TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON. PAUL KEATING, 27 DECEMBER 1991
Prime Minister - Keating, Paul
Press Conference - 27 December 1991
TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON. PAUL KEATING,
27 DECEMBER 1991
E& OE PROOF ONLY
PM: Thank you for coming. You by now have a copy of the
press statement announcing the Ministerial arrangements and
changes. The first point I'd like to make to you is that
we've got a very experienced and intelligent group here and
each has been aligned to an area of natural expertise and
experience, so that in the places where Ministers are I
believe as a Cabinet, as a Ministry, we'll be able to hit
the ground running and not have Ministers spend six months
or so learning an entirely new area or policy. Each person
there has either had some experience, contact of, natural
association with an area of policy, and I believe it's a way
of maximising the efficiency, in an efficient way, the
natural capacities of the Ministry and the Cabinet. The
principle objective here, of course, is to promote a
recovery and to restart growth and employment as quickly as
possible. Now the key changes are:
Mr Dawkins will be Treasurer;
S Mr Willis will be the Minister for Finance;
S Mr Beazley will be the MInister for Employment,
Education and Training;
Dr Blewett will be Minister for Social Security;
Senator Richardson will be Minister for Transport
Mr Kerin will be Minister for Trade and Overseas
Development; Mr Griffiths will be Minister for Tourism and brought
into Cabinet; and
Senator Collins will be Minister for Shipping and
Aviation, and also brought into Cabinet.
Now, Of cour7se, there are other consequential changes, but
they will be very evident to you as I know all you
specialist Ministry watchers will understand very quickly.
So I'd be happy to take questions at this point.
J: Mr Keat~ ing, what is it that recommends Mr Dawkins' as
Treasurer? PM: That was a very hard decision for me to make. I spent
eight and a half happy years with both Mr Willis and
Mr Dawkins, and each have their strengths. Mr Willis is a
technically very well-equipped person who has shown great
service to the Government. Mr Dawkins has been very
creative in the portfolios he has had. And it's an on
balance judgment which I made in Mr Dawkins' favour. But
I'm very pleased that Mr Willis has agreed to vest
Government writh his experience and ongoing knowledge as
Minister for Finance.
J: Mr Keating, why did you decide to take Mr Kerin from
PM: Well, it was always somewhat of an anomalous position
in the sense; that we had the Trade portfolio represented in
the Cabinet by the portfolio Minister, Senator Evans, and
formerly by Dr Blewett. That was principally to do with the
GATT Round, which is now drawing to a close, and with the
Dunkel Package the issues are now encapsulated in that
package. And as we found, whenever the issue needs to be
considered it will be considered by Senator Evans, but
naturally Mr Kerin will come to Cabinet whenever the matter
needs to be discussed. So in practical terms, it leaves him
free to take part in the balance of the Round and the bilateral
trade negotiations which are a permanent part of the
international landscape, and not to be burdened with the
other Cabinet responsibilities which don't go to this
J: Prime Minister, do you anticipate any changes to this
line-up before the election, and have you given guarantees
to Senator Button and to Mr Hand that they will retain their
positions until then?
PM: I don't have to give guarantees. Senator Button and Mr
Hand have both said they won't be contesting their positions
at the next election, but both said they wanted to continue
as Ministers in their respective roles until then, and
that's the position I'm entirely at ease with.
J: So this Ministry will stay as is until the next
election? PM: Yes, unless somebody left of their own volition.
J: There's no value in the New South Wales argument that
they should make way for new faces in the front bench?
PM: There are two new Cabinet Ministers here, and they are
among the younger Ministers. They are Mr Griffiths and
Senator Coll~ ins. And both have very heavy and senior
responsibilities. I have, in this arrangement, created a
Department of Tourism, taking it away as a branch, or
division, of DASETT and made it into a Department and given
it Cabinet status, which befits its position as one of the
fastest growing industries in Australia, which will then be
attended to by a Minister of Cabinet rank. And for Senator
Collins, he has Shipping and Aviation and there will be an
area of grea~ ter discretion available to him than there was
as Aviation Support. And because a lot of the micro debate
is still in that area of transport and communications, and
shipping and waterfront, and aviation in particular, then I
think it is entirely apposite that he joins the Cabinet too.
So we have two younger Ministers of the Ministry joining the
Cabinet in two senior and important areas of policy.
