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Transcript of news conference, Queanbeyan Public School



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PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS CONFERENCE, QUEANBEYAN PUBLIC SCHOOL, QUEANBEYAN - 23 MAY 1991

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, today you become the equal longest serving Labor Government. You must be pleased?

PM: Well it is a matter of pride and a matter of challenge - yes.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will the abolition of compulsory voting lead to a more democratic system as the Opposition's proposing?

PM: No, of course it wouldn't. This is another example of the cynicism of the conservatives in this country. They obviously see it as a possibility of getting some political advantage for themselves. They've had the opportunity in

the states - except in Victoria and New South Wales where the provision for compulsory voting is in the Constitution - but in other states they've had the opportunity of doing this. They haven't done it because they've realised that in the Australian tradition it wouldn't be appropriate. It is pure cynicism.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you agree with the Reserve Bank there's room for a 10 per cent devaluation of the dollar?

PM: I don't enter into the specifics about devaluation. These things need to be said about the level of our exchange rate. We have floated the exchange rate and therefore that is determined - the level of the dollar is determined by the

interaction of forces within Australia, what's happening in our economy internally and the judgements that are being made by other countries. There's something like $40 billion

a day crosses the exchange and in that situation you can't, by definition, control or really influence the rate. The second thing to say is obviously from the point of view of our exporters a lower exchange rate would be helpful in making it more competitive. In that sense some lower level would be useful but you can't sort of think of that in

free-fall terms because if the exchange rate goes too low well then you have the problem of inflationary pressures. So broadly speaking I see that a somewhat lower rate would be helpful in a world where we do have to become more competitive but, as I repeat, the extent to which that can

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fall is constrained by these other considerations including inflation.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke ... response to the assassination of the nun, the Australian nun in Peru?

PM: Well absolute horror. From the report I've received it was a cold blooded execution by this terrorist group in Peru and the tragedy is enhanced by the fact that here was a woman of commitment and integrity there working in the countryside of Peru to help uplift the ordinary people of

that country, no political motivations, a woman who should have been entirely safe in terms of the humanitarian work that she was doing. We don't have a full-time ambassador in

Peru but it is the case that our Ambassador to Peru who operates from Brazilia is on an official visit in the country, in Peru at the moment, and we are ensuring that we get all possible information and we will of course be

requesting that the authorities in Peru take every step to track down these cold blooded assassins. It is an horrendous and despicable event.

JOURNALIST: Will there be a formal protest?

PM: Of course there will.

JOURNALIST: Sonia Gandhi's been chosen to lead a Congress Party. Do you think she should take up that offer and how good to you think -PM: That's entirely a matter for Sonia. She will be torn, obviously, by conflicting considerations. She has an enormous commitment to her adopted country, she was Italian by origin but I can tell you from the experience I've had in meetings with her that no-one is a more committed Indian, if

I can put it that way, than Sonia has become and she will have a sense of that commitment. She will have a sense of commitment to her late husband, Rajiv, a view that she would want to carry on his work. Against that, of course, she has

the knowledge of the assassination of her mother in law to whom she became very deeply attached, and of her husband and of course, the bond between them was enormously deep and she'll have the sense of duty to her children. So these are

profoundly moving emotions that must be going on within her and it is a decision which, by definition, only Sonia can make.

JOURNALIST: Will it be business as usual at next Tuesday's Caucus? One Melbourne radio station's speculating that you've got some special tactics in mind.

PM: I thought you were about news not history. I mean that particular item has been put to bed days and days ago.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, on a local level, is the Federal Government likely to extend transitional funding for the local Government in the ACT?

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PM: The question of the funding arrangements for the ACT will be an item on the agenda at the Premiers' Conference. I don't discuss that in advance.

JOURNALIST: South Africans look as though they might be coming over here with a rugby union tour next year. Are you happy with that?

PM: As I made it quite clear in the Parliament that Australia, under my leadership, has taken the lead in imposing sanctions on South Africa and against all the

opposition of the conservative parties in this country, I might say, there is now international recognition that those sanctions have brought South Africa to its senses and I've

applauded the moves that are being made by the Government of South Africa. I have said that just as we took the lead in the area of imposing sanctions so we want to be in the forefront in seeing South Africa provided it continues with its reforms. We want to be the lead in seeing them come

back into the international community of nations. We said at the London conference earlier this year with the Commonwealth countries that in regard to sport, provided that there was full integration within South Africa then they should be allowed back into international competition. That view was accepted by the Commonwealth countries. So provided there is full integration of rugby within South Africa then they will be welcomed back into international competition, including with Australia.

ends