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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6689


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: 11/08/1985

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 6689

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JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, thanks for joining us.
PM: My pleasure, Robert.
JOURNALIST: " Je've had further evidence on the economic
front this week of good news, yet the public standing of
your government remains bad news. Why do you think that
PM: We've been locked up in Canberra for the first six
months of this year on the two issues tax, most of the
time, getting the May expenditure statement ready and
then latterly the Budget. And ta~ is never good news.
So I think the attention has been diverted from the
tremendous economic achievements to which you r: efer.
Australia has been doing better than any other economy in
the world. And I think once we have got those diversions
behind us, the real good news will start to be reflected.
JOURNALIST: And wasn't the taxation bad news magnified by
holding the tax summit?
PM:. Well it, I suppose, magnified some of the bad news.
But I wouldn't do it differentl3if I had my time again. I
think it has given us a basis for coming up with a package
that will be both acceptable and will constitute significant
tax reform, Robert. I
JOURNALIST: Well, we are going to move to taxation in a
moment. PM: Sure.
JOURNALIST: But after the poor electoral showing of the
Government, you accepted part of the blame for that. You
said that was partly your responsibility. Do you accept
personally the blame for the Government's poor showing in
the polls at the moment.
PM: Pardy, I have got to. I mean, when we were going very
well people were kind enough to attribute it, at least in
part to me. When we are down a bit then I have to accept
some of that responsibility. I think I have been tied up
with these other matters, but I am now free from them. I
will be out selling the very positive achievements of the
Government to date and enlarging the vision for Australians

of what we have in store for a much better Austral. ia
into thie future. I
JOURNALIST: And asserting more in the Government your
leadership. That has been something that many critics,
and some inside the Government, have seen to be lacking.
PM: That is fair comment. Again, I go back in part to
tax. I felt during that period when we were both developing
our position and then going to the public with it, that it
was politically unrealistic to expect that with the debate
going on in the party that people within the Government
weren't going to be able to have their opportunity to speak
and push a point of view. That is behind us. And I have
made it quite clear to my Ministers that they are to stick
to their portfolios and any movement outside of that will
be dealt with. And I think that that has been welcomed
by the Ministers themselves, and certainly by the party.
JOURNALIST: In Fiji you held a dinner with a number of
journalists. I am told that there you specifically said
that Bill Hayden had breached a Cabinet decision when he
talked on
PM: I didn't put it that way.
JOURNALIST: How did you put it?
PM: I am in the difficult position that well, let me put
it this way. I believe that Bill Hayden has-been an
outstandingly successful Minister. I believe he has had the
interests of the Government at all times at heart. There
was a point there where he felt strongly about a particular
issue and he made a statement. To Bill's credit, after I
wrote the letter, which applied not only to what Bill had
said, he understood and accepted that. And I think if you
spoke to the people in question, you will find that there
was no personal attack or criticism of Bill. It occurred in
a situation where a number of people were feeling that
perhaps they could say certain things and go to areas outside
their own portfolios. And I am not on this program or
anywhere else going to do what I haven't done before, and that
is attack Bill because in my judgement..
JOURNALIST: Has he breached a Cabinet decision?
PM: It wasn't so much a question of breaching a decision.
What we had had was a position where on the previous Monday
the matter in question had been raised. A view was adopted
and then Bill felt, for compelling reasons personally, that
he wanted to say something. I think in retrospect he would
understand it wouldn't now be appropriate.
JOURNALIST: But isn't there a difficulty here with what
you said to us a short time ago when you said that from now
on there would be more leadership and there would be no more
Ministers speaking outside their portfolios. 13

