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Transcript: radio 3lo with Clarke Hansen



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TRANSCRIPT OF THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP RADIO 3LO WITH CLARKE HANSEN, 13 DECEMBER 1995

Topics: Headland Speech on Politics and Patriotism

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HANSEN:

John Howard, welcome to 3LO Drive.

HOWARD:

It's very good to be back. I think this is our first encounter.

HANSEN:

Encounter? Meeting.

HOWARD.

Meeting. Exchange.

HANSEN:

Your headland speech to a Liberal Party lunchtime function here in town was titled, "Politics and Patriotism". What was it all about?

HOWARD:

Well, it was really an attempt to address the attempted heist of Australian nationalism by the Prime Minister and the Labor Party. You've seen over the past three years a very deliberate attempt by the Prime Minister and members o f the Government to give the impression that the Labor Party is the true party o f Australian nationalism and to

really politicise the national identity. And what I put in my speech in a nutshell was that the national identity o f this country doesn't belong to any group o f politicians.

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National identity is something that politicians should speak with a degree o f humility about and that the national identity o f this country ought to be above the partisan political fray. Most Australians get very tired of and very sceptical towards a politician o f either side pretending that in some way one brand o f politics is more patriotic than the other. That's something that affronts the sceptical traditions o f most Australians

and h also insults their commonsense. There has been little doubt over the past few years, particularly since Mr Keating has been the Prime Minister - 1 dont think Bob Hawke was as guilty o f this as has Paul Keating been guilty o f it - there’s been a very determined attempt to marginalise the contribution o f the Liberal and Conservative side o f Australian politics to past historical achievements and a general attempt to give the impression that if it’s Australian nationalism you want, the brand you should grab is Labor. Now my speech today was to debunk that and to make the very simple proposition that the Australian identity and love o f country is not something that belongs exclusively to one side o f politics and it's something that ought to remain above the political fray.

HANSEN:

Mr Keating says that his activity is no heist but just plain old political leadership. Isn’t that a valid thing for a Prime Minister to do?

HOWARD:

No, that's an anticipated response. But, you see, when you have a debate about Australian nationalism and you identify your opponents with attitudes which are designed to paint them as people o f the past, when in reality you yourself have attitudes which are more deeply rooted in the past than they have - for example we have a genuine political debate in this country about our industrial relations system. The industrial relations system that I'm arguing for is the system o f the future. The system M r Keating is defending is really a system that was originally devised before World War I. I think it speaks volumes o f the difficulties that the Labor Party gets into when it tries to paint us as belonging to the past when in reality on some major policy

items such as that the Government itself is the one that belongs very much to the past.

Look, patriotism, national identity - no side o f politics has a mortgage on th a t This idea that you need political leaders to tell you who you are is not only deeply flawed intellectually but it's highly offensive to Australians. Australians have a very lively sense o f who they are and what they believe in and what constitutes Australian

patriotism and I have too much respect for them and 1 have too much humility about the sense and the essence o f this country to presume that I can tell people who they are. One o f the reasons why the Prime Minister is seen as divisive and manipulative and arrogant is that people don't really like being told by Em what their identity is.

HANSEN:

Well, who can lead them into that area?

HOWARD:

It's not really an issue that requires somebody to instruct you from on high. I mean, the character of the people grows out o f many years o f experience and it's their essence and their being. It's not something that is handed down like a policy speech or a political manifesto. I mean, you don't go along to the Liberal Party headquarters or the Labor Party headquarters and purchase a copy o f National Identity. I mean, that is insulting to A u stria n s and the point I made in my speech today is that the attempts by the Government to cany out a big heist on our national identity have got to be identified and exposed. I don't want to replace their heist with my heist.

I want to simply make the point that national identity, the commitment to country, the values o f this country, are things that stand above and beyond the partisan political fray and we do the country and the unity o f it a groat disservice if we try and compete with

each other to demonstrate who's the more patriotic Australian. I mean, I accept the good faith o f people in the Labor Party and their commitment to this country but I don't think national identity is something that should become the plaything o f one or

other side o f politics. And that clearly is what has happened over the past two or three years and it ought to be identified, exposed and discredited for the damage it does to US.

HANSEN:

Well what is Australias national identity? I get the feeling that youre perhaps, or the Liberal Party are trying to change the image. I think Paul Keating said today that in portraying the Coalition as more British than the British and you had something to say about that, but isnt there a perception that the Coalitions opposition to the republic,

and in the past, knighthoods, things along those lines, people could say, yeah, you are a class party?

HOWARD:

Thats ridiculous.

HANSEN:

Well, its a perception that 1m just an average sort o f a bloke. Its a perception I might have. Are you trying to change it at all?

HOWARD:

Well its not true and it hasnt been true for a very long time if it ever was true. The Liberal Party is the only party in Australia which is not owned by a particular section o f the Australian community. It is an entirely classless party and I myself am very much a product o f that highly mobile Australian society where people no matter what their

circumstances, can aspire to positions o f achievement and influence and Im very proud o f the egalitarian traditions of the Liberal Party.

