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Transcript 11790

Doorstop Interview - Richmond, NSW

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: 12/07/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11790

Subjects: unemployment figures; Andrew Thomson; NSW Liberal Party; political donations; Aston by-election.

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

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, unemployment figures just out.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I have to say that they're encouraging. You might have expected, given the negative growth figure in the December quarter, you might have expected them to have gone up a little bit. So I'm very pleased that the level has remained below 7% and that is encouraging. We have now seen 817 000 more jobs created over the last five years. I want to see unemployment go still lower, but given all the doomsday talk from the Opposition and their attempts to talk down the economy, I think it is a very encouraging result.

JOURNALIST:

Where's it headed now do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it depends on growth. If you have more growth, you will have more jobs and you'll have lower unemployment. And we are now back on a growth path. So I'm hopeful about the future, I never want to get into particular figures but many people were predicting a higher unemployment rate today and I think most people will see this as a very encouraging figure.

JOURNALIST:

Were you aware Mr Thomson was undertaking some Treaty Committee work in the US?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I was aware that he was there as part of the normal study entitlement, but I don't examine each and every one of the study leave applications made by Members of Parliament, that's done by one of my ministerial colleagues. But look, he's made a statement, he's coming back, I expect him to fulfil his parliamentary duties.

JOURNALIST:

Have you told him to be back by the start of the new term?

PRIME MINISTER:

He will be back by the time parliament convenes. He said that in his statement.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, do you think he should pay back the money for studying in the US, especially since he's not planning on continuing on?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if he's entitled to something, then he's entitled to it. If he's not he shouldn't have got it. But my understanding is that he's entitled to it. But you'll have to pursue that with him, that's not for me. I understand that he's there on study leave on a study, in the same way that other Members of Parliament are. I mean, there are Members of Parliament on both sides doing this all the time, so I think you have to have regard to that.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think he should be entitled to it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think members of Parliament are entitled to do study provided it is related to their parliamentary duties and he's Chairman of the Treaties' Committee of the Parliament and he's done work in relation to treaty compliance. So on the face of it he is entitled to it. But as to the details I don't carry them in my head.

JOURNALIST:

But if he's planning on leaving do you think he should still be entitled to it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think anybody who enters Parliament on a certain basis is entitled to, providing they're within the rules, to do these things.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] anger out there though Prime Minister that he's used this study opportunity at a time when he's obviously not going to remain in Parliament.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look I think people should stick by the rules and my understanding is that he's stuck by the rules. But I don't run these things. You'll have to go and ask him or the Special Minister of State about the rules. I don't run them.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] reform those rules?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I think there is a very strong case for members of Parliament, provided the work contributes to their work as a member of Parliament, to undertake study tours. I really do yes.

JOURNALIST:

Should it be [inaudible] going to be leaving in the next six or twelve months?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, some people never know whether they're going to be leaving in the next six or twelve months. They don't know whether they're going to be defeated in an election. So it's a bit hard. That would be a very hard rule to apply.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, rumblings in recent week or so about the New South Wales party leadership. Do you still hold full confidence in this Ms Chikarovski?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well yes absolutely.

JOURNALIST:

You wouldn't support her removal?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I wouldn't. I think she's doing an excellent job. It's always difficult being an opposition leader and she has my total support.

JOURNALIST:

Is it going to be damaging to you for the federal election if this speculation just continues? It seems to come up every month or two.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have any preference towards either work-for-the-dole or case managing the long term unemployed in order to...?

PRIME MINISTER:

Which news are you from?

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Could you just repeat your question.

JOURNALIST:

We're looking at unemployment. Do you prefer a work-for-the-dole scheme or case managing the individual unemployed?

PRIME MINISTER:

I prefer the work-for-the-dole approach because it's produced better outcomes than the system it replaced. That's the important thing.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the Thomson affair will harm the Government's chances in the Aston by-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I think what people in Aston will be thinking of as they vote on Saturday is that interest rates in Australia now are on average $300 to $400 a month lower than they were when Labor was government, and when the Labor Party last held the seat of Aston interest rates were at 17%. I think that sort of thing will be in people's minds far more than anything else.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the political donation disclosure rules are sufficient? Do you think there should be more disclosure or any more information..?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have always as a party overdisclosed if I can put it like that. We've always taken the view that if you have sort of a Markson Sparks arrangement that the Labor Party have apparently got that you should disclose the individual donations. My advice is that that's what the Liberal Party does. But as to the mechanics of that you should go and talk to the party organisation. I don't handle the party's finances. I leave that to the party organisation.

JOURNALIST:

Are you feeling a bit more confident about Aston this weekend?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Aston is going to be very tough. It always is tough in a by-election. But I would say to undecided voters in Aston if you vote Labor you are rewarding somebody who's just carped and niggled and been a negative political force for the last five and a half years and has not done anything to build an alternative plan for Australia's future. At least this government, even its critics would have to acknowledge, has fought hard to implement age that it regards as necessary and we have a lot of results. We've got the runs on the board. We've got a lower unemployment rate, 817 000 more people in work, much lower interest rates, very strong growth, strong industrial relations reform. We've doubled the number of apprentices in this country. I mean this is meant to be something that the Labor Party was connected with but we've actually doubled the number of apprenticeships in Australia. We've given opportunities to the working men and women of Australia and their children that weren't provided by Labor. They're my messages to the undecided in Aston and I ask them to think about it and don't reward political guerilla tactics. Reward a government that's tried to do the right thing for the country.

[ends]

Transcript 11790