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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 4816

INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE GRATTAN, THE AGE

Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/09/1978

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 4816

PRESS OFFICE TRANSCRIPT 13 SEPTEMBER, 1978
I14TERVIEW W1ITH MICHELLE GRATTAN,
THE AGE
QUESTION: Let's start on the employment area. You've emphasised the
need to continue to bear down on inflation as the only way
to eventually get unemployment down. Given that policy,
do you believe that unemployment will be less than it is
now in firstly ayears time, or secondly, two years time?
PRIME MINISTER:
I don't think you can put a time scale on these particular
things. It's possible to say that unemployment is going
to fall throughout this year and it has but we have had
less success than we would have wanted in getting a balance
between wages and profits. You've got the figures now for
the last financial year where average weekly earnings went
up a bit more than the Consumer Price Index which doesn't
really indicate much restraint on the part of wage claims
or on the part of decisions by the Arbitration Commission.
. Against that background, there's not the slightest doubt
people are being kept out of jobs by the continued high
level of wages. Now, forces working in the other direction;
our inflation rate is now well below the OECD average, ours
is going down. A number of other important countries are
going up. Most of our major trading partners, with Japan
and Germany as exceptions, their inflation is getting worse.
So our industries are becoming more competitive. They'll
be getting a larger share of domestic markets. They'll be
able to move into export markets. Quite often I'm now
getting reports of people being able to sell overseas.
Only the other day; a Western Australian firm is selling fishing
boats overseas very successfully has done so for up to
half a dozen countries.
QUESTION: But given all that you wouldn't put a time on it?
PRIME MINISTER:
No, I don't put a time on it because you can't tell how quickly
these forces are going to work. Our policies will be
successful. Wage decisions have a capacity to speed up the
process or to slow it down. I don't think they've got the
capacity to frustrate it completely because I don't think
the wage decisions would not be as bad as that. I think what
we have to do is to show a very real concern for those who
are finding it difficult to get jobs with the various training
schemes, the various employment schemes. I am disturbed
that under the training schemes, information since Question
Time, has indicated that a number of State GIovernments may
not be keeping their people on in employment after the
training period. / 2

-2
PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
I believe that Governments have got an obligation to
set an example in that area. Now we're trying to get
the more precise facts about it. Against the situation
which we had to face, there was clearly no quick
solution. The only other point that I would want to
make is that the Secretariat of the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade, in its Annual Report, has in the
last week put out a resounding endorsement of the
Government's policy and basically indicated that other
policies are doomed to failure.
QUESTION: Two specific questions on unemployment. Do you believe
that unemployed young people should be partially supported
by their families and is this what is behind the freezing
of the unemployment benefits for single people?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think there are family obligations. I don't believe
somebody should leave school and expect to get unemployment
benefits the next day. I think there are forces in the
society which are intended to weaken family obligations and
I think that's important that that should not continue.
While there are young people who want jobs, who try to
get jobs and find it difficult, we also know that there are
other young people who band together and abuse the system,
don't really try all that hard to get jobs. I think any
employer, at one stage or another, has run across some of
these young people. The higher the level of unemployment
benefits are obviously the greater inducement is to that
latter category to go on abusing the system.
QUESTION:
Again on the young people. Many economists say that minimum
wage rates, and especially for teenagers, are stopping job
growth. Is there any way to free up the ability of teenagers
to get work, at least at the normal wage rates?
PRIME MINISTER:
It's very hard when you've got workers' compensation by
State law . You've got 17% holiday loading. You've
got a very strict system of awards in Australia and very
heavy penalties on employers who breach those laws.
QUESTION: You've considered putting this to the Arbitration Commissioner
at various times...
PRIME MINISTER
We've considered making special cases in relation to young
people. ( Inaud... ).. well I think one of the things which
might have a greater impact than the suggestion you've made
is if we could get a change in the penalty rate policy. / 3

