PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10067


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: 14/08/1996

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 10067

JONES: Less than a week away from a Federal Budget. A lot on his plate, Prime Minister Howard
is with me. Good Morning.
Good morning Alan. It's always good to be here.
JONES: Thank you for your time. Just, since I was actually doing a little commercial for the
registered clubs this wasn't on the agenda, are you going to put them within the tax
structure? I read the other day..
I was amazed to read the other day that the Government was considering taxing clubs.
Can I tell you Alan it hasn't even been considered. It has been a season for pre-budget
speculation. I don't normally respond to the wilder of the pieces of pre-budget
speculation but that one, which had quite a big run in one of the weekend papers, really is
deserving of comnment because it's an issue that has not even been on the table.
JONES: Okay, so take a good look at your club it will still be there in the same state next year.

I reckon they'll still be there, yes.
JONES: At your first press conference on 4 March this year you said your priorities were and you
listed four small business policies, industrial relations reform, youth unemployment and
consulting community groups.
Yes. JONES: Can you boast achievements on those fronts, small business policies?
I can certainly, in relation to small business policy we've already cut the provisional tax
from eight per cent to six per cent, that's for small business. We've already cut by 20 per
cent the number of forms they have to fill out for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and
there'll be more coming on that front when I get the results of the task force headed by the
boss of McDonalds foods who's telling us how to cut paperwork for small business by
per cent over three years. If the Senate had done its job I would have already abolished
the unfair dismissal laws and reformed the industrial relations system..
JONES: It's hard for people to cope with that, isn't it, that they elected you in March and unfair
dismissal laws were absolutely central to it
Even Paul Keating said in the dying days of the election campaign that something had to
be done about the unfair dismissal law. Now it is part of our Industrial Relations
Legislation and I hope that that industrial relations legislation will pass.
JONES: I had a caller yesterday who said, of course, that you could have passed it by pulling it out
of the Industrial Relations package.

Yes, but why should we be told by the minor parties how to run our legislative
programnme. Now I'm talking to Cheryl Kernot tomorrow. I'm not going to engage in
some kind of on air rhetorical exchange with her. I want to have a sensible discussion to
try and isolate areas where they'll vote for our legislation and areas where they won't..
JONES: She got ten per cent of the vote. Has she got too much clout for ten per cent?
Well, look the reality Alan is that no matter what percentage she or any body else got, to
get legislation through the Senate I need 39 votes.
JONES: You're two short.
I'm two short, I've only got 37 even though 54 per cent of the Australian people voted for
us we only have 37 in the Senate. If I want get my programme through..
JONES: Is that good for demnocracy or not? Paul Keating called them ' unrepresentative swill'.
Well Alan, whether it is good, bad or indifferent..
JONES: It's reality.
It's a reality and I'm a realist and the Australian people elected me to do a job. Part of
doing that job is cooperating with the minor parties, talking to them, listening to them,
disagreeing with them where we disagree but at the end of the day the Australian people
say, " Howard you're the Prime Minister it's your job to try and get your programme
through". Now, I will along the way point out where I'm being obstructed, but equally I
accept that these other parties..

Well, I'm not going to compromise on things that are fundamental..
JONES: IdUn Chipp resigned from the Democrats..
I know that.
and she spoke on this programme the day before, yesterday, and she said the reason she
resigned was that their standard variant slogan was to keep people honest.
That's right.
JONES: And she said therefore the Democrats should be making sure that you introduce the
Well, I mean it would be a defiance of everything that the Democrats have said they stood
for if they end Lip rejecting things that we promised people we would do. I mean I can
understand.. JONES: And elected to keep you honest.
Well exactly, but look Alan, at the end of the day no matter what I think, you think, Idun
Chipp thinks or any body else thinks at the end of the day I've got to get votes in the
Senate to get legislation through. I just want the Australian public and I particularly want
small business men and women to understand that I have been trying since the second of
March to reform the Industrial Relations law, to give them the air in which to breath they
need in relation to unfair dismissal, paperwork burden, being able to make effective
workplace contracts without the unions.. having unions thrust down their throats where

nobody wants unions. Now I'm saying to those people I'm trying to get that legislation
through and at the end of the day if I can enlist the cooperation of two more people in the
Senate it can become a reality and I am hopeful that it will become a reality.
JONES: Youth unemployment?
Well, youth unemployment is very intimately tied to getting small business going again.
Forget the idea that you can abolish youth unemployment by bureaucratic intervention.
The only way you'll get rid of youth unemployment is to get small business going again
because small business generates the jobs, small business gives people a start in life, small
business gives young people
JONES: But you've got EPAC and a whole Cabinet telling you to reduce tariffs on the motor
vehicle industry to zero and that's going to throw the motor vehicle industry out of
operation. I mean, tariffs in Singapore and Indonesia and Korea are up to 200 per cent.
How does that help people get jobs?
Well, that's an argument that we're going to have over the next few years but we are not
reducing tariffs for the motor vehicle industry to zero. What we are doing is keeping the
existing tariff structure which maintains a tariff until the Year 2000. So I make it very
clear to the motor vehicle industry there's no change for the next four years. We're
having an inquiry as to what we do after that. That inquiry includes, will include input
fiom the motor vehicle industry and all of those arguments are going to be obsessed but
I'm not going to get swept along with some kind of theoretical view of industry
JONES: No, but I'm just saying to you last year automotive inputs were up by 19 per cent. Now
once upon a time you had an imported quotient of, say, 35 per cent of passenger vehicles.
Nearly all of our commercial vehicles are now from overseas, that adds to your debt. And
now over 50 per cent of passenger vehicles. So on one hand you're trying to guarantee
jobs. On the other hand you're trying to retain or restrain the level of imported debt and
yet you've got this push within your Cabinet and both sides of politics to say we'll knock
off the motor vehicle industry.

