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Transcript of Press Conference: Jefferson Hotel, Washington DC: 8 July 1991 (Washington DC time): Meeting with President Bush; US/Australia relations; foreign policy; Gulf war



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Leader of the Opposition

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TRANSCRIPT OF DR JOHN HEWSON, MP PRESS CONFERENCE, JEFFERSON HOTEL, WASHINGTON DC 5PM MONDAY 8 JULY 1991 (Washington DC Time)

E & 0 E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Meeting with President Bush, US/Australia relations, foreign policy, Gulf war.

Hewson:

Thank you. I'm very pleased to say that we've had a very useful and productive day seeing the senior members of the Bush

administration. We saw the President, had lunch with Dan Quayle, and I've seen Secretary Baker, General Scowcroft and Michael Bosking, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers. The discussions, of course, covered a wide range of issues with a group like that.

I came here, as Leader of the Opposition principally to put our position to the US Administration and our support for the

alliance and a strong bilateral relationship, a view that we of course, among others value their presence importantly in the Asia-Pacific region, in the role they play. We have reservations about concepts of common security. We see the relationships and

the alliance as fundamental, not transitional steps to other arrangements. And of course a whole range of other issues

associated with regional and global, defence and security matters. I guess the one that most of you have been interested in is what has been said about the Export Enhancement Program, and basically I put the view that we have had few issues in

Australia on which there's been bipartisan support. One of them was our support for the contribution that Australia made to the Gulf War. We indeed called on the Hawke Government to make that commitment. We were pleased they did and we backed them all the way. Issues like that are above politics.

And similarly we have a bipartisan position in relation to the Export Enhancement Program. We believe that - well, I've said publicly in Australia that I thought the appropriate thing to do

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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was somebody in my position to come here and put the case

directly, and I've done it to the gentlemen concerned. I think, in view of the vagueness of some of the statements made in recent days that foreshadow a consultative process be expedited as a matter of urgency - but in saying that, in putting the strongest

case to the US Administration, I also recognise that the

principal problem in trade in the world today is the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Community. And so I've urged these gentlemen - and will put the case directly myself - to continue to fight the good fight for a significant improvement

in the GATT in relation to agricultural protectionism.

It is without any doubt the single most important international ... (inaudible) ... forthcoming summit in London should be a

forum, or could well be a forum in which that issue could be

raised and hopefully some advancement made, but we really do need to address the issue of agricultural protectionism globally as well as of course in relation to the bilateral relationship as I've identified it. So I'll take some questions.

Jrnlst:

How long was your meeting with the President?

Hewson:

I didn't time it, but somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes, I suppose.

Jrnlst: . .

Was there anyone else there?

Hewson:

Yes, a range of people - I'm not sure of all of their names. Our ambassador was there and my staff. General Scowcroft was there, other White House staff.

Jrnlst:

Anything in particular that you discussed with President Bush that you can tell us about?

Hewson:

No, I just basically summarised the points as I want to put them on the record. The content of particular discussions and what in particular they all said to me, I don't think I should breach that confidence. And I went out of my way to congratulate

President Bush for the leadership role he played in relation to

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the Gulf War. I thought that was a very significant contribution at a crucial time in the post-Cold War environment, and he played that role with a degree of hard-headed yet cool-headed

determination, which was to the benefit of the world and I think allowed the United Nations for the first time in most of the postwar period to play the role it should have played. So I was very keen to congratulate him for that. We did talk at length

about the Australian scene as well as of course the fact I

mentioned ... (inaudible) ... and one or two other things.

Jrnlst:

Were you surprised to meet him? I mean, did you really . . .

(inaudible) ... by being able to have this meeting with the

President?

Hewson:

No, one always hopes to see a Government from the tope down, and that's what we came here to do, and that's what fortunately we did. .

Jrnlst:

The President has indicated that the ... (inaudible) ... Do you have any ideas when that may ... (inaudible) ...?

Hewson:

That was mentioned in the meeting, and I said from our point of view he'd be welcome whenever he wants to come.

Jrnlst:

Any specifics?

Hewson:

No, there's no specifics.

Jrnlst:

Did he say that he was still keen to come to Australia?

Hewson:

Yes, there was a statement about the issue, and he led me to

believe that he was still keen to come.

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Jrnlst:

Any dates on that?

Hewson:

No, I have no specifics on it, no.

Jrnlst:

Did you give him any indication of the strength of your support for further US military action in the Gulf if Iraq doesn't abide by the ... (inaudible) ...?

Hewson:

I'm sorry, I missed the question.