-3
PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
I think this enormously hard. Again, because it is
entrenched in awards. If for example, in the tourist industry,
you could get to a situation in which people could be
employed for every five out of seven days in a week there was
an award for that, for the tourist industry, that the amount
of trade and traffic that's been lost because of the
penalty rates on weekends which cause restaurants to shut
down... QUESTION: This applies to more than just young people.
PRIM4E MINISTER:
Yes I know, but it's one of the things that's inhibiting
jobs. It's one of the things that's damaged employment
prospects in general and...
QUESTION: How could you go about getting such a change. Would you
consider putting that in a submission?
PRIME MINISTER:
There is a good deal of work.. there is a Parliamentary Coimittee of
Inquiry into Tour ism. I think a good deal has been going into
trying to get to educate people to some of the causes and
what might be done to overcome it. You'd be well aware of
the difficulties in getting an entrenched award radically
altered. This is one of avenues that industries, unions
and Government ought to pursue.
QUESTION: Do you think that the Federal Government may set some example
in arguing that cause. I haven't heard you argue it before...
PRIME MINISTER:
I don't think I've been asked the question that-way before.
Let me just say that's it's one of the matters that we are
examining. It's sometimes easy to point to solutions because
of the entrenched nature of awards and the wage fixing process
in Australia and also because of the conservative attitude
of a number of trade unions to these particular matters.
Getting a significant change is very difficult.
QUESTION: Turning to some of the criticisms that have been made of
the Government. Do you think that the Victorian Government's
attacks on the Federal Government, for example, over
unemployment and over wage indexations, are simply pre-election
politicing or do they represent a real philosophic difference? / 4

-4
PRIME MINISTER:
I don't think there is A real philosophic difference because
Mr. Hamrer has gone out of his way to tell me that he supports
the thrust and purpose in generality of the Government's
economic policicies, on many occasions.
QUESTION: And yet he and his Ministers have been quite critical
of those matters.
PRIME MINISTER:
I wouldn't have thoughtso.
QUESTION: They were answered fairly solidly for example, on wage
indexation. PRIME MINISTER:
on wage indexation? But the Premier had spoken to me about
this and I think he conceded in that conversation that
hearings every three months was too frequent. We needed to
get hearings set further apart than that. I think he might
have felt that 12 monthly hearings would be too far apart.
QUESTION: What about on unemployment?
PRIME MINISTER:
But again if he supported the generality of our policies
there can't be a great deal of difference even in that area
and he has made it very plain that he does support the
generality of our policies. One of the things that needs
to be understood is that Commonwealth and States do have
a responsibility to the same people, that they do have a
different role. Whether we like it or not, responsibility
for overall economic management is on our shoulders. We'll
be blamed or we will be praised for the result. Overall
economic management is not one of the responsibilities that
gets sheeted home to the States, even though they can
contribute to a better result or they can contribute to
a worse result. Against that background, and because of
the different responsibilities it's one of the reasons for
example, why a Grand Conference is rather a difficult thing
to achieve in a sensible and sane manner. If you could get
everyone going to a conference quietly, without publicity,
commited to overcoming problems, I think there would be a
very useful exchange of views. But when I read about a
conference in the newspapers, rather than in a more personal
approach by telephone or discussion, or whateverfrflMr. Harer-
. Mr. Wran is going tolave an election, a Federal Conference
Mr. Wran would certainly use it for political purposes as hard asli.
could go and conferences in that broader sense tend to become
political forums rather than forums which will contribute
to a meaningful result. Now that's why this Government is

PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
trying to structure consultation and meetings which take
place on a regular basis which enable anyone's ideas
to come forward to us, whether it is from trade unions,
or whether it is from government. You've got the National
Labour Consultative Council which our predecessors abandoned,
sacked. They wouldn't have that sort of regular consultation.
You've got the Labour Ministers meetings, you've got the
Premier's Conferences which take place I think more frequently
over the last three years than in previous times. In all of
these arenas, it is open to people to put forward their
ideas and to interchange ideas. We have pre-Budget
consultations. It might be unfair because I think he was
away, but this year, and Mr. Hawke wasn't here, but the ACTU
was represented and whatever views they had were put to us.
Now they are only some of the consultative mechanisms that
we pursue. If any one of the groups in regular consultation
with us were not in regular consultation has specific views
that are going to be useful, they can put those very views
and that's constructive. That's something we would welcome.
It's quite different saying ' let's have a conference' when you
dont know what views are going to be put.
QUESTION: I think you've made that point fairly thoroughly.
A quite minor matter of curiosity, looking at the Budget.
You've kept a clamp on spending overall, but ASIO's Budget
went up by a quarter, why?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, you know there had been a general review of security
from Mr. Justice Hope. I suppose as much as anything that
comes out of that Mr. Justice Hope had recommended that the
organisation needed improving, boosting, additional recruitment.
It had the clamps put on it very severely in earlier times
and wouldn't have grown as other expenditures have grown.
The Government basically accepted that advice. But there is
also advice you know under the new machinery there is advice
of senior officials, a number of senior officials, who advise
the Intelligence and Security Committee of Cabinet. The Budget
has accepted this basic of the Budget as recommended by the
Committee... / 6

