PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11789

Interview with Alan Jones, Radio 2UE, Sydney

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: 12/02/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11789

Subjects: WA election result; One Nation; Exports; Woodside Shell takeover

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

JONES:

After a tough weekend no doubt, Prime Minister Howard is on the line. Prime Minister good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Alan.

JONES:

A tough weekend for the national leader of the Liberal Party, hammered in WA. You've lost 8.8% of the vote. How do you rebuild the Liberal vote given the problems in Queensland and New South Wales, Jeff Kennett beaten in Victoria and you're the national leader?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well first of all you understand why the result happened. And it did, despite what people are endeavouring to do this morning and through the media and otherwise, it happened overwhelmingly because people in Western Australia for one reason or another wanted a change in Government. The idea that people don't distinguish between State and Federal Governments is quite wrong. However, it does mean that the party organisation in that state does need to be rebuilt and it also means that we must always remember that State and Federal elections are different. And the Court Government took a number of decisions in my view over the last 18 months that drove people towards minor parties such as One Nation. For example the decision they took on the forestry industry meant that forestry workers, blue collar workers in regional parts of Western Australia had no option but to go to One Nation because both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party at the State level were really in effect promising to destroy their jobs.

JONES:

.what people are saying, you talk to people out on the street and they are saying that they can't understand how the Liberal Party can ask their supporters to vote for the Labor Party ahead of One Nation and that has precipitated what Pauline Hanson is saying 'alright we will preference against all sitting members'. Court had more sitting members than the Labor Party and the Pauline Hanson preferences have handed victory away from the Liberal Party to the Labor Party. How could you go into a Queensland election telling voters in Queensland to vote for a Labor Party guilty of rorting ahead of Pauline Hanson?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan a lot of Liberal Party people three years ago when the Liberal Party preferenced One Nation ahead of Labor objected very strongly to that. One of the things you've got to bear in mind is that views on this preferencing thing vary throughout the Liberal Party and throughout the country. There were many Liberals in Queensland in 1998 who voted Labor in protest against our preference decisions in relation to One Nation. I think what comes out of the Western Australian result is that a vote for One Nation is really a vote for a change in Government. A vote for One Nation in the case of Western Australia was a vote for Labor.

JONES:

In which case if Pauline Hanson at the next Federal Election says that she will preference against all sitting MP's that could cost you the Government.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan a lot of things could cost us Government. One of the things that I will be saying repeatedly between now and the next Federal Election to potential One Nation voters is that if you are by normal inclination a Liberal supporter, by voting One Nation and following their preference advice you're voting for Mr Beazley. Now in the end politics is about choice, it's not about deals being made for people outside the ballot box. In the end everybody has a vote and in the end people who are contemplating voting One Nation at the next Federal Election should ponder the consequences if they don't want a Labor Government for following One Nation's preference advice.

JONES:

Can you understand why someone wouldn't vote in Western Australia for Labor or Liberal, I mean for example, and this will happen in Queensland, would anyone with a dairy farm or a dairy cow vote for the Liberal Party in Western Australia or Queensland at a State or a Federal Election?

PRIME MINISTER:

As it happens in the case of the dairy industry the Court Government was the only State Government in Australia to provide a compensation package for the Dairy Farmers.

JONES:

But they don't want that Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they certainly.

JONES:

They'd rather not be wiped out.

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm sorry they do, they prefer it to getting nothing.

JONES:

Oh sure.

PRIME MINISTER:

Which is what is happening to the dairy farmers in Queensland..

JONES:

But who wiped them out.

PRIME MINISTER:

.the Labor Governments. Could I just go back to Western Australia? You are right to say that you can't blame some people for having voted other than Labor or Liberal in Western Australia. And a good example of that would be a person who is a timber worker. And the timber workers in Western Australia were abandoned by both sides of State politics, they weren't abandoned by the Federal Government. Wilson Tuckey, the West Australian Minister for Forests in my Government is probably their strongest supporter. And one of the reasons, in my opinion, why One Nation did well in Western Australia was the decision taken by the Court Government 18 months ago to walk away from the forestry agreement it made with my Government. And that sent the signal to blue collar workers in regional areas of Western Australia that not only was the Labor Party indifferent to your fate but so was the Coalition. And I think that sent precisely the wrong signal because they had no one to turn to. In the Federal election in Western Australia they'll know that they've got a very sympathetic Federal Government.

