Prime Minister Paul Keating

Paul J Keating was the 24th prime minister of Australia who served from 1991 to 1996. Although his rise to power was marred by controversy in regards to the manner in which he took control from his predecessor Bob Hawke, his time in the top job of Australian politics has greatly influenced the development of Australia. Paul Keating s administration was centralised around promoting Australia s interests in the Big Picture . This meant that Keating and his cabinet were largely focussed around three issues: republicanism, indigenous reconciliation and increased economic ties to Asia. These three political issues defined his administration and as a result are the yard stick for his contribution to the development of modern Australia. Republicanism is the ideology that Australia should depart from our monarchist roots and become totally independent from England and the Queen. It was also an issue which Paul Keating was keen to promote, in fact throughout his time as a minister he was known as being a key supporter of Australia becoming a republic. In 1992, Keating s first full year in office, he did a number of things to promote this agenda. Firstly he recommended that Australia get rid of the union jack from its flag, then, during the Queen s visit, he stated in a speech that he believed Australia must be necessarily independent from England and lastly he amended the Citizenship Act 1948, specifically he removed references to the Queen in the Oath of Allegiance. After winning the unwinnable election in February of 1993, Keating said that creating a framework for Australia to become a republic was one of the highest priorities for his government. It was that same year in which he formed the Republican Advisory Committee which was a government agency with the sole responsibility to facilitate the debate on the republic and come up with recommendations for action. Later that year the Committee released a report in which it argued "a republic is achievable without threatening Australia's cherished democratic institutions. . A few years later in 1995 Keating outlined the government s plan for a minimalist republic whereby there would be a small but important change . This would mean a change to the constitution through a referendum whereby the Governor General would be replaced by a President and the President would be elected through a two thirds majority in a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Keating essentially laid the foundations for a republic, which is what he set out to do, so in that sense he succeeded. However, the amendment was not put forward to the public for four years and the reality of the matter was that his successor John Howard was a stark monarchist and without government support the campaign lost momentum and the referendum did not pass. Thus Paul Keating never got to finish the job which he started. Aboriginal reconciliation was a subject close to Keating s heart and when he took power in December of 1991 the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was a brand new statutory authority designed "to improve the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community." The council was comprised of 25 Indigenous elders and community leaders and was designed to incorporate Aboriginal voices into the decision making process. This government agency had the responsibility of advising government on action to do with Aboriginal affairs. Keating demonstrated his dedication to aboriginal affairs in his famous Redfern Speech in which he talked about the responsibility and onus of the mainstream community to aid Aboriginal reconciliation. This moving speech was well received by the Aboriginal community and it was seen that Keating was in tune with the needs of the Aboriginal people. Following the Mabo decision and advice from the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Keating took personal action to try and create a more equitable system for the Aboriginal people. This came in the form of two bills, the first was called the Native Title bill (introduced November 1993) and the second was the Land Fund Bill (introduced August 1994).

Whether you agree with him or not it is undeniable that when Paul Keating came into office he had a bold and ambitious plan for Australia s future.The first of these bills. This meant that ir Australia was put in the position of a mitigator of sorts and Keating along with his foreign affairs cabinet had to work very hard to get all the leaders to sit down in the one room. He went on to talk about how each country had their worries. social and economic challenges and although he might not have succeeded in every detail. if he had had another term in power his contribution may have been much greater. Keating implemented some major policies which advanced the cause of the Indigenous people of Australia and as well as this he also created a more open dialogue with Aboriginal communities. As well as these multilateral forums Keating also worked hard at improving Australia s bilateral relationships with many Asian countries but most prominently Indonesia. They largely came off the back of the Mabo court case in which a High Court judge ruled that the native people of Murray Island in the Torres Strait islands had a right to the land which their tribe had used for generations. he made good progress. One was that he made regular trips to countries like Indonesia. These laws pretty much meant that in certain cases Aboriginal people were able to claim their traditional land if they had a connection with the area which was acknowledged by the common law of Australia. Keating realised the potential of these meeting and in April 1993 he proposed to radically expand the role. it must be noted that nearly twenty years later the desperation and self perpetuating social issues in rural aboriginal townships still plague the land. The next high priority was to get Australia to strengthen their economic ties to Asia. Malaysia was one exception who did not attend which caused a temporary rift with Australia. Japan and China and developed personal connections with the foreign leaders and major players in Asian countries. for example China was worried about Taiwan being present at the meetings and his team had to figure out a way for all the countries to make compromises in order to get all the major players talking about the economic positions of the pacific. China. As well as this it was probably the most significant impact which Keating had on shaping Australia s post war development as it has set Australia in good stead for this the Asian century. it cannot be said that he fully fulfilled the reconciliation process however. Japan and Indonesia were present. This was a landmark moment in the history of Aboriginal affairs and the bills put forward by Keating further legitimised the main point: the land was taken and that we did the dispossessing . Native Title is "the recognition by Australian law that some Indigenous people have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs" and the Land Fund act was created to help fund Aboriginal acquisition of the land. These relationships were used to great effect when Keating was helping to expand the APEC meetings which were a key part of his overall Asia plan. Keating s administration was a driving force for regional development and it was one of the most successful areas of the administration. Before Keating came to power the Australia Pacific Economic Co-Operation forum was a reasonably low levelled meeting attended by ministers and cabinet members from a range of countries. he did make tremendous head way and impressive progress considering the length of his Administration. . In the end the first leader s summit was held in Seattle on the 20th of November 1993 and all the major countries including the US. He attempted to tackle some of Australia s greatest political. in every way. Keating helped along these economic and geopolitical relationships through a development of free trade and increased Australian investment in the region. However. Keating saw this as an absolute imperative for Australia s continued prosperity moving into the 21st century and he implemented this in a number of ways. However. So the whole it can be said that Paul Keating made a decent contribution to Australia s post war development however. Recently in a 2007 interview with Kerry O Brian Keating said on the topic nobody wanted to make the first move . Therefore.

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