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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22472

Doorstop Interview Hellenic Club, Canberra

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: 15/09/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22472

PRIME MINISTER:

I would like to start with a short statement about the fog of confusion in the labour movement about the policy on collective bargaining. Last night on Lateline, Mr Combet directly contradicted what he said at the Press Club two days earlier and what was contained in the ACTU's document. But despite all of this confusion, one thing is absolutely clear, a Beazley Labor Government would take away the right of Australian employers to run the businesses in which they invest their own money. We want an Australia where employers are obliged by law to pay workers proper wages and give them proper decent conditions, but retain the right to determine the industrial arrangements that should operate in their businesses, because after all they provide the jobs and make the investment.

It's obvious that Labor would change that, it's obvious that they would take away the right of individuals to have a workplace contract if that is what they want. It's very obvious from Mr Combet's total remarks that the unions would force a Labor Government to create a situation where even a minority of employees could effectively demand an adjudication from the AIRC in favour of collective bargaining and last night on Lateline Mr Combet admitted that the union movement made a mistake in not asking the Keating Government in 1993 to have a compulsory collective bargaining provision in their changes to the workplace relations laws.

So in the past few days we are beginning to see, despite all of the confusion, a clear emergence of a policy of Labor that would tear up the flexibility and the freedom of choice that's existed not for the last six months under WorkChoices, but for the last 10 years, because for 10 years we've had workplace agreements. They are not a creature of WorkChoices, workplace agreements have been with us for 10 years and we could well have a million of them by the time of the next election. Any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you had a lot of praise for the Greek community. What is it about the Greek Community that they've integrated into Australia so successfully as opposed to other groups?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm not saying other groups aren't integrating, I'm not having a pot shot at other groups. I'm making the very obvious point that the Greeks are just a wonderful example of how you do it. You integrate fully, you become part of the mainstream, your first loyalty is to Australia, but that doesn't mean you don't have a place in your heart for your home culture, and that's how we want it. And it works perfectly well, but the key thing is that people should integrate into the mainstream of Australian life. And the Greeks have done it brilliantly, but they're still very proud of their Greek background, and isn't that great. I mean that's what it's all about and that's the model everybody should follow. I'm not saying that other groups haven't done it successfully too, but obviously I'm at a Greek gathering and it's appropriate to pay tribute to the way in which the Greeks over, what, a period of 100 or more years have so successfully integrated into Australia. The key thing is that there should be a determined attempt of people to integrate. You can integrate without losing your special cultural history and the Greeks have done that very successfully.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, under your citizenship test new Australians will be required to know English. That means that a lot of those Greeks upstairs would actually not have been able to pass that citizenship test, a lot of them did not learn English. Does that worry you, that we're not going to be able to involve people like those people?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think those people, as you call them, have been very successfully integrated into our community and they are playing a very full part in Australian life. But have a look at the discussion paper when it comes out. But look, there's overwhelming support in the Australian community for an expectation, indeed a requirement, that people who become Australian citizens have a working knowledge of English.

JOURNALIST:

Will there be any flexibility though Mr Howard, for example, there could be say very elderly parents?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Michelle, you will see when the discussion paper comes out that it's not a tablet from the mountain. It is a discussion paper and there will be a commonsense approach taken to these things.

JOURNALIST:

Do you acknowledge that problem though, that some people simply couldn't pass that test?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I do acknowledge that people who come here at a very old age would find it harder but the great bulk of new citizens to this country are not in that category and whatever we bring in will have the stamp of commonsense all over it.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22472