Jrnlst:

Did you give him any indication of support for further US

military action in the Gulf if Iraq does not --Hewson:

None of that issue was raised.

Jrnlst:

You say you told him about the Australian scene. What kind of issues did you discuss?

Hewson:

Oh look, I just gave him a run down on how I saw things very

briefly, as I did in a number of meetings. People were

interested to know how I saw what was happening.

Jrnlst:

On the economy, on domestic politics?

Hewson:

Oh, just basically, you know, a broad overall view of the

Australian scene.

Jrnlst:

The challenge to the Prime Minister? Did that come up?

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Hewson:

Look, I'm not going to go into the detail. I just gave a quick summary of the economic and political scene in Australia.

Jrnlst:

In relation to the Gulf did the President make any comment about Australia's commitment to you?

Hewson:

He said it was welcome, was the point he mad e . Others emphasised to me how timely it was as well as how important it was, and the view we took as an Opposition, which I think was the correct view and has been proved to be seen to have been the correct view was

that we had to act fairly quickly and decisively. We called on the Government to make a commitment in the very early days, and we were pleased that they did. And, as I say, we supported them all the way through that, even though there were other political pressures on the Government through that period. We took the view that a commitment of Australian men and women to a battle

zone somewhere else in the world is the single most important decision the Government can take, and in that sense we didn't play any politics on the issue. We gave them total bipartisan support.

Jrnlst:

When you said that you put your position, the Opposition

position, to the US Government here, in what ways do you think it was different from the present Government position in ... (inaudible) ... relations with Europe?

Hewson:

Well, our view on the alliance is that, it is very important - I think it's fundamentally important. It's fundamental that the US maintains its presence, effectiveness of its presence in the Asia-Pacific region; it's fundamental that the alliance is maintained and developed; it's fundamentally important that we

don't get sidetracked into issues like common security and see the alliance and other aspects of the relationship as merely stepping stones to some bright new world, because to me the alliances have worked well and they would be maintained in that

fundamental sense and developed. That is a difference between us and the Government.

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As far as Our attitude to foreign policy and defence issues, I guess I made a number of points. On foreign policy I said that I took the view, as I've said many times, that Australian

standing has to some extent been marginalised in the eyes of a number of leaders, and that view has been put to me right

throughout the Asia-Pacific region, for example. And a large part of that is a reflection of a relatively poor economic

performance. And so fundamental to us improving our foreign policy standing and performance would be us lifting our economic game and getting our economic house in order. Over and above that, we have put a stronger regional emphasis into foreign

policy. We express more concern about areas like the South Pacific Islands, Fiji and PNG relations. We see these, as I've said, as our first line of foreign policy responsibility. My Government would give them more emphasis. ... (inaudible) ... That's not downplaying some very significant and productive

initiatives that the Government has in effect taken in relation to the region. But it is clearly a difference of emphasis that is built around a different approach to economic management, as much as it is an increased emphasis on the region. But we're not

regional isolationists, we've got a lot of other responsibilities in the world. But we are prepared to give a greater weight to the region and recognise somewhat greater regional

responsibilities.

Secondly, in the foreign policy come trade area, I talked at length about a proposal that we've developed in relation to a role that APEC can play. Now, we are very keen as a Coalition to see APEC take on some substance, to see APEC in particular have pre-specified targets and agenda which makes it something more than a talkfest. And more importantly I think it can play

the role of developing or providing a base for the development of a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region, not in any

exclusivity sense - no common tariff barriers to the outside world, not a competing trade bloc in any sense, but a forum in which you can negotiate on a regional basis lower levels of protection in the region, subject to the standard GATT rules

about openness and non-discrimination and so on. And we've developed that proposal to be I think a substantive step forward from where our Government stands.

In the defence area we are different in the sense that we have a major review of defence policy. Defence hasn't been a major issue in Australia for many years. And the defence budget has been subject to a fair bit of ad hoc cutting and so on over the years. The Government's strategic assessments are based on the

1987 White Paper, many of the assumptions of which we now feel are at least subject to revievf, and we believe that you should therefore begin with a complete strategic reassessment and then go to conclusions about the nature of the defence role that

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Australia will need to play, what force structures will play from that, and so on. And so that review is presently well-advanced, and we've taken some submissions from outside and a lot of work is being done on the first stage, the strategic assessment. On the force structure, I think it principally flows from that, although I have made some comments about the Government's force

structure review. They are differences between Government and ourselves. We were concerned in the Gulf War that it raised - making our commitment to that war, we were forced to address the issue of our capability to participate in such operations in

other parts of the world and our capacity to do so, the

appropriateness of our defence structures to handle that. That's another element of why we're having a review. Now, they're the sorts of issues that I raised and passed on a view about in terms of the Coalition's attitude to defence and foreign policy.

