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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11838

Doorstop Interview, Newcastle

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: 16/05/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11838

Subjects: National Textiles; interest rates; election timing; HIH; Budget.

JOURNALIST:
What is it like for people in Paterson, Prime Minister, you';ve had plenty of time to mingle today?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well they';re pretty happy with this facility and I had some good comments about the Government and I had some questions raised about future things, a good cross section of reaction. This is a great community and this will be a tremendous facility for the people of Maitland and for the people of the Hunter Valley.

JOURNALIST:
How important do you think it will be for the Liberals to win the marginal seat of Paterson? Do you think it could be make or break the election?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well marginal seats are always important for all political parties. We have an excellent candidate here in Bob Baldwin, he was the member between 1996 and 1998. It';s a tough seat to win back but he';s got a lot of local roots and a lot of local support and he';s got my total confidence and total support. This facility was something that we committed ourselves to before the 1998 election and we';ve delivered that promise in full to the people of the Hunter and that';s very important because it';s a demonstration of a government that keeps its promises and delivers on its commitments.

JOURNALIST:
Some of the protestors outside have said that the Coalition is out of touch with regional Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well you';d expect them to say that wouldn';t you?

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister, a nice bouquet from the Mayor on the National Textiles payments. I suppose it';s nice to come back to a city and actually be thanked for what you';ve done.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well, I appreciated that because what the government did then was to help the workers. We didn';t help the company. We helped the workers and we have a safety net scheme in place for people who are effected when companies can';t meet their entitlements. On that occasion the New South Wales Government matched us 50 / 50 which was good, but on other occasions State Labor governments have refused to match us 50 / 50 and that is bad. So I would say to Labor governments all around Australia you should have followed the example that was demonstrated in relation to National Textiles and I';d say to the New South Wales Government you should follow your National Textiles example in other cases as well.

JOURNALIST:
Mr Howard do you think the Americans are cutting rates too quickly without waiting to see the impact of ..

PRIME MINISTER:
Look I don';t give running advice on what the American Federal Reserve might be doing. I';m interested in economic conditions in America, but it';s not my place to give a running commentary. I';ve got a lot of respect for Alan Greenspan and to the way in which he';s run monetary policy. As far as Australia is concerned, we have the lowest interest rates we';ve had for a generation. We';ve had the lowest interest rates in the lifetime experience of anybody at this gathering. I can';t remember interest rates being any better than what they are now and that is great news for homebuyers. They';re $300 a month lower now than they were when Mr Keating was kicked out of office.

JOURNALIST:
Have you ruled out an early election in July?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well I';d never ruled it in. But I can say now that my current intention remains to go the full three years. That';s my current intention and nothing has happened over the past few weeks when I was last asked that same question to alter my current intention.

JOURNALIST:
You said earlier today that you didn';t know where those rumours had come from. Any enlightenment in the last couple of hours?

PRIME MINISTER:
No and I';m not interested in finding out. I think somebody decided to have a slash on a sort of slow news day.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister, (inaudible) do you think that the bush will be happy?

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes I think we, in that package, have met many of the concerns of people in regional Australia. We have now committed something like $900 to a billion dollars in boosting telephone and other communication services in regional Australia and we understand the need for that and we intend to, not to rest until we have a situation where people in regional Australia can honestly say they';re being treated fairly and equitably compared with their fellow Australians in the cities.

JOURNALIST:
There have been [inaudible] from the federal member of the National Party, candidate for the seat of Paterson here that places like [inaudible] who have got mobile phones, they';re going to miss out. What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well we certainly won';t be letting people miss out.

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible] view of a royal commission into the collapse of HIH?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well there is an obligation on ASIC, that';s the Australian Securities'; and Investment Commission to investigate. And I have discussed this matter with the Attorney-General and we are looking at ways of ensuring that the most appropriate investigations are carried out. And if you just plunked a royal commission on top of the ASIC investigation and the liquidator';s investigation you may in fact impede the official discharge of their respective responsibilities. I want to make it clear that whatever investigation or investigations plural are needed to get to the bottom of everything in relation to this matter without exception will be conducted.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister do you think it';s appropriate that the directors of the company be renovating their houses with millions of dollars [inaudible] while this is going on [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well there';s no law that allows people to arbitrarily interfere with what other people do with their homes. I';m constrained, I don';t have the luxury of journalists in talking about the behaviour of individuals. I am constrained by the law. I think what I';ve got to bear in mind and Mr Carr';s got to bear in mind is that if there were in the future some proceedings taken against former directors or officers of a company, colourful remarks made by public figures might in fact interfere with those proceedings.

