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Transcript of news conference, Wrest Point Hotel, Hobart



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

TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS CONFERENCE, WREST POINT HOTEL, HOBART, 27 JUNE 1991

E & Ο E - PROOF ONLY

JOURNALIST: Will you be speaking at all today on the uranium issue?

PM: There doesn't seem to be going to be any debate as I understand it. It's pretty just a ... process. So I don't think it requires any intervention.

JOURNALIST: How's the Conference ending up? I mean there's been a lot of talk about the factions to begin the week. How's it ending?

PM: Well the factions are still there cooperating very effectively. I think it's been an effective Conference in that sense. The different groups have, as we all know, different emphases about how we should go about the process

of change and reform. I think they've shown a high level of intelligence and cooperation. It's been very constructive.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, you signalled some spending initiatives in the budget. Would you be seeking to offset those initiatives with cuts or not?

PM: I said in the speech, as you'll recall, that it will be a fiscally responsible budget and it will be.

JOURNALIST: Are you in favour of the print media inquiry?

PM: I'm quite relaxed about it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Conference has benefited from Paul Keating staying away?

PM: This is an issue in your mind. I don't think it is anyone else’s.

JOURNALIST: How great a need is there though to help people who are hurting because of the recession despite the need also for fiscal responsibility?

PM: Well these things are not alternatives. If you don't exercise the appropriate fiscal responsibility you'll hurt people more.

JOURNALIST: How do you believe the Conference responded to your speech yesterday, particularly your call to them to gear themselves up for the election two years early?

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PM: I was very pleased with the response to the speech. Generally the reaction seems to have been very favourable. The important thing is I think it's set in the minds of the

Party the structure of the campaign, the purpose of it and I think it's created a situation in which - as it properly should be - the Party is confident about going up to '93.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, just on the budget, you said it will be a fiscally responsible budget. Does that mean that the deficit won't exceed the starting point of $4B?

PM: I'm not going to the precise details Geoffrey. I simply say that there will be some savings obviously. There'll be new initiatives and that will be done within a framework which we've followed on every occasion in the last eight years of overall fiscal responsibility. We have a position where, of course, the impact of the recession has

significantly reduced the budget surplus on which we're operating and the inbuilt stabilisers will operate in a way which means that as the economy recovers - as it undoubtedly will - the basic structure of the deficit will be sound and we'll see the budget then through time move into surplus as

the economy recovers. So we'll make the decisions consistent with those existent facts which are appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Has the Conference reunited the Party after the leadership challenge?

PM: The Party was never ununited on that issue?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, were you disappointed that Conference adopted a motion condemning Israel for expanding into the occupied territories yesterday?

PM: I think the resolutions of the Conference in regard to the Middle East and on foreign affairs generally have been balanced. It's known, and I've said it myself, that we think that the Israeli Government could've conducted itself differently in regard to certain aspects of its policies and

I've said that myself. I think the resolutions recognise that there needs to be appropriate responses, not just from the Israeli Government, they are one of the important players, but from others. The other States in the area have to recognise Israel, have to recognise the security of

Israel and it really behoves all the parties to sit down at the conference table and work out the way to peace in the Middle East. And that is capable of being done.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, probably the most controversial resolution from this Conference has been the republican resolution. That's the one -PM: You think it's the most controversial one, do you?

PM: It's the one that's attracted most comments on radio and letters to the editor. What are your views?

PM: I've already expressed my views about it. I said it's inevitable that one day Australia will become a republic. Now just how quickly that happens I feel has got to be a matter for the community to allow itself to express. That

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view of mine is consistent with the resolution that’s been adopted by the Conference.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the year 2000 is a long enough time for a debate on that?

PM: Well we'll see, we'll see. I mean obviously if you were to be at a position at the end of that period where the community was very deeply divided you'd look at that. But a

decade is a fairly long time - certainly according to the timescale of politics.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, the move which was aborted for a set of national land rights principles, what is your attitude to development of such principles in future?

PM: Well I wasn't particularly moved by the process that was introduced into the Conference on this issue. We will proceed with our relations with the Aboriginal people according to the timetable and the principles, the approach which has been well laid down by this Government. I didn't

think that overall approach that has been well thought through by the Government was particularly assisted by the proposal that was put forward and not proceeded with.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, the Premiers have complained of a lack of flexibility with tied grants in federal funding. Can you give them any joy in the Special Premiers' Conference?

PM: Well, we've got our working parties consisting of the Commonwealth and the States' offices working on that and that will be considered in the appropriate timescale that has been set down by the Special Premiers' Conference.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, they're suggesting the Conference could wind up this afternoon. Can I ask what you believe the highlights of the Conference have been for you and

secondly what's your reaction of criticisms that debate has not been strong enough or lengthy enough and the business being rushed through?

PM: Well the latter is obviously an absurdity. I know that people would - particularly perhaps from the media - understandably would rather see vigorous debate, blood on the floor. It's much better for you. You get more

colourful stories. But I think the significant thing about the Conference has been the maturity of the factions, the way in which they have been prepared to talk with one another, work things through. And it inevitably means that when you do that, by definition you don't get that sort of

blood and guts on the floor. Bad luck for you, good luck for us.

JOURNALIST: Have you considered recording Solidarity Forever and using it as a fundraiser?

PM: I've been overwhelmed by responses not only from Australia but from abroad following last night and I have my people seriously considering the range of options. I think

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the possibilities for financing the next campaign are improving very considerably.

JOURNALIST: The Labor Party owns a number of radio stations. Will it go straight onto the play list?

PM: Well that's part of the negotiations. But I have been overwhelmed, as I say, by the range of offers that have come through. It's very touching.

JOURNALIST: John Dawkins argued in his paper this week that current immigration levels are hurting the economy and bad for employment and he says the immigration intake approved by Cabinet should be halved. What's your view?

PM: John Dawkins was a member of the Cabinet which has endorsed the current position.

JOURNALIST: Do you support an ending to the business migration scheme?

PM: I support what Mr Hand is doing. That is, he's examining the report into this scheme. I'll be looking forward to receiving his report and we'll act on the basis

of a very mature consideration of that report.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, would you like to see the national wage case reopened, and if so, when?

PM: Yes. It should be reopened I think. It looks as though most of the parties, and perhaps including the Commission itself, are thinking about an earlier, a somewhat earlier reopening of that than had been anticipated before.

I tend to think that would be a good idea. You'll appreciate that in all my public comments I recognise that there is going to be a continuingly important role for the

Industrial Relations Commission. I regret the sort of hiatus and impasse that's occurred. I think that these things will work themselves out in the not too distant future in a way which will see a role of continuing

importance for the Commission, as there should be, but within a framework of the principles that have been advanced by the ACTU and a range of employers and the Government which want to see enterprise bargaining being able to go

ahead so that the increases that the Australian workforce get will be associated with achieved productivity increases.

JOURNALIST: How would you reopen the case? What would you do differently?

PM: That's a technical matter. There's no need to worry about that. When the parties and the Commission are ready for that to happen, it's a matter that can easily be done.

ends