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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3893


Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/09/1975

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 3893

QUESTION: A lot of speculation about whether there's going to
be an election before the Labor Government ends its term in
1977. If an election is held bef9re May next year, what would
your reaction be to that? Would you welcome it?
PRIME MINISTER: I think there ought to be an election for the
House of Representatives at the end of the proper term, that is~,
in the middle of 1977. There must be an election for half the
Senate befo3 e the middle of next year.
QUESTION: Would you welcome an election if the opposition saw
fit to refuse Supply? How do you think the Labor Government would
go in that case?
PRIME MINISTER: We2? l, obviously the polls show that we would be
in great difficulty. But it has to be remembered that this would
only come about,. an election for the House of Representatives, if
the Opposition were again to do what it threatened to do in April
last year, '-that ispto reject funds to carry on the business of
of Government. If that was the issue I believe there would be
an immense increase in support for the Labor Party as there was
in May last year. Furthermore, if the Opposition objected to the
Budget, refused to pass the Budgetjthe election would be on the
propriet~ y . the merits of our-Budget. And accordingly, the
Opposition would have to give up mere negative criticism. It
would have to propose a Budget of its own. And I'm certain that
in any contest between our Budget, which is there , and any
Budget which they then produced, we would win.
QUESTION: ' Prime Minister, you seem to be taking a softer lineif
I may say so. You were quoted the other day as saying,
" If Mr Fraser refused to pass, approves the Budget in the Senate,,
then you would tough it out."
PRIME MINISTER: I don't think I ever used the word'tough it out'.
What I did say was this, -That there is no law on this subject,
there is no rule on this subject, there is no precedent on this
subject and since there had never been any discussions on the
possibility of the Australian Senate rejecting a Budget from the
House of Representatives there wasn't even a convention. A
great number of people assume that if the Senate were to reject
a Budget or to refuse Supply then the Prime Minister would have
to advise the Governor General to dissolve the House of Represent-
* atives. There is no such law, rule, precedent, or in fact,
convention. QUESTION: And if Mr Fraser does decide to reject the Budget in

the Senate., then you would not advise the Governor-General, you
would tough it out.
PRIME MINISTER: That's one of the options. I'm not using the
words'tough it out'. That's your words. But I want to point
out that the holding of a House of Representatives election under
the Constitution is decided by the Governor-General-in-Council,
those are the words of the Constitution. That means the Governor
General can only dissolve the House of Representatives if he is
advised to do so'by his Government. The Government is composed
of that party which has a majority in the House of Representatives
My Party has that majority.
QUESTION: It is the apparent indecision of Mr Fraser to make up
his mind one way or the other, which is causing all the speculation
at the moment and an editorial says, " that Mr Fraser should
come out once and for all and say is he going to accept the
Budget or not". Do you agree with that?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh yes. I think that is very clearly the case.
Mr Fraser hides behind the formula 1 Well I'm not promoting
speculation on this; I've never said, as Bill Snedden was always
saying, that, ' we will refuse Supply in the Senate-. But of course
he is well aware that everybodyp including Mr Anthony his
Opposition colleague, Mr Lynch his Deputy and a very great
number of other people are saying things like that. They always
say, " But, of coursd, this is finally a decision for Mr Fraser
himself". Now if Mr Fraser wants to kill this speculation heq
only has to say~~ no, there will be no rejection of the Budget.
That is, he knows the speculation is going on, he refuses to
do anything to kill it. He's apparently thinking that this must
be to his advantage to appear to be driven to this course which
he's always said up till now, when he's been cornered, would
be an improper course.
QUESTION: Do you think he's lost his opportunity for forcing
an election?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't know whether I'd put it in exactly
those terms. As I say., there is no certainty that there would
be an election if the Senate were to reject the Budget. But
I think Mr* Fraser must now be'oning to realise that he'll have
to'put up or shut up'. If there is an election on the Budget
then there has to be an alternative Budget. He has to say in
any election what expenditures he would increase or reduce;
what taxes he would increase or reduce. And he's never been
specific. QUESTION: Do you think it's his inability to come up with agood
alternative Budget that's holding him back?
PRIME MINISTER: I think that he's being very coy about it.
He's enjoying the speculation ' and in a negative wqay he's encouraging
the speculation. I think it may be that., cynically, he believes
that all such speculation undermines confidence in the business
community. And it impedes the processes the Budget. People"
feel uncertain. / 3