6-
QUESTION: The Freedom of Information: Bill has aroused widespread
objections more or less across the political spectrum.
PRIME MINISTER:
Media objections
QUESTION: Well, and some political.
PRIME MINISTER:
And some political but widespread implies a widespread
comment from the public at large. I have got my doubts as
to whether they would really be conscious of the legislation.
QUESTION: Why not make the Bill rather more liberal, and is it the
politicians or the public servants who would oppose such
liberality?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think you've got to, when embarking on a relatively new
form of legislation as it is for Australia, you've got to
look at the additional demands that might be put on the
Service. The capacity of the service to meet those demands.
Once they are enshrined in statute the requirement is there.
You've had the words in the Public Service Board report
about additional demands on the Public Service from a whole
range of legislation; Administrative Appeals Tribunal,
the Ombudsman, a number of other things. I believe it's
better to be cautious of the initial steps. The reports we get
out of the United States where there is freedom of
information legislation, are not all good; about the way
it operates and how it performs and about its benefits.
I think there is no harm basically in a cautious approach
in the first instance but I think the legislation is likely
to be very closely examined by the Parliament
QUESTION: Some of the Members possibly, likely?
PRIME MINISTER:
I've got no doubt that amendements will be suggested. Now what
additives the Government will adopt, will obviously depend
on what they are. But I think there could be quite a
lengthy Parliamentary scrutiny. I don't know that for a fact.
QUESTION: You are op en to suggestions, though? / 7

-7
PRIME MINISTER:
Oh yes.
QUESTION: Do you think the Public Service is loyal to Government or
do the spate of leaks from it indicate some disaffection?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think a very large part of the Public Service is pleased
with the general progress that Australia is making.
QUESTION:
Why the leaks?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think there are always leaks there always have been.
In think there were more before this Budget than there have
been for a long while.
QUESTION:
Why do you think so?
PRIME MINISTER:
I find it difficult to answer that. It happened very much
at the last minute. I find it difficult to answer that.
I have called for a report on those matters, as you know.
QUESTION: Has it come in yet?
PRIME MINISTER:
No, I haven't got the report yet.
QUESTION: Now, the IRB. It was set up partly to protect individual
rights, yet the events of the last week or so seem to have
exposed some problems in the legislation, for example, Miss Biggs
was eventually effectively pressurised into taking another
job in the State Government. Three question: do you think,
one that the IRB should move more quickly to and more strongly
in such a case; secondly, should the legislation be changed
to give the unions a right of appeal in exemption cases;
and thirdly, is there a danger that the legislation could be
exploited by, effectively, mischief makers?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, I would hope that mischief makers would not get a
certificate of consciencious objection and that's an area,
where if mischief makers were able to get a certificate there you
have procedures right at the beginning of the process which
could need examination. But, one of the things that hasn't ./ 8

-8
PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
come out of the record of this particular legislation is
that about 150 certificates have been granted and accepted,
operating quietly with no fuss by the unions.
QUESTION:
But now it has been stirred up, we seem to be getting a
spate of them.
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, no, there were two, two out of 150, and so the record
I think is a good one. And overwhelmingly, the unions that have
accepted those 150 certificates have shown they are prepared
to abide by the spirit of the legislation. It is worth noting
also that there was very extensive discussion with the
trade union movement before this legislation went through.
Now, all right, there's been the tramways case and case in
Parliament House where the legislation hasn't worked smoothly
for one reason or another. Now I don't believe on the total
record that indicates or gives us any reason to condemn the
legislation or the basis of the legislation or even to indicate
the legislation needs substantial change.
QUESTION: Should there be the right of appeal though, by the union on
certificates. PRIME MINISTER:
Well, its the right of appeal against an individual...
QUESTION: or against the decision...
PRIME MINISTER:
I'm not too sure how the processes would have worked, but I
think that if the matter had been pursued and if the union had
in fact come under prosecution or examination from the IRB
as a result of the tramways case, then in those circumstances
the record for granting a certificate in that circumstance
would have also come up for examination. My understanding
is that's so.
QUESTION: Should the IRE move more strongly in these cases?
PRI14E MINISTER:
No. Again, it's a question of taking the intitial steps with
a degree of caution. The Industrial Relations Bureau was
established because we believe there is a role in protecting
individual rights and the maintenance of industrial law.
I think a great deal of fuss has been made over two cases,
but the fact that no fuss was made over 150 cases, they have been
accepted by the unions, the employees concerned, quietly, and
/ 9

