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Melbourne: transcript of doorstop interview: Michael Wooldridge, Ansett.



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www.pm.gov.au

7 September 2001

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD DOORSTOP, MELBOURNE

Subjects: Michael Wooldridge; Ansett.

E&EO………………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I just start by saying that I am really very sorry that Michael Wooldridge is leaving politics. He has been an outstanding Health Minister. He told me on Wednesday that after a very lengthy discussion with his wife he had come to the conclusion that given the age of their children, they’re very young, he just felt he had to devote a lot more time to his family. It wasn’t an easy decision, it is entirely based on those family and personal considerations and I know that he’ll find it quite a wrench to leave politics, he’s been very successful, he has been a great Health Minister, he’s been a very good parliamentarian, he’s a very good political strategist. I’m just very sorry that he’s going but I understand and accept the decision that he’s taken and the priority he’s given to his very young children. They’re only 10 and six. So regretfully but understandably given that priority he won’t be standing at the next election. I wish him well, I thank him most warmly for the contribution that he’s made to the Government. We’ve really seen dramatic reforms in health, we’ve lifted immunisation rates, we’ve resuscitated private health insurance, we’ve protected and enhanced Medicare, we’ve doubled investment in health and medical research. So it’s a very praiseworthy effort and in five and a half years he’s been one of the really great Health Minister’s that Australia’s had.

JOURNALIST:

Who will sell the Government’s health policy (inaudible) election?

PRIME MINISTER:

PRIME MINISTER

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Oh he will, he will do that right through until election day and he’ll do it very competently. There won’t be any gap there. He obviously stays on until the election.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)…

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m sorry. I can’t hear this with all that noise.

JOURNALIST:

Are you confident there won’t be any other Minister’s who might make this decision as well before the next election?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not aware of anybody else, I wouldn’t imagine so.

JOURNALIST:

On the taxation issue, there’s been a report that the ATO has said that revenue from the GST will come roughly as forecast at $24 billion. Are you aware of it and is that right?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we don’t have the final outcome for the last financial year, we don’t. But I haven’t been given any information that would make the estimate given by Access Economics standup. That’s the $8 billion one…

JOURNALIST:

Will you release any updated budget forecasts?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’ll just do the normal thing. Which is when the election is called we will release, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Department of Finance will release a statement on the accounts. That’s something that we bought in, remember? After 1996 and after the shameful suppression of relevant details by the then Finance Minister, Mr Beazley.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) from the Australian Workers Union has called on the Government to send a delegation to New Zealand to (inaudible) the government there and consider some sort of rescue package for Ansett. Would you consider doing this?

PRIME MINISTER:

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Well the next step in the Ansett/Air New Zealand issue is for the New Zealand Government to respond to the foreign investment application. I don’t think at this stage I should be sending delegations to New Zealand. The New Zealand Government knows how to handle these things and I respect the role of the New Zealand Government. We want to see competition, we want to see a strong Ansett, we want to see a strong Qantas. As I said in there we want to see other competitors as well. We don’t favour direct equity investments in companies. We don’t.

JOURNALIST:

Is there anything else the Government could do to ensure Ansett survives?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not going to give a running commentary on what is a commercial decision to be taken by the board and the managing directors of the two companies. They are both independent companies. It’s not for the Prime Minister or indeed anybody else to be giving running commentaries on how they’re going. I think it is quite unhelpful.

JOURNALIST:

Bill Shorten says in fact you do have a responsibility to try and save 15,000 jobs.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we always want to see more jobs that’s why we’ve produced more than 800,000 over the last few years. But I’m not going to just respond to each and every comment that is made on this issue.

JOURNALIST:

So can you rule out the Government injecting any (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER:

What I’m saying is we don’t favour equity investments. Direct equity investments because that is a bad principle to have direct equity investment by the Government in any company whether it’s Ansett or any other company. Now I want to make that very clear I do not favour and the Government does not favour a direct equity investment.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) other options would you…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no option has been put to us. So I’m not going to hypothesise about something that hasn’t been put. Try another tack but I’m not going to respond to it…

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JOURNALIST:

(inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh come on.

JOURNALIST:

Have you been briefed by the State Party yet on possible candidates for Mr Wooldridge’s seat?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh I’ve had a preliminary discussion with a number of people, I have no doubt that we’ll have a good field and we’ll have a good candidate and the seat will be retained.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is a pity to a lose a quality person but it’s you know the beginning and the end of it is in the reason that Michael gave. He has reached a personal decision that given the age of his children, the pressures that exist in modern politics on members of parliament who have young children that he wants to give a greater priority to that than his political career. Now that’s his decision, I respect it, I accept it, I’m sorry. Not that he’s giving priority to his children but I’m sorry that he’s leaving politics because he’s been a very good Minister. But that really is the beginning and the end of it, there’s nothing more to it than that, there’s a lot in that, it says a lot about the man. But I’m sorry but life goes on, we’ll find another Health Minister if we win the election and I’m quite certain the Liberal Party will find an excellent candidate. But he’s done a very good job and it’s right at a time like this that we pause and thank him and I record my thanks for the tremendous work that he did.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) are you disappointed Prime Minister that the Indonesians have refused to proceed with this detention centre (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t really want to talk about what’s happening in Jakarta because Mr Downer I understand is doing a press conference right at the moment. So I don’t really know exactly what’s happened, and I’m not going to say anything silly here and find out that it’s wrong.

Okay.

[ends]

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