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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8194


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: 09/11/1990

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 8194

3AW, 9 NOVEMBER 1990
McMINN: Prime Minister, thanks for joining me this
afternoon. PM: Pleasure Ian.
O McMINN: How significant do you believe yesterday's
announcement on changes to telecommunications can be both
in two areas'? First of all, in making it more efficient?
Secondly, providing work for Australians?
PM: Well it's hard to overstate the importance of
yesterday's statement on both counts. It will produce
the most competitive telecommunications system in the
world, I think, and it will mean that users, your
listeners, will get the benefits both as individuals on
their household phones and the business community. STD
calls, it's estimated, will come down in charges by about
and this must mean benefits for individuals. But it
must mean economic benefits generally as all sectors of
industry are going to be provided with a more competitive
lower priced system. As far as employment is concerned,
it must mean an increase in jobs within the industry,
both in terms of providing telephones and associated sort
of telecommunications system but also within the
Australian industry as a base for export into the region.
As I said in my speech, we are very fortunately placed.
Asia, the countries of Asia, the near region have about
half the world's population but only about 17% of the
world's 500,000,000 telephones. Now the number of
telephones are going to double by the end of the century
and we will see an enormous growth in demand in the
region and Australian industry is going to be well placed
as it expands now with our own developments to play a
part in meeting the demands of the region.
McMINN: Do you think the unions will accept the plan
that it's virtually open slather after 1997?
PM: Well I believe so because they must see it as part
of a process which is going to expand employment
opportunities, which is going to give them as workers
more jobs and as a union a greater sphere of influence.

McMINN: Now of course right now you'd be also interested
we might just get a few easy ones out of the way.
You'd be interested in how Charles Blunt managed to rack
up $ 270,000 iLn mailing fees.
PM: It's got me licked.
McMINN: You've been working out that one for a while.
PM: No, it -ust occurred to me. I'm just like that.
McMINN: But how did he manage? Is it in fact what
really occurred the National Party used the Leader's
account to pay for part of their election campaign?
PM: I don't know what happened. It's being
investigated:-It would be quite improper for me to
suggest what happened. It sounds strange, just let's say
that. It sounds very strange but the appropriate
investigation will take place.
McMINN: Is it a criminal matter?
PM: I've got no idea, I've got no idea and I certainly
won't make any accusations when I don't know all the
facts. All I'm saying is that everyone, but everyone,
across the political spectrum is saying it's more than
passing strange.
McMINN: It certainly is.
PM: And it's very interesting that the matter arose from
the Opposition asking me a question trying to, apparently
thinking apparently thinking that they were going to nail
US. We're not nailed.
McMINN: No, well $ 278,000 would buy you a lot of stamps.
PM: Yes.
McMINN: Are people entitled to believe they're in a
recession or are you still sticking to the fact that it's
technically not?
PM: It's not a matter of I'm sticking to the fact. I
mean, I don't make the economic definitions. The
economics profession has its definition and that says
that in a technical economic sense that a recession
occurs when you have two successive quarters of negative
economic growth. But I'm not, as I say, nailing my flag
to that particular mast. If people want to use the
phrase, recession, then of course it's appropriate they
do. I mean the word recession is not the monopoly of
professional economists. The fact is that we've had to
slow down the level of activity and there's been a
significant slowing down and there's hurt been involved
which has been necessary because if we hadn't done that
the world would have imposed a much worse solution upon

us. But I mean the word doesn't frighten me at all. I
mean the fact is that's the technical economists
definition of recession and that's all I've said. But
I'm not walking away from the word.
McMINN: Did you and the Treasurer and the Cabinet
realise the damage that would be done when you went, as
you put it, slow down the economy?
PM: Not only realise, it was a necessary intent. We had
the simple fact which you don't have to be an economist
to understand this in the previous year this country
had increased its expenditure by increased its
production of goods by Now the country can't keep on
doing it. You'd just drive the country right into the
ground. You'd just destroy the country if you allowed
that thing to go on. So we had to slow things down.
That was what we intended to slow things down.
McMINN: Well who's fault was that, that we were spending
too much?
PM: Well you had a situation where you had turn-round in
the terms of trade, a massive increase in prices for what
we got at that time and that money was then spent. The
problem was not the acquisition of the means to spend,
the problem was that the economy wasn't producing more.
This economy, let me remind you, for 31 of the 34 years
before we came to power this country was in the control
of the conservatives. The basic economic infrastructure,
the capacity of the economy, the attitudes of the
community were shaped by 31 years of conservative rule
where there was no attempt to have reform, to make our
industry more competitive, to get decent work practices,
decent management practices. You had a situation where
income increased, you didn't have the capacity with our
industrial structure to produce more goods and services.
Now what we're about, what our whole program of
micro-economic reform is about, of which yesterday was an
important part, was precisely that; to make our industry
more efficient, more competitive so that this country can
produce more goods, not only for its consumption here but
importantly, for export.
McMINN: Well I mean no-one will doubt the 31 years out
of 34 but the point is that this is your fourth term in
Government. PM: And look at what's happened in that four terms.
McMINN: What?
PM: OK. Well let me tell you what's happened in the
four terms. In the period before we came to office, the
seven years before we had a situation where nothing was
done in terms of moving to restructure the economy and we
have in our period of office had a rate of employment
growth five times faster than in the previous seven

