PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11807

Doorstop Interview, 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: 13/06/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11807

Subjects: Opposition spending; donations; Governor-General; death penalty; Greens, Aston byelection; Newspoll; HIH insurance; US visit; Donald McDonald.

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

PRIME MINISTER:

I just want to say to start with that I've noticed over the last few weeks that the Opposition Leader has been running a double game on government spending. On the one hand he's saying that the Government's embarked on an irresponsible spending spree, but in the next breath he's going around the country and out of the side of his mouth offering every interest group imaginable not less but more government spending. So in order to give him an opportunity to clear the air I've issued a list today of government investments over a four year period in areas that are all critical to Australia's future. And I'm inviting Mr Beazley to say yes or no to each of the items on that list. Does he support the spending or is he against it? And if he's silent and fails to endorse any area I will assume that that area would be under threat if he were to become Prime Minister. You can't have it both ways, you can't criticise the government for having invested in the country's future and then in the next breath say the investment is not enough. Because that in reality is what he's been doing and that double standard has really got to stop. Now I'd be very happy to answer questions.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) $25,000 (inaudible) give the money back?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't know the circumstances of that, I'm not going to comment.

JOURNALIST:

Well in general do you think that political parties should take money from murder suspects or crooked businessmen?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think in general political parties should have a strict code of ethics and in general political parties should not be under any control of the people who donate to them. And in that way the Liberal Party's quite different from the Labor Party. The unions control the Labor Party as well as donating to them. The business community does not control the Liberal Party, that's the big difference.

JOURNALIST:

But hasn't your Cabinet basically be hired out to business?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

. part of the fundraising drive?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Well do you think .how do you explain to the general public that if you're a wealthy corporate executive or work for a wealthy corporation, you and your executives see you for up to five or, or the Ministers up to ten or fifteen times a year. But if you belong to a community group and you don't donate then it's much more difficult to get in to see you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's not difficult for community groups to see me. I spent several hours yesterday morning with community groups in my own electorate and I'll be spending a lot of time with them in the next few weeks as well.

JOURNALIST:

So they have the same access as members of (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER:

People who want to see me can see me.

JOURNALIST:

How confident are you that no donation, no (inaudible) donations given and Federal Government contracts that are won?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm very confident that the Government's decisions have not been influenced by donations.

JOURNALIST:

How can you be that confident?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because I run an ethical government.

JOURNALIST:

So you are absolutely sure that.

PRIME MINISTER:

What I'm telling you is that we are not influenced by donations. The difference between us and Labor is that they are controlled by their donors, the unions control the Labor Party and the unions are the greatest source of campaign finance for the Labor Party and they control them. Our donors do not control us. We listen to our donors, we listen to the business community, but not any decision that I'm aware of has been in any way influenced by a level of financial contribution. We don't operate that way.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on one of Sir William Deane's last interviews as Governor-General he's talked about in order to advance reconciliation we need a formal ceremony (inaudible). What do you say about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the best way to advance reconciliation in this country is to redress the areas of disadvantage. I think it's very important that we do that.

JOURNALIST:

So you don't agree with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it's very important that we address the areas of disadvantage. In the long run it's what you do for people rather than what you say or what you write down that influences or affects their lives.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) his replacement is quoted today as saying he will wear clerical garb on Sundays and set up a chapel in Yarralumla. Do you think that that sends the wrong message about the separation of church and state?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think your question is absurd. I mean what a person's private religious views are is entirely his or her business. I think you are being quite unreasonable in suggesting there's anything improper about that. And what he does on Sunday and how he devotes his time in his moments of reflection and recreation is surely his business. As are yours and mine.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister a lot of people for obvious reasons are talking at the moment about the death penalty. Can you ever see the day when we could have that in this country?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is a matter for State Governments, I don't think it will ever come back. I have a pragmatic opposition to the death penalty that is based on the belief that from time to time the law makes mistakes and you can't bring somebody back after you've executed them.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think about the demands the Greens are making in relation to the Aston by-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it's important to bear in mind that that the Liberal Party has followed a very balanced environmental policy. We've invested a great deal in the environment. But we're not prepared to go so far in one direction as to put the jobs of Australians at risk or to risk the reasonable investments of business. I think it's a question of having a balance. And where people make a balanced submission in relation to the environment we'll always be very sympathetic to it. We've put more money into the long term environmental problems like salinity and the Natural Heritage Trust and so forth than anybody else that I can think of in government in recent years.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned about the Newspoll in today's Australian that shows that Labor is preferred party in handling taxation issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, not really. I don't comment on every poll but look we've had a bad run on a number of issues over the past few months but I think in a way last week's National Accounts Figures were quite a decisive point. A lot of people were attributing a lot of things to the GST that were wrongly being blamed on the GST. Last week's figures, much to the disappointment of the Labor Party demonstrated that so far from mugging the economy the GST over time will make a contribution to the strength of the economy.

JOURNALIST:

But it's the first time in seven years that Labor's actually been in front.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as I say nothing really surprises me in polls after the last six months. We've had the worst six months since the last election politically, but the important thing is that the economy's come through it and the Australian people have not been intimidated by the scare campaign run by the Labor Party and shame on them for talking down the Australian economy.

JOURNALIST:

But would you have expected a bigger boost out of the budget.

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned by the reports that APRA has scaled but its observance of companies in the last two years in the lead up to HIH?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't read that.

JOURNALIST:

Are you any closer to announcing the Royal Commissioner into the HIH collapse or the terms of reference?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, but I'm not ready to announce it yet.

JOURNALIST:

What about the building industry inquiry Prime Minister? It's more than three weeks, Minister Abbott said that there'd be an announcement within three weeks about a month ago.

PRIME MINISTER:

I wasn't aware he put that time restraint on himself but I don't have any comment on that.

JOURNALIST:

What's on the agenda for your US visit with President Bush?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well obviously the bilateral relationship, the importance of the security side of it, trade matters, we will be looking at what benefit there will be in further trade discussions. We would like to explore the feasibility of a free trade agreement. It's a big ask and we're not going to enter into it unless there's something in it for Australia. But the world we're living in now demands that the Australian Government explore every aspect of our trade relations, both bilateral and multi-lateral and we want to see if there is some dividend for Australia in exploring that arrangement. And that'll be one of things that we will have a talk about but I'm not raising expectations because it will require concessions from the Americans on the things like agriculture if we are to ever have any hope of having such an agreement in the future. And that is a very big ask for the Americans but we'll wait and see won't we?

JOURNALIST:

Are you going to reappoint Mr McDonald as the chair of ABC?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as we approach the expiry of his current term that matter will be given appropriate consideration. But I think he's done an excellent job as chairman of the ABC.

JOURNALIST:

It's about to expire.

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm aware of when it expires.

JOURNALIST:

So will he be reappointed?

PRIME MINISTER:

You've got my answer.

JOURNALIST:

Could you make a general statement about Sir William Deane's term of office?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I will be making a fuller statement about it when it ends but I think he's been a very good Governor-General. But I will, I don't think now is an appropriate time for me to formally talk about his term of office, except in case anybody tries to make any mischief about my not doing so, except to say I think he's done a first class job but I will have an opportunity closer to the time of his retirement so say a bit more about it.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 11807