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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22218

Joint Press Conference with The Hon Alan Carpenter MLA Premier of Western Australia Perth

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: 06/04/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22218

PRIME MINISTER:

Ladies and gentlemen, the Premier and I have called you here this morning to announce a very happy event that Western Australia will sign the National Water Initiative. I warmly welcome that. This will complete the historic process of agreement on water issues between the Commonwealth and the States of Australia and I am very pleased indeed with the decision of the West Australian Government because it will complete this process of water management.

The initiative provides a national blueprint for handling our water resources, providing water security, water preservation and better water management for all Australians. It's going to result in the expansion of a permanent water trade in this country which is crucial to having a national framework to solve our challenges. It's going to provide a national framework for responding to all of the various areas of this great conservation challenge.

I look forward to working with Western Australia on the implementation of the national agreement and I welcome the policy direction from the Western Australian Government to improve the management of water resources in this state.

I understand that Western Australia had been developing a number of projects in association with the water industry and its providers and intends to submit these projects to the National Water Commission for its next round of funding through the Australian Water Fund. The Commonwealth is keen to progress its assessment of these projects and we want the people of Western Australia to benefit from the $2 billion Australian Water Fund and particularly the Commonwealth is aware and has previously indicated that the Harvey Water Trading Project is an example of the kind of project that would be eligible for consideration under the Water Fund process.

And this project is a very good example of Government working in cooperation with the irrigation industry to achieve the more efficient and productive use of water resources and the Government itself, it's naturally something for the processes of the Water Commission, but the Government itself is likely; this is the Federal Government, is likely to view projects like that very positively. But of course I can't make any commitment in advance of anything being submitted. It does have to go through the process. But it's clearly the sort of project that ought to be positively considered as part of the entire process.

But I am delighted that the Premier has indicated that the Western Australian Government will sign this initiative and I look forward to working together with the people and the Government of Western Australia so that the people in this State can get their fair share of the $2 billion Water Fund.

PREMIER CARPENTER:

Thank you very much Prime Minister. On behalf of the State Government, I am very happy that we were able to reach an agreement with the signing of the National Water Initiative. I think it's an example of what we can do when you approach issues with a good, constructive frame of mind. There are mutual benefits in this obviously for the State of Western Australia. We have taken management of our scarce water supplies very seriously. We've put in place a lot of initiatives to try to better secure our future water supplies.

We are a part of the Commonwealth of Australia, the nation of Australia. We recognise that the provision of water in a national issue. We congratulate the Commonwealth Government on providing incentives for state governments around Australia and including Western Australia to better secure water resources, to better provide structure for the development and the delivery of those resources to the community and we're very happy that we're able to come to this agreement today where we sign up to the National Water Initiative.

We've got 6 projects which we think will meet the criteria. As the Prime Minister said, the Harvey Irrigation Project is the first and most obvious one. We've already begun work on that project and we anticipate that we'll get an application to the National Water Commission for some of the funds that are available through this agreement to assist us with that Harvey Project.

Western Australia takes this issue, managing water, extremely seriously. We all know here in Western Australia what's happened over the last few years especially in the south-west corner with declining rainfalls, expanding populations, the depletion of our ground water resources, the Gnangara Mound issues and so on. And we need to be investing in projects that will provide more water, guarantee the supply of water to our communities and we also have to spend a lot of money doing it and so for that reason, as well as being part of the national programme and the benefits that go with that per se, this is a very good day for us. Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Premier, what's changed? From the latest position, what has changed?

PREMIER CARPENTER:

Well when Geoff Gallop declined to sign the agreement originally his observation was that there was a lot of focus on the policy intent at that stage on the Murray Darling Basin and that there wasn't a lot of incentive for Western Australia, a lot of focus on West Australian possibilities. Now my observation is that what we have done, and we were still setting our own priorities at that stage and wanted to be able to set our own priorities at that stage. We set our priorities, we believe that our priorities match in with the national agenda. We believe that there is no reason now for us to stand outside of the national agreement. And as the new Premier, when I took all that into consideration I made a decision quite quickly in collaboration with my colleagues that we should join the scheme, that we should join the initiative. The Commonwealth has been offering and is offering substantial, potentially substantial financial assistance for us to develop the projects that we are wanting to develop anyway. So the logic came together.

