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1993 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Prime Minister Keating

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with Prime Minister Keating, held in London on Friday 17th September 1993.


PRIME MINISTER MAJOR:

The Prime Minister and I have had the opportunity in a period before lunch and over lunch to range over a whole range of matters. I will invite the Prime Minister to say a few words, I will perhaps add anything that may still be overhanging and then we will take a few questions.

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

The Prime Minister and I have had a very cordial discussion both before and during lunch. It ranged over a number of topics including substantially on the Uruguay Round both I think underlining the importance of the Round to growth and to employment, both of the belief I think that the December 15 deadline is a real deadline and that now is the time to draw the Round to a successful conclusion by the maintenance of the Blair House Accords and with other adjustments a conclusion of the Round. I think we both see that as an important backdrop to world trade and see it as evidence of the fact that the international interest in a global multilateral trading system is still there and that seven years of effort shouldn’t go in vain so we have, I think, decided that we should speak for the conclusion of the Round and as the Chair of the Cairns Group at the moment, Australia very enthusiastically supports the Blair House Accords and a conclusion of the Round.

The Prime Minister and I also had a discussion about our constitutional arrangements in Australia and he made the point clearly to me that this is a matter between the people of Australia, the Government of Australia and the Queen of Australia underlining a point he had made earlier that Australia and Britain have a modern relationship as two societies to one another, that we are doing more together now than we were even doing ten years ago, that we are a substantial investor in each other’s countries, that for Australians Britain is a platform for investment into Europe and for Britons Australia is a platform for investment into Asia and that we are doing work much more bilaterally than we have ever done and that our relationship is maturing and succeeding as we contemplate difficulties between us including of course our respective trading environments, ours the Asia-Pacific, Britain’s the European Community.

Could I conclude that resume by saying that we had again a cordial discussion agreeing on these points of substance which I think are important to both Britain and Australia.

PRIME MINISTER MAJOR:

I don't think there is a great deal to add to that, just perhaps a few points of emphasis to add.

We spent some time on the British/Australian bilateral relationship. I think it is as good today as it has been for very many years. The trade relationship in particular is growing both in terms of investment between the two countries and the trade flow between the two countries. We both see considerable opportunities for that to continue to increase and we will both do what we can to ensure that has the maximum support.

The points the Prime Minister made about the Uruguay Round I think are immensely important. I share his view entirely that the December 15 deadline is a deadline we should take very seriously. I know we have heard this before, that there is going to be a deadline on the Uruguay Round and then it has gone on beyond that. I think it would be extremely unwise to assume that that will happen on this occasion and the prize for the world of a satisfactory Uruguay Round settlement is very great but equally, the cost to the world of not having a Uruguay Round settlement would be very great as well and I hope that is a point that is fully understood amongst all the countries that participate in these particular discussions.

As the Prime Minister said, we discussed the constitutional issue. I don't propose to add to what he said. It is a matter for the Queen of Australia and the Australian Prime Minister and his Ministers and I am going to have nothing further to add about that today.

Rather than reiterate the points the Prime Minister made, I would just like to take a few questions from you and we will both answer them or one of us, as you wish.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Major, do you think that on the people-to-people level the republican debate in Australia could in fact harm relations between our countries?

PRIME MINISTER MAJOR:

I think, as I said a moment ago, the constitutional point is a point for the Queen and for the Australian Government.

As far as the people-to-people relationship is concerned, I think that runs very deep; it runs very deep and has run very deep for a very long time and I think it is necessary to see the two separate questions, the constitutional question between Australian Ministers and the Queen of Australia and the bilateral, commercial and other relationships between Australia and the United Kingdom; that has been strong, is strong and is going in my judgement to continue to be strong.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Keating, Australia House said you had recourse to the British public in your view that Australia should be a republic? On what did you base that?

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

I think this is one of the world's great democracies and if a nation state deliberately and coherently decides democratically to adopt a different set of constitutional arrangements that will obviously be approved of within a democracy such as Britain; an essentially democratic act will always I think have the support of a democratic people and so i don't think it is a matter of trying to put a dipstick into British opinions but rather look at Britain's long-run respect for democratic procedures and processes.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, do you see no impediment to Australia taking on republic status?

PRIME MINISTER MAJOR:

As I indicated a moment ago, that constitutionally and I think in practical terms as well is a matter these days that has to be a matter between the Queen who is Queen of Australia and her Australian Ministers - she has Ministers in Australia just as she has Ministers here - and she will take their constitutional advice. I think constitutionally it is proper for that matter to be determined between the Queen and her Australian Ministers.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Keating, what is your schedule of events for arriving at this new constitution for turning Australia into a republic?

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

That will require a scheduling obviously of a constitutional process leading up to a referendum by the Australian people. The target we have is for 2001 but that will require, as any such important constitutional change requires, a period of education and understanding and consensus and we have already embarked on that process now.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Keating, what you are suggesting and what your referendum may or may not lead to is of course of immense historical significance. What you are really going to do or your country may decide to do is the final break-up of the greatest empire this country has ever seen, this world has ever seen [Laughter] and are you historically aware of what you are doing and that this may have a knock-on effect, New Zealand may do it and other members of the British Commonwealth too? You are the catalyst of history, Mr. Keating.

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

Well you are the source of much mirth by your colleague journalists behind you! I don't think you can ascribe that catalytic role to me. The key policy is between the Australian people and the Queen of Australia. The relationship we are speaking of and the one which you are seeking for us to nurture is the one between Britain and Australia and as the Prime Minister said today and said again eloquently on Australia Day in the address which he gave, there is great depth in the relationship between Australia and Great Britain and it is growing and if anything such a change will lead to an even better relationship as Australia remains part of the Commonwealth but where our friendship and links can be fully expressed rather than being compromised by a constitutional arrangement which doesn't meet the approval of the great majority of the Australian people.

QUESTION:

It was you that kicked it off though. You are the one who started it.

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

I don't think that is true. I think it is called national aspirations and national identity.

QUESTION:

On another subject, were you concerned by the success of the British National Party last night?

PRIME MINISTER MAJOR:

Yes, I was. I think it was an unfortunate result. I just want to make it quite clear there is no place in our society for those sort of policies and I hope that will be readily understood by everyone. I gather at least one of the political parties is looking at their literature - I think that is right. I have no comments to make about that other than to say I think it was an unfortunate result, I hope it won't be repeated.

QUESTION:

From what you said, is it fair to assume then that the British Government has no view on whether Australia decides to become a republic when you say that it is a matter purely for the Australian Queen, the Australian people and Government?

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

I think the Prime Minister has made clear to you his view that the appropriate policy here is between the Australian people, its Government and the Queen of Australia and that is a matter to be worked out through the processes of Australia by its people and its Government with the Queen of Australia.

QUESTION:

....the Queen ...Australia tomorrow?

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

I think as warm as friendly as the last one she gave me when I saw her last.

QUESTION:

Would you care to have a wager about the outcome of the IOC next week?

PRIME MINISTER KEATING:

We do have an interest in it, both of us. I am sure I can't say anything beyond that which would be entirely predictable and that is that we think Sydney is by far the best technical bid; no doubt that will be disputed by the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER MAJOR:

I am looking forward to seeing the Prime Minister in Monte Carlo and buying him a consolation drink.