Jrnlst:

The fact that you could see the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State all on the same day, is that an

indication that the White House is thinking about a potential change of Government in Australia?

Hewson:

No, I wouldn't think so at all. I don't draw any conclusion from that at all. I've had similar senior access in the Asia-Pacific region where I've been. I saw Kaifu, I saw Suharto, I saw

Aquino, I saw Lee Kwan Yew and so on and so forth. It's the sort of access that I've been afforded: ...(inaudible)... I don't

think any of them were taking a position on Australian politics, I think that they are interested in the nature of the links

between Australia and the United States in this case. In other countries, the basis of the approach was different. But I've seen it as an essential element of my role to actually get out and about in the Asia-Pacific region.

I believe that the future of Australia is more in the Asia-

Pacific region. It is the fastest growing region in the world; in about 40 years' time it will be double the size of North

American and European markets together; it offers our country opportunities across the board. And we are therefore very conscious in our policy formulation of the scope for our enhanced role in that region. Now, the Asia-Pacific region to us

importantly includes the United States.

We have established, well-established, alliance relations with the United States, which we woqld want to develop as part of that process. I've committed our Coalition Parties in fact to a strategic objective, and that is that we would become a more

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significant economic and political force in the Asia-Pacific region by the year 2000. And a lot of what I've done either in terms of domestic policy formulation or in terms of foreign or defence policy formulation, has flowed back from that. For example, in domestic policy, we've committed ourselves to zero tariff protection by the year 2000. That's part of a package of reform measures which will dramatically eliminate a lot of cost disadvantages under which our industries operate and open up the Australian economy much more to the world generally, and the Asia-Pacific region, of course, included in that.

In foreign and defence policy, I think I've got through some of the elements as to how it links back from that strategic

objective. And we are really coming up with an integrated set of policies that flow from that strategic objective, and in saying that I recognise there are some differences from the Government, and saying that, I recognise that there may need to be some education of the Australian electorate as to the nature of our position in that border region. But they all flow from the strategic assessments we've made.

Jrnlsts

Can I clarify one thing just briefly with you?

Hewson:

Ye s .

Jrnlst: -

Just back to the question of whether or not President Bush visits Australia. Did you get the impression that he'd like to visit this year, and did he raise the issue specifically with you or was it suggested...

Hewson:

It's really a question for you to put to him. I mean, I can't

say any more than I've said. As I said, my view is he'd be more than welcome whenever he wants to come.

Jrnlst:

So you got not sense...

Jrnlst:

It is quite fearful for us to* put that question to him.

(Laughter) ,

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Hewson:

With one like myself who has absolutely no problems with the media, I'm sure that you'd have no trouble getting that

...(inaudible)...

Jrnlst:

So you got no sense of timing at all, really?

Hewson:

No, I have no sense of timing. I mean, it's really for you to

put to him. I don't know whether they've made a decision about timing.

Jrnlst:

On the common security question, do you think there's been a tendency of the Labor Government to take this relationship for granted? ...(inaudible)... prove that in the context of the near obsession in australia with how the Asia-Pacific region can be

...(inaudible)... by such long-standing powers as the U.S., who think that the relationship will kick over as always, without much wor k .

Hewson: :

Well, that's a very difficult question to answer because you ask me to speak for a lot of people. I don't think that's

necessarily the case. I do believe, though, to answer it in a positive way, that you have to work at those relationships and develop those relationships, and that is-certainly our attitude to this relationship. And the suggestion I make in relation to APEC, for example, is one which I believe that the United States

and Australia could well co-ordinate effectively to bring about a very substantial improvement in the likely prospects for something coming out of APEC. Now, that's really our position, and I can't really judge whether the Government in their own thinking has taken that relationship for granted as it stands.

Jrnlst:

Are there fences to be mended, do you think?

Hewson:

Oh, no. I think the. . . dop't get me wrong, I think the

relationship is alive and well, and I'm sure that Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans attach particular significance to that relationship,

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so I can't ... so I'm not downgrading. In saying that I would

go further, I don't want to be seen to be downgrading what

they've done in relation to the relationship.

But I mean, it is a changing world, the Asia-Pacific region. There are a lot of apprehensions and concerns about the nature of the U.S., the continuing nature, let's say, of the U.S.

commitment to the region. We know of a decision to phase down a presence in the region, a military presence. We are aware of Congressional pressure that you come to cutting back on the bases, you might as well cut off the offshore bases first rather than some of the domestic bases, which are politically more difficult. There are all those sentiments around, there are all

those ...(inaudible)...

