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The Governor-General breaks with tradition and comments on the domestic issue of government investigations on the waterfront, and gives his view on the outcome of the current unrest in China

PETER THOMPSON: Another prominent Australian is lending his views on China. The Governor-General says the current upheavals will have little effect on China's future directions. His Excellency, Bill Hayden, travelled to China late last year, on his final overseas trip as Foreign Minister, and met several of the key players in the present crisis. Mr Hayden made his comments at the opening of a conference in Sydney on the future of the Pacific region. As Andrew Scholl reports, Mr Hayden's speech had more the mark of a former politician than an incumbent Governor-General.

ANDREW SHOLL: It's not the usual form for the Governor-General to make public statements on international politics. Nevertheless, Mr Hayden offered the audience of 200 or so Australian and international business leaders some reassuring thoughts on China's present instability.

BILL HAYDEN: Perhaps I can interpolate a personal view here and suggest that while there is uncertainty about the political situation in China at the present time, one would expect that in the longer term the process of modernisation will continue, even though there may be discussion about the pace of reform. And certainly that's a view I support, on the basis of discussions I had in China with people described as both progressives and conservatives.

ANDREW SHOLL: And while it might be a breach of protocol to pontificate on international relations, neither is it the done thing to address matters on the policy agenda of the Australian Government, like the waterfront and micro-economic reform.

BILL HAYDEN: It's no secret that important challenges still have to be met on the waterfront in the steel and automotive industries. I of course realise this is a sensitive matter for me to talk about at this time, but I note that in its report last year on coastal shipping, the Industries Assistance Commission found that inefficiencies, both on board and onshore, were costing the Australian economy between $250 and $500 million a year.

ANDREW SHOLL: The conference organisers had asked Mr Hayden to give a general overview of the theme to be addressed this week, namely, the future of the Pacific region, but for much of his speech the Governor-General directly appealed to Australian industry to focus less on the markets of Europe and North America and, rather, explore the opportunities in the Asia-Pacific rim, the sort of plea that might be expected to come from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Hayden's old job.

BILL HAYDEN: The comfortable, complacent assumptions of the first two centuries of European settlement in Australia will no longer suffice. The third century, which we have just entered this year, must see us adjust to a very different world. Unless we also grasp the regional opportunities that are there, then I believe Australia's future will be diminished and that, I suggest, would be a tragic surrender by default of the national patrimony. We should be building for our posterity into the century ahead.

PETER THOMPSON: The Governor-General, Bill Hayden, talking last night in Sydney at the conference organised by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, CEDA.