9-
PRIM4E MINISTER: ( continued)
we didn't even know about it. I would have thought that
this was good ground to indicate that the law by and large
has been working well.
QUESTION: Except they weren't challenged. This woman's rights
really in the upshot, weren't protected, were they?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think that--as I'm advised the making of decisions is a
great stress and strain on a person, and what is did demonstrate,
and I don't think this camne out through the media, is that
here you have one union that was not prepared to recognise
individual rights of conscientious objection.
QUESTION: And the IRE could not protect that woman in that union.
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, you have to be prepared to go through court cases and
all the rest. And we know quite well that in difficult
circumstances the maintenance of individual rights can entail
a cost in terms of public exposure, can entail a cost in
terms of pressure, publicity...
QUESTION: Should the process be quicker though?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, in industrial relations, if the processes are too quick,
it can get to a very inflammatory situation, you need time
for people to be able to stand back a step and think and
hopefully to do so in a rational and calm manner.
QUESTION: So you weren't disappointed at the IRE's handling of that
situation?
PRIM4E MINISTER:
No, I don't think so. Obviously disappointed when you get to
a situation where a union will not accept the right of
conscientious objection because that is a very serious matter.
QUESTION: There has been press criticism lately related to your credibility
and your approval ratings at the polls has been fairly low.
How do you account for those two things?

10
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, I think, I basically put it down to the overall Withers
affair rather than to the Budget, because I don't agree with
the media headlines in relation to the Budget. I have spoken
to a great many people in many parts of Australia and
I've never had a budget where so many people have made it
perfectly plain they are very glad the Government had brought
in a responsible budget even though there might be some
bits of it they don't like.
QUESTION:
But you think the Withers affair was damaging?
PRIM'E MINISTER:
When you get a Royal Commission report and the result...
you really have only two real courses open to you. Rejection
of that Royal Commission report with the cogency and power
of the findings and of the evidence as many people believed
one course could have been rejection of the report. Arnd the
other course was the one basically which was taken. Quite
obviously either course had very real problems involved in
it. I believe fervently, that the Government took the
only course that was possible, the only course which was
right in the circumstances and, as you know it was the view
of ministers who examined this that the report should not
be rejected.
QUESTION: Do you think you get a fair go generally from the media?
PRIME MINISTER:
I believe sometimes facts could be better checked.
QUESTION: Is that your only complaint?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, if people write opinions, and make it perfectly plain
that they are opinions, I don't think its reasonable to complain
about opinions, but if opinions are drawn from alleged facts
that aren't facts or if opinions are written in terms that
suggest they are facts then I think that that's taking a
path that could be improved. But there have been a number of
cases over a period where facts have not been checked and
things have been written as facts which have been either
without foundation or wrong.
QUESTION: You don't feel that there is a deliberate media campaign
against you? Let me put it more neutrally do you think
there is? / 11

