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Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
yUpon dissolution of the House of Representativesz
August 8, 2005
|[Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Opening Statement]
Today I dissolved the House of Representatives. The heart of my reform, the bill related to the privatization of the postal services, was defeated in the House of Councillors. In other words, the Diet has decided that there is no need to privatize the postal services.
In my policy speech at the outset of this regular Diet session, I explained the need for privatization of the postal services. Moreover, I stated that I would see to it that the bill related to the privatization of the postal services was passed during this session of the Diet. However, unfortunately the bill was defeated and dropped. The conclusion reached by the Diet is that there is no need for privatization of the postal services. For my part, I would like to ask the people if there really is no need to privatize the postal services. You could even say that my dissolution of the Diet is a postal services dissolution. Are you in support of privatization of the postal services? Or are you opposed to it? I would like to put that question clearly to the people.
During the election of the President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) four years ago, I stated, "I will change the LDP. And if it will not change, I will bring it down." This is what I meant when I said I would change it. Until now all of the political parties have opposed privatization of the postal services. Why is it that while espousing "leave to the private sector what it can do" they say that the privatization of postal services is not acceptable? I am truly baffled by that. Is it really the case that only civil servants can perform the work of the post office? Is it really true that only government officials can do it? I have never thought that way. I still believe that if given the chance, private business executives could handle the work of the post office. Moreover, I believe that if the private sector were to undertake the services offered by the post office, it would be able to provide a greater diversity of services offerings than is now available, be able to contribute to enhancing the benefits of the people and be able to develop products and services needed by the people. My statements and thoughts on this matter have not changed at all.
Why is it that everyone says "leave to the private sector what it can do," and yet for some reason when it comes to the three postal services they also say that "nobody but civil servants can do it." Do they feel that "it is such an important job and therefore can only be carried out by civil servants?"
At the very least I assumed that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has operated under a banner of promoting reform, would come up with its own alternative bill for privatization. But unfortunately, even the DPJ was opposed to privatization. They would not even put forward an alternative bill for privatization. Rather, they joined forces with the internal opposition forces within the LDP to bring about the defeat of this bill. With this state of affairs, will we really be able to realize administrative reform and fiscal reform? I am hard-pressed to understand this.
I am aware that there are many people who say that there are things that are more important than privatization. Still, if we are unable to achieve privatization of the postal services, then what major reforms can we accomplish? The very notion that "it just cannot be done by anyone other than government officials" or that "nobody but civil servants can provide important public services" embodies the view that government officials are somehow superior to ordinary citizens. I think that is rude to people in the private sector. Private sector companies and executives do not wait for the government to oblige them to "do this," "manufacture these kind of products" or "offer these kind of services." Even without that, they take it upon themselves to develop the products and services that the people need. Why is it that the LDP as well as the opposition parties feel that "when it comes to the three postal services, it must be the civil servants who carry them out?" Frankly speaking, the reason is that at election time, both the LDP and the DPJ receive support from civil servants involved in the three postal services and in fact they are important supporters of their election campaigns. That is why. I can understand their feelings that they simply have to listen to the voices of their supporters. It is important to listen to what some organizations have to say. Still, considering "leave to the private sector what it can do," "government services should complement the work of the private sector" and "government officials should carry out work that cannot be undertaken by the private sector," and bearing in mind the interests of all the people of our country, are we not in an age when "if the private sector is able to carry out public works, then such work should be left to the private sector?" I believe that the notion that "private sector individuals cannot handle public works" or "important work should be left to the government officials" is an outdated view.
I have long said that "opposing privatization of the three postal services is like tying someone's arms and feet together and telling them to swim" and that "if you really want to implement administrative reform and fiscal reform, you must support this privatization." And people said that these were crazy ideas. I have been developing my ideas regarding privatization since I campaigned in the election of the President of the LDP four years ago. I stressed the need for privatization, which was disliked both by the LDP and the opposition parties. Even so, I became President of the LDP and then Prime Minister. Even after assuming the post of Prime Minister, I maintained my stance that "if you do not like privatization of the postal services, you should get rid of me." Despite that, the LDP put me forward as President of their party in the general elections.
As Prime Minister, I made privatization of the postal services a public pledge and fought on the part of the LDP in both the election for the House of Representatives and the election for the House of Councillors. Yet despite that, there are still those who put forward their opinion, saying that "I am opposed to privatization in the first place." Furthermore, even the DPJ, which said "leave to the private sector what it can do," has now said "a public corporation would be the right way." They have started to say that "important public works should be left to the government officials." Isn't there something strange about this?