J: Mr Keating, why was Codd moved from PM& C?
PM: Well, hie wasn't moved out. That's not right. He said
look, quite forthrightly to me, I've been here for six
years. Mr Codd and I were party to the guidelines and
arrangments years ago where there was a view that after
about five years a Permanent Head's position should be
reviewed either by himself or herself or by the
Government. And he had had six years there, and the head of
the Government had changed, his Ministerial head had
changed, and I thought it was both considerate and sensitive
of him to ra~ ise it, and I thought it would be an opportunity
to make a change. But can I just record my appreciation to
Mr Codd as a most professional public servant someone who
has brought great professionalism to the Department of Prime
Minister and Cabinet, to the Cabinet Office and the
efficient working of the Cabinet system. And it is with the
Government's blessing and good graces that he resigns, but
not only that, that in doing so it appoints him to the Board
of the former Telecom and also Qantas. And I think given
the fact that he is still a relatively young man, Mr Codd
has the opportunity to make another life for himself, but
also still serving the public in those important positions,
and giving u~ s in the Government the opportunity of a further
change for the value of change in itself in the management
of this very onerous administrative area.
3: Mr Keating, could you explain why Senator Richardson
has gone to the Transport and Communications portfolio?
PM: Well it's a n area firstly that he has always liked.
It's an area. which he had in the past asked for. It's one
which, I think, given the balance of arrangements Mr Kerin
was better doing the Trade job, given the fact that he comes
to it with a natural background, particularly from the
agricultural negotiations, and the fact that agriculture is
still very much part and parcel of the debate around the
Dunkel Package and the completion of the round. And for Mr
Kerin it meant climbing over a domestic portfolio, learning
that issue, whereas Senator Richardson had had a reasonably
long-standinrg interest in much of the subject area of
Transport anrd Communications. The other thing is, Senator
Richardson hiad completed a couple of years of Social
Security Minister, a difficult and onerous portfolio, with
distinction, as he had before that propogated the Labor
Party's policies in relation to the environment. So he has,
I think, an impressive track record and one thing he has
proven is thrat he can raise the public consciousness about a
subject, he can reform an area, and in an area where
microeconomic change will continue to need reform I thought
he was the most appropriate person to employ.
J: Mr Keating, will you be having any discussions with Mr7
Hawke about his future? Do you have any thoughts about what
you might like to see him doing?
PM: No, I haven't. I had about an hour and half with Bob a
couple of days after the leadership changed, and we were
just talking about the future together, what he might do,
and about thie country generally.
J: Prime Minister, no Queenslander is in the Cabinet Mr
Beazley, I t: hink, is taking responsibility for that State.
Will you continue that system?
PM: What I would like to do, and will do, is ask Mr
Humphreys to represent Queensland and be co-opted to the
Cabinet whenever a matter affecting Queensland is debated.
And he has ( liven me the assurance that he would be pleased
to co-operat~ e in that arrangement. And also, in the
Parliamentary Secretaries I have appointed Mr Johns also as
a Parliament~ ary Secretary from Queensland. Now,
Parliamentary Secretaries, of course, don't have Ministerial
status or the responsibilities of a Minister, but I think
where issues of material interest to Queensland arise, and
they will form time to time obviously, then Ben Humphries is
I think well. placed to represent Queensland's interests in
J: Mr Keating, do you expect now that with Mr Dawkins as
Treasurer, hie will be seeking to put in his policies, some
of things hEt's been pushing this year, such as, export and
development schemes or measures to have more influence over
the exchange rate?
PM: No. I'm sure Mr Dawkins will be as a Treasurer very
much in the tradition of the Cabinet system of Government.
That is, his: views will matter but the Cabinet views will
always matter too, as they did with me when I was Treasurer.
And some of things which Mr Dawkins has spoken of have in
one way shape or form been addressed over the last few
months, others perhaps not. But, again, he has got to make
his own decisions as Treasurer, rather than somebody from
outside the Treasury portfolio without the advice of the
Treasury abo'ut some of these subjects. But I have found him
to be a most careful, creative and competent person in
assessing issues and giving them their appropriate weight
and responses. And I've got no reason to believe he won't
be at his best as Treasurer.
J: ( inaudible) March.
PM: Well, I can't give you anymore advice, Michelle, than I
gave you last time. It will be sometime in the early part
of the New ' Year.
