Australian PM accused of racism

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The Independent Online
MELBOURNE - As Australia's election climate heats up, Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, was described as a racist yesterday over his attitude towards Britain and his call for a republic, writes Robert Milliken.

The accusation came from one of Australia's most eminent historians, Geoffrey Blainey, emeritus professor of history at the University of Melbourne, in front of business leaders, academics and diplomats at a conference on the subject, 'Australia and Britain: the Evolving Relationship'.

He said: 'It is worth noticing that Mr Keating sometimes uses anti-British arguments in the hope of abolishing the monarchy, the symbol of the powerful British link. But his government continues paying large preferential subsidies to other ethnic groups, all being much smaller in numbers. This contradiction might well be termed racism by some impartial judges.' Prof Blainey has been an outspoken critic of Australia's immigration policy, which has seen Asia overtake Britain as the largest source of settlers.

Yesterday's attack is likely to reopen questions of national identity and republicanism in the lead- up to the 13 March election.

CANBERRA - The Liberal- National opposition has a lead of 49 per cent to Labor's 37 per cent, according to an opinion poll yesterday in Melbourne's Age newspaper, Reuter reports.

The poll disagreed widely with other surveys.