Republic, Bill Kelty, ACTU, economic growth

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Republic, Bill Kelty, ACTU, economic growth

Transcript No. 99/58





Doorstop Interview

Presentation College,


Wednesday, 18 August 1999

3.15 pm


SUBJECTS: Republic, Bill Kelty, ACTU, economic growth


What do you think of Bill Hayden actually joining the ‘no case’ today and

saying, that the system that’s been proposed is a half-baked constitutional mess?



Well the proposal that’s been put to the Australian people came out of a

Constitutional Convention, where half of it was elected, the other half of it was

appointed. And we had legitimate arguments at the Convention on the model. I had my own

arguments. But this is what captured the support of the Convention. I’m satisfied

that it preserves the best of our current Constitutional arrangements whilst renewing the

symbolism. And from that point of view I think it’s a step forward whilst preserving

the important Constitutional achievements of the past.



You’re saying it’s a step forward, but you’ve got your reservations

about it. He’s saying that it’s best just to get it right. Given that you do

have reservations, could he be right?



Look, you’ll never get 19 million people agreeing on every last dot in the

Constitution. If we’d of taken this view in 1901 – vote ‘no’ to Federation

until you get every clause that you agree with, we’d probably still be polling now.

There are many parts of the current Constitution that I don’t personally support. But

do I think people were right to Federate and to vote ‘yes’ to that Constitution?

Yes I do. And this idea, that until 19 million people all get every last line they should

vote ‘no’ is really a recipe for never achieving Constitutional reform.



What do you think then of high profile Republicans who are planning to take the

‘no case’ in this way?



Well look, if the referendum is defeated in November, in my view, it is a vote for

Australia to be a Constitutional Monarchy and that ought to be accepted. If people are

asked the question, do you want Australia to become a Republic with a President, and they

say ‘no’, they are legitimately voting for Australia to continue as a Monarchy –

a Constitutional Monarchy with the Queen as the Head of State. I don’t think you can

interpret a ‘no’ vote differently myself.



Do you think Bill Hayden’s views will be influential on this?



Oh, I think Bill’s got interesting and good views on practically everything. It

doesn’t mean I agree with all of them but I’m always interested to hear them.



You made a call for the group to engage in the debate. Are you concerned at all that

there isn’t enough public engagement in the debate yet?



I think public engagement is just beginning. I think, until you’ve settled the

question, until it was clear that the question was going to actually go to the vote,

people were standing back and I think now they’re beginning to engage. And I would

expect interest will develop over the next couple of months, and I hope it does. One way

or the other, look, under our Constitution, the framers of the Constitution recognised the

need for changes. They didn’t see the Constitution as a once-for-all document. They

put a clause in there to facilitate change. And it can only be changed with the engagement

of the Australian people, which is perfectly right and proper. And so I would hope that

the Australian people start engaging, all the Australian people.



You mentioned Sir William Deane, would he make a good first President?



Well, I’m not entering into who can or can’t be President, Governor-General

or anything else. If you don’t get a ‘yes’ vote you won’t have any




On another topic, can you say what your legacy . . . the legacy Bill Kelty has been to

the union movement.



Mr Kelty, I think, tried to modernise unionism but he was unsuccessful because unionism

itself, I think, was misdirected. Instead of playing a prominent role in developing the

economy, I think there was far too much focus on union power. And union power is

something, I think, a misuse of union power, is something that’s killed unionism.

It’s not a recipe for it to survive.



So what should Mr Combet be doing differently?



Oh well, he doesn’t take his advice from me.



How will the Government deal with Mr Combet?



Well, we’ll wait to see what he’s interested in and we’ll deal

appropriately. Thanks.



Reserve Bank (inaudible) does that give you any surprise there?



Well look, the Australian economy is currently growing between 4 and 5 per cent.

It’s probably the fastest growth of any of the developed economies of the world. We

think it’ll slow off 4 to 5. In fact, I think it will slow down to 3, so that is a

slow down. But the rest of the world would look at 3 and consider that extraordinarily

fast growth. Europe would look at it enviously, the Americans would look at it as

confirmation of the success of their economy. A slowdown to 3 per cent is hardly even a

landing. People talk about soft landing, it’s hardly even a landing. And if we can

talk in Australia of slowdowns at 3 per cent, well that’s really good news for the

Australian economy. You know, I was just talking earlier today, 25 years ago we were

growing at 1 per cent on a 17 per cent inflation rate, so things have changed for the

better I think.