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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11474


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: 17/04/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11474

Subjects: Liberal Convention; Social policy; childcare



The Prime Minister John Howard has signalled a major

shift in his government's approach to economic reform at the Liberal

Party's convention in Melbourne over the weekend. Instead of the

tough talk of rationalism it seems we'll now be hearing about the

human face of reform. The first tangible evidence of this is the $240

million family package announced at the weekend. The Prime Minister has

joined us in the AM Studio and he's speaking to Philip Williams in



Good morning Prime Minister, first to the stock markets,

they're about to open and it looks like it's going to be blood

on the floor today. Are you worried about the effect on the Australian



Well Phil, I don't think, or Philip, I don't

think I should start speculating about what might happen on the stock

market I'll leave that to the participants and the stock market analysts.

What I can say, and I think it's important that I do say it, that

the fundamentals of the Australian economy are rock solid and the world

economy, looked at in a generic way is now stronger and has been growing

at a very powerful rate now for longer than at any time for the last twenty

of thirty years. The American economy is very strong, our economy is equally

as strong. There has been a rebound within the Asian economies, Europe

is getting better, Japan is showing signs of recovery so if you look at

the economic fundamentals, economic growth, inflation rates, interest

rates, all of those things, they're all very positive. As to what

happens on the stock market particularly in relation to tech stocks well

that's a matter for the participants, I don't think it's

appropriate for prime ministers to start making predictions about that.


But as you say we've had a great run in economic

growth, are you concerned about the effects, the combined effects of interest

rate rises not here but in the United States and the inflation figures

in the United States flowing on and are you worried that there might possibly

have to be adjustments to the budget projections here in Australia?


Well I'm not going to get into to talk about the

Budget, it will be brought down on the 9th of May and that's

only three weeks tomorrow. But Philip the fundamentals are very strong.

Whilst I don't talk about future movements in interest rates I do

note that compared with four years ago the average home buyer in Australia

is $245 a month better off. You've had quarter after quarter after

quarter of strong economic growth. The latest IMF forecasts for both the

American economy, the other strong economies of the world and the Australian

economy is a very positive one so if you look around, you talk to private

sector economists, all of them remain quite positive about the Australian

economy. I don't get into quantitative predictions about the levels

of growth but the general direction is very strong and the best indicator,

the social indicator if you like of economic strength is job creation

and we've created 650,000 jobs or more over the last four years and

that is terrific news.


Prime Minister talking about social things back to the

Liberal Convention. Why has it taken four years for your government to

try and explain why hard economics equals happy Australians in the end?


Well Philip I've said those sorts of things before,

perhaps I said them better at the weekend than I've said them before

but I've certainly said them before and I have never seen this disconnect

between economic achievement and social happiness, the two are inextricably

linked. If you don't have a social dividend or a social bonus out

of your economic policies you shouldn't follow them. We don't

change the economy, bring in economic policies for some kind of intellectual

gratification we do it because it satisfies human need and provides families

with jobs and provides poorer people with social welfare support and encourages

people to take risks which are for the long term health and benefit of

the economy.


Is there a danger though that people will see this new

warmer, shall we say cuddlier approach as a cynical rebadging of the party

image ahead of the next election which clearly, or the election campaign

has started judging by the atmosphere at the convention?


Well Philip the warmth of 653,000 more jobs has been

there for a number of years, that's been building over the last four

years. The lower interest rates have been enjoyed progressively over the

last four years. The lower inflation, the increased choices through the

taxation system for Australian families, the benefits of a 30% tax rebate

for private health insurance. People are now flooding back into private

health insurance. Now that didn't start happening at the weekend

that's been happening now over a long period of time. But this idea

that we've suddenly decided to produce some social policies because

we think it's politically desirable to do so is wrong, we've

been producing these socially beneficial policies for four years.


You haven't been explaining them though in the way

that you explained them on the weekend telling Australians that the rationalism

perhaps went a little too far, that it's all about creating human

happiness. I've never heard you talk like that.


Well Philip perhaps I explain things in a way I haven't

before. I don't walk away from that. If people think that well let

them think that. The important thing is what we've done. And we have

from the moment we were elected, we have been trying to create jobs, we've

been trying to help families and we've done so. And when you have

a strong economy you have more people in work, you have lower taxes, you're

able to help more needy families and we've been very courageous in

an area like the Job Network. We copped a lot of flak over that but the

Job Network is outperforming the old Commonwealth Employment services

by a long way. So this government has been working on the social dimension

if I can put it that way ever since it came to office. It perhaps...

it received a greater focus and was put in a more articulate fashion at

the weekend, well so be it but the important thing I say to your listeners

this morning is that we haven't discovered at the weekend for the

first time the importance of the social dimension, it's been there

from the beginning.


OK, childcare. What are these changes all about? What

are you aiming to do?


Well it's really to provide Philip more flexibility.

We make a very big provision for childcare and in the tax plan coming

in on the 1st of July there'll be more choices available

for Australian families because there'll be more benefits for people

who choose for one parent to be at home when a child is very young as

well as continued strong support for childcare. Now in addition to that

we're going to generate several thousand more places for people who

might be shift workers, they might be in remote regional areas, they might

have a sick child or the pattern of working which the parent or parents

are involved may be such that the current childcare options are simply

not suitable.

WILLIAMS:Now this is in the home?


In the home, yes. It's taking the carer to the home.


Prime Minister thanks very much for your time.




Transcript 11474