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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10633


Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/08/1998

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 10633


Ladies and Gentlemen, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory

and I have called this news conference so that I can announce the

decision of the Commonwealth Government that the Northern Territory

is to become the seventh State of Australia.

We have taken this in-principle decision and the goal very simply

is a new State for a new century. And the goal is that the Northern

Territory should become a State of the Commonwealth on the 1st

of January in the year 2001. It will thereby become the first State,

new State admitted to the Federation in 100 years and I doubt that

in the lifetime of any person at this gathering we will see a similar

announcement. It is an historic decision by the Commonwealth Government.

It follows the commitment that was given in the 1996 election campaign.

We will facilitate at a Federal level the holding of a referendum

on Statehood within the Northern Territory at the time of the next

Federal election. I have asked the Minister for Territories, Mr Somlyay,

to chair the deliberations on behalf of the Commonwealth in negotiating

the terms and conditions of the Constitution of the new State of the

Northern Territory. I have no doubt that this will help to revitalise

and reinvigorate the Australian Federation. The Northern Territory

enjoys an enviable economic growth rate. It has a very healthy population

rate. It contributes more than double on a per capita basis to the

export income of the entire nation and I regard today's announcement

as a very, very important investment in the future of Australia into

the new millenium.

I would like to congratulate Mr Stone as the Chief Minister of the

Northern Territory for the vigorous, yet constructive and understanding

way in which he has pursued the long cherished goal of Statehood on

behalf of Territorians. So I am very proud indeed to announce that

the Commonwealth Government is committed to this very important development

in the growth of our nation and the revitalisation and the reinvigoration

of the Federation. And I congratulate those in the Territory who have

worked so hard to bring this about and I have little doubt that the

negotiations that will go on over the weeks and months ahead will

successfully end in the putting forward of a Constitution which will

be acceptable not only to Territorians but to the rest of the Australian

people. I should indicate that the Commonwealth's desired method

of admitting the new State to the Federation is under Section 121

of the Constitution whereby an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament

can create a new State. I might also mention that the other States

have indicated to the Commonwealth their in-principle support for

the decision that I am announcing today and I believe that it will

be widely applauded by all but the mean in spirit and narrow of vision

so far as the development of the Australian nation is concerned.




Well certainly Statehood would ensure that Territorians have the same

rights that other Australians take for granted.




Well such as, to give you a small example, the way that our vote is

counted in a referendum. It is counted as a majority of the people,

it is not counted as a majority of the States. But it would also ensure

that we have the legislative base to legislate for ourselves in an

unrestricted way.


[Inaudible]... marginal seat of mining royalties or... (inaudible)...?


The Commonwealth receives the uranium royalties. We would seek to

be treated on the same basis as other States in South Australia. They

receive the uranium royalties so we would have the expectation of

that revenue stream. Now no doubt the Commonwealth would simply make

an adjustment in other areas and that would be a satisfactory arrangement

to us Prime Minister.


Is that something that the Prime Minister has discussed with you yet?


Well these are the matters that need to be discussed and negotiated

in the time ahead. Today really is a moment of history for the Commonwealth

and it is a moment of fulfillment for territorians but we still have

a way to go as we make ourselves and take ourselves down the path

to January of 2001.




Well, I believe there is a way through that accommodates everybody's

concerns and that way through, ironically, has been presented by the

Native Title Act which is a Commonwealth piece of legislation but

administered effectively now by the States and the Territories and

there is no reason why the Aboriginal Land Rights Act could not remain

a Commonwealth Act and yet be administered by the Northern Territory



Prime Minister, what about these questions of for example uranium

royalties and also control of national parks.


Oh look all of these things will be discussed. I have no doubt that

we can reach a very happy arrangement. The Federation has got a lot

of life left in it and it is going to enjoy reinvigoration.


[Inaudible] and the flag?


Well the Australian flag remains exactly the same.


[Inaudible] ... federation star won't have to change?


Well that's a very interesting proposition.


What about the name?


The name?




Well, the State of the Northern Territory is no more perhaps contradictory

than New South Wales.




