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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11764

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTERTHE HON JOHN HOWARD MPINTERVIEW WITH MIKE COOPER, 3BA BALLARAT

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: 10/10/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11764

Subjects: US terrorist attack; election
COOPER:
Good morning Mr Howard.
PRIME MINISTER:
Good morning, how are you?
COOPER:
Good thank you. Once again welcome back to Ballarat, you';ve had your power walk this morning have you?
PRIME MINISTER:
I have indeed, I';m looking forward to launching a number of things for Charles Collins, who';s the Liberal Candidate for Ballarat and I hope will make a very worthy and energetic successor to Michael Ronaldson.
COOPER:
Yeah, I wanted to, I';ll get back to that, Mr Collins in just a moment. But first of all can I just say Mr Howard that regardless of political preference most Australians would have been proud of the way their Prime Minister conducted himself while in the United States, it must have been one of the most trying times of your life. PRIME MINISTER:
Well it';s kind of you to say that, I tried in those incredibly distressing circumstances for the American people, I tried to speak from the heart on behalf of all Australians. It was an extraordinarily traumatic time, unbelievably painful and sad for so many thousands of families who lost loved ones in those terrible attacks and the sense of unease and nervousness and apprehension that settled over Washington, where I was for a couple of days after the attack, and then over the whole of the United States. It becomes something of a cliche to say so but the world will never quite be the same again and we all feel that, we feel it in Australia. We have stood beside America because that';s what a good friend does when another good friend is under attack and we must never forget that the Americans stood beside us and between us and invasion in World War II and this is an occasion where we have to put our hand up and say we';re with the Americans and we will do what we can to respond effectively and in a targetted way to the evil that caused such a terrible event to occur.
COOPER:
How much of an effect has the events of September 11 had on your life? Do you look at life a little differently now?
PRIME MINISTER:
I do, I had that feeling when it happened, why is one so lucky and other people so unlucky. It gives a different edge to so many things that you do and I';ve found that younger people feel this, talking to them, it has conditioned people';s lives a little bit differently. It';s important that we keep it in perspective. We have to get on with life, we have to continue to behave in an open and tolerant fashion towards others in the community, others who have their different cultural and religious background or a different racial background, it doesn';t really matter. We have to embrace all of those, we must remember in particular that there were hundreds of people in the World Trade Centre who were Muslims, who were killed, along with Christians and Jews and people of no religion. So evil didn';t discriminate so far as it';s victims were concerned and we should remember that in our dealings with our fellow Australians. I think it has altered the world. In one sense it brings people closer together. Adversity always does, people feel more keenly the things they have in common with their fellow citizens as well as some people in the community, I know a minority, perhaps resorting to prejudice and intolerance. I think they';re a very small minority. I think most Australians understand that everybody of good will was repulsed by what happened and you do tend to reach out to people a little bit more and what you have in common with them tends to get emphasised.
COOPER:
Somebody said to me the other day that it wouldn';t matter what your political preference might be, or indeed maybe even the key policies put forward by either party. The international unrest is such that now is not a good time for a change of Government. Is this what your political strategy is?
PRIME MINISTER:
Let me put it this way, I didn';t seek a conjunction of these international events and the timing of the Federal Election. The Federal Election is being held exactly when it';s due. Obviously the ability of the two sides of politics to manage Australia in difficult times and there will be more difficult times ahead, not only strategically but also I think from a security point of view, but also from an economic point of view and I of course would lay claim to having a better capacity to do that. It is for the Australian people to make that decision, I take nothing for granted, I seek to be open and frank and constructive in talking about the international situation. I naturally am perfectly happy to debate domestic political issues as well. They are both important. In the end the Australian people will make their judgment. I argue of course that it is not a time right now to substitute stability and predictability with less stability and, in my view, a lot of obscurity on a lot of the important policy issues.
COOPER:
How important is the Ballarat seat for the Coalition to retain?
PRIME MINISTER:
The Ballarat seat is very important to the Coalition. It is one of a number of seats in Victoria which we fight hard to retain. We had a popular sitting member in Michael Ronaldson, he';s not nominating this time, we have a new candidate in Charles Collins who is an excellent candidate and I commend him very warmly. He';s very much my candidate, he';s the John Howard Liberal Candidate in Ballarat. If people in Ballarat want a Liberal Government led by me then the way to do it is to vote for Charles Collins. You can';t sort of have a Liberal Government and have some other complexion of political representation in a seat like Ballarat. It';s a marginal seat, and we need to hang on to Ballarat to hang onto Government. And I think the election will be much tighter than many people are suggesting and it';s very important that people who want the Government returned, then they support Charles Collins.
COOPER:
Do you think the early departure of your original candidate in Russell Mark and the party having to come up with a new one in Charles will have any effect on the outcome of the election?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well I don';t intend it to. I focus on the here and now and we';ve got an excellent new candidate in Charles Collins and what happened has happened and I';m looking forward to Charles winning the seat. I';ll take the opportunity in Ballarat to remind the people of some of the things that we';ve done. I mean for example, under the Networking the Nation communications programme we';ve funded more than 30 projects in the electorate of Ballarat in the last five years, worth about $4.3 million. We';ve put the Wimmera region online service and about $500,000 has been provided to the Ballarat University for Internet service delivery. We';ve given $40,000 to the Northern Grampian Shire Council to provide mobile phone coverage in Halls Gap and the Mobile Phones on Highways programme has delivered, and that';s a $25 million programme, means that you';ve got continuous mobile phone coverage for the Western Highway in the Ballarat electorate. Now they';re some of the individual things that we have done that are of benefit to the people of Ballarat.
COOPER:
Well you';re enjoying quite a deal of popularity. The popularity polls are showing quite a healthy swing towards the Coalition. How much of that do you attribute, if at all to believing the Government';s firm stance on not allowing the asylum seekers, for instance, entry into Australia was the right decision to make?
PRIME MINISTER:
I';d make two observations about the polls. The first is that they can be very volatile and I';ve been through many election campaigns where the polls have moved around quite significantly during the course of the election campaign. And in the end you can only win an election if you win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and I have known of situations where a party might be polling well overall but on the ground individual seats don';t go according to the general trend. I think the government';s position now is a little better than it was six months ago. I do think our recovery had begun before the issue of illegal immigration arose. We did take a firm stand on that. In contrast the Labor Party chopped and changed. They started off saying they would support it then they accused us of playing a racist card, then they voted against our border protection bill, then they ulitmately supported our border protection bill. It was in fact expanded in a number of areas but when that was being debated in the Parliament they hinted that if they won the election they would change it. So they have chopped and changed on that issue whereas we have had a single resolute view and that is that Australia will continue to receive refugees but they have got to be processed in a correct way and we are not going to have people turning up on our shores and gaining entry without having gone through that process and we are simply not prepared to have a situation where people can on demand, require entry into Austalia.
COOPER:
What have been some of the concerns and isssues that you have heard from Australians since you have been on the campaign trail so far that quite possibly could influence their decision on November 10?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well we have been talking about some of them. People are clearly concerned about the more difficult circumstances into which the world has fallen in recent weeks. They are certianly concered about. They are interested in the illegal immigration issue, they are also very interested in economic issues.
COOPER:
The majority of people feel that the government has made the right decision on the illegal …? PRIME MINISTER:
Well my sense is that the public does support our stance on that, that is my sense, very much so. Because they understand what we are doing. They know that we are putting Australia';s interest first by requiring an orderly immigration policy and people should remember that Australia takes more refugees on a per capita basis than any country in the world except Canada so nobody can say we are heartless or inhumane and I reject completely any suggestion that we are. And they are also interested in economic issues, they want lower interest rates and they want lower interest rates whether they are paying off a home or running a small business or running a farm and we have delivered the lowest interest rates in 30 years. They want government debt repaid and we have certianly done that. At the end of this financial year we will have repaid $58 billion of the $96 billion of federal government debt that we inherited in March of 1996. So there are a whole variety of things they are interested in.
Obviously health and education issues. We have a very strong story to tell on that. We have revived the private health insurance system which means that some of the strain on public hospitals has been reduced. We are increasing by 28% in real terms the Federal Government payments to the states for public hospitals during the lifetime of the current Medicare Agreement. You would imagine sometimes when you hear the state premiers talking that we had cut money going to the states for public hospitals. We have increased them by 28% over and above the rate of inflation. So that is a pretty dramatic increase. On top of that of course the money from the Goods and Services Tax will go entirely to the states and as that rises in the years ahead they will have more resources with which to fund the expansion of public hospitals and government schools.
COOPER:
Just finally, your Government changed the tax system, brought in the GST, to many that was an unpopular tax. You';ve also had to deal with crises while in power, what';s been one of the hardest decisions that you';ve had to make during your term?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well I think in terms of the responsibility involved in it, the most difficult decision was the deployment of Australian forces to East Timor. Because the implications of that, particularly as Australia had the leadership role and there was a very large deployment of Australian troops and in the end it was Australian leadership in the international stage that got the Coalition together and got the approval of the United Nations. That was a very significant and very important decision.
Clearly our decision on changing the tax system was not easy, it was always going to be a challenge to bring about generational change to the tax system. But I don';t regret for a moment having done it. We are better off, our economy is stronger, our exports are cheaper, our personal tax is lower, capital gains tax for individuals is lower, company tax is lower and we have a better indirect tax system and we';ve provided a base of funding for the states in the years ahead that will grow so that they can spend more on the things that they must spend it on in order to provide services that people need.
COOPER:
Well we';ve turned the weather on for you today. I hope you have a terrific day in Ballarat and thanks for your time this morning.
PRIME MINISTER:
Very nice to talk to you.
[ends]

Transcript 11764