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Prime Minister press conference



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PRIME MINISTER

Ε. & Ο.Ε. - PROOF ONLY

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE - 18 JULY 1985

PM: Ladies and Gentlemen, sorry to keep you waiting. Over to you.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister,there has been a considerable amount of opposition within the trade union movement ... (inaudible) BLF. Is that: potential ... to cause the Government to retreat in any way?

PM: No, there has also been a great deal of support. The Government made it clear in its Cabinet decision that we hope that we can get trade union support. The Government will make its decision in this matter. The Government has

said strong and effective legislation was needed. That legislation was being drafted under the direction of the Minister and he will be bringing that to the Cabinet next week. The Government will make the decision. Once the

decision is made I hope, and expect, to get the necessary level of support from the trade union movement.

JOURNALIST: Is Cliff Dolan out of step with the general view of the trade union movement?

PM: 1 am not here to count the steps or get the marching order of the trade union movement. The Government is completely in order on this and will make the decision which I believe is the necessary decision in the light of history

of this union. It's behaviour is unacceptable. I, of course, would be one of the last who would seek to de-register a trade union. I believe the action of the Builders Labourers Federation consistently now has put itself out of line with

the mainstream of what legitimate trade unionism is about. And the Government has reacted accordingly.

JOURNALIST: So is Cliff Dolan out of line as well?

PM: I'm not here to say whether Cliff Dolan is in ©rr out of line. We have had questions for some months about whether people are in or out of carts. I'm now not going to substitute in or out of line.

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JOURNALIST: Is there any chance the BLF will get one more chance?

PM: No, we've made our decision quite clear.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, are you as hopeful as Mr Willis appears to be that you will get majority ACTU support in the end and what is that optimism based on?

PM: Well, I base it upon a number of statements that have been made publicly by the ACTU over recent times, including, as Mr Dolan's name has been mentioned, an observation in 1984 that they were on their last chance. They have a history of brincksmanship of when there is appearance of the possibility of action, of retreating - but on every occasion without exception in the past, they have then reverted to v action. Which, may I say, is not simply action against

particular employers, but what has been so repugnant to so much of the trade union movement has been action against fellow trade unionists, against the interests of fellow trade unionists. And there comes a point at which government has got

to say - enough. And we have done that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you accepted that having gone down this path there is no turning back - that you must achieve de-registration?

PM: I have said that. The Cabinet decision is quite clear. And I have said in my previous answer, Barrie, that the Minister will be bringing the legislation - the proposed legislation - - to Cabinet next week.

JOURNALIST: How do you deal with the bad eggs in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, without also affecting the good BLF people in the _ other States.

PM: Yes, sure, your question is precisely one of the issues that the Minister is considering and that the Cabinet discussed. And that will be part of the consideration of the Cabinet next week.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, how will you convince employers who are reluctant to back you of the need to back you. Are there any measures going to be introduced? ;

PM: Well I would hope that there would be a range of reasons that would be advanced - some in the mind, some perhaps in more sensitive parts. Obviously I would think that builders should understand that in the longer term their interests and the

interests of their industry and the interests of the community, depend upon having a rational system of industrial relations within which, of course, there is, as there*, appropriately should be within a democracy the opportunity for legitimate

trade unions to put points of view and for there to be rational interchanges between employers and organised workers.But in the end you have got to have a situation where those in the industrial relationship can rely upon the word of the parties to the relationship and can rely upon the fact that there will be civilised behaviour within the industrial environment in

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which they operate. And I would expect that employers would understand that. Secondly, I would expect that they would understand that clearly the community has had enough of the behaviour of the BLF and would respond to what I perceive to be the clear community position on this. Thirdly, we will of

course be looking at the position, not only of Commonwealth contracts, but we would be also expecting State Governments to adopt a similar position. So, I would hope and expect that that range of relevant considerations would produce co-operation with the Government from employers in the industry.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, as a result of your discussions on tax since the Summit, are you in a position to say that the Government will proceed with some sort of broadening of the indirect tax base or is one option still to the rationalisation of existing wholesale taxes?

PM: WEll, Mike, I think you would see that in the position that the Cabinet adopted - it reflected the, sort of majority views at the Summit, that there was room for broadening the indirect tax base. Now, the precise way and the areas within which that would be done will be specifically a matter for the

committee that I have established under the chairmanship of Treasurer, Paul Keating. And, may I say, if you will excuse me just elaborating a bit beyond the specific question you have put, that I would expect from discussions I have had with Paul since,

that he would be bringing an integrated package forward by September. It is conceivable that there may be, for timing reasons, a couple of particular issues which may come in advance of that integrated-package, but, of course, those elements, if

they do come forward as indeed the elements which he brought forward yesterday, would themselves still be part of an integrated whole approach to tax reform.

