TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BETWEEN BRIAN WHITE (2UE) AND PRIME MINISTER, BOB HAWKE 21 MARCH 1990
Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991
Release Date: 21/03/1990
Release Type: Interview
Transcript ID: 7983
Document: Original Transcript (PDF 786.47 KB)
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BETWEEN BRIAN WHITE ( 2UE) AND PRIME
MINISTER, BOB HAWK~ E.
21 MARCH 1990
E 03 PROOF ONLY
WHITE: And nov we come to the second of our election interviews,
once again being broadcast to quite a number of stations around
Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, as well as MRE.
I welcome once again to 2HD, 2MCI 2RE, 2RG, 2SSS, 4124, 5CS and
Welcome to you and your listeners. Now my guest the Leader
of the Labor Party, Bob Hawke, the Prime Minister, sitting
opposite me in the studio, having flown up from Canberra, where
at lunch time he addressed the National Press Club, as Andrew
Peacock did yesterday. The first question to you, the same one
that I gave to Andrew Peacock. As brief ly as you can, can you
tell us what is the main reason why Australians should vote for
you on Saturday?
PMI Because I have gone directly to the people and not fsimply
said what I will do, but how I will do it. I've answered eve~ ry
question that's been put to me. What I've said I will do is to
continue economic growth, employment growth, continue to create a
more competitive Australian economy, increase our exports, and
also continue to protect our environment and to increase social
justice in our country so that there is a greater equality of
opportunity for the people of this country. Now, I've explained
how I will do that by having a wages policy which is predictable.
If you can't have a wages policy which will tell both employees
and bosses what the wages outcome is going to be, then you can't
run the economy. Mr Peacock has openly said he doesn't know what
the wages outcome will be. Everyone else knows it will be a
wal-s explosion. The second thing is, I have before I started
this campaign sat down, found savings and then fully funded
every promise I have made for the Australian people. Mr Peacock
has got an unfunded bribe of between six and seven billion
dollars and now two days before the election hasn't told the
Australian people how he will find the money for those promigies.
That must blow our surplus. And with the wages explosion and the
busting of the budget surplus, you will have interest rates going
through the roof. And, as I say, I will continue, as I havo in
seven years, to ensure that I accept the obligation to this and
future generations to protect the environment of this country,
On every major decision I've taken, Brian, thie saving of the
Franklin, saving the Daintree from being logged, saving the
Kakadu from being mined, saving the Tall Forests of Tasmania on
every one of those, Mr Peacock, the Liberals and National Party
have opposed me.
WHITEt Now one thing that arises as a thought out of your
answer, is that this is a very presidential campaign, isn't it?
I mean, is it Bob Hawke versus Andrew Peacock? I mean why has
Labor, for example, chosen to make it a one man campaign?
P14: Well, I guess because they've got confidence in their
Leader. I have supported the whole of the Labor Party every
one of my Ministers is one hundred percent behind me, supports me
and trusts me. That is not the position with the Liberal Party.
just let me give you an example, which happened just last week.
The most remarkable thing that occurred on a radio programme down
Sin Melbourne, with Don Chipp. Don Chipp had John Howard on his
Wprogramme and he asked him a question about whether he believed
Andrew Peacock saying that he, Andrew Peacock, didn't know until
two days before that he was going to knock Howard off? And Don
put the question to him quite frankly, and Howard gave the
answer. And what Chippy said was well, there's only one
inference you can draw from the reply, John, and that is that you
don't believe Mr Peacock. I mean, when you've got a Coalition
like that where the senior members don't trust one another, when
they know that Ur Peacock can't handle economic questions, then
what you get is a range of people being put up Dr Hewson, Kr
Howard, Andrew Peacock. In my case, the party and all my
Ministers totally trust me. They know that if there's questions
about economics, they don't have to put someone else up. That I
can handle it.
WHITE: You did, of course, originally come to office after a,
coup against Bill Hayden
PMt Yeah, but I didn't get up and say, as Kr Peacock did, that
I didn't know anything about it until two days before when I wast
drafted. I mean, I didn't have a situation where I had one of my
senior colleagues, like Kr Howard, giving an answer which, if
interpreted correctly, as saying I don't believe what Mr
Peacock's saying. Everyone knew what I was about.
