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Transcript 11857

Interview with Howard Sattler, Radio 2SM

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: 17/05/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11857

Subjects: F3 Freeway funding announcement; HIH insuranc

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

SATTLER:

Good morning, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning, how are you?

SATTLER:

Is it blowing a gale up there, it usually is?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's pretty windy. I've just done the deed and made the announcement and am driving back towards Gosford. But it's a very good development to the people of the Central Coast. We're going to put $80 million towards widening to three lanes the ...

[line dropout]

SATTLER:

Are you there, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am indeed.

SATTLER:

Did you go into a tunnel or something?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's pretty close to it.

SATTLER:

All right. So you got to saying about a third lane. Having driven up there, and I'm sure you'd been there before, you know that three lanes is pretty well required all the way. Will that be the case?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we're going to put.we're going to start on the most congested bit. Everybody agrees that the stretch between Hawkesbury and Calga and, particularly, the portion between the Hawkesbury and Mount White is the most congested part. Forty thousand vehicles a day go over this road.

SATTLER:

Gee, there's a lot of people who live out there who commute to Sydney, aren't there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Enormous number, a growing number and it's getting worse. So this is money that is well spent, well directed. This is a national highway and the Federal Government, under the arrangements, has the responsibility of funding national highways but the construction work is done by the State authority. So we've put the money on the table and it's now up to the New South Wales Government to start work straight away on widening out the road.

SATTLER:

So how do you feel about Carl Scully, the Transport Minister, here bagging you and saying that what you announce was just going to be the cheapest version.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Carl Scully is just playing politics like the Carr government does on so many things. I want to point out to your listeners that in March of this year Carl Scully wrote to John Anderson and said $80 million is the right figure. And we've actually got the letter. I mean, you can't get much worse than that but I suppose if you belong to a government that's got people like Mr Aquilina in it you set a bad example.

SATTLER:

Tit for tat in an election year, here we go.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, he started the political pointscoring. But this was a bona fide announcement of $80 million. We didn't sort of attack the New South Wales Government when we made the announcement. But instead of the New South Wales Government saying, well this is good, the people of the Central Coast will benefit, thank you Commonwealth, we'll get to work on it straight away, then he tries to score a political point. Well, I just think that's pathetic and I think the people in the Central Coast will think it is pathetic. They're interested in governments cooperating together where there's a common good involved. They're not interested in these arguments when those things are involved.

SATTLER:

You put up some money for the Western Orbital too which is.

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course, well, we accept that's our responsibility. I mean, under the road arrangements State highways are funded by State governments. National highways are funded fully by Federal governments. You have some in between which are called roads of national importance, a special additional category we created where we pick up 50% of the cost. And then you have local roads where local government is there to fund them but the Federal Government gives them quite a bit of money. So, we've actually increased our responsibilities for road funding but we accept that the national highway is a Federal responsibility. We're putting up all of the money. So instead of Mr Scully trying to play some cheap political game, which doesn't impress anybody, he should be saying to the people of the Central Coast, I promise you that the State Road Traffic Authority will get to work on widening the road as soon as possible. That's what he should be saying instead of this pathetic business, oh it's cheap, it's not enough, etc. He should be getting on with the job instead of trying to score cheap political points.

SATTLER:

When is work going to start up there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you ask Mr Scully. We don't build it.

SATTLER:

Okay, so if you've got the money.

PRIME MINISTER:

They've got the money, it's there. You know, the cheque is ready. And as soon as he makes arrangements the money will start flowing. I mean, it is there. It will be in the budget on Tuesday night.

SATTLER:

You don't normally tell us what's in the budget ahead.

PRIME MINISTER:

I can tell you this will be in the budget.

SATTLER:

Are you going to tell me what you're going to do for the welfare sector or is that a secret?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are going to begin the process of long-term welfare reform in the budget. We've already indicated that. And it will be a very fair approach. It won't be an exercise in cutting benefits. We don't cut benefits that people need. We stop people who aren't entitled to benefits from getting them, but this has not been a government that's cut the social security safety net.

SATTLER:

Are you going to look after those self-funded retirees that have been.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't want to wander into different areas. I really don't. The budget will be coming down on Tuesday night and it will be a very fair budget. It will be a budget that will underwrite growth and it will be a very fair budget.

SATTLER:

I must ask you about HIH.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, go right ahead.

