PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Howard, John

Questions and Answers at Prime Minister’s Luncheon, Perth, WA

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 28/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22855

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………..

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, Ian Lawrence. I’d like to ask you this. First of all, one of the criteria that you mentioned for reform was that you wanted it to be fair and I think we all applaud you here today in your attempts to make those reforms very fair for the Australian public. But one of the great difficulties for government is to ensure that those benefits of reform flow on to everybody across Australia, and I just wonder what your plans are to ensure that everybody shares these benefits, particularly across rural and regional Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I made the observation in the context of tax reform, but it’s a proposition that is valid for any major reform. As far as tax reform is concerned, of course, citizens of Australia living in rural areas get the same tax reductions, they get the same benefits if they’re in business of the improved indirect tax system and those citizens via the strengthening of the capacity of States to provide services over time, will also benefit from that. In addition, we have loaded into the taxation package a number of measures that will produce cheaper diesel and cheaper fuel generally than would otherwise be the case as a result of the taxation reforms. There are disparities between rural Australia, the bush, country Australia, however you describe it – it depends a bit in what part of the country you are what description you’re allowed to use – but there are disparities and that is the result of the long term impact of the decline in commodity prices on many small rural communities. It’s impossible for any national government in Australia to control world commodity prices. We can, through our trading policies, try in a small way to offset the impact of those changes and also the corruption of world markets. We can continue to stress the importance of exports – that’s very important to this country.

We are doing a number of things, particularly in the area of telecommunications and a lot of parts of rural Australia are now getting for the first time the benefits of the money which we set aside out of the second sale of Telstra to provide additional services and you’re starting to see a turn-around in some rural areas towards the Telstra issue, because some of those communities are starting to receive those benefits. You’re also seeing in some communities with our rural transaction centres where we take a very small community and we provide a cluster of basic services, banking, medicare claim facilities and other transaction facilities within the one location. I opened the first of those in Eugowra in central western New South Wales about a year ago, and since then there have been several score of them opened in other parts of the country and at the end of the process we hope to have about 500 of them up and running. Now there’s a multiplicity of things that you can do. It’s important for governments to understand the stress these communities are under. In the last budget we provided $500million over a period of 4 years to improve medical services in the country. The most basic thing that people are entitled to is a doctor if their child gets sick, and a decent facility for hospital and aged care.

So we are in a pragmatic, targeted way, trying to sensibly bridge the gap. We can’t promise the earth because there are some fundamental changes in the level of commodity prices and fundamental consequences of the trading practices of the rest of the world that are having affect on our rural communities and it’s very hard to turn those around. In some areas it’s impossible, but it is possible to put services back into the bush where they shouldn’t have gone or where they have been removed simply because the critical economic mass is no longer present in some of those towns.

QUESTION:

Mr Chairman, through you to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, you’ve done a fantastic job on the tax reform in this country but could you just give us a few words of wisdom on where you think we might perhaps change and simplify the superannuation system? The media’s been coming forth with a lot of innuendo. Could we have some words on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes you can. Very directly, we don’t have any particular proposal in relation to that in front of us at the moment. I get a number of messages on superannuation. One of the messages I get is that we’ve had too many changes over the years and that people would like a moratorium on change unless, of course, you had some you beaut proposal that removed any kind of taxation impost at all, which would be widely applauded and very enthusiastically embraced. But I’ve got to tell you I don’t, I don’t I’m sorry, the larder is a little bare on that side of things at the present time. There are probably ways and means in which it could be simplified administratively but I don’t want people to imagine that there is some big bang, new slew of changes to be made and if my mail means anything, I get a lot of people saying to me, we’ve had so many changes in this area over the last ten years, why don’t you allow a period of a few more years to go by before you make any further changes because whenever you hear governments coming along saying that they’re going to simplify the superannuation system, they sometimes end up having the opposite effect. Now, I knew they were talking about earlier governments in relation to that and not the present one, so can I say to you very directly, we don’t have, contrary to what may have appeared in the media, and may have been the focus of the media campaign, we don’t have some kind of big bang set of changes, we’re not averse to simplification, we understand the arguments that are put about taxation but we’ve done a lot on the tax front over the past few years and I don’t want to excite the idea that there’s some further big change in that area around the corner. I think we do need a period of time to allow the changes that have been made on 1st July to work their way through the community, we have of course many of the other structural changes impacting on tax and related accounting approaches to work their way through the community and they’re quite big changes and we don’t want the business community to suffer from change overload in this area and I get a message from a lot of people that we’ve got quite a lot of change at the moment, can we just be given a moment or two to absorb all of that change.We know its beneficial but we would like a few more moments, so to speak, to absorb that change.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, Alan Blood’s my name. In stage two of the Ralph taxation reforms there was comment about and proposals for taxation on cash flow. In any very capital intensive project cash flow is used by the banks and the financiers to sort of mitigate the risk of the project and its become a very very crucial part of very large scale projects in this country which contribute a very large amount to the country’s export earnings etcetera. Would you give an undertaking that any taxation on cash flow will be neutral to the project participants in such ventures in this country?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ll make a statement. You say will I give an undertaking. I always, I mean I’m not loathe in the right circumstances to give an undertaking but I always like to be fully comprehensive, or comprehending rather, of what the undertaking means. Let me put it this way – it is not the intention of that particular part of the Ralph agenda or indeed any part of our taxation reform plan to make investment in those sorts of projects more difficult or less advantageous. You may remember in particular that when we took the decision to change the accelerated depreciation arrangements as part of the trade off for reducing the general company tax rate we did make it clear that we would reserve, in relation to very capital intensive resource projects in particular, we would reserve or acknowledge that it might be necessary for some kind of specific government assistance or incentive to be given in relation to those projects. Now that wasn’t the question you asked me but I’m using it as an example of the attitude of mind the Government has. Now the best I can do with your question is to say that that is not our intention to bring about the effect that you can concern yourself with. I fall short of giving an undertaking because Prime Ministers don’t normally give undertakings on the run particularly in front of large business gatherings who might write the undertaking down and then quote it back at him or the Treasurer some time later. But I understand your point. I hope you understand my response and you understand it is not the intent of the Government to bring about that result and I will certainly, as a result of the question you’ve asked me, I will certainly investigate the point you make and if there is anything further I can say no doubt I can find out your details from Ian Warner and I can let you know.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, Ian Satchel’s my name. In Western Australia as you rightly pointed out we do contribute a very large amount of Australia’s exports and the resources sector in particular contributes about 20% of Australia’s total exports just from Western Australia. We have a number of issues facing the future of the industry. It’s a very positive future but there are some things we need to overcome and one of those issues is the greenhouse issue. We’re facing some very high growth in minerals and energy projects in Western Australia. Australia and Western Australia have been enjoying very high economic growth generally but reconciling that growth going forward with Australia’s 108% greenhouse gas target by 2008, 2012 is something that our industry is having difficulty in coming to grips with. How are we going to continue to grow producing energy efficient products for the rest of the world and still not be seen as a greenhouse pariah?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is one of the harder public policy challenges the Government’s got a present. I think you put it quite well. You probably agree from your perspective that Kyoto was regarded as something of a good outcome for Australia. It was regarded as being something of a triumph against the odds and the work that Senator Hill did as Environment Minister at the end of 1997 was very widely applauded throughout Australian industry. Since then I understand that the concerns of the mining industry have grown. I understand that and I understand why. And we do face over the next few months a number of very important decisions to make in relation to negotiations concerning tradable credits, the treatment of carbon sinks, and the whole process of implementing the Kyoto understanding. And against that background of course we have to ask ourselves what attitude the United States is going to take. There are many people who believe there is no real prospect that the United States Senate ever ratifying American accession to the Kyoto accords. And there is also the great problem that the developing countries which are major remitters are not part of the process. The other problem for us with the developing countries is that they comprise some of our competitors particularly in areas such as the export of LNG, very important to this State, very important to the nation’s export income. And we have the task in front of us and can I tell you, and I know you to be a representative of the resource industry in this State, that we are very aware of the point that you are making and I hope that in the comments I’ve made that I’ve indicated that. And we have a very significant balancing act to achieve. We don’t want to be or intend to be a greenhouse pariah. Equally however we have vital Australian interests to defend on the world front. And I don’t regard it as reasonable that Australia competing against countries which are not burdened by the constraints that people want us to be burdened by should nonetheless be able to freely compete against us for export energy markets. It’s always been the difficulty for Australia that we are the one great industrial country in the world which is a major net exporter of energy, and it’s always been a problem for us in relation to the greenhouse issue. I am aware of that and I hope over the next few months we can find a way of avoiding the label you used that none of us want but by the same token preserving the competitive export advantages that our natural resources give us. It won’t be easy. We’ll need the help of industry and the understanding of the community. But it is really I have to say to you very frankly one of the biggest public policy challenges that the Government has ahead of it over the next six months.

Transcript 22855

Regional Message -31 July 2000

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 31/07/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22854

From the day we took office four years ago the Government has worked hard to tackle unemployment.

Thanks to the creation of 650,000 new jobs, the unemployment rate has fallen from 8.5 per cent in March 1996 to its lowest level in almost a decade at 6.7 per cent. Now there are around 125,000 fewer Australians out of work than four years ago.

It is vital that these efforts be maintained because I strongly believe that unemployment remains too high, especially in some regional areas of Australia.

One way we can tackle this problem is through Work for the Dole which has implemented our principle of mutual obligation.

In return for the community’s help for those in need, young unemployed Australians are accepting the personal responsibility to give back to the country that supports them.

So far 57,000 young people have been part of 1,500 community based projects designed to give them greater self esteem and a new work ethic

The results are for all to see.

Recently I presented the annual Work for the Dole achievement awards where every major winner came from a location in regional Australia such as Wyong, Albany and Gympie.

Gosford’s Troy Bryant received the best participant’s award for his work with the local council where he mastered practical skills such as fencing, concreting and landscaping.

But it was Troy’s motivation of his peers and his encouragement of their work ethic that brought him praise and a full time job with the Gosford Council.

That is exactly the type of outcome Work for Dole is striving to achieve.

Troy joins the 70 per cent of participants who now feel greater self-esteem as a result of Work for the Dole, our practical programme to encourage hope, experience and responsibility amongst young Australians.

Transcript 22854

Release of Fijian Hostages

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/07/2000

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 22853

I welcome, as will all people, the release of the remaining hostages in Fiji.

They should never have been detained in the first place. This was a criminal act which denied a democratically elected government its constitutional right to govern in the interests of the people of Fiji.

The Australian government remains profoundly disturbed at the abrogation of the Fijian constitution and the racially-based approach apparently being taken to future constitutional arrangements.

the government will give early consideration to further responses to developments in Fiji.

13 July 2000

Transcript 22853

Interview with Alexandra Kirk, AM Program

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 03/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22852

Subjects: Tax reform; UK visit.

KIRK:

Mr Howard, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Alexandra.

KIRK:

There's been a smooth transition for the GST so far, but do you agree that until people sit down and look at their pay slips, how much extra they're receiving and then deduct their outgoings for a few pay periods at least. That's when they'll know if they like the GST or not.

