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Transcript of news conference, World Congress Centre, Melbourne



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P R IM E M IN IS T E R

TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS CONFERENCE, WORLD CONGRESS CENTRE, MELBOURNE - 18 MARCH 1991

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke has John Button breached Cabinet solidarity by saying the Resource Security Legislation was based on a wrong perception?

PM: No. I think that in the period leading up to the statement there's been a lack of discipline by a lot of the Ministers. They've been doing a lot of talking. But the important thing is that we've made the decisions and as I

said when someone asked me about, was I upset about the leaks, I said; well yes I am but the important thing is I'm about making policy not making news. That's what we've done.

JOURNALIST: What about his comments that the greens would have a very good chance if they were to form nationally. Is it inappropriate for a senior Minister to be making those comments?

PM: You seem to be, you know, on a hopeless task, my friend, if you think you're going to get me here publicly getting stuck into one of my Ministers. You could stay here for an hour and you'll be wasting your time.

JOURNALIST: On political advertising, Mr Hawke.

PM: Yes, sure.

JOURNALIST: Will Australian politics be a more honest place if Cabinet accepts Senator Bolkus' recommendations tomorrow?

PM: In principle, you know, it should have that impact. I mean, let's face it, this is a very difficult situation. There are arguments obviously both ways but in the end what we all have to face up to is that the costs of electronic

advertising now are becoming just prohibitive. In a Federal election campaign they run into tens of millions of dollars and none of the parties have substantial membership bases which can support that sort of expenditure. We haven't got business enterprises which give us that sort of cash flow.

So that means in the end you depend upon people and institutions to provide you with financial support and experience in other parts of the world and I guess the experience of the Fitzgerald

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Inquiry shows the great danger of that sort of situation. So on balance I think the Australian people will say that it's wise to avoid those problems and in the end I don11 know that Australians generally get their big kicks out of watching televised political advertisements.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, why the re-emphasis on the Accord and inflation at this time?

PM: I beg your pardon.

JOURNALIST: Why the re-emphasis on inflation, bringing down inflation and the Accord at this time?

PM: Well I thought inflation was pretty important. Don't you?

JOURNALIST: Why the re-emphasis now and especially on the Accord.

PM: Obviously I brought down my statement on the Tuesday of last week and as I said in opening my statement here I've been watching the reactions very closely and one of the things that have been talked about is; well what about

labour market reform. In one of the worst Parliamentarian performances in recollection, Dr Hewson in replying to my statement concentrated on labour market reform. So it

seemed appropriate to me that as my political opponent and others had concentrated on this issue I should set the record straight and I have. He's got no response. In

fact -JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke is there any reason why you cannot set some sort of a date on when you'd expect inflation to be around four per cent?

PM: Let me make it quite clear about this four per cent. When I was talking on this issue originally I was talking about the magical figure of four. I'd like to see, we'd like, you know as a Government and as a community I think we'd like to see a situation where we got that magical

figure four in front of some point - four point something. Of course, if we get to four that would be marvellous but the important thing is we're on the downward trend and that is why the question of our labour market strategies is so

important. It's absolutely essential that we try and cement in this lower inflation path by getting wages outcomes which are predictable that will come in on target. I think we can and as I've said we've got a position where our expectations in regard to external factors are fairly good now, we shouldn't be seeing higher oil prices. So I, and the Treasurer and the Government, hope that we'll see that sort of situation emerging, as I say, where we could get the, you

know, four into the calculations, four point something even to four if you could. But the important thing that I'm trying to convey is that we can legitimately now as a community look at getting lower inflation rates. We are now below the OECD average and the underlying rate calculated by

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Treasury is 5.4 and for the first time in a situation where our competitors' rates are somewhat rising ours is coming down and w e 're getting into that situation of comparable inflation rates and that's what we've got to do and maintain.

JOURNALIST: Paul Keating couldn't make that three to four per cent figure predicted in the late 80s. Why can you make this four per cent figure now in inflation?

PM: One of the problems that we had in that period and why you must always build a sort of qualification into what you say is what happens to the terms of trade because if your

terms of trade, you know, go bad which means that you're paying very much more for your imports vis-a-vis what you're getting for your exports that can have an inflationary impact. And that's what hit us, you remember when we came

to office we had inherited double digit inflation of the order of 11 per cent and we got it down to five per cent by the beginning of 1985 and then we got hit by the massive downturn in the terms of trade and that pushed it up but never back to what we inherited. Now obviously as we are a

trading nation you have to have that sort of qualification in the background of what can happen to the terms of trade and that's what smacked us then. But the important thing is I think we should give credit to our workforce for being prepared to exercise wage restraint. I hope that the external factors will work our way and if we do that and if we're consciously striving to cement this rate in, well we've got a chance of doing it.

ends