PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11470

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP TELEVISION INTERVIEW WITH PAUL LYNEHAM, NIGHTLINE – CHANNEL 9

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: 14/02/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11470

Subjects: mandatory sentencing; illegal immigrants; tax reform; Olympic

accommodation; coolroom at Kirribilli; National Textiles.

E&OE.............................................................................................

LYNEHAM:

Prime Minister welcome again to Nightline.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good to be with you Paul.

LYNEHAM:

In your opinion are the Northern Territory's mandatory sentencing

laws unjust and do they tarnish our image abroad?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think sufficiently serious for the Commonwealth to intervene

in relation to mandatory sentencing laws as such. I guess I'm a little

bit troubled about ones that relate to people under the age of 18. This

is a difficult issue. If you live in a high crime rate area you'll

support mandatory sentencing. Or as on the other hand I think everybody's

just distressed at the suicide of a boy of 15. The Attorney General is

writing to the Territory and the State of Western Australia regarding

that.

LYNEHAM:

And what if the Territory and the State tell you to mind your own business?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Paul, one thing at a time. I mean we don't normally want to

be interfering in these things unless there are compelling circumstances.

Sentencing is a matter that is the prerogative of the States.

LYNEHAM:

The Parliament [inaudible] euthanasia didn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, that was a very special case.

LYNEHAM:

What do you think of the idea of work gangs of illegal immigrants picking

fruit?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we're going to have a look at it because it is a problem. And

Philip Ruddock is right to say let's have a look at it. There's

a shortage of people. There's a complaint about the cost of keeping

people in detention. What Philip Ruddock is saying is let's have

a look at it.

LYNEHAM:

But isn't it harking back to the old chain gang image?

PRIME MINISTER:

No no, not if you pay people proper rates.

LYNEHAM:

Yeah but your Minister says most of the money they get will be taken

up paying for their detention costs so they'll end up like slaves

won't they.

PRIME MINISTER:

But Paul, look, you're damned if you do and if you're damned

if you don't on this one. People don't like illegal immigrants

landing here without an invitation. On the other hand we are expected

quite properly when people are here to afford reasonable living conditions

for them and to treat them in a humane way. And we're trying to strike

a balance.

LYNEHAM:

Did you see the newspaper reports at the weekend saying that your Government

has booked through SOCOG 14 hotel rooms for Ministers and staff for 20

days at a cost of more than $100,000?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I did.

LYNEHAM:

Is that right?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't know whether it's precisely correct. I saw the

reports and I've learnt that sometimes they can be inaccurate. But

our Ministers are expected to be in Sydney at the time of the Olympic

Games to entertain all of the visitors that are coming, to talk to visiting

businessman as part of their job. I can tell you Paul, if they weren't

there and you had a story from some visiting businessman saying I wanted

to invest billions in Australia but I couldn't find any Minister

to talk to. Now let's get a sense of perspective about this please.

LYNEHAM:

And there was also a report at the weekend that you're installing

a coolroom at Kirribilli House to chill food and drinks for when you're

entertaining. Sounds better and better doesn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well put that way of course. But this is just a suggestion to better

preserve the food and drink which is the normal part of running the place,

Paul.

LYNEHAM:

And you don't think there's any irony when one harks back to

the things that some of your colleagues were saying when Labor was in

government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well all Oppositions can be guilty of feckless point scoring on these

sorts of things, and we probably were. But you've got to look at

each thing on its merits and on the merits I'm very happy to have

my expenditure compared with that of any of my predecessors.

LYNEHAM:

The National Textiles matter Prime Minister, why did you, one of the

most experienced politicians in the country, become so closely involved

with the fate of this company despite the obvious danger signals of your

brother being the chairman.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I didn't get involved with the fate of the company at all.

What I got involved in was helping 340 workers who'd been thrown

out of a job without their entitlements in a depressed area of Australia.

LYNEHAM:

But before that you had a meeting with Philip Bart, the major shareholder,

and with Joe Brender of Bruck Industries. Surely you....

PRIME MINISTER:

You know what I told them? I told them that their application for help

would be determined by Senator Minchin. I kept right away from it, and

Senator Minchin knocked them back. And I mean he had this ridiculous situation

where we knocked back the company but we helped the workers, and I'm

getting criticised. The Labor Party was calling on me to help the workers,

they were also calling on me to help the company. But we knocked the company

back but we helped the workers. None of the help we gave has gone to my

brother, not a cent. And for good measure he's being investigated

by the Securities Commission, not that there's any suggestion he's

done anything wrong. I don't believe he has but that's a matter

for the law to determine. I mean how on Earth can that be a conflict of

interest, how on Earth can that be wrong.

LYNEHAM:

In your own words you say it's a scare a day on the GST between

now and July. You're also behind in the polls, you spent much of

last week on the political back foot and Parliament returns tomorrow.

A bit of test of nerves ahead?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yes, but it's part of the game. I mean it's just an inevitable

part of the job. There won't be an election until the end of next

year. But Paul, I don't know what's going to happen at the next

election. I don't take anything for granted. We have a strong economy,

and we've got the guts to carry out reforms. Tax reform will be good

for Australia. Average families will be $40, $50 a week better off as

a result of tax reform.

LYNEHAM:

And they'll stay focused on that despite the scare a day?

PRIME MINISTER:

They will certainly be focused on the benefits when they arrive. I'm

committed to tax reform because it's good for the country. If I go

through a period of unpopularity in the process so be it. You don't

get elected to this office to be popular every hour of every day all the

years you're in office. You have good times and bad times, favourable

times and unfavourable times.

LYNEHAM:

And how would you describe these times right now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Interesting, challenging, good for the soul.

LYNEHAM:

Thanks for your time.

[ends]

Transcript 11470