WH ITE: Would you agree that if the Coalition did have the sort
of, well how can I put this? if it appeared to the public t~ o
have its act really together, that they'd do you like a dinner?
PM: N~ o, I don't accept that they'd do us like a dinner. I mean,
it's like saying that if someone was differently constituted,
they'd be a different sex. I mean the fact is that the
Opposition is constituted the way they are. Constituted of a
group of people in the Liberal Party who haven't accepted the
obligation of Opposition. Opposition is a hard job and the Labor
Party learnt it. We got dealt with in my Judgementappropriately
by the electorate for a long time. While the,
electorate looked at the Labor Party and said you're so busy
fighting yourself as we did, vigorously the electorate just:
said, sorry, Labor Party, until you can govern yourself, you're
not going to get the job of governing the country. Now that's
the reality. And it's no good talking about it. The reality 1i3
that the Liberal Party has spent more time swapping and changing
leaders since I became Prime Minister I mean, I met in 1983,
Malcolm Fraser. So it was made clear to him that he had to go.
Then they put in Andrew Peacock. So then they spend their time
dumping him and putting John Howard in. Then they spend all all
t-heir energy dumping Howard and putting Peacock back In. But they
haven't done the hard work of getting their policies together.
And then so within the Liberal Party, they despise and detest
one another and then you've got the tensions between the Liberal
Party and the National Party.
WHITE: Right. Now...,
PM: That's what they are. I mean, you can't say well what if
they were different. I mean that's who they are.
WHITE: Yeah. But you're not saying that if they were different
you wouldn't be done like a dinner?
PM: Well, I'd be entitled to say if they were different then
something else might different might have happened. We
mightn't have had the collapse in the terms of trade in 1985/ 8B6
which brought about certain economic results. I mean, it's not a
very, you know, rewarding game saying if something was different
on their side.....
WHITE: No. Well, today speaking of the economy we've got
these figures out that show our gross domestic product is on the
decline, yet this is essentially being seen as good news for the
economy. Now, surely that's turning language on its ear when the
product of a country is going down?
PM: No, of course it isn't. Because what we think.... you can't
have it both ways.. I mean, I don't say you, Brian, I mean it
can't be had both ways by people. What we were faced with ii. a
situation where we had to bring in tighter monetary policy
because we had this gap a four percent gap. I mean, I'm riot
speaking in economic jargon. We, in this country, were consuming
four percent more than we were producing. So we had to have high
interest rates to close that gap. And what the figures show now
is that the gap has been closed. And that's why the banks and the
commentators are now saying that interest rates can come off. We
had to get this slowing down so that you could take off interest
rates, and of course, you know, fortunately* we've got the
comments on the Reuters screen last night. Traders said that
credit marks at the end of the day ( inaudible) in anticipation of
a further easing in monetary policy in the next few weeks. As I
said, assuming the Hawke Labor Government is re-elected in
Saturday's federal election. In other words what they're saying
is evidence is showing that the policy to bring our consumption
and our production into line is working. And what's happening,,
fortunately, is that we will not get the recession because of
this because what's happening is our production is now being
channelled into net exports s.
WHITE: Yeah. But we still have a situation where while
consumption might have come down, so has production. How can i~ t
be a good thing for production to have come down?
PM: Production, in fact, for the year shows an increase
of.-.. I'll give you the figure 4.2 percent growth in GDP over
the course of whole of 1989.
P14: t We're still getting we've got a situation where in fact
it showed a 0.2 decline for the quarter, but what you've got to
understand in these statistics is a thing called a statistical
discrepancy, which detracted 0.9 percent 0.9 percent, which
is the wild figure. It may well be that when the corrections are
made, as they are, in subsequent quarters, that you will find, in
fact, that there was a positive figure for this quarter, but....
WHITE: Sure, it could go the other way.
PM: Yeah, yeah. But what I'm saying is that what we should be
pleased about, as the markets are, is that what we set out to do
is working. we're slowing things dow'n.... slowing them down in a
way which is directing our production into net exports which is
exactly what we've got to do. What we can guarantee, and wihat
the market is saying, is that if Labor is re-elected on Saturday,
then you'll have the conditions for a lowering of interest rates
and growth in the economy. That's what the markets are saying
here and overseas. I mean, it's not only what's being said in
Australia, but it's being said overseas as well.