JOURNALIST: Would they include capital gains tax, Mr Hawke, the early measures?

PM: As to the timing, I have had no specific discussion with Mr Keating as to whether that would be separate from the integrated package.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, has the Government carried out an economic study or a social study to the effect of .... on negative gearing. I ask the question in view of the remarks made in the last couple of days about the effect on rental

accommodation. Will you make such a study available?

PM: There is no specific study been undertaken, but the sorts of considerations that have been advanced in the last 24 hours don't come afresh. They are considerations that have been put before and during the Summit. And it is our belief that the

associated measures of depreciation allowance for residential building taken into account with the very significant stimulation that we have given to the building industry since we have been in office, which has been reflected in levels of activity at the

capacity of the industry, will mean that, in our judgement, the housing industry will proceed to furthe r provide for the needs of the community. And we have the view expressed before the

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Summit in the White Paper and at the Summit, that this is something which has to be done for the reasons of avoidance that have been outlined and which I think it is not necessary for me to go into any further detail.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, you sent a letter to Ministers last week.

PM: I did.

JOURNALIST: Asking them not to comment on areas outside their responsibility. Have you had any replies to this. And have you given any thought to what you will do if Ministers don't adhere to your advice?

PM: To the best of my knowledge I have only had one written reply - an excellent one it was. And I have had other indications from Ministers of the appropriateness of the letter and I believe that the purpose and intent of the letter has already been registered and I do not believe there will arise the situation where there will be need for any further action.

JOURNALIST: Have you told Mr Hayden about his future in the Government?

PM: When I walked into the Cabinet room yesterday I said - how is the new Minister for Primary Industry. And we all thought it was very funny.

JOURNALIST: Did Bill?

PM: He was one of the ones that laughed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you got any concerns about the public debate that has been going on regarding the treatment of Justice Lionel Murphy?

PM: Let me say this and I trust that the answer I give will bring to an end any furtherquestions on this. I think today of all days, when this matter is before the courts, it should be apparent that it is not appropriate for me to say anything on this matter. I do not intend to in answer to that question or any others. .

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, on the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone. Were you surprised and were you disappointed by reservations expressed both by Ministers both from PNG and by Fiji in KL last week about ... (inaudible). And do you, in the light of

those reservations still intend to present it at Rarotonga this year.

PM: Let me say these things. Firstly, the Prime Ministers of both Papua New Guinea and Fiji were present at Tuvalu, participated actively in the discussions which took place which followed the initiation by myself on this matter the

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previous year in July in Canberra at my first South Pacific Forum meeting. Their representatives have had the opportunity of participating in the work that has been done between the Forums. I will wait to hear what they have to

say, of course, at the Forum. At this stage I have no reason to believe that they will not be supportive of the proposal and, yes, certainly I will be actively proposing

and supporting the draft treaty which will be available at the Forum.

JOURNALIST: Sir, would you be happy to see the matter delayed, for instance, by being sent to, a Ministerial committee \, of the Forum members, for instance, rather than going straight for signature this year.

PM: I would prefer, of course, a situation where the " " heads of government believe that they had full and adequate opportunity of discussion at the Forum meeting. It would be my preference and the preference of my Government that we

could move to signature. This is a matter of which there are appropriately considerable feelings I believe overwhelmingly of commitment. And I would hope, as I say, that we will be able to process it to signature stage. But I*m not going to

conduct myself in a way which would in any way attempt to steamroll any head of govenrment who will be present there. It is a matter, I believe, of very considerable significance for the nations and the people of the region. And it is

something to which I and my Government have, from the time we have come into government attached very considerable ... significance. And I will be conducting myself at the Forum in those terms.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just to go back to the first topic of the BLF. In practical terms can your deregistration strategy work without the support of the ACTU?

PM: Well obviously the support of a sufficient number of unions in the building industry will be of critical importance in the way in which we can achieve the position where that influence which has existed and and to which I have referred

in answers to previous questions can be eliminated. And it is because of the sorts of things that have been conveyed to us over a period of time from such unions that I have confidence.

JOURNALIST: Just to pursue that point.

PM: Have you got permission for supplementaries like that from the gathering here.

JOURNALIST: Well, you really leave a few holes there. You refer to the building workers, building unions, I was referring to the ACTU. They are two different groups.

PM: Just let me pick you up. I have ears. I^|iear that you said the ACTU and I assume that we would both^on the same wavelength that what is important in making this work is what is going to be done by the unions of the ACTU more

directly involved in the building industry. It was in that sense that I answered your question.

