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Transcript 11791

Radio Interview with Steve Price, 3AW

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: 11791

Subjects: Aston by-election, tax, unemployment, Tony Abbott, Andrew Thompson, 2008 Olympics

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

PRICE:

Prime Minister John Howard joins us on the line from Sydney. Thanks for your time Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

How are you Steve?

PRICE:

Different feeling out there to Ryan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's a different situation Steve. The by-election came about through the death of a very popular sitting member. People understand why there's a need for a by-election. When you have by-elections through retirement, no matter how long-serving a member may have been, there's always a slightly different feeling. But, nobody is angry about the by-election, they understand it's been completely unavoidable. We have a good candidate, Chris Pearce is a very good local. He's got good strong connections. He's been on the council, he's involved in local community organisations, church, family lives there, knows what's its like to be paying off a mortgage. I think we've got a show. I think it's going to be very tight and by-elections are always a risk for governments - particularly governments that have been in for a year or two.

PRICE:

When you heard of the death of Peter Nugent and you knew you had to fight another by-election, did you in your wildest dreams think you'd be this close a day out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't know how close it is. The last poll I heard, well we had two polls, one of them says Labor's in front the other says we're in front.

PRICE:

Morgan have got you a percentage point in front on a two party-preferred.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's . with a normal margin for error, that's line ball stuff isn't it?

PRICE:

It is.

PRIME MINISTER:

You've got to remember we were 4.2% at the last election. Now you take out the personal following of the deceased sitting member. Doesn't leave you much room does it?

PRICE:

If you win this, if you pull this off, does it change the dynamics of the federal poll we're likely to have later in the year? It would be the start, it would surely have to be interpreted as the start of a very big come back by you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Steve, I'm not going to speculate about what people might say if we win or if we lose. We've got a day of campaigning to go and I've been in this game a long time and I'm not getting into that sort of business. I will say to people listening to this programme who are undecided, and they're voting in Aston, I just ask them not to reward the Labor Party's 5 « years of just being negative and always criticising and never offering anything positive. If I've got a simple message to undecided voters in Aston, it is that this is an opportunity to say to the Labor Party, if you want to be taken seriously as an alternative government, give us a policy and don't just rely on criticising the Liberals.

PRICE:

Things got pretty nasty out there. Peter Costello and Kim Beazley were both jostled, we had that incident with your security staff or a minder yesterday. Kim Beazley went one step further though, he called your Treasurer today a liar. I'll just play a very small grab of Kim Beazley for you.

BEAZLEY:

I did not at any stage in my remarks express an intention to raise income tax. Not once did I say anything like that. So you now have for yourselves proof positive of the way the Liberals are lying in this campaign.

PRICE:

Lying in this campaign Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think that is an outrageous thing for Mr Beazley to say. What Mr Beazley said, and I've seen the transcript, in answer to a question from Neil Mitchell, he said that the tax mix in Australia is wrong. Well, when you talk about the tax mix you mean the proportions between direct tax and indirect tax. He thinks the mix is wrong and he's in favour of roll back and roll back means you're going to have less indirect tax. And he's going to provide all these additional benefits. Peter was making the entirely reasonable point that in order to meet those commitments he'll have to lift income tax. I think that is an entirely reasonable proposition. After all, that's what Stephen Conroy was saying wasn't he?

PRICE:

I went out there myself this morning and I talked to some people who were gathered watching Neil do his broadcast and it seemed to me they were very focused and quite angry on a lot of local issues like transport, public transport and roads. Obviously they were upset about things like petrol. But it seemed to me the majority of the people, certainly those I spoke to, GST was not any longer an issue.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know, that may or may not be the case. I believe that people, even though they may have had reservations about the GST when it was introduced, I believe that the Australian people are dead against a rollback. I think it would add confusion, I think small businessmen want rollback like a hole in the head, and people recognise that if you're going to rollback which is take the GST off some items you've got to make up the revenue from some where. And that is Peter Costello's point about what Mr Beazley said. I think people are moving on from the GST. That's not to say everybody agrees with it. But we did need it and heavens above we are an aging population and as the years go by we need a revenue source that doesn't put an increasing burden on personal income tax. And remember that the GST goes to the states and it gives the states more wherewithal with which to provide the schools and the hospitals which are their responsibility.

