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Launch of John Curtin - a life, by David Day, National Press Club, Thursday 28 October 1999, Canberra: address [and] Q & A,



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Launch Of John Curtin: A Life, By David Day

Kim Beazley - Leader Of The Opposition

Address - National Press Club, Canberra - 28 October 1999

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It is my very great privilege to be invited here today to launch David Day's biography of John Curtin.

Most of you will know that I consider John Curtin to have been Australia's greatest Prime Minister. The combination of a great war time leader, and one emerging from Western Australia at that, has proved irresistible to me over the years.

I can say no fairer of this biography than that it has the best claim yet to being the definitive volume.

David Day has drawn upon his copious writings on Australian history - and particularly Australia's war time history - to produce a very fine piece of work.

This book is strong (as one might expect, given its author's expertise) on John Curtin's period as Prime Minister during the Second World War, but it is also remarkable for its account of Curtin's earlier life.

I have already used that word definitive. If anything, it is the story of John Curtin the man which lays this book's strongest claim to definitive status.

David quotes Paul Hasluck in the preface to this book as saying:

"Curtin, the whole man, will emerge as the greater figure than Curtin the Prime Minister in war time."

Whatever your view of that argument - and I am on the other side - there is no question that this volume represents the most serious and detailed attempt to date to investigate John Curtin the man, as opposed to the better-researched territory of John Curtin Prime Minister.

The sheer volume and detail of David Day's scholarship in this area - working from the most patchy of source materials - means that this feat is unlikely to be replicated any time soon.

It is an admirable, remarkable effort of scholarship, and I commend it to everyone here.

All biographies are to some extent a reflection of their subject, and nowhere is this more true than in the case of this one.

The most important characteristic that this biography shares with its subject can be summarised in one word: unflinching.

It is the word which best describes John Curtin through his political activities in his youth as a committed socialist; as an opponent of Australia's involvement in the First World War; and subsequently as Australia's Prime Minister in World War II.

It is also a word which well describes David Day's faithful reproduction of the historical record.

The book is indeed an uncompromising read. It does not resile from recording the travails of Curtin's father; or reporting the episodes of tragedy in John Curtin's own life. Nor does it recoil from the account of Curtin's battle with alcohol, never entirely won, even up to the end.

However difficult a set of decisions these may have been for David, I commend him in staying the honest course - if for no other reason than to provide the truest picture of Curtin's remarkable personality.

I think this is nowhere better summed up than in these words written to Curtin by his mentor Frank Anstey, and I quote:

"The theory of Redemption is a living gospel and the man who has carried his crucifix and climbed his Calvary is a better man than he who never touched the stony road of suffering; sometimes it comes to us in spite of all we do. Sometimes we are the producers of our own sorrows … Well, what of it? We would not be sinful erring ones if it were not so."

Perhaps David Day's greatest success in writing this biography has been to convey more clearly than has ever been done before the strongest thread running through John Curtin's life, and that is his immense courage.

It makes its first appearance in Curtin's constant battles at a young age within the Victorian Socialist Party, and then in his leadership of the Timber Workers Union. But this courage really came to the fore in Curtin's principled opposition to the First World War.

Many have remarked on the irony of the World War I pacifist becoming Australia's war time Prime Minister. David Day - correctly, I think - debunks this cliché about John Curtin.

He points out that Curtin was never really a pacifist - his dedication was always to working people and to socialism first, and his opposition to imperial wars utterly consistent, both with his view of the First World War; and his priorities as Australia's national leader in World War Two.

As everyone here can appreciate, I would love now to move into a detailed appraisal of John Curtin's Prime Ministership. I am not presented as many opportunities as you might think to talk on this subject, so it does pain me a little to have to leave it he re.

But my brief today is of a different sort.

In little more than a week, we will go to the polls to decide the fate of this Republican Referendum. The topic I have actually been given today is "Australian independence: from John Curtin to the Australian Republic".

I'll start with the same honesty I find so refreshing in this book, and that is to say that we cannot really claim John Curtin for our Republic.

If this book is silent on Curtin's direct stated support for an Australian Republic, it is because no such statement exists to my knowledge - or indeed - as this book makes clear - to the author's.