Everyone is in agreement that if we are really going to implement administrative and fiscal reform, we must reduce the number of civil servants. There are approximately 260,000 national civil servants involved in the postal services. In addition to that, there are 120,000 part-time civil servants involved, bringing the total to approximately 380,000 people involved in the postal services and the work of the post office. Is this work really something that cannot be accomplished by anyone other than civil servants? I believed that this sector should be opened to the private sector, and that is why I have stressed the need to privatize it. Why is it that without the 380,000 civil servants the services of the post office cannot be provided? I believe that the post office is an asset of the people. I am clearly stating that "post offices will not disappear from sparsely populated areas" and that "the three postal services can be sufficiently maintained both in sparsely populated areas and in the regions even if we leave it to the private sector." That is why I intend to ask the people directly whether privatization of the postal services is really not necessary. Are civil servants really better suited than private sector individuals when it comes to carrying out important public works projects? I do not think that is the case. Even when it comes to public works, if there are things that can be undertaken by the private sector, then we ought to let the private sector do as much as it can.
It is an unfortunate truth that this bill was defeated in the House of Councillors and was dropped. The Diet has passed its decision that there is no need to privatize the postal services. As for me, I believe that if we are going to realize administrative and fiscal reform, if we are going to aim for a future in which we have a simple and efficient government that does not unnecessarily interfere and if we are going to open up the work of the government to the private sector, if that is what we are really striving for, then we must carry out privatization of the postal services.
Approximately 400 years ago, at a time when the world was convinced of the geocentric theory of the solar system, Galileo Galilei announced that "the Earth moves" according to heliocentric theory. It is said that even after being found guilty of heresy, he stated, "But still the Earth moves."
Today, the Diet has reached the conclusion that there is no need to privatize the postal services. Still, I intend to once again ask the people whether it really is the case that only civil servants can handle the work of the post office and if we really cannot allow the private sector to take it on. If we cannot do this, then how can we reduce the number of civil servants? What kind of administrative reform can we accomplish?
There are those who say that we should not be doing this because "there are more important things" but I believe that "the most important thing" that they are talking about really amounts to protecting the privileges of the civil servants. Are the internal opposition forces not just trying to protect the interests of the civil servants? By taking on those who try to protect vested interests and the powers that want to maintain the status quo, the LDP has truly become the party of reform. That is why I want the coming elections to be an opportunity to ask the people for their judgment. The LDP will only officially recognize candidates who support privatization of the postal services.
Now that we have become the party of reform, the LDP will face the DPJ straight on and turn to the people to ask them to pass their judgment. That is why I choose to dissolve the Diet.
If the LDP and the New Komeito as they advocate privatization of the postal services can get the support of the people and gain control of a majority of the seats in the Diet, I will call a new Diet session to order after the elections and make every effort to ensure that a bill to privatize the postal services is passed.
Thank you for your attention.
[Q & A]
QUESTION 1: Please share with us your honest thought in seeing the bill related to the privatization of the postal services defeated by 17 votes and withdrawn. Furthermore, criticisms have been raised even among the ruling parties against dissolving the House of Representatives upon the bill being rejected at the House of Councillors. Please tell us what kind of reasoning you have behind this as well.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I was aware that the bill related to the privatization of the postal services only had a slim chance of passing at the House of Councillors as a number of people had informed me so up until yesterday. Nonetheless, I was holding my breath today as I watched the vote proceed at the House of Councillors as there were still some possibilty, regardless of how small it was. To my disappointment, however, the bill was defeated. I believe your question now is: Isn't it odd to dissolve [the House of Representatives] when the bill was passed at the House of Representatives and rejected at the House of Councillors? As I have been saying, since its inauguration, the Koizumi Cabinet has positioned the privatization of the postal services to be at the heart of its structural reforms. Privatization of the postal services is something most natural for me. I just do not understand why there are so many people against this. While supporting and advocating the policy of "leave to the private sector what it can do," why do they think that an exception should be made for the operation of the post office, demanding it to be conducted by civil servants? This is precisely the reason that I have clearly stated that "I will consider the rejection of the bill on the privatization of the postal services as people's lack of confidence in me and the structural reforms that the Koizumi Cabinet has been advancing thus far."
The buds of reform have just started to grow amidst a split in opinions, in particular with more people arguing against than for these efforts. The bill on privatization, which will contribute to both the administrative and fiscal reforms through minimizing and cutting out redundant work in the government as much as possible-I take its rejection at a time when we are finally witnessing these buds of reform grow to mean a denial of the very nature of the structural reforms promoted by the Koizumi Cabinet. This is the decision drawn up by the Diet. However, I still cannot believe this outcome. I dissolved the House of Representatives to see if the people would say "no" or "yes" to the reform track I have been advancing, that the Koizumi Cabinet has been advancing.
QUESTION 2: Prime Minister Koizumi, you have said that you will not officially recognize LDP members who opposed the bill related to the privatization of the postal services in the plenary session of the House of Representatives, but there is the question of whether the LDP can go through the election under such circumstances. If this happens, I believe the LDP will have, in effect, a divided election. Depending on the results, I think there is a possibility that the Koizumi administration, together with the privatization of the postal services, as well as the LDP itself could fall from power. Prime Minister Koizumi, you have made a bid for an election, but are you confident that you can win?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: This is a question that I have often heard from many LDP members. People have said to me, "There is no way we can win an election if the LDP is split," "That is why we should not dissolve the House of Representatives even if the bill is rejected," or "Why can we not continue to deliberate the bill once more and pass it in an extraordinary session of the Diet?" But my answer has always been that I would pass the bill in this Diet session. We have spent 100 hours deliberating the bill in the House of Representatives and 80 hours in the House of Councillors. Not only that, the bill was methodically passed in the committee, submitted to the plenary session, and the deliberations held smoothly. But the bill was dropped in the end. Can the LDP win a divided election in this situation? I am sure some people do not think so. To be honest, I do not think we can tell unless we hold an election.
