EXTRA MINUTES Extended interview with former PM John Howard

do you remember in politics such uncertain times as we have now it simply in the run-up to this election nothing is cast no I agree with that and that's the direct product of the dead heater at the 2010 election I hadn't lived through a dead heat like that there was one when I was about nine months old in 1940 when the Labour Party in the UAE and the country party had an equal number of seats and a couple of independents but the dead heat in the 2010 election is the major cause of this uncertainty because the government doesn't have a clear mandate or any clear here and the opposition doesn't believe that it's been chastised by the electorate and has everyone gone away and rethought everything is opposite no one's a winner no one's a loser exactly and and and you can understand the psychology of both sides and it'll be fair to both of them you can understand that the government doesn't have clear here particularly the Prime Minister and the opposition thinks gee this mob are on the verge of falling over and will keep the pressure on and that's very understand and you produce this policy paralysis but it'll change after the next election whoever wins will win clearly in my opinion well there are European countries where the dead heat prevails it's become part of the culture but that is not mean the culture in this country and and part of it of course has been due to the fact that we've maintained single-member constituencies whereas many European countries for their lower houses they have some kind of proportional representation so you always get closer results we're a long way out from the election Rudd is probably gonna move isn't he he's looking like and what does your nose tell you he's never given up the idea of coming back and that's human nature and understandable I think there's a real possibility that I'll bring him back in the end leadership is determined by the laws of arithmetic and even the most popular leaders can be removed if people think they're going to do better and another one and the laws of arithmetic say that Gillard can win but Ruud camera well that is the indication of some of the polls although once he were back in the job if that was their intention then he'd be revisited with the policy photos for which he is responsible like the chaos of border protection and and and the wasteful expenditure on I think that some school halls and so forth I mean they will happen under his regime not only Gillard's that's the chance that the Australian people feel he didn't get a fair go though they might feel sorry for there are some people who do feel that that the Labour Party particularly Labour Party supporters there I've met many Labour Party people who just can't work out why their party should have got rid of somebody who won an election now if Rudd ceases leadership and maintains his public popularity in the polls rate leading to an election does that put pressure on Tony Abbott because his popularity is not good does that put pressure on his job well there are a lot of supposition so nothing said instead I don't believe for a moment that the Liberal Party will be led at the next election by any anybody other than Tony Abbott not Malcolm to him no ID no I don't believe so and you know Malcolm's a great bloke and I like him a lot but Tony Abbott has given through his leadership the Liberal Party position that they never dreamt they would have three or four years ago and he's he's feeding bringing them to a dead heat at the last election was extraordinary and he's moving into a different phase he's now accepting that he's got to lead an alternative government and not just an opposition and I think the public will respond to that now and he understands that he's he's very astute he knew that they had to be a very negative oppositional phase and whilst he'll keep being a strong opposition leader he is now in the phase of presenting himself as an alternative prime minister just before I talked more about Tony can we just discuss Malcolm for a month I mean at least it is most fortunate for the Liberal Party they have someone of his caliber in reserve isn't it yeah I grew and I think I had quite a bit to do with persuading Malcolm to stay in Parliament after he had announced that he was going to leave tell me the story well he rang me up the day afterwards and said John can I come and see you and he came to see me and he said I think I've made the wrong decision and I said I think you have to and if you want my advice so I just announced that I'm going to change my mind you'll get 48 hours of ridicule but then after that everybody will have forgotten it and that is exactly what happened in people had a go at him you know what you're doing etcetera etcetera but most people very pleased that he stayed I'm happy I think Malcolm was very bright and I think he's got a huge contribution to make I think Tony Abbott's leadership skills were superior and Tony was able to hold the party together and put them in a position of opposition to Rudd's climate change policies which really panic Rudd and rut changing his position on climate change was the beginning of his decline in the polls which led to the party panicking and getting rid of it so it doesn't matter if you're a great businessman and you can run a corporation but it's not the same is it I mean I remember when people in your years people talked about parachuting John Elliott in as he did another company he could run the country it's not so well nothing automatically in a translates that doesn't mean to say a businessman skilled businessman or woman can't at some time be a prime minister but it doesn't automatically translate I've always thought that politicians should know how business works and businessman should know how politics work but they shouldn't automatically assume there can be an easy swap it it never works quite as easily but Malcolm is one of those people who has a great capacity to learn on the job and he likes politics and you learned from blogs I mean I made plenty of mistakes and you you always do there's there's never been a successful leader in the history of the world that hasn't made a lot of mistakes the important thing is to get the big issues right I mean you look at a career of people like somebody like Winston Churchill you may like enormous number of mistakes but sterling with Gallipoli yeah well your goals stand didn't want to give in to your independence but I'll tell you what he got he got the biggest issue of the 20th century right and that is the father of democracies to resist Nazism and fascism and and the leadership we gave of the free world is critically our making the greatest figure over the last 100 