But while John Curtin may not be directly for the claiming, he was in all of his thoughts and deeds an Australian Republican without peer.

His international socialist leanings in his youth; his opposition to the First World War which he described in The Timber Worker as: "A fight between the German and British thrones, nobles, banks, shareholders and merchants"; and his attitude to the defence of Australia during the Second World War, all mark Curtin as a Republican.

But we must in all honesty add that the Republic was not even on the national agenda during John Curtin's long period in political life.

What we can do is place John Curtin in the line of those who established the foundations of the Australian Republic now within our grasp.

He did so chiefly through his courage in dealing with imperial defence priorities as Prime Minister during the Second World War.

Curtin realised that the defence of Empire did not automatically mean the defence of Australia. While he had sympathy for Britain's aim of defending herself against German aggression, he had a clear-eyed view of the threat to Australia from Japan in the Pacific.

The times demanded Australia rise above the reflexive colonial timidities of a Bob Menzies.

Curtin saw just how dangerous Menzies' blind and inexplicable fealty to the defence priorities of an island on the other side of the world was, and how he had left Australia terribly exposed to the Japanese in the Pacific.

It was this appreciation that led Curtin to stand up to Churchill and prevent the diversion of Australian troops to Burma. It was this appreciation which led Curtin to declare that Australia looked to America; and which saw him permit General Douglas McArthur to take command of all Australian forces in the Pacific.

It was this courageous and determined reorientation of Australian priorities which formed the real break in national self definition - the pivot around which the last 50 years of our national history has swung.

The defining experiences of Australian nationhood were the campaign at Gallipoli, followed by the Australian victories in France in World War One.

The paradox of these experiences is that they made real for a generation of Australians the theory of Imperial defence - a theory about which they had hitherto been sceptical.

From 1901 to 1914, our forays into defence strategy and structure had been to try to cut the shackles or loosen the strength of the chain - establishing the beginnings of defence self-reliance.

1914 to 1918 left us locked in warm embrace.

Depression and anti-war reaction created the underpinnings which ensured that our statesmen from 1919 to 1940 never unlocked that embrace.

It is almost impossible from our vantage point today to understand the revolutionary nature of Curtin's departure from Imperial Defence. It was a decisive gesture of independence. Federation aside, it represents the most profound statement of Australian sovereignty there has ever been.

There are always these impossible historical conjectures. Can we say No Curtin, No Republic?

I think not.

My reason for answering that short question in the negative is that a Republic is simply the expression of incontrovertible facts. Foremost among them is the fact that we have reached a stage in our development as a nation where the symbol of a monarchy is no longer an appropriate reflection of who we are, and what we aspire to. For that reason alone, we must make the change on November 6.

Then there are also the facts of geography.

No one has yet perfected the method by which a continent can be shaken loose of its moorings and rowed somewhere into the North Atlantic. We are in this region, and we only prosper in so far as we accept respons ibility for our own destiny.

For me, this is what an Australian Republic is all about.

For John Curtin, this was what his reorientation of Australia's defence priorities in World War II was about.

Curtin was assisted - if that is the right word for such a terrible process - by the profound and unmistakable sense of national emergency at the time.

As David Day points out, Curtin did towards the end of the war re-assert Empire loyalty. He craved respectability for his Party - so damaged by the notion of disloyalty - and saw the opportunity to outflank his conservative opponents.

But the reality of his diplomatic efforts was otherwise. His government sought an independent perspective on the region around us, and if the Empire was relevant to this endeavour, it was only in so far as Australia could influence policy.

We suffer today - again the wrong word - the lack of the urgency of 1942.

But while the stakes are not nearly comparable today - the same blind fealty to outdated institutions half a world away is no more appropriate for Australia today than it was in 1942.

One of the invaluable aspects of David Day's book is that it details the close and supportive relationship John Curtin had with the Queen's representative in Australia - Governor-General Lord Gowrie.

It is worth reflecting in contemporary terms on what seemed to be one of John Howard's real fears in his article of yesterday.

In many ways, 1975 taught the wrong lesson about our Constitution, because Gough Whitlam was a man of procedural propriety and restraint.

