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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6292

INTERVIEW WITH LAURIE OAKES, GOOD MORNING AUSTRALIA, 12 JANUARY 1984

Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/01/1984

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 6292

E. O. E. PROOF ONLYV
PRIME MINISTER
INTERVIEW WITH LAURIE OAKES, GOOD MORNING AUSTRALIA, 12 JANUARY 19.84
LA-. Mr Hawke, thanks for appearing on Good Morning Australia.
What sort of a break have you had over the holidays?
RJH: Good break, Laurie, I had a fortnight, a complete break, at the
end of December when I handed over to Lionel, as Acting Prime Minister,
saw a bit of tennis and cricket in that period, and then from the
1st of January, up until next Sunday I'm working here out of
1irribilli, so I suppose you could say that's second gear, it's
working, but its a slightly better environment than Canberra.
LA: You ( were looking a bit tired at the end of last year, have
you got the batteries recharged for the new year?
RJH: Absolutely, yes.
LA: Will it be a big year?
RJH: 1 think it will be a big year for Australia. The economy's
going -to be in very good shape, Laurie, growing at a fast rate,
a very big turnaround, more job opportunities, more opportunities for
busineas. I think its going to be a big year economically, its
going t-be a pretty interesting one politically too, I think.
LA: Yos well because its a good year economically, does that mean
there': Ll be an election?
RJH: Oh that's not why there may be an election. I've made it
quite clear wheni the. Senate rejected our proposals about the
refereridums . that we would have to look at that situation in the
light of the fact that there must be a half-Senate election, as
you know, between the middle of this year and the middle of next
year. If there were to be such an election, it would be, not out
of kilter, I haven't looked exactly Laurie, at the history of this,
but my recollection is that it would be if such an election were
held at: the end of this year or early next year it would be about
the 22n~ d election of that type half-Senate and House of
Represontatives elections are a comp~ etely normal thing to happen
but we're not committing ourselves at this point. I'll be wanting
to see what's necessary to reduce the number of elections to get
back into kilter the Senate and the House of Representatives.
LA: Well assuming that it may be an election year, will it be
an election budget?
RJH: Ah we don't operate that way. It will be the budget which is
necessary to do these sorts of things. Firstly, to consolidate the
very substantial economic recovery that's been associated with our
government. And secondly and very importantly to sustain the
prices and incomes accord, we'll. be looking in 1984, Laurie, at
fairly low inflation rates and that means fairly low levels of
wage increases. And if we can sustain a cut in taxes, which is what
I want to do anyway, then that will be done for economic purposes
and for industrial purposes. The fact that that will be I think,
what the people would want, and what we'd hoped to do in 1983

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we cou: ldn't because of the deficit we inherited is a plus
Politically, obviously.
LA: Well how likely is it that you will be able to cut taxes?
You sound as if its definitely on.
RJH: The intention's there. It's too early to be able to tell
how the budget figuring is going yet. We'll get that sort of
information in February/ March when we see how both the expenditure
and the income sides are going, Laurie.
LA: Are you talking about tax cuts for everybody or people in
need? RJH: Well obviously we'd be wanting to try and get the greater
relevant benefit to the lower income groups, but what you can do
would depend upon the two things that I've been talking about,
what's happening to the your revenue, what's happening to your
outlays. Because associated with the desire to cut taxes Laurie,
will be also an intention to haul back in the deficit. And I
want to achieve both those objectives and our capacity to do it
is not something that I can say to you now in January well,
we've got that capacity or that capacity. We must wait a little
bit longer before we see the figures.
LA: What about the election promise to raise pensions to
of average weekly earnings? Is that on this year?
RJH: Oh we didn't say we'd do it in one year.
Lh: Y'ou said in 3 years I think, but if you're facing an election
at the end of the year, that's your first term isn't it?
RJU: Yes, but it's not 3 years. We will be doing what we can to
improve the pension position and again, it would be irresponsible
of me in January of 1984 to say what we'll be able to do at the
end cf this year. But I can say this in January of 1984, that
our commitment to try and see that expenditures aren't wasted on
those of as-in the community who don't need public pension benefits
is relevant to our capacity to act in the area of pensions generally.
LA: So you're still committed to needs-based welfare even though
that has a potential to make you unpopular, I mean the assets test,
obviously, its going to cause a problem isn't it?
TJH: Yes and-it's relevant to the sort of question you're asking
about:. Are we going to be doing certain things for popularity reasons.
We're going to be making the decisions which are necessary for the
benefit of the country as a whole and I have no doubt, as does any
economist in this country, or anyone who knows anything about
the demography of Australia or the social welfare structure. None
of us have any doubt that if Australia is going to be able, as we
go towards the end of the 20th century to look after those in the
community who need help, then we have to be prepared to cut back ./ 3