SATTLER:

The abiding story at the moment. Now, what, if any, are the chances of a Royal Commission? It seems to me that we're skating around what really is required to get to the bottom of all of this.

PRIME MINISTER:

What you need to get to the bottom of it is a proper investigation into what the company did. Now, the Securities Commission investigation has already started. People seem to have overlooked the fact that the Securities Commission has many of the powers of a Royal Commission and it has already engaged lawyers around the world, it's already moved into the premises. You saw those pictures last night on television. They've already started the process. Now, I have also said that if some other additional inquiry or inquiries are needed in order to get to the bottom of everything then that will happen.

SATTLER:

It's going to have to investigate itself to a degree, isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, no. The supervisory body was APRA, the prudential regulator, not ASIC. ASIC is the corporations body.

SATTLER:

All right, well given that, Mr Knott, the Chairman of ASIC, was also Chief Operating Officer of the Australian Prudential Regulation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, he wasn't Chief Operating Officer of HIH. The investigation is into HIH. But that issue of whether there's any conflict of interest in relation to APRA, that issue is being examined by the Government but.

SATTLER:

If there is, if there's.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Howard, look, can I just say this to you, that I'm in discussion with the Attorney-General about this and I want to give an assurance to your listeners - no stone will be left unturned, nobody will be protected, no attempt made to cover anything up, whatever inquiry or inquiries are needed to get the full story will be established by the Federal Government.

SATTLER:

Is it the money that's got you hedging? What it would cost to fund a royal commission?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. No. No. I just want to be satisfied that in the process of dealing with this matter we don't undermine the proper investigative process and I need to get proper legal advice on that and I'm in the process of receiving it. All right?

SATTLER:

So you haven't put a line through a royal commission?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't put a line . I've said all along that whatever inquiry is needed will be established. Now ASIC has already commenced its inquiry and we are looking at whether any further mechanism to investigate what has happened is desirable, is workable and is going to produce a better outcome than the ASIC inquiry that's been launched. But I want to make it clear that we're not the least bit reluctant to establish some other inquiry if that is necessary. I mean I heard Mr Carr make some remark about conspiracies between the Howard Government and the insurance industry, I mean that is just something I reject.

SATTLER:

Well they donated money to the Liberal Party, I mean .

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look companies donate money to the Labor Party. Would you like the Federal Government to examine every decision taken by former Labor Governments that affected the trade union movement? I mean really, you know this is ridiculous. I reject completely any suggestion that donations from this company influenced the attitude of the Government. There is no evidence of that. Mr Hockey at every turn was asking questions and demanding explanations. There is no evidence of that, that is a cheap, miserable smear that you would expect the Labor Party to make.

SATTLER:

Do you get angry when you see these photographs and coverage of, you know, some of the former directors getting you know, sort of lots of work done on their homes and all that sort of thing? And all these other poor souls are sitting amongst the wrecks of half-built homes?

PRIME MINISTER:

I always get angry when people are treated unfairly. I am constrained by the law from making a judgement on your programme or anybody else's programme about the individual conduct of a particular person and you understand why, I don't want to prejudice proper investigation. But as a general rule yes I get very angry when battlers are left, you know, wanting and we're not going to see that happen. I mean we've made it clear that people who are going to suffer any hardship as a result of this will be protected by the Federal Government. The State Government has responsibilities and we expect them to meet their responsibilities in full, without trying to push any of them over onto us. They have responsibilities and I want to assure anybody who's been put into a hardship situation as a result of the HIH collapse we have established a mechanism to deal with that, it will take a little while, I'm sorry about that but this is a corporate collapse not of our making. And companies do fail and if there's been any wrongdoing then the people responsible will be pursued.

SATTLER:

You're not going to let anybody leave town are you?
PRIME MINISTER:

Well we won't be, I mean there won't be people on our watch skipping off to Majorca as happened when Mr Beazley and his crowd were in office when Christopher Skase skipped off to Majorca.

SATTLER:

So passports if necessary will be withheld and all that? Is that really up to ASIC? Do they have the power to do that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I don't want to go into the detail of that, please. But they've got all sorts of powers and certainly powers to deal with that situation.

SATTLER:

Okay, have a safe trip back.

PRIME MINISTER:

I will indeed. It's always great to be on the Central Coast.

[Ends]

Transcript 11857