QUESTION: This might be hypothetical, it's looking a long
way into the future, but say the Labor Government does survive
till 1977?
QUESTION: Can you say now what you think your chances would
be ' in 1977 of being returned?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh~ well,, obviously we think-and Mr Fraser, those
around him and behind him, must also think. that with the passage
of time our chances improve. This was a very good Budget, it is
bound to bring about an improvement in Australia's economy.
QUESTION: There's no doubt in your mind that you'd win in 1977?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh yes, that would be my expectation. Admittedly
the polls show thatwef1do very badly at the moment. I believe
that in an election campaign where people were voting for real,
where they 4eren't just making criticisms of the Government
and where they had to choose whether they wanted the present
Government and the present Budget or an alternative hypothetical
and, obviously in many cases, unpalatable Budget, they'd choose
the one that there is there now.
QUESTION: There is ~ a lot of popularity obviously to be gained
from the business co'mmunity as a whole and a poll conducted by
the Age newspaper in Melbourne a short time-ago, showed that
something like 90% of the chief executives of a cross section
of Australia's biggest companies believe that the Government
must' change if business conditions are to improve. So obviously
business confidence is still down despite all..( interjection)
PRIME MINISTER: I think a poll conducted among business leaders
at any time,.. this year, five years ago, five years to come... would
tend to favour the Liberals. But you noticed that poll, although
it wasn't in the Age heading, was that 60% of those people said
that the Budget, Bill Hayden's Budget, was a responsible one.
So when it comes to the.. ( interjection)
QUESTION:. But they still predict a gloomy future., these same
business people. What do you say to them about the future?
PRIME MINISTER: That things will steadily, but not quickly,
improve. So what I think we've got to realise is that every
country, like Australia~ is having bad economic conditions
every countryplike Australia, has far too high unemployment and
far too high inflation.
QUESTION: Isn't that just too easy~ to pass it off on to what's
happening in the rest of the world when we perhaps could be finding
some solution. to the problems, here?
PRIME MINISTER: Well~ none of-us have been able to find a solution.
I mean none of the other countries have been able to find a quick
or an easy solution. If there was one it's certain that such
a solution would have been tried, because there is a difference
of political philosophy in all those countries, North America and
Europe and Japan, Australia, New Zealand. And there's no easy

QUESTION: Slowing down inflationdo you agree ) would be the
key to electoral success at the next election?
PRIME MINISTER: I think this is the biggest component in
electoral success. Yes.
QUESTION: And if you've admitted that you can't do that, that
Australial can't find the answer, how does that leave you when
the next election comes up?
PRIME MINISTER: I think you will find that inflation is steadily
declining. It won't decline rapidly. But our inflation is
not very much out of gear with the inflation in comparable
countries. We all have much worse inflation than any of us
would have thought possible or tolerable back in the ' 60' s
all of us.
QUESTION: Can we just come down to the'State of the Nation'.
And I'd like to quote Mrs Margaret Thatcher, of all people.
She said thi other day that " the persistent( interjection, P. M.
" You don't hear much of her now, No but she
has just been to America and there she said, " the persistent
expansion of the role of the State and the relentless pursuit
of.-equality has caused and is causing damage to our economy in.
a number of ways". Now isn't this exactly the situation that
we've got in Australia at the moment?
PRIME MINISTER: It's one of the criticisms which is made of us.
But we make no apologies for wanting to give everybody equal
opportunities. It's true enough that if you have the traditional
inequalities which there have been in Australia, then Governments
don't have to spend so much. If you accept inequalities then
obviously Governments can save money. But we don't accept
inequalities ybu must give people more access to good schools,
hospitals, transport etc.
QUESTION: Yes, but many of the valuable social reforms that
your Government has introduced are being grossly misused by
bludgers, . let's face it; what comment do you have about these
bludgers? PRIME MINISTER: There are some-bludgers. Obviously private
bodies like St. Vincent De Paul, Red Cross, Salvation Army,
will tell you that there is an irreducible minimum of bludgers.
And I suppose this is the experience of all Government welfare
agencies too. It becomes finally a choice between employing
a very great number of public servants to weed all the bludgers Outor
accepting the universal experience of private as well as
Government welfare agencies that there are a number of immoral
types who pole on charitable people and on taxpayers.
QUESTION: The public is saying though that there are so many
of these bludgers around and the'ym paying their taxes to keep
them having a pleasant time. Do you see...