After the election, I think I need to cooperate with the forces that supported the privatization of the postal services. I will not cooperate with the forces that opposed the privatization of the postal services. This is precisely why I will make every effort to guarantee that the LDP and New Komeito members in favor of the privatization of the postal services can capture the majority of seats in the House of Representatives. Even if the LDP and New Komeito members combined cannot gain the majority of seats, under no circumstances will I cooperate with the forces opposing the privatization of the postal services. If the LDP and the New Komeito cannot win the majority of seats after a public verdict, I will resign.
QUESTION 3: Even if you retain power after dissolving the House of Representatives, there will be no change in the composition of the members of the House of Councillors. If you do resubmit the bill related to the privatization of the postal services, how do you intend to get it through the House of Councillors?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I have had the same question put to me by many LDP members. If the people lend their support to my view that "privatization of the postal services is necessary," I am certain that those Diet members in the House of Councillors who were opposed to the bill or abstained will support us and cooperate with us. Right now those who think that "the people do not support privatization of the postal services" are the ones who oppose it. That is where they completely differ from me. Those who are opposed say that "privatization of the postal services will destroy the post offices," but I am saying, "I will not destroy the post office," "post offices are an asset of the people" and "I will protect this network."
What I am saying is that "the people will receive better services if we leave to the private sector the work of the post office, which is now being carried out by civil servants." In the end, my way of thinking and that of those who are opposed to privatization did not change. Which of us is right? This is what I would like to ask the people to decide. If the people decide that "after all there is a need to privatize the postal services" and give a majority of the Diet seats to the LDP and New Komeito, I am certain that the Diet members in the House of Councillors will change their views, change the way they think about this and cooperate with us.
QUESTION 4: Ordinarily I expect that there must be some people within the DPJ who would support privatization of the postal services. Is there any possibility that you will cooperate with those forces after the election?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: If the LDP and the New Komeito have secured a majority of the seats in the Diet after the election, I will be glad to cooperate with any party that is in support of privatization of the postal services.
QUESTION 5: I understand that you want to make the postal services the focus of the battle during the coming election, but I would like to ask a different question, about Yasukuni Shrine. People are focused on the date of August 15. Do you have any plan to pay a visit to the Shrine prior to the election? Do you have any intent to make the issue of visits to Yasukuni Shrine a point of debate during the upcoming election?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I have absolutely no intent to make the issue of visits to Yasukuni Shrine a point of debate during the upcoming election. I have said this again and again in the past. Visits to the Shrine are made to commemorate the war dead and sincerely express respect and gratitude. The peace and prosperity that we now enjoy in Japan did not come about only through the efforts of those alive today. The peace and prosperity of today came about from the precious sacrifices of those who went reluctantly into battle and were forced to bid farewell to their family and many loved ones and wound up giving their lives. When I make a visit to the Shrine, it is because I want to express my heartfelt feelings of respect and gratitude to those people. I believe that these are natural human feelings. People often point out relations with China and I am an advocate of the friendship between Japan and China. Whether it be in the economic sector, in culture or in sports, exchange between our countries is deepening to levels never before seen. Chinese people from all over the country can now receive tourist visas to visit Japan. Grassroots exchanges are more active than ever before. From that perspective, I do not believe that the issue of Yasukuni Shrine is the embodiment of the overall relations between Japan and China. I recognize that it is extremely important to continue to maintain and develop the friendly relations between Japan and China and between Japan and the Republic of Korea. I have absolutely no intention to make the issue of visits to Yasukuni Shrine a point of debate in the upcoming election.
QUESTION 6: Earlier you said that you really could not predict the outcome of the election in advance. At a time when there are many issues of concern on both the domestic and international agendas, how do you respond to voices of criticism saying that you are creating a political vacuum by putting everything on the line over this issue?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: As to whether or not this will create a political vacuum, I would have to say that there is no respite for politics. Even during a holiday, as a Minister of State, as Prime Minister, there is always a backload of work to be done on both domestic issues and diplomatic matters. Full attention must be given to these issues without delay.
Many people are taking their summer vacations now. If the Diet had not been dissolved, most politicians would have been going on summer holiday too. I suppose the members of the press would have been going on summer leave too. This will be an especially heavy burden for the candidates during this summer holiday season, but I only hope to get past the election on September 11 as soon as possible and bring the situation to a close with the least possible disturbance to the political scene.
QUESTION 7: Will you refuse to officially recognize those Diet members who were absent?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I will listen carefully to what those members who were absent and those who abstained have to say and if they support privatization of the postal services, I may be able to consider officially recognizing them.
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