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Transcript of news conference, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney



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COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

P R I M E M I N I S T E R

TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS CONFERENCE, POWERHOUSE MUSEUM, SYDNEY 12 APRIL 1991

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke can you tell us when the decision was made not to have a gold tax, the Cabinet decision?

PM: Well it was earlier in that year. Then of course in the election campaign period I have the authority and I consult with the Treasurer on these matters to formulate the decisions and the attitude of Cabinet that have been formed. And as I readily conceded in the Parliament yesterday, an examination of the record shows that I had had an incorrect recollection of the sequence of events as to the timing of the decision. I readily and straightforwardly conceded that to the Parliament. However, the basic point is that I have at all times been absolutely certain that I made no private commitment at the luncheon on the question of the tax, the gold tax. And of course the record absolutely confirms that. Because that morning, earlier, before the luncheon, I had publicly, on ABC Radio, made a categorical statement, given a categorical assurance that if re-elected the Government would not impose a gold tax.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you have said that you gave no commitment at that lunch, but as far as you recall, did the subject come up at all?

PM: It's entirely possible that at the luncheon the gold tax was discussed. You've got to remember that at that time in Western Australia it was a major issue. But the point is that as far as I'm concerned, and I'm glad that the record confirms

this, I gave no private commitment at that luncheon. No private commitment at that luncheon.

JOURNALIST: But you may have discussed the matter at the lunch?

PM: Well, as I say, it's entirely possible the matter could've come up. I mean this is a matter of some four years ago. I was there, as I've said in the Parliament, basically to give the record of this Government. It was an outstandingly good

record. I was talking about us, and I was talking about the weakness of the alternative. It's entirely possible that in the discussion the question of the gold tax came up. But what I have been at all times certain about is that I know, because

I know myself, I know the way I operate, that I gave no private

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commitment in that luncheon on this matter. It's not the way I operate. I wouldn't do it. As I say, I unfortunately had forgotten, when I spoke in Parliament, the actual sequence of events. And so when I asked my people, look have a good look, just have a look at the records, and when we did look at the records it's quite, it's manifestly obvious. Because that morning on the ABC Radio I was asked, if re-elected, will you

impose a gold tax. And I said categorically no. I mean there I'd said it publicly, categorically no tax on gold. That reassures me of- what I have been absolutely certain about. I mean, I just know myself. I don't operate that way. I knew

that I had given no private commitment.

JOURNALIST: What about the three year guarantee, Mr Hawke. Do you remember when that decision was made, not to have it for three years?

PM: I had obviously come to that conclusion in a public sense on that morning. But really, it had obviously been formulated in my mind before that. Because you will recall that in May of that year I'd made a statement to the AMIC, it was the Australian Mining Industry Council, and said there that we wouldn't do it. Now you can't make a statement that you're not going to do it in your next term and then do it. So that

statement had been made there. And then the question of the actual publication in writing developed, as you will remember, because we were not inclined, where you've made a decision when a group gets in touch and says will you put it in writing. If you did that you'd be putting things in writing for thousands of organisations. But we were forced into a situation where

the mining, gold mining lobby had got from the Opposition party a statement in writing. So on the 7th of July and there'd been communication with Mr Keating and his office on this, we decided that we'd put into writing what our position was. Because we were faced with the political situation, the Opposition had put it in writing. They'd said, were threatening, if you don't put it in writing then we're going to have a millions and millions of dollar campaign against you. So the decision then was to put it in writing. But clearly I had formulated publicly even before that morning in Perth that we would not impose it.

JOURNALIST: Senator Walsh has a different recollection. He says he and Mr Keating were very surprised when you put it in writing ...

PM: Mr Keating has made it quite clear that he knew.

JOURNALIST: But Prime Minister, both Senator Walsh and the Treasurer had indicated that they would like to introduce a gold tax in 1988. So why did you, instead of just saying we won't introduce it now why did you give it a fixed term?

PM: I mean, obviously in May I'd formulated the position. I couldn't stand up and say to the Mining Industry Council no we're not going to introduce it if you didn't mean that it was going to be in the term. And then I, obviously on that morning when we were getting closer and closer to the election and

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people wanted to know well were you. I mean were you really mucking around on this. I gave - you'll see the transcript of the ABC interview - I said there on that morning before the luncheon, categorically no.

JOURNALIST: ... your decision alone?

PM: Of course when you get into an election period, the Prime Minister has the authority to make, you know, the decisions. You're not operating then in a normal Cabinet situation.

Obviously I had to clarify, and I did. But I had it in my mind that if I'd just spoken to the AMIC as I had in May, you can't really say to the Mining Industry Council no w e 're not going to introduce it in the next term if in fact you're going to. But as the campaign developed, and we were right in the final weeks

of the campaign, we again were asked and I made it clear. And it's in that sense that I am totally confirmed what I've known at all points, since this has been raised, I know that I don't operate in the way that my opponents are trying to impute, that

I make some policy decision for Government on the basis of offer of financial favours. That's not my way of operation. I've been in public life for 31, more than that, about 33 years now. I don't operate that way. I knew that I hadn't done this and I'm just disappointed of course that my recollection about the sequence of events was incorrect as I'd put to Parliament. But on the other side I am terribly relieved that when you look

at that record you'll see that what I've been saying is right, because the public commitment had already been given.