JOURNALIST:

What are the other projects?

PREMIER CARPENTER:

There are 6 projects. There is the Harvey Water Irrigation Channel piping, there's the development statutory management plans for 4 key areas, Gnangara, South West Yarragadee, Pilbarra and Collie. There's the Kwinana Water Reclamation Plant Stage Two, there's the Wellington Dam. As you know we've got a major dam down there but the water is not potable because it's too salty. Now there are things that we can do to reverse that and it's actually starting to reverse now because of our land management programmes. There's the Kimberley Project, Ord River Stage Two and the Gascoyne Project centred around Carnarvon.

I said I'd come back to the Kwinana Water Reclamation Programme. Since the Prime Minister appointed Malcolm Turnbull as the Parliamentary Secretary in this area he's been informed of what we're doing in West Australia and I think has identified West Australia is as good or better than other states in this water management area but has placed particular emphasis on recycling. And I think that there is a great opportunity here. And it's more than an opportunity. I think there's a need for us to seriously pursue water recycling projects here in Western Australia. It fits with the Commonwealth's agenda and I think there's a lot of opportunities for good partnership there.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what's the State obligation under the agreement?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's to work together to establish a common water trading system throughout the country, to agree on standards in relation to water conservation but generally to work within the criteria of the National Water Initiative to submit projects for funding. And they can either be projects which are shared between the Commonwealth and the State Government or in the case yesterday of the project I announced in Cottesloe between the Federal Government and a local council. And I have done a lot of those. One yesterday with Cottesloe, a few months ago I did a major one near the Hinze Dam for the Gold Coast City Council and then we'll have major projects. I mean obviously if the Harvey Irrigation Project were to come off, and it's hypothetical at this stage, that would be a project involving both the Commonwealth and the State Government. But the good thing about what's now happened is that we can work together to tackle these problems. Now $2 billion goes pretty quickly if you find a lot of projects and it's very important that Western Australia have her fair share of that $2 billion and that will now happen.

JOURNALIST:

How much money has already been spent?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh I couldn't tell you that but there will be enough left for Western Australia to get her fair share, I can promise you that.

JOURNALIST:

Premier do you think that perhaps a canal from the Kimberley could come under this project?

PREMIER CARPENTER:

Well Professor Appleyard is doing an analysis of the viability of that project and I'd prefer to wait till we see that before I make any further comment.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister a moment of accord here. Will this extend to uranium mining?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well uranium mining is an issue that we've both had something to say about and it's not a flash point between the Federal and the State Government at the present time. We'll work through those things. I do want to mention something though where there is, I'm sure, total unison and that is the very, very good unemployment figures that have just come out. The unemployment rate nationally has fallen to 5 per cent. There was a 27,000 rise in the people employed last month and I am very happy to say that the unemployment rate in Western Australia is 4.1 and that is, I'm sure that a tribute to the strength of the national economy and it's also, I know, a tribute to the contribution that Western Australia is making to the national economy. I'm always reminded when I come to Western Australia, what you've got 11 per cent of the population and you contribute 31 per cent of the export income. And both sides of Western Australian politics have reminded me of that regularly and forcefully.

JOURNALIST:

Premier just on the uranium, do you trust the Federal Government not to use corporations power in other areas like uranium if the states fail to win the High Court challenge on the IR regime?

PREMIER CARPENTER:

Look, we've got a position on the uranium issue and the Prime Minister's aware of it. We've just spoken briefly about it now. We've got a position on industrial relations and that's not a secret to the Commonwealth either. And we have a right to have our position on it and I think that we can work through other issues that come along. There will always be some tensions between the states and the Commonwealth and that's historical as well. There are some particular issues now that we are seeking to address and I think that we can do that. It's important for the Commonwealth and for the Prime Minister to understand what our position is, why we have that position and then we start a dialogue from there.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you obviously know about Professor Craven...