PRIME MINISTER:

Alexandra, I think that's fair. Yes, it has gone smoothly at the beginning. The world did not come to an end and chicken little did not arrive on Saturday as Mr Beazley has predicted and I am very pleased about that. I think the Australian public has taken the initial changeover in its stride, but it will be a few weeks yet before you can do all those sums and I think your analysis is pretty accurate. But it has to be said that the initial phase was a lot smoother and more easily accommodated than many people predicted. I want to thank the small businesses of Australia especially for the work they put in to getting ready and as I hoped to be the case, the Australian people took the change well and truly in their stride.

KIRK:

And do you expect it will be as smooth a transition in three months time when small businesses will have to put in their first quarterly return?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I would hope so Alexandra. We had a situation here where people, particularly the Labor Party, have predicted doom and despair and when they find it doesn't arrive they start adjusting the goal posts. I think that the thing will continue to go smoothly. We have put a lot of resources towards helping people to understand it, towards explaining it. It is a very big change. We have got to always keep sight of the overall scene and the overall scene is about cutting people's income tax, about making Australia a more competitive nation in the world and getting rid of an old ramshackle wholesale sales tax that's been with us for 60 or 70 years and has clearly outlived its usefulness.

KIRK:

Yesterday you claimed that petrol hasn't gone up as a result of the GST but the oil companies are saying that petrol will rise by four cents a litre this week. So the impact of the GST is still to come isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am puzzled that the oil companies are talking about four cents on account of the GST. There is no possible justification for that. I am not saying that petrol will stay at the same level because the world price of crude oil might go up, it might go down. But what I am saying is that there are cost savings for the oil companies, they should be passed on and even the oil companies themselves haven't argued that the difference between us and them is four cents a litre. What they've said is that they don't have cost savings of one and a half cents a litre to pass on and we don't agree with that. But if there are any attempts in the next few days to justify a rise of three or four cents a litre on the basis of the GST, that would be quite wrong and if there's any unfair conduct by the oil companies then that will be investigated but let's wait and see.

KIRK:

But it's clear now isn't it that the likely impact of the GST on petrol is likely to be more than one cent a litre.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't accept anything. I look at field evidence.

KIRK:

And do you except though thatÉ

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no, expectations. We've had expectations for six months. I mean there were expectations of doom and disaster on Saturday and they weren't realised. I mean let us deal in reality. What I am saying is that even on the oil companies own rhetoric of last week, they couldn't possibly justify movement of that kind and that's if you accept the rhetoric which the government doesn't, but even you did, you couldn't justify that kind of movement. I am puzzled that they should have said that. But anyway let's wait and see.

KIRK:

Another [inaudible] thing you are doing battle with is the brewing industry and the brewers look like challenging the new tax system writing to the tax office warning that they're paying extra excise under protest. Are you convinced that the excise regulations are legal?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes of course. We do everything in accordance with the law. We put down a regulation as we always have and then that will be followed at some time in the next year with an act of Parliament. That is the way it has always operated. We are not acting illegally. I am surprised that the breweries are still pursuing this campaign. Other people are adjusting to the new system. I don't see why the breweries should regard themselves as being a special category. Many Australians will look rather askance at breweries regarding themselves as a special case. But if they want to take action, well they can take action, it's a free country but I just say that other Australian companies are adjusting. They are adjusting, they are adjusting in a big way to the new system and the breweries of Australia shouldn't imagine that they are in a special category.

KIRK:

On a broader front, one key promise that you and the Government made was that nothing would rise by 10%, but plenty ofÉ

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no. What we said was that things shouldn't go up by more than 10% and we could see no reason why anything should rise by the full 10%.

KIRK:

But plenty of things have risen by the full 10%, which are things like books, I went to a plant nursery and video store on the weekend, they're applying the full 10%. It's clearly a pledge that you can't keep isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alexandra, I can't sort of give an expert opinion on each individual item and it would depend on the circumstances. But the point that we made was that we believed that because there were embedded cost savings that there was no need for anything to rise by the full 10%. Now that was our best assessment and it remains our position. Now obviously if people have complaints about things well, they will lodge those complaints with the ACCC and you are no exception.

KIRK:

And do you really think the ACCC can monitor all these things, all these complaints all round the country.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the ACCC has done a very good job and the indications were at the weekend that they had fewer complaints than they expected, far fewer complaints. I mean what has happened at the weekend is that despite all of the predictions of doom and disaster and then negative campaign of the Labor Party that has now gone on for two years and the suggestion by Mr Beazley that we would have a deluge of darkness on Saturday. We actually moved through it quite smoothly and I know that is very disappointing to him and the Labor Party. They wanted unhappiness and dislocation and chaos on Saturday because it suited their own political ends. But the Australian people have handled the new system quite reasonably and well, I certainly found when I was out and about in shops unlike Mr Beazley who was locked up in his caucus room in Canberra, I actually found that people had got ready. Small traders, shop keepers, the general public, I spoke to plenty of them. Some of them said, yeah this went up but this went down and I found this is cheaper than I expected and overall it's not too bad. Now that's an early take out. I am not saying that's uniform, I am not saying it's going to be repeated on every day. The one thing I can assert with absolute conviction and that is it wasn't the doom and disaster and confusion and chaos that had been predicted by the Labor Party and I think they should hang their heads in shame for trying to sabotage an historic reform that this country has needed for 25 years.

KIRK:

Your other key pledge was that no one would be worse.

PRIME MINISTER:

No tax payer will be worse off.

KIRK:

How will Australians be able to test that when the only people who can make a compensation claim through official means is those people who receive family payments through the family assistance office. Isn't that discriminatory that nobody else can make a claim for compensation if they think that they're going to be worse off?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, you're forgetting that there is a separate mechanism for people who are outside the tax system, which was announced at the time of the deal with the Democrats. For example somebody who might be on a post graduate scholarship, there is the second application mechanism for those people, so that covers that. But as far as the general commitment is concerned, we have said all along that no tax payer should be worse off because we believe that the tax cuts are adequate, indeed more than adequate in most cases, I think indeed to compensate people for the price effects of the GST.

KIRK:

If you are not a post graduate student and if youÉ

PRIME MINISTER:

Alexandra I am just giving that as an illustration. The point I make, can I just repeat again, when we made the deal with the Democrats, there were claims at that time that there were people who were outside the system and who had, who thought they were being short changed, they could apply, and then separately from that there was assistance which arose out of suggestions in relation to the change over to the new system that people could make applications if the family payments arrangement left them disadvantaged so there are two separate streams there. So the question you raised earlier is covered by the deal that we announced with the Democrats.

KIRK:

But if they're a low income earner or you are a pensionerÉ

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if you are pensioner, I am sorry Alexandria, if you are a pensioner you get a 4% increase.

KIRK:

But if you think that you are better off, if you think you are going to be worse off, how can youÉ

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alexandra, the calculations that we have made are that when you have a 4% increase in pension, people won't be worse off and they will always be 2% ahead in real terms of any increases in prices as a result of the Goods and Services Tax.

KIRK:

But how can they test your guarantee that they won't be worse off if they believe that they are..Do they write to you? Do they write to the government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alexandra, it's a question of dealing with reality and the reality is that if you have a 4% increase in the pension and you have a guarantee that you will not be, you will never fall further behind than 2% above the price impact, the GST, then you can't be worse off. You can't be worse off if the pension is being lifted by 4%.

KIRK:

But there is no official mechanism is there?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think an increase in the pension of 4% is about as official as you can get. And there are other benefits as well. The rent allowance is going up by 7%. I mean we, we carefully calculated these changes when we were putting the scheme together. We added to them on two occasions and they are seen widely as being a very generous safety net. And on top of that of course we will continue to monitor the operation of it, so I don't know what more guarantees a government can do. I mean this, this is, this sort of questioning is all of a piece with the criticism that was being made in the weeks and months leading up to Saturday. Now, Alexandra we don't want to leave pensioners out in the cold. It's the last group in the Australian community we would dream of hurting. And we believe that the compensation is very appropriate, it is at a good level, but of course we will continue to monitor it. But we have no doubt that it will prove to be very adequate indeed.

KIRK:

Mr Howard, you are heading off to London today for the Federation Centenary Celebrations Ð two Australians are doing particularly well at Wimbledon, if they continue to do so will you go to see them play?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alexandra at the moment I have so much work to do and, as it should be, that I don't have any room in my programme over the next four or five days for those sorts of activities, but we'll just wait and see. But, in a sense I am damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. If I go and watch them I'll be criticised by some as enjoying myself and if I don't I'll be criticised for being unpatriotic, so I'll just have to make a judgement when I'm there. But right at the moment, I've got, I get off the plane tomorrow morning and I see Mr Blair and I see the Chancellor of the Exchequer and deliver a speech extolling the strengths and the prospects of the Australian economy and that kind of thing is really repeated for the rest of the week. But we'll just wait and see, but it's a very busy programme and I doubt at this stage that I've got a lot of room for that, but we'll just have to wait and see.

KIRK:

Mr Howard, thank you very much for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22852

Interview with David Frost BBC Studio, London

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22851

Subjects: Wimbledon; Centenary of federation; World Cup soccer; Olympics; Republican debate; Australia’s role in the Pacific

E&OE …………………………………………………………………………………

FROST:

Australia has come a long way in a hundred years. Now the country’s about to host the Olympics, it has a major peace-keeping role in the South Pacific and is a significant economic power. The Prime Minister, John Howard, chose to come to the old country to celebrate a century of self government for the former colony. He is here with us right now. John, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning David.

FROST:

And following straight on from what we were hearing there, of course the men’s singles final features an Australian – a proud Australian – Pat Rafter – are you going to go and see it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I’ll go home via Wimbledon, yes.

FROST:

It’s sort of on the way to the airport.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is, yes and Pat’s a great player, he had a great win over Agassi.

FROST:

It was a great match.

PRIME MINISTER:

There’ll be millions of Australians back home and all around the world barracking for him.

FROST::

I remember the times when I’ve been in Australia when Wimbledon is on – it’ll be about 11 o’clock your time?

PRIME MINISTER:

About 11 o’clock to Midnight.

FROST::

And assuming a four hour game of five sets.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes we’ll have a lot of weary people dragging themselves off to work on Monday morning.

FROST::

Exactly. Anyway, have you had, in terms of trade and culture and commerce, have you had a successful week?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s been a very successful week. This week marks one hundred years since the British Parliament passed the Act that gave Australia the Constitution we still live under. That Constitution of course had been voted for by the Australian people but it needed legally to go through the British Parliament to get the force of law and it’s the first major commemoration in what will be a year of commemoration in 2001 of the centenary of Australia – the Commonwealth came into being on 1 January 1901, but this week was the time one hundred a years ago the Act passed through the British Parliament to establish it and it is an important historical element in the commemoration of the centenary of Australia. But it is also an opportunity to showcase the modern, prosperous, innovative Australia. Britain is a very major investor in Australia so it’s a hard headed visit as well as a historical visit.