JOURNALIST: Given that Laurie Connell's evidence differs from yours. Would you prepared to go before the Royal Commission and give your version of events?

PM: If the Royal Commission at any stage wanted to hear me of course I'd appear before it.

JOURNALIST: How much damage, Prime Minister, do you think this Royal Commission is in fact doing to the ALP generally, because some of your Ministers have certainly said they're alarmed by what's been coming out?

PM: Well, royal commissions can never be helpful politically to the party that's substantially involved. But you had a situation in Western Australia where the Premier of Western Australia believed in her judgement that with all the questions

that were around and were not going away that the only way to deal with it was to have the Royal Commission. That was her j udgement _and ..we have ..not—disputed that judgement. But let me say this as far as my Government is concerned and all members of my Government, I have absolutely no reason to have any

apprehension at all about the processes and what may come out of the Royal Commission. None whatsoever. Now look I think you had a question then I must go.

JOURNALIST: It's only in its infancy, are you concerned what, obviously there's a long way to go with this Royal Commission. Are you worried, is the Government worried - what could

transpire?

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PM: No. I'm not worried as far as my Government is concerned. I mean we've been in office for eight years and I think, may I say in a non-partisan sense, in the tradition of federal governments as distinct from some state areas but in respect of

federal governments they have a record of integrity and I say that and give tribute to my political opponents in that respect. I think in regard to federal politics in this country federal governments have a record of integrity. This Government of mine which is now in its ninth year has an

absolute reputation for integrity as well as competence. I have no apprehension at all as far as this Government is concerned or any of its members as to what may emerge in the Royal Commission.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask one question Prime Minister? Is the return of Brian Burke in any way the result of political pressure? His decision to come back early.

PM: No. You've got a situation where Brian Burke had made the - see he was going to give his evidence I believe about the 10th of June or something. I say that subject to correction. I think the 10th of June was the time when he was going to be giving evidence. He sought to have the time of giving that evidence brought forward and he has sought and been granted

leave to come home in time to prepare for that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke the Opposition has changed its mind on disclosures. Has this taken any of the wind out of the sails of the Government's attacks on ...

PM: No. I'm very pleased that at this stage a decision appears to have been made by the Opposition to support full disclosure. This represents a change of position from 1984 and a change of position of what they've been saying recently. However, Amanda, let me say that I understand that as recently as about midnight last night there were some sounds emanating

from the Secretariat of the Liberal Party that they may have some reservations about what could be involved in this. Let me say we will be putting the legislation before the Parliament requiring full disclosure and I trust and hope that the position that has been announced by the Federal Opposition parties will be maintained and that they'll support that position.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke ... ask you a question on ... Kurdish situation?

PM: Yes. Sure you can.

JOURNALIST: There are still calls here from the local Kurdish community that more should be done, Australia should be stronger advocating our position in the UN ...

PM: Well look no-one's been stronger than we have in stating our abhorrence that what has been done by Saddam Hussein in regard to the Kurdish population. But we haven't contented ourselves with just words. We've made funds available. I can

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assure you that we will do everything we can to try and mobilise international opinion to produce a situation where this persecution of the Kurdish citizens in Iraq will be brought to an end. As far as talking with the representatives of the Kurdish people in Australia you know that already my

Foreign Minister has had a meeting with them and I understand from my Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Gerry Hand, that he will, in this next week be meeting more of them.

JOURNALIST: Can I just check the answer to the first question? I'm sorry I didn't quite get that. When the first Cabinet decision was on the gold tax. There's some reports that it might have been in December 1986.

PM: I think it was at the end of 86 that the broad decision was made. It was that decision that we took through into 1987 and which I then fleshed out, as it were, in May at AMIC and then as you got closer to the election itself, with making

absolutely clear what that decision meant. As far as we were concerned it would mean that there would be no introduction of a gold tax into the Parliament if we were re-elected. I mean, it was, if you wanted a comparison if you like, I'd made a commitment in 1983 there'd be no capital gains tax in the life of the Parliament. There wasn't and then after that we then

said well we've gone through that period where we won't have it, we then subsequently introduced it. Now of course in regard to the gold tax we totally kept our commitment that there would be no gold tax in the life of that next Parliament which had to be the position of the Government given the

specific announcement that I'd made, then we nevertheless, in the life of the Parliament in honouring that promise not to have a gold tax in the life of the Parliament nevertheless announced that it would come into operation in January 91, as

it has done.

JOURNALIST: Do you think people are making too much of this three year business, if that was made after the Connell lunch?

PM: Look, obviously before the Connell lunch. I mean, you can't, in this country, be very much more public than going on ABC Radio. You'll see the words I used - categorically. I said, categorically no, if we're re-elected there will not - if

we're re-elected, so you've re-elected for three years, three year term, if I'm re-elected there'll be no gold tax.

JOURNALIST: So we should've taken that as read?

PM: „_Yes.__Particularly .if -you’ -d -been to the AMIC Council. I mean, how could I stand up in front of the AMIC Council and make that if I was going to say, well I mean that for one month.

ends