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I know. I don't share his view about the consequences of the Commonwealth being successful in the challenge to the IR legislation by the States. I don't share that view at all on legal grounds. I think it's far too radical an extrapolation of what the implications of the Commonwealth's success in that case would be, far too radical an extrapolation. You are dealing here with a power that has been well litigated over a long period of time starting with the concrete pipes case back in what, 1970, during the time of the Gorton Government. Now that's a very long period of time and to extrapolate from a successful outcome as far as the Commonwealth is concerned in the industrial relations case that that would be the end of state functions is, in my view, far too radical an extrapolation. Certainly not one that is, that's not the advice we have and in any event, it's not the advice we seek. I mean clearly there are national issues requiring national solutions and no national government will ever shrink from those, but we are a federation and there is great value in a country as geographically large as Australia remaining a strong, functioning federation. And whatever may be said from time to time about my views on these matters, and I'm not a centralist, I'm a nationalist. I'm a very passionate Australian nationalist and I believe there are some things where the national interest much always take prejudice over the....

JOURNALIST:

We've already had Treasurer Costello threatening to use those...

PRIME MINISTER:

No, Peter didn't threaten to use them. He made a legitimate observation and we think it is important that there not be an attitude in Australia where there's good uranium and bad uranium. It's either all good, or it's all bad. We don't think you can have a difference. These are things, as the Premier says, we can work through. My view is that elected governments at both levels should work together. It's my duty as the Prime Minister to work with the elected governments of the states, no matter what their political persuasion is and I do it very freely and very willingly. That's not going to alter the fact that on certain issues we'll hold strongly divergent views. We'll do so in a civil and non-argumentative fashion.

But we'll have differences. Clearly there's a difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party on industrial relations. That's no secret. We all know that. And those differences will remain. And there are some differences on uranium and there are differences within the Labor Party on uranium. And that's a matter for the Labor Party to work out itself. But those differences are not going to prevent us working together very constructively and very harmoniously on other issues. That's my obligation to the people of Australia and it's Mr Carpenter's obligation to the people of Western Australia. They have elected both of us.

The people of Western Australia voted overwhelmingly for us at the last federal election. It's our second best state and equally they returned the Labor Government here. Now what that means, is saying to us is you've got to work together for our common interest and that's the philosophy that I will bring and I'm sure that's the philosophy the Premier will bring to our relationship.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, given the strained relations with Indonesia, have you had a chance to speak to President Yudhoyono yet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Peter, my common practice is that I talk about conversations after they've taken place.

JOURNALIST:

So that's a no?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's my position.

JOURNALIST:

Will the Government be granting any more Temporary Protection Visas to West Papuans if they try to land in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Temporary Protection Visas are determined and granted on a case by case basis and I am not giving any generic advance endorsement of the granting of Temporary Protection Visas. In any event, it doesn't lie directly within my remit to do so.

JOURNALIST:

Would you like to see the Navy turn around West Papuan...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I want people to understand that as far as the Australian Government is concerned West Papuans are citizens of Indonesia and we do not recognise West Papua as a separate country, we recognise Indonesia's sovereignty, comparisons between West Papua and East Timor are wrong. East Timor was, as you know administered by the Portuguese, it was taken over by armed force in 1975, West Papua was ceded to Indonesia in the 1960s as a result of a United Nations referendum. Some people years later said it was a dodgy referendum, but that was years later. It was a completely different history and any attempt to draw a comparison between the attitude we rightly took on East Timor. I don't retreat from anything that Australia did in relation to East Timor, we did the right thing in relation to East Timor and had wide spread support. But it's a difficult issue and I get the impression that some people are more interested in making it more difficult for Australia and Indonesia than they are in providing a solution, thank you. One more if...

