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Transcript of interview with Melanie Bush, Radio 7BU

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BUSH: It hasn't happened very often, in tact prooahly not since around the time of the Franklin Dam dispute has the Prime Minister of Australia graced our sunny shores with his presence but he has decided today to make a visit to the Braddon electorate. The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, welcome.

PM: Welcome. What's this sunny business?

BUSH: Yes, well that's about right isn't it? What does bring you to the north-west coast?

PM: Well I've tried to make a point since I've been Prime Minister of travelling around Australia. I do it a lot and a visit to this part of Australia was overdue and you've got a great advocate for this area in Senator Nick Sherry who's moved up here and assumed the responsibilities of

representation of the interests in this area and Nick wanted me to come and I said, right, we're here.

BUSH: So this is not a sign that there is a state or federal election imminent?

PM: No, no. You're here because I want to be here - you have me here because I want to be here.

BUSH: And I believe you were met at the airport at 10 o'clock this morning by a group of protesters. Considering your last visit here it would seem that if there weren't protesters they'd almost be conspicuous in their


PM: You've got it wrong I was met much more by a great group of very, very, very friendly people. One person just handed me very peaceably a petition.

BUSH: And what were some of their grievances?

PM: They were raising the issue about resource security legislation but they did it in a very friendly way but overwhelmingly there were supporters there.

BUSH: Now steering away from the question of resource security legislation to something which is ultimately


linked, is the question of a pulp mill primarily here in the north of the State or around the Burnie area. Very, very hot issue here. Do you really think that it's going to have the expected economic impact on the community?

PM: Well it can have a mill that was built in accordance with environmentally acceptable standards and I think that's possible it could have beneficial effects not just for the community but for the nation. And our view about it is in discussion with the Premier of Tasmania, Michael Field - who

I think by the way I might say is doing an outstanding job for his State - we are having very sensible discussions about this and if there is a specific proposal comes up as there very well may be then together we would want to do the work that is necessary to ensure that the resource is available for such a proposal in an acceptable way.

BUSH: Is it going to provide the jobs that we expect it will?

PM: Well you shouldn't overstate, no you shouldn't overstate and I don't think anyone has tried to overstate what it'll mean in that sense but it will be if there is a mill a very significant economic plus. Not only in terms of

direct employment but you've always got to apply a multiplier to it. You have, you know, x number of hundred people involved - well then that has an effect -BUSH: Obviously it's going to be very, very high technology and the more technology obviously the less jobs. .

PM: Yes, but you can't run mills of any sort in this world today without a significant number of people. You have two phases. You actually have the construction period which is a significant number of employment. Then you have a lot of

people in the actual operation period. But as I say, to whatever number of people are actually employed there's a multiplier effect. They generate further employment and activities. But I think, you know, Australians generally,

Tasmanians in particular, are now becoming more rational and sensible about these issues. We shouldn't see these sorts of things as an issue of either economic development or saving the environment. An intelligent community like we are - that's the Tasmanians and Australians - generally are

increasingly intelligent about these things. We can have both. We can have development with a proper discharge of our environmental responsibilities.

BUSH: Well we have a committee, the Pulp Mill Advancement Committee for Tasmania or PACT. Now they've quoted the CSIRO as saying that there would be negligible damage to the environment if a pulp mill was built here using the Kraft

bleaching process and yet the CSIRO have turned around and refuted that and said in fact yes there will be, particularly in the long term.

PM: No, the question of course of impact depends, you know to a very considerable extent upon siting. I mean, for

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instance, the previous proposal that we're not prepared to go ahead with was sited in a way which had environmental impacts which were quite unacceptable. I forget the exact figure but it was something like 12 tonnes of foreign products a day I think going into the ocean, I forget the exact figure, it was a very high figure and it was not

acceptable. But from what we hear there could be a siting of such a proposed mill here which wouldn't entail the sort of consequences that were involved in the previous one. The point is that what we are about as a Commonwealth Government and as a State Government is to say as far as this country

is concerned, as far as this State is concerned we need development, we can't just sit back and say there can't be any more development ever - there must be. The secret of it is to do it in a way which is environmentally responsible

and I think we can do both.

BUSH: But with the PACT Committee when they're saying that the CSIRO have said one thing, the CSIRO are saying they've said another it doesn't seem to be the argument where industry versus environment, more industry versus honesty if you like.

