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Partial transcript of interview with Paul Turner, Radio 4BU, Bundaberg



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PRIME MINISTER

PARTIAL TRAMSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH PAUL TURNER, RADIO 4ΒΠ, ΗΠΜΡΑΒΙΒ» - 23 APRIL 1991

TURNER: The big news overnight, of course, is the Government's decision to dump the National Wage case decision from last week. The obvious question is why?

PM: Because it was an inadequate decision Paul. I don't intend to get into a slanging match, of course# with the Commission. But 1 think they have missed a great opportunity because what's important for this country, and may I say this area in particular, is that we restructure

our economy. We've got to face up to new challenges. That requires enterprise-based negotiations and the Commission said to all the workers of this country, the employees, you're not mature enough to handle this - you can't do it, we've got to be in charge of it all. Well frankly, that's

not a good enough decision so we're going to honour our commitment to the trade union movement - enter into negotiations and encourage employers to do it. But all, Paul, within the ceiling that the trade union movement must to commit itself to as to what will be the national

aggregate outcome, because unless we have that guarantee, well, then we can't continue to bring inflation down.

TURNER: As I understand it this decision, your decision, is unprecedented. To what extent do you see ramifications down the line?

PM: Now let's be honest about it. You can't foretell exactly what the outcome of this will be. My great hope is that the Commission will come to understand that its decision wasn't the most sensible it could have made, that

it should have had more confidence in Australian management and Australian workers. After all, they have shown a capacity already, Paul, to negotiate significant agreements. Look, if you take the examples of just what BHP has done. They've massively transformed that industry from one which was going to d o s e down when we came to office to one which

is now growing in its capacity to export. And this has all been done through the management and workers showing a great degree of maturity and transforming the workplace. Now, that's what can be and is being done around the country.

But the Commission seemed to think that, no, workers and management can't be trusted to do that sort of thing. Now I

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hope that they will see that that's not a sensible decision they «ads. I'm not concerned and neither are ay colleagues, we're not concerned to try and humiliate the Coimieslon. We just very sincerely believe, Paul, that they've Bade a wrong decision and we've got to go ahead and try and do the best

for Australia by getting our workplaces to change their culture. And they can only do that by sensible bargaining between management and labour which will bring about

significant improvements in productivity and only for which do they get, then, increases in wages. They will be related to achieved increases in productivity, but all within the fraaewerk of a commitment by the trade union movement not to have a wag*e blow-out. How that's the beet thing that could happen for this country, and we're determined to try and

bring it about.

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TURHKRt You've brought me to another point which has particular relevance here in Bundaberg, and this is the takeover bid for Bundaberg Sugar by Tate and Lyle. A lot of people believe there's something fundamentally wrong when an overseas company like Tate and Lyle can use its profits which are largely generated, of course, through its dealings

in subsidised European sugar, to buy one of Australia's best-run companies.

PM: Yes. well, I can understand that and there's always a lot of concern, as well as economic concern there's always a lot of emotion too, when well-known established producers are subject to take-over bids. I think I've got to say this, that if you look at our country today, we're a country of seventeen million people in a world of five and a half billion, Paul. We can't - if we're really sensible about our future - we can't pretend that we can put a wall around ourselves and say to rest of the world we're not part of the world. The fact that the economy, internationally-becoming

economy, is becoming internationalised, national boundaries are somewhat artificial now in the way that capital moves around the world and makes its decision where it invests. We've got to accept that we're part of that. But not just blindly and lay down like the puppy dog with its legs in the

air and say tickle my tummy. And that's why we've set up the Foreign Investment Review Board so that we do have guidelines which do take into account whether there are special reasons why a particular investment project should not go ahead. And within that framework I think we've just got to acknowledgement that this sort of thing is going to happen and recognise that if we are going to be able as a

country to - and I'm not saying this in regard to this enterprise here, that it may not have the beet technology that's available, it may well do - but generally speaking, in regard to the future, this country has got to be open to the best technology from all around the world. And that technology come» in the form of investment. You just don't say here's our technology, it comes because people invest in

an enterprise. What we've got to - the view I take is that - we've got to have confidence in ourselves to know that we

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are, in terns of our workforce, and I use ordinary workers and management, we can take on the beet of the world provided we*ve got the beat technology where it's available. How all that aeena - I'm sorry it's a long answer, I don't

think you can just answer this particular take-over in isolation, I think you've got to put it in that context - this is a tough, coapetitive, inter-related world and whether some people do like it or not, we can't say sorry

world we're hopping off - we're part of it.

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TURNER; The Govemaent has, of course, been working on waterfront refora now for quite a few years and we still have the crasy situation where it's cheaper for us to refine our raw sugar in Malaysia, because we can ship it there in bulk, than it is to refine it ourselves here and export the

finished product, h o w much longer Is that going to continue?

PMt Hell, we've already started to aake a big dent in the waterfront. We've negotiated these agreements already which are going to see productivity improvements in the Australian waterfront of up to sixty and seventy percent. It's already happening in grain handling and it's as a result of these agreements which are in the process of being finalised now. We're going to see that extended even more. How, I hear

soae sort qf noises in the last day or so froa the unions and the ACTU relating this to the National wage Case, They are raising questions. I see they're going to meet this afternoon down there. Well I'll be watching very closely to see what they've got to say because this waterfront refora

is absolutely fundamental as far as I'a concerned. But can l make this point - we've gone a long way now, we're going to get thousands of people off the waterfront, get younger people in, we're going to get rid of the pool employment so that now waterfront employees will be specifically employed by their own employer, which is going to lead to these

improvements of sixty/seventy percent in productivity which go right to the point you're talking about. But, we've now reached the stage where the next developments to a very large extent have got to be with the States, because it's

the port authorities themselves - we don't have any Constitutional power there - and so as pert of the process I've got going with the Premiers in the Special Premiers' Conference, these are the things that we're going to talk about together to see how we can improve the productivity, the practises of the ports under the State jurisdiction. When that's done, together with the things that we're

talking about, will go a long wey to meeting the admittedly valid nature of the objections that you've raised with me.

ends