JOURNALIST:

Sorry, I just wanted to ask a question regarding, are you happy that Federal Labor is abandoning its private schools hit list?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't believe in hit lists. It's a newspaper report and it's easy for me to make some gratuitous comment at the moment and I will refrain from doing so except to re-endorse our very strong view that freedom of choice is a cardinal principle in the education of Australian children. I do not believe in and never have believed in discriminating between schools. You aid parents, you donate schools, the problem with hit lists is that they get bigger. They start off with easy targets and then they get bigger and bigger and they then creep into other areas and finally could I say that the independent schools that have expanded as a result of the Government's new schools policy over the last ten years have not been schools like the King's school in Sydney or the Hale School here in Western Australia or Grammar School here or any of the so-called elite schools. They are not the ones that have expanded, the one's that have expanded are the schools in the outer-suburbs that the Australian cities with fee structures of $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000 a year. Largely but not totally Christian-denomination schools, they are the ones that have expanded and they are the ones that we want to see expand because they provide freedom of choice to people on modest incomes and that's something that I believe in very strongly.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it will do anything for Labor's fortunes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Beg your pardon.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think this change of policy would do anything....

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look this is not the occasion for me to sort of give a seminar on federal Labor fortunes any more than it's an opportunity for Mr Carpenter to give a seminar on State Liberal fortunes.

PREMIER CARPENTER:

I wouldn't be game to try.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think either of us are going to try that.

PREMIER CARPENTER:

It's none of my business.

JOURNALIST:

When Julie Bishop reviews the way that private schools are funded, can you guarantee that no school will be worse off?

PRIME MINISTER:

You can guarantee that the equity we've applied in the past will continue in full in the future and in particular the guarantee that we gave in 1999 in relation to the fees-maintained schools, we're not going to alter that.

JOURNALIST:

Premier will you match the Prime Minister's $1.8 billion, billion dollar isn't it? mental health, WA component?

PREMIER CARPENTER:

First of all I think it's a very good initiative and I congratulate the Commonwealth on that. It came up at the COAG meeting that I was at, very recently, the first time that I'd been to that. Mental health issues now are very, very important in every state of Australia, that was clear from all the Premiers and the Chief Ministers. The Commonwealth has recognised that and I think that the initiative to supply, make available far bigger funding levels is welcomed. Western Australia has got good programmes in place but there is a way for us to go and in our forthcoming State Budget I anticipate that you will significant increases in the support levels in the mental health area. It's one of the biggest issues that's confronting us now. It's a national issue and State Governments, as well as the Commonwealth, have to respond.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you're calling on the States to match funds (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the money that I announced yesterday is unconditional, that will flow and those things will be done and those policies will be implemented irrespective of what the States do. We would like to see our funding level matched in aggregate and if that were to happen than that would be a great thing. It is a shared responsibility, it's not just the responsibility of the States and it's not just the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Historically the accommodation responsibility, if I could put it like that, before deinstitutionalisation took place commencing in the 1960s, was of course discharged by the States. And I would think, but this is a matter for the States, that if there were to be a lot of extra provision by States it'd be good if it occurred in the area of supported accommodation, just as we have responsibilities which I dealt with yesterday, so did the States. But I welcome what Mr Carpenter has said. But can I say again that we would like matching funding but we're not making our money conditional on matching state funding. What I announced yesterday will happen irrespective of what any individual state does but I believe what Mr Carpenter said completely, I believe that the States see this as a high priority and I welcome the fact that it's going to be given particular treatment in the upcoming Western Australian Budget. And if that is the stance taken by all State Governments around Australia, we'll have a very good outcome and we'll be together dealing with a huge problem. This is a big issue and the public wants something done about it, and they want us to work together, and each contribute our share, and it sounds as though that certainly Western Australia is going to happen.

PREMIER CARPENTER:

Prime Minister just before we wind up, can I say, when I became the Premier I said I thought we could establish a collaborative and cooperative relationship with the Commonwealth and I could with the Prime Minister. And I think today, the signing of this agreement indicates that, that is the case and we have been able to do that. And on mental health issues, we'll do that as well. The Prime Minister has his roles and responsibilities as the leader of the nation, the national Government, and I have got my responsibilities and roles as the leader of the State Government, and I've got particular issues that I need to pursue which the Commonwealth might not particularly like about the way that I'm pursuing. The Prime Minister understands my position on all the issues that have been raised here today. I've got a position that the people of Western Australia expect me as their Premier to represent their best interests. They also expect me, where it is possible, to be cooperative and collaborative with the Commonwealth Government, the Federal Government, no matter who's there, no matter which party is there, and we can do that, and I think that today is a demonstration of that and I look forward to similar occasions in the future. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22218