years which was in a way a template that guided you later in your own well he's he's an inspirational character to me is Tony Abbott really the love child of Bronwyn Bishop and Jon Hamm that's that's his lurid rhetoric like he has a close association with both of us and I am an undisguised supporter of Tony's I think he's got enormous ability there was no better read person in my cabinet than Tony Abbott he's got a great understand and he's a very good listener tell we will we come to know him and like him more can you understand his own popularity with women for instance no well I think that that's unjustified and result of an effective government campaign and he is reacting to that and but the best way to react to those sorts of things is is to put on display the plans you have for the future of the country and he's beginning to do that and once that occurs a lot of those reservations even if people don't entirely abandoned them they will say well that's irrelevant I like what he intends if he gets into government to do he said strange things I mean what did you think when he said that the woman's greatest gift is her virginity I'm kind of religious everybody has a different way of expressing I you wouldn't well well I'm I wouldn't have been interviewed by a magazine into that sort of area but what he was saying in his own language was a natural parental concern that their children live responsible lives and Nankin in the situations that they will later regret now there's not a father in Australia who wouldn't feel protective towards these daughters we were all we would express it we do all express it in our own way but it's the father of a daughter I was always protective towards my daughter and I still have I mean that's human nature and that's what Tony was expressing and although I'm sure your daughter wouldn't thank you for that now well I specimens that would have been on the foot I'm making is that that was Tony's way of expressing a concern and and a sense of protectiveness and I think there are probably a lot more people out there than you imagine who while they may have said that they understood what he was getting at and would support the settlement behind it let's forget about the popularity the personal popularity of the lead is if you look at the two party preferring bowling labor is inferencing and the Liberals win big victory the question is how big how many seats do you think silly no because it it will wrongly be seen as counting the chickens the liberal chickens before they hatch it's important because if that doesn't happen then you get back to your warning about a hung parliament and we'll go through the whole thing again you only need a majority of a few seats to be able to govern and Menzies had a majority of one but his Parliament in 1961 over the majority when they're all liberals liberals and Cathy patty I clearly believe on the basis the carrot pals that yeah but we'll win comfortably but just how many I'm not going to try that game some independence deserve to get back well I don't think either of the independents who support the government deserve to get back all this freedom well add rework I'm not sure where he stands but I I hope both a shot in Windsor lose their seats because the political predisposition of those two electorates was not to support the current government but rather support the opposition and they didn't take any notice of that and I'd like to see both of those seats come back to the national code independence do make for interesting political times they don't I don't no doubt about that if you are only interested in the theater and the drama and the day to day ten politics you'd have a hung parliament everyday but if you are interested in long-term reading my mind its policy and I understand the Canberra gallery loving the current situation but when you have a clear result what happens is the government's got mandate free air the opposition says we'll look we've lost me now I'm going to go and make out why and what make us more attractive let's talk about border security and Tony Abbott says we'll turn back the boats now it's a catchy slogan but is that all it is can you really turn back the boats well we'll find out when we get a government under Tony Abbott that will try and do that well you were such a government did you ever order a boat to be turned around yes we did in 2001 some boats were towed back to the edge of the territorial waters of Indonesian and they sailed in and they were taken by the Indonesian the undeniable fact is we stopped the boats coming in 2001 we went from having you know two or three thousand people arrival some thousands arrived in 2001 to attack with two people arriving in 2002 we stopped the boats and the Rudd Government and mr. Ali in particular unwound a completely successful policy and has now given us chaos it's a hard thing as a Prime Minister to order an Australian naval officer to step onto a boat which is for human beings men women and children who come from greatly distressed places and you know because you've been to these places and to tell them we're turning around and since that's hard for for a serving officer order that a back in case yeah I accept it but that is always the case when when governments ask their military personnel to do difficult dangerous sometimes life taking things I understand that very clearly sometimes inhumane thing yeah yes I don't think our people ever behaved in humanely I'm sure they didn't I never saw any evidence that they are behaving humanely they behaved very carefully and very bravely but you say it's a hard thing to do that it's also I had seemed to say to somebody who's been way 10 years or something in a refugee and who's been told they're a legitimate refugee but there's no place in Australia for you because that place has been taken by somebody who jumped the queue well the Labour Party's pretty much come round to your Pacific Solution again Emily so why isn't it working now well because once you let the genie out of the bottle to use that old expression it's extremely hard to put it back particularly when all of the things that kept it in the bottle in the first place have not been embraced by the current government they haven't embraced temporary protection visas so they'd be harder for Tony Turner it will be hard of course because we're back we will have had several years of porous borders of course it will be hard but he will have the will to try and he will have in the eyes of the Indonesians in particular the track record of belonging to a government that successfully protected our borders namely my government do you think the people smugglers and indeed their customers think that turn back the boats is now all bluff and