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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8383


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/01/1992

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 8383

J: Well how did the talks go?
PM: Well I thOught it was a very productive day, which makes
two very productive days. Very interesting talks this
morning with the unions and the Committee for Melbourne at
lunch time and there has been a lot of cross dlussion
between the various industrial sectors and industrial
groupings here on Melbourne and Victoria and the Committee
for Melbourne has got now a reasonably clear agenda. Of
course the Premier attended that meeting 8nd I think -it was
a very good meeting where we had a chance to discuss the
impact of the recession upon Victoria, structural things
about Victoria, ways in which Victoria might play a part in
the recovery.
J: So you're thinking of making special offers to help
Victoria in t'Ais structural process?
PM:. I'd like t: o think that anything we might be able to do
can be, whilst national in character, be also usefully
4mployed in Victoria. But I've said and I will say again
that Victoria, confidence levels are down in Victoria more
than they are in other parts of Australia and to generate a
recovery, I believe a substantial recovery has to be
generated in -the state of Victoria, and that the national,
if you like, aconmic conditions is in part itself
conditioned by events and circumstances in Victoria.
J: Do you shisre Mr Elliot's view that Victoria is the key
to Australia's3 economic recovery?
PM: Well I thl~ nk that is an important part, I wouldn't say
key. But a ve~ ry significant part and probably weigh~ er than
most of the other states.
J: Did you hear anything from the Victorian unions that
particularly interested you?
PM: Well a 101: of the themes and threads thread through
Committee for Melbourne's own agenda which has now all been
reasonably widely discussed institutionally here, in the
unions, by the unions with business via the various people
within that Committee and the Government, of course.
J: What about: this submission on changes to the tarriff
policy? PM: Well there wasn't very much said about that.

J: They did actually present you with a written submission?
PM: Yes I knowd. There was not strong advocoacL of that ina
the meeting./
J: The Opposition today in light of the record unemployment
numbers is calling for an imumediate cut in immigration and
for a of any national wage rise.
PM: Well I haven't seen any of what the opposition said. I
saw today's employment numbers, Itt still records a very high
unem loymnent rate, marginally up only than last month but
thata not the point. The fact is that itse still too high
and thats the whole point of the statement, to try and get
it down and to get a recovery going but I think thatA what
we are basically focussing on, thats the very point of this
exercise. J: Do you rule out any cut in immigration within the next
month or so?
PM: Yes because we'll review immigration, the normal cycle
of the Cabinet review which will be about April of this
year. J: ( inaudible3)
PM: Well I presided over an economy which grew at twice the
rate of growth in seven years as it did in the previous
seven before I became Treasurer. So for seven and a half of
my eight and a half years as Treasurer, the Australian
economy grew at twice the speed as it did in the previous
seven years. And the fact that there is a recession was not
of the Goenet wishes and, of course, is part of the
English speaking world-wide recession, which has come of the
globalisatioi of financial markets, the collcqp. in asset
values and the belief that inflation will no longer cut the
mustard in in-vestment, that people have got to invest in
things which are income producing. You just can't buy a
building and ' hope to make a profit from it. And now that
realisation has sunk in, asset prices have fallen. This is
not a phenomena which is peculiar to Australia. Now it is
two years ago this month that I first reduced interest
rates. Official policy should not be promoting continuing a
recession at this point. While it had a role, certainly in
inducing the recession the fact that interest rates came off
two years ago, came of f in earnest eighteen months ago,
would by all -other measures and reckoning mean we would be
into a reasonably firm recovery. We are not because of
factors which are not peculiar to Government policy and this
is true of the United States, true of Britian, true of
Canada, true of New Zealand where recessions are in fact
deeper and gloomier in some of those places than they are in
Australia. So I'm going back to doing what I did mostly,
that is, gene-rate faster rates of growth and employment.
J: fastest possible sustainable rate of growth..