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on those of us who don't need help. Take my own case, the Prime
minister of Australia on very high income relatively. Now until
we income tested the over-70' s pensions, I would have been entitled,
if we'd left it all as it was, as well as getting my very generous
superannuation, to dip in and grab a pension as well.
LA: X think one of your predecessors in fact....
RJH: I didn't want to do to that extent, but that's exactly what
happens. Now that's wrong. I mean, there's no justification for
me grabbing a pension out of the public funds as well as having
a general superannuation. In regard to the assets test, using my
case, let's say I'd retired and I'd converted my income into assets
and had no income, and so I'd put myself into a position of being
able to get a public pension. Now that's damn stupid. Why should
I get that. And the real issue that's confronting us is, that
we are an ageing population, and as we get to the end of this century,
there's going to be a smaller proportion of people in the population
who are at work, having an obligation to support more and more
older people. Now if you're going to do that generously and sensibly,
then those of us who don't need help from the public purse, shouldn't
be getting it.
LA: it could cost you a lot of votes, though, couldn't it?
RJH: Well it may do, but I have more faith in the Australian public
than that. I think that when we explain the purpose of what we're
about. and the impact of it, a relatively small number of people
who will be adversely affected and the fact that we do this will
mean that we as a community, not just as a government, but as a
commuLnity, will be better able to look after those who do need help.
And 1: have sufficient faith in my fellow Australians to believe that
they will understand that, and they'll accept it, and indeed they'll
applaud it.
LA: You mentioned your commitment to the prices and incomes accord
with the unions which brings us to the vexed question of
ParliLamentarian's salaries, the South Australian and Tasmanian
situation. You've written to all Premiers.
RJH: Yes, I did that yesterday Laurie. And essentially what I've
said to them are these things. That the maintenance of the accord
is important for all Australians, its certainly important for
State Governments. Because our capacity as a Federal Government to
give to the States, as much as we can at the time of the Premiers'
Conference, the Loan Council, to help them do the things they need,
depends upon an economy working as efficiently as it can. And the
accord is very important. Now the second thing is, as I've said
well the 4.3 percent, there should be no question about that we
should have that as an interim increase and then Parliamentarians
should do as the trade unions are required to do that is, that ./ 4

