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Transcript: Howard Interview

5 August 1999

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW SHEPPARTON, VICTORIA

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, the proposal to establish a trust or insurance scheme to protect workers [inaudible] how far advanced are those talks?

PRIME MINISTER:

We've had a number of discussions. We recognise that this is a problem and it is unfair if somebody's worked with a company all his or her life and then they lose some of the entitlements they think they have because the company's gone broke. And we're looking at ways of helping that are affordable but also don't place additional costs on to businesses that are doing the right thing. So it's not an easy thing to settle on but we are endeavouring to get an outcome and, I hope, an outcome that is fair and balanced.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there are a number of options under consideration at the present time and we haven't settled on a final formula. And if you want some more detail you should go and talk to Mr Reith about it. But, as he said this morning, we recognise that there is a case in justice and in fairness for workers that have had long service and we want to protect them.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Certainly if you have to amend the law then you need to get things through the Senate and Mr Reith is in discussion with the Democrats and they, of course, have been campaigning very long and hard for reforms in this area themselves. So, in a sense, they already have an ownership or an interest in the issue and I acknowledge that and Mr Reith acknowledges that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, are there any developments in the sale of ADI [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not that I care to discuss. The matter remains under consideration and the right decision will be taken.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, how many times must Australia say no to New Zealand with regard to the import of apples?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Australia will always, the Australian Government, will always act in a way that protects Australian interests.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, Mr Reith has made comments on the republic and there seems to be quite a cleavage between what he's saying and what Mr Costello's saying regarding the framing of the question, etc, are you concerned there'sà[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I'm not. No I'm not because people should understand that as far as the Liberal Party is concerned this is a free vote. I made that clear two years ago. So the fact that Mr Costello has one view, Mr Reith has another, Senator Hill might have another and Mr Abbott might have another, the Attorney-General might have another, is of no account because this is a free vote. See, we are a mature, courageous party. We've said to our members, you can all have a free vote on this. We're not trying to enforce a rigid party line and obviously people are going to have some different views. This is not a government issue. This is an issue for the Australian people and as individuals my Ministers, senior or otherwise, have a right to express their views.

JOURNALIST:

And in the framing of the question, is there any room for compromise?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have spoken on this yesterday. My position is that the question will truthfully represent the change that is being put to the Australian people. That remains my position and that will be the Government's position. The question that was put in the original legislation was quite a truthful reflection of what is being proposed. But, as I said yesterday, we'll have a look at what the committee, when it finally recommends, has to say. I'm not quite sure what it's going to recommend at this stage but we'll have a look at it.

JOURNALIST:

What if the Democrats and the Opposition change the wording of the question in the Senate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you go and talk to them about their view.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]àthe preamble.

PRIME MINISTER:

I've had a discussion with Senator Lees and I think I may have a further discussion with her. As always those discussions are very civilised and mature. She's an intelligent person to deal with. We don't agree on a lot of things. We agree on some things. And where we can reach agreement, we will, where we can't we will finish our cup of tea and depart in good spirits.

JOURNALIST:

Is the preamble [inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to speculate about anything. The essence of getting a sensible outcome is not to sort of go running around blabbing it all in public before we've actually had a discussion.

JOURNALIST:

And you're quite confident the referendum will go ahead as planned on the 6th of November?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am sure the referendum will be held on the 6th of November, in fact, I'm determined it will. And the reason I'm determined it will is that I promised the Australian people there would be a referendum and I'm going to keep my word on that. And if anybody tries to stop me keeping my word on that, well, it will be on their head, not on my mine. I just make it plain, the referendum on the republic will go ahead on the 6th of November because that was the promise that I made. The only people who can stop me doing that is the Senate and I don't think it will do that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, you've heard about some of the problems in this area with labour shortages. Some of the growers around here would like to see some sort of ID card or something to take the onus off them identifying illegal workers. Do they have any hope, can the Government offer them any hope there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we're always ready to talk about different things that can be done to help. But the general idea of an ID card is one that was looked at in this country more than 10 years ago and rejected. I don't think it will come back onto the political agenda. I certainly don't intend to put it back. But if there are other ways that can help then we'd be willing to listen and willing to see if some of them could be made to work. Thank you.

[Ends]


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