John Howard knows that in the hands of a ruthless and determined Prime Minister, the Queen's representative in Australia can be appointed, sacked and replaced at the sole whim of Prime Ministerial correspondence.

He knows that while the suggested model leaves the Head of Government and Cabinet as the unquestioned governing authority, it subtly diminishes the psychological advantage the Prime Minister enjoys at present over the Governor-General.

This is not an issue of dual mandate, but it is one of transparency and proper behaviour. John Howard clearly does not wish to give up any power in this respect.

A further point I would make on Mr Howard's article of yesterday relates to his proposed preamble.

At present, our Constitution reflects our status as subjects, and explicitly uses such language to describe us. The passage of this referendum would, of course, remove that.

John Howard has proposed a preamble which is based upon Australians not as subjects, but as citizens. Therefore - if his preamble is not to be an absurd graft on a Constitution describing Australians as subjects - this referendum must see the republic itself passed.

When you think about it, the vote must either be "yes, yes" or "no, no". Mine will obviously be the former, but Mr Howard's notion of a bob each way in this respect is absurd.

And so the question looms before us, with November 6 just over a week away.

David Day records the words of the Curtins' local paper - the Brunswick Reformer - which said of Federation in 1901 that it was:

"...the year in which [young Australians] placed the bead and corner stone on all [Australia's] triumphs."

Elsewhere, John Curtin Senior is recorded as taking young Jack to federation meetings with the words:

"It won't be much good to me, but it will be to you."

Now doubtless one of those crypto-direct-electionists - Mr Abbott perhaps, or Mr Minchin - will protest at this point that it took two referenda for Federation to succeed.

I would make two points. Firstly, if it had been left up to the Abbotts, Minchins or Howards of this world, there would have been no Federation. Where that would have left us in 1942, I leave you to figure out for yourselves.

There is not a word or sentiment in Mr Howard's article of yesterday which does not have its early resonances in the "no" case at Federation. That case even had the same unholy alliance with the leftist anti-Federationists who took the view "no socialism, no nation".

The second point is that Federation was a momentous change - it required six separate colonies to agree to giving up their sovereignty to form a greater whole, with all the various rivalries and arguments that was bound to cause.

This republic is the capst one on Australia's independence and sovereignty. It is an important symbolic statement about a nation entering its second century of existence.

It is not - or should not be - by any measure as difficult and fraught a process as was Federation, yet the sense of achievement will be comparable if we succeed.

And that is the point.

Now - nearly a century after a future Labor Prime Minister and wartime saviour of Australia attended a federation meeting with his father - we have in our hands the opportunity to bring our Constitution home.

Somewhere in the audiences gathered at republican rallies around Australia there is another kid like young Jack Curtin.

There are a few differences, of course. This kid could be Jack or Jill. This kid couldn't know the poverty of young Jack, and we hope this kid has easier years ahead.

But the main difference is that this kid can aspire to something young Jack never could - to be Australia's Head of State.

Somewhere in Australia today there is a kid who can one day bring those same qualities of courage, vision and passionate nationalism - this time to the office of our Head of State.

But it can't happen if we vote "no" on November 6.

Then we are telling that kid he or she isn't good enough.

Young Jack Curtin was more than good enough - whatever his handicaps along the way.

And we all know this kid today is too.

So it's not for me or for anyone else to claim John Curtin for our Republic, but I think I know how he would have answered that question, and I hope that all Australians will join in the same answer on November 6.

Thank you.

Q & A, National Press Club, Canberra

JOURNALIST:

Michelle Grattan, Sydney Morning Herald. Mr Beazley, can I take up David Day's point about John Curtin being a politician who knew not to get too far ahead of public opinion. On the evidence of the polls, do you think that the "YES" case has got too far ahead of public opinion, or perhaps, in light of the support for direct election, too far behind it. And what do you think can be done in the last week to motivate public opinion to get behind "YES"?