JOURNALIST: Well that is just what I want to check out. If you had ACTU support, would that involve disaffiliation of the BLF rather than just permitting building unions to recruit BLF members.

PM: The question of disaffiliation is not in the province of or in the area of concern of the Government. That is a matter for the ACTU. And we will not be seeking to tell the ACTU what to do any more than I will be seeking the

ACTU to tell the Government what to do.

JOURNALIST: But I take it you would like to see other building unions recruiting from what ifc the present BLF?

PM: In a situation where we take action, we obviously want the building industry to proceed with a minimum amount of dislocation. So that will require people there doing work which is currently done by people who are members of the

Builders Labourers.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that the Victorian Admin Committee are trying to tell the Cain Government what to do?

PM: I believe that what is happening in Victoria, firstly, is a matter between the Victorian Government and the Victorian ALP. Secondly, I believe that the premier, John Cain, has been and is handling that issue admirably. He doesn't require any comment or observation, gratuitously, from me. None will be forthcoming.

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JOURNALIST: Prime Minister before you introduce capital gains tax and before you introduce the writing off of, end the writing off ...

PM: Don't look so sad when you ask the question David. I want to assure you that despite your prejudices or associations it will not be the end of the world.

JOURNALIST: Before you end the writing off of primary industry expense against other income, will you commission economic studies and will you make them available publicly.

PM: No.

JOURNALIST: The answer is no to both questions?

PM: I heard that you gave two questions and I said no and it is a legitimate assumption that it is no to both. &■ JOURNALIST: The Opposition has said that Mr Combe's

appointment as trade commissioner to Vancouver.

PM: Who has said?

JOURNALIST: The Opposition.

PM: Which part of it, because there are different views?

JOURNALIST: Well the Federal Opposition Leader has said.

PM: He doesn't speak for the whole of the Opposition, that is all I wanted to say. ^

JOURNALIST: He has said that Mr Combers appointment as trade commissioner to Vancouver is a case of over-compensation. What qualifications does Mr Combe bring to the job and i^the best man for that position? (v ■ '

PM: Let me say these things. I would have thought the qualifications are quite clear. He has had a long experience, not merely as a Secretary of a major political party, but in that position and others, he has a great deal of association with the business community. He has had considerable international

experience and if you want to compare the experience whicto Mr Combe brings to this job compared with those who have been appointed to similar,or may I say more significant positions by our predecessors, then the qualifications that.. Mr Combe brings to the job will more than stand up to comparison. And let me say, you talk about the Opposition. You will recall,

if you want to look back to the period, the turbulent period of '83-184 when, particularly 183 when this was a public issue, thdrd were many spokesmen for the Opposition who were accusing us of being unduly harsh on Mr Combe, not recognising his capacities and his talents. And I would assume that that

judgement that they made then should not have changed. I make no apology for the appointment of Mr Combe to that important position. In my judgement he takes to that position appropriate talents and capacities. You ask a question, is he

the best? Mr Combe would not be heard to say that he is the best person out of some 16 million Australians, but of those appropriately regarded as available for that position I think he brings excellent credentials to the position.

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JOURNALIST: Did any members of your Government express opposition to Mr Combe's appointment?

PM: No.

JOURNALIST: Back on ANZUS, Mr Hawke. What is your response to the apparent hints by George Shultz this week that the US might consider withdrawing from the treaty relationship with New Zealand ...

PM: Well you will recall and I am in answering your question referring to his reported comments, he was talking in the context, I understand it,of possible reaction, hypothetically, should the! Government of New Zealand transfer in legislative

form what is at this stage an executive decision in regard to the non-accessibility to New Zealand ports by United States' naval vessels. And he was speculating as to what perhaps would be the position if that were to happen.

It seems to be much more useful and relevant to talk about the present situation rather than that speculative hypothetical one. And the position of the United States, as I understand it, in the currently existing situation, is that they would not depart from what has been their stated position from the

beginning, what I understand to be now. And that is that the treaty should stand. That unfortunately in those circumstances New Zealand can't be a participant and correspondingly therefore in those circumstances, the

United States and Australia will conduct our relations in a way calculated to give full effect to the intention of the treaty.

JOURNALIST: ARe you concerned that Mr Shultz himself has ventured into that area of speculation?

PM: No of course I am not concerned that he has ventured into that area of speculation. It would be impertinent for me to express concern about that. And may I say, concerned that I don't have . and you know I don't like going

far down the hypothetical path, but clearly were New Zealand to do that it is not unnatural to believe that the United States may wish to have another look at the situation. I don't think anyone's purposes are very usefully served, that

is all I am saying, by, at this stage, referring to what still remains hypothetical.