JONES:

But just talking about the Federal election. I mean, are you - you can't say publicly, I know, but I'm going to ask you the question - how hamstrung are you by a National Party that simply is not delivering? It is not relating to the people west of the Great Dividing Range. You got less than 6%, or they did at the last election, Federal, less than 6% of the vote. But they got 16 seats in the Parliament. I'm looking at the figures from the weekend. They've got 3.15% of the vote. They plainly don't represent rural Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan, two things about that, the National Party has only ever represented part of rural Australia. We, in the Liberal Party, hold more rural seats than do the National Party. And something that's been completely overlooked in Western Australia is that it looks as though the National Party is going to actually end up not, in net terms, having lost any seats in the Lower House.

JONES:

Well, how have you got seven seats when you win 3% of the vote?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because you're only running in a small number of seats.

JONES:

But see, when you've got a dairy industry decimated, a sugar industry that's suffered due to deregulation but no one's paying less for a Mars Bar or a soft drink - the pork industry's been damaged with cheap pork imports from Canada and Denmark, the citrus industry is devastated with subsidised oranges from California, you've got Australia's disease free status, the bushies are saying at risk, because you're bringing in salmon from Canada, chicken from Thailand, talk of grapes from California and apples from New Zealand. The farmer out there is saying, how can anyone in Canberra be so dopey as to be doing this and still expect us to vote for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Alan, can I go through a couple of those industries. You appear to have ignored the fact that we gave a massive rescue package to the sugar industry.

JONES:

But does it matter when you're wiped out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm sorry, we stopped many people in the sugar industry being wiped out. That rescue package we gave to the Queensland sugar industry about nine months ago prevented many of those people from being wiped out. It's just not right to say that the sugar industry was wiped out. We stopped it from being wiped out. And as far as.

JONES:

They've been dumped on.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, hang on. I mean, Alan, look, I, as you know, I am prepared to cop criticism and I'll listen to any criticism but when, with respect, a statement is made that ignores what my Government has done for a particular industry I will defend what my Government has done. I mean, it is very easy to blame all of the problems of the bush on imports. You've got to remember that the other side of the equation is exports. You talk about the pork industry - the pork industry in Australia now is doing extremely well because with our help they have got into export markets, particularly in Singapore and only the other day representatives of the pork industry apologised to John Anderson for the hard time they'd given him and the Government 18 months ago.

JONES:

Let me read to you, let me read to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, please, I really have to make.

JONES:

Well, I think that's rubbish, with respect.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it's not.

JONES:

Look, Prime Minister, I'm reading from, now listen, I'm reading from - I recommend you read - the document is called 'Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries - Monitoring and Evaluation' and it shows 24% of the total farm income in America comes from Government subsidies, 49% of total farm income in the European Union from Government subsidies, 65% of total farm income in Japan government subsidies and in Australia, we're asking our farmers, our bushies to compete with products overseas that are fully subsidised by government, whose culture says, we don't care what the rest of the world does, we're going to keep a third of our population in rural and regional areas. Australia can't compete when we talk free trade and that's not what they are talking.

JONES:

Well, Alan, I agree that other countries are behaving unfairly towards Australia that is why we have taken the Americans successfully to the World Trade Organisation over our lamb exports, and that OECD report does drive home the fact that those countries are behaving unfairly towards Australian exports. But it doesn't alter the fact that the long term future, because of the size of the Australian market, the long-term future for our industries lies in winning more export markets. Because we have a small domestic market the future of our industries lies in winning more exports. I go back to the pork industry. The domestic pork industry in this country was facing ruin three years ago and there was understandable anger in that community. But because of help we gave them it is now a relatively successful industry and that was the point I was making. A lot of what you say is right and I don't for a moment disagree with it but there is no easy solution. If you stop imports you won't export and if you don't export out of Australia you will go broke because this is a small domestic market and the long-term future of this country lies in winning more exports.

