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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10751

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP RADIO INTERVIEW WITH HOWARD SATTLER RADIO 6PR - PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

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: 27/01/1998

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 10751

SATTLER:

Good morning Prime Minister how are you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Richard. Now I know a good project that will generate

jobs for Australians when I see it. That is why we supported it.

This is not anything other than a fund designed to support really

long-term infrastructure that will help the country. And this will

help Western Australia enormously because it will support the oil

and gas industry, it will support the ship building industry, it

will provide a lot of additional skills and it will generate jobs.

And the unions are supporting it, the Labor Party is supporting

it. You don't get many things that draws that kind of unity

front.

SATTLER:

Have you been to Jervoise Bay before, down there? Have you been

down there before?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think I had specifically been to that part of it before,

but I certainly know that area well.

SATTLER:

What did you think about the amount of ship building and ferry

building that was going on down there?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very conscious of the contribution that it has made to the

economy of the State and I am also aware that there was some debate

about the bounty. I should remind you that that bounty has been

retained, and I should also tell your listeners, that we are reviewing

that bounty to make certain that we remain competitive with the

rest of the world. And I just want to say to the ship building industry,

there is no way we are going to allow it to become uncompetitive.

SATTLER:

Any less competitive? You will keep it at least as competitive....?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are not going to let it fall behind.

PREMIER COURT:

I think that was all the industry was asking for.

SATTLER:

That is right, yes.

PREMIER COURT:

The industry for years was a highly protected industry, I think

their protection levels were up over 30 per cent at one stage.

SATTLER:

Only 5 now.

PREMIER COURT:

It has now dropped down to a very [inaudible]..

PRIME MINISTER:

They had a perfectly legitimate argument, we listened to it, we

changed it and we are not going to make that, we are not going to

sort of recreate the problem that was concerning them.

SATTLER:

A lot of people down there, if they are listening, clapping at

the moment because they were a bit on tenter hooks for a while.

PREMIER COURT:

I think what is exciting about, when you see where these vessels

are going to, some to China, the Middle East, to the Mediterranean,

to Scandinavian countries and the fact that we have built, not just

the ability to construct them, but the ability to design them it

really has become a high-tech industry. And we just want to thank

the Federal Government for their financial support in relation to

the Jervoise Bay infrastructure. Because that takes us into a whole

new field and that is, not only servicing the off-shore oil and

gas industry but the downstream processing that is taking place.

And I gave the example yesterday of the HPI plant at Port Hedland,

it is a $2 billion investment and the modules are being built in

different parts of the world and then being assembled on site. We

will now have the opportunity to win more of those contracts and

the challenge really goes back out to the private sector now. The

Government, the Federal and State Governments are putting that infrastructure

in place and we want them to now tender aggressively and it really

will become a great long-term employment generator.

SATTLER:

Well that is it for you Premier.

PREMIER COURT:

Just a quick one Mr Prime Minister. Did you enjoy the OZ Concert

yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

Terrific. It is a great, I had not been to that entertainment centre,

but it was a terrific centre. And the concert, the quality and variety

it was terrific. It is a great event, really a great, happy, harmonious,

everybody together sort of event.

PREMIER COURT:

Well you are in the best State at the best time. Time for me to

leave.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

SATTLER:

The Prime Minister of Australia is my guest in the studio and good

to see him here in Western Australia. He was supposed to be here

last year but he got put down with a bout, not put down but, and

by a bout of pneumonia. How did you pull up after that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am in great shape. And I have spent the Australia Day weekend

here in Perth and it has been great. The Australian of the Year

announced on Sunday. And it is the first Australia Day I have been

able to spend in Perth and it really is a great thing that the announcement

of the Australian of the Year now goes around the country and is

not done always in Sydney, as used to be the case before.

SATTLER:

Well I told you, I said you have got to spend more time here.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well indeed I do, I have. Over the years I have a very, very good

record of regularly visiting Western Australia and it is great to

be here.