PRICE:

Jobless figures out today again show that drift away from full-time employment towards part-time employment. Does that not concern you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Steve it bounces around. It really does bounce around quite a bit and I don't think that you can, in relation to that balance between full-time and part-time, don't believe that you can read too much into one month. The figures today were quite encouraging. People expected them to be a bit worse. People thought that unemployment might jump over the 7% and the fact that it's remained stable even though we had that dip in growth in the December quarter, that's really very encouraging. I drew a lot of heart from those figures today. I was expecting them to be a little worse and most people were and I derive a lot of comfort from those figures. I think they indicate that there is a resilience in the labour market. And all the signs now are that having had that blip in December we're starting to come back. So I draw a bit of comfort and interestingly the unemployment rate in Victoria is down quite well. It's about 6.2% which is about half what it peaked at in the early 1990s when Mr Crean was the Minister for Employment.

PRICE:

Tony Abbott during the week and his comments on poverty, wasn't he just telling the truth?

PRIME MINISTER:

Tony Abbott was unfairly commented upon and he was quite literally verballed. Tony was merely saying that some people through their own behaviour contribute to their poverty. He wasn't saying that we shouldn't help and he wasn't saying that that was the only cause of poverty. He was simply saying that the behaviour of some people contributes to their poverty and I think he was just outrageously verballed by some people in the press and by some spokesmen for welfare organisations. They didn't stop to look at what he said and we need to be able to debate these issues in a more rational way and not have people labelled as being insensitive and heartless merely for stating that in some cases people through their own conduct contribute to their poverty.

PRICE:

Your former Minister, current backbencher Andrew Thomson and the row over whether he is or isn't studying overseas. He seems to have clarified today that he's not enrolled to study but he's on a study trip and that he'd be back but he does intend to go back to study at some time. Is his explanation satisfactory to you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the explanation that he's given to me today is. My advice, it's based on what he's said and what I've been told, is that he is in the United States on an authorised study trip which is part of his entitlement as a member. He is studying the application of certain foreign treaties. That is relevant to his work as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Treaties. He is returning to Parliament in August. I expect him to fulfil his duties until the Parliament is dissolved and of course he won't be standing at the election because he's no longer the Liberal candidate and he's going to retire. And on top of that he's volunteered to pay his airfare and bearing in mind that if his explanation is valid and I have no reason to dispute it, he's strictly speaking not obliged to do that but because of the I guess negative perception that was created he's decided to do that and I congratulate him for that. I think he's done the right thing.

PRICE:

Do you understand why the public get a little upset when you've got a 40 year old bloke who's going to be out of Parliament, he's only been there since 96, he's probably going to walk away with a pension of around fifty grand a year. The mere mortals around the world can't do that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't know what his pension is. He will have some pension I'm not quite sure what it is. I don't know.

PRICE:

It's estimated to be $51,500.

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not saying you're wrong, I just don't know what it is. Look, I understand there is a sensitivity about the entitlements of Members of Parliament. And I'm always very keen to warn government members to be careful about these things. Now, there was some questions raised in the eyes or minds of the public on this. And you will be aware that I have certain views and you are aware that Mr Thompson is coming back.

PRICE:

Can I just finally ask you. thank you very much for your time. can I finally ask you, I was speaking to Kevin Gosper about 20 minutes ago. Do you have a personal favourite on who should get the 2008 Olympics?. The bid's now down to 3, Toronto, Paris and Beijing.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm the Prime Minister of Asutralia and it's not in the interests of Australia to express a personal view. I will accept and support whatever decision is taken by the International Olympic Committee. Australia, of course, has important relationships with all three countries. With Canada, a sister Commonwealth country. France, a very close relation. China, very important country for Australia, a very important power in our region. I will support whatever decision is taken. I don't think it's helpful for Australia if I start expressing a personal preference for one city over another.

PRICE:

Can I give you a tip? When you want to come to Melbourne on business, don't come down that morning because you're always going to hit that fog.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very interesting. It's the first time though Steve I've been caught in a fog in Melbourne in 27 years. Can I tell you that.

PRICE:

I bet you weren't happy as you went around and around.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm philosophical about those things. I think RAAF has very good pilots and when they come back and say we're sorry we can't land I say well, all I'm interested in is a safe landing you do whatever you have to. I never get worked up about those things. There's no point. And what's more, there's no alternative.

PRICE:

Thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay.

[ends]

Transcript 11791