WVLITEV: In my discussion with Andrew Peacock earlier, I quoted
one overseas case to him which was the British budget out to& Lay-
Let me quote another overseas case to you. The American
economist, J X Galbraith, he said some time ago, and he was
actually referring to Britain, that when you have high interest
rates, the rich people lend to the poor people and make a lot of
money out of doing so and the gap between the rich and poor gets
wider and wider. Now isn't that exactly what's been happening
PM: It is not. The opposite is happening here. The
opposite.... WHITE: Not at the moment ( inaudible).
PM1 Let me tell you....
WHITEs In this period of high interest tates are you saying to
me that the rich haven't been getting richer and the poor getting
poorer? PH: I'm saying that under my Government the gap between the rich
and the poor has been reduced. Why? Because we've had a
taxation policy which has meant that the rich are now paying tax
where they weren't before. Just let me give you one quote,
Brian, one quote. This is not Labor Party policy, or, you know
Labor Party spokesman, this is what is said at the end of the
last period of government, this is by Professor Russell
Mathews, the Australian National University, foremost fiscal
authority, said the essential problem is to make the rich pay any
income tax at all. Why did he say that? Basically because there
wasn't a capital gains tax. And what we have done is now to
remove that obscenity from the Australian scene where it is a
question of getting the rich to pay any income tax at all because
we've introduced a capital gains tax. And Mr Peacock by two
propositions is proposing to return to that situation of the past
of clothing the rich at the expense of the poor. Firstly, by
abolishing the capital gains tax. The absence of which was the
very reason that Professor Mathews said that the essential
problem was to get the rich to pay any tax at all. The second
thing just how do you like this? About Mr Peacock';
proposal on the tax front, What he's proposing is a new two
tier tax system. And this is his concept of fairness. Here are
the f igures. A two tier tax system. Shovel it back into the
prof its of the rich. For a person on $ 17,000 a year, the tax cut:
he's proposing would be twenty cents a week. For a person at tho
level of average weekly earnings of about $ 28,000, it will be a
cut of $ 4.73 a week. Do you know what it would be for Peacock ais
Prime Minister? Over $ 100 a week. Now that's the concept of
fairness in tax of Mr Peacock. Abolish the capital gains tax to
restore the situation that the Liberals imposed upon this country
where it was a question of choice as to whether the rich paid any
tax--at all. And secondly, if they re-arrange the tax system,
he'll shove $ 100 a week,... more than $ 100 a week into his own
pocket, and $ 4.00 a week for the average bloke.
WHITE: Right. Well now, if I can move to wages, and of the
accord which you've already brought up yourself. Labor I s
obviously terribly proud of the way which the accord has held
down wage levels. But could I put it to you that in a sense our
whole industrial relations scene has not moved with the times?
That it's not it's become almost upside down today in that,
for example, if good workers in the business want a pay rise, the
normal way that they have to act in to go to their union firsts
the union might then go to the Industrial Relations Commission ox
wherever, but at no stage does the worker group of workers go
to the employer.
PM: Well, it's simply not the case. We have the situation under
the current industrial relations system, that there is enterprise
bargaining. It's happening.
WHITUt It's starting to.
PM: It's happened very significantly. Very significantly
indeed. And we have, however, in the interests of the economy,
two guarding mechanisms in it, if you like, that agreements for
m~ e to be subject to the ( inaudible) of the... and the guidance of
the Industrial Relations Commission, so that national aggregate
outcomes are guarded... you don't get a return to the beginning of
the 80' s when you had a wages explosion in the worst recession
for fifty years. And secondly, the ( inaudible) union council also
is keeping a watch on seeing that you don't get massive wage-s
outbreaks. The simple fact is that it's only as a result of our
industrial relations practices that we are moving in the times.
Look at what happened yesterday. The Metal Trades Award. For
yonks for decades you've had a situation of this critically
important award in the manufacturing industry the Metal Trades
Award had three hundred and sixty different classifications
reflecting the ( inaudible) and the relevancies of fifty, sixty,
seventy, eighty years ago. Now, as a result of our processes,
that's been scrapped and instead of three hundred and sixty
classifications, fourteen... fourteen classifications which now
means that you can have proper training and re-training and
promotion and a whole structure of relations which is relevant to
the most modern technology. Now that's what our system has
produced. Plus, a sixty percent reduction a sixty percent
reduction in industrial disputes..