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there are special circumstances existing because of what they haven't
got ove~ r an extended period of time, inrespect of community standards,
then they ought to put that case to their tribunals, and if they
haven't got tribunals, then they ought to establish them. And in
those -tribunals the same test ought to be applied as is applied to
workers generally. And that's what I've put to them. I hope that
they will follow that.
LA: Po you think they will?
IRJf: Well I'm hopeaful. I have spoken with the Premier of South
Australia where they do have a tribunal. I have told him what was
in the letter, and I hope there will be a positive response. There
ought to be because we've all of us got a vested interest whether
we are: trade unionists, parliamentarians, businessmen, professional
people!. We've all got the same interest. And that is that we
have the highest level of economic growth with the lowest level of
inflation. And the maintenance of the accord is critical to that.
LA~: To what extent has the 141' s' salary issue threatened the
accordl? RU: I don't think its threatened it, in the sense that it will
break down, in fact I'm sure it hasn't done that. The ACTU
leadeteship has been very responsible I think in the way that they
have addressed themselves to this issue. Quite clearly though,
those elements within the trade union movement, though small,
but who would want to see for bad purposes, the accord break down,
would use this as ammunition and that's why I think its important
that if parliamentarians have a case for increases beyond 4.3 percent
and the ACTU recognises that they may well have such a case, then
they should do it in the'same way as the trade unions are required
to do it, that is, to have the 4.3 percent,* and then go through
what we call the anomaly process to show that they may have special
circumstances which require movement beyond that 4.3 percent.
LA: While you've been having your Xmas/ New Year break, Doug Anthony
has announced that he is retiring, and it looks as though Ian Sinclair
will be the new leader of the National Party. What effect do you
think that will have on politics in 1984?
RJI{: I think it will mean that there will be increased tension
withiLn the coalition. I mean no disrespect to Doug Anthony, but
I think you would agree, that since the election in March, he hasn't
been a upfront, forceful figure, and Sinclair, if he gets the
leadership, wi~. l be pushing not so much against us, because he's
been trying to that anyrate, but the figure in his sights will be
a cha~ p called Andrew, and that's already evident. All the signs
are there, there'll be increased tensions on the opposite side,
which if possible, will make their operations in Opposition even
less effective than they were in 1983. 1 think it will be a very
tough time for them, and I feel in respect of Mr Sinclair, that
he is vulnerable, he has demonstrated his vulnerability. That's
not going to diminish in 1984. 9*/

LA: ' Vulnerable in what way?
RJH:. Well I don't want to shoot off all the ammunition at this
stage but you've been around the political scene a long time and
you know in respect of his performance as a minister, there was
a situation with a lot of question marks about his performances
and I think he's the sort of person who shoots from the hip and
creates his own vulnerability and I think that will be evident,
. I would Iayizle, from hiib quite inexplicable performance of making
those allegations at the end of 1983 about attempted bribery of him.
That-was alleged to haveloccurred in 1979. Hie has made allegations
which are the subject now of investigation. I don't think he'll
come very well out of that. I
LA: He's a tough customer though, isn't he? Are you concerned
at the possibility that he could emerge as a leader of a combined,
amalgamated Liberal/ National Party?... a conservative party?
RJH: Not at all, not at all. Let me make two points about that.
If he's to emerge as the leader of a combined non-Labor opposition
that-means there's going to be a hell of a lot of blood and a hell
of a lot of bodies strewn around the conservative carpets of this
world, and that won't make for effectiveness. And secondly, the
fact that you are a head-kicker, as he is, and is prepared to make
unsubstantiable allegations and to do that in pretty ruthless fashion
I don't think that impresses anyone.
LA: ' What would you do if you were Andrew Peacock? Would you be
worried about Ian Sinclair?
RJH: Ah yes, I would take another layer of protective clothing around
my back.
LA: You've been fairly scornful about Andrew Peacock's performance,
the Opposition's performance. If you were in their position what
would you be doing. What could they do to be more effective?
RJH: Well Laurie, I'm known as a generous character, and correctly.
I am generous and charitable by nature. But I don't think its
really for me to tell the opposition how to pick their game up.
Perhaps in 10 years time, I might be prepared to give them a hint.
LA; Well at the end of last year you said that you wanted Mick Young
back in your Cabinet. And I think that's going to happen what the
week after next, isn't it?
RJH: Yes.
LA: What will he have, what portfolio? Have you thought about th-at
yet? RJH: I've thought about it, yes. But I think its appropriate to
wait until the time. I'll publicly announce it. I joli'. t think
there'll be many surprises. 0../ 6