FROST::

If Britain goes into the Euro or not, which obviously you wouldn’t want to get involved in what they’re going to decide because it’s another country…..

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s another matter….

FROST::

But would it have any effect one way or the other on you whether we were in the Euro or not.?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don’t think it really matters economically, but that is a matter for the British – I don’t want to get involved in that. I mean we have, we invest an enormous amount in Britain and Britain invests an enormous amount in us. We remain very unhappy with the restrictive trade policies of the European Union – they hurt our farmers very badly and we still are cranky about that and will remain cranky about that until we get a fairer deal – but we’ve been able to win markets in other places. Australia now exports more wine to Britain than any country except France, so we’ve been able to come up through the inside on some other areas.

FROST::

What about oceania and the man, Charlie Dempsey?

PRIME MINISTER:

The soccer?

FROST::

Yes. I mean that in fact he was talking to us from New Zealand but he was representing you as well and you thought he was going to vote for South Africa as well presumably?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, he would have been representing the soccer interests in Australia. The Australian Government doesn’t tell sporting representatives how to vote. I guess I’m a bit disappointed in the choice between Germany and South Africa that it didn’t go to South Africa because in terms of spreading the game around the world and given that the last one was in France, I could see the wisdom in an overall sense of it going to South Africa, but I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs and as I remarked a moment ago, we in government, certainly in Australia, don’t direct sporting bodies how to vote on these things. We have our own personal preferences….

FROST::

Well, you’ve got the Olympic Games coming up. I remember how much money Canada lost on the Olympic Games. Are you going to make money or lose money on the Olympic Games?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don’t think we’ll lose money. The facilities are tremendous, they really are, and we’ve been able to road test all the major arenas with football matches and swimming events and so forth well before the Olympic Games. I think the games in Sydney will be a stunning success – I think the world will see a very modern, open hearted Australia on display and all of us in Australia are looking forward very much to having people coming there.

FROST::

And the games won’t be opened by yourself but the whole first ceremony will be whipped up by the Governor-General, which raises the point, do you think that referendum which voted to keep the Queen, is that like they say here about some big votes, does that settle the issue for a generation do you think or for how long? How long before that issue will be revisited?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don’t know. I don’t think in a democracy you ever settle something like that. It was a pretty open, willing debate, a fairly clear majority for a combination of reasons decided to stay with the present arrangement. There’s no reason why it won’t be – or can’t be – revisited at some time in the future but in a democracy that is how you should play it. I think a lot of people took the view that we have a very stable, workable system of government, we are a completely independent country in all senses and they couldn’t see the point in change, yet a lot of my fellow Australians had a different view and they’ll keep on debating the issue. Frankly David, I’ve got an open mind as to if or when it might return to the agenda. I don’t think it will be a big issue in the next election in Australia. I think at the moment, the Australian community is interested in a lot of other things, not only things like the Olympics, but they’re interested in the economic progress of the country, the new taxation system we’ve just introduced which has gone down very well so far, so it could come back, if and when I don’t know, but not in the immediate future.

FROST::

Not in the immediate future. Is it inevitable that one day Australia will become a republic or is it not inevitable?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I tend to agree with Benjamin Franklin that death and tax are the two inevitable things in life, beyond that, things that might look inevitable may not be. I don’t know, but one thing is certain and that is that whatever happens it will be a decision made by the Australian people, either way for the best of good reasons for the future of their country.

FROST::

Do you see Australia building on its world role that it showed, and particularly its regional role, in East Timor or do you see when other things come along like the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, that you can’t get involved in all of these things or do you think you should in your new role as trustee of the Pacific?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you have to look at each individual case according to its merits. Australia did play a decisive role in East Timor and we did do the right thing. Other countries have different problems and different challenges, but one of the advantages that Australia has in the region is that we are seen as a very stable, open, progressive, democratic society. We’re a very diverse society culturally – there are 800,000 Australians who speak Asian languages and the fact that we have links with Europe and North America adds value to our relationship with Asia and the fact that we have close links with Asia adds value to our association with Britain, the rest of Europe and North America. In that sense, we have assets and associations that add value to other links and associations but you have to look at each association and each problem according to its own merits. You should never take on the mantle of a particular role with a glib description because that can be, particularly if you are a fairly large country against small Pacific Island states, be misunderstood.

FROST::

Right, thank you very much for being with us this morning John. Bon voyage and I hope the voyage to Wimbledon is an exciting one as well.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks David.

FROST::

Thanks a million. Many many thanks.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[Ends]

Transcript 22851

Doorstop Interview, Wellington Barracks, London

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/07/2000

Release Type: Doorstop

Transcript ID: 22850

Subjects: Military Guard; Visit to India; Fiji.

E&OE ……………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very proud of them and all Australia should be very proud of them. They’ve come, they’ve represented their country with a lot of quiet, uncomplicated pride. And no matter what you do abroad for your country, whether it’s in the armed forces, as a sportsman or woman, or as an artist, if you do it with a sense of pride in being an Australian we can all identify with that. And that’s what these young men and women have done.

JOURNALIST:

Are you proud of how the week has gone here ?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it’s been a fantastic week. It’s been an opportunity to observe history, it’s been a week of hardheaded economic opportunity and I think it’s been highly successful. And I don’t think those who participated in it will forget it and I think it has been a two-way traffic. It’s an opportunity for us to mark the good aspects of our relationship with Britain, it’s also been an opportunity for the British to understand the enormous contribution that Australia has made to that relationship, to the defence of liberty on many occasions.

JOURNALIST:

And looking forward Prime Minister, is India more than just a visit, a goodwill visit? Do you expect . . . .

PRIME MINISTER:

There is nothing, there is nothing formal or tokenistic about my visit to India. We have not had a head of government exchange with India since 1989. The relationship needs more vigour and energy injected into it. It’s been to some extent a relationship that’s been taken for granted. We’ve assumed that because of some historical associations and the common membership of the Commonwealth and so forth that it will be alright. Now I think we have to work a lot harder. And India is a coming economic power, it has very high technological capability. We do have quite a lot in common and I think we can do a lot more to develop the commercial relationship and it’s a good opportunity for me to discuss that with the Prime Minister and the various members of his ministry.

JOURNALIST:

Will you discuss Fiji Prime Minister with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, I am sure it will come up because of the natural interest of the Indian government in the position of Fijians of Indian heritage in that country. Of course they’re people who left, whose ancestors left India, a long time ago. But they are naturally interested in the Indian diaspora in different parts of the world and of course the subject will come up and Fiji remains a very difficult issue. We are not happy with the racially based focus which has been taken. The Indians of Fiji are as entitled as the Fijians of Fiji to a proper place in the sun and politically they’re not being given that and that remains a matter of real concern.

Thanks.

[Ends]

Transcript 22850

Interview with Neil Mitchel, Radio 3AW

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22849

Subjects: Tax reform; John Della Bosca’s comments; travel costs; Fiji; London trip

E & OE…………………………………………………………………………

MITCHELL:

Mr Howard, welcome back, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

How are you Neil?

MITCHELL:

I am well thank you. Mr Howard, have you given any consideration to an early election?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

MITCHELL:

Why?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because I was elected for three years and I see no reason to go early.

MITCHELL:

GST is settling in well. Unemployment figures are good, Olympics euphoria, an election in October would look like quite clever politics.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not sure that it’s either clever politics or the right thing for the country. I mean we complain that we don’t have long enough to do things that have a short term political difficulty but a long term national benefit and then if you have an early election for no apparent reason other than presumed political advantage, the public is entitled to think cynically of the way you are behaving.

MITCHELL:

Has it been suggested to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

No. No and I have no thoughts of having an early election. My current intention is to let the parliament run until the end of next year which will be the three year period.

MITCHELL:

You said we would not, probably wouldn’t know the full effect of the GST for as long as six months. Do you stand by that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I think so. Look it’s gone very well. You had another survey out yesterday which indicated that inflationary expectations have come down which means that people don’t think the GST is now going to have, even in the short term, the cost of living impact it was originally thought. Now I don’t know whether that’s going to turn out to be the case but all the indications are that it’s going pretty well but because I am by nature a fairly cautious bloke, I still think that you will need a period of six months to be certain that it’s fully bedded down. It is a very big change. A very big change but I think what has happened is that as people have got their tax cuts, which has occurred over the last couple of weeks, some people for the first time have realised that there really was an upside as well as a claimed down side, in other words the GST was balanced by the removal of other indirect taxes and the introduction of very big personal income tax cuts and I think people have begun to enjoy those and they now realise that what I have been saying and the government’s been saying over the last couple of years on that score has been correct.

MITCHELL:

Okay, but if it’s going to take six months to bed down, it could still cause you some trouble. It could still blow up in your face.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t think it will blow up in our face – I don’t, I really don’t, but when I say bedded down, I mean six months before we can say well, it really has been fully introduced without any significant difficulty. Now I don’t expect any significant trouble. But in the nature of things when you have a change as large as this, it’s always a good idea not to claim victory on the basis of early returns, but I think it is going very well. Much better than the Labor Party said and hoped and I think that’s terrific because it is the biggest economic reform this country has had since World War II and I think its fantastic the way the Australian public has taken it in its stride. I mean that was apparent to me the very first morning when I wandered around the shopping centres of my own electorate. It was very apparent to me that people were taking it in their stride.

MITCHELL:

Do you think it’s still a little, well I get the sense it’s a bit polarising that a lot of middle income wage earners seem to have accepted it quite readily. Small business still find it an imposition and pensioners or fixed income earners are still concerned about it. Do you accept that it could be polarising in the community?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don’t. I have spoken to a number of my own colleagues who’ve got their ears to the ground and hold marginal seats and so forth and they are all reporting wide acceptance.

MITCHELL:

Petrol though is over 92 cents in Melbourne today. Do you take any responsibility for that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the price of petrol bounces around. It was 88 cents in Bass Hill the other day in Sydney. It bounces around, there is no rhyme or reason for some of the variations.

MITCHELL:

Do you take any responsibility for that figure. Is it a GST impact in there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we have talked about this before. I don’t, I said before that the price of petrol will move around for a whole variety of reasons, including the world price and the competitive forces in the market. I mean if in fact you can have it as low as the mid 80s in certain parts of the country, well there is obviously a lot of, how shall I put it, flexibility in the pricing structure.

MITCHELL:

I guess it’s fair it, it’s bedded down on petrol now though the oil companies said they are going to add one and a half cents. Are you able to ascertain whether it has or not.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think, I mean in our view there was one and a half cents of cost savings. That remains our position and if you look around, you can see a variation in price such that nobody can properly ascertain that it has added one and a half cents.

MITCHELL:

I am told it’s over a dollar in Mosman.

PRIME MINISTER:

But it’s often much higher in Mosman.

MITCHELL:

Is it? Over a dollar?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know about over a dollar, I don’t know, I haven’t got a list and Mosman is not far from where I live, but I haven’t got a list. But it varies a lot around Sydney as it does apparently around Melbourne.

