PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21498

Interview with Charles Wooley 60 Minutes, Channel Nine

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: 29/08/2004

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21498

WOOLEY:

Prime Minister, I don't know if there is ever a perfect time to call an election, but why now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's almost three years up. I think the issues are crystallizing. This election will be about trust. Who do you trust to protect the economy and family living standards? Who do you trust to keep interest rates low? Who do you trust to lead the fight against terrorism? Who do you trust to keep the budget in surplus so we have more money to spend on health and education?

WOOLEY:

But when you say trust, you've beautifully set up my next question. I mean there are polls that suggest that half of the Australian population don't trust you, that they don't think you told the truth.

PRIME MINISTER:

Charles, people will make a judgement about all of those things on the 9th of October. The trust I speak of is who is the more reliable person, the more capable person, to keep the economy strong? Which is the team that will keep your interest rates lower? Which is the team that will protect your family living standards? And they are the issues that people will think about, and think about very hard, in the weeks ahead.

WOOLEY:

So, the fact that more than 60 per cent of Australians polled didn't care whether you had told a lie - does that encourage you?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of these things will be taken into account by the Australian people when they vote on the 9th of October, and they will ask themselves - do I really trust John Howard or Mark Latham to keep my interest rates low? And they will remember that when Labor was last in office, interest rates went through the roof.

WOOLEY:

You'll keep them reminding them.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, and I should because it's true. It's a reality of life that interest rates always go up when you have a Labor Government.

WOOLEY:

That will be the main thrust of this campaign, won't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will be a big element, but we'll also be unveiling a number of major new initiatives to tackle the sort of issues that I spoke of earlier. The ageing of the population is one of the big challenges this country has, and we're already addressing it with our additional loading for the private health insurance rebate for people over 65 and 70, which Labor is opposed to. They're opposed to giving extra help to a million older Australians.

WOOLEY:

Now you've guaranteed today that you will stay for the full term.

PRIME MINISTER:

I will stay as long as my party wants me to.

WOOLEY:

Well that's all any candidate can say.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, all I can say is that I will stay as long as my party wants me to remain leader, and if the Australian public re-elect me. I mean ultimately I'm in the hands of my masters - the Australian people. I don't decide whether I get re-elected. If I'm re-elected, then I will remain as long as my party wants me to.

WOOLEY:

Is that okay with Peter Costello?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

WOOLEY:

He knew you were going to say that today?

PRIME MINISTER:

I've said it before. Peter is a great deputy, and one of the great advantages we have is that we have a great... if I go under a bus, we've got a great replacement in Peter Costello. I mean Peter Costello is, in my view, the finest Treasurer that Australia has had. And isn't it a good thing that we have somebody like that in that position? Isn't that a strength for the Government? And Peter Costello has played a major role in the achievements of the Government and to me, it is an immense plus to have a person of that ability as my deputy.

WOOLEY:

But the man is a talented and ambitious politician. I mean surely he must be really chomping at the bit now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Charles, of course he's talented and of course he's ambitious. I would be the last person to condemn ambition in any man.

WOOLEY:

Well he'll be collecting the rebate that you're giving on old folks' health by the time he gets a go at the job.

PRIME MINISTER:

Charles, he's a great deputy and we're a great team.

WOOLEY:

Characterise for me your opponent in this, Mark Latham.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't know what he stands for. And one of the big differences between him and his predecessors is, take Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, I usually didn't agree with them but I knew where they stood. People know where I stand. A lot of people disagree with me, I understand that. A lot of your viewers disagree with me very strongly, a lot disagree with me very strongly and a lot agree with me very strongly. But at least they know where I stand. I make my position clear. I don't really know what Mr Latham believes in.

WOOLEY:

If that's the case, why does he seem to be on a roll? Why is he appearing to do so well? Because there is something in the wind, there is an appetite for change.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Charles, we'll all find that out on the 9th of October. He's got an extra week, he's got six weeks to tell us what he stands for.

WOOLEY:

These are really the testing times right now, aren't they?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course they are. They're always testing in election campaigns. People know what I believe in, some agree, some disagree, but they do know where I stand and they'll know at the end of the campaign exactly what my plans are for the next 10 years. This election is about the next 10 years.

WOOLEY:

If you lose only eight seats, you lose control of the parliament.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, yes, it's very tight.

WOOLEY:

This is only 1.5 per cent swing.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's very tight and I do not enter this election campaign with any sense of complacency.

WOOLEY:

You could lose this campaign.

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course I could, I'm a realist. I don't believe in this phoney bravado that you can't lose. I don't believe in that. I'm being honest with myself and I'm being honest with your viewers. This is going to be very tight.

WOOLEY:

The stats show that every victory increasingly becomes harder to win.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, to some degree they do. Although our victory last time was better than our victory the time before.

WOOLEY:

And they also show that despite the glory and the vanity and the excitement of it all, it always ends badly.

PRIME MINISTER:

Not...

WOOLEY:

In the end.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I mean, in the end there's an end to everything, but...

WOOLEY:

Very few men go gracefully.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, a few have.

WOOLEY:

Will it be a dirty campaign, as it's shaping up in the United States?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it won't be from my point of view. It will be hard and tough. I'll be playing the issues, I won't be playing the man.

WOOLEY:

There isn't a dirty tricks department?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, never has been, that was nonsense.

WOOLEY:

Would he be an easy target?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not interested in his private life, that's his business. I'm interested in what his policies would mean to Australia, and the Australian public should be interested in what his policies mean to Australia and what my policies mean to Australia. I think these other matters should be kept right out of it. I always have, and you know, I really believe that very strongly.

WOOLEY:

People once used the term 'Honest John' without any sense of irony at all. The question now is - how can you win back their confidence over the next five or six weeks?

PRIME MINISTER:

Charles, all of these things get resolved in the ballot box, all of these things get resolved in the ballot box. This election is about trust. It's who you trust to protect your family living standards and to keep the economy strong; who do you trust to keep interest rates low; who do you trust to lead, on Australia's behalf, the fight against terrorism; who do you trust to keep the budget strong so we have more to spend on health and education. That's what it's about.

WOOLEY:

Prime Minister, thanks very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21498