SATTLER:

Big announcement yesterday, for Western Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very big.

SATTLER:

Lots of jobs, you must be feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about it,

I feel an election coming on.

PRIME MINISTER:

No there's no election coming on. The next election is not

due until March of next year. That announcement is a quality commitment

of $80 million to something that is going to help industry, it is

going to build infrastructure, it is going to generate jobs and

it is coming out of a Federation Fund of $1 billion that is designed

to fund long-term beneficial infrastructure for the benefit of Australia

and to generate jobs. We need as a nation to renew our infrastructure

as we go into the 21st Century. And I can't think of anything

better in Western Australia than an infrastructure that will support

the oil and gas industry, the ship building industry, provide high-tech

skills, additional training. I mean, it is a win-win for everybody.

It is being supported by the unions, supported by both Governments,

it will generate a lot of jobs in the construction phase and several

thousand direct and indirect jobs in the long-term operating phase.

SATTLER:

Virtually no government in Australia has actually won the unemployment

battle for almost two decades now, if you are seen to be doing that

people are going to support you at the polls, you know that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Howard, we are determined to do everything we can to get unemployment

down because it is the right thing to do.

SATTLER:

I mean if you got it down a couple of per cent you would be in

for as long as you like.

PRIME MINISTER:

Howard I want to get it down as much as I can for the benefit it

gives to giving people jobs. If there is an electoral consequence,

either way so be it. But we have a commitment to strengthen the

economy to generate jobs. And the only way you generate jobs is

you have a faster growing economy and that is why all of our economic

policies have been to that end and that will continue to be the

case. That is why we are committed to things like taxation reform

because it will produce a faster growing, a stronger economy. That

is why we reduced the budget deficit, and thank God we did. We inherited

a $10.5 billion deficit from Kim Beazley and if we had left it we

would now have been knocked around a lot more by what has happened

in Asia. I mean, just imagine where we would have been now, in relation

to what happened in Asia, if we had taken the Beazley advice and

done nothing to fix the deficit. Not only did he leave us with the

problem he then tried to hinder us fixing it. It is like lighting

the fire in the building and then when the fire brigade arrives

chopping off the hoses. I mean that is basically what they tried

to do.

SATTLER:

But it is going to effect Australia's growth, the Asian economic

dilema, it must have some effect?

PRIME MINISTER:

Howard, the effect has been very significantly reduced.

SATTLER:

But how much?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is too early to make judgements about particular impacts in

particular areas. But the clear message out of all of this, is that

we are strong, we have been made stronger by the actions of the

Government over the last 22 months. And it means that we have been

able to withstand the impact, we haven't seen confidence levels

effected.

SATTLER:

But the reason (inaudible) it is not going to bite in immediately.

It will be the end of the year won't it? Most of the economists,

in fact today are saying, round the end of 1998 is when we are really

going to start to feel it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Those same economists are pointing a very...painting, a very strong

and positive picture about the domestic economy. They are pointing

to very strong growth. They are pointing to things like industrial

harmony. I mean, I learnt yesterday that in 1996 the level of industrial

disputes fell to the lowest level it had been in Australia since

1940, that is 56 years ago and the indications are that the figures

in 1997 are going to continue that trend.

Now remember, before we were elected, we were told by the Labor

Party, by Bill Kelty and all of the doomsayers, that if we introduced

our industrial relations reforms there would be mayhem, there would

be industrial disputation. But you have got the remarkable situation

where we have changed for the better, the industrial relations system,

despite Labor Party suggestions to the contrary. There are fewer

industrial disputes in Australia now than at any time since 1940

and that was at the darkest times of World War II. Now that is a

measure of the success of those industrial relations.

SATTLER:

There is another reason to go to the polls.

PRIME MINISTER:

Howard, the timing of the election is something that is not in

my mind at present. I would like, ideally, to go the full three

years. Now the question of when, precisely...

