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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2545

Mr PUNCH —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In the light of the apparent victory of Governor Clinton in the US presidential election, can the Prime Minister say what implications the result might hold for Australia, apart from the fact that right wing dogma now lies broken in the gutter? Could he outline the Australian Government's initial response to the election result?

Mr Atkinson —Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. Under standing order 144, hypothetical questions are not allowed to be asked. I would suggest that the question is of a hypothetical nature and should be ruled out of order.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It might pay the honourable member for Isaacs to listen to the question before he automatically jumps to his feet. The question is in order.

Mr KEATING —The final details of the American election will not be known for some time, but it does appear that Governor Clinton is heading towards a great victory.

  Mr Costello interjecting

  Mr Connolly interjecting

Mr KEATING —I think it is a time for—

Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is far too much noise. The honourable member for Higgins will cease interjecting. The honourable member for Bradfield will also cease interjecting.

Mr KEATING —By the turn-out in the American election, it seems the American people have clearly attached great importance to this year's presidential election and during the campaign, I think Governor Clinton struck a cord in the American electorate with his call for a renewal of America's domestic strength. We can all identify with his campaign statement that America's first foreign policy and first domestic priority are the same, namely, reviving the American economy. I heartily concur in that.

  This election has taken place in a time of quite profound change in the international system. The most important thing for Australia and America's other foreign partners is that the United States be confident of its strengths and values and sure of its place in the world. America has won the Cold War. It is now the world's economic and political leader and its confidence about itself, knowing about itself and asserting itself is important to everybody the world over, Australia included.

  I am confident that we can expect from the new Administration such confidence, given the clear mandate that Governor Clinton has received for an American revival. I am also confident that the Australian Government will be able to establish quickly an effective relationship with the new Administration. I might add that during the election campaign Government Ministers and our embassy in Washington made informal contact with some of Governor Clinton's key advisers.   I might say as well that we are encouraged by the moderate and internationalist foreign policy stance that Governor Clinton articulated during the election campaign. He has also affirmed strong support for the multilateral trading system. As I said in the House yesterday, Australia attaches high priority to an early and successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round, though that is not proceeding well, as we know, with further difficulties apparently being experienced today. But we hope that the authority of the President in the election result which has just been secured will give the American negotiating position strength at the negotiating table with the selfish policies of the Europeans.

  Mr Speaker, I think it is also the occasion to pay respect to President Bush for his achievements over the past four years, which have been considerable. I think, as he himself confirmed during his visit to Australia, President Bush has always been a good friend of this country. He proved that during all of the offices he held, including that of the presidency.

  I think the world will remember with great respect his successful management of US foreign policy during that challenging period as the Cold War ended, particularly in relation to Eastern Germany as the Wall came down and the difficulties which were presented to President Gorbachev during this period. The American Government response was critical to the ongoing change in terms of the break-up of the Warsaw Pact arrangements as it became clear that the Administration of the then East German republic was starting to introduce freedoms that resulted in the Wall coming down.

  That response—the careful, well-judged response of the American Administration of that time—was important to the successful conclusion of those events, that is, the freeing up of those states so long locked behind the Iron Curtain. I think President Bush deserves an appropriate commendation from everybody interested in freedom around the world for his stewardship of that period.

Mr Cleary —What about the Gulf war?

Mr KEATING —I will get to that in a moment, if you do not mind. Mr Speaker, I should have thought, even to the Opposition, that the fall of the Iron Curtain—

Mr Bruce Scott —He is your mate. He votes with you all the time.

Mr KEATING —He is in the Opposition too. That was as important an event as any event, and I say that it was the most important event in the postwar years. Then, of course, there was his very effective leadership of the international coalition against Iraq's aggression against Kuwait. I think it is a tribute to President Bush's own period in foreign policy—as Ambassador to the United Nations in the early 1970s, as Ambassador to China, as Director of the CIA, as Vice-President and later as President—that he was able very quickly to marshal a coalition of states and to secure United Nations support for the coalition against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In so doing he elevated, for the first time really in the postwar years, the role of the United Nations, and he confirmed a role for the United Nations as an international peacekeeper and as the international authority in international disputes. These are not inconsiderable achievements.

  In the rationalisation of Eastern Europe post the fall of the Iron Curtain, the break-up of the Warsaw Pact countries and then in the first international problem area following that bipolar change, in Iraq and Kuwait, we saw his speedy response. The most important thing is that, at this time of change in the US political leadership, a point of continuity will be the close ties of partnership and cooperation between Australia and the United States. We have been a partner of the United States now in a number of global conflicts right throughout this century, most recently, of course, in defence of Kuwait.

  We on this side of the House, and I am sure I speak for everybody, value our relationship with the United States. It is a friendship of depth and quality. We hope and know that this will continue during the presidency of Governor Clinton. I conclude by saying that we look forward to President Clinton being able to use his very considerable mandate to revive the American economy and, in doing so, wish the incumbent, George Bush, well for his period and tenure as President of the United States.