JONES:

Well Mark McGovern, the Queensland University Technology School of Business, says that the value of Australia's raw and processed food and fibre market is $55 billion and of that $39 billion is consumed domestically. Why would we be trying to knock off the $39 billion which is a domestic market in order to boost what is only a $16 billion export market?

PRIME MINISTER:

But Alan that makes the assumption that you can't increase that $55 billion. That makes the assumption that you have a completely static market. Anybody in business who operates on the basis of a static market will eventually by definition go broke.

JONES:

Well when since you've been in Parliament has ever our exports paid for our imports? Haven't we got to stop this business of just willy nilly allowing imports to come into this country to the tune of $100 billion a year?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah but Alan once again that assumes the situation is static. If we had not tried to win more exports over the last five years we would have gone further behind. Of course Australia is a heavy importer of goods and services and there's nothing wrong with that provided you continue to have strong export performance. We have frequently run a deficit in relation to our trade account but if you stop exporting you're not going to necessarily remove the need for imports. I mean a lot of the things we import we don't make here.

JONES:

Our automotive trade deficit, we can make cars. Our automotive trade deficit is $6 billion.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan I understand that. But look Alan, you've got to understand that the biggest customer Australia has, take a country like Japan, Australia's best customer, and if we didn't sell iron ore and coal and other raw materials to Japan we would be a much poorer country. And the other side of that of course is that as Japan is our best customer Japan naturally expects Australia to import many of the goods and services that Japan produces. And you can't turn around and say well look we expect you to take our coal and iron ore and our bauxite but we're not going to take any of your exports.

JONES:

When it comes to agriculture Japan pleases itself don't they.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I agree with that.

JONES:

And that's what the bushies are on about.

PRIME MINISTER:

But Alan if we didn't have Japan as a market for coal and iron ore this country would be a lot poorer.

JONES:

But see the National Party, I come back, are about 3% of the vote, 6% of the national vote. I mean the bushie just sees himself unrepresented. I mean what for example are you going to do in Western Australia with this Royal Dutch Shell bid for control of Woodside which is our only international world class energy project? I mean you've got the power to knock off foreign investment review board approval. Are you going to approve that which means our only major international world class energy product goes overseas?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan the law requires me at this stage not to publicly express an opinion on that..

JONES:

Correct, correct.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I'm not going to no matter how much...

JONES:

No I understand.

PRIME MINISTER:

But having said that let me address the general issue separately from that particular case. I don't want this country to become a branch office economy and it won't. And the concerns that people have about it are concerns that I share. And I have never supported an approach that sees this country become a branch office economy. By the same token people have got to remember that just as there are American and Japanese and British multinational companies so there are very large Australian companies that have very large overseas operations.

JONES:

But you can block proposals, which are contrary to the national interest.

PRIME MINISTER:

We have power under the law to block proposals if the view is taken that those proposals are not in the national interest. Yes we do.

JONES:

One final thing, do you agree that it is in your political interest, and after all you can't make any noises from opposition, is it in your political interest to continue to have Liberal leaders at state and National Party leaders and Liberal leaders and National Party leaders at a federal level like John Anderson saying that the One Nation Party must be put last and we are encouraging you to vote for the Labor Party before you vote for One Nation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Alan the important thing is to us to persuade people to vote for the Liberal Party and the National Party.

JONES:

John Anderson's telling people in Queensland this Saturday to put One Nation last - telling bushies to put One Nation last. How can he expect National Party support when he takes that view.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the important thing he's saying is to put..is asking those bushies to vote for his party. I mean once a political party's principle message is a negative one it doesn't have a lot of influence. I mean what I'm saying to people who are unhappy and contemplating voting for One Nation, is don't do it and follow their preference advice if you don't want a Labor government. It's the responsibility of me as leader of the Liberal Party to give people reasons to vote for the Liberal Party. That's my concern. Not other concerns. They are secondary. I mean in the end I will get re-elected if enough people vote for my party.

JONES:

We've got to go, you've got to go and I've got to go. We'll talk again soon.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Alan.

[ends]

Transcript 11789