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Transcript of press conference: Parliament House, Canberra: 24 January 2007: Inflation; David Hicks; redundancy entitlements; multiculturalism.



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PRIME MINISTER

24 January 2007

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

Subjects: Inflation; David Hicks, redundancy entitlements, multiculturalism

EO&E…………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. I just wanted to say something very briefly about the extremely welcome inflation news. The fall of 0.1 per cent and a rise in the underlying rate, according to the Reserve Bank’s measure, of only 0.5 per cent is extremely good news. It’s the best inflation number since 1999. What it tells us though is something very important about economic management and that is that it is a difficult challenge which requires fine judgements. And this good inflation number is partly due to the fact that when some signs of inflation emerged last year, the Reserve Bank took action. And you may remember on the eve of the last adjustment in interest rates made by the Reserve Bank, I did make the observation that I would understand if the Bank were to take action in order to pre-empt a stronger rise in inflation, and that, of course, is what the Bank did. And it’s a reminder to all of us that the economy is something that requires finely balanced judgements and the Reserve Bank, of course, is charged with the responsibility of monetary policy. But this is a confidence boosting inflation number. It shows that what appeared to be a spike in Australia’s inflation rate could have disappeared. I don’t want to state it any more strongly than that, but the prospects are for a continuation of very moderate levels of inflation, and that has all sorts of implications. And we therefore start the year with very good news on inflation and a 30-year low in unemployment. And the great responsibilities of economic managers in this country are to maintain stable conditions so that families can plan for the future with confidence.

JOURNALIST:

Is the inflation genie back in the bottle now, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

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Well that’s not a metaphor that I use. I’d think that what we have seen is a classic demonstration of a stitch in time probably saving nine.

JOURNALIST:

It would be a good prognosis for interest rates would it not Mr Howard?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yes, there’s no doubt that if you’re looking at the relationship and you must. It’s good news on that front but I respect the fact that it’s the call of the Reserve Bank in relation to interest rates, it’s not my call. But clearly if you’re looking at both the headline rate and the underlying rate, they have gone in the right direction for interest rates. I mean, nobody wants to see another interest rate rise at the present time, and clearly, though, the Bank has the responsibility of making judgements about monetary policy according to inflationary pressures in the community. And these figures indicate that there has been a very welcome falling back in those pressures and that is a very, very, good thing for Australian families and I welcome it very warmly.

JOURNALIST:

On another point Mr Howard, two things, have you had any reply from the US Government on the Hicks matter and secondly, are you likely to have anything to say imminently on emissions trading?

PRIME MINISTER:

Imminently?

JOURNALIST:

Well in the next week or so?

PRIME MINISTER:

On emissions trading, I don’t have anything specifically in mind, but something may occur between now and when I might say something on it to cause me to say something on it. But I don’t have anything particularly in mind at the present time and in relation to the Americans, well we delivered our request to the Americans and they continue to indicate that Hicks will be charged very shortly. But we thought it appropriate to define a time by which we expected him to be charged, and that time is the middle of February.

JOURNALIST:

What will you do if he’s not charged?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will deal with that issue if that event arises.

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JOURNALIST:

A dying Sydney man, John Beavan, has lost his redundancy claim, what can the Government do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this is a case of a company behaving in a very heartless fashion. The law that the company is applying has been the law in relation to voluntary redundancies for decades, so this has got nothing to do with WorkChoices. As we speak Mr Hockey is on his way to the firm to talk to the workforce. I’ve asked him to do that and to see what further can be done in terms of persuasion and discussion and putting the case on behalf of a man who’s in a very sad position, and recognising the difficulty for his family. But we are dealing here, if you look at the strict law of it and I don’t think companies should always look at the strict law, they should look at the human consequences, you are dealing with a situation where the voluntary redundancy provisions of industrial law have operated in this manner for decades.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, would you like to see the Commonwealth take control of rivers in Australia and would that be constitutionally possible?

PRIME MINISTER:

Would I like to see the what?

JOURNALIST:

The Commonwealth take control of the…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what I would like to see is an approach in this area which solves the problem, and I think I’ll leave myself with that response at the present time because I know you all want to see the State of the Union address.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, just quickly on the name change…

PRIME MINISTER:

Just quickly yes.

JOURNALIST:

On the name change to the Department of Immigration, what do you say to those people who are fearing that this is some kind of condemnation of other cultures or downgrading the role of multiculturalism in Australia?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well they’re wrong. This is not condemning cultures, it’s just positively asserting the obvious and that is immigration should lead to citizenship and the path is you come to this country, you embrace its customs, its values, it’s language, you become a citizen. You don’t lose a place in your heart for the country you came from and you’re not expected to. I’ve always said that, and people are understandably going to retain a place in their heart for their home culture and we don’t discourage that in any way. But the premium must be upon, the emphasis must be upon, the dominant consideration must be, the integration of people into the Australian family. That’s always been my belief, it was my belief before I became Prime Minister and it continues to be my belief. But that can sit comfortably with total respect for different cultures and total respect for the fact that somebody born in China or Croatia will retain a place in his or her heart for the customs and the manner and the tempo and so forth of his or her birthplace. Thank you.

[Ends]