SATTLER:

You are going to maximise your chances...

PRIME MINISTER:

Howard, I am not going to exchange banter with any commentator

in Australia about when the next election is going to be.

SATTLER:

All right, well, what is your prediction on interest rates, when

are they going to rise?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't accept that they are going to rise. I don't accept

that for a moment.

SATTLER:

What..?

PRIME MINISTER:

..I can't talk about 100 years from now.

SATTLER:

I am talking about within one year.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this is what I will say and this is the only thing I will

say about interest rates, is that we created the conditions whereby

interest rates have fallen by 2.5 to 3 per cent and our management

of the economy has given us the lowest interest rate climate in

Australia for 25 years. Housing interest rates in Australia now

are lower than what they have been at any time since the late 1960s.

SATTLER:

No one disagrees with that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think it is very important...and I see no circumstances

before me at the present time which suggests that that is going

to...

SATTLER:

...Bond rates are rising aren't they?

PRIME MINISTER:

But Howard, look that...I deal in current reality.

SATTLER:

All right, but you have got to plan for the future.

PRIME MINISTER:

I am and we are planning to further strengthen the Australian economy

against any adverse circumstances from the rest of the world. That

is why we need a new tax system. That is why we can't go into

the 21st century with the present tax system.

SATTLER:

Are you reading my script here are you? Because I was going to

talk to you about the tax.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I am not reading anything. I am talking about the future of

Australia.

SATTLER:

All right. Now let's talk about tax. Can you clarify for the

listeners of this programme, who are some of your electors, whether

or not there will be a proposition for a goods and services tax

in the tax reform package you offer to us?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'll tell you what I can say to your listeners, is that we

will offer a comprehensive tax reform plan to the Australian public

before the next election, that will address the weaknesses of the

present system. And the two weaknesses are:

* We have a ramshackle wholesale tax system where you tax orange

juice but you don't tax caviar.

* You tax the family motor car at a very high rate but you don't

tax lear jets.

You have got to do something about that and you also have a situation

whereby the year 2000 the top marginal rate of tax will apply at

1.2 times average weekly earnings, whereas, in the mid 1950s, it

applied at 19 times, 19 times average weekly earnings. Now you can't

go on forever with a tax system like that.

SATTLER:

That could be all put aside with a straight out goods and services

tax.

PRIME MINISTER:

Howard, we are going to offer an integrated plan.

SATTLER:

But not a complicated one.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it won't be complicated it will be very simple. It will

offer people lower personal tax and it will offer a system that

is harder to rort. There will be people...the only people that will

be hurt under my tax plan will be the tax cheats, they will get

hurt because they won't be able to evade their tax liabilities.

And one of the advantages of reforming the tax system is that you

get at the cash economy and we are not going to, in our tax reform

plans, we are not going to, of course, to tolerate arrangements

whereby just some people can evade their liabilities and others,

the ordinary PAYE tax payer, is obliged to pay their full obligation.

SATTLER:

Will you compensate people on social security who may see their

basic essentials costs go up?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

SATTLER:

Ok. So that will be included in things like....

PRIME MINISTER:

...Oh yes. I have made that clear at the very outset that people

who are entitled to compensatory adjustments...

SATTLER:

Would that be a rise in their pension?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, there are a variety of ways in the things we are doing and

I am...

SATTLER:

(Inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

...Well several ways. But I can say to those people that no person

on fixed incomes, no pensioner, will be disadvantaged, in fact,

they will find they will be advantaged by the changes we have in

mind.

SATTLER:

There are "sorry" books being sent all round the country

at the moment. Will you be signing one?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have already said...

SATTLER:

You haven't got one there have you?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I just want to...I am glad you asked me that question. I mean

there is a lot of nonsense being talked about my position on this.