Here in Victoria for example, last weekend or the weekend before, we chose some state candidates in safe Liberal seats, increasingly of different ethnic backgrounds, Greek, Italian - we are the first party in Australia to have had Chinese bom people as Members o f Parliament. We are increasingly seen as more representative o f the Australian community than our Labor opponents. The Labor Party is run by an elite, its a different elite from wh.-t you normally associate with that word, its an elite composed o f trade union officials and government insiders and favoured mates who get special deals.

We are not a party thats beholden to any favoured mates. We dont make any special deals and if I win the next election I wont owe anybody anything other than the thousands o f Australians who work very hard for a change o f government. Ill owe them the obligation o f delivering good government. I wont owe any obligations to powerful vested interests and this idea that the Liberal Party has strings pulled by powerful vested interests, reclining in luxurious armchairs in smoke-filled rooms o f city

dubs is really a very dated notion and one that has not been valid for decades.

HANSEN:

Do you think the Keating Government is involved in the Asianisation o f Australia, as claimed by the Australians Against Further Immigration?

HOWARD:

Well, thats not an allegation Ive made.

HANSEN:

No.

HOWARD:

No. I dont believe it. Our relations with the Asian Pacific region are very important and the future that we have there, if handled properly, will leave an indelible mark on Australias future. We have to recognise that we approach our relations with the region on the basis o f mutual self-respect. I don't expect the countries o f that region to change their values and their attitudes to accommodate us. Equally, we shouldnt

change our values in order to accommodate them. You can have a basis o f friendship and respect with a nation as you can with people without altering your distinctive, unique, characteristic way o f doing things but Asianisation is not the expression I would use.

HANSEN:

What about patriotism? Weve talked about the politics. Whats a patriot?

HOWARD;

Well that means different things to different people. I mean, the most normal definition of it is somebody who has a devotion o f and a love for his or her country. But how you express that and what you think that means will be different things to different people, and the whole point of what I was saying today was that its not something that you can define and its not something that is parcelled up and handed down on high by political leaders. Political leaders can hope by their deeds and the policies they follow to change and influence the way a country operates and the attitude o f that countrys people. The idea that one or other side of politics has a more highly developed sense o f patriotism or has a better understanding o f our national identity is very offensive to the egalitarian traditions o f this country and its one of those things that is regarded as almost instinctively by most Australians as a bit o f a con.

HANSEN;

What about immigration? Where does that fit in the scheme o f things in relation to today?

HOWARD:

Well immigration historically has made an enormous contribution to this country. The post-war immigration into Australia changed the face o f this country permanently and has been highly beneficial. We are a different country as a consequence and it enlarged the sense we have o f ourselves as Australians. The question of what level you fix for immigration is something that obviously will vary according to the economic circumstances of the country and the Government a few years ago was taking a lot more immigrants than it is now and thats something that no matter who is in power, can vary over time according to economic circumstances. I would still see this country continuing to take immigrants and we continue to benefit, but the volume will have to be determined from time to time according to economic circumstances.

HANSEN;

Does that fit in with nationalism?

HOWARD;

Oh absolutely, because we are probably the most, quintessentially the most immigrant society in the world. I mean, all of us originally with the exception o f indigenous Australians are the children or the grand cl did veil or whatever, o f immigrants.

HANSEN;

Are the headland speeches a fore runner to policy making? Are you testing the water, like todays speech. Out of this is are you testing the waters for an immigration policy?

HOWARD:

No, no, theyre not The headland speeches are designed to deal with general issues and broad directions We ha e o f course already announced a lot o f policies.

HANSEN:

A lot o f people dont you have.

HOWARD:

Well, thats because the view is put that unless you announce, have your policy speech six months before the election, you havent announced policy. Wc redly have. I mean, for example in an area like health, weve committed ourselves to the retention o f Medicare and community rating and bulk billing, and weve said that we will give an incentive for people to take out private health insurance. Now thats a very clear Statement o f policy. When the campaign comes dong we will provide the details o f the incentive. But the policy commitment is there very clearly, very definitely and its been

there for a long time and Ive repeated it on numerous occasions on this program indeed, and on others, and that is an example o f the fact that weve made over the last few months, weve made a large number o f very strong policy commitments. But what we have said is that we will hold until the election campaign itself some new initiatives and in a sense we will do what every successful opposition has done and that is we will make the policy speech when the campaign starts.

Now can I tell you, every Opposition Leader who has won an election has done exactly the same thing.

HANSEN:

So the Government falls? The Government falls over by itself?

HOWARD:

No, no, no. I dont argue that for a moment. I dont expect to win the next election just on the basis o f negative perceptions o f the Government. You cant do that and I dont believe that will happen. Im not asking that the Government be changed because its my turn. Im not operating on that basis. I want the Government changed

because I believe it is no longer a good government and that we can deliver better government and weve explained in broad terms how that government would be better. Weve given a lot o f broad policy commitments. Ive given you the example o f one in health. 1 can give you others in areas like industrial relations where were going to abolish compulsory unionism and give people a choice o f staying in the award oi going

into a contract. I can go on. Theyre the broad policy commitments but when the campaign starts, there will be quite a number of initiatives which will flesh out those policy commitments.

HANSEN:

Thanks very much for coming in Mr Howard.

HOWARD:

Its a great pleasure,

ends

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