MITCHELL:

Okay, but you are not able to say that there is not a GST impact, you simply don’t know.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what I am saying to you Neil is that there should have been sufficient cost savings plus the cut in excise so that the price need not have risen as a result of the GST and we have got the ACCC examining it, but you have got to remember that just because the price goes up, that doesn’t mean it’s the result of the GST.

MITCHELL:

You told me during the last election campaign that Kim Beazley didn’t have the ticker to be Prime Minister. Now that has stuck with him, do you stand by it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I certainly stand by it, of course I stand by that comment, but it was made not in a personal sense, but in a political sense. I don’t think he has delivered any alternative policy vision for this country and my great criticism of the Labor Party over tax reform is that for three years, they have tried to exploit the inevitable, political adversity that a government will suffer through trying to introduce a major reform. I mean no matter who is in power, if you try and bring in something as big as tax reform, you are going to go through a valley of political difficulty for a long time and what the Labor Party has sought to do, to continue the analogy as to sort of stand on the ridges and shoot us. Now that’s what they’ve tried to do. They haven’t tried to offer some alternative path. They have just tried to stand on the ridges and shoot at us and you know, they’ve you know, found their mark on some occasions, but in the long run the public’s a wake up to that. In the long run, people are going to say to Mr Beazley, if you want to be prime minister, what do you offer the country. Now at least I have had the commitment and my government has had the commitment to endure a very difficult period of time and we’ve finally as it were got the big reform in and people are starting to accept it and Mr Beazley now has the responsibility of offering an alternative and a better vision and the sooner he gets around to doing that the sooner he will be treated seriously. Now..

MITCHELL:

Do you think he is not taken seriously?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, from a policy point of view, I don’t believe he is. I don’t get into personal slanging matches, I am talking about his policy position. I mean you take this whole imbroglio about Mr Della Bosca…

MITCHELL:

You couldn’t have believed your luck over that one could you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well..

MITCHELL:

I could just imagine you sitting in India, hearing…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Neil I am not given to that sort of personal reflection. What I am given though is to point out though that in doing what he did, Mr Della Bosca was speaking the truth. I mean this is a man who was hand picked by Mr Beazley to be the national president. He said he was a gem, he said he was a political genius. He pushed aside that nice Barry Jones in order to install him and this same man has turned around and said your policy on GST is wrong and of course it is wrong and Mr Della Bosca was saying exactly what the government has been saying and that is that now that it is in, you will only confuse and complicate life for small business if you try and roll it back.

MITCHELL:

In political terms, what Mr Della Bosca did was extraordinary. It was either a bad error or it was a deliberate attempt to undermine Kim Beazley. Which was it in your view.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s for the commentators and for the Labor Party. What he said was accurate. I mean it was dead accurate. I mean forget what his motive was. I mean I don’t accept that somebody like that wouldn’t know that what he was saying was going to be reported. I mean this man is…..

MITCHELL:

Well that sounds like destabilisation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know. I mean you can draw your own conclusion. I mean maybe he thought naively that you could say something like this, get it reported and it wouldn’t do any damage. I don’t know. But the important thing is that he said it. And he said it because he meant it. But Neil, don’t cross examine me about the motives of people in the Labor Party towards their own colleagues. Go and talk to them.

MITCHELL:

Well every member of your ministry seems willing to offer a view on it Mr Howard. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah well I guess…..

MITCHELL:

Peter Reith’s been frothing about it, Peter Costello’s been frothing about it. You’re making political mileage out of it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah I know. But look, yes, you’re asking me to, you know, to perform the role of a political commentator.

MITCHELL:

Well I’m making the point that every member of your minister has being doing that for the past few days.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am more…..well they’ve been making legitimate comments. But I am more interested in what it means in a policy sense. And what it means is that the man who was hand picked by Kim Beazley to be the national president has said Mr Beazley is wrong with his tax policy. Now that has a profound significance for the political debate in Australia.

MITCHELL:

Well can I put it this way – do you believe Kim Beazley is long term as leader of the Labor Party?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they will keep Beazley as leader yes.

MITCHELL:

Okay we’ll take some calls to the Prime Minister. Graham, go ahead please.

CALLER

Thank you Neil. Mr Prime Minister, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning.

CALLER

With the GST there are two things that interest me, two obvious questions. One is wouldn’t a GST on food be a lot simpler and fairer across the board, and easy to implement provided that pensioners and people that need assistance would be recompensed fairly? And secondly, I’m interested in what Labor would do to taxes and charges if they ever got to government, or when they get to government.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well on the question of food, that issue has been resolved. You will know that the GST on food was part of the package we took to the last election. We were re-elected but we couldn’t get it through the parliament.

CALLER

You would still prefer a GST on food presumably.

PRIME MINISTER:

No not now. No. We’ve moved on. I mean you’ve got to remember that we’ve got a system now and to change it again is silly. And we’re not going back. I mean I don’t want anybody to be in doubt. We have moved on. We found that we couldn’t get that through the parliament so we have now moved on from it and you have to take those sort of things into account. The second question what taxes and charges? Well if the Labor Party is to roll back the GST and to spend a lot more money in some areas, and keep a budget surplus, then they’ll have to increase income tax. It’s a matter of simple arithmetic. I mean they can’t forever run around saying we’re going to roll back the GST which holds out a carrot to every interest group in the country, say you’re also going to spend a lot more money in education and health, and also keep a budget surplus without increasing income tax. And I think if they are to do all of those things they will find the money by lifting income tax.

MITCHELL:

Thank you Graham…. go ahead please.

CALLER

Good morning gentlemen. I ask Mr Howard, I’m very annoyed at the cost that you won’t live at the Lodge which I think every Prime Minister would be honoured to do so, and the cost of your travelling to and from I think is verging on the obscene.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m glad you asked that question. I don’t believe there are additional costs because of my living arrangements. You’re talking about that story in some of the papers yesterday.

MITCHELL:

In the, no the Herald Sun, $500,000 on taxpayer funded personal commuter jet service from Sydney to Canberra.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, okay. Well that neglects Neil is the fact that a large number of the functions that any Prime Minister goes to are in Sydney and the fact that you’re not living all of the time in Canberra doesn’t necessarily mean that you have additional travel expenses. And I’ve had a look at the jet travel expenses of Mr Keating in the last three or four years that he was Prime Minister and compared them with mine. Now I’m not being critical of him let me make it clear. I’m not on this account. But his expenses were higher.

MITCHELL:

[inaudible] travel expenses [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah they were.

MITCHELL:

Yours have gone up though haven’t they according to these reports?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve been travelling around the country a hell of a lot more and that’s part of your job. But you see what people forget is that, that if, I might be in Sydney for a weekend I might do a couple of functions in Sydney. If I were in Canberra at a weekend I’d have to fly up and back to Sydney and the air travel expense would be just as great. I mean that’s what Mr Keating did. Now I’m not criticising him for that let me make that clear. I’m critical of him on other things but not on that. And I think this argument that my living arrangements…..in fact if you want to compare the running expenses of the Lodge and the running expenses at Kirribilli, add them together, compare them with the running expenses of Kirribilli and the Lodge when Mr Keating was there, mine are not higher.

MITCHELL:

Okay. The Telegraph as I say got excited by the story, the Herald Sun recorded it. Do you think you’re getting a bit of a touch up from the Murdoch press?

PRIME MINISTER:

I thought those two stories were poorly based.

MITCHELL:

Is Rupert Murdoch still ….?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t think there’s any doubt that many sections of it remain unhappy about some of our media policies. But you know it never profits politicians to complain too much about the media does it Neil?

MITCHELL:

The proprietors Mr Howard….

PRIME MINISTER:

Never, never the media. No never. Well next question.

[commercial break]

MITCHELL:

Mr Howard, Fiji, with what’s happening should Fiji be at the Olympics?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s a matter ultimately for the International Olympic Committee and not for the government. I would think at this stage from my personal point of view, yes.

MITCHELL:

Would Australia deal with a government that includes George Speight?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the government is not going to include George Speight so we are told, although the government is going to be heavily influenced by George Speight. I’ll be talking to the Foreign Minister today about how we respond to what’s happened over the last 24 hours which remains totally unacceptable and completely sort of out of line with our democratic tradition. You’ve always got a problem that in international affairs that whether you like a government or loathe it you’ve got to deal with it if you’re to have any kind of discourse and exchange with a country. So the answer to the question is that we’ll have to in some way deal with the government of Fiji. Whether we’re happy with that and whether we impose measures against Fiji is something that we’ll talk about over the next few days. But let me make it very clear that Mr Chaudhry was illegally removed in a criminal act and I think the behaviour of the Great Council of Chiefs in bowing to Speight’s demands has really been to betray the democratic institutions of that country.

MITCHELL:

Now do you still consider that [inaudible] that George Speight is a terrorist?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course he is. I mean he captured somebody at the barrel of a gun who was the democratically elected leader. I mean how else can you regard him?

MITCHELL:

So will you be speaking to Chaudhry today?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve already got in touch with our High Commission in Suva to see if I can make contact with him and he may not be taking calls, I don’t know. But I’m going to endeavour to speak to him today. I do know him, I’ve met him on a couple of occasions. Once in Durban and once in Canberra and I feel for him. He’s a man of quiet dignity and strength. He was elected leader in a proper democratic ballot and he should never have been removed. And if we don’t stand up in a personal sense for people placed in that situation then we are undervaluing our own commitment to democratic institutions.

MITCHELL:

I notice he says he still thinks he has a role to play in politics.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think he does. I think he does. Anybody who was elected leader of their country and was then removed at the barrel of the gun does have a future.

MITCHELL:

Sanctions by Australia still a possibility?

PRIME MINISTER:

They are still a possibility. You’ve always got the dilemma with sanctions. I discussed this with the Indian Prime Minister a few days ago. I mean he not surprisingly because of the large number of people in Fiji of Indian heritage is concerned about the issue. And he raised the issue of sanctions with me and I said well I understood their view on the other hand if you impose very severe economic sanctions you end up hurting many of the people you’re trying to help. It’s always a dilemma and we’re going to try and find the right balance in the discussions we have over the next few days.

MITCHELL:

Andrew. We’ve got another call. Andrew go ahead please.

CALLER:

Morning gentlemen.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Andrew.

CALLER:

Good morning Mr Prime Minister. My question to you relates to income tax brackets. Well my understanding of the old system, one of the problems with it was that inflation basically eroded their meaning in a lot of ways. Are there any plans to index tax brackets we’ve got now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we don’t have an indexation but we do have a situation where you can go from, under the new system which came into effect on the 1st of July you can go from $20,000 to $50,000 without going into a higher tax bracket.

MITCHELL:

Is indexation, is that a possibility?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not making any promises.

MITCHELL:

You’re not ruling it out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not making any promises.

MITCHELL:

Understandably.

PRIME MINISTER:

I can’t. But the point I’m making is that if you can lift your income from 20 to 50 and the 20 to 50 bracket includes I would guess close to half the income earners of Australia, it would have to, if you can move to that level without getting into a higher tax bracket you don’t need indexation.

