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Transcript 21151

Interview with John Laws Radio 2UE

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: 08/03/2004

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21151

LAWS:

We have the Prime Minister of Australia on the line, Prime Minister good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning.

LAWS:

It's good to be able to talk to you. But how do you feel about being labelled a serial burglar?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I suppose it's a metaphor that might come to the Premier's attention seeing that he's in more trouble than Ned Kelly regarding the hospital system of New South Wales. We haven't cut money from hospitals in New South Wales, what's been applied is a formula that Mr Carr knew of and signed up to. When the hospital agreement was signed there was an estimate made of the inflation rate into the future which governs the final dollars. It's turned out that inflation is a bit lower than that original estimate, but, and this is the important proviso, if in the future the inflation rate turns out to be higher, well New South Wales will get more money.

LAWS:

Well when he refers to you as a burglar, it's not as though you're keeping the money, it's going somewhere else.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look we have an agreement.

LAWS:

Okay, Bob Carr constantly argues for lower migrant intakes into the city of Sydney, is that naturally going to mean reduced Commonwealth funding as the population in other states rise?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it depends on a whole lot of things, but John, the allocation of money between the states is not done by the Commonwealth, it's done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. If Bob Carr wants more money for New South Wales as a result of the Grants Commission decision he should write to Peter Beattie and say Pete, give a bloke a dollar. I mean that's what he should really be doing or write to Geoff Gallop. But I mean to come and to say that I'm to blame is just quite wrong, I mean this is a man who has got his problems and let him solve them and let that be solved in the context of New South Wales politics but don't try to divert attention from the rail situation in New South Wales, the hospital crisis in New South Wales by crying that the Federal Government has somehow or other raided the coffers of New South Wales, we've done no such thing.

LAWS:

How do you counter the argument that public funding is being cut across New South Wales while the Commonwealth continues to pour money into the private health insurance rebate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well private health insurance rebate helps millions of Australians, I defend that on its own, I believe in it, unlike the Labor Party that will either severely means test it or cut it out altogether. But I believe in the private health insurance rebate. There's nothing wrong, I mean they're in a sense stand alone issues, you need to support public hospitals and we're increasing the funding by 17 per cent in real terms over the life of the next agreement. But in addition to that you need to support private insurance because private insurance takes a load off public hospitals and I would have thought people who believed in the public hospital system would also believe in supporting private health insurance.

LAWS:

It's impossible to avoid this leadership talk, what do you make of Peter Costello's refusal to address the issue, is he simply being petulant or...

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I would have done the same thing.

LAWS:

As Peter Costello has done?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, I wouldn't have given any other answer, I thought the answer he gave was understandable, it's the answer he gave last year. I don't believe in this business of running around ruling everything in and everything out...

LAWS:

No, neither do I.

PRIME MINISTER:

I just think it's silly, I mean we're meant to be a party that believes in competition and things, I have no problem about Peter's form of words, none whatsoever. My position is as I explained last year, I'll remain leader of the Liberal Party for so long as the Party wants me to and it's in the Party's best interests and obviously whether I continue as Prime Minister of Australia is the hands of the voters of Australia, it's not the hands of anybody else and they'll make a judgement about that towards the ends of this year, or the second half of this year when the election is held. But I had never required of people in the party that they rule out having a go, ambition is something you should always have in politics and if we get to a situation where the party above all parties of competition and individualism and ambition puts mockers and fetters on the legitimate ambitions of its members then I just think we're changing the character of what we all joined our great party to pursue.

LAWS:

This fellow Chris Pyne claims that you've spoken of a leadership handover in the future, is that true?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don't know where he got that from. My position is as I've explained it.

LAWS:

Okay. Have you received any heat from the backbenchers over Peter King's pre-selection loss?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't received any heat in a personal sense, I think a lot of them felt for Peter as I did and I mean I know Malcolm Turnbull very well, I know his family very well and I like them. But I know Peter well, I know his family well, I mean "Sinkers", his father-in-law, has been a parliamentary colleague of mine. But I thought it was particularly tough for a bloke who has only been there for one term to lose his pre-selection, but it was a tough, competitive pre-selection and if you believe in those things then you have to accept the outcome and it was conducted impeccably by the New South Wales Party, I think Scott Morrison and Chris McDiven did a very good job under the spotlight in conducting a very vigorous pre-selection and once again it's a situation where I do feel very sorry for Peter but I congratulate the winner and Malcolm will make a big contribution.

LAWS:

Why did your representative on the selectors' panel, Bill Heffernan, why did he lobby against Peter King?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I wasn't there, I don't know what he did, and I haven't even asked how he voted.

LAWS:

Okay, well that answers that.

