PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6661


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 30/06/1985

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 6661

4,. AUST1: AL1A -U
PM: Ladies and Gentlemen, we now meet on the eve of the
Summit. The Government goes into the Summit certain that
the overwhelming majority of Australians believe that the
existing tax system has virtually disintegrated, certainly
to the point where they desi:-e to have a different system
one which is fairer and more efficient and more easily
understood. On the basis of that belief we have done the
hard work of analysing that system and showing the ways in
which we believe that the Australian community can achieve
a better system. We look to the Summit now as the
culminating process of the participation by the Australian
community in the task of government and conumunity working
together to achieve a system which ., ill meet the requirements
of the cc-amunity. I believe that onus is now upon Lhe
representatives of the community who will gather tomorrow
and the days ahead'to analyse what has been put forward on
the basis that the packages are made up of many elements
and trust and indeed believe that the Summit will be a
sensible process of analysis of the White Paper with a view
to achieving the desired outcome. Certainly the Government
goes into the Summit, as I have said throughout the last few
weeks, prepared to' listen closely to what is put. As I
said, we have discharged our obligation to do the initial
work. The obligation is now upon others to participate and
further the obligation upon us to be receptive to what is
put. Because I believe those things will be done, I am
looking forward toithe days of the Summit and I am certain
that as a result of the Summit itself, the Government will
then be in a position to make the decisions which will be
necessary to bring about a more acceptable and efficient
tax system in this country.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, if there was a general support for
a consumption tax,' but not at the rate of 12 say it is
a lower level 7 would you embrace that?
PM: Well you started off with a hypothetical question. And
you know I'm not terribly keen on those. But I think the
comments I have made already are relevant to that question
that is we are going to listen to what people have got to
say. And if that was something that was to emerge quite
clearly, then obviously the Government would have to take
that seriously into account.
,0 I

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Treasurer said he has killed
of f that option.
PM: Well I didn't see all of the Treasurer this morning on
your program, Laurie,, but the part I saw didn't leave me with
the impression that he was saying that he had killed off
JOURNALIST: He said a week ago he'd rather
PM: Sunday was today', not a week ago.
JOURNALIST: It doesn~ t change every day, does it, Sir?
PM: No it doesn't. I listened to what he had to say this
morning. What he had-to say this morning was totally
consistent with what I have just Le en saying, and saying
right through. That the Sumxnit. is real as far as we are
concerned. We . are going to listen to what is said. And any
part cnf what has been put by the Government is open for
consideration. And if we could be persuaded that there was
a better way of doing it., then that would be done.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, are there any circumstances in which
you would ahead with a package with which the ACTU explicitly
disagreed? PM: ' tell again, all the questions are in this hypothetical
vein. I mean, I have made it cl~ ear that one of the nine
principles that is the seventh principle is the sensible
one that would require the support of the trade union
movement to avoid any suggestion of double dipping or double
compensation. Now I can't contemplate a position where even
if the ACTU didn't entirely agree with everything that came
to be included in the subsequent Government decision, that
they would recant on the clear statements they have made
through their Secretary that there is no way in which the
trade union movement can look at double compensation. And I
believe that that covers the situation which you are talking
about. This Government is not going to be adopting a positionnor
was principle seven ever meant to be one that we would
only do what the ACTU agreed with. It has never been our
position on any other issue and it is not on this. And if a
situation emerged where a package was different from what the
ACTU was saying was its totally preferred position, I still
would not expect them to move away from the clear statement
that they made before!. Youi couldn't have compensation via the
tax system and then seek to get it another way as well
through wages.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, do you think that the ACT2U is moving
towards accepting Option C or moving away from that?
PM: Well I don't really know. They are meeting here today.
/ 3

JOURNALTIST: You had a meeting with them last Wednesday
though so you should
PM: I spoke to some of them last week. They will have their
meeting today. Itwould sti'll be my view that the ACTU will go
into the Summit with its options open, that it will want to
listen to what is said. It won't have a final position before
going into the Summit, nor I imagine will it have a final
position on Friday at the end of this week. If it is
sensible and I believe it is it will listen to all of the
arguments, all of the expositions and will consider them
subsequently. So what they are moving to, I'm not sure. I
believe that they will have been testing, and have had tested
some options of thei. own. They will be wanting to make
judgements about the outcome of that -Lesting, I would think.
JOURNALIST: When is the latest -Aate theyshould make a
decision do you think?
PM: I don't understand your question.
JOURNALIST: on their preferred position.
PM: I don't understand your question. When should they. It's
not for ic; t-o tell them when they should.. That is theii.
business. JOURNALIST: Is it true on Thursday night, Mr Hawke, that
Mr Kelty told you that Option C was not on?
PM: I don't intend to go to any of the discussions that
were details of the discussions that were held.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, are there any arguments you have heard
over the last four weeks which would convince you that Option
C is perhaps not the best route to take?
PM: No, it is one of the interesting things that has emerged.
N~ o-one has come out with a clear alternative. Understandably
there have been questions about elements of the OPtion C
as to whether the judgements that have been made about the
inflation rate are correct; whether the savings ratio and
expenditure patterns are appropriate; and other elements about
the compensation package. Now, all I can say is that I have
looked at the arguments that have been put and to this stage
none of those arguments about the important elements of C
have destroyed my qonfid~ nce in the adequacy of the assumptions
in. C or the adequacy of the compensation package. Now that
doesn't mean that in the days ahead there may not be more
work emerges the . result of more work. But I must say that
at this stage I believe that the option C looks as though it
is the best way of going about it, if you are in fact going
to achieve the most substantiLal cuts in direct taxes that & MTC
possible and also'ensure that those who currently don't pay
any tax are brought, as far as possible, into the taxation net.
But I repeat, I will be listening closely to what everyone
has got to say during this week and it may well be that some
modification is required. / 4