PM: I've been around so long now, both before being Prime Minister and since, that I have become very, very wary in coming to a decision about just taking at face value what someone pops up as an opinion. Sensible government is about

analysing a range of analyses that are made by your own people, by state governments with whom you have to deal and then you bring it all together and you get the right decision. But never get carried away by what some particular group may throw up and say here is the compelling answer to a totally complex problem - life is much, you know, harder than that.

BUSH: To another complex problem, particularly here. We have the highest unemployment per capita in the country particularly youth unemployment. Can we expect any sort of assistance in the future?

PM: What you can expect is an economic environment in which we're going to be making the basic decisions which will ensure that there can be growth and sustainable growth in the future and if we're going to be able to do that in

Australia we've got to have these things; we've got to first of all have a relatively low ... situation which we have now produced. For a generation Australia's inflation level has

been way above that of the rest of the world, particularly above that of our competitors. We are now down well below. We've got an inflation rate now, we've set down in this budget of three per cent for this coming year, for the year we're in, and that is going to be significantly below our major trading competitors. And secondly and importantly we

can keep that because we've got sensible arrangements with a responsible trade union movement in this country. The workers of this country and their organisations deserve, in my judgement, enormous congratulations for the

responsibility they've shown and they're going to, they're

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making us a much more competitive country. I mean, just say that we can get away from what sounds theoretical let me say to you, Melanie, I've just come straight to this station from an enterprise which I would just like to take the opportunity of shouting from the rooftops about and that's Elphinstone Brothers. I mean, it really came as a complete eye-opener to me. Here in Burnie an enterprise which is going out there in the most competitive sophisticated world markets, producing underground mining equipment against the American competitors, against Finnish competitors, taking

them on and beating them. Now they're doing that in a way which demonstrates the capacity of imaginative Australian management and cooperative Australian workers to go out

there and take on the world and beat them. Now w e 're helping increasingly to create that environment in which that can happen. We're also creating an increasingly well

trained and skilled workforce. Now I don't say any of those things in terms of denying the validity of what you say, that is that there are many of our people including our

young people who are currently unemployed. That's had to happen to some extent because we had to slow down the Australian economy because we were just sucking in imports at a level that we couldn't sustain. But the future of this country and I believe the future of this State is basically

sound. And I'd just say, you know, people ought to look at the example of Elphinstone -BUSH: So in other words you're saying hey look let's stick with it because you're not really going to get any

assistance you're just going to have to hang in there.

PM: Well take Elphinstone's where I've just been. They have got assistance. I mean, I was proud when I was talking to Dale Elphinstone, the owner and boss man of Elphinstone, he said what this Government has done has helped considerably because we do have development assistance grants and export assistance grants and he said they have been of great assistance. But in the end the development of Australian manufacturing industry is going to depend not

just on government assistance which is there but in the end it depends upon the sort of imagination, get up and go-edness of your Elphinstones.

BUSH: Now something that a lot of people have asked me in knowing that you're going to be here particularly people who are on social security benefits is the fact that there is no incentive to work particularly from the point of view that

if somebody's offered one day's work then there's no point in them actually taking that one day's work because it means that their social security benefit is going to be screwed around so they1 re not actually going to probably get another cheque for three weeks time and so they're saying hey, what's the point in working, what's the point in having a job.

PM: Well I mean, it's not like that at all. The facts are that the whole structure of our social welfare payments now has been developed in a way which has these objectives;

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firstly, it has become in a way that it hasn't been before targeted. It is targeted to those who are in need. I mean, that's, if you go back to our first days in Government, we stopped the concept of pensions for millionaires which was a nonsense. We've increasingly targeted assistance to those

in need and we've done it secondly in a way which has given an incentive to people to be able to get into employment and not immediately and necessarily lose benefits associated with that status. And overall that's a fact which has been

recognised right throughout the community, through the social welfare industry. You can't always, I mean obviously you can't always when you're dealing with the area cover every sort of anomaly but essentially we've followed the

right principles of targeting and keeping a position where the taking of work doesn't necessarily mean the loss of associated benefits. That's been reflected in this budget.

BUSH: Now how do you feel about the latest attack on your Government by the Liberals with the use of these bill posters? I mean, Labor isn't working neither are nearly one million Australians.