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it would cost an immense amount, let's
face it to expand the public service to detect or punish all
the bludgers there are. Mind you I do think this can be
exaggerated. Clearly there are some people in the hinterland
of Cairns or on the Gold Coast who are bludging but I don't
believe that most people willingly or knowingly bludge on the
community. but I d6n't'believe that most peoplo are like that
QUESTION. Would you agree that there are people who have taKen
advantage of the iTEAT scheme, there are people who have taken
advantage of the RED scheme, there are people who have taken
advantage of various schemes that you have introduced, Medibank
is the latest one I see that it...
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm not sure about the Medibank thing
but there again in the NEAT scheme and the RED scheme overwhelmingly
there has been merit and virtue in them. There's been a very
great number of individuals and families who've benefited and
communities. The RED scheme is supported by a great number of
people, such as the N. S. W. and Victorian Governments, who are
challenging. itinthd High Court. You've got the extraordinary
position, they're challenging our right to have the RED scheme
but at the same time they want in -to be expanded.
QUESTION: The Victorians are challenging your right to administer
money. They say they can administer the money better and this is
one of the big thinigs in Victoria, I think that has Mr Hamer upset.
He says. under section No. 96 that the Commonwealth is going
too far under these tied grants ; you're trying to insist that
you tell the States how to spend the money. Why can't the States
decide for themselves?
PRIME MINISTER: I think Mr Hamer's objection and the objection
of a very great number of other State parliamentarians is to the
fact that my Government has had direct relationships with local
Government bodies in Australia.. The State Governments want to
centralise relations with the local government bodies in the
State capitals, and they don't like direct...
QUESTION: Mr Hamer accuses you of centralisation and you are
accusing him of centralisation.
PRIME MINISTER: Well the States are much more centralised in
their administration than my Government or any previous
federal Government. That's a fact.
QUESTION: But isn't it true that one of the things that has
cost the country a fortune is the establishment of a new army
of public servants in Canberra to administer State functions.
And we already have those public servants here in the State.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, if you look at the figures the increase
in the numbers of public servahts in the time I've been Prime
Minister has been much smalle: federally than in the State
administrations or in local government. -The federal public
service has expanded much less than any of the State
public services or than local government employment. That's
the figures, there's no question of that. / 6

QUESTION: What gives you the impression that Mr Bjelke-Petersen
is a'Bible bashing bastard'?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I used that in the context of saying that
he'd acted in his unprincipled immoral-way in stacking the
Senate and I said it was all the more nausaating since he was
a Bible bashing bastard. That is, I didn't use it in isolation,
I wanted to highlight the fact that he is a hypocrite. Which,
of course, he is.
QUESTION: Bible bashing hardly seems a term that one would expect
a Prime Minister to use though in referring to a State Premier
bastard eitherI suppose.
PRIME MINISTER: I would have thought that any of us would use
those words about a blatant hypocriteas Mr Bjelke-Petersen is.
Nobody will support, I don't think anybody would come on your
program and support what Mr Bjelke-Petersen did. Now they
mightn't use the words that I used when some of your people
asked me foi an opinion on the kerbside andso on. But they
would all agree that it was nauseating hypocricy.
QUESTION: It was on the kerb; was it just a slip? Did you
regret the statement?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh, it was a bit strong I suppose but he is a
hypocriteand I'm entitled to say it.
QUESTION: Do you regret it now, saying that?
PRIME MINISTER: I suppose it'd be better if I hadn't because
it distracts attention from the rest of what I said.
QUESTION: In relation to Senator Field and the bluff and
counter bluff about elections and also the Senator Gair aff ir
and Mr Bunton: What's happening to the ethic of Parliament. Is
good Government in jeopardy because of the politickingf
PRIME MINISTER: Yes obviously. The things that Mr Bjelke-Petersen
has now done and which Mr Lewis did earlier are quite
unconscionable. That is, they're gone against the principles
which had been followed by every State parliament under governments
of both sides of politics without deviation throughout the 1950' s
and the 1960' s. Until this year there had been a quarter of a
century of obedience toacceptance of~ the convention, that
if a Senator's position became vacant he'd be replaced by a
Senator of the same Party.
QUESTION: But how is it affecting good government? What
effect is it having in the running of the country?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the whole of the political basis of
Government in Britain and accordingly in Australia, which has
adopted British practices, depends overwhelmingly on conventions.
In Britain totally on conventions. In Australia on conventions
except where the Constitution makes some specific provision.
And you know, there's no provision in the Constitution for
things which we all accep such as, Cabinet Government and
so on / 7

