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Transcript of unedited interview with Paul Bongiorno, Katrina Lee and Glenn Taylor, Ten Network



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P R IM E M IN IS T E R

TRANSCRIPT OF UNEDITED INTERVIEW WITH PAUL BONGIORNO, KATRINA LEE AND GLENN TAYLOR, TEN NETWORK - 22 AUTGUST 1991

E & Ο E - PROOF ONLY

BONGIORNO: Mr Hawke, thanks for joining us. Going to the Budget, it's just day three since it was brought down and Government MPs across all factions seem to be jittery. The job forecasts even have the Left talking of the need perhaps of a mini Budget early next year. It hardly seems to be a great vote of confidence.

PM: Well I think everyone's naturally disappointed. As we were framing the Budget were disappointed that the unemployment figures are going to stay high for some time. It will be in the second half of this financial year

employment will start growing and the unemployment will start coming down. But for the year as a whole it's going to stay pretty high. Now what we've got to do is to make sure that we make the decisions that are going to mean that the recovery is going to bring secure jobs. I mean if you tried to spend your way into employment growth, you may have some

initial apparent benefit. But it wouldn't last.

BONGIORNO: You didn't rule out a March statement in Parliament today.

PM: Because we've had six supplementary statements in the period we've been in Government. If we make the decision that one is desirable then we will do it.

BONGIORNO: On interest rates, there seems to be some confusion. What is the Government's position? Last night in Sydney you seemed to hold out that they could come down -PM: In Sydney I didn't say anything different to what I've

said recently. ... from what the Treasurer has said. We've simply said that when those good CPI figures came out and some people were saying that should automatically mean a reduction, a further reduction in interest rates, we said we wanted to just watch it further, we wanted to see how it

bedded down. We had a Budget coming up, we had negotiations with the trade union movement. We've had them now and we'll watch the reaction of the Budget and w e '11 make the decisions in that context.

BONGIORNO: Well the Treasurer today in a doorstop said now' time for interest rates to drop. You seem to

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be indicating that the banks at least have scope to drop rates further.

PMi Well that view has been expressed - well it had been by Paul while he was still there and the Treasury hold that view that there's still some movement in the official framework that's been set for the banks to be a little bit more generous. Of course they've been burnt by some of the bad decisions and they perhaps are being, in the judgement

of some, unduly cautious. But the further question of interest rates will still be on the agenda, it continues to be on. But clearly neither I nor the Treasurer are going to say well it’s going to happen tommorow or next week.

LEE: Mr Hawke, Katrina Lee in Sydney. On the Medicare issue what you appear to have done is to begin dismantling what is surely a Labor sacred cow.

PM: Well you say that if you don't understand the realities how can you be dismantling a fundamental system when first of all you ensure that 4h million people, those who are the most needy, are not going to meet any additional charge.

Secondly, when according the right principles you very significantly improve the safety net factor. For a family of four where they would have had to reach a figure of just under a thousand dollars before they reached the safety net now we've brought that down to 246 so the basic principles

are absolutely inviolate.

LEE: But a lot of people look upon the Labor Party Medicare as being a plan that was equal to all Australians, all Australians equal before a doctor, rich, poor or pensioner and now they see that they're having to pay $3.50 and that's

what they see coming out of their weekly household budget.

PM: Well it's not going to be a matter of weekly. The average number of visits -LEE: Or a visit to the doctor.

PM: Yes, but what I'm saying is the average number of visits to the doctor per year are the order of four. So you've got to get this into perspective. If you believe or if you want to operate on the basis that there is a

bottomless well of money which just comes off some Christmas tree which can provide everything - education, defence, health, everything in the community at no cost to anyone at all then you can advance these sort of arguments. What is happening is that there has been a massive increase in the

servicing by doctors, by GPs far in excess of the increase in the population. You just cannot forever leave that unattended. But what we have done is to make sure that we adhere to the principles that no person in this community, as distinct from the Australia we inherited in 1983, need have any fear about being covered. Everyone is covered in

respect of hospital. Everyone is covered in respect of doctors. It is a case of those of us who are somewhat better off than the 4% million of the least advantaged will

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perhaps make a small contribution to deal with a problem which is confronting the community as a whole.

TAYLOR: Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Glenn Taylor in Brisbane. Turning if we may to the failed coup in the Soviet Union, the plotters sought to exploit the dissatisfactions in that country, the food and commodities

crisis. Those problems still exist there and I wonder whether you believe there's a role for Australia in perhaps solving that?

PM: We can't solve their basic problem and that is because they've had a rotten, irrelevant, economic system of a central command economy which by definition could never work. When I had the very long meeting with President Gorbachev back at the end of 1987 he said to me then, he said that the Soviet economy was in a pre-crisis condition and that is because of the way in which they go about producing and distributing things. They've got to get away

from that system. That is the fundamental and there's nothing Australia can do to rectify that other than to make it clear that we support the economic and political reform processes that are going on. Now as far as assisting them

in that process, well then there are things that we can do and indeed in this Budget there is a significant amount of money made available for a trading assistance scheme to the Soviet Union. I immediately put that on hold when the coup was announced but now that that' s being fixed up I've ordered that that be lifted and we will be trying to cooperate with them. I think there are other areas in which we may be able to be of assistance. For instance in the

area of transport we have experience in this vast country of how to conduct relevant transport operations. We may be able to be of assistance to them in that way. But we can't overstate, this country of 17 million people, what we can do

to help. The thing is we have a total commitment to do what is reasonably within our capacity to help them because it's not only a matter of what's good for the people of the Soviet Union but for all the world the Soviet Union, which

is having a more efficient economy within a liberal society, is something which is going to make for a more secure world.

TAYLOR: Within that do you see a greater place for Australia's primary commodities?

PM: Well, we obviously want a world system in which we don't have the corruption of international trading which exists now, which means that we don't have the same degree of access to the Soviet Union as perhaps we've had before because of the dumping of subsidised products there. We would like to have access there in a very competitive way

and if we do that not only can we, in the Soviet Union but elsewhere, we can beat the Americans and beat the Europeans. But in terms of agriculture the great tragedy for the Soviet Union has been twofold. One, they have an inefficient

system of production. There's collectivisation, which still characterises the system there, is inefficient. That's the first problem. The second is in their distribution system.

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The great tragedy is that the Soviet loses between a quarter and a third of its crop. After it1s grown and harvested it then gets lost, wasted, destroyed or goes bad ... under the distribution system. So that's an area in which we and perhaps other nations can help them get a more efficient maximisation and utilisation of what they do in fact produce.

BONGIORNO: Thank you very much Mr Hawke for joining us tonight.

PM: It was my pleasure Paul. Thank you very much.

ends