J: Should Cabinet review the Coronation Hill decision?
PM: Well, this is not an agenda item for me and hasn't
been. I don't see it being a matter for review. Its not
been something to which I've addressed myself.
J: Do you believe there is any role for the Government in
the Compass affair?
PM: In terins of a corporate financial role, no, but I
thought a role in relation to the passengers and the
families of those passengers, and that's why the Government
was at pains to make sure as many people were uplifted and
taken to the~ ir holidays and returned, and that will happen.
But the future of Compass will depend upon the shareholders
and the creditors of Compass, not on the Federal Government.
J: Do you expect Mr Hawke to leave Parliament very soon?
PM: No. I think that's a matter for Bob, not for me. And
I can only repeat to you what he has said himself, that is,
he intends -to stay around until such time as he advises
otherwise. J: Mr Keating, on Sunday Dr Blewett announced the GATT
position for Australia, and said he hoped to be meeting with
President Bush. Because of his previous expertise will he
still be involved in these meetings, and also do you plan to
set any new trade agenda in Australian relationships with
America, at these meetings?
PM: Well, obviously, the GATT round is going to be
important to Australia and to the United States. There has
probably never been a greater lift in wealth than that which
has come from the multilateral trading system in the past
war years, ] particularly in manufactures after the Kennedy
round, and Australia has regarded this round as being
particularly important because it broadened the field into
agriculture, interlectual property rights, services and
other things in which we had an interest as a commodity
trader and a trader in services, and which the United States
of course has had an interest. And the United States
interest goes even beyond the questions of market access; to
its own fiscal policies and the burden which it's bearing
itself by virtue of the European agricultural subsidies.
So, the United States has a great stake in the GATT round
and the importance of it was always evident to me by the
Ministerial attention it received at GATT meetings, at the
OECD, at the IMF etc. Now, we are reaching the end of the
round and while we are very much encouraged by Mr Dunkel's
package, as Dr Blewett said, the devil is in the detail and
we'll have to go through the detail to see where we stand.
We've got some, the European Commission have said that parts
of it are unacceptable, although the British and the Germans
have said some favourable things about it. We have not
said, and won't say at this stage that we accept it, we want
the right to examine it, but we'll certainly be raising it
in its context with President Bush during his visit to
Australia. J: Are you taking any kind of a hard line with Mr Bush on
the EEP subsidies and the effect they are having on
agriculture in Australia?
PM: Well, I'll be having, I hope, a productive discussion
with the President, and that will obviously be an issue
J: Are yolu satisfied with the outcome of the inquiry into
the Dili massacre as a credible one?
PM: Well, .1 think the preliminary report was much more
credible than that which we've seen before, and I think we
regard it as an encouraging document. The Foreign Minister
said it was very encouraging and better than expected. I
think the important thing isthoughwhat the final report
says and what the Government of Indonesia's consideration of
the report will produce.
J: You didn't have any more consideration to when you
might visit Djakarta?
PM: No I haven't because it wasn't the scheduled visit
which Bob Hawke had was very inopportune for me, that is,
becoming PriLme Minister of Australia at this time. So
that's some-thing which I can consider in the future.
J: Mr Keating, at one stage you were interested in having
a Minister iLn charge of competition policies. I notice you
haven't done that in this reshuffle. Why did you decide
PM: Well, was interested in competition policy rather
than a Minister for Competition Policy. And competition
policies have been coming together under the Attorney-
General. We have brought the TPC and the PSA together, and
I think that: that has been progressing in my absence from
the Ministry. And I think that given the time-frame I have
now, and the fact that I wanted the Ministry in place as
quickly as possible, to get policy changes moving this year,
I didn't have the luxury of a long time to debate whatdepartmenta.
l structure might best suit the competition
issue. But I've been prepared to accept at face value that:
it has been progressing, and has been progressed, by the
Attorney-General within the Attorney-General's portfolio.
J: Mr Keating, Senator Walsh this morning called for the
immigration intake to be slashed. Do you think there are
grounds for this to be reviewed?
PM: Well, look, I don't want to go round the world for
sport, Peter. I'm essentially here to talk about the
Ministry and the Ministerial arrangements. It's obviously
an issue in public life in Australia, and it has been an
issue within the Government, and Senator Walsh's views on
this issue are well known to everybody. And he raises it
with some regularity.