PRIME MINISTER:

I wasn't there. And can I also make a point, and I know we're getting into the detail of New South Wales Liberal Party pre-selections, but under the rules of the party I had to have a Senator as my representative because the rules say that any Member of the House of Representatives involved in the same series of pre-selections can't sit on the committee.

LAWS:

Yeah, but as he is your representative...

PRIME MINISTER:

No, he's a person I nominate but that doesn't mean to say I give people riding instructions, I mean he might have you know thought what he ended up doing was in accordance with particular views but look Bill Heffernan is a friend of mine, I've never disguised that and I like him, I don't walk away from my friends. But Bill is a free agent and Bill often does things that I wish he didn't, like all mates.

LAWS:

A new ACT law wants to allow gay couples to adopt children. How do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm against gay adoption, just as I'm against gay marriage. I'm a social conservative. I think there are certain benchmark institutions and arrangements in our society that you don't muck around with, and children should be brought up ideally by a mother and a father who are married. That's the ideal. I mean I'm not saying people who are unmarried are incapable of being loving parents. Of course they are. I mean I believe in the maximum conditions of stability for people who have children.

LAWS:

Okay. Well if you believe that people who aren't married can bring up children satisfactorily, that doesn't include gay couples?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don't because the notion is of having... you need a male role model and a female role model. I think it is incredibly important that people have role models of both sexes because that's the kind of society that they're born into, and the way you do that is to preserve the notion of a mother and a father.

LAWS:

It's part of this new Bill of Rights. Have you had a look at that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh I've had a look at the Bill of Rights. I don't believe in Bills of Rights.

LAWS:

Neither do I.

PRIME MINISTER:

Nor incidentally does Bob Carr. He might think I'm a serial burglar, but he'd have a common front with me on that particular issue.

LAWS:

Yeah, well you've looked at it.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the idea of the ACT having a Bill of Rights is ridiculous. If you're going to have things like that, they should be done on a nationwide basis. But this is political correctness inside the Labor Party parading itself for all the world to see, but then the ACT is a different constituency than some other parts of Australia. I'm not saying any less a constituency - a wonderful place with wonderful people - but it reacts differently to these things. But I don't support gay adoption, no.

LAWS:

Okay. But nor do you support a Bill of Rights?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don't. I think a Bill of Rights is a totally undesirable... I think it can end up restricting rights rather than enhancing them.

LAWS:

Yeah. We should have a Bill of Responsibilities.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I certainly agree with that and I think the States should have that too. I think one of my complaints about the State Governments at the present time is they're big on rights, but when it comes to any responsibility, they get into a jam and they say it's the fault of Canberra.

LAWS:

I was saying to somebody the other day - what's going to happen if Mark Latham gets elected? Who are they going to blame?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you will have for the first time, if Labor wins, you'll have nine Labor governments throughout Australia without any checks and balances. But I'm working to stop that and I believe that I'll be successful. But it will be tough and I always said it would be tough, but as time goes by people will understand that there is a choice and that the prosperity of the last eight years has not been accidental and that a Latham Labor Government would threaten that - particularly in the area of industrial relations.

LAWS:

Yeah. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I would imagine that you would applaud the fact that at least now we have an Opposition Leader who shows that there is a great differential between Liberal and Labor. That was lacking a bit before this. There's now a firm dividing line and that probably makes it better to fight, doesn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look I always enjoy a political fight, and there is no doubt that Federal Labor has been in the doldrums in the last couple of years and that we have a big fight ahead of us. But I'll be asking the Australian people to look at what we have achieved. I'll be reminding them of the 17 per cent interest rates under Labor. I'll be pointing out that if you have nine Labor governments throughout Australia...

LAWS:

Yeah, no checks and balances.

PRIME MINISTER:

No checks and balances. No checks and balances at all. And you can imagine what the unions will be saying to all of those governments - brothers for the first time we're running the whole show, let's get things changed while we still control every government.

LAWS:

How long is the fight going to be?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there will be an election in the second half of the year. Just exactly when I don't honestly know because I haven't decided. The election won't be in the first half of the year unless something unexpected happens, and I can't see what that would be. It's normal to have it towards the three year period, but whether it's a bit before or a bit after, doesn't really matter.

LAWS:

Does it take... well surely it matters.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no, but it matters in a legal sense.

LAWS:

Oh, yes. But I'm sure it matters in a political sense.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I mean obviously I do factor political position into this thing in making a final decision, but I think I'm entitled to do that. Every Prime Minister before me has and every Prime Minister after me will as well. But I haven't had early elections as frequently as some of my predecessors.

LAWS:

No. But I mean obviously you'd have to factor in political issues. If the climate suddenly becomes favourable, then you'd move, wouldn't you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't believe in self-immolation when it comes to politics.

LAWS:

Okay. I accept that. Prime Minister thank you very much for your time. As usual, it's good to talk to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks John.

[ends]

Transcript 21151