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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard, MP: Federal Council Meeting, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra: 25 June 2005: Peter Casserly, Petrol excise, Voluntary Student Unionism, Political donations.



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PRIME MINISTER

25 June 2005

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP FEDERAL COUNCIL HYATT HOTEL, CANBERRA

Subjects: Peter Casserly, Petrol excise, Voluntary Student Unionism, Political donations.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the death overnight of Australia’s last Western front…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is a very significant moment in, not only for the veterans’ community but for the entire country, the death of the last surviving link with protracted battles that in themselves claimed more than 45,000 lives of the 60,000 Australians who died in World War I. It is an important, significant passing. I naturally extend my sympathy to his family. This man lived to 107 and was married I understand for 80 years. An extraordinary story and they were a great generation.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the Corby decision to sack her lawyers? Do you think she’s made the right decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh I’m not going to comment on that. That’s quite inappropriate for me to talk about that.

JOURNALIST:

In the session this morning there was a resolution passed for four year Parliamentary terms. Do you support that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I favour the principle of the four year term. I always have and I favour it being upon the basis that you have two four year terms for a Senator. But you can’t hope to get a referendum like that through unless it has the support of the Opposition and in any

event it would have to apply at some future date. I don’t want anybody to think I’m sort of interested in extending my own term except in the normal way.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister is it time for a reshuffle of your front bench?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they’re doing very well.

JOURNALIST:

Are you considering a reshuffle?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have to make some changes as a result of the election of the new National Party leader.

JOURNALIST:

Will there be extensive changes do you think or just minor?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they’re doing very well. I think I’ve got a very good team.

JOURNALIST:

Are you any closer to a decision on the Transport Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

What’s the next question?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, would the Government consider cutting the 38 cent level of petrol taxes?

PRIME MINISTER:

The excise? Well the excise is a volumetric tax, it’s not an ad valorem tax and it doesn’t go up as the price of petrol goes up. I want to make that quite clear. It’s fixed at 38 cents a litre.

JOURNALIST:

Would you consider cutting it?

PRIME MINISTER:

We cut it four years ago. We cut it by 1.5 cents a litre and we abolished Labor’s indexation of petrol excise, so we made a massive contribution. The price of petrol is painfully high. I’m aware of that. But that is the fault of world oil price fluctuations. It’s not because of unreasonably high taxes.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister don’t we have double taxation on petrol? We have the excise and the GST?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes but the GST goes to the States, the excise is fixed.

JOURNALIST:

So is there anything more the Government can do to bring down the price of petrol?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s dictated by world markets. Not even the United States, the most powerful country the world has seen can force down the price of crude oil because it’s a commodity which has a market value and you can’t defy market forces. It is painful, I’m aware of that. But it’s easy for others to call when they don’t have to deliver.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) about the inflationary impacts of a long term of petrol being such high prices?

PRIME MINISTER:

Jim, it could over a long period of time have an inflationary effect. So far it hasn’t but it could over a longer period of time.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, will you guarantee no changes to your voluntary student unionism bill?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’re going to go ahead with the policy that we’ve announced.

JOURNALIST:

So you wouldn’t consider amendments?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re going ahead with the policy we’ve announced.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) all the State’s Parliamentary Leaders this weekend. What’s going to be the message you’re going to be conveying to them about their performance and the performance of the State branches?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t deliver messages in relation to those. No well look I regard these meetings which always take place, I regard them as confidential discussions unless there’s some agreed statement. We’re all in the same party, I want to help them. I want to see the back of Labor Governments at a State level. I want to help my colleagues to achieve that. But the best way I can help them is to give any advice to

them and not to give it publicly.

JOURNALIST:

John Brogden was saying publicly yesterday that you’re letting the Premiers off the hook by holding joint press conferences with them after COAG meetings. Do you accept that criticism?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don’t. It’s the role of the elected Governments of the Commonwealth and the States to work together for the public good. The public wants good outcomes. They don’t want constant brawling and buck passing and to the extent that as a Liberal Prime Minister I can work with State Labor Premiers in the interests of the people of Australia I will go on doing it because that is my job and that is my duty to the Australian people.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you agree with John Calvert-Jones’ comments that its time for corporate Australia to stop hiding behind a no donations policy and start giving more to the Liberal Party?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am concerned that some companies take the view that it’s okay to have the benefits of a very good economy but when it comes to supporting political parties that’s for somebody else. I think there is a disappointing trend amongst a number of companies to take the view that it’s for somebody else, and I don’t think it is for

somebody else. It’s for all of us. And we all should play a part.

JOURNALIST:

Is it time to change those disclosure laws?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve said that there is a case for an increase. There’s a case for an increase in both the disclosure level and also the level of tax deductibility as to what the amount should be - let’s wait and see. But can I tell you it’s not the first cab off the rank. It’s not the most important thing. I’m more interested in things that matter directly to the Australian people like good industrial relations reforms and all of those other things that are important to people. Thank you

[Ends]