Well we need to talk about that. Obviously you can't have 12

and I think that has been understood from the word go. One formula

that has been discussed is that at the time of Statehood you might

go to three with a formula for adding as population rose. That is

one possibility but I am prepared to sit down and talk to Mr Stone

about that.


[Inaudible] extraordinary power to 180, 000 Australians to...(inaudible)...


Well it's no more extraordinary, if you call it extraordinary,

than the present situation where you have an equality of Senate representation

from the States irrespective of population. See, the original federal

compact was that the smaller units of the new federation surrendered

power to the centre which they knew through the popular vote would

be dominated by Melbourne and Sydney, and the eastern seaboard, and

in return they sought and obtained equality of State representation.

Now you have to honour, to some degree, that but I don't think

it's realistic to have 12 Senators. I don't think anybody

from the Territory is seriously seeking that and it has not been something

that will be on the agenda.


Yes, I could indicate that in all of our discussions to date, and

we've never sought 12 Senators, no one seriously has ever put

that proposition from the Northern Territory, that if we had a beginning

point of three and then a formula locked into population growth so

that when we reached the least populist State, for example, Tasmania

at 450,000, that there would be adjustments along the way. Now, that

would seem to be an imminently fair and equitable approach but it

would take 30 years based on our even rapid population growth to reach

that of Tasmania.


(Inaudible) would you seek to have the power to ... the federal

Land Rights legislation or would that we only ....(inaudible)..?


No, look I believe that the perfect compromise that should meet everybody's

concerns, and this includes the land rights and the very important

Aboriginal constituency in the Northern Territory, would be for the

Aboriginal Land Rights Act to remain with the Commonwealth

Parliament but to be administered by the new State of the Northern

Territory. That would be consistent with the way that the Native

Title Act works.


So the power would remain in your....(inaudible)?


The power of amendment would in those circumstances, but you would

obviously, because there would be a partnership involved in it you

wouldn't act in a way that was indifferent to the concerns of

the new State. I think what Mr Stone has said, which he raised with

me this morning, is a very very worthwhile imminently sensible way

of dealing with this issue. It recognises that the day-to-day management

of these matters ought to rest with the Territory and not with the

Commonwealth, equally because there are concerns about national approaches

and so forth in these areas if it were to remain an Act of the Commonwealth

Parliament, it would meet those concerns and I think it's an

intelligent compromise which I'm favourably disposed to but I

want to get some advice on it. But I like it and I thank Mr Stone

for making such a sensible proposition.


(inaudible) ... Senators from other States based on population?


Well I don't have anything in mind on that at the present time.

I've got a few other things I want to get out of the way before

I start looking at things like that and I don't know that I'll

turn my mind to that issue in the foreseeable future. It's pretty

hard to make any changes in that area.


(inaudible) legislate that that could be changed without reference

to the people...


Could I just perhaps comment on that Prime Minister? We've not

sought to change this flag and these fellows haven't sought to

change that flag which is more important in the sense of where Territorians

are coming from.


(inaudible) Federation star.


Yep, well I understand, well, we'll have a think about that but

I mean I don't think Shane is going to feel that his, you know,

virility as a Territorian is challenged by the continuation of the

existing federation star - let me put it that way.


Not at all.


(inaudible).. legislate to pass the euthanasia laws without...?


Is that question directed to me or me? Well the goal would

be that the new State would have essentially the same powers as the

existing States and obviously that's something, that issue will

come up in discussions. And bear in mind that the Act that was passed

by the Commonwealth Parliament was not an Act sponsored by the Government,

although I personally supported it and my view has not changed and

I don't think is likely to change. I think it's also fair

to say that the composition of the Parliament of the Northern Territory

has probably changed and attitudes on that issue may well have changed

since it was last before the Territory Parliament. That is something

that will come up. You've got to remember that once you go down

the path of Statehood the ideal is that the Territory should have

essentially the same powers as other States otherwise there's

no point in doing it. You don't sort of give a State half the

authority of the other States.


(inaudible) ... bounce back in the Newspoll today?


