The politician who helped tear down Australia’s trade barriers has declared US president-elect Donald Trump’s protectionist politics are “never going to pay off”.
Mr Trump’s message that “It’s the US’ turn to worry about itself” was an easy one to sell, former prime minister Paul Keating says.
“He sees the general international responsibility the US has taken since 1947 as too large a burden on the United States, too unfair an impost,” Mr Keating said at the University of Melbourne on Friday.
“But the notion the US should be thinking about itself in its own terms is, I guess, is a popular notion.”
Mr Keating, who was Australia’s 24th prime minister, said while globalisation had “decimated” Western economies, it created better opportunities for developing countries and greater competition ultimately made products cheaper.
“The idea that we can move back to some sort of protected society is crazy.”
The US needs to stay involved as a “balancer and conciliator” in the Pacific and find political accommodation with China, he said.
“That also means recognising the rise of China is legitimate and that the Chinese are not going to be subservient.”
Mr Keating was in Melbourne to promote his authorised biography Paul Keating: A Big Picture Leader, which was officially launched on Monday in Sydney by indigenous leader Noel Pearson.
At the Monday launch, Mr Pearson criticised the ABC as “racist” for its portrayal of Aboriginal issues.
When asked on Friday about Mr Pearson’s comments, Mr Keating said Mr Pearson has always taken the view that Aboriginal people were best when they were able to earn their own income and live their own independent lives, and that welfare diminished their standing and inner confidence.
“It may be true to say — and I am not saying it — that the ABC promulgates the view that the shift away form the welfare basis was the wrong way to go.”
He also said, the ABC “is letting Australia down in terms of its news presentation” with the 7pm news bulletin and 7.30 “laden with hard luck stories”.
When reflecting on the privileges and pressures of public life, Mr Keating said he would encourage a 25-year-old today to enter politics as he did, before heading down another well-trodden path of his to slam Canberra.
“It’s a hard road to hoe, the great pity in Australia was that we didn’t have national parliament in Melbourne or Sydney, we ended up with the wrong capital in Canberra,” he said.
“It’s pretty soul-destroying and because the facilitation of the place is such you can’t walk out into a capital city like you can in Melbourne or in London, you’re bound up in a building.
“It has this bad karma about it.”