PM: Well, what I am saying to you is that my le-. ter to
the Ministers followed after that event.
JOURNALIST: But what if another Minister feels strongly.
PM: I made it quite clear in the letter that the rules
had to be adhered to. Ministers were not to go outside
their portfolios. That has been accepted.
JOUJRNALIST: If you get another Bill Hayden comment.
PM: Let's be fair. It wasn't just Bill that was involved.
It applies to anyone.
JOURNALIST: So you don't feel you have to pull Bill Hayden
into line?
PM: Certainly not.
JOURNALIST: It is all tied up with factionalism, isn't it
Prime Minister. Is this business of showing strong leadership
one of the reasons you called the four key Centre Left
Minist'=! rs a couple of weeks ago and suggested they disband
their faction.
PM: I'm not going to the details of the discussion I had
with four Ministers or a single Minister. But let me make this
point. I am not trying to avoid the substance of your
question. I believe that an excess of factionalism and
speaking from factional point of views has harmed the
Government. Now, to the credit of the groups concerned, I
think they share that view. I think you will find that
there will be a considerable diminution, if not extinction,
of that.
JOURNALIST: Now, did you have in mind, though, that only
the Centre Left wind down, or that all the factions wind down?
PM: Not simply the Centre Left, no, certainly not.
JOURNALIST: You would like to see all three, what, cease to
exist or merely
PM: I don't think, if you look at it at the State level.
I mean, it is quite unrealistic to say at State levels that
factional groupings in this, or any other party for that
matter don't let's delude ourselves that we haven't got
factionalism in the Liberal and the National Party. I hope
we will have an opportunity perhaps to get to that. But in
all political parties there are groups and they operate at
State levels. I have the view that at the national level the
interests of the party and of the Government would be better
served if it wasn't so institutionalised. I don't think you
can say that people aren't going to meet together, but I
think the concept of statements on behalf of groups is not

JOURNALIST: You're a member of the right wing faction,
Prime Minister. Does this mean you will stop going to
their meetings, stop being part of that faction?
PM: I don't think it is going to be necessary for me to
attend those meetings. And, I mean, if I had my way, what
would be the ultimately desirable position I think, is there
shouldn't be any group meetings at all. Now, whether we can
get to that, I don't k~ now.
JOURNALIST: But it %. ild certainlybe leadership by example for you
to withdraw from the right faction, would it not?
PM: I guess so. And I think you might find I won't be going
along. JOURNALIST: Mr Hayden in his Chifley Memorial Lecture
earlier in the week talked about factionalism. And he said
that Labor needed to return to traditional policies,
traditional ways of selling policies. Do you accept that as
criticism, or what is your view?
PM: I don't. And I don't think it was intended. I read
Bill's lecture. I think it was a very salutory lecture in a
number of respects. It pointed out the fact that the strength
of the Labor movement was in being seen not as a radical
evolutionary type party but a party which is concerned with
achieving particular improvements for ordinary . Australian
men and women. That was the major thrust of his lecture. I
think it sensible. And I think one point that he made is
particularly important. And that is this has been a
spectacularly successful government.
JOURNALIST: But he said you hadn't sold that. Is that a
criticism of you?
PM: that's the point I am going to. He said as a Government
we hadn't been entirely successful in selling those
achievements. I believe he is right. And I have to accept
some of the responsibility for that.
JOURNALIST: Some of your senior colleagues believe that
you have received warnings of this yourself that Mr Hayden
in that speech and in other ways, is making a run for the
party leadership.
PM: That is nonsense.
JOURNALIST: Have you received warnings along those lines?
PM: No;
JOURNALIST: There is certainly tension between you though,
isn't there?

PM: Well people like to spend a bit of time apparently
talking about it. All I can say is that in portfolio
terms there has, from the very first day of government,
been consistent and constructive co-operation and co-ordination
between Bill Hayden and myself. Now, if people want to 4.
speculate about that sort of thing, they may. It has, in
my judgement, no solid basis.
JOURNALIST: When are we going to see a revised tax
package? PM: I hope that Paul Keating will be able to bring down that
package before the cnd of September. That is certainly the
JOURNALIST: There have been reports that the Treasury
really hasn't given up on a 12h% consumption tax and that,
in fact, they are going to get it in a de facto way through
loading everything in on wholesale tax.
PM: Well, if youchase every report that appears in the
Australian media down the burrow which that report deserves, F
we'ye all engaged in a fruitless exercise in self flagellation.
It is nuL accurate.
JOURNALIST: What about perks, Prime Minister, taxes on
fringe benefits. That is another controversial subject that
seems to have cost you support. What is your approach to
that now since the tax summit?
PM: That is part of Option A, the area of closing off tax
avoidance. I suppose I could do no better than quote a
well known authority in Liberal Party circles, the National
President of the Party. I mean, Mr Valder put it well. He
said, I think they are going to reverse the whole disease,
if you like to call it, of fringe benefits which again has
developed over a decade or more. He said what we are doing
In that is a fair and a just thing. He's right.
JOURNALIST: He also said you were implementing Liberal
policy. Doesn't that embarrass you?
PM: He said that about the assets test. And it is very
interesting. We should have that on the record. The National
President of the Liberal Party says the assets test is our
policy. He's right. It's what Mr Peacock said in 1981. The
only difference, as Mr Valder was good enough to say, they
didn't have the guts to do it, or the honesty to do it. They
want us to do it, cop the flak, and then they come in and
say, well it is done. It is our policy.