BEAZLEY:

Well, I think firstly, I don't think it can be said to be too far ahead of public opinion. When you look at the posters of the "NO" case - the most dishonest set of posters I have ever seen in an election campaign, and I would have thought you would have been able to find that, in campaigns where the major political parties were engaged, as opposed to simply a discussion about what our Constitution ought to be, and that is say "NO" to this Republic if people say "NO" to this Republic and that is the basis on which it is defeated….it's not a clear cut choice in the minds of the "NO" case between a Monarchy or a Republic, then where are we left in a statement about our national symbols? Because the Monarchists have blown any claim to legitimacy out of a result that is their way on this matter. Blown it, in the way in which they have conducted their campaign. Then there is the question, the second question you raised, which is are we too far behind? In terms of direct elections? Whenever any of us, and I've been round to a lot of factories, and I've spoken to a lot of old-fashioned public meetings, I might say, over the course of the last week or so - and it's born out by that experience that we had last weekend in that Deliberative Convention that was held - whenever you sit down for more than 15 minutes and expound the case, there is no doubt in the mind of the people whom you address that this is the right model. The trouble is we have politics determined these days by seven second sound bites and not by deliberation. I am from time to time accused of being prolix as a politician. I was pleased to see in David Day's book that Curtin rarely spoke for less than an hour and half. And hundreds would sit there and listen to it. He's obviously a better speaker than me. But I think the point is how do we get that across? Well, I think part of our approach, and we in the Australian Labor Party do not control the republican side of the argument in this case, and nor do we seek to. That is the hands of the ARM. We are running our own campaign, supportive of them. But we have our subtle differences. And what I've said is this: if you vote "YES" and are of a view that you would like to see something different in the way in which the President is appointed, then, were I to be elected to Government, I would roll up into a general review of weaknesses in our Constitution an opportunity for you to have another determination on that particular proposition, as to whether or not there ought to be a directly elected President. There is commonsense in that, because, whilst ever we are still in a situation where one third of Australians are sincerely convicted Monarchists, irrespective of the fact that nobody is prepared to publicly defend their position, but while ever that actually happens to be the case, they will sit there as a veto for any Republican model that is presented whilst ever the Republicans veto each other's models. So, you will never be able to get together a majority for either Republican position whilst Republicans, there are some Republicans determined out there to be spoilers, and while ever the Monarchists are prepared to be deceitful in the way in which they campaign. So, I say we've got a week to cut through this, see through this to the realities. The realities are that most of us want an Australian Head of State, and this is the way to get it now.

JOURNALIST:

Matthew Frost from SBS, TV News, Mr Beazley. In a way, the campaign for the Republic could have been a campaign that was run in the days of John Curtin. What it doesn't appear to have taken into account, thus far, is the huge demographic change in the Australian population. Almost half of our population are either migrants or the children of migrants and of that half a significant proportion of those come from a non-English speaking background. Yet there has been very little attempt, certainly in the mainstream media, to get to those people, to get a message to those people. What's private polling telling you about how the "YES"/"No" case is running in the non-English speaking background communities? And, secondly, why have those communities been left on the fringes?

BEAZLEY:

Well, because you don't necessarily see it, doesn't necessarily mean we are failing to do it. I've got Con Sciacca deputed from our side to work very hard with the non-English speaking background media to get messages up in relation to the Republican issue, and we have, in the Labor Party, been trying quite hard to get that through in community campaigns. So, without tipping our hand, we have special responsibilities attached to booth workers and the like, in that regard. But what is a difficulty here, I think, is that … well … you want our polling? What our polling suggests is, of course, that there is much more of an inclination to be Republican amongst people of a non-English speaking background, than it is elsewhere. If you want to know that as an additional element to it, but that is simply intuitive. You would assume that anyway. I think the difficulty that we have in addressing people of a non-English speaking background on this is precisely the same as we have in addressing the entirety of the community. We have had a very clever misleading campaign being run out there. And if there is one benefit from what Mr Howard had to say yesterday is he blew the cover on it. Because you've had the Monarchists and their direct election supporters out there implying that there is another poll just around the corner on this matter. And you had John Howard stating with absolute certainty he wouldn't be putting up any other proposition, should this vote go against the Republic on November the 6th.

JOURNALIST:

Samantha Maiden from Channel 10. Mr Beazley, you've once again today appealed to Australians who want to directly elect a President, saying vote "YES" and vote Labor next time around and we'll revisit it. I was wondering, given what you've just said, and given the difficulties in this campaign in terms of the lack of bipartisan support, what chance do you think that endeavour would have? And secondly, given that...