bluster no I don't think they are I don't think they do I don't accept that no I don't of course the marvelous thing to do would be to sort out the situations in these most unfortunate countries so people didn't feel they had to leave well of course that is like saying the answer to to make sure that people never embrace bad habits like smoking or over drink to starvation so so these people will always be with us climate change might even make it a guy I think there will always be a refugee problem around the world and every country has got to play a perfect we write very well in the size of our humanitarian refugee program and the critical thing Charles is maintain public support for Orthodox immigration and a humanitarian refugee program and the way to do that is to is to assure the Australian people that our government is serious about making sure that the people who do come to this country make a contribution into Australia and they're also chosen according to a proper criteria of refugee entitlement now we used to have that and when we had it a few years ago public support for immigration rose very significantly now we don't have it and public support for immigration is declining and that's a bad thing can we talk about the vindictiveness in Parliament because you were always a gentleman in political debate is it because things have been so close and are no clear when are no clear losers you saying I think I think that is a significant part of it there is a a level of day-to-day tension and a feeling that what is here today might not be here tomorrow about Australian politics that I did never experienced before I entered Parliament when Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister okay we we we attacked him and we criticized his government and everything and he had a lot of problems in his last year but he still had a clear majority and until the drama of the dismissal there was never a feeling that the government was going to fall tomorrow and and you had the Fraser government of hawke-keating government and then my government at no stage did people feel that everything was going to change tomorrow but we've really lived under the shadow of government fragility since the 2010 election I think that's added to the intensity of the political debate and does a temper in the ferocity in Parliament in the attacks on the female Prime Minister even will be political attacks has it fed a disrespect for the office outside when a radio announcer can start talking about putting a prime minister in a chaff bag and dumping them at sea well I emphasize the main Prime Minister's have always been attacked and nobody ever talked about dumping you and it's sympathy but I can recall a few don't you think is rough on their look and I think the intensity of the language but it's been on both sides of many things that have been said about Tony Abbott and the you know the the remarks have been that have made may frankly his attitude to women I mean argument that he's got a problem with women is complete nonsense a lot of women polled seem to think that he has well if you keep saying something like that from one side of politics um people will believe what does Janette think well if you want to get Jeanette's opinion you asked yes I'm too scared I respect my wife too much to ever presume to answer on her behalf he's Bob Hawke right though when he said that the best thing that the Labour Party has going for it is it's a bit of a backhand hood of the Prime Minister the best thing the Labour Party has going for it is Tony Abbott no I think I think Bob I I often agree with Bob and I don't mind Bob's company at all but on this issue he's completely wrong in he he said before the last 2010 election that Tony Abbott had no hope and you know you almost pulled off something nobody has pulled off since the Great Depression when the Scullin government became the only government in Australian history to be booted out after one term and of course you said of attorney that the greatest thing you can do as a leader of the Opposition is to get a prime minister scalp well he got Kevin Rudd scalp I mean it has to be understood the reals it's a pretty visceral business does the real story of the last three years is is is that if anybody other than Tony Abbott had been leading the Liberal Party Kevin Rudd would have remained leader of the Labour Party and would have won the last election in my opinion with a comfortable majority that in my opinion is why Abbott's position is so strong Tony Abbott wouldn't want Kevin Rudd back he'd rather face the current Prime well that's asking me to do something I put you I declined to do when I was Prime Minister and that is engaged in political commentary however I knew you'd say that but if were you Prime Minister you would rather face Gillard than Rudd I mean it's axiomatic yeah well she's struggling in the polls and I indicate that he might be doing better but once she were brought if that was the will of the Labour Party I'm not certain that things might and go back to him because a lot of nasty things said about him by people like Wayne Swan and Nicola Roxon but as you said to Malcolm look you can say I made a mistake yeah and 48 hours it's all over what does Rudd have to say I can hear him now he'll ask his own questions have I learned from my previous experience yes I have will I be kinder to my colleagues yes well I think about my colleagues although I'm driven by my urgent need to fix Australia that's what are you saying Charles let's let's sort of you know cut this down to its essence we you're asking me do I think the Labour Party might bring back Rudd I think they could if the piles continue to be very bad then whatever people feel about an individual and they can panic and make a change will he be a tougher opponent you won't really know that unless and until he comes back but the Labour brand irrespective of who leaves the Labour Party now is so bad I mean bringing Kevin Rudd back won't remove mr. MacDonald and mr. a bead it won't it won't remove mr. Craig Thompson it won't remove the failure of the border protection policy it won't remove the waste and pink bats and things like that so can I talk about workplace reform sure can I use the term work choice use any term you like so it's not anathema it's not dead you don't want that is that is a tricky question look where choices as I have acknowledged had had one political error and and that was the removal of the no disadvantaged test and its replacement by a less rigid nonetheless quite good test now that was a mistake we acknowledge that we actually changed it before we lost office but all the other things we did in industrial relations I I would continue to defend but that's the