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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7905


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: 16/02/1990

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 7905

16 FEBRUARY 1990
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you tell us, in your
considerations yesterday what were the main factors that
led you to opt for March 24 later, was there a main
factor and can you quickly sketch in the decision-making
timetable you went through yesterday and last night?
PM: That's a comphrehensive question. I can't, Peter,
give you a weighting of the factors. It is being
suggested, I see, that the troubles within the Liberal
Party and the conservative parties has been a dominant
factor. But just let me say this is fascinating as the
continuing trauma and bitterness of the Liberal Party at
the leadership and the rank and file level is. As
fascinating as that is, Peter, we really couldn't be
expected to sit down and wait and see that played out to
its conclusion. I mean, there is a limit to one's
patience in these matters. The basic fact is the one
I've referred to that, of course, the Parliament has
essentially run its full term. By any judgement the
country has got itself, with all our assistance
politicians and the media its got itself into an
election mode. I don't know about you but speaking for
myself I couldn't have really stood three months
campaigning, mate.
JOURNALIST: ( inaudible)
PM: Good. So I'm glad you endorse that. We would've
gone collectively bonkers, so I think that was more
important than anything.
JOURNALIST: ( inaudible)
PM: Sorry Peter, there was another part of your question
the process of decision-making.
JOURNALIST: Could you just quickly sketch in yesterday's
decision-making timetable?
PM: Well, we had the our group of Ministers were
meeting to go on with consideration of a number of issues
that we will want to be addressing during the campaign.
I did receive some reports from people who've been doing

some research on our behalf and got that later on in the
day. But let me say this, that as distinct from some
interpretations of the media, that I had a horde of
minders there saying ' c'mon Hawkey, you've got to go,
you've got to go'. Very unreal. I mean I really run the
ship in this area. I'm indebted to all those people
around me who I love and respect and admire but I'd been
firming up towards this view for some time. But I do
want to say, Peter, that overwhelmingly I couldn't stand
the thought, and most importantly I don't think my
friends out there in the Australian electorate could've
stood the thought of what would've been about a three
month campaign.
JOURNALIST: mood of the community, do you concede
that this election result is likely to be a very, very
tight one or alternatively do you believe, and are you
prepared to predict that you can come back with an
increased majority?
PM: Paul, I think it is possible, I think it is possible
to come back with an increased majority. But let me say
this. I'm not in any sense complacent or cocky about
this campaign. I believe, for the reasons that I have
outlined, that the electorate is going to, as it comes up
to election day, realise that this is an extremely
important election. I've expressed the view Paul before
that in my judgement it's the most important election
since 1949. Because I deeply believe that the decision
in this election will essentially determine the sort of
character of the nation that we're going to go into the
21st Century with. Therefore I think that as we come up
to the point where people have to cast their vote, they
will for the reasons that I've gone to and that I don't
repeat, see that the only option is a Hawke Labor
Government. But I realise, as I say, that it's going to
be a tight campaign. We're going to have to fight hard,
work hard. And I give the commitment we'll do that. So
I think we'll win. I think the conditions are possibly
there for an improvement in our majority. But my
overwhelming point is that I have no complacency.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, there was another reduction in
interest rates yesterday.
PM: Yes.
JOURNALIST: When do you expect this will filter through
to home loans and do you think the banks will be damned
if they do and damned if they don't, during the election
campaign, move on rates?
PM: Yes, well, the second point is a very good question.
As to the first Niki, you know I make a point that I'm
not going to attempt to say at what point the easing in
monetary policy are reflected in the further move
downwards in the cash rates and which has now been
reflected in the banks' decision about reduction in the