BEAZLEY:

That's alright, Samantha, the first is nasty enough. Look, I think that is looking too far into the future, to be frank. I think there are many weaknesses in our Constitution, and I think our founders anticipated there would be. I mean, John Howard is out there the other day saying that the Constitution is perfection. Well, we discovered in 1975 it was far from that. We also listened to the railings of this Government which, in many ways, resembled the railings of their predecessor against the power of the Senate. Every day, we look at yet another problem associated with Commonwealth/State relations. And the founders never expected the Constitution to be set in concrete. That is why, they had a moderately based proposal for constitutional change. Now, people who think that their Constitution should be set in concrete put things like two thirds requirements in the carriage of referendums - there's nothing like that in the Australian Constitution. It requires a simple majority, and a majority of the States, which is not a huge test, really. It's proved to be a very difficult one. But it is, in fact, not a huge test by any objective analysis. So, I think the time has come to take the bull by the horns on reform of our Constitution, and, therefore, if we are in the situation I described, we would roll a vote into it. What would be its chances of success? You'd have to say that you'd be looking for bipartisan support for that, you'd want bipartisan support for that. Either that, or any other proposal for a change in the Constitution that doesn't have it, would always have some difficulty. And we've difficulty with this now. But would it be a worthwhile exercise? Well, of course.

JOURNALIST:

The second part of the question is, basically, what chance will you think it would have and also whether, in making that offer, you are in any way abandoning the task of defending and extolling the virtues on the model of offer?

BEAZLEY:

No, I'm giving the opportunity for the direct electionists who have now decided to become the little helpers of the Monarchists to extract themselves from that spider's embrace and to once again come on side with the Republic. Because, basically, they have a much better chance of getting that direct election model by the process I have described than they have now. From my own point of view, what we have with the model that's on offer to the Australian public is a much safer set of arrangements for relations between the Government and the representative or our Head of State than we have at the moment. A much safer set of arrangements, much more transparent, much safer and much more transparent, and we have a good process and a satisfying one from my point of view. But what I'm saying is for others who may not share that view but who are Republicans, I won't leave you simply out in the cold, I'll attempt to do something about it and, if there's strength in your argument, it will get up then, and it will have a much better chance of getting up because a 33% Monarchists spoiling vote won't be in there around it.

JOURNALIST:

Brendan Nicholson of the Age. The Republican debate appears to have been very slow to arouse any great passion in the public, though it has aroused great passion amongst some commentators. Why do you see that? And the second part, how strong would any concerns you feel be about the direct election model, should you be forced to put that to the public, if you become Prime Minister?

BEAZLEY:

If you ... just to take the first of your questions. I think, the passion or the lack of it, and it is building up a bit now, I might say….I was in Devonport the other day and I'd just spoken at Weaving Mills and I went down to the main shopping centre in Devonport in Tasmania. It was a freezing day. Just to give a bit of encouragement to some noble ARM activists who had abandoned a table that was so cold .. and had transferred their office to a baby pram, with a baby in it, I might say. And they were pushing it up and down the mall. As I followed them, and they had a few questions for me, not dissimilar to the one you just asked me, actually, Brendan. Within about two minutes, I had a crowd of 30 standing around me and we conducted a political meeting. And they were just 30 shoppers, who happened to be hovering around. So there's a bit more interest than people might think. I also think it's quite interesting that, in many ways, the "YES" case is doing best at the moment in Tasmania, because I think it actually points to something else. Our politics have become so crude in this country. The domination by clever PR operations in the positioning of electorates. The seven second grab and the sloganeering has started to deprive our civic culture of an intellectual underpinning, and a capacity to actually draw passionate identification with your civic culture as much as with your economic needs. I think it's a problem that we're going to actually have do something about. Because the quality of your democracy depends upon your civic culture, as much as it does the economic underpinning. You would not have had problems getting a passionate view of Federation, or a passionate view of eliminating property franchises or a passionate view of eliminating gerrymanders, or a passionate view of the secret ballot in the 1890s, but we have had, I will concede, some problem, with getting a passionate view of this issue. And those of us in political life bear no small responsibility for that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Beazley, Andrew Cummins from the Herald Sun. Can I ask you a few questions about the incidentals of a Republic change. First of all, if we become a Republic, is the Queen's Birthday Holiday going to be replaced by a Republic Day? Which event or what person would you like to see celebrated on that Republic Day? And, also regarding the currency, who would you like to see on our coins?

