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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10780


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: 30/06/1998

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 10780



Mr Howard, good news for the Party Room this morning?


There's always good news for our Party Room Matt.


I understand there's a deal on Wik imminent, is there?


Well, Senator Harradine and I are still in discussion. I'll

be seeing him again this morning and I've got nothing further

to say at this time.


But you have made considerable progress. You've been working

hard in the last week, meeting him...


I've certainly met him a lot, and we've had a lot of

discussions but I don't have anything to announce at present.


Well there have been consistent arguments by yourself and by the

Government that Aboriginals shouldn't have greater rights to

negotiate with miners than say the pastoralists.


Our position has always been that all Australians should be treated

equally, and that it was a denial of that to have a right to negotiate

for one section of the community that was denied to others. And

that's always been our position. As to the details of the discussions

I don't have anything further to say about it....


But the boot should be on...


Matt, Matt I have given you my answer, you really are wasting valuable

seconds by asking me the same question. I'm not going to say

anything more on this programme.


But just as a matter of principle if pastoralists have the power

of veto over a mine on their homestead or on their graveyard, for

example, should Aboriginal people have the same to their equivalent

sites on that pastoral lease.




No comment at all.


What's the next question?


Okay, you've said you won't make any concessions, but

the sunset clause is perhaps negotiable?


Matt, I'm not going to make any further statement on this

issue. You really are wasting your time and that of the listeners.


Prime Minister, today's news - the polls show a substantial

fall in support for the Government and One Nation continuing to

climb. Is National Party Senator Ron Boswell right in saying that

people don't realise just how extreme this group is?


Well, the poll is entirely predictable. You had an absolute blanket

of coverage in the news media since the Queensland election about

One Nation to the exclusion of any dissection of Government policy

or of the real choice between Labor and the Coalition, and I'm

not the least bit surprised at this morning's polls, and while

ever there is a - how shall one put it- a novelty preoccupation

with One Nation, then everything is seen through the prism of One

Nation. That will take time to dissipate. Once One Nation is seen

for what it is, another political party, which has a lack of policy,

which has differences of opinion on various issues and within its

own ranks. I believe much of that dissipate. Our task as a Coalition,

because most of the people who are expressing through the opinion

polls in the Queensland election support for One Nation, are people

who would normally vote for the Coalition. Our task of course is

to regain the confidence of those people, but at the same time to

point out what they may not be aware of and that is the true impact

of the policies of One Nation and some of the dangers in those policies,

particularly the disposition to define people according to their

racial background which is very damaging, and equally some of the

very foolish policies that the One Nation Party supports. And I

think the other thing that we've got to do as a Coalition is

where the supporters of One Nation have legitimate concerns, we

ought to point out where we have already addressed those concerns.

I mean, for example, many of One Nation supporters are concerned

about such things as work-for-the-dole, now, we've introduced

that. They are concerned about small business. We've introduced

laws now blocked in the Senate to reform the unfair, unreasonable,

Unfair Dismissal laws, which incidentally Mrs Hanson herself did

not support when it was before the parliament. I think we have a

task on a number of fronts and we are about doing that.


All of which takes time. Not a good time to have an election. You

need surely a couple of months?


The other thing that could be said about the polls in the present

environment is that they are very volatile. It is in fact six weeks

ago today that the very same poll that you are asking me about showed

the Coalition in almost exactly the position it had been in on the

third of March 1996 when it won a majority of 44 seats. You inevitably

get a lot of volatility in opinion polls when some atypical event

such as the arrival of One Nation on the political scene occurs,

and until people get a proper fix on it, until many of those people

who might have a transient attraction to One Nation, realise that

a vote for One Nation could install a Labor Government which is

not something they want. I think when all of those things are bedded

down and settled down, people will get a much clearer picture.


So how do you as a politician get a fix on it. You've been

around this place for a long time. I mean, in some of these seats,

very safe seats for the Government, for example, it is said they

are now vulnerable?


Well, one way you get a fix on it is you don't take fright

at one or two polls. You understand that these sorts of things have

happened in slightly different ways, but nonetheless essentially

before, and if you focus on what I said a moment ago is that where

One Nation supporters have legitimate concerns you point out where

the Government has already acted. I mean, for example, the question

of the English language for migrants - we have already provided

an extra weighting for people who can speak English but we wouldn't

go so far as One Nation in saying everybody who comes to this country

has got to have a knowledge of English before they come, otherwise

we would deny ourselves some wonderful people. For example, we would

never have had a man like Arvi Parbo, who ended up becoming Chairman

of BHP, the ‘big Australian' - he couldn't speak

a word of English when he came to Australia in the late 1940s. The

late Victor Chang I understand was born in Shanghai. He came to

Australia as a small boy. I wonder if he could speak English when

he arrived in Australia. So if you have that kind of rigid, I think

quite unfair policy, you are denying Australia people who can make

a contribution. On the other hand, there is a legitimate need to

give some kind of margin to people who can speak English and we

have already done that so this is an area where we have acted on

the concern of people in the community without going to absurd lengths

that would actually damage Australia.


Prime Minister, you chided Pauline Hanson yesterday in the Parliament

yesterday for making personal attacks but virtually in the same

breath you made what appeared to be a personal attack on Helen Sham

Ho saying that her quitting the Party was an act of sour grapes.