QUESTION: Can we talk about Mr Hawke for a moment? He says
that the Labor Party is facing its gravest, crisis and you
bear him out on that. Has the ACTU contributed to this crisis
by its failure to control union wage demands?
PRIME MINISTER:. Well the ACTU, one has to realise is a body
to which well over a hundred separate unions belong. And those
unions all have a separate legal identity when it comes to
proceedings before arbitration tribunals. So it's quite wrong
to suggest that the ACTU, whoever is the President of it, can
have a monolithic-attitude to every possible subject and you
can't expect it.
QUESTION: But surely the ACTU has a duty to control union wage
PRIME MINISTER: No I don't think you should -it's always
assumed that, employee organisations are there to discipline
their members. Well we don't seem to accept the same thing
when it comes to employers, -disciplining their associates
when it com~ s to when it comes to pricing of goods and services.
There's always a balance in these things. Clearly the amount
of wage increases last financial year was excessive and it
could not be allowed to continue that was quite obvious.
You can't just blame the ACTU only., because under the laws as
they are-and the States have resisted the Arbitration Commission's
pleas.. six or more Years ago to coordinate and standardise their
laws-under these State laws, Every union is a separate legal
body and you can have the same union which is a separate legal
identity in the four States which have compulsory Arbitration
as well as federally. And it makes an extraordinarily difficult
situation in which to deal with wages or conditions of any sort.
QUESTION: Well at this week's Congress the ACTU has accepted
the principle of wage indexation, they've also lef t themselves
a loophole for collective bargaining. But the ACTU has also
urged the Government to adopt tax indexation and your Treasurer
has successfully avoided this; why?
PRIME MINISTER: ' Well, I don't think you'. re correctly putting what
the Treasurer has said. Bill Hayden has brought in the most
sweeping tax reform, income tax reform, that's ever been brought
in the federal parliament.
QUESTION: In place of iridexation?
PRIME MINISTER: No, as a matter of fact, it's better than
indexation. What Bill Hayden has done in this year's Budget
will produce a much better deal for income tax payers than
would have been produced by applying indexation to the present
tax scales. My Government has reduced income tax on three
occasions and the percentage of income that people have to pay
in income tax is lower now than it was. And what we've done
makes it lower still.

