also agree that there are various opinions. But I also think there are plenty of people in the country who would like to see a conversation about this in a respectful way and that’s why I wrote the essay. But also because I think getting it through the prism of cricket says something about our national character. You see, there’s going to be a lot of discussion because of Australia Day tomorrow about our national character, what we are the product of, and of course we’re the product of our history - our Indigenous history, the Great Depression, our sporting history, our involvement in World Wars. It’s a good time to talk about who we are and the values that underline that.

ELLIOTT: Let’s just hope the performance of the Australian cricket team begins to (inaudible)

TREASURER: Too right

ELLIOTT: Wayne Swan, Federal Treasurer, thanks for joining us.

TREASURER: Thank you very much.