past what Tony Abbott decides to do as a matter of him but speaking for myself I am very proud of what we did in the area of industrial relations very proud it's pretty obvious to anyone who looks into it that we do need workplace reform but use that old phrase the mob don't like it do they the mob liked it quite a lot until it played a role in our defeat in 2007 but it wasn't the major reason we lost in 2007 we lost King 2007 because of the it's time factory in the modern world the shelf life of the government is not much beyond ten years unless the opposition is absolutely hopeless a shifting demographic a change in the workplaces has taken place is the fact that an awful lot of people who were once employees and now private contractors so a lot of people who are still working class people are actually small business people but like your dad hmm well I I recognize this a long time ago that the entrepreneurial aspirational spirit and people who often had labor backgrounds as you say it was there and and you need an industrial relations system that accommodated labor appreciates that shift no I don't think the Labour Party does appreciate it because the Labour Party now is more heavily more extensively run rather by people who've been trade union officials and we're even in Bob Hawke's time he may have been the president of the a CTU but a lot of people around him word has wedded to the Union way of doing things as as the present government seems to me to be far more wedded at a time when there are fewer people who belong to unions but how we respond to that is of course a matter for the current opposition I'm happy to talk about what we didn't defend it because I'm very proud of what we did in that area the changes suggests that there needs to be more of a scramble between the two parties not a party for big business and not a party for trade unions and blue-collar workers but a selection and a chase of middle ground right well the party that that I led her of 16 years was not a party for big business it was sensitive to big corporations but if if there were a wellspring of the Liberal Party that I know best it's the small business will spring the the idea that you start with nothing it's where you came from yeah of course is where I came from and I believed in and you were always better in public life when you are promoting things that you feel and believing so while unfair dismissal walls might strike a chord at one level to those people who think maybe I could be unfairly dismissed to a small business it's struggling long as by no means rich those kind of punitive fines could destroy them couldn't oh yes there's a big difference if you if you're running up a little business and got four or five people in it and one of them is being extremely difficult and disruptive then you have to be able to let that person go and you shouldn't have to say higher penalty of forty or fifty thousand dollars go away money in order to bring that about I mean anybody's at any understanding of how to run a small visible know that but on the other hand if it's a very large corporation you can manage and absorb and accommodate those things a lot more readily that's why you need more flexibility in areas like this can I talk about our place in the world we are our present prosperity to China and historically we owe our national security to the United States of America these are two rivals where does that leave us well it leaves us with the overriding goal of of never feeling that we have to make a choice between the two of them the the idea is now promoted that such as the rivalry that we've got to make a choice that would be foolish in the extreme julia gillard make a choice when she's stationed American troops in Australia so I think that was I Greece that I agreed with Gillard's position on stationing the American you didn't do it well we did a lot of other things to demonstrate our communities to the American allies I think we could be accused of being legged ly on that but the point I make is that America and China are for different reasons very important to our future critical America is our closest ally we have common values and if there ever were our knock-down drag-out fight between China and the United States I've no doubt we support the United States but but but our aim should be pointy our aim should always be to stop that happening and my chances are better I'll be but what chance no I think I think the charges have it happening you're quite remote in China at the moment has got too many internal problems to be the aggressor that many people believe she could become she got demography aging population and one-child policy and the other you know the problem is the rumblings of Democratic discontent the current generation which is the first enriched in many cases yeah we'll put up an educated middle class won't take it now the next generation take prosperity for granted let's appoint John these there are so many elephants in the side there it's Australia in the sitting room there's a fact that this is actually a communist totalitarian dictatorship there are there are human human rights issues and then there is Tibet which we don't mention do we know what what we're mentioning when you go to China I don't think I mentioned it's a bet I certainly didn't mention it regularly no but but then I didn't expect we're trying to sell Coulter yeah of course we're trying to have it we've got to be common sense and the the answer on this is not to lecture China but when China trades on our toes and tries to get us to abandon our values and practices we resist them they on a couple of cases they tried that with me that when when there was a defector in consulate in Sydney they said send him back and I said no we're going to follow the Australian rules and the Australian rules were followed and he was given political asylum well despite all the warning from the Chinese that that would blow up our relationship nothing happened we went back to business as usual now that is the way to do with a country like China you defend your own values when China confronts them but you don't go out of your way to a lecture and sermonize to account me that is important to us economic I now call that pragmatism I call a pregnant well but I bet I think it's you know pragmatism in the national interest which is something that Prime Minister's should always seek to practice how do we encourage democracy within China without offending the Chinese well there are natural forces at work in couraging democracy mass communications the social media the IT revolution all of those things I mean I mean that the capacity of the Chinese regime to contain this the rumblings of democracy get weaker and weaker each year