MITCHELL:

Do you agree that indexation does entrench a fairer system because you actually free those tax cuts?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I agree that any further, how shall we put it, benefits from the income tax scale, income tax arrangements would be desirable but I mean we have done what we believe we can afford to do. And whilst I understand and accept your argument about indexation I don’t want to be heard to be holding out the promise of it.

MITCHELL:

Fair enough. Is it on the agenda for consideration?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well not at the moment. Nothing further is on the agenda right at the moment on income tax because we’ve only just introduced the biggest income tax cut in our history. And it’s only been there for two weeks so obviously a further thing is not on the agenda at the moment.

MITCHELL:

The wife of the British Prime Minister as a respected barrister, as a QC is involved in the case on mandatory sentencing which is part of what’s happening in Australia. Did you discuss that with Mr Blair or his wife when you there?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no. Well I didn’t see his wife. In relation to him, no, he didn’t mention it.

MITCHELL:

Is it appropriate that she should be doing that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well she’s appeared in a case against her husband’s government, a human rights case. Quite recently she took an appeal in relation to paternity leave alleging a breach of human rights by Mr Blair’s government. I suppose if it’s appropriate for her to appear in a case against the British Government which is led by her Prime Minister then I suppose if she takes the view that she’s free to do that then I guess she’d readily take the view that she’s free to appear in a case involving the Australian government. She’s a lawyer in private practice and it is the obligation of lawyers to take whatever briefs they’re offered.

MITCHELL:

So you don’t see any [inaudible]…

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t see it as a snub. I mean I’d make the point though that issues relating to the laws of this country should be resolved in this country and not by the United Nations. I mean my view on the appropriateness of the United Nations sitting in judgement in relation to these matters has not changed. I mean we are a fully democratic country and I believe that issues relating to Australia should be initiated, resolved and concluded in Australia and if people don’t like them then they change the laws and vote out the government that’s responsible for the laws. But that having been said Mrs Blair has as much right as anybody else to appear. And as I say if she’s appeared against her husband Tony’s government then it’s hardly surprising that she’d accept a brief in relation to another government.

MITCHELL:

The trip to London, what did you bring home?

PRIME MINISTER:

I didn’t bring home anything in a physical sense.

MITCHELL:

Oh no I don’t mean that.

PRIME MINISTER:

What did I bring? I thought we brought home, what was achieved was a very significant commemoration of a very important event. And I know it was criticised, it was also defended. I think the events did appropriately mark a very important stage in Australia’s history. And unless you are to take the view that we never commemorate anything, I mean we will spend a lot of money as a nation next year marking our centenary and you will be entitled to say at the end of the year what have we got out of it.

MITCHELL:

At least that’s in Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes but this actually, you know the event we commemorated which was important to Australia did not occur in Australia.

MITCHELL:

True.

PRIME MINISTER:

And unless you are arguing that you never mark an event of importance to Australia which didn’t occur in Australia…

MITCHELL:

Oh no I don’t think anybody argued that. I think they argued the extent.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh the extent. I see. One of the advantages…

MITCHELL:

The point I’m getting at, did you do business? Was it worth sending the people [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

From a business point of view it was of incalculable benefit. I had the opportunity of meeting every major business leader in the sort of space of time which was available. The heads of all the major banks, many of the industrial organisations, the Governor of the Bank of England, naturally the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was an unrivalled opportunity to showcase the strengths of the Australian economy. And Neil can I say the advantage of taking with me two former Labor Prime Ministers and two former Coalition Prime Ministers and Labor Premiers was that I was representing with that the entire nation.

MITCHELL:

It’s a pity you didn’t get Pat Rafter over the line.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I wish I’d have done that.

MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for your time

[ends]

Transcript 22849

Television Interview with Tracey Grimshaw, The Today Show

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22848

Subjects: Fiji; John Della Bosca’s comments; jobs figures; GST; Federation trip

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………….

GRIMSHAW:

Prime Minister good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Tracey.

GRIMSHAW:

You just heard George Speight say that Australia should “butt out” of this. Are you going to?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. We’re not going to walk away from our international responsibility. I mean, what’s happened is that a democratically elected Prime Minister has been removed in a criminal act. I mean there’s no point in mincing words. He was kidnapped, detained unlawfully. It was a criminal act, he was democratically elected. And what George Speight and his supporters are arguing for is a racially prejudiced constitution. They are really saying that the Fijians of Indian heritage are not entitled to the same rights in Fiji as Fijians of another heritage. Now that just isn’t acceptable. It’s not acceptable in Australia and it can’t be accepted. Now the question of how far one goes in demonstrating one’s disapproval of something like that is something to be considered, and I’ll be talking to the Foreign Minister today about that. He’s arriving back in Australia and we’ll be having a talk about it. But nobody should imagine that Australia accepts in a diplomatic sense in any way the criminal removal of, and the unlawful removal of a democratically elected Prime Minister. It’s just not acceptable in today’s world.

GRIMSHAW:

Are you leaning towards sanctions? Does it seem to you that that’s inevitable now for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Tracey, we announced a number of measures that we said would come into effect with the situation resolved itself in the sense of us knowing what the medium term outcome was. Now that….

GRIMSHAW:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

That has now happened and I’ll be talking to the Foreign Minister about where we go from now. There’s always the problem with economic sanctions as to whether in the short term at least you don’t end up hurting more the people you’re trying to help. But that’s something we’ll take into account. But what has happened is just the overthrow illegally, in a criminal fashion, of a democratically elected Prime Minister.

GRIMSHAW:

Have you spoken to him, Mahendra Chaudhry, or do you intend to?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m going to try and talk to him on the phone today, yes.

GRIMSHAW:

Would you like to see him try to reassert himself politically in Fiji?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s a matter for him. The man has been through a terrible trauma. Remember he was detained for, what, seven or eight weeks. And it’s a terrible experience. But I’ve met him on two occasions and he strikes me as a man of considerable dignity and strength and I wish him well. I hope he does continue the political struggling in his own country. He has every right to.

GRIMSHAW:

Would you be concerned about the potential for turmoil though in Fiji [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think we’ve had turmoil, I mean you couldn’t have had much more turmoil than they’ve had recently. Their tourist industry has collapsed. We talk about the impact of economic sanctions from outside. The damage done by the State action to the Fijian economy already is immense.

GRIMSHAW:

Alright. Let’s move onto the GST. It has its supporters but I don’t suppose that you ever imagined that you would count the then president-elect of the Labor Party among them?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I wouldn’t have. But we must understand exactly what’s happened. You’ve got a man who was Mr Beazley’s personal choice as the next president of the Labor Party agreeing with us. I mean, stripped of all the, you know, of all the sort of Labor Party folklore that people have tried to spin around this event in the last 48 hours. What happened was that the man personally selected by the Leader of the Opposition has said the Leader of the Opposition is wrong about the GST. Well you can’t have anything more lethal than that and what he’s done is to agree with what we’ve been saying for ages and that is that the Labor Party has been running a very bad negative campaign against the Australian interest over the last couple of years.

GRIMSHAW:

Alright. He’s since been stripped of his candidacy for the federal presidency. He’s recanted. Kim Beazley has reaffirmed his commitment to roll back. Are we entitled now to see his comments as perhaps as the ill conceived rantings of one man who was perhaps a little too big for his boots?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no we’re not. I mean you can do all they’ve done, but nothing can unsay what he said. I mean he meant it. He wouldn’t have said it otherwise. I mean, he was the ALP’s campaign director in New South Wales for three State elections. He is a senior minister. He was Mr Beazley’s, not his own, Mr Beazley said Della come here, I want you to be federal president because you’re a political genius. Now that’s basically what happened. And the man who Mr Beazley said was a political genius has said that what the Labor Party is doing on the GST is wrong. Now he is right. He did tell the truth. They are wrong. It is time that they accepted the verdict of the Australian people. But we’re going to move on. I mean what we’re interested in is things like yesterday’s job figures. The lowest unemployment rate for 10 years. We’ve created 744,000 jobs in four years. I mean that’s what matters to me and that’s why we brought in tax reform because we want to further strengthen the Australian economy. That’s the reason we’re doing these things. And I’m more interested in doing good things for the Australian people in the future than the political conflict that’s involved although you do have to get involved in that.

GRIMSHAW:

I want to talk to you about the job figures in a moment. Just one final question on the Labor turmoil if you like. You’re not tempted to go early to an election while Labor is in trouble.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, look I was elected for three years. The Australian public would be entitled to react very cynically to any opportunistic attempt by the Government to exploit the present situation. You don’t get any marks for that. The public’s awake up to that sort of thing. I wouldn’t insult them by trying to do that.

GRIMSHAW:

All right. On the issue of job figures- jobless numbers are down but now we find out that in Sydney at least your Government is planning to trial new three month limitations on people looking for work before they’re forced into a work for the dole program. Is that a little harsh?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don’t think so when you consider the surfeit of jobs in many parts of Sydney. I mean you’ve got effective full employment in large areas of Sydney now and for a temporary period while the Olympics are on it is not unreasonable to say that if you’ve been looking for work for three months and you haven’t got a job then you might come into the work for the dole scheme. I mean we’re not taking people’s benefits away. They won’t lose their dole, they’ll just be required to do one of the several things that you are required to do in return for your unemployment benefits under the scheme. I don’t think that’s the least bit unreasonable.

GRIMSHAW:

But your Employment Minister, Tony Abbott, is saying that employment shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice. I suppose if you’re a sacked university professor or a sacked company director you might want more than three months to look for a job before you find yourself cleaning up Olympic venues or something wouldn’t you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, many of those people of course are in a different position to others because they may have redundancies. But look it’s a question of balance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say to somebody when you’ve got an area of very high employment and a lot of opportunities that you should do something in return for your unemployment benefit after three months. We’re not saying they’re going to lose their dole. People seem to sometimes be under the misapprehension with work for the dole that it means that you lose your unemployment benefit. What it means is that if you’re not willing to do something in return for the unemployment benefit you might lose it. Now I think that is fair, I really do and I suspect most Australians think it’s fair.

GRIMSHAW:

Is it a trial program? Are you planning to expand it beyond Sydney?

PRIME MINISTER:

We don’t have any plan to do that at present, no.

GRIMSHAW:

All right. On the matter of your centenary tour it was as an anniversary party. It was condemned in many quarters- too far away, too expensive and too pompous for a lot of Australians to identify with. What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t accept that criticism. I don’t agree with it. And I know it was made by some and others defended it. You say it was too far away. It was where it happened. I mean if you’re going to observe history you should do so faithfully. And the legal act that gave force to the Commonwealth of Australia was the passage of the Act through the Commonwealth Parliament and we were just observing history. I mean you don’t observe a battle that occurred in a far off country other than in that country as well of course in Australia. I find that proposition ridiculous. I mean we couldn’t have observed the passage of the Act through the British Parliament in Canberra. I mean we’re going to have a whole year of centenary events. As far as the pomp is concerned - when you go to another country you are entertained according to the style of that country. When I have been to Jakarta I have been entertained in the Balinese style or a Javanese style - Javanese style in Jakarta and a Balinese style in other parts of the country because that is the custom of the nation. And I find it extraordinary that people you know would think that’s peculiar. I mean I was a guest in the United Kingdom and I was entertained I think in a complimentary way by the British according to their custom.