years. That's what's happened in this period of
Government. Employment growth fives times as fast then
and twice as fast as the rest of the world. We've had a
situation where we are now moving to the point where our
exports of manufactured goods are increasing. Last year
an increase in manufactured exports, the best part of
In this eight years I'll tell you what's happened
in regard to education. Two out of three of our kids
stay on in school now where when I came to office one in
three of our kids stayed on in school. We now have a
situation where I go to Melbourne last week and opened
the first Victorian University in the western suburbs so
that the kids of the relatively less privileged in the
Australian society are now not only staying on at school
but they are going on to TAFE and universities and they
are having universities in their own areas rather than in
other areas. Those are the things that have happened in
this period. We now have an economy which is infinitely
better equipped than it was when I came to office. But
we've still got to do more.
McMINN: Well if it's so glowing, Prime Minister, if it's
so good why everyday I sit behind a microphone listening
to people saying that they're laying off staff, they're
going broke, they can't meet their commitments, they're
worried about their kids future in terms of employment.
Then why is that the case?
PM: Because at this present time things have been slowed
down for the reasons I put it. You couldn't continue to
have the rate of expansion that we were having while we
weren't producing more goods. I mean does anyone believe
that you could go on as a country increasing your
consumption, increasing your consumption by 8% but your
production by You can't keep on doing that so we've
had to deliberately slow things down. But the economy
will recover as we go into next year because we've now
had five successive reductions during this year in the
level of interest rates. With that reduction in interest
rates and with the increases in consumer power, which
will come from the tax cuts in January, and the wage
increases that are now in the pipeline you will have the
situation where there will be the lift in activity but it
will be in the context where we'll be able to sustain it,
as compared to that period before, where we simply
couldn't. McMINN: Do you think people will believe you when you
say that, and I say that with the greatest respect, I've
known you for a long time as you know. I mean you've got
a situation now for the first time in my living memory
you as a preferred Prime Minister is trailing your
opponent and that even takes into the period of time
before you were even in the Parliament. What you're
saying now is that interest rates will come down and
things will be OK. It would appear to me that a lot of
people are saying well we're not sure if Bob Hawke's got
it together again.

PM: Well thety are saying that at the moment and I'm not
losing any sleep about that. What I'd be losing sleep
about was that if I didn't have the guts to take the hard
decisions because I love this country and I'm certainly
not going to refuse to take the hard decisions which are
necessary now to protect the future of this country. I
will not attempt to buy cheap popularity by prejudicing
and mortgaging the future of this country. I've devoted
over 30 years of my life to public life and public
service and 1: haven't done that to now say oh look I
might be a little bit unpopular if I take a tough
decision, therefore I won't take it. That's not the way
I operate.
McMINN: So you don't think you've lost the plot a bit?
PM: No, not at all. We are committed to the goals that
we had when we came to office of creating a more
S competitive Australia and certainly creating a fair
Australia. x've found it repugnant that the kids of
ordinary Australians had a lesser chance of going on in
school and having their talents developed and the kids of
the wealthy went on and had that right. I wanted to see
an Australia where by the time I left office I could look
at it in the face and say, now it doesn't matter what the
income level of your parents is that you've got just as
much chance of being fully educated as if your parents
come from Toorak or Vaucluse. That's the Australia we're
creating and that's what I'm proud of.
McMINN: My uncle works in the electrical trade he's
retired now. He has been trading there for the last
twenty years. He was telling me last year, or this year,
sorry, is the first year that company recorded a loss and
they've had -to lay off a third of their staff and it's
not a huge company, it's about 250 people. They've laid
off 70 people.
PM: Yes, well you know it just is a matter of fact that
if you're going to deliberately slow the economy down to
address that imbalance, you have to just by
definition if you slow the economy down some people are
going to be hurt. I mean if you can tell me a way of
slowing an economy down and it not entailing hurt well
I'd like to know. I mean it's a contradiction in terms.
You can't discharge your obligation of slowing the
economy down and not have hurt.
McMINN: What about Victoria? The other day you were
quoted I believe accurately you were quoted saying
that the disaster called Victoria, or words to that
effect. Why is Victoria so much worse off, it would
appear, than the rest of the country?
PM: Well there's been two things, two points to make.
Victoria is the manufacturing base of Australia, much
more so than NSW and where therefore you had a slowing