prime rates. I'm not going to say when that will be
reflected into mortgage rates. But quite clearly, and
it's much more important in this sense Niki, and what I
say and what's now being said again by the banks. The
banks are saying that the conditions are there for a
reduction in mortgage rates in the near and forseeable
future. That's the statement, the attitude, the position
of the banks themselves. And that's relevant. Now your
second point is a very good one. In a sense they are
damned if they do, damned if they don't. I mean if they
were to move now I guess there would be some who were
saying well there they are saying that they are
indicating that they want the Hawke Government returned.
If they don't do it I guess a lot of people will be
saying well come on, you are paid less for your money
now, you're getting better margin, why isn't that passed
on now. That's a decision that the banks will have to
SJOURNALIST: Two questions if I might Mr Hawke. The
first one is, is this final term do we see at the end
of this, does Bob Hawke disappear off the political
landscape? Second one is you said earlier on that next
week Mr Keating would announce any tax cuts that might
have been negotiated. Well, I wonder if we could come
clean on that. Are we going to get a tax cut?
PM: Let me two good questions. The first, of course,
we've been through before, Dennis. There I repeat what
I've said. I will lead the Party in this election I
believe, and I certainly hope to victory, and I will lead
the Government through the whole of the next term and
into the next election. I would expect that at some time
during that next period I would retire. That's my
anticipation at this stage. Now as to the second
question. The language was deliberate in the sense that
nothing has been finalised. The negotiations are still
taking place. Quite clearly, as Paul and I have openly
Ssaid, the question of tax cuts is there on the table. It
is being negotiated. Let me make the point very briefly,
as you know and appreciate. Here is the distinction
between ourselves and our political opponents in terms of
economic management. Because we have been able to
demonstrate in seven years that it doesn't make any damn
sense at all if you're trying to run an economy to look
at the remuneration, the real income standards of wage
and salary earners simply in terms of their wage and
salary packet. In other words you, sensibly, if you're
going to get a degree of equilibrium in the economy and
allow growth both in terms of output and employment, that
you don't load all the cost on the employer, that the
community through the social wage, through tax adjustment
and other things, picks up some of that remuneration to
wage and salary earners. Now the question of relevant
tax adjustments is part of that concept. That's why I
mean it's not an accident I mean, you're going to hear
a lot of these statistics through the campaign. You've
heard them before but you'll hear more of them through

the campaign. It is simply no accident, Dennis, that we
in seven years have had a rate of economic growth twice
that of the previous seven years. It is no accident that
we've had a rate of employment growth five times what was
there under the conservatives. The question that you've
asked me is absolutely central to that achievement. You
have to make sure that in looking at the real disposable
income of wage and salary earners, which is critically
important, which determines their standards, how far
you're able to of fload what would otherwise be
inflationary, super-inflationary costs arising from
excessive money wage increases, how far you can reduce
that by the things that you do in regard to tax cuts and
other things. I'll come to the other things just
briefly. But on the tax cuts therefore it's obviously on
the table. The language was not devious, it was simply
yes it's on the table, it's being negotiated and whatever
will be negotiated through there will be revealed by Mr
Keating this week. Of course within this framework the
other elements of the social wage are foundational and
this is why the fiasco, the absolute fiasco of the
conservatives on health is so important. I mean, the
community is upset and disappointed by the
irresponsibility of an Opposition which, after seven
years, can't produce a health policy but their concern
goes beyond just the fact of their incapacity to produce
a health policy because it goes right to the very heart
of economic management. Right to the heart of economic
management. It's what signals the certainty of a return
to the economic chaos of pre-' 83 because if wage and
salary earners have the certainty of Medicare taken away
from them and a position where they're going to have a
very considerable outlay, net outlay, through the
abolition of Medicare, then in those circumstances you go
for greater money wage increases. So, here is the very
heart of the difference between the conservatives and
ourselves. It is no wonder that in the last year before
we came to office, unemployment increased by a quarter of
a million, that unemployment went through the roof and
inflation went through the roof. It happened because
they had no wages and no sensible relationship between
what you do in the tax area, what you do in the social
wage area and it is all revealed now that what they are
promising to the Australia of 1990 is a replay of the
economic and social disaster of the early
JOURNALIST: On the social wage, Mr Hawke
PM: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Leaked Finance documents suggest the
Government is going to spend up to a $ 1 billion on
outlays over the next three years if it's re-elected.
How will the Government fund those commitments, and
secondly, you've said that the Government has completed a
wide ranging micro economic reform agenda.

PM: When I said complete is not the right word. I
mean-JOURNALIST: Do you foresee further micro economic-
PM: Yes, indeed. I'm glad for that question, the two
parts of it. Firstly, you refer to this document. I
mean, just let me say about that it's a working document.
It's one of those things that obviously prefer hadn't
leaked, but its, on its face it's a working document, an
incomplete document and it doesn't meet obviously what I
have said and I'll repeat it here. And it's the heart of
your question. Whatever proposals I and Paul Keating and
my Ministers unveil as we go through the election, the
complete range of proposals that we unveil, we will at
the same time as we do that through the campaign, by the
time the people go into the polling booths they will see
the complete funding, the complete funding of our
proposals which that document didn't have on it. It's
clear, it didn't, it was obviously an incomplete working
document. I repeat that whatever we propose, whatever
initiatives will be fully funded.
JOURNALIST: Is the principle to do it from reduced
surplus or
PM: You will see, you will see that the way in which it
will be done will be acceptable to you, it will be
acceptable to all commentators. It will be a full
funding and not only that, but very, very important
indeed let me make the point right at the start of the
campaign it will be in stark contrast, may I say, to
that yawning, enormous credibility gap that the
Opposition's already got. A $ 6 billion credibility gap
as to where the money's coming from and you know what
we're talking about there, the elements of it. Their tax
proposal, the two tier proposal which is about $ 3
billion, take your choice $ 2.6 billion plus in regard to
health, billion in regard to roads $ 400 million in
regard to education. It's of the order of $ 6 billion.
Now any proposals that I and my Ministers make during
this campaign, you'll see where the money's coming from.
They've got to explain where $ 6 billion is
JOURNALIST: The party research is showing overwhelming
cynicism amongst voters. Don't both sides of politics
have to take some responsibility for that and how will
you be seeking to address it during the campaign?
PM: Well, it's a good question. There is evidence that
there is a greater degree of support, or certainly prima
facie support, for the non mainstream, neither Labor nor
the conservative parties and that's explained, I suppose,
in a number of ways and it's certainly part of the
explanation, not totally, is that not only in this
country but, you know, right around the world,
environmental questions have assumed, you know, some
overwhelming for more people. That's part of the