11
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, maybe I should ask you that question. I've just stated
what I think to be so and I know so that a number of things
that are written have been written without checking and
I think it damages the reputation of the people that do so
and it damages the reputation of the newspapers.-
QUESTION: But do you think this is part of some deliberate campaign
against you?
PRIME MINISTER:
I wouldn't put that sort of motive to it.
QUESTION: A wider question. What qualities do you think a Liberal
leader needs to possess?
PRIM4E MINISTER:
A Liberal what?
QUESTION: Leader. The Leader of the Liberal Party.
PRIME MINISTER:
Oh, I think that is very difficult. It would be easier to go
and ask members in the Party Room that.
QUESTION: I'm not talking about this Liberal Leader, particularly
a liberal leader.
PRIME MINISTER:
I think any leader.. let me put it on that basis, any Prime
Minister, needs to have a degree of strength; needs to be able to
deal with a wide range of subjects, needs to be able to work
with his colleagues, needs to be able to work very long hours.
He needs to be able to stick to a point during a difficult
situation, often over a period of weeks or months, has got to
be prepared to pursue policies which have been devised in
the process of government and through cabinet consensus which
are right in the long term but which can entail costs in the
short term. And hopefully he ought to be able to talk with
people and understand the basic needs and aspiration of
Australians and get out of Canberra and know what the real
world in this country is thinking, what the real people are
concerned about, what their fears are, what their hopes are,
what their aspirations are, what they are worried about today,
what they may be worried about next year. / 12

12
QUESTION: Now, your youngest daughter is now 12. What sort of
Australia do you think she will be living in when she is 21?
PRIME MINISTER:
A vigorous, vital Australia looking toward the next century
with a great deal of confidence. A fair, compassionate
society and an example to the world.
QUESTION: Anything more specific?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, you asked me to predict, what, nine years ahead, I think
to give the thrust of the general direction, you can't be
specific. Hopefully an Australia where there might be a more
tolerant society than there might be at the moment.
QUESTION: Tolerant how?
PRIME MINISTER:
People should have a greater tolerance for the views of other
people. outside in the country, I think that there is a great
deal of tolerance, where there are less people that are whipped
up, or persuaded by advocacy to be intolerant. But when you go
into a public bar and have a beer with people, they just take
you as another bloke who wants a beer. And that's as it should
be. But in this city, I think that there is often a great
deal of intolerance, and I don't believe that in the process,
a good example is set to the rest of Australia.
QUESTION: Are you talking about all sections of the city the
politicians, the media, the bureaucracy?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, the bureacrats aren't in the public eye to the extent that
a lot of other people are. I think I'm probably talking about
politicians and the media, yes.
QUESTION: The less we spend our time with each other I suppose you
could say? / 13

13
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, that might be a better idea if we spent more time
out in the sticks, but I've suggested that to some members
of the media on more than one occasion without much
success. I believe that I would spend much more time
speaking to people outside in many places in this country,
much more than the media, and I think I am therefore
better placed than the media to understand what Australians
are thinking about and what their concerns are. And I think
that past events have demonstrated that I'm sometimes
a better judge of that than the media.
QUESTION: Like elections?
PRIME M4INISTER:
Yes. QUESTION: To go to a specific economic question: your policies involved
large tax concessions initially and then a cutting back from
time to time. Now I know that you make out that taxpayers
are much better off overall than they would have been, but
would a more gradualist approach have been better so that you
would have then avoided this, albeit limited, cutback in the
last budget.
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, it's fair enough to say that with the wisdom of hindsight,
but I don't think I would have played that part of it
differently. Let me go on to make the point that income tax
payers this year are paying $ 3 billion less tax than they would
have been under the Hayden scales. Now, the fact that there
had to be a temporary increase in taxes is an example of tax
indexation working. We said we wanted a situation where
governments didn't get a greater and greater rip-off as a result
of inflation and that if they wanted more money they would have
to tax for it. All right, we've had to do that, but I'd
sooner have to justify what we've done than to be getting more
money from Australians by the process of inflations which
we've stopped. So I take that as a mark of success. But if two
or three estimates of revenue at the time of the budget before
this one we are debating now had not proved to be out, in fact
we wouldn't have had to have this present temporary increase
because we would have been operating on a higher tax base,
and there were two or three estimates alone which accounted
for $ 700 or $ 800 million. Now the estimates alone were made
in good faith at the time on the best advice available. All right,
they proved to-be wrong. Well, that was one of the factors
perhaps the principal one, which has led to the circumstance
in which the temporary increase is necessary.
QUESTION: Briefly, when talking about the first 1,000 days,
what are the three achievements of the first 1,000 days of
which you are most proud, and what is your one major
disappointment? ./ 14