BEAZLEY:

Okay, I think in all honesty the Queen's Birthday Holiday would be shifted, at least the title of it would be. It is, of course, not the Queen's Birthday, it's George the Third's. So, it has had longevity beyond the immediate celebrant, so I suppose you could keep it at that day. But, I guess, were this to be carried, November the 6th would start to have a bit of resonance on that front, but I must say that, by and large, the celebration of these birthdays have been matters for State Governments, and they would want to work that out. Maybe their own Republican Referendum dates would start to subsume a single date. On the question of the currency, who would I like to see on it? Well, as you know, our currency changes all the time, so you don't actually have to do anything dramatic with the currency. You'd do a redesign and then, as notes and coins get taken out of circulation, you'd gradually replace them, in the way in which you replace currency now. So, I would expect the Australian currency to look much the same for some years after the successful creation of a Republic. But I think I would like to see it celebrate Australians of achievement and ordinary Australians. I'd like to see the currency represent the sort of people that we've become. It does do that, partly, now, it has to be said. I don't think you'd need to change that all that much. But seeing more Australian icons, both physical and personal on the currency, would be a good thing.

JOURNALIST:

Richard McGregor from The Australian. Mr Beazley, your reported polling and also previous Newspoll surveys suggest that support for the Republic is lowest amongst lower income earners. Now, the Republic has always been a Labor cause. Why is it that Labor voters appear least enthusiastic about it?

BEAZLEY:

I think you have to do a bit of extracting of demographics from that. Firstly, even on the worst poll I've seen so far, which was the last Newspoll that I saw, the vote amongst Labor supporters was 60/40 for the Republic. So, it's not true to say that Labor voters … that's the worse Labor polling I've seen…it's not true to say that Labor voters, per se, are against a Republic. They're not for it in large enough numbers and I am trying to do something about that. Whether or not we can actually get that through is another matter. But it's basically Liberal voters, 30/70 against the Republic, which is bringing the show down. If the Liberals voted in the same proportion as Labor voters for the Republic, it would win easily. So, the problem is there, but, in this great democracy of ours, except at the margins, Liberal voters and Labor voters look much the same. That's one of the great things about being Australians - that the things that unite us are often more important than the things which divide us. And so when you make an appeal to various demographic groups, you find you can say the same things to both Liberal and Labor voters down the line. I think that probably reflects less the … for want of a better term, class background of the people who are surveyed and more the likelihood of whether or not they appear on the pension. And if you take that demographic below $20,000, you'd find that a very, very substantial proportion of those would be older Australians. And that was always going to be a difficult group for those who want to add … that's where you find the most sincere and convicted Monarchists in our population. So I'm not surprised by that statistic. But, I also am worried by the fact that, though a minority, it's as high as 40% amongst Labor voters, opposing a Republic, and I suspect at least half of them are direct election Republicans. And that is why I've been making ... one of the reasons why, not the only reason, but it's one of the reasons why I've been concentrating a heavy proportion of my pitch over the last week or so to them. If we can get the Labor vote up to, including all Labor voters who are Republican, therefore take it up to 70 to 80%, then it will carry.

JOURNALIST:

Geoff Barker, Australian Financial Review, Mr Beazley. I want to push my luck and ask you two questions. The first is, you've indicated the prospect, under Labor, of an incremental progress towards direct election if the "YES" vote gets up. But if the "NO" vote is successful, what will be Labor's strategy to carry forward Labor's platform commitment to a Republic? Will you, for example, make it a priority issue in the next campaign? And what will you offer? And the second question is: I want to address yourself to the issue of the Referendum of Australia's relations with the rest of the world. The Prime Minister has said Australia is perceived as a fully independent country and the Foreign Minister has said that foreign countries don't deal with Australia on the basis of its constitutional arrangements. Now, as a former Defence Minister, with a realist view of foreign policy, as I understand it, in what way would becoming a Republic alter the power realities of Australia's place in the region, in the world?