explanation. Now as far as I'm concerned, speaking for
my side of politics, you will find me during this
campaign continuously, and I suppose if you've got to
hear it as you travel around with me it might get tedious
for you it might even get tedious for me having to say
it again and again but what I will responsibly try and
do is to explain the facts of achievement during this
period, contrast them with the others, but also indicate
our capacity to continue to meet what after all are the
fundamental requirements of the people in this community.
What are they? I mean, it's not rhetoric, I mean, and
they'll get plenty of that including from me there'll be
rhetoric, but in the end Australian families, I think,
don't want to hear a politician getting up and saying
' I've got concern for families, I love families' I mean
who doesn't? I suppose there are some who don't, but I
don't have to, sort of, put my credibility about love of
family on the line. But they want to hear more than the
fact that you love families. I mean, the welfare of
families is not, families don't live on Mars. Families
in fact have their welfare determined by whether they can
get a job, whether in fact their kids are going to be
educated, whether they are going to have a secure and
equitable health policy so that if they get sick they can
be sure they are going to be looked after. Now these are
fundamentals and I am going to, for my side of politics,
if there is a degree of cynicism out there, I'm going to
be showing that in seven years, on these tests that
matter jobs, economic growth, health, education and,
importantly, on the environment. On all these things,
Glenn, that matter, I'm going to show that we have
delivered and have got the capacity to continue to
deliver and improve our delivery. I believe that by
addressing those things because in a campaign, I mean,
the minds get much more wonderfully concentrated and they
do start to say ' well, look it's not rhetoric, but which
of these two on the record, and on their policies that
they are putting before us are more likely to deliver on
jobs and on health and on education, on the environment?'
And I just have the feeling that by the time we get to 24
March as those issues are there, and it's not just a
question of achievements, but it's also a question of
comparison, that whatever degree of cynicism there may be
there will, to a considerable extent, be dissipated and
they'll say ' well, we mightn't like everything that Hawke
and his Government have done, but on these issues that
matter there is just no choice but to vote Labor'
JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, to go back to the earlier question
on micro reform
PM: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Will that be included in the statements
which you flagged, how vital do you see it on your next
term's agenda and if it's not top, what do you see as the
theme of your next term's agenda?

PM: Well, just let me pick up the micro reform part of
the question first. We will be, I'll be making a
statement during the campaign in regard to it and I don't
want to pre-empt what I'll be saying there. As to
rankings of issues, Michelle, I think it's a bit unreal
to rank issues. I mean, if I were to say look that issue
is most important, I think, you know, that's politically
unwise. I think there are a range of issues which are
important, of great importance, for some a particular
issue is more important than others. I think what the
electorate is going to want is to see from me and from Mr
Peacock our elaboration of our policy positions and our
ability to talk about achievements in regard to a range
of issues which I will do, but if, and I come to the guts
of your question, what's the sort of theme, I would put
it in this way, that and it really, this is something I
have said to you at the I think it was in the Press
Club at the end of the year so I'm not manufacturing
something new. I don't think that any intelligent
politician and any intelligent Prime Minister will go in
a election, say ' ladies and gentlemen, I've just
discovered some new goals and just woke up with a new
vision'. I mean, I had a vision about this country when
I became Prime Minister and, as I said in an interview
I've just done recently, I was in the singularly
fortunate position when I became Prime Minister that,
having had the trust of the two succeeding Governments,
that is of the Whitlam Government and the Fraser
Government, I'd been on two committees of inquiry, the
Jackson Committee under the Whitlam Government and the
Crawford Committee under the Fraser Government. They,
both Prime Ministers appointed me to that. Now I had the
opportunity when I became Prime Minister, as a result of
that experience, of understanding the Australian economy
and the challenges in the international environment with
which we were operating. So I had a vision then that
what this country had to do were these things, and what
I'll be saying in the election is how we've tried to
achieve them and the ways in which we'll do it more.
Basic thing, Michelle, that I'll be promising to the
Australian people is a commitment through macro economic
and micro economic policies to the creation of a more
efficient and competitive Australian economy. The future
of our kids more than anything else depends upon this
economy being efficient, being able to compete. And I
will point to the fact that, as a result of the basically
important decisions we've made, we have effected the most
dramatic change ever. You don't, in seven years, double
the rate of economic growth over the previous seven years
without having relevant policies to produce it. So we
must have an efficient, competitive economy, and,
Michelle, as you know, to get to that position some hard
decisions have had to be taken. I mean, you can't
transform or begin the transformation of an economy to
one which doubles its rate of growth and has a rate of
employment growth five times faster than it had before.
You can't do those things without tough decisions. I
mean, let me put it this way, the $ 1.6 million new jobs

