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Transcript 12550

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW ROYAL PERTH HOSPITAL, PERTH

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: 18/07/2002

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 12550

Subjects: National Communications Fund; Telstra; Woomera escapees; Labor trade union links; industrial relations laws; family policies.

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

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the announcement you have made this morning, while the state government has welcomed it they';re saying that it softens us up for the further sale of Telstra.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I didn';t hear the minister say that.

JOURNALIST:

The Premier';s saying that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I';m sorry he said that because this is a good news day and I think it ought to be free of political point scoring of that kind.

JOURNALIST:

When will you reveal what you';re doing with Telstra?

PRIME MINISTER:

We';ve already done so, we';ve said that when services in the bush are up to scratch and only then we will look at further sales of shares. We haven';t yet resolved whether services are up to scratch. I expect in the next little while to announce a process to check whether services are up to scratch and then we';ll get the results of that further investigation and then we';ll indicate further what we';re going to do. We';re not going to rush this indecently. We are determined that people living in country areas have the same opportunities as people living in the cities. And what we';ve seen this morning is a further example of what we want to do.

What I announced this morning is a practical thing and it ought to be kept separate from the political advocacy surrounding the sale of Telstra. I';m disappointed at that kind of response.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) opposition out there to the sale of Telstra, do you think that';s based on misconception.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it';s always going to be the case that there';s not top of the head support for something like this. But the job of a Prime Minister occasionally is to argue for something that may not initially have majority support if you think it';s right for the country, and I certainly hold the view that you can';t indefinitely have a telecommunications carrier the size of Telstra half owned by private shareholders and half owned by the Government. And we';re obviously not going to renationalise the 50 per cent we';ve already sold. So eventually the only logical thing is a full sale but that will be conditional on services in the bush being up to scratch.

JOURNALIST:

… legislation or regulations to keep…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have regulation already, and the sort of things that people are concerned about in relation to monopoly behaviour on prices and everything, that can be dealt with by way of regulation. There';s a complete misconception that if something is government owned or government controlled then everything';s perfect. The reality is that when our telephones were delivered by the old PMG they were nowhere near as efficient or as available as what they are now.

JOURNALIST:

Would you like to see the full sale by the end of this year?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I';m not putting any time limits on it. Definitely not. We have an orderly process and we';ll do one thing at a time. And the next thing is to check whether conditions are up scratch in the bush and then and only then will we start saying what we';re going to do.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister with the actually $50 million announcement, will this change their minds or go…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don';t see this as changing the minds of people on the sale of Telstra, that';s not the purpose of this, this is to improve facilities for people in country areas, that';s what it';s designed to do.

JOURNALIST:

Simon Crean';s proposing a new… [phone rings]

PRIME MINISTER:

Can we just wait for this…

JOURNALIST:

Simon Crean';s proposing a new partnership with the ACTU (inaudible) is that the right thing for a future government to do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I was fascinated to read that this morning, it was described as a trade off, more like a cave in to me. If I were the union movement I';d grab it with both hands and run laughing because what he';s proposing is a veto for the trade union movement over the policies of a further Labor Government. And in return for that they';re going to give up 10 per cent of their mandated…. [phone rings]
I found it an extraordinary proposition what I read this morning. They';re saying it';s a trade off to give the union movement an effective veto on the policy of a future Labor Government and in return for that the big concession, the unions are making, they';re going to agree to reduce their control of conferences from 60 per cent down to 50 per cent. I think that';s a cave in, it';s not a trade off. No democratic party should concede to a vested interest an automatic block vote at their state conferences. There are no block votes at Liberal party state conferences, for vested interest. The business community doesn';t have 10 per cent of the votes at a Liberal party state conference, let alone 50 or 60 per cent. What you';re seeing is a weak political leader being forced to concede a veto to the trade union movement over the policies of a future Labor Government. This is at a time when fewer than one in five Australians in the private sector belong to trade unions.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, two boys have walked into the Melbourne consulate this morning saying that they';re the escapees from Woomera. Are you concerned that this again is going to put this whole issue of asylum seekers, how Australia treats them, on the international stage and (inaudible) criticised again?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I';m not concerned about the international view of Australia';s treatment of asylum seekers, I';ve just been to Europe and I can tell you that our policies are not criticised, quite the reverse. At a government level people were very understanding of our policy and the movement in Europe is towards the sort of policies that the government has undertaken. In relation to this incident this morning I';ve only got the sketchiest of details and I won';t be making any comment until I';ve got further information.

JOURNALIST:

Should the British consulate return the children to the Australian…

PRIME MINISTER:

Just remember what I said, until I get more information I';m not going to make a comment.

JOURNALIST:

But given that they';ve gone into the British consulate, should the British consulate return the children to Australian authorities?

PRIME MINISTER:

Until I have more information I';m not going to comment.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask you about the state';s IR laws, you made some comments on that this morning, can you elaborate on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think they';re very anti-small business and the freedom that small business had to negotiate directly with their employees has been undermined by the Gallop Government';s changes. The no ticket, no start rule has been reintroduced on building sites in Western Australia, almost within days of the election of a Labor Government. And many of the very good reforms of the former Liberal Government in Western Australia have been taken away and that';s a backward step and in the long run it will cost Western Australia dearly in terms of investment.

JOURNALIST:

And what can the Federal Government do to help businesses over here?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are constrained by the operation of the Constitution. People under state awards and under state law are governed by the decisions of the state government, people that are under federal awards or within the federal agreement are governed by federal law. And to the extent that people can get under federal law they';ll have more freedom of movement and therefore more opportunities, but to the extent to which they';re governed by state law they won';t.

JOURNALIST:

You made some comments this morning about tax breaks and families and talking about families and children over five now getting some tax breaks or…

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I talked about a whole range. What I said this morning was that in examining something like paid maternity leave you have to see it as but one of a whole range of policies to help families. Paid maternity leave is of no value to a mother who doesn';t want to go back into the workforce. Something else is of value to her. And the point I made this morning was that in order to provide choice for Australian families you need a range of policies recognising that different families, different groups will make different decisions about how they organise their lives. And the danger I see in the way the debate has gone on paid maternity leave is that some people are representing it as the only thing that a government needs to do that and once you do that you';ve fixed the whole problem. That';s not the case at all. It is an issue and we';re examining it and we will treat it as part of a whole range of polices, including many that we';ve already introduced such as the baby bonus which is going to be very beneficial and also the family tax benefits under the tax policy which are particularly helpful to low income sole parent families.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think that paid maternity leave would act as a deterrent to employers actually employing women?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it would be a mistake to force companies that can';t afford to do to so to provide it. I';ve said that all along.

JOURNALIST:

The Victorian Government says that it';s going to give payroll tax exemptions to businesses who provide (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well given the extra money they';re getting out of the GST, and it will cost them about $1 million, it';s the least they can do.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it';s a good idea then? PRIME MINISTER:

Oh of course it';s a good idea, I mean any tax concession for small business is good. I';m all in favour of it. But let';s get a sense of proportion, I mean it';s going to cost the Victorian Government about $1 million. I welcome it, good on them, but I just remind people that tax reform has meant that over time all state governments will be a lot better off because of the proceeds of the GST.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 12550