JOURNALIST: Welcome back to our interview. with the Prime
Minister. Mr Hawke, John Howard has just circul. ated to
business people a notice that the Oppositior intends to
make a big issue in the run-up to the next election out of
union power in Australia. Now since the Tax Summit your
Government seems rather vulnerable to such a campaign.
PM: I don't believe so. I think if Kr Howard and the
Liberal Party want to talk about the relationship between
trade unions, I welcome it. I just pray that they will
bring it on. Every government in Australia has a relation
with the trade union movement. And the previous government
had a relationship, very few will forget it and none ought
to forget it. It was a relationship of confrontation and of almost
criminal negligence. And it cost this country dearly. our
relationship with the trade union movement, within the Accord,
has produced the most rapid economic and employment growth
in the western world.
JOURNALIST: But are you aware of a public perception that
shows up in opinion poll after opinion poll that Australians
believe that the unions are too powerful?
PM: Well I think that is always the feeling. And that is
understandable. But look at the level of industrial disputes,
the lowest in this country for 17 years. And in regard tcu
level of movement in earnings, the lowest in more than 17
years. JOURNALIST: There is anofl-r crucial test com. ina utn th-ere with the
Septeaber wages case, Prime Minister. People will watch that
to see how much influence the union movement has. How much
will it have? Will you do what the ACTU wants?
PM: We will be certainly not doing what the ACTU wants.
JOURNALIST: But will you be arguing for discounting of
wages? PM: Let me finish. What we will be doing will be putting
a position to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission who will make the decision. I believe that the
ACTU will put their position, which will be different from
ours. JOURNALIST: But you will be asking for discounting?
PM: We will be putting in the September case a submission which
we believe is necessary to ensure that the great competitive
advantage presented to Australia by the significant devaluation
that has occurred is not dissipated. And that as I have said
consistently is going to require a lower level of real wage
outcome than has previously been anticipated. There will be
a number of ways in which this can be done and it includes

JOURNALIST: Prime ZMinister, in public perception,; don't
you agree that anything less than discounting will cost
you support or make it look as though the unions are running
the government.
PM: No what will be required of this government will be
the putting of submissions to the Commission which are consistent
with responsible economic management. The fact is that this
economy is still continuing to grow at record levels. It is
still providing additional jobs at record levels. Now we
are going to see that the wages policy pursued by this
Government ensures the continuation of that economic growth.
JOUR1NALIST: Do know what that wages policy, do you know what
that government submission to the Arbitration Commission is going
to be now.
PM: I have it in my mind. The Cabinet has to finalise it.
We don't run a dictatorship.
JOURNALIST: When the Cabinet finalises it, will you be telling
anyone before it goes to the Commission?
PM: I think it will emerge before then, yes.
PM: The ACTU, well we will discuss it~ them as we have discussed
wages policy from day one of this Government. It is the fact
that we have discussed wages policy with the ACTU which means
that you have had, the statistics this week showing the lowest
growth in earnings since the early 1960s. We are not going to
stop discussing with the ACTU wages policy.
JOURNALIST. And will it be discussed in the same terms and
with the same amount of information with the business community?
Who, after all, have to pay the wage?
PM: Sure. I am more than happy, both in EPAC as we have already
done it, or in bilateral discussions with the business community.
They, I believe, know our position. We have exposed it before.
But I am more than happy to talk with any representative of
the business community about what they see as appropriate wages
policy. JOURNALIST: And disclosing to them what you are going to
argue in the Commission?
PM: Just as happy to disclose to them the information that
we think is relevant to the emergence of our policy. Just
as happy to do it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Cabinet is about to discuss
our relations with South Africa. Now the Government not only
has a Trade Commissioner in Johannesburg, it also has a policy
which encourages trade with South Africa. Isn't this inconsistent?
What are you going to do about it?