JOURNALIST: Do you concede that the week could en'd without
agreement at all?
PM: I have said all the way through that I regard it as
unlikely that you could got consensus at this Summnit. I
don't think on an issue like tax reform that you will get
total agreement on ' anything other than the issue that the
existing system is po good and needs to be changed. I think
you will get just about total agreement on that.
JOURNALIST: Well what is your definition then of broad
support. Does it have to be 60% of the Summit agrees to
Option C*:, or what?
PM: I said quite clearly very early in the piece that I don't
think the Summit is' going to be one in which you have hands
being put up. And ' I said quite clearly before that you just
look at the comoosition of the Summit and it is not one that
will lend itself to that arithmetic sort of judgement.
JOURNALIST: What will have to happen at the Summit for you
to consider it to he a success?
PM: Well, firstly, there would need to be an approach by the
participants which went beyond just pushing of their own
particular barrows or self interests. I mean, if we just got
a succession of speakers getting up and putting their own case,
their own constituencies case, then it would not have been a
success. It follows that what you will be wanting is a Summit
in which people are certainly putting their views putting
themn strongly and explicitly where they are prepared to
listen to the points of view of others and I think if that
happens then you will ha~ ve the elements of a successful Summit.
Certainly from ouripoint of view as a Government, we want to
hear people getting up therc, not simply saying indirect
taxes are regressive, because after all we do know that. What
we would want to hear is detailed argument as to why the
compensation package didn't meet adequately if it was so
believed, the needs of those who would . otherwise be hurt
by the regressiveness of an indirect tax package. Now, if
people contribute,. as I believe they will, to the Summit
in that way then Ibelieveit will be a success.

JOURNALIST: What will you be saying to the farmers
tomorrow. PM: Well I'll be doing them the justice of not
having it put out ih the papers for them to read in the
morning. I'll be talking to them directly, not second
hand. JOURNALIST: How will you in the end assess the degree
of public acceptance that you say is a prerequisite for
implementing any substantial changes. Will this be
by opinion polls or political intuition.
PM: I don't knpw that it will be by opinion polls.
Its a very importailt question, it is similar to the one
that was asked befdre. I guess it will be a combination
of things. It will, certainly be a listening to, and then
a subsequent reading of all the things that are said at the
Summit. It would involve, 1 would suggest, also following
the Summit, the testing out number of people, wnether
i, e havlA listened to what was said and that having raised
in the minds of the Government certain question marks of
the total adequacy of what we were doing, and then said
to them, now would this, perhaps, adjustment meet your
concern. Thc/ 1 picking up their reaction to thnat. so it will
be a ntixti. 1re of processes that we'll have to go through
to try and satisfy ourselves, following the Summit, 11hat
we have taken into-account, as sensibly as we can, those
things which do seem to have a fairly substantial body of
backing. And we're cortainly not going to be adjusting
to every single thing that's said. I mean that's not the
way to go about Government. But if in fact you did
see that there was something of fairly specific concern
and you thought that you could Meet that concern, then
subsequent to the Summit you would be testing people out,
and getting ther reactions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Ministe2r how would the Government
respond if it went'ahead with Option C, and subsequently
found that one or more unions attempted to double dip
What mechanism have you got for dealing with that.
PM: Wel. you've got this stage first of all.
But of course you would be saying to the Commission clearly
what the position of the Government was, and the position of
the ACTU. As has already been said, that is that double
compensation is not on. And so you would be attempting to
use the authority of free institutions, the Government,
the Commission and. the AtTU to ensure that didn't happen.
And I would expect that employers would be singularly
reluctant to admit a claim for an adjustment of wages where
it could be clearly established that that amount had already
been more than provided by the tax system.