BEAZLEY:

I'll duck your first question and simply say that I'm hopeful that we'll have a "YES" vote. And by me speculating on what we might do if there's a "NO" vote, all I'll do is encourage the "NO" vote. If we do go down, ask me some time after that. But all I can say is that if the "NO" vote goes up, the chances of getting a direct election Republic are somewhere between buckleys and none. That's fundamentally the case. I mean anyone who thinks that, you know, with 33% still out there as convicted Monarchists, and with people like Costello pointing out the sort of US style atrophy that would occur in a direct election Republic…so you've got 33% automatically voting "NO" because they don't want a change and a section of the Republicans voting "NO" because they don't want instability. That would go down, presumably, in exactly the same way as it would go down next time. So, in the end, the Republicans would end up vetoing each other, so that would be a useless course. But that's all I would say to speculate on where we'd go in the future. Then you say … does Australia's place in the world … I could not disagree more profoundly with the Prime Minister than on this point. It is always a struggle for Australia, in the region around us, to establish ourselves in the minds as Australians, not spear-carriers for someone else, but as people who stand in our own right. And it is a subtle message, often, and a difficult message to convey. Now we have gone, for example, through this exercise in Timor. I think their Australian soldiers have done a magnificent thing, and it was right for us to be committed to peacekeeping earlier than we were. But we left .. we allowed confusion to arise, over whether it was universal interests that we were defending there, or Australian interests. It was universal interests, that we are, and have always been defending in Timor. So it's always going to be hard for Australia to make that point. We need a President to help us. I am, despite the fact that they've been subject to considerable mockery, I am an admirer of the British Monarchy. I am an admirer of the British ….(tape break) During the 'mad cow' crisis, Prince Charles is out there in Europe defending British beef. Who was getting into the European market as a result of British beef having gone down in public regard? Australian beef. Prince Charles, not directly, but indirectly, is campaigning against Australian beef and who have we got up against him? Mark Vaile. Then you've got Sophie Rhys-Jones, now Countess of Wessex, draped decoratively across the hood of a Rolls Royce. These cars, these British cars, are competing with Holdens. You're not going to see Sophie Rhys-Jones draped across the hood of a Holden. And then you had the Queen recently visit India and she took with her Vickers, all the great British firms, they all went into India with her. Now we do these things. There's Bob McMullan sitting there. He was Trade Minister, he took delegation after delegation, and he had a Trade Minister's access, which is to other Trade Ministers, and to some of the business community and the rest of it. You go as the Head of State to another country, you activate the Head of State of that country, you activate the Prime Minister, you activate the Treasurer, you activate every single significant person in the political arrangements. You rub their noses in your product. That is what you do. And the British Monarchy does that magnificently for Britain and does it frequently with product with which we are directly competing. Directly competing and we have no answers. Now, I remember Princess Anne, when the Sydney bid .. or was it the Melbourne bid, it was either the Melbourne or the Sydney bid, was on. Princess Ann gave us comfort. She said I'm going to support you after Manchester. She said that. I'm going to support you after Manchester. And so she should. So she should. That's her job. That is what she's paid to do. That is what the British Royal Family is paid to do. And they do it well and they do it better than Mark Vaile. And that's a simple fact of the matter. This is unavoidable. These things are unavoidable. So, you ask me, as a realist, what difference do I think it will make. I say it makes a hell of difference. We are a trading nation - 22% of our GDP is in exports, 22% - we are a trading nation. We're more of a trading nation than the United States, which has only 12% of its GDP in exports. And when you trade these days, you don't trade as firms, the brand name you trade under is your national name. We trade as Australia, it's an Australian firm that we trade. So anything that enhances the brand name puts bread on the table of the ordinary Australian citizen. There is an economic issue here, in this referendum campaign. A specific, direct, economic issue, that affects every single Australian household, and it's necessary, I believe, to get that point across.

Ends

 

 

jy  1999-10-29  17:03