GRIMSHAW:

Can I ask you this? Did Cherie Blair raise the issue of mandatory sentencing with you while you were over there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no because I didn’t meet her.

GRIMSHAW:

Would you have wanted someone to give you the tip that she was about to [inaudible] the Human Rights Commission?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think anybody should get very excited about that. She’s a human rights lawyer and she’s appeared in cases against her husband’s government. So I can’t imagine that having appeared against her husband’s government she’d be particularly sensitive about appearing against the Australian Government.

GRIMSHAW:

So you don’t see it as a snub against…

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no I see it as the act of a private lawyer taking a brief which is the obligation of lawyers in their profession. I don’t attach any significance at all. As I say she’s appeared against her husband’s government so why would she, having done that, why would she make an exception of the Australian Government.

GRIMSHAW:

All right we’ll leave it there.

[ends]

Transcript 22848

Radio Interview with John Miller, Radio 4BC

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 25/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22847

Subjects: new tax system; work for the dole; army reserve; consultancy use; nursing homes; Olympic security; Fiji; Bob Carr; cricket match fixing.

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

MILLER:

Let’s hop right into it. Apart from the problems yesterday revealed with Franklins, it would appear to have all gone very smoothly.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well so far it’s gone well. I don’t want to exaggerate or gloat in any way. I always thought it would go better than the Labor Party hoped it would. They hoped it would have been a disaster. It wasn’t. People have seen the fairness of it. The most regular comment I get is that people are surprised and pleased at the size of the personal tax cuts, and they’re surprised and pleased that their weekend shopping bill for the necessities of life has not gone up by more than a few dollars. That’s the most frequent comment I get. But we still have a distance to go but I can honestly say that it has gone well and I think the Australian public as always has displayed a great commonsense capacity, and they’ve ignored the doom and gloom that was spouted by the Labor Party who hoped it would be a failure. And it hasn’t been a failure. It really has so far been very successful and Australia will be the winner because we have needed a strong and better and fairer taxation system for many years.

It was very hard getting it accepted, it was very hard getting it through the Parliament. We ran the gauntlet of constant sabotage and attack in the weeks leading up to its introduction. It was easy to scare people with horror stories of dramatic price increases. Now that people have had an opportunity of almost a month to experience it they are separating the wheat from the chaff. They know that it’s fairer than they were told by our opponents, and I’m glad that people have at long last had the opportunity of experiencing it. But there’s still time to go and there will continue to be some challenges and the odd glitch. You mentioned the issue regarding one of the supermarket companies yesterday. I think that’s an example of how the system works. Rather than it being a problem I think it demonstrates the vigilance of the public and also the readiness of the ACCC.

Now I don’t want to comment on the merits because obviously the company has a point of view to put in relation to the inadvertent character of the charging of the GST, and it’s got a right to put those views, and I don’t want to say any more that might prejudice the proper consideration of the company’s point of view.

MILLER:

All right. Well, a day-long Cabinet meeting I understand in Sydney today. Given that this introduction of the new taxation system has thus far gone smoothly any way, although I understand that another bit of a crunch will come when business has to actually start complying and doing the paperwork, where do we go from here? What’s now on your Government’s agenda?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as always you must look forward. We, on a regular basis have Cabinet meetings where we talk not so much about particular agenda items but about the general direction of the Government. And it’s appropriate half way through the Government’s second term, with tax reform now a fact of life and going reasonably well, indeed some would say very well, it is proper that we turn our eyes to the future. What other things does the Government hope to achieve, and there are a lot of things we do hope to achieve. We have in front of us a major report on the direction of welfare chaired by the boss of Mission Australia, one of the big welfare organisations, Patrick McClure.

This report will be officially in the hands of the Government any day now. It provides a whole series of recommendations about the future direction of welfare in Australia. I want to make it clear that in no way will this report recommend, nor would the Government countenance in any way, affecting the social security safety net. There’s no longer an argument in Australia about the need to provide support for the needy and the underprivileged in our society. That is a given, that’s a given on our side of politics and I’m sure it’s a given in every section of the Australian community. But there are ways in which you can improve the delivery of welfare, there are ways in which you can ensure that people who are not entitled to benefits don’t get them, and there are ways of ensuring that people who are on welfare are encouraged to the maximum extent possible to participate in work of different varieties in different kinds of community service including as announced on Sunday service in the defence reserve.

All of these things are really ways of getting people back into the workforce. We’ve been very successful in cutting unemployment. We’ve now got the lowest unemployment rate for 10 years, we’ve generated 743,000 new jobs in four-and-a-half years. But you can still do a lot more. And there are ways and means in which we can improve the delivery of services to those who need them, and there are ways in which we can improve the reintroduction of people who’ve been out of contact with the labour market for a long time, smooth their reintroduction into jobs.

MILLER:

Let me take out the issue of the defence reserve. I had a call from a father, a concerned father earlier this morning who said that having heard the news report by the weekend his son was lickety split up to the CES on Monday morning. His son’s been unemployed for two years, he’s very keen to find some work. And his son, he said was very disappointed with the outcome when he asked about the defence reserve situation. Can we clarify that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m surprised that he was disappointed. I mean, if perhaps he could off air give you his name and telephone number, I will get someone in my office to make contact with him and find out the source of his disappointment. But the idea is that if you have a work for the dole obligation, in other words if you’re in that category of people who’s got to give something back in return for the unemployment benefit, and it generally applies to people in their 20s, then one of the things you can do in return for the dole is to serve in the Army Reserve. Now you have to meet all of the obligations of reserve service – the entry requirements, the fitness requirements. There’s been no lowering of standards. And any reserve pay you get won’t be counted against your unemployment benefit. But if you do that than that is regarded as a sufficient acquittal of your obligation to work for your dole. So it’s part of the mutual obligation pattern. And I’m just not quite sure how he’s disappointed.

MILLER:

Well I think he got the impression gathering from what his father was saying, that there had been some relaxation in the recruiting standards. But that’s very definitely not the case?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, there’s no relaxation in recruiting standards. There was never intended to be. I mean you still have to meet the physical and all the other requirements. You can’t, that wouldn’t be fair to the other people in the reserve, would it.

MILLER:

Ok, let’s move on now – genetically modified food, a big issue with many Australians. A survey showing 93% of Australians want to know what’s in their food. 60% say they wouldn’t buy genetically modified meats until, God knows they probably already are in some sense. But why then do you still hold that some foods etc could be exempt from labelling requirements?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it’s just a question of what’s practicable, particularly for small business. And what we’ve said, that is in relation to certain fast foods and where the amount of modification is less than 1%, it’s imposing too great a burden on business to require them to label it. That’s all. I am not against labelling of genetically modified products. I am part of the 93%. I think people should be given information. But where the amount of modification is so slight, below 1%, it is imposing an unreasonable burden, particularly on small business, to require them to do it. But these things are not costless. Some consumer advocates imagine that you can impose all of these regulations on business and then not have to pay any more for the product. You have to have a sense of balance. And all I am arguing for, and it is a matter for governments around the states and in New Zealand whether they accept it, all I am arguing for is that when the amount of modification is so slight as to be insignificant then it is not reasonable to require labelling. I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all. I think it’s just a sensible, pragmatic, commonsense approach to something where most people agree labelling, generally speaking should be required.

MILLER:

Okay, moving onto again. Yesterday on this programme, Senator John Faulkner was making some fairly scathing comments about the level of consultancy usage by your Government, quoting figures of hundreds of millions of dollars and citing instances where senior public servants have accepted redundancy packages, or taken retirement packages virtually on a Friday, walked out the door with a huge cheque in their pocket and then come back as well paid consultants on the Monday morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Senator Faulkner would know a lot about redundancies, a lot about consultancies because they started and they were well entrenched during the years of the Hawke and Keating Governments. Now there has been an increase in the number of consultants and that’s because of two reasons. Firstly that the pattern of work in the 90’s now is of somewhat less permanent, full time work and a greater amount of consulting and casual and part-time work. And that trend has spread to the public service, as it has to other parts of the community and of itself is no reason why you should be concerned about the growth of consultancies. It is a question of whether you get value for money.

I make the important point that when a government department employs a consultant, the government department has to find the money to pay for the consultant from within the department’s budget. And it’s wrong as Senator Faulkner implies, and others imply, including some press reports in the Courier Mail recently, that every time a consultant is employed that is additional government money being spent. It is not. You’ve got to pay for the consultancies within your budget allocation so that if you employ a consultant in one area and you pay for that as you have to, then you have less money in another area to pay for another activity. And if you look at the Federal Budget you will find that the allocation for just about every department in real terms has either been contained or reduced since we came to office, with the exception of course of the payments for essential welfare recipients and so forth such as pensions.

But, any suggestion that because we have more consultants we are naturally and automatically spending more money is wrong. You still have to pay for those consultants from within your budget allocation. If the Treasury gives a department a hundred million dollars a year and it decides to have more consultants than it did the previous year, it’s still got to pay for those consultants from within the one hundred million dollars.

MILLER:

So, it’s not an exercise in creative accounting?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it is not an exercise. It is an exercise in responding to the flexibility of modern employment practices. Clearly we, you engage a lot of consultants for one-off projects. For example the privatisation of part of Telstra involved employing consultants for a period of time to manage that. You have a lot of one-off tasks, a lot of ministerial offices… Mr Keating had consultants. I’ve had consultants. It doesn’t mean that you add the money to your budget allocation, it means that you have to pay for those people from within your budget allocation.

MILLER:

You can understand the concern though when people see huge sums of money, even if as you say it all comes in and the bottom line is . . . .

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I understand that and that’s why I am glad you raised the question and I have an opportunity of explaining it.

MILLER:

Okay. Let’s move on then again and the performance of Bronwyn Bishop. Again in the Courier Mail this morning, it has been criticised for her poorly-designed and run scheme for handling nursing home complaints. Are you satisfied with her performance?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. As for that Ombudsman’s report, I will be getting an assessment of that report in the next couple of days. I have not read it yet. And until I have had an opportunity of analysing the report and having a look at the assessment I don’t automatically accept what is contained in the report. But of course I support the minister, and of course I support the job that the minister and her department is doing. It’s a difficult, emotional area and it’s easy for people to run scare stories. It’s also the case that this Government and under, largely under this minister, have introduced a new accreditation scheme for nursing homes throughout Australia. And it’s inevitable in the introduction of that accreditation scheme that there has been a greater spotlight on the performance of nursing homes than ever before, and there are some bad nursing homes in Australia. There always has been under any government. But what this Government has done is to establish an accreditation scheme which actually forces all nursing homes in Australia to look to their standards, look to their performance and measure them against the criteria contained in the accreditation scheme. And that’s something that no former government ever did.