down of activity it was going to be affected more.
Secondly, of course, you've had a loss of confidence in
Victoria associated with the financial difficulties that
the Government's hlad. So you take those two things
together and it's worse off. You've got to remember it's
come from a higher base. They had higher levels of
employment, ' Lower levels of unemployment and once those
other two factors come into operation, well you see a
more significant decline in that State.
McMINN: In the past you've admitted mistakes. I mean
it's been one of your strengths. You said that you're
not the fountain of all knowledge and when you've made a
blue you've admitted it. Now I put to you a question I
put to the Premier the other day, Mrs Kirner. That is I
think there'd be a whole lot healthier atmosphere here if
the former Prvemier, John Cain, and the former Treasurer,
Rob Jolly, basically just came out and said there's
probably not a vote in it but it might do something to
the climate -and came out and said look we blew it,
we're sorry.
PM: Well I don't know about Rob Jolly. I haven't
because whatever he may have said didn't get the same
coverage. But I can distinctly recall remarks from John
Cain acknowledging mistakes.
McMINN: Well it certainly, it wouldn't appear to have
made huge press. See, what's happening
PM: Well largely you know, you talk about making huge
press, politicians can say and do things but whether they
get reported or not is another matter. Let me just give
you the specific example, Ian, I mean it is as though
it's a matter of what politicians all we've got to do
is say it and it gets reported. I was down in Victoria
last Friday, a week ago, I did two things of importance.
On the Friday morning I went to the western suburbs and
opened the Western Institute as a part of the new
Victorian University of Technology. Victoria's new fifth
university and the first ever in the western suburbs. In
the afternoon I went and opened the most modern state of
the art tyre factory in the world, which will have the
best productivity of any tyre factory in the world.
Which will be competitive with the rest of the world. it
will export 25% of its production, including to Japan,
into the most competitive markets. The media was there
at the opening of the University and at the opening of
this tyre plant and they were there at both and they also
had a press conference with me. At the press conference
they asked me about this bloke, Booker, and his absurd
comments that I had put Australian ships under the United
States command and I just pointed out that he was
wrong. Now what got covered? I'll tell you what got
covered. Not the exciting fact of opening a University
in the western suburbs of Melbourne, not the fact that
we'd opened the most modern state of the art tyre
production factory in the world but the Booker story. So

don't give me this business about what gets reported.
Two fundamentally important things a new university,
opportunity for kids in the western suburbs, the most
modern state of the art factory in the world, and what's
covered? Booker.
McMINN: I can tell you what's being covered right now at
a local level and that is you can't pick up a newspaper
or watch television or listen to radio without listening
to John Halfpenny, the Secretary of Trades Hall
PM: That's because you fellows in the media, the whole
lot of you, have given John Halfpenny the floor. He was
Secretary of the Trades Hall. Whenever you wanted to
have a story, John Halfpenny. So I don't find it
surprising when you say that all that's being covered is
John Halfpenny. I mean you people build him up before he
was ever heard of in the Victorian Trades Hall
O secretaryship. McMINN: Well the question that's being asked in Victoria
right now it leads me to my next one. The first one is
who's running this State, John Halfpenny or Joan Kirner?
It leads me to my next question. Can Labor win federally
if it can't turn around Victoria? The latest polls
indicate the Opposition's are leading the Government 56
to 26.
PM: Yes, it's a great Opposition too, isn't it? Are the
people of Victoria in love with Alan Brown and company?
McMINN: No, they're probably not but they're certainly
not in love with the Labor Party.
PM: Well it's all I'm saying is that the fact is that of
course in Victoria the Government is unpopular. Joan
acknowledges that and she acknowledges that she's got a
O tough road ahead of her. But I believe that she and her
Ministers will make the decisions which are necessary to
turn their fortunes around and they will have our support
in doing that. I mean in the end people have got to ask
themselves the question, well OK it is true that mistakes
have been made by the Cain Government, there's no doubt
about that and as I've said John Cain has admitted it.
But the fact is that now they have a Government which is
committed to getting Victoria moving. They've got to ask
themselves the question as to who can better do that,
that Government or the mob that are in Opposition. I
mean they have been a joke for the best part of a decade,
the Liberals in Victoria. Have they suddenly got better?
Look at the State of Victoria. Look at the State of
Victoria before Labor got in. I mean they were one of
the most inefficient governments in the country. They
had no concept of reform either in the economic sphere or
in the social sphere. I mean they embodied the principle
of conservatism in this country. That is the privileged
are the ones that count and the responsibility of Liberal
governments is to entrench the position of those already

