February 25, 1993

Article at The Herald (Glasgow)

Keating seeks referendum on Australian republic by 2001

Paul Keating announcing his government plans for a republic

Wilson da Silva, Reuters
Sydney, Wednesday

LABOR Prime Minister Paul Keating, trailing in opinion polls, formally presented his policies today in an attempt to win back the initiative before Australia’s March 13 election.

In a speech punctuated by rounds of applause from 500 party faithful, Keating committed his government to holding a referendum on whether Australia should be a republic by 2001. 

He also announced a range of new health, child care, welfare and other intiatives designed to convince the 12% of undecided voters to support Labor.

He chided the conservative opposition for what he called regressive policies abandoned elsewhere in the world.

“Today we stand against radical right-wing proposals which are hostile to fundamental Australian beliefs,” Keating told the crowd at a civic hall in his native Bankstown, a suburb in western Sydney.

“Labor has more than just a plan – we have a whole national change, a sea change, born of national necessity and happening now,” he said.

The party’s plan “does not look back at the values of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain or Ronald Reagan’s America but forward to the next century,” he said.

In power since 1983, Labor is seeking a record fifth term, but with one million unemployed, the Liberal-National conservative coalition is ahead in opinion polls. Its support stands at 49%, compared to Labor’s 42.

Today Keating announced A$ 254.9m (US$ 177m) in new spending for the year ending June 1994 in an effort to attract voters. The Labor government is running a budget deficit of A$ 15.9 billion (US$ 11 billion) in the year to June 1993.

The conservative coalition, led by John Hewson, wants to sell off billions of dollars in state assets and replace six indirect taxes with a 15% consumption tax.

But it has also promised to spend A$ 3 billion ($ 2.1 billion) on development and assistance projects.

The Australian Prime Minister’s pledge to set about establishing a republic met a tight-lipped response from British legislators today.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on Keating’s speech. It said it did not get involved in elections in other countries.

Likewise, Buckingham Palace officials, Prime Minister John Major’s office and various monarchist MPs contacted by Reuters declined to comment.

Professor Bryan Matthews of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies said in a television interview that many Australians no longer had the ties to Britain which their forefathers had.–Reuter.