WHITEt Many economic commentators not the journalists from
Canberra have been saying that the best hope for this country
is that whoever wins on Saturday will drop their promises if they
have to, to do what just has to be done which is in their viLew
PM: No, I haven't seen anyone who said that they hope that our
promises will be dropped for the simple reason that everyone of
my promises is funded. You see....
WHITE: It's not so much the fact that they're f unded but the
problems are going to be so critical that whatever you can fund
at the moment, you might not be able to fund
PM: Let's look at how absurd that proposition is of ever putting
it. what was one of the centrally important promises that I've
made to commitment? it is to create fifty centres co-operative
centres of scientific excellence in this country, which will
bring together the best research capacity of the CSIRO and
universities and industries which will put Australia at the
leading edge of technology in a whole range of areas which will
then be used to transfer into new production. New productive
processes. Now, I couldn't think of anything more obscenely
irrelevant and absurd. Brian, now you're not saying... you were
saying other people were saying that that proposition should be
dropped. I mean if there is one thing that Australia's got to0
do, as I've said in the policy speech, we've got to become the
clever country. We're not going to become the clever country by
accident. We've got to get these centres of excellence. Cooperation
between the CSIRO, the universities, and industry, Now
for anyone to suggest that we should drop those proposals , that
I should drop the proposal to help parents to keep their kids on
at school, to meet the obscenity that I inherited in 1983, where
after seven years of conservatives we still only had one in three
of our kids staying on in school, now we've got nearly two In
three of our kids staying on In school and I've committed through
finding interest savings to pay money to the parents of these
kids. Twice a year at the relevant time so it's going to be
easier to keep them on at school. And to suggest that we should
drop those things.... x mean, I've never heard anything more
absurd. WHITrE: Let me put to you an aspect of that. That Australian
Governments have been trying for years to get better performance
out of Australian manufacturers, John Button was almost at the
point of despair in the middle of last year with one burst he
had. Why do our manufacturers, do you think, fail to perform at
the sort of peaks that we've now become accustomed to heariLng
about from Japan, and Korea and Taiwan, and so on.
PM Oh, come on. Stop knocking our country.
WHITEs I'm not knocking our country. I am wondering why our
country.. PM: Well, let me give you the answer....
VMITEs We aren't having the kind of manufacturing boom that's
become commonplace in Asia.
PM: Brian, let me tell you what's happening. Rather than
embracing this gloom and doom, knock your country concept that
typifies Peacock. Let's look at the statistics facts not
prejudices, facts. In the last four years, a 54 percent increase
in manufactured exports. We are now a country which, when I came
to office, was going to close its steel industry, after the
lease. Now, we have a steel induatry, which in this last year has
exported three quarters of a billion dollars worth of steel
around the world. Has become one of the world's most competitive
steel exporters. Within the next three years as a result of what
they're doing, their own investment and a great new co-operation
they have between management and the workforce, an enormous
increase in productivity, are going to treble treble their
exports of steel in all the most competitive markets to over two
We are now exporting cars and car parts to Japan and the
United States. I went to a factory some time ago in
Adelaide. This factory an enterprise in the suburbs of
Adelaide is making optical lenses. In the United
States market, as I say, the toughest market in the
world, with 12 to 13 other competitors, this Adelaide
enterprise has got more than 50% of the United States
market. Now this is what Australian manufactures in
steel, in motor vehicles, optical lenses, pharmaceuticals
we are now exporting in the toughest market that
Australia never did before and why are we doing it,
because under my Government we have had a 12.2% reduction
in non-farm unit labour costs. We now have management
and labour co-operating in a way they never did before.
The Management of BHP said to me when I was up at
Newcastle just a few months ago, under your Government we
now have a revolution, a revolution in industrial
relations. He said our attitude before you came in was
that we used to say to our workers, our attitude was to
them leave your brains at the gate. Now, he said, we
S slip down and talk with them and instead of having to
talk about closing down the steel industry, he said, we
are now taking on the world and beating them. Now those
are facts, not prejudices, not assumptions.