There's a lot of apprehension in the Asia-Pacific region about the likely role of Japan if the United States pulls back, and there have been differences of opinion expressed on that as well. Now, in that context, I think we have to recognise that the

relationship is something that needs to be watched and developed and monitored.

Well, look, one of the points I make today is a subject of a

speech I gave the other day in Orange County, which was very much a personal reflection on Australia-U.S. relations, and put the case that, while there have been a number of changes in the

relationship over our history, I think there is something of a generational change now taking place in relation to that

relationship, that people of my age, born in 1946, first of the postwar baby boomers, growing up in-the environment where there are many more direct links with the United States, where direct investment was so important, there's a more natural affinity with

the United States. It came in - many ways in terms of its

influence.

We are probably naturally more closely aligned with the United States in our own thinking and our own attitudes. Somebody like myself, growing up in the '50s and '60s, coming over here as a student in the late '60s and early '70s, and going through those Vietnam war years, the civil rights pressures, the Kent State,

the Nixon years, whatever, that builds an attitude, an affinity in this generation which is quite different from what is applied to other generations. And in that sense, I feel personally quite attached to the relationship and want to develop it.

Jrnlst:

What about the other side of the relationship? I mean, the

generation previous ...(inaudible)...

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Hewson:

Well, in terms of the U.S. the other way. Well, I can't really speak for that. The only thing that I've particularly drawn attention to today is what I feel is some of the pressures on the relationship and that speech identifies them.

But from our side, there is an anti-American sentiment that emerges from time to time for a number of reasons, and I think one of the things that personally disturbs me most about the EEP debate at the present time is that a traditional conservative,

fully supportive section of our community, principally the rural sector, is now lashing out in the midst of the worst rural crisis in 60 years, and they are focussing particular attention on EEP and other dimensions of U.S. agricultural subsidisation. Now,

I can understand that pressure. It's a pressure that's got to be dealt with. It's a very real pressure in our case.

On the other side, if I look as an outsider at the United States, I see a bit of a tendency for people to say, look, the U.S. ought to come home; it's been carrying a disproportionate share of international responsibilities in relation to lots of issues in the world as a whole; there's an emphasis on fiscal restraint domestically, there's a tendency to cut back and to reduce military presence, what the dimension of that argument is.

Now, those two pressures, if you like, from both sides are there now, and I think they're the sort of questions that this

generation is going to have to handle in making sure that that relationship develops. that's the -tone of the approach that I have taken.

Jrnlst:

Was there any discussion about the movement back home to make Australia a republic?

Hewson:

Never mentioned.

Jrnlst:

What's your thought on it?

Hewson:

Well, look, I don't, I try not to comment too much on domestic issues while I'm away, b ut‘ our Party is committed to a

constitutional monarchy, and I don't believe that a republic is inevitable in Australia. Sure, there are a lot of forces that

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are pushing Australia towards that sort of thinking, but I can remember in my early days in Canada in the late '60s, there was a feeling that it was inevitable that Canada would become a republic, and there have been a lot more pronounced pressures right through that period and it hasn't gone that way. So that's really the position I've taken on that issue at home, and I'm happy to repeat it here.

Jrnlst:

Did Mr Bush suggest that the military alliance between the U.S. and Australia be strengthened because of the commitment to the Gulf War?

Hewson:

I don't really want to pass on to you what he said, but I was

left in no doubt that he greatly appreciated our contribution and support and timing of the support that we gave.

Jrnlst:

Did you express any views on the rdllback in U. S . bases in the Philippines?

Hewson:

No. I have asked some questions about that, I have emphasised that it's important that we maintain, that, as I said, the U.S. maintains a visible presence in the region and the effectiveness of that presence. That's our view. And I'm conscious of the

upheaval that's occurred in the negotiations with the Philippines in the aftermath of the volcano and the damage that's been done to Clark Air Force Base, so I was interested to get some firstĀ­ hand assessment of that. It's taken as a bit of a barometer, of course, in the Asia-Pacific region, to see what the U.S. attitude

is and the extent to which they maintain a presence, although, I visited the Philippines last year, and I was left in no doubt that they were very. . . while they were prepared to negotiate hard, they seemed very keen to keep an effective presence.

Jrnlst:

And what was their attitude today? ...(inaudible)...

Hewson:

Oh, I don't want to pass on what was said.

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Jrnlst:

Dr, excuse me, was the meeting with the President in Scowcroft' Office?

Hewson:

No, it was in the Oval Office.

Jrnlst:

In the Oval Office. Prime Ministers normally get tha t .

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