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Senator Bishop has a new position in the Shadow Ministry; the leadership of the party is discussed -

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PETER COUCHMAN: If you believe the Opposition Leader John Hewson's rhetoric, all is now well within the Coalition. Bronwyn Bishop has finally made it into the Shadow Cabinet; Peter Reith has been promoted; and everyone is happy. As if to push home this point, at the crack of dawn this morning, several Liberal heavies journeyed to a safe Labor seat on the outskirts of Sydney. It was a breakfast for the Liberal campaign in the Werriwa by-election, but as Ray Moynahan reports, the local candidate was over-shadowed.

RAY MOYNAHAN: You would have to say the Liberal Party's breakfast didn't start according to plan. Bronwyn Bishop was scheduled to open proceedings, but she was late. While the two Johns waited, Bronwyn was busy finishing off an appearance on Channel Nine's Today show and when she did arrive she was accompanied by a blitz of cameras and welcomed with applause. It was Senator Bishop's job to introduce her leader.

BRONWYN BISHOP: So John, as leader of our party, the man who is giving direction in this by-election, the man who I look forward to serving with in the Shadow Cabinet - and thank you for that opportunity - would you welcome, ladies and gentlemen, Dr John Hewson, the Leader of the Liberal Party and the man for whom we have great admiration and respect.

JOHN HEWSON: Well thank you very much, Bronwyn, for the warm introduction .....

RAY MOYNAHAN: Along with the standard criticism of the Keating Government, Hewson's speech singled out political ambition for a special attack.

JOHN HEWSON: This election campaign is very important from the point of view of the people of Werriwa who have been taken for granted, who have been saddled for years with people that use this as a stepping stone, or a political pit stop if you like, on the way to the front bench, and then to forget the needs and the interests of the people of Werriwa.

RAY MOYNAHAN: During this morning's political pit stop for Bronwyn Bishop, there was time for plenty of those famous smiles. The embarrassment was palpable, as John Hewson was so obviously over-shadowed by his new Shadow Minister for Urban and Regional Strategy.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Charley Lynn, John Hewson is here, I am here and John Howard is here. Well, how long is it going to be because I am trying to be sociable too. These really are a terrible social disease, aren't they?

RAY MOYNAHAN: So when the breakfast round of radio interviews was finally over, it was outside for more pictures and the explanation of Bronwyn's promotion.

JOHN HEWSON: Our problem is to win regional seats if we are going to win government and she has got the profile, she has got the capacity to attract a crowd, she has got the capacity to develop a policy and sell a policy, and so it will be of extreme benefit not only to Bronwyn, but to the Coalition, if she does that job well. And it is fundamental, I mean I don't want to under-play the significance of it at all.

BRONWYN BISHOP: What I am concerned about is ensuring that the policies we develop reflect the things in which we believe, and that is the philosophy of individualism and the principles of free enterprise, and that is what I want to see our policies reflect, and that is my aim.

RAY MOYNAHAN: And when the inevitable question of leadership came up, John Hewson assured everyone he was absolutely secure.

JOHN HEWSON: I mean, I have no problem. I don't think about it. I mean, I spend my time concentrating on strategies to get rid of Paul Keating and I don't give a second to leadership speculation. I know, as I say, the media are a bit sort of in awe of this. They seem to relate everything to leadership but you know, you really ought to go and have a cold shower and all go on and have a good time.

RAY MOYNAHAN: While the cold shower advice is welcome, it was only four days ago that Liberal backbencher, John Bradford, described the leadership issue as a festering sore and gave this endorsement to Bronwyn Bishop as a potential leader:

JOHN BRADFORD: I guess it is true to say that she has got a lot of support outside the Parliament and as that momentum grows, I guess the reality is that she will probably start to gather more friends inside the Parliament.

RAY MOYNAHAN: So the questions remain - are we looking here at the former, present and future Liberal leaders, and more importantly, what substance lies behind their smiles?

PETER COUCHMAN: Indeed. There has been a flood of rumours and rhetoric flow under the bridge since Bronwyn Bishop turned down the minor shadow portfolio of Administrative Services, after the loss of the unlosable election. Now she is where she wanted to be - among the decision-makers in the inner Shadow Cabinet, responsible for the catch-all portfolio of Urban and Regional Strategy.