J: Why have you increased the number of Parliamentary
Secretaries? And are these effectively people who are
Ministers in waiting? I mean, can you see them being in the
next... PM: Not necessarily, no. But I think it is a very good
basis for experience for members of the backbench of the
Government, and in some Parliaments all Ministers have
Parliamentary Secretaries. In the British Parliament, the
British Government, I think most Ministers have
Parliamentary Secretaries or numbers of Parliamentary
Secretaries. And I think it is a superb way of giving
backbench members or former Ministers in other Governments
some experience of the Commonwealth realm and its
administration. As you know, a Parliamentary Secretary is
not paid anymore than a backbencher. It is essentially
volunteering a greater effort in the interests of the
Government and the Commonwealth, and I think it's a
particularly good thing to do.
J: How long would Senator Bob McMullan be expected to
remain a Parliamentary Secretary, if you are talking about
experience and developing new talent?
PM: Well, you are really asking me for a pecking order for
changes to -the Ministry, and I can't give you that. But,
Senator McMullan has brought a lot of experience to taxation
policy, and it is an area of great complexity and I know
he's earned the respect and trust of the Taxation
Commissioner and his office, the Australian Taxation Office,
as also the Tax Policy Division of the Treasury. So, I
could say when I was Treasurer I was very happy to have Bob
in that job, and because he is now so full bottle in this
area it was,. I think, entirely sensible to leave him there,
and he likes it.
J: ( inaudible) some people might suggest that you have
rewarded people who were your closest supporters for your
campaign. What do you say to that? And secondly, can you
say that didn't play a part?
PM: Well, by the same logic you would have to say I
rewarded those who played a key role in Mr Hawke's campaign.
J: Mr Keat~ ing, you've left Senator Evans in the position
as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does this indicate that
you have no particular plans to change any foreign policy
issues? I mean, in particular, the Middle East where Mr
Hawke's special interest had a great influence, I think, on
attitudes towards Israel?
PM: I think Senator Evans has been a particularly competent
Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has reflected glory upon
the Government, and it would have been, he is the obvious
choice for Foreign Minister. And I would expect, naturally,
because the Prime Minister has perogatives in foreign policy
that other Ministers don't have, to discuss those, as needs
be, with the Foreign Minister bearing in mind his
specialisation and his primary responsibility for foreign
policy. J: Prime Minister, could I ask a question, perhaps in two
parts? Prime Minister Whitlam's first visit, on becoming
Prime Minis-ter, overseas was to New Zealand. Prime Minister
Hawke's first visit was to Indonesia. Where will your's be?
And secondly, the vitally important environmental mission to0
Rio, that Mr Hawke was going to take us all along on, is
that still happening?
PM: Well, if you are enquiring about your travel itinerary,
I can't really help you. I don't think there is any
protocol here, it's a matter of when people inherit these
positions, and what issues are on at the time. Much of the
debate aboult the trade and investment in the industrialised
world has taken place in the northern hemisphere, which has
occasioned Ministers of Australia to be travelling to the
northern hemisphere. But, in the last decade there has been
much greater focus on the Asia/ Pacific, as I believe, there
should be. We are an Asia/ Pacific power and it is in the
Asia/ Pacific that our primary focus should be. So, while I:
couldn't say what my travel plans would be, certainly, this,
area will be receiving the priority.
J: Mr Keating, why did you decide not to have a spill to
get some new blood in. And given that you decided that, do
you think there will be uncontrollable resentment amongst
some of you3r backbench supporters about that decision?
PM: No, it's not for the Leader to decide whether there
should be a spill. If there is a view within the Caucus
that it's ti~ me for all positions to be declared vacant they
generally are declared vacant. But, there was in the Labor
Party, the Parliamentary Labor Party's rules for one
Parliament only, between 1975 and 1977, a rule which said,
in the middle of the term all positions be declared vacant,
that rule only lasted one Parliament. And that was removed,
and there has not been any clear view coming from the Caucus
or any part of it that there should be a spill of positions.
And therefore, I am doing what all Leaders have done in the
past, and that is, to allocate portfolios from the people
chosen by the Caucus, and this Government has won four
elections, and won them well, with personnel some of whom
are still members of the Ministry, others of which have been
added after our third and fourth elections well, second,
third and fourth elections, and it has made us stronger and
better. We: kept the changes coming through, the Cabinet
personnel has dramatically changed from the Cabinet of 1983.