Well nobody's going to knock off the motor vehicle industry, I'm not.
JONES: doing a pretty good job to date.
Well part of that, of course, has been due to the uncompetitive character of the Australian
economy caused in no small measure by a rigid industrial relations..
JONES: But I mnean you try and sell a motor vehicle to Malaysia or to Korea or to China. Hey,
they won't be saying 15 per cent tariff. They'll have tariffs or tariff equivalents of up to
100 per cent.
In relation to motor vehicles that is true. In relation to some other extra items it is not
true and there are benefits for this country in not having too rigid a system of industry
protection. There are gives and takes when it comes to industry protection. I'm a
pragmatist. I'm quite happy to see freer trade in Australia provided the rest of the world
practises freer trade. It's
JONES: We shouldn't be playing with 13 in the team when the others have got
There's got to be a give and a take. If we give up something, we are entitled to say to the
recipient of that give uIP, well what are we getting in return. But if all of us can keep
pushing towards a freer system then we will all be the beneficiaries.
JONES: Well, they'll be ahead of the pace too otherwise we're going to lose significantly.
Well, we've got to be sensible about it and we want to look after our own interests.

JONES: Okay. 1.8 billion dollars you're going to save in education cuts in higher education. What
is the philosophy...
Well that incidentally, that figure sounds wildly inflated I know all the commentators are
using it but that's over a period of three or four years. I mean we're talking...
JONES: What is the philosophy behind that just to get a bottom line better?
No. JONES: Or how then do we encourage?
No. JONES: I'm just wondering whether there shouldn't be a component of people. When you went to
university there were people who actually went for nothing because they made it to being
the best. Shouldn't we actually have, as we have with our athletes on an Olympic day
it's good to talk about this where at the top of the tree those who've qualified on marks
and showed themnselves to be the intellectual elite, should they be given a kick along and
say, listen, you go for nothing?
Well, what we are doing is introducing, as well as the changes to HECs, we're introducing
4,000 special scholarships a year that are going to be...
JONES: That's across Australia?

No, no, no, but it's a start. And bear in mind that we...
Is that for the good people intellectually or the disadvantaged economically?
Well, they will be awarded on merit according to need criteria by the university. So it will
be a mixture. It will mean that very bright children who come from very poor
circumstances will be the principal beneficiaries...
JONES: We do want to encourage engineers and scientists don't we?
Well, if we want to encourage all people of excellence we've also got to understand that
when you've got an economic problem every sector has got to make a contribution
according to its capacity and what we are saying...
JONES: We don't ask Kieren to pay $ 14,000 do we? We don't ask Kieren Perkins and nor should
we. Why don't we ask the Keiren Perkins equivalent in engineering and science and so
on, to say well listen, because you're so outstanding and have proven it on the results we
have an obligation nationally to sponsor you?
Well Alan, part of that provision of scholarships will accommodate that. Now, it's only a
modest start but bear in mind that the HECS charge does not accrue, does not start, until
you've left university. In other words you don't pay anything...
JONES: I don't think anyone has much of a problem with that, I might add.
I mean, you don't pay anything until you've gone through university and the weakness of
completely free universities...

JONES: I don't think anyone's argued that.
Exactly. JONES: No one's arguing that. No one's arguing. I'm certainly not arguing that.
Well, a lot of my political opponents are arguing this.
JONES: Yeah, I'm certainly not arguing that and I think...
Well, I think it's important for people to understand that many of the...
JONES: They've heard me a thousand times on that...
that the taxes of working class give no aspirations...
JONES: ( inaudible) middle class welfare.
Exactly, and I don't think it is unreasonable to say to the middle class, you've got to make
a contribution towards it and that is what we're... it's a contribution. We're not
saying... I'm only saying the only contribution...

JONES: That's it, for the really bright and say to them, listen, put the light on at night and don't
turn it off because...
Well have made a start on that and it's a start down the right path.
JONES: Well, let's now take the start on the middle class welfare issue child care.
JONES: 2.4 billion dollars a year the Government is spending on child care, one way or another,
2.4 billion. The bulk of the kids, 855 000 1 think the figure is, under the age of four are
still at home being looked after by their mum who make that choice, they get nothing.
Well, they'll get a lot more after Tuesday night.
JONES: What are they going to get?
Well, they're going to get our family tax package in full. And what that will do is
recognise, to a much greater extent, the financial sacrifice made by mothers or fathers who
stay at home full time to look after their children rather than putting them into child care.
JONES: In a very important time of their life.