14
PRIME MINISTER:
The progress in the economy, obviously getting inflation down,
getting into a much better position than most OECD countries
in relation to our inflation moving down and their's moving
up as something central to our economic policy. I think
that's a major issue and in the area of social welfare and
social reform, the change in the system of income tax rebates,
which helped the wealthy, and gave no benefit to the poor,.
to assist in the family allowances in a way, if you like,
that penalise the wealthy and gave the greatest advantage
of those new allowances to the poor, and the less well off.
Arnd coupled with that in the social welfare area is a much
better deal for the handicapped people in Australia.
I was really making that as two areas, and I think in one
. other area also while it's a continuing process I believe
that there is much greater consultation and communication
with community, and I think industrial relations, in spite
of the recent strikes, is much, much better than it was in
the time of our predecessors and official records and
statistics demonstrate that.
QUESTION: And the disappointment?
PRIM4E MINISTER:
The disappointment that improvement in the employment
area is as slow as in fact it is. Getting back to a number
of things, it takes a long while to get imbalances in the
economy right, a long while to get wage relativities right.
QUESTION: You continue to have difficulties with the Aurukun and
Mornington Island Aboriginal settlements. Do you rule out
the acquisition of those two settlements at any time?
PRIME MINISTER:
Not absolutely, I made that plain on Monday Conference.
But I also pointed out that that's not a simple answer to
a very complex problem, because if governments are going
to fulfil their obligations to Aboriginal communities,
they are going to have to do it in cooperation. Every state
government has obligations to every person in that state
you can't cut arms out of the state and say there is going
to be different health services, different, different
education services, different other services they're all
part of the:-state. And in these circumstances, the only
way in which Australia can fulfil its obligations to the
Aboriginal people is through the cooperation of governments.
If governments are warring, the Aboriginal people will be
torn apart and acquisition will lead to a long process of
litigation and certainly lead to warring administrations
and therefore it is a path to be pursued very, very much as
a last resort. If the agreement with Queensland can be made
to work properly over the coming months it can also be a

15
PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
boost to Aboriginal advancement and development in selfmanagement
and I don't think it should be condemned
as a result of some disappointments which have occured in
the initial months.
QUESTION: You brought in a whole armoury of industrial legislation
yet some is not retained and other parts haven't been used
and often Mr. Hawke still seems to get dragged into
conciliation disputes, for example, the Utah dispute and
the Telecom dispute. Has that legislation in fact done
much to stop industrial dispute?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think the totality of our approach has stopped a good deal
of industrial disruption. I'm quite certain the face that
the Government is prepared to stand and be firm in certain
critical situations has been of enormous importance in
settling certain disputes. For example, the air traffic
controllers, the postal workers. There was one occasion
which I don't think any one hear of in relation to the air
pilots where the strike ended before it began certain
things were said in private, and again on this case, it was
as I believe, the Government making it perfectly plain that
they were not going to let this go on much longer without
significant government intervention and by that we created
a situation in which there was a much greater incentive
than ever before of trade union settlement. On the Saturday,
Mr. Hawke offered six points to provide a basis for the
settlement, those points were developed on the Sunday, expanded,
but basically preserved, and the settlement was achieved. If
we hadn't made the stand the previous week, I don't believe there
would have been any sign of a settlement.
QUESTION: You've got now another two years of running of this Government.
What are your main priorities and what do you want to achieve?
PRIME MINISTER:
Obviously, continuing the economic progress but at the same
time continuing social reform as we can see new areas of
need; showing concern for disadvantaged people in the community.
QUESTION: Anything specific there?
PRIME MINISTER:
No. In broad terms, I think you have to look at the general
thrust and the direction that we want to move in. I . think the
record of the last year or two demonstrates that. I would
want to see continued progress made in Commonwealth/ State
relations there are some things that have gone on in the
last two years that have been of historic importancel because / 16