QUESTION: Prime Minister could just comment quickly on the
fact that the Opposition parties have apparently accepted XV
the proposition that if returned to power some personal
~ income taxation powers may be handed back to the States. r
" Wh-at do-y-ou think this would do to the Australian economy?
PRIME MINISTER: It just wouldn't work. The simple fact is that
there are some States which would be able to get as much income
as they get now, through arrangements with the Federal Governmenteven
if they were to raise income tax themselves -that applies
to Victoria certainly and New South Wales is 50
But the other 4 states, if they were to raise income tax
themselves would have to levy the tax at a much higher rate
than it is at present levied. This is because the taxability
of the 4. smaller. States is much less than the taxability of
Victoria and New South Wales. Now I thought we all accepted
that the Sta * tes which are richer, longer settled, more
industrialised, like Victoria and New South Wales should help
to pay for services provided by the other States. That's
what uniforrr taxation does. But it's inevitable that you have
uniform taxation and that should be raised by the Federal
Government alone, in Australia. And a lot of Liberals accept
that situation.
QUESTION! But a lot of Liberals don't accept the way that
your Government makes the grants to the States and then wants
to control the way those grants are spent.
PRIME MINISTER: Well that's not completely true. The States
this. year will be receiving 34%, I think it is, more money
from the Federal Government than they received last year. And
they can spend that as they see fit.
QUESTION:' But-the conditions have changed.
PRIME MINISTER: No, No, this is as,' they see fit.
QUESTION: Our education Minister, Mr Thompson, is very upset
because against the recommendations of the Schools Commission,
which suggested that there should be a triennial payout in
education_, Mr Hayden is now giving grants on a six-monthly
basis. PRIME MINISTER: No, No, that's not true. Every educational
grant by the Federal Government to the State Governments is
indexed. That is, if there is inflation the value of the grant
is adjusted to maintain its value. We are committed to the
triennial business; we haven't been able to bring in as many
new programs as we were hoping this financial year. But we
are committed to the triennial concept and what the States get
this year will in every respect be of the same value as or
greater value than they got last year for education. Now you
mention Mr Thompson, but Mr Beazley has exposed,.. in the Parliament,
I need'-t repeat it,.. the Vict~ orian Government's failure
to maintain it's share of educational expenditure. A lot of
the State Governments are saying that, where as in schools and
in hospitals and public transport, my Government has stepped in
to raise the standards, because the States were obviously allowing
them to decline, that for some reason we should then 19

do the lot. Now we don't believe that we should run the
schools or the hospitals or the public transport, but we
do believe that each of those should be improved. We are
helping to improve them but we do say the States at least
should maintain the commitment that they had always had.
Wd don't mind topping them up, but we don't think that
when we come in they should then be able to. relax and diminish
their contributions.
QUESTION: What is Australia's current position in regard to
Portuguese Timor? Are we merely following Indonesia ' s
wishes in our behaviour towards this part of our hear North,
or what is our policyexactly now?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we say it i's a Portuguese colony and
the Portuguese Government ought to accept responsibility instead
of just clearing out and dropping their bundle. Secondly,...
QUESTION: What happens if they do clear out?
PRIME MINISTER: Well then we're saying-and we've provided
a very great afnount of transport and communications to help.
that the contending forces in Timor should get together and
settle their differences.
QUESTION: Would we , be prepared to recognise a Fretelin-controlled
East Timor?
PRIME MINISTER: Fretelin hasn't got to its. present position
as any result of self-determination. They got the Portuguese
Army's weapons, and they then tried to clean up their opponents.
That's not an act of self-determination.
QUESTION: ' If they did take control, and in
fact were-running the country, would we recognise them?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, are they in control? Our position is
quite clear., that there are three contending parties, they've
all emerged in less than 2 years. They ought to get together.
We have supported all along the idea of self-determination,
that Portuguese ought to help in that process and the Timorese
parties ought to get together and help it.
QUESTION: But currently we support the pro-Indonesian party,
Do we?
PRIME MINISTER: No, we don't support any of the parties. there.
We never have and I don't think that has been alleged. We don't
support any of the parties. We think that the parties ought
to get together. That's why we spent a lot of time, a fair
amount of money, a lot of effort, Air Force and communications
equipment to help the Portuguese envoy get the parties together.
QUESTION: Mr Whitlam a lot of people have asked me to ask you
this one. Why does Australia want to take over the Cocoa Island~
why can't you leave those people alone?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we took them over from Britain. We took
the islands over from Britain in the 1950' s and they are living
in conditions which the rest of the world will not accept.
QUESTION: Some parts of the world envy their conditions.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, maybe they do, but these people haven't
got any choice. That is~ they're all employed by the one man,
who.--pays them in tokens and they can cash those tokens only in
his stores. Now it might look idyllic from our distance but
it's a very paternal attitude for us to say that that's good
enough for them. Nobody else in the world would accept it.
And Cocos is important to us; if we are to retain jurisdictionwhich
we-sou'ght 20 years ago, and, this is a territory a fair
distance from us,.. then obviously we have to see t hat I
acceptable standards apply; they're entitled to education,
they're entitled to proper employment conditions and they
haven't been getting them.
QUESTION: hey won't inherit inflation?
PRIME MINISTER: I don't know how you inflate tokens at the
Clunies-Ross store. He prints them, he cashes them~ he sells
things for them, you've got no option.

Transcript 3893