JOURNALIST: But if the employer caved in would you envisage
sending a reference on to the Prices 6vfv-i1', wc Tribunal.
PM: Oh I mean w4e haven't got that far dowi the track.
JOURNALIST: All things considered Prime Minister do you
think this will be the last sum-nit on any topic?
PM: No I don't ' see why it should be. I mean that seems
to imply that one wouldn't have wanted to go ahead with this
Summit if you'd had your thinking again. I've said on a
number of occasions in the last few weeks that nothing has
happened in any way; quite the contrary, I'm more than
ever persuaded that its. sensible to have this Summit. Now
I haven't in my mind at th.-Ls stage any other particular
issue that I can see down the track which would requi-Lre it.
But it could be, I don't know, I haven't got anything else
in my mind at this stage. But* I'm certainly glad that we're
having this Summit, and I'm sure that the Governent's
thinking in meeting the wishes of the Australian people,
will be assisted by it. I mean after all, I mean just
think of the facts of what we're dealing with. If there's
one thing that certain about the whole tax debate, it is
that the community wants change. That's certain. Now,
the imposition of changes in the past, by the Conservative
parties, has resulted in a total, not merely a mess, but
a system which is mr anifestly against the i~ eiterests of'toe
peopl. e of Australia.. Now to give Lhe people of Australia,.
through their representative organisations, tne opportunity
of participating in the creation of a useful and fair,
and efficient tax s ystem, is obviously sensible. An-1 I'm
not only glad, but . proud of the fact that we've initiated
that process to give the people that chance.
JOURNALIST: Can we take it from your earlier comments
that you don't expect agreement on any specific package?
PM: Not on a package, Michael, I've said that right
from the beginning.' I don't think you could get a consensus
at a Summit like that upon a total package. I think there
will be elements that would~ come through as quite clearly
as having a clear majority support. But it will be the
job of the Governm~ nt after the Summit to draw the elements
JOURNALIST: Isn't that inconsistent with Principle Nine
when you refer
PM: No its not.
JOURNALIST: Which.. particular elements do you think there
will be general agreement on?
PM: It would seent to me that one element that has
been talked about in the White Paper and has been discussed
a fair bit in the . community, on which I would think there
would be not absolute agreement, but general agreement,
would be the concept of a national identity card.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister to what do you attribute
the reported drops in Government popularity as expressed
in the Cameron Poll?
PM: Well I won't go into the details of that, but
quite clearly the element of uncertainty about a tax reform
has been part-of it.' But I'm more than confident, as I've
said, during the last couple of weeks when I've been asked
about this, that I believe that as we go up to the
end of our term that the question of tax will be a very
significant plus for this Government, and an equally
significant minus for the Opposition.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister was the ANOP research financed
by the tax payer, ai~ d if so will you make it public?
PM: I think it: will be made public at an appropriate
JOURNALIST: When is that sir?
PM: I haven't addressed my mind to that.
JOURNALI T: Mr Hawke you've said previously that you
didn't," here would * be sufficient timce, foll~ owing the Summit,
to allow for any changes i^ the August Budget, do you-still
stick wit!, that view?
PM: What we've said all along is that some elements,
its possible that some elements, of tax changes could come
in then, but substantially it would be post-budget. Its
what we've said all along and I think the point's made in
the White paper.
JOURNALIST: When would you expect a final decision upon
the 4.5% consumption tam.
PM: Well, I would expect it at the same time as we
finalised our position on the whole tax package. And I've
indicated before that we would be expecting to finalise our
position on these matters within a matter of weeks after
the end of the Summit.
JOURNALIST: Do you see any need, Prime Minister, for a
special Caucus meeting to discuss that decision.
PM: I would think that there would be more than one
Caucus meeting.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you said last week that you were
asking,. officials to check some of the White Paper's
assumptions particularly into the macro 6coriomic
CPI effect. Have you done that?

PM: Yes I already indicated in answer to a previous
question that I had looked at this. And nothing that I've
seen to this point, since I've come back to Canberra, and
read on this subject, causes me in~ any substantial way
to change the confidence that I previously had in these
matters. But I will be continuing to look at further
work on this,, right uip to and during the Summit.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what hope do you have for
getting some form of communiquc out of the Summit, even in
broad terms?
PM: Oh I've never thought really that any substantial
communique would be likely. Certainly not comparable to
the April 1983 Summit.
JOURNALIST: Can you give us some odds for Option C
PM: No.
JOURNALIST: ' Prime Minister, Mr Keating said he's killed
off any prospects of exemptions for food. If there is
an overwhelming call for that at the Summit are you
prepared PM: was in line with your previous question,
Laurie, I give the same answer that I did before. That
we will be listening to everything that is said, and all
the elements of our proposals are open for consideration.
JOURNALIST: So nothing's actually
PM: Now come on, I've said it twice.

Transcript 6661