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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 15627

Doorstop Interview Moreton Bay Boys College, Brisbane

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: 16/04/2007

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 15627

Subject:
ANZAC Day; workplace reform; Future Fund; Ross Vasta; Sue Boyce.

E&OE...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am happy to answer any questions you want to put to me. It's a beautiful morning, very happy to be in the electorate of Bonner with my good and valued colleague Ross Vasta.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on national television last night Kevin Rudd said that he would never tell a lie in politics. What do you make of that given the unfolding saga in relation to Sunrise and the ANZAC service?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I made some comments this morning on radio about how that thing had unfolded. I think the facts speak for themselves. I am not going to add to that except to again say that ANZAC Day has a special place in Australia's psyche and it should always remain like that. It's a sacred day and it should remain like that, but I don't have anything to add to what I have previously said.

JOURNALIST:

Has Mr Rudd lost credibility over it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look those things are ultimately judged by the Australian people. Credibility is something you build over time. Credibility is something which is a product of people's aggregate assessments of you. We're all people who strive to maintain credibility and you build it over a period of time. The Australian people will make a judgement about Mr Rudd's credibility in the same way they'll make a judgement about mine, and that is what public life and public advocacy is all about.

JOURNALIST:

Did Joe Hockey tell you he was pulling the pin?

PRIME MINISTER:

Joe Hockey informed me. It was his decision.

JOURNALIST:

Did he tell you why? What reason did he give?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look Joe and I, like any other Minister and Prime Minister, talk to each other about a whole lot of things over a long period of time and I don't intend to go into that.

JOURNALIST:

Did you advise him to quit Sunrise, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't have anything more to say other than what I have said on that. I think the outcome of both of them pulling out of it is good.

JOURNALIST:

Why do you say it's good Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the incident has not been something that hasn't left a bad taste in people's mouths.

JOURNALIST:

So you think that Joe Hockey should wear some of the blame?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don't think Mr Hockey's done anything wrong. Certainly not. I think Joe Hockey has always behaved in a very correct and proper manner. I don't think Joe Hockey has done anything wrong.

JOURNALIST:

So is it still appropriate for you to go on Neil Mitchell's show every two weeks?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean it's an entirely different situation and in any event, the Labor Premier in Victoria goes on Neil Mitchell's program for half an hour at the set time every fortnight. And that's an arrangement that Mr Mitchell has had and the station has had. But I don't think the situations are comparable. But look, in any event, these are matters for networks to decide. I mean whether people go on programs or not, that's a matter for networks, that's not a matter for me. I am not giving Channel Seven or Channel Nine or 3AW or the ABC any advice provided networks play it 50:50. That's all I ever want; 50 per cent. If you get 50 per cent, well if I can't win the argument I deserve to lose.

JOURNALIST:

You indicated on radio this morning that you would make policy changes if some of your policies weren't palatable to the Australian public. Does that include WorkChoices?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as far as WorkChoices is concerned our position has not changed one iota. We're not going to alter the fundamentals of that policy. I have said from day one that if any fine tuning were necessary it would occur, but nothing has changed in relation to WorkChoices.

JOURNALIST:

So there is some room to tinker around the edges?

PRIME MINISTER:

In the context of what I've always said, if there is any fine tuning needed, but I stress any fine tuning, but we won't be altering in any way the fundamentals of the policy because it's a very good policy and it's a policy that's delivered low unemployment for Australia. It's a policy that's delivered higher wages and it's a policy that's reduced strikes in this country to a level we haven't seen since before World War I.

JOURNALIST:

So do you take the chance that it may sweep you out of office?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look the Australian people will make a judgement and I am not going to become a commentator. I am an advocate. The Australian people will make a judgement on the aggregate impact of WorkChoices and I believe it's a very beneficial one. And let me make one thing very clear about industrial relations. If Labor wins the election and they bring back a centralised wage fixing system which they will, that will put ultimately upward pressure on interest rates. Because if all the economy is made to pay for the high wages that one section of the economy can afford, then that will increase inflation and that will deliver higher interest rates and that was the point the Treasurer was making, he's absolutely correct, it's the point that's been made by the current and the previous Governors of the Reserve Bank, both . Both Mr Macfarlane and Mr Stevens have said that a flexible decentralised wages policy makes the conduct of monetary policy much easier. In other words, it puts less pressure on interest rates.

JOURNALIST:

This superannuation story going around, do you have any comments.....

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I have. There was a lot more money provided in the last budget to chase up any recalcitrant employers and I'm told that the tax office will have the resources to look at every case where there's been a laggard employer. It's very important that people's superannuation provision not be touched, that's why we are so angry about Mr Rudd's plan to rifle the Future Fund because the Future Fund is the superannuation provision for Commonwealth public servants. Now just as all the private sector employees are angry at any thought that their employer might not be making full provision for their superannuation, I am angry that somebody is trying to pick the pocket of the Commonwealth public servants superannuation provision and that's what Mr Rudd's proposal concerning the Future Fund is all about. I mean why shouldn't the Commonwealth public servants have their superannuation as protected as other people, as the employees of the Queensland Government are because the superannuation for public servants in Queensland is covered, is fully funded, and it has been for years under both Coalition and Labor Governments and the same situation should obtain federally. It hasn't up until the Future Fund, now that we've got the Future Fund we ought to treat it as sacrosanct and we shouldn't be rifling it to feed a spending frenzy.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you've said you're very happy to be here with Mr Vasta in his electorate, is the AFP investigation over?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is a matter that you have to speak to the AFP about. I understand that the AFP is operating as it always does quite independently, but let me make it very clear, Mr Vasta is cooperating fully with the inquiry. I do not believe Mr Vasta has done anything wrong but it is not appropriate for either Mr Vasta or for me to comment on the character of that inquiry because it's an independent inquiry being conducted by the AFP. Naturally Mr Vasta and others would like it speedily but correctly dealt with, beyond that it's not right for me to say anything because the AFP is completely independent in these matters of the Commonwealth Government. But I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe that Ross Vasta was an honest man and a person who's represented the electorate of Bonner with great skill and great dedication since he was elected and I look forward to campaigning very hard to get Ross re-elected whenever the election is held.

JOURNALIST:

And you've got a new Senator from Queensland?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I congratulate Sue Boyce on her pre-selection. I think it's great, it's the...the first female Coalition Senator, no criticism of the blokes from Queensland, but the first female Coalition or Liberal Senator from Queensland I think since Kathy Sullivan transferred from the Senate to the House of Representatives back in 1984. She has a very strong business background, I think her life and the experiences she's had in life, and she's had her share of adversities, will mean that she brings a great cross section of life's experience to the Senate. I think we need people in parliament who've had plenty of life's experiences. There's a real danger, particularly in state politics, that we end up with too many people who've had a narrowly based background, in other words a background that involves working in a union office and then on to a politician's staff and then into parliament. I think it's a dangerous trend and it can happen on both sides. I mean, I think we need a certain number of people with that kind of background, but we don't want too many, we want a balance and we've got plenty of people who are providing that balance and I think Sue's a wonderful example. Businesswomen, family, had plenty of life's challenge and I think she's an excellent person to come into the Senate. Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 15627