WHITE: Can I take it from that that suggestions that
Labor might lose a few seats in the Hunter Valley and
around Newcastle, you don't think they are likely to
happen? PM: No.
WHITE: Lose to Independents that is.
WHITE: Now on this area that you have just raised with
technology and the like, to some this is a diversion, to
others it is central to the whole future thinking of
S Australia for the next century, but it is also to others
the selling out of Australia and I am talking about the
Multi-Function Polis. Can I ask you to give us your
vision of what the Multi-Function Polis should be?
PM: Sure can. And I will go to the statement of
December 1987 in which we laid down the principles that
were agreed by the Commonwealth and State Governments as
to what should be involved. The first principle said it
should be developed as a way of assisting structural
change in the Australian economy geared towards the
development of an internationally competitive and exportorientated
industry structure. Principle four, this is
December ' 87, I say this in the light of the person you
have just had here in the studio who said he is against
enclaves. Principle four, develop the MFP as an entity
which is not an enclave but is linked with the remainder
of the Australian economy and provides a leading edge
testbed in technology transfer. It was because the
opposition understood these realities, not an enclave,
and that this was something for the importance of
Australia's future, that the opposition the week before
last when asked for their official position on the MFP
said this in the Sydney Morning Herald and I quote them.
This was the Opposition before the opportunism of Mr
Peacock. Quote the proposal is unique for Australia
and deserves extensive consideration. The official
position of the Opposition. Mr Howard that same week,
quote, and he is the Minister, the Shadow Minister who
was not consulted by Mr Peacock when he switched around.
This is Mr Howard I don't think, he said, we should
bury the concept in a sea of hostility before we know
anything about it. Now the fact is that this is not an
enclave, the fact is
WHITE: But it's an entity. What is an entity as against
an enclave? That is what I think ordinary Australians
are trying to struggle their way through understanding.
PM: A place where not one nation comes to Australia with
its technology but any nation from overseas. Thats what
we say not an enclave, not just for Japan. We want to
attract to Australia the best technology from the United
States, North America generally, from Japan and Europe
and this is what has been involved.
WHITE: All to come to this one place?
PM: All to come, because there are great advantages
obviously, if you are going to try and get the best
technology in certain areas of new activity, if they can
have the advantage of being together because they will
interact one with the other. But the important thing is,
as was laid down in ' 87, not an enclave where it would be
open tQ anyone to come there. Will Bailey, the Head of
the ANZ Banking Group, John Elliot, I mean you have heard
of John Elliot, president of the Liberal Party, totally
identified with the concept. Because, if Australia is
going to face the challenge of the future and not be
W just, have this great profile of exposure to mark
variations in prices of commodities for things we grow or
dig up out of the ground, if we're going to be able to
have more manufactured products, more service, then we
have got to get the best technology from overseas. The
way to do this is in co-operation with the business
community. The whole of the Australian business
community has identified-itself with this concept. Every
State Government, including Nick Greiner, they have all
identified with this project
WHITE: There is no question about all that but what we
do have at the moment, what we have always had is a deep
thing in the Australian psyche which ranges between a
dislike to a hatred of the Japanese. For whatever reason
this is how the Multi-Function Polis is being seen by a
large number of people. If you have been listening to,
or if you are aware of things that are being said on
talkback radio around the country that is the story that
is coming across.
PM: What is the responsibility of leadership? The
responsibility of leadership is knowing that there are
these sorts of attitudes. I am not unaware of those
attitudes. The responsibility of leadership was as was
displayed by the Liberal and National Party until last
week. What they said, displaying leadership until last
week, was that the proposal is unique for Australia and
deserves exhaustive consideration. Political leadership
is not about saying look there are some attitudes in the
community which they hate Japanese. There are some
people in the community who hate Americans. There are
some who hate Germans. There are some who hate the Poms.
There are some who hate the French. But the fact of life
is that the Poms, the French, the Germans, the Japanese,
the Americans, all these people are at the leading edge
of technology in industries where if Australia is going
O to take its place in the world we have got to get the
best of their technology. And what had happened in this
country until this last week is right across the
political spectrum, the National Party, the Liberal
Party, the Labor Party, every State Government, big
business, trade unions, they have all identified with
this concept of saying well here's a way, not into an
enclave, but for the best for Australia's kids in the
future to get the best technology you can here. They all
identified with this. Now why, you ask yourself the
question, why is it that about five days out from an
election, six or seven days out from an election after
the Liberal and National Party had identified with this,
after their Federal President had written to Mr Cain
absolutely endorsing the concept, Mr Greiner endorsed the
concept, why is it, six days before an election, why that
six days before an election that Mr Peacock switches.