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:
I am not going, I am not going to comment on an individual case. The law encourages me not to. I think what I might do is in fact get in the way of the investigations and prosecutions if I start doing that. I can talk generally and I think what happens is that when a company goes bust, the people responsible for it should be relentlessly pursued and if they';ve done anything wrong they should be brought to account. And that will happen in this case as it ought to happen in all cases. And I just repeat what I';ve said earlier that our position on investigations is that we will ensure that whatever investigation or investigations plural is or are needed, to get to the bottom of this, to find out who did what and who is wrong and who is responsible, we';re determined that that should occur. I am discussing that with the Attorney-General and the Minister for Financial Services at the present time. I don';t have anything more to say. People who are interested in a sensible pursuit of the wrongdoers rather than the political pointscoring will understand that we have to let one or two things run their course, including getting a preliminary report from the liquidator which I hope will be next week.

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:
Well it depends. If they';re affected by it, very cranky, and if you';re suffering hardship you';d appreciate the Federal Government is doing something to help you. And you also appreciate and you also . well that';s not, I think it';s important that we keep a sense of perspective. This is a very serious corporate failure, but it';s not a failure that is going to shake the foundations of the economy. There';s been a little too much alarmist talk in relation to that. I mean it is not threatening the foundations of the economy. It';s a big corporate collapse. We intend to seek out and prosecute if that';s appropriate those who have done wrong and we intend to help Australians who are suffering hardship and we';re in the process of doing all of that. But I think we should be careful of alarmist.that in some way it';s shaking the foundations of the economy. That really is incorrect.

JOURNALIST:
How do you explain the Government';s turnaround on HIH?

PRIME MINISTER:
There';s been no turnaround.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister you';ve got some meetings with a taskforce set up after the BHP closure. Are you looking for some good news there?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well they did put a proposition to me, the union put a proposition to me and I hope to be able to give them a positive response.

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible] I understand they';ve been talking to you about concerns with Impulse and Qantas. What';s your stance on that?

PRIME MINISTER:
My stance on that is I';m in favour of the maximum competition that the market will bear because it means better airfares for travellers and I';m also very strongly in favour of air safety too. I think you';ve got to . I like to get there, I think we all like to get there.

JOURNALIST:
With the fundraiser tonight Prime Minister, is that a good conclusion to your visit?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well I think it';s a wonderful coming together of the people of Newcastle and the people of the Hunter to support a great cause. I gather it';s a huge turnout and I';m delighted that the whole community is coming together to support such a wonderful cause as the Paediatric Oncology Unit at John Hunter Hospital. I think it really is something that everybody is in one way or another touched by and I';m delighted to help in a small way and make it a great evening.

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible] Tuesday';s Budget?

PRIME MINISTER:
We are a government of surprises on every front. You can always, you can always guarantee this government will deliver you a few surprises. But it will be a Budget which will reinforce the strength of the Australian economy and it will also be a Budget that is fair to Australians. It will be a fair go Budget.

JOURNALIST:
More and more rumours about Work for the Dole this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Work for the Dole is a great success. Work for the Dole is supported by the Australian public. Work for the Dole is based on the simple principle that we have an obligation to help people who can';t get a job and if it';s possible for them to do so, and reasonable of them to do so, they have an obligation to put something back in return for that support. I';ve got to tell you that as I move around Australia I find huge support for Work for the Dole. Anybody in the media who thinks that the public don';t support Work for the Dole has not been listening to middle Australia.

JOURNALIST:
Will there be a surplus on Tuesday?

PRIME MINISTER:
We will deliver a respectable balance.

Transcript 11838