How do you justify that?


Well, I was responding to her criticism of me. I mean she had made

a very pointed criticism of me and I mean let's just calmly

recite the facts. Last Friday she said in the New South Wales Parliament

that she had absolutely no intention of resigning from the Liberal

Party. That very evening the New South Wales executive of the Liberal

Party unanimously decided to put One Nation last on every Liberal

Party how-to-vote card in the forthcoming Federal election. I ask

what had happened between those two events and yesterday to justify

her change of mind.....


Well she said some backbenchers spoke to her and said that the

mood had changed.


I mean, I will rely on the words of others including members of

the New South Wales Liberal Party who say that really it was a sense

of disappointment of not being chosen as the Liberal Party nominee

for the vacancy in the presidency. I think Mrs Chadwick who was

chosen is a person of obvious ability. I am rather sorry that Helen

Sham Ho has left the Liberal Party because the Liberal Party has

been very good to her. Anybody who is a member of Parliament through

the sponsorship, as it were, of the political party is in a privileged

position and I don't think she has repaid the kindness that

the Liberal Party has displayed towards her.


Do you think she is right in saying that the mood in the Party

has changed since the Queensland poll?


No, I don't. Her claim, I mean just speaking for the Federal

Parliamentary Party, her claim that in some way she was disadvantaged

because she is of Asian decent, I don't believe that, I really

don't. I think that is an unfair thing to say of her former

colleagues. It's easy to make that sort of remark when you

are personally disappointed but I really don't believe that

there is any substance in that and I think given the fact that she

almost immediately sought and obtained Labor Party support for the

presidency, that does really diminish the credibility of her attack

on the Liberal Party and her references to me.


She has also threatened that she might exhort the Chinese people

in Australia not to vote for the Coalition. Does that concern you?


Well, I think what does concern me is the assumption that people

make that some how or other the so-called ethnic vote is there to

be commandeered in one or other direction. That's rather patronising

to Australians of Chinese decent. There are three or four hundred

thousand Australians of Chinese decent. They are all individual

men and women. They are not told how to vote by people who appoint

themselves as leaders of their community, they are individuals.

I know many of them, I have many of them in my own electorate and

I can assure you that they are fiercely independent Australians

like you and I. And the idea that their vote can be directed to

one or other party by some person who holds himself or herself out

as being a leader of the community I think is rather patronising

towards them.


To go back to Pauline Hanson, didn't she have a point yesterday

when she said that Aboriginal people get cheap loans in order to

get their businesses going. Why shouldn't she offer cheap loans?


Well there are a lot of rural people who under existing policies

can, in certain circumstances, get subsidised loans. The point I

was making was that the offer she had made in the Queensland election

was for a much wider thing and Mr David Etteridge, who is obviously

a person who exerts enormous influence on her, had acknowledged

that by saying: well you'd need a lot of money and if you wanted

a bit more money you'd print it. So it is an entirely different



Your Treasurer has been quoted by the Opposition as saying some

things in politics come before.....or principle comes before politics

on these issues of, for example, preferences. Do you feel under

any threat there by Peter Costello's comments?


In what way?


In the sense that he is widely tipped as the heir apparent to your





And you think that Mr Costello's stance is okay? I mean, you

did express irritation when he spoke about the issue of preferences.


Well you said I did. As far as Mr Costello's position is concerned

he, like I, recognise that ultimately this matter will be determined

by the Liberal Party organisation in each State, and so far we have

had four out of six States. I mean why this preoccupation with the

time at which each individual State division of the Liberal Party

makes a decision on preference. I mean four out of the six States

have already decided to put One Nation last. In the last Queensland

election the Labor Party directed preferences in 12 seats to the

Australia First Party whose policies on immigration and so forth

are exactly the same as One Nation, yet there were no questions

asked of Mr Beattie or Mr Beazley about that. There seems to be

a preoccupation with the position of the Liberal Party on this issue.


Mr Howard, one final question. Both you and the Treasurer have

been analysing the figures on the turbulence in the economy in our

region. If it comes September and the Parliament is still running,

how do you think this Government will hold up in terms of its track

record of economic management if interest rates do go up as a result

of the Asian crisis?


Well, I am not going to talk about interest rates but I am going

to point out that if we had not got rid of Mr Beazley's $10.5

billion deficit, if we had not set about getting rid of Mr Beazley's

legacy of very high debt then this country would now be weaker,

there would be a lot more economic pain being felt by Australians

and we'd be far more vulnerable in the eyes of the world. The

policies that we have undertaken over the last two-and-a-quarter

years have given this country a level of stability and protection

that would not have been there if Mr Keating had won the last election.


But could you survive an election.....


Well, I am not going to start talking about elections. Like any

other Prime Minister before me I'll have the election at the

right time for Australia and I am certainly not going to speculate

about it. But whenever it comes the main issue will be the competence

of the two opposing sides to manage the Australian economy and Mr

Beazley and Mr Evans will be asking the Australian people to make

them respectively Prime Minister and Treasurer. Mr Beazley left

us the $10.5 billion deficit. Mr Evans has demonstrated a, you know

to put it at most charitable, a monumental lack of understanding

of the basics of the Australian economy. I think that will make

a very, very interesting contrast.


Prime Minister, thanks for joining us.




Transcript 10780