I just would like your listeners to hear, this is what I said in

May of last year:

"let me make this clear, personally I feel deep sorrow for

those of my fellow Australians who suffered injustices under the

practices of past generations towards indigenous people. Equally,

I am sorry for the hurt and trauma many people here today continue

to feel as a consequence of those practices".

Now that was a genuine spontaneous expression of my own view. So

when people say to me why don't you say sorry, I have already

done so. And I have repeated that and I repeat it on your program

this morning.

SATTLER:

You said personally didn't you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course. The deeds that occurred at that particular time were

deeds that were authorised by the law of the country, the law of

the states mainly - at that particular time - and they were based

upon what was regarded as the right thing to do in those particular

circumstances.

Now, I think the notion of a formal apology by this generation,

this Government, in relation to the acts of earlier generations,

I don't think that is appropriate. It is very easy and some

people might even see it as insincere, of a current government to

say look we will apologise for what other governments did. I mean,

normally, I mean the really strong thing to do is to apologise when

you, yourself, make a mistake. It is easy to apologise for other

people's mistakes. It is a lot harder to apologise for your

own.

SATTLER:

Do you think a formal government apology would be followed by compensation

claims?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have no doubt, that as occurred in Canada, that a formal

government apology would not be accepted as the end of the matter.

I have no doubt that if a formal government apology were made some

people would then say well if it is good enough to make a formal

apology then it is good enough to pay compensation. And let me remind

your listeners that the Labor Party, when it was in power, despite

what it is now saying, trenchantly opposed payment of compensation

when the stolen children case was taken to the High Court they strongly

and comprehensively and trenchantly opposed it.

Now, I think a lot of Australians listening to your programme would

think there was something rather hypocritical about a government

saying: well, we're going to give a formal apology on behalf

of an earlier government, but don't ask us to entertain the

idea of compensation. How sincere is that? If you really are prepared

to assume the collective responsibility of the deeds of an earlier

government and you are prepared to say that it was comprehensively

wrong and then you turn around and say no compensation. I think

that is the height of hypocrisy.

SATTLER:

Do you think the ‘sorry' books were a stunt?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, it's a free society.

SATTLER:

Hazel Hawke was on this programme, the former wife of the former

Prime Minister, saying - on this programme: perhaps we shouldn't

be saying sorry, perhaps we should be saying regret because if we

say sorry formally, that means that we are admitting responsibility.

And then she went ahead and signed the book.

PRIME MINISTER:

But I mean, exactly. I mean, this is my point. I mean, let us be

sincere...I mean, I am sincerely sorry for the maltreatment of any

child in Australia in any generation...

SATTLER:

Including those who were dragged out from England...

PRIME MINISTER:

In any set of circumstances, of course. But this idea that you

can some-how or other solve a problem by a government in 1998 saying,

well, I'm going to formally apologise for what happened decades

ago. I mean, I played no part in that and many of the people who

were involved in those practises thought they were doing the right

thing.

SATTLER:

How did you vote in 1967? Did you vote...

PRIME MINISTER:

I voted in favour of the change. Of course I did.

SATTLER:

All of us did, didn't we?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course. It had a huge level of support. Of course I voted in

favour of the change. And the best way to help is to remedy current

disadvantage and look to the future.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

SATTLER:

I have the Prime Minister of Australia here. He's been here

for how long, three days, four days?

PRIME MINISTER:

Indeed, three days. I'm going to Adelaide this afternoon.

SATTLER:

Oh, well, you know, good luck to you. Stick around if you want

to. You like cricket, don't you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I do.

SATTLER:

What about Adam Gilchrist?

PRIME MINISTER:

Very, very impressive. Very good performance. And it'll be

a great day today.

SATTLER:

You just missed him. We had him on with the Premier...change rooms

and I told him it's fifty or nothing for him again today.

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a very good performance.

SATTLER:

Now, the republican convention. What do you hope comes out of it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I hope a clear view, a clear majority emerges for a republican

alternative.

SATTLER:

Do you really?