PM: What the late ) 80s proved is that once the Australian
economy went over four per cent growth a year~ it. spilled
into imports, but the countries around us, th~ e so called
newly industrialised countries, the tigers, could grow at
six and eight per cent a year before they spill into
In other words they add so much industrial capacity they
could handle six to eight per cent growth before they
started to rely on imports. We can only get just above four
before we start to rely on imports. That's why the Liberals
should hang their heads in shame after 30 years of running
Australia. The best the place could do when it got a bit of
speed up, was get to about four per cant growth then spill
to imports. And this is what this government has been
about, trying to rebuild our capital stock in our productive
sectors which we've had substantial success in from the
sloth of most of the post war years.
J: Where is this point now?
PM: Where is it? We hope its going to be in the longer run
where this is sustainable you're asking?-well it's
obviously sustainable under four and a half per cent, 4 per
cent or something. But I'm not suggesting and your question
does not require me, I don't think to indicate that that's
the desira-l speed because we can't at the moment get
back, get out of negative growth, so we want to get back to
a sustainable growth troJectory, one which is sustainable
for inflation and sustainable for Australia in the longer
run, adding to the capital stock and producing more goods
and services. I mean it needs to be remembered, because
there is a perception that you know we tried some in the 0
and we sort of lost it now. I notice some people are saying
our manufacturing base has been deci'mated it is worth
recording these facts; manufacturing production is twice
today what it was in 1980 twice. Manufacuturing exports
are 300 per cent greater than in 1983, we have exported our
heads of f all through the 1980s and are doing more of it
now. So the fact is that we have got to continue though to
build that capacity and that's what it is all about now,
going back to a-recovery, but a recovery which builds that
productive capacity.
J: Mr Keating, do you believe that with the economic policy
you have been pursuing in your statement, that you'll be
able to bring the unemployment down from it's present 10.6
per cent level, this year?
PM: Wel. l I'm not going to be making estimates about what the
rate will be. But the aim will be to stabilise unemployment
quickly and to turn it around,, which was our objective in
1983, which of course we accomplished in 1983 and we would
be hoping to' do something of the same during the course of
1992. J: Prime Minister, talking about sustainable growth, that's
in terms of the ecological sustainable also?

The environmental aspects of this growth is there now a
readjustment towards 7
PM: Well we are part of the international discussion about,
which will take place next year in Brazil about greenhouse
gas emissions, about the whole ecological sustainable
development questions and that conference will be of some
significance in determining how the rest of the world, the
Northern Hemisphere economies approach these questions. But
at the moment: we have got a lot of spare capacity laying
about and theirefore, what we are about are employing current:
capacity, current in-store capacity and that capacity has
been installed at times when it has been operating at
optimum level. s in the past', So it's not a matter of any new
policy in thait sense, I mean we are aboutfor a start, just
getting that existing capacity working.
PM: Wall it's too complex to give a simple answer to.
J: Mr Keating, how do you react to the President of the
ACTU's comments, Mr Martin Ferguson, that it's now time for
the Governmen~ t to get it's house in order on Industry
Policy, but basically the Government's industry policy over
the last few years has been a disaster?
PM: Well it's wrong. Because, manufacturing production is
200 per cent greater than in 1980-83, 200 per cent
improvement. Manufacutring exports are 300 per cent
greater, they are Just simply facts. They just have to pick
up any statisticians release and have a look through it.
J: So you think you have a fundamental difference of
opinion.. PM: No, let6 be clear about this. The ACTU have had a focus
on industry policy for years. What I said was wrong, was
that the policy has been a disaster that's obviously,
plainly wrong. Now I don't know whether Martin said that or
whether you concluded that.
J: What he specifically said is it's time for the
government to get its house in order.
PM: Well that's part of the ACTU claim, and it has been for
a number of years. And that's a continuation of that and
that's fair enough, and we're doing all that we can to
induce better industry policy in this country with the
statement which we made in March of 1991 and to the extenW
that what we might do in this statement, which will be
focussed on a recovery, as I said yeste , also hopefully
will have good structural elements to it which would also be
improving of and improvement to the general industrial
structure of Australia.
J: Mr Ferguson is obviously concerned that the March
industry statement and the later job statement didn't go far

enough so will you say that your coming statement will go
further in terms of industry policy?
PM: It will have a number of objectives the first will be to
promote a recovery, but to promote it in a way which adds to
the common wheel, makes the place structurally more strong
and that will. be around, obviously the structure of
industry. Now whether in the end what we do is a approved
of by Mr Fercruson time will tell.
Does it concern you that the ACTU might not approve of
the industry policy?
PM: They don't approve of everything we have done over the
years, nor doi we approve of every view they have.
J: They have given you a lot of support over the years?
PM: And they have got a lot in return.
J: Mr Keating superannuation funds. What is you view
on the ( inaudible)?
PM: It's not so much for wvzJ~ housing, I think it is for
housing. There is a view that benefits preserved could be
used by some people in a way which preserves, largely keeps
the preservation about it, that is if it were used for
housing being returned to the pool of preserved benefits at
some stage. It's. something we are prepared to have a look
at. One of the difficulties with superannuation is
encouraging very young people in the workforce to be as
enthusiastic about it as older members of the workforce and
I think the view may be that if younger members of the
workcforce could draw down preserved benefits or at least use
them in some-way for housing it gives them more immediate
rationale for superannuation rather than simply the benefit
which comes at age 55. That's rational and that's why we
will have a look it.
J: Mr Keating is there anything that you have heard from
the last two days that apart from change., foreshadowed
changes in economic policy in terms of Victoria, giving
Victoria some sort of assistance..
PM: No they are not asking for assistance for straight
federal funding. The Committee of Melbourne proposals, for
instance, and the ones the Government of Victoria
are associated with go to the infrastructure of Melbourne.
It's not been a claim, by Victoria upon us for funds to
administer itself..
J: There has been talk within the Victorian government of
accelerating f ederal f unding f or housing, f or example.
PM: That hasn'It been mentioned.
3: Mr JKeatinr the dollar dropped again a level today
according to t~ he market it was a report going through