PM: Well, I am waiting now to receive the submission that
Bill will b2 putting up to Cabinet on Monday. We will get that
before Monday arid until I see the submission I don't think it
is appropriate to go to that. But let me make this point which
I think is relevant. The South African Government should realise
the increasing abhorrence around the world of the evil of
apartheid. And that they should move towards the creation
of a free and liberal democracy with universal suffrage.
And that should be put to them. At the same time as those
things are being put we should together be working out what
increasing sanctions may be applied if they will not respond
o~ f their own volition to that proposition. But Australia's
sanctions b-i itself could not produce change.
JOURNALIST: Just the same. We voted for international
sanctions at the UN. I am wondering what you say to those
opponents of the apartheid regime in South Africa who say
that sanctions won't work. One of them is Helen Sussman,
who is the spokesman for civil rights in the South African
opposition. If I could quote her, she said not only won't
they work, but the biggest sufferers would be the blacks.
PM: Helen Sussman has said that. Bishop Tutu, I think is
probably regarded as a legitimate spokesperson1 for the blacks
of South Africa doesn't put that point of view. Now I don't
question the integrity of Helen SL: zsmnan ' s point of view. But
what I am saying is this. That you have now got a new situation
in South Africa. You have got this state of emergency in 36
districts. You have got the fact that since 1984 500 people,
blacks, have been killed, basically by police and military
action. You have got thousands who have been detained. Now
it is that action which is denying ordinary, decent expectations
to the overwhelming majority, about 75 percent, of the people
of South Africa are being denied ordinary, decent rights. And
the world is reacting to that. Now what you have got to understand
is this. That I believe it is inevitable that if change
doesn't occur within South Africa, the inevitability then is
a bloodbath of some sort. Now that is abhorrent, it is appalling.
Now the South African regime has it within its power, I believe,
to understand what is happening, to understand in terms of its
own interest, the capital that is fleeing the country, that
people are fleeing the country. Now they can change that by
their own action. That is how I would like to see it happen.
JOURNALIST: Let's move to another issue now Prime Minister.
On the nuclear free zone treaty which was negotiated in
Rarotonga. Would it prevent home-porting of US nuclear
ships as the Opposition now claims.
PM: Well I believe that home-porting in the full sense
that it is normally understood, would not be regarded as
compatible with the treaty. Although there is a form of
argument which says that the language there could be consistent
with it. But it is, as far as this Government is concerned,
entirely hypothetical because our policy is against homeporting.
Our policy is the one which is totally consistent
with our treaty obligations with the United States and which
is understood by them and which is understood by our fellow
members of the Forum. And that i' that under our treaty
arrangements with the United States, our treaty partner, / 9

the facilities of our ports will be available to them. And we
have nade it quite clear to the Forum in the months of the
drafting of this trcaty, that that is the position. It has
been so accepted. It is understood by all of them and by
the United States.
JOURNALIST: Can you persuade the Americans to endorse this
treaty? PM: I have said I hope we can. I have reason to believe from
the discussions that I have had to this point that the United
States understands the sense in which we have pursued
successfully, I think with dramatic success, the achievement
of this treaty. They understand that it is regarded by us
as totally compatible with our full treaty obligations with
the United States. And knowing that I believe that we have
a reasonable chance of success. And I certainly hope they
will. I believe that the treaty as it stands, even without
adherence from the metropolitan and nuclear super-powers is
a very signi i an step forward. It obviously becomes the
rore effective tdO'extent that we can get the adherence to the
protocols of the metropolitan and nuclear super-powers.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, getting back to you for the
moment. Your popularity has dropped fairly dramatically.
You are now below Andrew Peacock in I think one of the
most recent polls. Doe',, that worry you? It has always
been assumed that you areopolitician who, I suppose, gets
fired up by personal adulation. Is it true?
PM: I don't get ' fired up by personal adulation. But
obviously I would be less than honest if I didn't say that
I would like to be higher. Obviously, any politician, including
this one, would like to be as high in the polls as possible.
But I have said that I am not going to chase popularity on
the basis of avoiding the processes that have to be undertaken.
And since the election the major preoccupations that I have had
were, being involved in that very tortuous and~ as Isaynot
very popular past-time of thinking about tax changes. And
secondly, trying to screw out one and quarter billion in
expenditure restraint. Now those two exercises are not
calculated to have us shooting up the popularity charts.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you had some well publicised and
highly visible personal problems late last year. And indeed
you acknowledge that they affected your performance as
Prime Minister. Now without wishing to go back over all
that, we ask you are those problems cver?
PM: Yes.
JOURNALIST: You are operating now at your best?
PM: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Back on top?
PM.: I think getting better and better. I hope so.
JOURNALIST: No more excuses?
PM: You describedi it as an excuse. I would rather describe it as a reason.
JOUIVALIST: Prirm Minister thank you very nuch.

Transcript 6689