And obviously, as time goes by it will change further.
J: Mr Keating, Mr Willis has been Treasurer in waiting for
almost 9 years now, and has only had the job for 3 weeks.
Do you think you've been a bit rough on him? And how do you
think he will take this decision?
PM: Well, it was not an easy decision for me because we all
grow close to one another in a Government, particularly, a
reformist Government like this one has been. In the
expenditure review rounds we sat in each other's company for
or 12 hours a day, sometimes for 2 and 3 months at a
time, over years. I mean, I can't imagine any other Cabinet
effort, Cabinet level effort, where line items of the Budget
are reviewed twice a year for eight years, in any other
country. We did that as a group of Ministers and, of
course, it has produced a great bond between us all. So, : Lt
is very difficult to make these choices, and it is, I think,
to Mr Willis' great credit that he has done, not only not
taken his bat and ball, but decided to put his shoulder to
the wheel to one of the toughest jobs in the Cabinet which
is Finance, which he knows well, which he's proven he knows
well. J: Mr Keating, it is often said that Mr Hawke saw the
Prime Ministership as a sort of Chairman of the Board role,
and Mr Fraser in a much more interventionist sense. Can you
tell us something of how you see the role, and particularly,
how activist you see yourself being as Prime Minister in
economic po: licy Are you inclined to leave a fair bit of
initiative to your Treasurer, or because of your background
do you see yourself being more activist in that area than
say Mr Hawke was when you were Treasurer?
PM: No, I'd say the former rather than the latter. That I.
would be inclined to leave policy to Ministers, but I think
it is the Pr-ime Minister's duty, the Leader's duty to sketch
out the dire ctions, and where we are not certain of those
directions, to debate them within the Cabinet to make
certain thait the directions are right and clear, clear and
correct. Now, that is a responsibility of leadership.
Beyond that, I think, Ministers should have a particular
freedom to creatively develop the work within their
portfolios but within the Cabinet system. The Cabinet
system does work well. I mean, it is an efficient
mechanism, i~ t has worked well for this Government and for
Australia. And ' there is always that nice balance between
the perogatives of the Leader and the Prime Minister and the
Ministers. Now, all Prime Ministers will be different, all
Leaders will be different, some will have a more hands on
approach, an~ d some less, some chairmen of the board, some
more managing directors, if I can use that, some with a more
executive bent. But I think time will tell how any one of
us react to these circumstances.
J: So, are you more inclined to the chairman of the board,
or the managing director?
PM: I'd say I'm somewhere half way in between, if there is
such a position.
J: Mr Keating, will you be sharing your thoughts on urban
development and so forth, which you've expressed fairly
strongly in the last few months, with Mr Howe? And does his
Better Cities program carry on as he sketched it out?
PM: Well, Brian and I. I'd like first of all to find out
about the Better Cities program exactly what is happening
within that area. But, as you know, I regard urban
development issues very importantly. I think how we live,
the cities we live in, how they develop, the choices in
housing, the beauty of the places we live, are very
important issues. And Brian, I think, has also regarded
them, for sometime now, as importantly as I have. But, it
is true that we don't have an urban facility within the
Commonwealth bureaucracy. What we had in the seventies is
largely rundown, and we are constructing something from the
ground up, and that task has fallen to Brian Howe, and it's
not easy. But, to the extent that he has begun it with the
Better Cities policy, I'll be taking an interest in what in
practical terms that policy entails, implies, and I look
forward to having a chat with him about it.
J: Mr Keating, did you give any consideration to moving Mr
Howe from H-ealth given his association with the co-payments
scheme? PM: No, Mr Howe expressed every willingness to continue as
Minister for Health and Community Services. And, of course,
as Deputy, ' Deputy's have a sort of acknowledged right in the
system to decide what they think is in their best interests.
J: Prime Minister, will you be getting out and about
tripping over the camera cables in supermarkets?
PM: Well, I'll live principally in Canberra, as I think all
Prime Ministers have done since the Parliament moved to the
Capital in .1927. But I've always got about Australia as
much as I could and I've always done a lot of shopping.
I've seen many of you at the Fyshwick markets, as you know.
I might have been an ungainly box carrier, but I've done it:
with might and main, and with good grace. For years I've
bought the bird seed and I've bought the fish, and the odd