the markets t~ hat the Financial Review tomorrow is reporting
a budget deficit blow out of 8-10 million dollars. I'm not
expecting you to comment on what a newspaper may or may not
be going to print but can you tell us what the lastest
estimate on the budget deficit Is?
PM! I don't know Don. I don't know off the top of my head.
J: Could it possibly be anything within that figure range?
PM: Look I simply don't know and I would doubt that very
much and there's no point in me speculating on what
newspapers might say about numbers I don't know about,
J: ( inaudible)
PM: I think that is very unlikely, but no one has talked to
me about it.
J: Mr Dawkiniqs aid just a couple of days ago that..
PM: Yes, well that would be right. If he said that that
would be right.
J: ( inaudible)
PM! No I thought that it may be prudent on our part to see
how the application of legislation goes in respect of the
Tasmanian election and the ACT election and the by-election
in NSW and just see whether the Bill which was itself a
compromise of discussions in the Senate as one that actually
does fill the bill so to speak. With some practical having
been applied.
J7: Are there any circumstances in which you would scrap it?
PM: No. Let me at least reserve a right to have a look at
it. See how it has worked in these particular instances.
J: ( inaudible)
PM! There's no, point in me giving a cheek by jowl commentary
on elements of the Bill. I will have a look at it in total.
J: But your aim in that review would be to refine and
streamline not: to get rid of it?
PM It passed the House of Representatives the day I was
elected Prime Minister. Within a couple of days we had to
swear in new Ministers, a couple of days after that I had
President Bush~ here, a couple of days after that I had a
Cabinet meeting, a couple of days after that I had this. It
has not been on the top of my agenda the Bill I am
speaking about.
J: On a totally different subject Mr Keating I believe
tomorrow's your birthday, is that correct?

PM No its not. Saturday I think it is.
J: Wall what are you doing on your birthday on Saturday?
PM: Not very mouch I don't think. Have you got any ideas?
3: Are you shouting yourself a present.
PM: No, I think once yourtpast the Pour-O, on does have a
diminished opinion of birthdays. And I'm heading for the
J: On the mretings of the last couple of days, there seems
to be a lot of people coming out with a lot of enthusiam,
barely negat~ ive. How important do you think it is?
PM: If people come and say that they were positive and
enthusiastic-about the discussions I think thats how they
found them, not for cosmetic effects at the fran door, or
for effects beyond that but because that's how they found
them. I mean, that for instance that the Federal Government,
certainly al: the level of Prime Miniater and senior
Ministers would have consulted the Victorian trade union
movement, probably the first time in our period of office.
The Committee for Melbourne which is represented by the
Premier and the Government as well as senior people from the
business community and the trade unions have also enjoyed a
deep, relatively deep, discussion about various points of
interest which they think are important to Melbourne. and
Victoria. The business community, the BHPs, the banks etc.,
today Pacific Dunlop, Ford, are talking about their industry
perceptions about the economy in general, what they think
might be worth doing, what they think is sensible and
practical to do and they have a chance of having a serious
discussion with the members of the Government who are likely
to have the greatest impact on the statement. So, I think
that's a good process for them, but it'Is very good process
for us. So we said we'd come and listen and try and learn
and pick things up and I think we have, we have picked
things up and it is worth talking to people in this vein.
3: tha public, that there's these sort of talks going
on? PM: I should, think so. I think the public would probably
believe thait a spirit of co-operation, the Government
earnestly looking for ways to improve the way in which the
economy can now function and then the longer term augers
well for the economy. That is, that we are interested in
promoting a recovery and getting one as quickly as possible
and doing it: in ways which are deemed sensible and
reasonable by these various representative segments of the
community.... end of tranuicript

Transcript 8383