PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11358


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: 02/08/1999

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11358


Well, thank you very much, David; to Alistair Stewart; to my other

Parliamentary colleagues, Stewart MacArthur, Patrick Secker, Judy

Troeth, Dennis Napthine and Roger Hallam and all the other distinguished

guests, ladies and gentlemen.

This is the first Sheepvention I've ever opened in my life and I intend

to enjoy myself today. It's the first occasion I've been to the electorate

of Wannon, to the city of Hamilton, since being Prime Minister. But

I'm not unfamiliar with this part of the world. I've been here on

numerous occasions in other capacities. But I'm particularly delighted

to be here today to not only open this, the Sheepvention, but as Prime

Minister to honour the contribution that the wool industry has made

to the wealth and prosperity of Australia from the foundation of the

nation, to say, indeed, hear! hear!

To say one or two things about the sort of general state of the Australian

economy, generally speaking, the Australian economy's in damn good

shape. The Australian economy's as strong as it's been for the last

25 or 30 years. We have low interest rates, low inflation. We've got

rid of that wretched budget deficit we inherited three years ago.

And we are seen around the world as a very strong economy. But having

said that, I recognise that your own industry faces very big challenges.

I know that the demand for wool around the world is nowhere near as

great as it was. And I know that your industry faces the need, like

so many other industries, to grapple with that situation, to maintain

its competitiveness. And I know that the industry at the present time

is responding, and I hope it does in a very conscientious way, to

the recommendations of the Wool Taskforce. And I know that the industry

has had to grapple with a lot of changes that have been imposed upon

it by world markets and by climatic conditions and by the general

state of the world economy. And in talking about the overall strength

of our economy I do remain very sensitive to the particular problems

of rural Australia and the particular challenges that face the wool

industry of our country.

I want to take this opportunity - because it is a very significant

gathering of rural Australia in a very special part of Australia which

has contributed so much not only to the prosperity of the wool industry

but to the prosperity of rural Australia - I want to take the opportunity

of saying to this audience and through you to all the other rural

people of Australia and to the Australian bush that just as we looked

after the interests of the bush in relation to the GST and preserving

the benefits of cheaper fuel that were promised when we brought the

package down in September of 1998, I want to assure you in the decisions

that the Government take in relation to reforming the business taxation

system of our country we are not going to do anything that is going

to damage the interests of the Australian bush. We're not going to

do anything in relation to those reforms that will lessen the competitive

position that you have and lessen the competitive position of Australian

farmers and Australian primary producers. Because one of the distinguishing

characteristics of Australian farmers and one of the things that has

made so many of us so absolutely hopping mad about the American decision

on lamb exports from Australia is that we have an industry in this

country, we have a farm sector in this country, that does not operate

with the protection and the support and the subsidies and the handouts

that are given by the Americans, the Japanese and the Europeans to

their farmers.

What Australian farmers win around the world they win by dint of their

own competitiveness and their own expertise. And I am very, as Prime

Minister, I'm very sensitive towards that. I'm very understanding

of that. And, of course, it goes without saying, the Government remains

determined to do all it can through the relief of the cost of the

levy paid by lamb producers and other industry assistance, it remains

determined to do all it can to ensure that the unfair, unreasonable

anti free trade decision taken by the American administration in relation

to lamb exports does not rob the lamb exporters of Australia of any

of the market they have won over the last year or two and mitigates

as much as we possibly can the impact of that decision on growth of

further markets in the United States in the interests of Australian

lamb producers.

I don't think any audience in Australia would have a better appreciation

than this audience of the importance of winning markets overseas.

Some Australians talk rather foolishly of how it is important that

we erect protective barriers around this country as if in some way

we could close our eyes to the rest of the world. No country can do

that. It's in the interests of Australian primary producers as much,

if not more, than any other section of the Australian community to

see world markets expand and world markets opened up. And it is for

that reason in the interests of our country that we pursue that sort

of approach. But in order to provide our local producers with a proper

base we need good economic conditions in this country. And that is

why I'm very pleased to say that over the last two or three years

we have been able to get interest rates down. I can remember for 10

or 15 years before that when I went around the bush and I said to

people, 'what is the thing that hurts you most?' And invariably the

answer would come back, firstly, high interest rates and, secondly,

high fuel prices. Now, we've been able, over the last few years, to

bring interest rates down. They're not as low as we'd like them to

be but they're a lot lower now than what they were 10 or 15 years

ago. And through the taxation package we're going to reduce quite

dramatically the cost of diesel and the cost of fuel generally throughout

Australia. And that, along with the abolition of the wholesale sales

taxes and many other indirect taxes, that will provide an enormous

boost to the export industry of this country because it will reduce

your cost structure. And if your cost structure comes down, your competitive

position gets better.

But, ladies and gentlemen, that is a long enough speech at a Sheepvention

or, indeed, any gathering. Can I say to you as somebody who was raised

in a suburb of Sydney, as somebody who has spent most of his life

living in the cities of Australia, that I've always had a tremendous

affection for the people of the Australian bush. I do appreciate that

you have been the backbone of our country. I do acknowledge the contribution

of the wool industry to the wealth and the stability and the prosperity

of Australia. I acknowledge the ongoing contributing of the export

income that is earned for this country by Australia's primary producers.

I know what difficult times you've been through. I know how hard it

is for so many of you now. And I know how rotten it is when you work

your heart out and you're locked out of a world market by the selfish

trading policy of larger countries and larger groupings of countries

like the United States and the European Union. I am a passionate advocate

of our security alliance with the United States. I admire a great

deal about that country but I despise on occasions the hypocritical

trading policy that that country adopts which punish Australian farmers

and punish Australian primary producers. And I want you to know the

depth of our feeling on that and I want you to understand that we

recognise the continuing difficulty you have. We are providing you

with a stronger and better and more benign general economic climate

than this country has had for many years. And I can assure you that

in future decisions we take on the Australian taxation system we will

not harm the interests of the Australian bush. We will not harm the

interests of the Australian wool industry. And, of course, I have

great pleasure in declaring this Sheepvention open for business. Thank

you very much.


Transcript 11358