PM: Coming from the man who's now identified as the compassionate Ferrari driving millionaire this is quite remarkable. Now just let's nail the hypocrisy of Hewson and

let's nail it once and for all. This is the man who was the major economic adviser to my predecessor government - the major adviser. And what did he do? He produced the worst

recession this country had seen since the Great Depression but he just didn't do that but he also did it in a way which deliberately, deliberately smashed the real value of

benefits to those people who relied in their unemployment upon benefits, reduced the real purchasing power. So his record, his record is of deliberately creating unemployment but also at the same time deliberately reducing the value of benefits. Now if that was just history you could say alright Prime Minister, that's interesting but what about the present. I say learn from the past because that's exactly what he's promising to do again. When we reduced

interest rates in January of last year he attacked us. He said you ought to hang your heads in shame for reducing interest rates. In other words he was in favour of higher interest rates for a longer period. Secondly, what he's

saying right at this period, he's attacking me because I haven't slashed another $3 billion off social welfare payments. The poor would be the people who would suffer under this man. What does he say about the unemployed? After having them on the unemployment benefits for nine months he would throw them off. In other words the

unemployed after nine months would have no payment at all. So do you wonder that I get a little bit strong in my observations about the hypocrisy of the Ferrari driving Hewson. I mean, this is hypocrisy of monumental proportions.

BUSH: ... you seem to be obviously getting quite het up about it.

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PM: Not het up I just cannot abide the Tories of this country who have a record of commitment to privilege, bashing the poor, taking benefits off them so they can shovel billions of dollars into the pockets of the already powerful and privileged, getting up and posing as the protectors and the guardians of the underprivileged. They are the most massively hypocritical people that you've ever come across and Hewson personifies that hypocrisy. He was

the perpetrator, not just of unemployment but of the removal of benefits from the underprivileged and the unemployed and his policies today must create more unemployment and less benefits.

BUSH: Something you're making me wonder on a slightly different note and seeing you getting so angry about John Hewson, the Labor Party. How in the world does your wife Hazel manage to cope with all of this?

PM: Because she largely shares my views about the world. We're not, I mean obviously she's an intelligent person, I am, we don’t necessarily agree on every single issue but basically she -BUSH: I'd like to see an argument.

PM: Yes. They have assumed very considerable proportions at times. But I'm seriously saying the great strength I have in my relationship with Hazel is that she is as passionately committed as I am to these issues and

principles of a fair go and in her own right she does an enormous amount of work amongst the underprivileged, the people who need the support of the community. She does an enormous amount of that in her own right.

BUSH: And just lastly without, I didn't really want to touch on the leadership issue. I know we're sick of hearing about it. You're probably sick of hearing about it yourself.

PM: I can cope with any question you want to put about it.

BUSH: But with Paul Keating I was wondering, one, he did actually top you in a poll - quite a well known poll here a couple of months ago - he did top you as being Australia's most unsexy man.

PM: Did he? Well I don't know about this question of sexiness. I mean, you know, I'm too modest really to get into that area. I just go about the business of doing my

work, working very long hours and what that projects in terms of the minds of people about sexiness or not, either absolutely or in terms of comparisons with others, is a

matter of massive indifference to me.

BUSH: Well you've been seen as a charismatic the whole time that you've been in the public eye. It seems these days maybe your charisma is a little like the economy - recessed.

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PMi Well charisma and sex appeal are not necessarily the same thing. I thought you were talking about sex, relative sexiness a moment ago. But you just go on doing your job and meeting people and being yourself and we'll see. I happen to believe that when the time comes in 93, when the people have to make a decision about who they're going to be governed by I think they'll go for Hawke and the Party which

is about compassion for people. Now I don't think they're going to go for a Hewson and a conservative coalition which as well as deliberately creating a situation where they'd put more people out of work through slashing expenditures but would as well impose upon people of this country - and may I say particularly in regard to Tasmania which has relatively lower wage levels, slightly higher cost levels -

that the recipe for Tasmania from Dr Hewson is to whack them with a 15 per cent consumption tax that every good that they buy in the supermarket, every service that they purchase, they're going to have 15 per cent tax whacked on that. I mean, I think the Australians are going to say what a

strange sort of philosophy it is that this man Hewson and the conservatives which says we will bring down the tax on BMWs and Rolls Royce from 30 per cent to 15 per cent, we'll make the luxury cars of the rich cheaper while we impose a

tax on milk and electricity and the basic necessities of life so that we can make the already privileged better off at the expense of the low income, the disadvantaged, the low

to middle income people. Now that's the sort of judgement that people are going to have to make and I'm confident what their judgement will be.

BUSH: I think the Australian people in general are fairly confused by all parties at the moment but let's hope they do make a right decision. Thank you very much for coming in. I hope you enjoy your stay.

PM: It's been a pleasure Melanie, thank you and thank you to your listeners.