privileged. Don't worry about the kids who come from the
homes of the lower/ middle income. They are not our
bailiwick. The bailiwick are those who are already
privileged. They embodied, they made that into an art
form of government. Damn the majority of people, let's
look after the privileged. Now there has never been any
suggestion as far as the Victorian Labor Government is
concerned of any personal venality or any of that sort of
thing, not a breath of it and yet what you've had was
conservative governments. There's questions about the
appropriateness of behaviour of people as individuals and
you had a per-petuation of privileged under those types of
government. They are-
McMINN: State Bank, Prime Minister.
PM: I beg your pardon?
McMINN: They didn't lose a State Bank.
PM: Well OK, but I tell you what, they lost thousands of
lives in terms of kids who should've been able to go in
an education system and have their lives developed by
having all their talents trained and educated. Those
people who are growing up into adults will never be able
to reclaim their lost lives, the opportunity that
should've been given to them. When you're talking about
Labor in Victoria never forget that it was a government
which was committed in the area of education and social
welfare to ensuring that the resources of Victoria were
in fact in terms of a distribution, made available to
those who should be assisted by government. True it is
and I've acknowledged it and said so publicly. They've
made some griLevous mistakes in economic management but in
terms of theiLr concepts of who should be helped in the
community in terms of trying to get a better education
system, a faiLrer society, they were light years in front
of the Liberals and the National Party. And they remain
light years : Ln front of them.
McMINN: Prime Minister, if I can just turn your, I know
you're almost out of time, but just turn your attention
to the Middle East right now. Some very disturbing
developments.. We've got James Baker going to London
after talks with the Saudi King. We've got Margaret
Thatcher the other day talking about the fact that Saddam
better get out of Kuwait or else. Are we heading to a
war? PM: No and when I say no, no-one can say whether we're
heading to a war or not. There is no-one in the world,
including President Bush, I think who can say at this
moment whether there's going to be war. But what we are
faced with is a situation where you still have installed
in Kuwait a dictator who has said to hell with all the
standards of international law and convention, I am going
to destroy another State, my neighbour, and acquire it
and keep it. That cannot be tolerated. It's my hope,

it's my sincere hope, as I'm sure it is of President Bush
and other leaders, that this man will respond as he
should rationally to all the evidence before him. That
is that the interests of the Iraqi people are at very
grave risk by a continuation of his attempt to say that
he can spurn international law and convention and just
take another country by force. Now there is still some
hope, I think, that rationality will prevail and that he
should withdraw. But the world cannot tolerate a
continued situation where he says that I'll acquire a
neighbouring State by force. If the world allowed that,
condones that, tolerates it, then international law and
order ceases to exist.
McMINN: But we've got from George Bush an announcement
that another 100,000 troops are going to be sent to the
Middle East. We've got Baker also talking to the
Soviets, winning their support. I mean reading between
the lines I get the feeling and you might know better
than me, you probably do, but I get the feeling that
basically evetryone's just closing the bases or closing
the options, if you like, and they're moving towards a
situation of striking?
PM: Well they are wanting the sanctions to work. I mean
we all want the sanctions to work. The hope is that they
will. He's making, Saddam Hussein is continuing to make
the statements that he will not withdraw from Kuwait,
that that is done and the world has got to accept that he
has swalloweed a neighbour. Now what is being said by the
world and the sort of things that you are referring to
reflect the fact that the world is saying we are not
going to allow that in the end of the Cold War era and in
this new post Cold War era where the world must show its
capacity to resolve problems, he's been told that the
world is not going to accept that position. And if
you're not going to accept it you can't just sit idly by
and say well that's what we're telling you, Mr Hussein,
we're not gon', ng to accept it and not given to understand
that you mean what you're saying.
McMINN: One final point. I'm in the business of
possibly selling my house in Sydney. Things are going
quite well in Melbourne. I love working here and living
here. But the market is flat as a tack so can I ask
your PM: Do you want to know if I want to buy it?
McMINN: When will the economy turn around?
PM: I've saiLd in the Parliament and I'll repeat on your
program that I believe that as we go through to the first
part of 1991 that the economy will be picking up.
McMINN: The first part of 1991?

PM: By June. By the middle of 1991 I think we'll see
the pick up.
McMINN: OK, I hope you're right.
PM: So do I..
McMINN: Prime Minister, thank you very much for your
time. PM: It's a pleasure Ian.

Transcript 8194