WHITE: Right. Well let's just in the final few minutes
that you have got bring up a couple of other issues.
There is an old adage about management which says that
two years of the same job is great, after the second lot
of two years you should be thinking about change, two
more years and you should definitely get out. That's six
years. You have been there for seven.
PM: Well like a lot of adages it might be true for some
situations for some people. It is certainly not relevant
for-. the Prime Ministership of this country and
particularly when you look at the alternative. On the
WHITE: And with most of your senior Ministers.
PM: All firing, all firing. You look at the
alternative. I mean on the 25th Australia's going to
wake up and its either going to have Bob Hawke as Prime
Minister or its going to have Andrew Peacock for Prime
Minister with Mr Blunt as Deputy Prime Minister. Peacock
and Blunt, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of
this country. I mean that is what its about. I would
suggest that Dr Hewson got it right back in 1987, let me
quote what he had to say then.
WHITE: This is the one where he
PM: He says the Hawke Government is very professional,
it is probably the best front bench since World War II.
John Hewson got that right and I will line up the talent
of the Hawke Government, and I ask the people of
Australia to line it up and look at the alternatives.
WHITE: Well let's say that you were returned to office
on Saturday with the same numbers, would you be planning
to retain your existing theme or will there be changes
including younger people coming up?
PM: Well I think your listeners might regard it as a bit
presumptuous if now in a couple of days before the
S election I just talked to you in terms that I had won the
election. I think that this election is most important
as I said since 1949. I don't want to really insult your
listeners by saying look it's all over now let's talk
about who is going to be in my Ministry. I think my
responsibility is to fight the election hard up until
Friday night and then if I win, as I hope and expect to,
then it will be an appropriate time to talk about these
things. But I can make this point, that obviously there
will be some vacancies and we have got a lot of talent on
the back bench.
WHITE: One last question. One or two people have
observed to me greatly, including today after your
National Press Club address, that you seem be talking a
bit these days as if you might be coming again to believe
in God, have you? You have always be an agnostic.
PM: No not at
S WHITE: Since I think the
PM: Well no All I said in one inter-view Brian was
this. I am an agnostic not an athiest. I am not
declaring there is not a God. I think it is an act of
intellectual arrogance atheism, to say there is not a
God. WHITE: But you are shifting further towards
PM: I mean I do, I think this is a serious question and
I would like to answer it. I have retained a profound
belief in the basic principles of Christianity. They have
motivated me all my life. But I could not accept that,
you know the I wasn't convinced about that. What I
did say the other day in an interview was simply this and
I have got to speak the truth as it is that I was asked
about the passing of my dad, with whom as you know I was
very close indeed. I just said that this thing had
happened not long before he died and had a stroke and the
matron said to me that she'd never seen such a remarkable
recovery. He came back and when he woke up he just said
I can't go yet, Bob needs me. And that was in my mind
and when he did in fact pass away a few days later than
that, I've had this feeling, it is very hard to explain
but I have had this feeling of his presence. Now that is
all I've said and I said I can't explain these things. I
can't intellectualise about it. I can't, I don't try to.
But that is a reality. I just felt this very close
presence and well I haven't really tried to analyse that
and say what it mean. But that was the only thing that
has happened during this campaign which may have made
people this observation I think.
WHITE: In your private moments are you thinking about
him, like this?
PM: I think about him a lot and I think about my mother
a lot. I any conclusion but I just have a sense of
closeness to him, that's all.
WHITE: You don't see yourself, well, getting religion?
PM: No I haven't felt that. I must say without in any
sense I hope it doesn't sound at all, it's not
intended to but I have felt a great sense of comfort
and strength out of this feeling, he's there watching
over my shoulder.
WHITE: Bob, thank you for coming in once again Prime
Minister. Good to see you and the very best of luck for
you on Saturday.
PM: Thank you very much indeed Brian.