LA: Well its another way of asking the * same question I suppose.
But aret you planning any sort of a reshuffle in your Cabinet,
your Ministry, between now and the election or are you happy with
it?
RJH: I'm very happy with their performance. You know I've said.
to you privately and I've said publicly that I think this has been
an outs~ tandingly successful Ministry. I am sure that there hasn't
been a ministry to equal it in the post-war period. That doesn't
mean there hasn't been some minor mistakes of course there have been,
but the quality of this Cabinet is remarkable, the breadth and the
depth of it,, and it would therefore, in my judgment, be foolish
Laurie, to talk about any. significant reshuffle.
LA: Widi again I'm venturing close to asking the same question,
but not really. Its been suggested that you will give Mick Young
his old portfolio, but take away the sensitive areas of security,
law enforcement. Is there a problem with Mick Young that way?
Is the cloud still over his head?
lRll: :, 1o of course there's no cloud over his head. The facts are
simple. Mick made a mistake. He recognised it, he resigned.
He served the penalty, a severe one. I've made a judgemnent and
my colleagues have accepted my judgement, that it is appropriate
for the government and for the country, to have his talents
back in the Cabinet. And that involves, in recognition on my part
and the part of my colleagues, that he-. is ready again to serve the
country. Now in my judgment you don't have partial readiness.
A man is ready or he's not.
LA: What New Year's * resolutions have you....
RJH: I'm not a maker of New Year's resolutions Laurie. I gave
that up a long time ago, because its so artificial. it almost
guarantees ineffectiveness. If you have to depend upon the calendar
to comre round oh the first of January to reassess your performance, and
say now I'll do something different, then you're guaranteeing your
ineffectiveness. What you ought to be doing whether you're in
politics, or whatever you're doing, engaged in, is to be constantly
monitoring your performance. if you can see that something would
be done better another way, then you do it.
LA: But you must have a goal for the year, what do you want to
achieve this year?
RJH: That's a quite different question. Well, the main thing that
I'm committed to, Laurie, is to make consistently, decisions which
are going to consolidate the turnaround of the Australian economy.
I recognise that in 1983 that we had good fortune in some respects
for which we could not properly claim any credit: the breaking of
the drought, the growth in the United States economy; but equally
importantly, we made a series of co-ordinated decisions which in
conjunction with those factors, strengthened the operation of the
Australian economy. Now I want to see that we continue to make

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those s; orts of decisions so that growth continues at significant
levels in 1984, and within that growth, to see that we get a more
equitable Australia. That's my basic commitment, internally.
ExternZally, I want to continue to build the recognition in the
rest of' the world of the fact that this new Australian government
is about courses of action which will be respected by the rest
of the world. I think you would acknowledge that we have received
that respect in a remarkably short term. There's lots of evidence
of that. And I want to build on that. I will. be going as you
know, at the end.-of this month, to Korea and Japan and China,
Hong Kong and Singapore and Malaysia, and I believe that's a very
important part of what I've just been talking about. We have to
see that we build up an understanding within Australia, and within
the region, of the fact that Australia is part of this region.
We're not just an outpost of European civilisation, parked on the
rim of South East Asia. We are part of it.
LA: We read that you're planning some kind of a Pacific Basin
trading pact.. Is that....?
RJH: I think that overstates it, but I do believe that there is
a need for a new round of GATT negotiations. The previous round
didn't do justice in any way to the sorts of things,. commodities,
which are of basic importance to us and to many other countries
in the region. It makes sense to be able to have such a round in
which there is a comprehensive dealing with the commodities entering
into world trade. If that's not possible, then we as a region would
be looking as to how we can develop effectively trade between
ourselves. Now again, as characterised in 1983, the first year of
our govarnment I'm not trying to overstate what we can do, but I can
say this, that in the preliminary soundings-out that we've been doing,
with othier countries in this region, we are seeing some very positive
reactions to the sorts of suggestions that we're making. So one
part of the visit that I'll be making will be to try and build upon
those initial suggestions because it is very important to Australia
that we build up trade in this region, and we are singularly fortunate
and cha! llenged at the one time, to be part of the fastest-growing
economic region in the world. And the future of our children depends
veryrnuch on making sure that we can get the greatest benefit out of
and involvement in that development. And that's what we'll be about.
LA: Thanks Mr Hawke,.
RJH: Thanks a lot.

Transcript 6292