Well, Senator Bishop, you and John Hewson were very pally this morning. You are now a loyal member of his front bench team.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, I am delighted to have joined the front bench. As I have said all along, I wanted to be part of the Shadow Cabinet if that opportunity was afforded me. It now has been and I am part of that team, dedicated to the purpose of bringing down Paul Keating and seeing good government for Australia introduced.

PETER COUCHMAN: You knocked back a number of other jobs when John Hewson offered them to you. What was different about this one?

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, there was one other job that I was offered and that I declined and that was a job that was in the outer ministry, and I said then I wanted to be in the Shadow Cabinet where the action is, if you like, where the real decision-making power lies.

PETER COUCHMAN: I wonder what has changed his mind about you because he dropped you when you were handling the administrative - was it Administrative Affairs, yes - he dropped you because he clearly didn't believe you had the capacity to be a member of his team. I wonder what has changed his mind.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, I don't know whether he believed, what he believed about my capacity. I don't think that has changed very much, so you would have to ask him that, but all I know is that I am delighted to be in the team now.

PETER COUCHMAN: So you have given away any ambition to lead the party.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, as I have said again and again, it just isn't an issue. I have said that the only thing I am running for is Mackellar, and indeed, the people of Mackellar come first and that by-election is very much to the fore of my mind and I just wish the Prime Minister would show the same consideration for the electors of Mackellar as he showed for the electors of Werriwa and would call the by-election.

PETER COUCHMAN: Well, I asked the question because the commentators this morning have - I think every one of them has interpreted this new job as a tailor made opportunity for you to pursue any ambition you may have to rise further in the party, be it to the leadership or anywhere else. Do you see it that way?

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well Peter, I have very strong ambition, very strong ambition. I want to see my party in government. I want to be a Minister in that government because I want for this country to have the opportunity for every Australian to succeed and reach their maximum potential, and Australians are denied that under this Labor Party Government. So I have very strong ambitions indeed.

PETER COUCHMAN: You seem to have interpreted the new job as giving you carte blanche to talk publicly on almost any aspect of Liberal policy. Is that how you see it?

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, Dr Hewson and I spent a good couple of hours discussing the parameters of the job because I wanted to be quite clear in my own mind, and in the statement he put out last night you will see it says very specifically the job is to develop policy in all aspects that affect regions, and that of course does include anything, as I have said during the day, from tax to health to education, to industry policy, as it relates to regions, so it is wide ranging. I wanted to have any misunderstandings that may occur cleaned up and that Dr Hewson said he would speak with colleagues so that there are no misunderstandings.

PETER COUCHMAN: So this virtually makes you well, a spokesperson for the party then, on almost any issue.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, it is wide ranging in that sense, but of course there will be co-operation in working with colleagues to ensure that we get the best discussion and the best policy possible. But it will be in line with the things in which we believe and I think we forgot that for a little while.

PETER COUCHMAN: But for instance, who has priority when it comes to making statements about tax, you or the Shadow Treasurer?

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, as I said, we had discussions about these sorts of things and quite clearly when we are discussing policy, first of all it is going to be within the Shadow Cabinet and the Shadow Ministry, and then into the party room. So in the end, the party is what makes policy, not individuals. I have ideas, other people have ideas. This will give me the opportunity to formulate those ideas into policy.

PETER COUCHMAN: Yes, but every other Minister - I mean, we have been talking about tax, for instance - Alexander Downer is accepted as the only person in the party, apart from the leader, who should speak out on tax matters. Now presumably you will also feel free to speak out if you choose.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Yes, as it relates to regions, and obviously it does. I mean, taxation is very important in determining the future of a region.

PETER COUCHMAN: So in a sense, you will have almost the same freedom as the leader of the party, in this sense, to speak out on policy issues.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, as I said, it is wide ranging and if you read Dr Hewson's statement, he makes that quite clear, and we have got to develop that policy and then secondly, go out and sell it.

PETER COUCHMAN: So what happens if you happen to disagree with Dr Hewson on some particular policy issue? Do you pursue your conscience and speak out?

BRONWYN BISHOP: Well, you would do that within the confines of first of all the Shadow Cabinet and the party room. Those are the areas and I will have a task force to work with, as well, and that is going to be important. I look forward to that very much indeed.

PETER COUCHMAN: So you will be forming policy in these areas and speaking out on them.

BRONWYN BISHOP: Indeed, but policy is formulated as I said, by the party itself, not by individuals. But ideas that I have, I now have the opportunity to form, to formulate and then see come into policy.

PETER COUCHMAN: Well, Senator Bishop, we will watch and listen with interest. Thank you.