that we've created reflect the fact that some people in
employment who could have exercised their power and got
higher real wage increases, haven't got it. I mean,
there are sacrifices that the community as a whole
together has been prepared to make under Labor to become
a more competitive economy to grow stronger. So that's
the first thing, the economy must be made more
competitive, more able to grow, more able to produce
jobs. But, as I said, secondly, and associated with
that, we have to be an Australia now I believe it
should be more evidently true than when I said it in
March of 1983 I said then if the economy, the
Australian economy, is going to grow and seize its
opportunities, it has to become more and more enmeshed
with the region. You will recall my phrase of 1983,
Australia has to become more enmeshed with the region,
the most dynamically growing region of the world. So
that is the second thing. We have to, by the range of
decisions that we make, effectively become more enmeshed
in the region. Thirdly, I'll be saying that my theme
through this period has been and will continue to be that
we cannot just judge the achievement of this society in
straight economic output terms. They remain
foundational, but that is not the only criterion. We
have to create a society which is fairer, in which those
who depend for their well-being, not simply upon their
own involvement in the productive processes because there
are many who can't be the aged, the young we have to
be a society which is more compassionate towards them and
the proof of that over the period of my Government has
been, that compared with when we came to office, the
outlays as a proportion of total outlays excluding public
debt interest which goes on social justice programs has
increased from 50 percent to 59 percent which is an
increase of $ 9 billion in real terms. So you have to be
a fairer society and you have to be a society which is
concerned with the quality of the environment in which
you live and which you are going to hand on. So that is
the next element and, finally, you have to be, I believe,
a society which is respected internationally. Not one
which simply tags along in some irrelevant way in a world
which you may wish was something like it was 30, 40,
100 years ago, but to understand that you live in a
world which is changing more dynamically and rapidly than
in any other point in history. If Australia is going to
be respected and if you are going to do the right things
by the children of today, then you have to be a country
which is part of shaping those processes of change and,
as I have done in the area of micro economic reform,
Michelle, I issue the challenge to my conservative
opponents. You show any period, any period when you had
the governance of this country which can begin to come
within a bull's roar of the international achievements of
the Hawke Labor Government. Australia now stands higher
in the international councils of the world than it ever
has before. So these are the themes I repeat them. A
competitive, more efficient Australian economy, one which
is more enmeshed in the region, but still recognising the

opportunities that exist in other parts of the world, a
fairer society in terms of discharging our obligations to
those really in need and within that framework of the
quality of society, one which is environmentally
responsible and, fourthly, a country which acknowledges
is part of shaping the processes of international change.
Those are the themes, those issues create, provide the
framework if you like within which our decisions have
been made and in which we will continue to make the
decisions which are necessary to meet the welfare of the
Australian people.
JOURNALIST: ( inaudible)
PM: I've got to go to Queensland
JOURNALIST: One more question?
PM: Two.
JOURNALIST: On the environment
PM: Sure.
JOURNALIST: are you planning any big, major
environmental package during the campaign? And secondly,
did the Governor General wish you luck?
PM: We will be certainly concerned with the environment.
I'm not nominating any great new packages in the
environment, but we will be certainly talking about it
and indicating the things that we have done and the
directions that we're taking. As to the second part of
your question, let me say that, as you would expect, the
Governor General behaved himself, conducted himself with
total propriety.
And may I say I hope to be seeing you all regularly
during the campaign at conferences like this. I'm
looking forward to them, I hope you will be. Whether it
will be a feature of the campaign as a whole, I don't
know. ends

Transcript 7905