Well I'll take that question first.


What does the Northern Territory Statehood mean for the Budget in

terms of the change to outlays and revenue and how will the Northern



I'm sure...look the Northern Territory, like the other jurisdictions

of the federation will be greatly strengthened and greatly benefited

and greatly enhanced under the tax plan that's going to be announced

on Thursday.


Could I just add to that? I'm understanding the intent of your

question. We have been funded as a State for eight years so we take

our chances at Premiers' conference along with everybody else.

And there's no special formula for the Northern Territory. For

eight years we've been funded as a State so it costs nothing

to the Australian tax payer, nor to Territorians, to become a State.


Is there any chance that the NT will be ...(inaudible)


Well far from it. No, the NT will not be worse off.


[Inaudible]...Are you thinking of opening the door for changes

to federal funds, change to the .....


I'm not sure I understand your question.




Oh no I was making an observation. I mean, the legal mechanism to

deliver statehood would be via an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament

which the Government will sponsor under Section 121 of the Constitution.

We won't be sort of making Statehood for the Northern Territory

formally conditional on each of the other States ticking off on each

provision of the Territory's constitution. Once we've ticked

off on it and if the Commonwealth Parliament supports it, then the

Northern Territory will become a State. But I was expressing the view

that the development and the movement towards Statehood would be acceptable

to the rest of the Australian community. And I think the rest of the

Australian community will have a very positive view about Statehood

for the Northern Territory. They will see it as eminently sensible,

they recognise the distinctive character of the Territory and I think

people will regard it as the most natural thing in the world to have

a new State for a new century.


Why has this taken nearly a hundred years?


Well, Shane and I can only answer for the last two or three years

together, but it has come further in the time that we have occupied

our current positions than perhaps in some earlier years, although

I do remind you that the first federal politician to seriously commit

a federal Government to Statehood for the Northern Territory was Malcolm

Fraser in the lead up to the 1975 election campaign.


Prime Minister perhaps I should put my question this way. Do you think

the announcement of Statehood for the Northern Territory has contributed

to the bounce back in the polls or do you think....?


Glenn I don't know. You understand my notorious reticence when

it comes to polls. I saw that with interest and we'll just sort

of see. I think you are seeing a recognition in the Australian community

develop that there's the Government that's offering something,

there's the Government that has got a plan for the future and

then you've got our traditional opponents, the Labor Party who

just say no to everything and our other opponents on the periphery

who also say no to everything but sort of say that on occasions in

different languages.


...are you concerned about the Australian Broadcasting Authority's

problems with the ads that you ...?


No. No.


How will you overcome that...?


Well, very easy. You just follow the law.


...disclaimer at the end of the advertisements?


Well, the law will be followed and we've got advice on that,

and everything is perfectly in order. May I say in relation to this

that I find this business about us running advertisements on this

plan quite extraordinary. I mean, this is the biggest change to the

Australian taxation system since World War II and perhaps earlier

than that, and the Australian public is entitled to have the detail

and for the Labor Party who has spent equivalent amounts of public

money in advertising things with a tenth or twentieth of the detail

or the significance of this plan have got the nerve to moralise to

us about the quite legitimate expenditure of public money to explain

something that people want to know something about. People want to

know about this. They want to know how they are affected. They want

to know how they are benefited and how they are helped and how their

parents are helped and their children are helped, and their community

is helped. I think it is an utterly legitimate expenditure by the

Commonwealth. It will be done in accordance with the law. I make no

apologies at all for doing it, and I find the utterances of Senator

Faulkner and Mr Beazley on this pathetic.


It's clearly an essential part of the election campaign isn't



Well, there's no campaign. I mean, you may know when the election

is, I don't.


.... What is an acceptable amount of time for people to ingest

and understand a tax package before an election?


I have said before Glenn that I have no intention of dropping the

tax package and then running straight off to an election. There will

be adequate time allowed for people to have the plan explained to

them. There will be information made available so that people understand

how it will work. As to when the election is going to be held I don't

know. And I certainly haven't made any de

Transcript 10633