At a very important time. Now, I think in the past the tax system has been miserly, miserly
in the way in which it has recognised that decision and that contribution and we are
making a start through our family tax package for people under $ 70,000 a year income.
JONES: If you look after your kids at home it costs the tax payer nothing, it costs the parents
plenty doesn't it?
I beg your pardon?
JONES: If you look after your kids at home it costs the tax payer nothing, but it costs the parents
Well, they give up a second income and this is often forgotten by people who sort of
deride the contribution of people who are full time child carers for their own kids, that
they actually give up a second income.
JONES: Just on the rural question okay, middle class welfare, I'll just take one forward does
that apply then to health care? I mean, you're saying that in education they should make a
contribution. Should people of mean, should you and I, even have an opportunity to get a
health care for nothing?
Well, we don't get it for nothing.
JONES: Well, we pay a little...
Well, we pay the medicare levy and I have private health insurance and that is not a
piddling amount. It's 2,000 plus dollars a year. We're going to bring in a tax rebate, not
for somebody on my income but for people 70,000 dollars a year and below, they will be...

There'll be a tax rebate. We announced it in the election campaign and it's going to be
implemented in full as promised, as promised, on the very day in the budget.
JONES: The rural community. You did the Diesel Fuel Rebate yesterday.
Yes. JONES: We won't go into that because I said earlier this morning, a quite proper move by the
Government and...
When you bear in mind the low income of many farmers...
JONES: And the tremendous contribution mining and agriculture makes to the economy.
export income, the idea that it's some kind of welfare handout I mean if we had
knocked off the Diesel Fuel Rebate we would have been adding directly to the input costs
of the farming and mining industry.
JONES: Well it could have cost us money productively.
EnormouIsly. JONES: The rural community though, you have said a million times, pastoral leases extinguish
native title. 73 per cent of Queensland and a lot of New South Wales are under pastoral
lease can they trust the Government? You said you want to be a man who's regarded as
having his word as his bond. You've said pastoral leases extinguish native title do they?

The High Court of Australia, which is the final arbiter of this, is deciding this right at the
very moment in the Wik case and I hope to have a decision, or I hope there will be a
decision by the High Court of Australia very soon in relation to that appeal. It was heard
about five or six weeks ago.
JONES: And if not? Because John Howard said pastoral lease...
Well if not, if the High Court of Australia brings down a decision which is different from
what had been the previous understanding of the law, naturally I will accept that decision
as an interpretation of the law as it know stands because I'm bound as you are by the
decision of the Court.
JONES: But you can make laws.
Well of course. We will consider our position when the High Court has brought down the
decision. I'm not going to say any more than that because I respect the role of the courts
in our system. But I can say to your listeners that we're waiting on that decision, we have
an interest in it. I think the whole community, the Aboriginal community, the mining
industry and thle pastor industry all have an interest in it. We all want certainty, but the
Court is the pinnacle of our judicial system. I respect it. I might, as an individual,
disagree with some decisions as you do. But it's got an authoritative role in our system
and I'm not going to say anything that in any way pre-empts the role of the courts,
particularly when it's heard an application and heard submissions on a particular case.
JONES: Prime Minister, given the political cycle three years, and it's far too short this budget is
so, so, critical to you isn't it, because the tough decisions have to be taken next week or
not at all? You've got a problem of debt, you've got a problem of unemployment.
You've said:-nothing I place in higher store than keeping faith with the Australian people.
That's right.

JONES: Can you turn this debt thing around? The current account debt and the budget debt?
We can, we can over time. We will make anl enormous contribution next Tuesday night.
JONES: So what sort of budget will it be?
Well, it will be a strong fair budget.
JONES: Tou~ gh?
Strong and fair. I think strong is a better word. Strong in the sense that it will do the job,
it will tackle the problem, it will pay off Labor's bankcard.
JONES: Thle battler out there what do you say to the battler, what will the battler be saying after
the budget?
Well, the battler will be saying; Howard kept his faith and his commitments in relation to
the families;, Howard tackled the problem, he did the job; he shared what pain had to be
doled out, he shared it around.
JONES: And will there be a few people on a quid saying, well it's fair enough what Howard's
done, lie's making LIS pay a bit more?
Well, look, nobody can.,. there won't be a take-out from next Tuesday night that we have
punished the poor or been unfair on vulnerable sections of the community. I will be able

to look every interest group in the country in the eye on Wednesday morning and say you
may not like everything in the budget but it is fair, it is defensible and most importantly, it
has done the job for Australia.
JONES: Just one final thing. 137,000 public servants you've got down there. Have you got about
136,999 too many?
Well Alan, I didn't think I'd escape your programme with.. look, I am a private sector
man in the sense that I see the growth coming in the private sector. On the other hand
there are a lot of public servants in this country who are hard working and conscientious,
but they, like everybody else, have to make a contribution to fixing the problem for
Australia. JONES: Good to talk to you and all the best to your wife.
Thank you very much Alan. ,/ y

Transcript 10067