PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22615

Press Conference Parliament House, Canberra

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: 04/12/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22615

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. I would like to congratulate Kevin Rudd on being elected leader of the Australian Labor Party. Being elected leader of one of the two major political parties in this country and in the case of Mr Rudd, Australia's oldest continuing political party, is an enormous honour and I don't think any of us should detract from that or take away from it. And in achieving the leadership of his Party it is for him a very significant thing. He will find, as all of us have over time, that leading a political party, in reality, is an infinitely more challenging and difficult task than it appears from the outside, even as a closely pursuing contender, which has plainly been his situation for some time.

I'd like also on a personal note to say to Kim Beazley; I won't say how sorry I am for him because he probably wouldn't appreciate that, but I feel for him. Here is a man who has given his entire adult life to the service of his Party and I've had a lot to do with Kim Beazley. We were opponents when he was in Government and I was in Opposition and then we've been opponents for long years while we have been in Government. We've had our differences, but today is not an occasion for reflecting on those. I pay tribute to his public service.

I also know what a terrible day it is for him. He's lost his brother. It's very sad. And to him and to his parents; I served in Parliament with Kim's father, he's a thoroughly decent man and I do feel for the family and I wish all of them well.

I was interested in Mr Rudd's news conference. He talked about style and style is quite important, very important, but substance is even more important. And the Australian people want substance from their politicians not style. They want to know where the fundamental passionate differences really are and I was intrigued that Mr Rudd should have said he's building on the policy foundations laid by Mr Beazley.

The problem for the Labor Party over the last 10 years has not been the salesmen, it's been the product. For 10 and a half years the Labor Party has avoided the challenge it faced in the most pressing way when it lost office in 1996, and that was to redefine its relationship with the trade union movement. And ironically enough, the one leader it had who tried to do that in a small way was in fact the former ACTU President Simon Crean. But the Labor Party has failed to redefine its relationship and this was dramatically illustrated this morning when Sharan Burrow announced Kevin Rudd's industrial relations policy before Kevin Rudd did. Because Sharan Burrow was out there saying oh no, he'll stick to the existing Labor policy, I can guarantee you that. And true to form, regular as clockwork he did.

Now my view is that if you're going to talk about forks in the road or bridges too far, and we won't sort of mix the two metaphors, I mean, apparently there is a bridge too far that's not far enough, but I will leave that for a moment. Can I just say that the issue of industrial relations is a defining issue and it's about the difference between the future and the past. The Labor Party has re-shackled itself to the past today. Kevin Rudd has said that he's going back, he's taking Australia back to a union dominated past whereas I want to take Australia forward to a future that is dominated by the aspirations and achievements of hard working Australian men and women. That's the Australia I've tried to build and all the rhetoric and all the clich‚s about forks and bridges and everything, put all of that aside, this industrial relations issue, it's not the only issue but a very important one, it is about the future versus the past and the union dominated past is not for Australia in the future. The future ought to be one built on the enterprise and aspiration and achievement of individual Australians. Could I just say one other thing, inevitably when you have a change of leader, there's interest in the new leaders, and it will be no different on this occasion, they'll get a boost in the polls, there's always a lot of curiosity about a new leader and this will be no different. And as the weeks unfold the Australian people will form; the months unfold, the Australian people will form their judgements. But it is very much a choice, using a simpler expression than a metaphor of a fork, it is a choice between the past and the future. Do you want to go back to a past dominated by the unions or do you want to go forward with a guarantee of the prosperity that we now have built on the efforts of striving, achieving, aspiring individual Australian men and women? That's the kind of future I believe Australians want, and it's the kind of future that my Party and the National Party will endeavour to give them.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you've been very quick out of the blocks to take Mr Rudd to task, how seriously do you regard him as a threat at the next election?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have taken every one of the six Labor leaders I have faced as Leader of the Liberal Party seriously and Mr Rudd is no exception. I don't take anything complacently. Anybody who is complacent in this game is kidding themselves. I said within weeks of the last election, that winning the next election would be very difficult and my view has not altered, it's going to be a hard thing for us to win. When you are going for your fifth term, it was hard with Mr Beazley, it will be hard with Mr Rudd, it would have been hard with Mr Crean, it didn't turn out to be quite as hard as some predicted with regard to Mr Latham, but I don't believe in ever taking your eye off the ball and once a prime minister starts believing too much of his own propaganda, he's got problems and I certainly don't intend to make that mistake.

JOURNALIST:

Are you tempted to go earlier to the polls?

PRIME MINISTER:

You look at what I've done. I am a man who has the view that it's hard enough to get there, without bringing on the possibility of not being there earlier than you need to.

JOURNALIST:

Does the inclusion of Julia Gillard make it a more formidable team do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh no, not really.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard is now a good time to reshuffle your frontbench?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, you know my position on that. If I've got a reshuffle in mind, you will know about it when I announce it. You should not assume I am having a reshuffle, you should not assume I am not.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, you successfully portrayed Mr Latham as an L-plate leader in 2004, do you expect a similar sort of tactic to be used against Mr Rudd and Miss Gillard?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look it's far, far too early for us to be talking about the style of the campaign, what matters is the debate on substance, and what Mr Rudd said today was that the policies that Mr Beazley developed were a wonderful legacy for him, they were the bedrock on which he was going to build his campaign for The Lodge. Well that's interesting, I've taken very careful note about that. That's perhaps why he talks about style all the time rather than substance. Two more then I must go, there's a Question Time I kept seeing I had to be ready for.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what chance do you think Mr Rudd has of picking his own frontbench or will Labor again pick the frontbench?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I make it a habit not to buy in to the internal operations of the Australian Labor Party, I always think whatever answer you give on those things is self-serving. We have a system which obviously has worked very well and is not going to change. What they decide to do is a matter for them.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) own forks in the road Mr Howard, do you expect to introduce legislation for a new wheat marketing system this week?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Cabinet's meeting this afternoon to talk about that issue, I don't have anything therefore further to say. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) it's not healthy for you to believe all of your own propaganda...

PRIME MINISTER:

It was said in jest but you've seized on it. It will be my glitch will it?

JOURNALIST:

How much of it should we believe? How much is healthy for us?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't engage in...I don't put out propaganda, sometimes others say nice things about me that might be exaggerations, but I am always very careful.

[ends]

Transcript 22615