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, hang on. So that that alternative can be put to the Australian

people in a referendum. I think this issue has got to be resolved.

I am a supporter of the present system, not because I'm sort

of infatuated by any of the trappings of it, but I think it has

worked very well. And I haven't been persuaded yet that the

alternatives on offer would be better. And of all the alternatives...

SATTLER:

But can you be persuaded?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, I am an open-minded person. None of the alternatives

on offer that I've seen are better. Therefore I don't

think I can be.

SATTLER:

Why do we need a President?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you do need somebody to perform the ceremonial part of

government.

SATTLER:

That's all.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. And that is the advantage of the present system.

SATTLER:

So not another tier of government.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, you don't need another tier of government and that is

the danger of having an elected presidency, a popularly elected

president. Because he or she would get delusions of grandeur. He

or she would believe that they'd become an alternative power

centre to that of the Prime Minister. Now, I'm not saying that

now just because I'm the current Prime Minister. It's

the system of government that counts. And if you have a parliamentary

system of government and you elect members of Parliament, they choose

a cabinet, the cabinet's headed up by the Prime Minister and

then you also elect a President, given the political culture of

Australia you will create division, rivalry, contestability and

you'll end up with...

SATTLER:

So if it was going to be a republic you'd have a President

who didn't have the power to sack the Government, is that right?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, no. I would...look, if you have a republic you need as

closely as possible to mirror the present system. Now, I'm

not arguing for a republic, let me make that clear, I'm not.

I'm against it. I mean, I voted for anti-republican candidates

in the convention ballot. But I think it's my responsibility

as Prime Minister to make this convention work. I'm not trying

to be negative. I'm not trying to trip people up. I accept

there is a strong push in this country to change the present system

and I want...

SATTLER:

Well, we just want to grow up.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't feel juvenile, but...

SATTLER:

If you were an English citizen and your ultimate head of State

resided in Canberra, how would you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it would depend upon the historical circumstances behind

it. I mean, I can only speak as I feel and I don't feel that

my country is less independent than any other country.

SATTLER:

But our ultimate head of State is a foreigner.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm just saying how I feel. I mean, these things are...we

all have our feelings and I understand, as I said in my speech in

Melbourne, I understand the feelings of people who want to change.

I accept that. And what I'm trying to do is play a constructive

role at the convention.

SATTLER:

But you don't want it to turn into a bun fight.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don't want it to turn into a bun fight about people

who support the present system and people who oppose it. In a sense,

you're never going to solve that. I mean, you're not going

to turn Bruce Ruxton into a republican and you're not going

to turn Malcolm Turnbull into a monarchist. So let us not even try.

SATTLER:

But should Bruce Ruxton and people of like mind be over there in

Canberra working towards bringing forward a model?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, they should. But equally the Malcolm Turnbulls and the Ted

Macks and all the other people who want to change, they should understand

that those who support the present system are not lesser Australians

and that those who support the present system do so in the main

because it's brought enormous stability and cohesion into our

society. So what we should do at the convention is to try and agree

on what the alternative should be if we decide to change and then

we can put it to the people.

SATTLER:

When do you think the people of Australia should have a vote?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we have promised that they will have a vote before the year

2000 so that if they do vote for change, that change can be inaugurated

at the beginning of the centenary of federation.

SATTLER:

Now, that will be January 1, 2001.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously with that date coming up, if there is to be a change,

then that would be a suitable time for it to occur, if there's

to be a change. Now, equally, if there's not to be a change

then I think it's something that ought to be off the agenda

when we celebrate our centenary.

SATTLER:

Now, if there's to be a change should that become our national

day?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's a hard one. The problem with the 1st of January, quite

apart from anything else, is that it will end up getting lost with

New Years Day and New Years Eve and that's one of the difficulties.

But the day in Australia's history that still evokes the deepest

emotion is Anzac Day. Now, I know there are fewer and fewer people

who were involved in the war and I accept all of that

Transcript 10751