MILLER:

It is fairly damning though when the Commonwealth Ombudsman finds that federal public servants running the complaints scheme were confused and didn’t know how to deal with complaints.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well John, as I say I’ve, I’m getting an assessment of that Ombudsman’s report and until I have that, which I expect to be in the next day or two, I am not going to make further comment. But I will be reading it very carefully and obviously taking heed of any reasonable points the Ombudsman’s report makes.

MILLER:

Okay. Olympic security – have we convinced other nations that they don’t have to bring their own guns?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we’ve certainly told them that. And that will be the rule that’s applied. There’s a suggestion in some of the press reports that they didn’t know this. That’s not right. We took this decision more than a year ago. It’s always been our position that we look after security matters. And we have a capacity to do it. We do not want people, as it were, bringing in their own private security armies. We want to run this thing according to the Australian way, in our way. We have very efficient arrangements. We have very able state police, augmented by federal police. So I am not concerned about our capacity to manage the security aspects of the Games and we have made it very clear to foreign governments that they do not have the right to arm their security people. Now I understand they concern of some teams, given past history, but this is Australia and we will make adequate security arrangements for people who are guests in our country during the Games.

MILLER:

What do we do if some of them turn up armed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we’ll deal with that problem if and when it, if or when it arises. They’ve been told in no uncertain terms that they are not to bring arms into the country.

MILLER:

Okay. On matters of regional security. Are we confident that we have done enough to ensure the return of stability and democracy to Fiji?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have done so far all that we can reasonably do. There are other things you could do but they would be unreasonable. For example trying in effect overnight to destroy the Fijian economy by the imposition of indiscriminate economic sanctions might satisfy some people but it wouldn’t be of any assistance to the people in Fiji that we really want to help. We are unhappy with, we disapprove strongly of what has occurred in Fiji. We want a return of democracy. We believe that Mr Chaudhry’s government should be reinstated. From a practical point of view that doesn’t look as though it’s going to occur. We have imposed a range of measures and all of them send a very clear signal of disapproval to Fiji and I think represent the measure of world displeasure and world unhappiness with what has happened in Fiji. But in the end it’s a domestic argument and in the end countries have to solve their own problems.

It’s always difficult having to find a resolution of a difference of opinion between a community that sees itself as indigenous to a country, as the Fijians do, but also a group of Fijians of Indian heritage who’ve been in that country for several generations and who are just as entitled to call Fiji their home as any other person living in that country.

MILLER:

Yeah, the volatility of the region to our north I suppose you’ve got to say has been amply demonstrated again by the tragic death of a New Zealand soldier in Timor.

PRIME MINISTER:

It has and it’s a reminder to all of us that we are still in a theatre of danger and instability. There’s been an understandable assumption that all was quiet on the East Timor front. This is a very sad reminder that that is not the case. There is still an element of danger for the one and a half thousand, fifteen hundred Australian troops who are still serving under the United Nations flag in East Timor. And there is obviously an obligation on the Indonesian government to do all it can to curb the activities of militias on the border between Indonesia and East Timor. Now I think the Indonesian government has done great things since President Wahid took over. I believe that he’s brought a breath of fresh air and democracy and transparency to that country, the like of which it’s probably never seen. But it’s also important that the border between East Timor and Indonesia be as tight as possible and there’s a responsibility clearly on the Indonesian government to play its part in regard to that.

MILLER:

Okay let’s talk a little bit of politics now. There’s speculation in the Australian newspaper this morning that NSW Premier Bob Carr is under fairly intense pressure from within the Labor Party to revive his interest in a move to federal parliament. Your view on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I read the story and I also heard Mr Carr’s denial on radio.

MILLER:

Denials are almost confirmation.

PRIME MINISTER:

There almost de rigeur, aren’t they? They are almost confirmation. Look, I guess there must be something in it otherwise a newspaper like The Australian wouldn’t have given it such prominence. In the end that’s a matter for the Labor Party and I’m not going to make some kind of clever, smart alec remark about it but to observe that the greatest problem the Labor Party has is that it doesn’t stand for anything. You know what the Labor Party is against. The Labor Party is against us. The Labor Party is against the Coalition. The Labor Party wants everything the Coalition does to blow up in its face irrespective of the damage done to Australia. Now I think that’s the Labor Party’s greatest problem. You saw that with the GST.

Della Bosca was right. The negative campaign waged by Mr Beazley against the GST is fraudulent. The Labor Party should have thought of Australia rather than it’s own political interests and until the Labor Party gets some policies and starts telling Australia what it stands for… It's easy to tell people what you’re against. If you’re in opposition you’re obviously against the government and you want to get into government. But the Australian people want more from oppositions than that. I know that. I’ve been in opposition and you always do best in opposition when you stand for something and you stop being so negative. But Mr Beazley acknowledges that he carps so I guess all of this is an illustration that people are looking for the Labor Party to stand for something and not be so totally negative.

MILLER:

Prime Minister, we’re almost out of time but I can’t let the morning pass knowing that you are such a passionate cricket fan without raising and asking for your view on the very serious allegations raised last night on Four Corners.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I watched the programme. Like any other cricket lover it was distressing. I guess the best thing I can say is that there is a tremendously heavy obligation on cricket authorities to get to the bottom of this. They carry with them the hopes of millions of cricket lovers throughout the world who want any rottenness in our wonderful game found out, rooted out and thrown out.

MILLER:

All right. Prime Minister John Howard, thank you very much for your time this morning. We’ll have to leave it there. We’ll do it again soon.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22847

Interview with Philip Clarke, Radio 2BL

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 26/07/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22846

Subjects: John Della Bosca; crash of Concorde in Paris; GST; Work for the Dole; Sydney Airport; East Timor; New South Wales Liberal Party.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

CLARKE:

Mr Howard, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Philip, good to be with you.

CLARKE:

And I’m happy to say happy birthday.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

CLARKE:

It is the Prime Minister’s birthday you see. Prime Ministers do have them. Did John Della Bosca know it was your birthday last week?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh well, you know I’m all in favour of long lunches …

CLARKE:

Was he having an early birthday lunch for you was he?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they’re a great institution- that restaurant is opposite my office in the city and I view it with a new reference. I’ve actually lunched there, it’s a very nice restaurant let me say. I wouldn’t want to in any way suggest it isn’t. It’s a very pleasant place.

CLARKE:

I guess it sort of gets the Prime Ministerial seal of approval for all sorts of reasons now.

PRIME MINISTER:

It sure does.

CLARKE:

Just before we begin - tragic news overnight from Paris, the crash of that Concorde aircraft - terrible killed everybody on board. Miraculously, as I said earlier this morning, doesn’t seem to have created much loss of life on the ground. In the circumstances you only give thanks probably.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we certainly can. I mean it’s a terrible incident. I suppose made a bit more dramatic by the fact that the Concorde was an icon of British Airways and Air France and something that was very futuristic when it was launched back in 1969. Certainly I travelled on it once about 22 years ago.

CLARKE:

Did you? What, soon after it came out did you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no it had been going for about eight or nine years. It was a flight from London to Washington and it certainly made an extraordinary difference to trans-Atlantic air travel but there’s not a lot one can sort of say other than express the horror and distress. But you are right - it is amazing that so few people on the ground lost their lives because the plane crashed so quickly after take-off and inevitably it was over a densely populated area.

CLARKE:

All right. Well the GST is here. We’re all paying it. Business activity statements [inaudible] shortly. Business is getting used to it - the poll indicates that by and large people have accepted the GST without the fuss and hulla balloo that some had predicted. I suppose if there’s pain to be felt it will be further down the track and you probably expect some of that a little later do you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh well I expect that there will be some challenges when the first payment has to be made by business. But just as I think that the pain of the introduction on the 1st of July was exaggerated by the critics of the tax change, so I think some of the build up to that first payment and the problems associated may end up being exaggerated as well. Now when something like this happens it is a huge change. It has gone very well, better than our critics predicted but I don’t want to sound in any way smug about that or complacent.

We’re ready and the Tax Office is ready to help small business who have difficulties that we can assist with in relation to getting ready. They should of course make sure that the money that they are collecting under the new GST dispensation that that is ready and available for remittance to the tax authorities either in a month’s time, obviously in relation to the big companies they’ll have their accounting systems but the smaller companies that will make their first payments in October or November, they’re the ones that have to make absolutely certain that the tax they’re collecting is earmarked, set aside so that come the time they can send it in.

CLARKE:

Yep. All right. And I mentioned that to begin with because you’ve achieved what you long set out to achieve - substantial reform to the tax system - it’s here. Early indications are that the community is prepared to accept it as well. You met in Cabinet yesterday for what I understand was a pretty free-wheeling sort of Cabinet discussion. Where do you go to from here?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there are a lot of other things that we need to do. It is true that this country’s needed tax reform for a long time and we’ve fought for it in the face of a lot of difficulty and we’ve had no help from the Labor Party. We had very constructive help from the Democrats to get it through and I thank them for that. The Democrats and the Government disagree on a lot of things but they were very constructive in relation to tax and therefore played a role in shaping it. In contrast to the Labor Party who really wanted it to fail and who are now committed to this absurd proposition to roll back which means throwing people back into doubt and confusion. I mean it’s as if you’ve built a new house with only a few little things to be done before it’s ready for occupancy and then somebody comes along and says oh look we’re going to tear those walls down and we’re going to start all over again in these rooms and so forth. I think most people will recoil in horror at that proposition.

But there are a lot of other things on the agenda. One of the things that’s coming up very soon is welfare reform. Not a process that’s going to involve cutting benefits. We’re not in the business of cutting people’s pensions or benefits. The debate about the adequacy of benefits now in terms of maintaining the safety net, that debate has subsided. Everybody accepts that we need a decent social security safety net in this country. And everybody accepts that you don’t throw people onto the streets and leave them without means of support.

CLARKE:

I mean that’s the policy the same as some elements such as Mark Latham have been talking about on the Opposition, haven’t they?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

CLARKE:

That’s the notion of dependence, the notion of doing something for it in a way. Of being . . .

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Labor Party, I mean the Labor Party opposed Work for the Dole when it was first brought in. I’m not quite sure …

CLARKE:

That’s the direction of policy.

PRIME MINISTER:

But I mean we support the notion that you have a safety net that if people getting the benefit of that safety net are reasonably able to do so they should give something back in return. And I think the community accepts that as a principle and there are ways of extending that. There are ways of refining it. There are ways of helping people get back into the labour market. And there’s reference this morning to single parents. Now the purpose there is not to deny the benefit to single parents. We’re not wanting to persecute single parents but we are recognising that as children get older reintroducing people to the labour market who may have been out of contact with the labour market, getting people more job ready is and should be part and parcel of the process. Now they’re the sorts of things that I gather have been examined in the McClure Report. And Patrick McClure is the head of Mission Australia, one of the big welfare organisations in this country, and he’s about to present his final report to the Government and we’ll be making that public, that’s the intention. We’ll be inviting responses on it and pretty speedily indicating the Government response. Now this is once again sensible, steady reform. Not reform that says to people we’re not going to help you, but reform that says there are ways of getting people more job ready and we want to embrace those ways.

