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Transcript of doorstop interview: Astor Base Metals, Sydney: 6 August 1993

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J: Mr Prime Minister, the economy grew by 1.2 per cent in the June quarter. That is remarkably good.

PM: It gives us about 3.3 per cent for the year which must put Australia either well up or as high as any country in the OECD. So it is good news for the economy and it will give a lot of people a lot of encouragement. Could also say, let me just remind people of what Dr Hewson said. He said we were heading for a double dip recession - now not only did we not double

dip, but we are now growing just about as fast as any OECD country and that is why the Leader of the Opposition's gloom message is not to be appreciated and not to be tolerated. The Opposition bagged the 'One Nation' policy up hill and down dale and it is 'One Nation' and the public

spending and a shift in the Budget balance into deficit which has promoted a substantial part of this growth, but we are now seeing the private sector starting to come though. So it is encouraging news generally.

J: Is this the private sector growth that you have been long awaiting for, the Government been waiting for?

PM: Yes, and we are still seeing a good solid contribution from public demand, but private demand is starting to come through as well.

J: Was the figure what you might have expected, it was above market expectation wasn't it?

PM: No, it wasn't... .they expected much less than that. Anecdotally, I am standing in a factory right now. I get around and I see what people are doing and I listen to what they tell me about their orders and what have



you. So I have had the impression recently, and I have said so, that anecdotally one's had the feeling that the economy has started to pick up and that people are telling, repeating stories about their business experiences and I think this is tallying with the official figures. When you get that happy match of the official statistics and anecdotal evidence of

what is happening in the economy then this gives you a much better picture.

J: What about employment pick up Prime Minister, when would you hope to see that?

PM: We are starting to see the growth and people are starting to put people on. As the proprietor of this business said this morning, he has put twenty people on in the last year. As the growth picks up the employment will start, the recovery has been, as the economists say 'productivity laden'. That is just simply code for saying we have been getting more output from fewer people. But as we get even more output companies will have to

rehire people and we will start to see employment pick up.

J: Will the Government now reconsider the Budget in the light of these figures?

PM: We have ourselves believed that the economy was strengthening, we never accepted for a moment Dr Hewson's gloomy view that we were about to go into a double dip recession. How incredible those comments of his now must seem that just a couple of months ago he was trying to tell people in the election campaign we were headed for a double dip

recession. No, the Government thought that the economy was strengthening slowly and it has been, but it has now picked up a bit.

J: Do you think that will be a sustained ...

PM: Yes, very much so and the other thing is you have got the juxtaposition of this encouraging growth number with a very low inflation number of a week or so ago. So you have got the growth with low inflation. We had a combination like this thirty years ago in terms of low inflation.

J: And how long can that be sustained?

PM: I think we have broken the back of Australian inflation and that has been one of the great changes of the last couple of years.

J: Does this take the pressure off the Government to spend more to try to get the economy to pick up?


PM: As the Government has said, we have announced two things in the last couple of weeks. One, that we are bringing the tax cuts forward which will keep this growth going - we have got some momentum now, the key thing is to keep it going, the tax cuts will help keep it going. As well as that we have been able to effect another half a per cent reduction in

interest rates. So these things are both good things to keep these encouraging figures today moving.

J: Mr Keating, are relations with Aborigines cracking?

PM: No, but I think what the claim yesterday from the Aboriginal community was, was that the Government had not consulted them. That was patently untrue. The full Cabinet met with about thirty broad representative people from the Aboriginal community, they were the first group we consulted on

Mabo, a smaller representative group of that Aboriginal group met the Ministerial Committee of Cabinet. I have seen Mr Dodson the Racial Discrimination Commissioner now on three occasions, all for about an hour each time, and I saw representatives of the Land Council for about an hour before the last Cabinet meeting. So claims by the Aboriginal community that the Government has not consulted with the Aboriginal

community are patently untrue.

J: Would you subscribe to veto?

PM: And the other thing, can I say Aboriginal leaders have got to face up to the responsibility of leadership, and that is to tell their people what they know to be true, what has been said between the Government and themselves truthfully and honestly and to carry the responsibility and

burden of leadership.

J: And are you implying that the leaders that were elected at the Mount Eva Station are not in fact doing that?

PM: No, I am implying that the ones the Government has met to date are not giving an adequate picture of the claims being made on Aboriginal peoples behalf and to the extent to which the Government has meet many of those claims.

J: ... is there room for compromise on the question of veto?

PM: Every substantial Aboriginal person in a position of leadership knows that I said and the Cabinet said that a generalised veto was not on and it was never going to be on. What they wanted was a right of consultation, they said we want the right to be consulted. So Cabinet two weeks ago gave them a right of consultation, a right of negotiation and a right to an


arbitration and in doing so I thought the utterances then from Aboriginal leaders encouraging ones, reflected the general approval that policy change met with Aboriginal people. But the notion that we go way beyond

that and provide a generalised veto is not something, right from the outset, the Government said it would encourage.

J: Prime Minister, the Eva Valley meeting appears to have produced and perhaps for the first time a united Aboriginal leadership on Mabo, is that in itself a breakthrough for the Government?

PM: It is a breakthrough to have a group always able to represent Aboriginal people.

J: Has that been the problem with Mabo so far for the Government?

PM: I think it is a problem with the Aboriginal community in general. That is, it is not easy for them to decide who should represent them, but if they are deciding who should represent them I should hope that the moderates are not placed in a minority position; that those who know, that here a just and

lasting settlement has to be made.

J: Are those with more extreme views perhaps getting the upper hand and evidence in Katherine?

PM: There might have been some evidence of that yesterday, I hope not.

J: Do you see this as a set back for the reconciliation process?

PM: No, I don't think so, but again let me repeat the point - Aboriginal leaders have got to lead, if they want to take leadership responsibility they have got to lead and not simply be run by slogans.

J: One last thing Prime Minister before you go, I arrived late and you may have been asked, are your ears ringing from Dame Pattie's comments yesterday?

PM: Dame Pattie is a private person and she is entitled to her views. I do not agree with her views obviously, but she is entitled to them.