JOURNALIST: Is it true, as the National Times reports today, that $133,000 of government money has been granted to a housing co-operative in South Canberra, a house in Kambah, largely occupied by the Morosi family and their friends?

PM: That is the case. Let me say, and I hope in the response I give to your question that goes somewhat beyond specifically what you asked. But it may satisfy any other questions. I became aware of this situation some time in June. Raised it with the Minister, the matter was raised

in Cabinet. And I have subsequently had discussions with the Minister for Territories, Mr Gordon Scholes, and with the Attorney-General, and I have directed that all appropriate investigations should be undertaken to ensure that the appropriate protection of Commonwealth interests not

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PM cont: merely this particular transaction to which you refer but to any others that have taken place under the CHEP, which is the Community Housing Expansion Program, which allowed the allocation of some $1.4 million in

182-183, 183- '84 , that full investigation be undertaken to ensure that there be an adequate protection of the Commonwealth interest in these matters. On my instruction. Those investigations are proceeding and it therefore at this . stage not appropriate to say any more. Once they have concluded

of course I will be in a position to say more.

JOURNALIST: Is this program going to continue past the next Budget ?

PM: It certainly is not. It has come to an end.

JOURNALIST: Back to ANZUS. You said that Mr Shultz was speaking hypothetically, but the conditions ... this ( hypothesis, that is that Mr Lange might introduce this legislation is something that Mr Lange has formally

committed himself to in New Zealand, or his electorate. ARe you then happy that the United States should fulfil its threat, hypothetical though it might be, in the very likely case that Mr Lange goes ahead?

PM: Well I reckon it is pretty sensible politics to be wary about an hypothesis, it is therefore much more sensible to be wary about an hypothesis upon an hypothesis. I don't intend to go down that track.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how do you judge the business response to your request to chief executives of major companies after the economic summit for a restraint in dividen growth in line with wage restraint. ’

PM: Well on the evidence that has been put to me by the Minister directly concerned, that is Mr Willis, he has, ( I haven't spoken to him recently on this point I must say. The last time that I did he expressed general satisfaction

as to what had been happening. And I am not in possession of any evidence either directly from him or in any other way which would cause to express dissatisfaction.

JOURNALIST: On the Morosi matter, Mr Hawke. I gather you are saying that you are having a look at the program as a whole, an investigation of the program as a whole.

PM: Could I just interrupt you there Mike. I made it clear that the program has finished and what I have directed is that there be an investigation to ensure that insofar as the program has been applied up until this point, with the disper^i&ent under it, an amount of some as I say only

1.4 million, to see that the interests of the Commonwealth have been adequately protected.

JOURNALIST: Does that include a specific investigation of that grant?

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PM: Well, it would include that grant. Yes it includes that grant. The circumstances of it.

JOURNALIST: Does that leave open the option of withdrawing it or is that no longer possible?

PM: No, I wouldn't think, as I am advised now, that that is a course which is open. But I believe that there are other courses which may be able to be taken to ensure that the interest of the Commonwealth, the taxpayer, is protected.

And that is what I am having looked at.

JOURNALIST: Sir, do you know who authorised the grant? * .» ■

PM: It would have been the Minister, Mr Scholes.

( JOURNALIST: It was in his time?

PM: The matter was initiated under the, as I understand it, under the previous Minister, certainly the scheme was. Let me say that. And the authorisation, however, has occurred during the time of the occupancy of the portfolio by Mr Scholes. ·

JOURNALIST: ARe you disturbed by this?

PM: There are elements, obviously, of what has happened which have caused me concern. And it is because there are elements that have caused me concern that I have initiated and directed investigations be undertaken to which I have . referred.

JOURNALISTS: Do those elements include Dr Jim Cairns' representations on behalf of this housing co-operative?

PM: Not specifically.

JOURNALIST: What are the other courses that are open to you?

PM: Mike, I don't think it is appropriate at this stage, I have got the Attorney and the Minister looking at these. And I am not trying to avoid a question. I think it is much more appropriate that those investigations be undertaken. And that

is fairest both in'the interests of all parties, and I am not just talking about this transaction. Anyone that has been concerned, the Minister and the Department. In no sense am I trying to avoid it. I think it only fair to everyone that

I wait until I get that report. I will not be unforthcoming when I have it.

JOURNALIST: Two Australians are facing the death penalty by hanging in Malaysia. ARe you satisfied their best interests are being protected?

PM: Not if they are hanged.

JOURNALIST: ··· death by hanging ...

PM: That's hypothetical. I think we have had enough.