CLARKE:

Did you talk about the Airport in Cabinet yesterday, the Sydney Airport I mean?

PRIME MINISTER:

Only very glancingly.

CLARKE:

I mean I see John Anderson this morning that the move of regional airlines to Bankstown under a reinvigorated enlarged Bankstown would happen, “over his dead body.”

PRIME MINISTER:

Well naturally and properly and to his credit, he is representing the interests of regional commuters.

CLARKE:

Is that the direction it’s going? The Sydney Airport debate? Towards a smaller Badgery and enhanced Bankstown? Therefore longer life for KSA?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s not really possible to give a clear yes or no to that. There are a whole lot of options. We will be addressing our minds to that very soon and taking a decision well before the end of the year. Any suggestion that we are going to put off a decision on this after the next election is wrong.

CLARKE:

Is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

CLARKE:

So we will have a final . . .

PRIME MINISTER:

We will have a final decision well before then.

CLARKE:

Which will well and truly decide forever the future, of . . . but it will be the decision that will be …

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it will be the decision that will shape the future, for the foreseeable future yes.

CLARKE:

If the direction we’re going is not as bigger Badgery’s a smaller Badgery’s.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t want to get in to what direction we are going at the moment. I just want to dispel any notion that our intention is to put this off until after the next election. The public wants a decision on this. The Government should make a decision on this well before the end of the year and certainly before the next election which of course is not due until the end of next year.

CLARKE:

All right, the NSW Libs. You were there last weekend and backed a reform package which simplified the structure, although I saw a graph of the simplified structure and it’s [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

We you know you know it’s like an organisational chart for a big company or even the ABC, I mean nothing is simple.

CLARKE:

Kerry Chikarovski’s got a task ahead of her though. Does she have your support?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, she does. The question of the leadership of the parliamentary party is a matter for it. And I just make this observation - you don’t change the leader of a political party unless you are completely satisfied that the person you’re changing to is going to be clearly and dramatically better.

CLARKE:

Do you see any better ones?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t see myself. No I don’t, it’s difficult being an opposition leader and I think she has a tough task ahead. But all opposition leaders have tough tasks. I was reminded yesterday that when Mr Carr won the premiership of New South Wales and re-entered the campaign that gave him the premiership of New South Wales with quote a modest approval rating. Those sorts of things in the end don’t matter a great deal if you’ve got good policies. The most important thing that an opposition can do, whether it’s state or federal is to tell the public what it believes in and what it will do if it is in government. This is even more important now that the public perceives that the differences between the two political parties are less ideological than they used to be. They are asking more and more what individual political parties should do, so it’s a matter for them but of course I support her, I support the leader of the party.

CLARKE:

Your advice is to stick with her for the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s a matter for them but I express the view that you don’t change somebody unless you are satisfied that the person you are changing to is dramatically better.

CLARKE:

On West Timor, the tragic death of that New Zealand soldier on the peace keeping force. I mean the first UNSCOM, the first, sorry loss in the…

PRIME MINISTER:

Very tragic indeed.

CLARKE:

Indeed. I mean could Indonesia be doing more? Do you blame Indonesia for what happened?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s hard to know. Certainly we’ll press the Indonesians very strongly as Mr Downer will do. He is now on his way to Bangkok and he will see the Indonesian Foreign Minister there on Saturday. And I know that both Mr Downer and the New Zealand Foreign Minister will be pressing the Indonesians to investigate and to do even more to reign in the militias. As to the precise circumstance, I don’t know and I can’t make absolute allegations and I am not going to do so. But clearly more needs to be done to contain the militias on the border and this is a very sad and grim reminder that our own forces are still fighting in a very dangerous theatre, there are 1,500 Australian troops still in East Timor.

CLARKE:

Yeah, there are.

PRIME MINISTER:

And they are in a theatre of danger. Now we have been I guess lulled in to a complacent …

CLARKE:

But shouldn’t be should they? I mean, they shouldn’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no they should not be but whenever you are in a difficult situation like this, there is always danger. I don’t want to over-dramatise it, but equally I would not be frank with the Australian public if I didn’t say that those men and women are still in a dangerous position. It should not be dangerous. It should be purely a peacekeeping role, but yesterday’s incident which tragically involved the death of a New Zealand soldier shows that it is still quite …

CLARKE:

Yeah, I think if you read the circumstances of his death too you will understand that is was, it was a horrific situation, indeed dangerous. He was the lead scout in a patrol which was fired upon and attempting to take cover he was shot, he was shot dead.

PRIME MINISTER:

There is significant dangers still. Now there’s an onus on the Indonesian government to do everything it can.

CLARKE:

To do more about it …

PRIME MINISTER:

Now I’m not, I don’t have any evidence of the Indonesians having been complicit in this and therefore I am not going to make that allegation, that would be unfair and irresponsible. But it is fair and responsible and the right thing for me to do and Mr Downer will do it very directly to the Indonesian Foreign Minister to ask of them, press upon them the need to redouble their efforts to reign in the behaviour of the militias.

CLARKE:

My guest is the Prime Minister, Mr Howard. Mr Howard, can we take a break from politics, because it is your birthday?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

CLARKE:

And just talk about what it is like to be 61. Am I able to reveal that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, you can reveal that. It’s a very simple calculation.

CLARKE:

This morning, this week, a lot of discussion about women in their 60’s this week and survey studies have shown women seem to testify that sixty is a great time of life for them, a lot of their responsibilities and cares have gone. Is it the same for men? How do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well certainly …

CLARKE:

Significant birthday?

PRIME MINISTER:

Speaking for myself, my family are now young adults in that sense - the responsibilities of piloting, trying to pilot children through teenage and so forth, you are over that hump. But of course I guess there are new patterns to relationships. I am very fortunate, my wife and I are very lucky we have, we think touch wood, we’ve got three pretty stable happy children. And we are very, as a family, we are quite close and we enjoy life now, we’ve always tried to do so. We certainly do now. I have a lot of responsibilities in, obviously in my position but I’ve always taken the view that the most intelligent thing and the best thing you can do with your life is to live it for the moment. If you dwell too much on what you might have done or should have done in the past, or contemplate with too much intensity what you might do in the future, you lose sight of the moment. And the best thing anybody can ever do with their life is to accept the natural aging process, accept the natural progression of life and to get the best you can out of it. Certainly most Australians alive now enjoy a better and higher standard of health and vitality into their 60’s and 70’s than used to be the case.

CLARKE:

I remember [inaudible] once saying, and this is an Australian who has made a tremendous contribution to all areas of public life.

PRIME MINISTER:

And is certainly a very fit and active man both mentally and physically well in to his 80’s.

CLARKE:

Indeed, you know I think if you’re to use that hackney phrase is a great Australian, he probably was. And, but he said looking back on his life and someone said what are the great achievements of your life and this is the man after all, who’d have many you would have thought, he said I’ve still got children who talk to me.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, well look that is obviously the most

CLARKE:

I mean is that the way you feel?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I regard the relationship that I’ve established with my family, with my children, my wife, my children, and my extended family as the most important component of my life without doubt. And one’s relationship with children is I think measured a lot by your capacity to enjoy their company at every stage of their life. And when I hear people say, oh you know I used to enjoy the kids when they were very young, I feel in a sense a bit sorry when I hear that because in a way the trick is to try and enjoy them at every age. Now that involves the process of the adjustment, it involves an acceptance on the part of the parent that children grow up, they assert and they have the total right to have complete independence and you have to keep adjusting. You have to know when to say things and not to say things. And you have to know when to accept that the attitude of twenty-five year olds now is different from the attitude of twenty-five years olds thirty years ago, and the attitude of nineteen year olds now. If you can do that, but also it’s a two-way street. You can’t have a relationship which is just give in one direction and you have to I guess, as part of the parenting process, encourage your children to accept that they have responsibilities in a relationship as well. It’s not just one-way traffic now. We try hard and I think all parents who are realistic will, when they’re asked how are things going, they say well as sort of ten to nine in the morning, terrifically. It’s all realistic.

CLARKE:

This is not meant to be a loaded question at all, but looking ahead, do you see yourself as the sort of person who, I mean some men I think see themselves as working for ever, always working, always staying busy, keeping busy, don’t look on the notion of retirement as an option. Other men think, look you know I have made a contribution I am happy to retire, there are other things I want to do in life. Where do you . . .

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t . . .

CLARKE:

That is not a loaded question, it’s not.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, look that is a fair question and I will be very frank in answering it. As far as my own political future is concerned, I have said before that if the Party wants me to lead it to another election, which will be at the end of next year, I am happy to do so. After that obviously one has to recognise, I’ll then be in my 63rd or 64th year, and you start to ask yourself and that’s fair enough. And nothing is forever. And I don’t have the view that I am so indispensable and so important and so vital that you know the Liberal Party will be bereft without me – that is an arrogant view. By the same token, I have good, I have very good health and I am applying myself to the job very effectively and I am enjoying it. I see myself doing other things. I don’t propose to talk about them because that immediately incites a whole lot of debate and speculation and discussion – how soon, when, what in what form. And there is nothing to be gained by that.

But I think it’s incredibly important to be mentally active. I was talking and I don’t think you’ll mind my revealing a conversation when I was in England, I spoke to the current Governor of the Bank of England and he was, I inquired after somebody who’d been the Governor twenty years ago and I met him when I was Treasurer, Gordon Richardson and he said well, he thinks Gordon was still in his middle 80’s racing around the world as a consultant to major banks and expressed a view that it was that kind of activity, that mental activity that kept him healthy. So I think there’s a message in that. It’s not so much that you keep doing the same thing forever, but the idea of intellectually, and mentally switching off after a particular age, that’s never appealed to me. You can do different things. You can do them at a different pace. You have an accumulation of life skills and experience which can be of help to different organisations and to different people. I think it’s a question of perhaps changing direction and changing the pace and changing the emphasis and the style of your contribution to society. It’s not a question of backing off. But you do I guess in the later years, you have an opportunity if your health holds up to do different things and to do some things you haven’t been able to do while you’ve been full on.

CLARKE:

Like increase your golf handicap for example?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, try to reduce my golf handicap.

CLARKE:

I saw a picture of you some time back with the clubs that your wife had given you.

PRIME MINISTER:

She was getting out of the way. She thought my swing was a bit erratic. I have taken to playing golf quite energetically over the last couple of years. It’s, the improvement I’ve got to tell Philip is extremely slow.

CLARKE:

Well, here on the breakfast show, I am sure you know Prime Minister, the most treasured prize we can offer anybody is a Maxwell flyer, which is a golf ball personally signed by golfing guru Jim Maxwell, of course who has handicap that you and I quite frankly would envy. You would like one wouldn’t you? A Maxwell flyer? Where are you standing - near the bunker? Have you got your hand out? Have you got it? Excellent.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, thanks.

CLARKE:

Prime Minister, good to talk with you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks.

CLARKE:

And happy birthday.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[Ends]

Transcript 22846

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