16
PRIME MINISTER ( cont)
they have achieved agreement and no discord they are
hardly noticed. We have resolved the problems posed by the
High Court decision on the Seas and Submerged Lands Act
by historic agreements whereby although the power was
ours, we were prepared to share it with the states in all
the matters offshore, a number of ( inaud) settled, and all
the guidelines are set for the resolution of the other
practical areas. Now this is an example of governments sitting
down in a practical way to work out solutions to practical
problems. It's been possible, because this Government, and it's
the first government in the history of Australia, has been
prepared to share power and not say ' look, the power's all ours,
we're going to exercise it all', and if governments overall
can have that approach, I'm quite sure that we can get to
a situation where Australia is better governed with a better
division of responsibilities.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific on the welfare area and what you
want to do?
PRIME MINISTER:
We have done a great deal in terms of disadvantaged people
in the Australian community and I wouldn't think we had come
to the end of that road yet. And in addition, of course,
the various training programmes under Tony Street's department
are playing a very significant role in helping a number of
people who are disadvantaged in other ways the experimental
programme for unemployed youth which is no longer experimental
which has been expanded, has been remarkably successful for
people who have probably never had a fair go in their lives.
Maybe they never had parents that showed the sort of concern
that one would hope parents would show. And it has been this
Government that has developed programmes and has done something
about it. These are aspects of the Government's record over the
last year or two which don't get much publicity but which are
important in terms of social consciousness and. in terms of
opportunity and concern for people within this community and
again, as a general approach, I would hope that that could
be continued. The other thing of course will be working for
continued economic progress making our industries more
competitive, getting a larger share of domestic markets, getting
into overseas markets. It's quite critical to getting the
Australian people better employed.
QUESTION: Will Sir John Kerr's book cause a fresh controversy and
have you spoken to him since he threw in the UNESCO job?
PRIME MINISTER:
I saw him in London. I have not read the book.
QUESTION: Do you think it will cause fresh controversy?
PRIME MINISTER:
I would hope not because I think that in many senses, I am
sure Sir John Kerr would not want to cause fresh controversy. / 17

17
PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
He was forced into a very difficult position and the
constitutional responsibilities that were on his
shoulders at the time he took the only course, the only
path, that was possibly open to him. Again, let me state
the very simple reason for it. He did it because a
Prime Minister and a Government sought to stay in power
without the authority of the Parliament to pay its bills
and they even went to the banks to try and coerce the
banks into financing the affairs of Government in a manner
that would have been utterly illegal and unconstitutional.
QUESTION: But you don't think on the whole it will stir these things
up again?
PRIME MINISTER:
I haven't seen-. the book. I would hope not. But I do believe
that he has a right to have his own position if that is
what the book is talking about, explained and understood
because he was put in a difficult position where he was
much maligned and in -many ways very fasely maligned.
QUESTION: How well do you think John Howard's ( inaud) the Budget?
Do you think he would make a good Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER:
I think there are a number of people in the Liberal Party
who would make good._ Prime Ministers. He's explained the
Budget very well and he's put the points calmly, quietly
and cogently. He explains his own portfolio well. Other
minister explain their own portfolios well.
QUESTION: Is there anything you would like to any points we haven't
covered you would particularly like to make?
PRIME MINISTER:
There is one thing I would like to say. I have said it on
other occasions. I believe, quite consciously in Australia,
we need to make a greater effort to have pride in being
Australian and pride in the achievements of this nation.
So often people seek to point out what's wrong, we all know
it's not a perfect society. Why else do people work to
try to make it better but there are -great -chievements
in Australia and it's certainly one of the best places to
live. This may well be the best country in the world to
bring up a family, which will give them more opportunity than
anywhere else. We do . need to build a consciousness in national
pride, and Australian capacity for Australian concern, Australian
industries, Australian inventiveness, pride in Australian
workmanship. We need to build on those things to unite us all
as one people, even though we come from many different lands.
I think that politicians, media and people in public life
generally, have an obligation to build, rather than always
to try and pull down and destroy. We are very much a mocking / 18

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PRIME MINISTER: ( continued)
I know quite well as a journalist it is much easier to
criticise than it is to praise. Praise is dull. But having
said that I also think I have made the same criticism
of politicians and I think we ought to try and concentrate
debate on that as a matter of importance and concern.
I believe that when the general public, especially the
schoolchildren come into this Parliament and listen
they must wonder what the Parliament is about when they hear
some of the debates and see some of the things that go on
and the quite uncouth behaviour that oftens occurs in the
Parliament, to make it plain, rude behaviour that occurs
in the Parliament and the use of language that if it occured
in any modern classroom would have the kids sent out of
class but it is accepted in that Parliament, very often.
I think we have got not only an obligation to try and
build on an Australia which we all ought to love, but at
the same time an obligation to find improved standards and
set an example. 000---

Transcript 4816