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Election '96: businessman launches ad campaign for voters to support the Coalition. -

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Jim Waley:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
As the campaign reaches its climax, one of Australia’s
richest and most flamboyant businessmen is planning to
run a series of press advertisements urging voters to
support the Coalition, and he’s paying the cost out of his
own pocket. Such is Dick Smith’s conviction that it’s time
for a change. Mr Smith is in our Sydney studio, arid here
again is Laurie Oakes. Laurie.
Thanks, Jim. Mr Smith, wck-ame to the program. What
will the ads say tomorrow?
Well, they’re basically saying: Look, it’s after 13 years
of one government; it’s healthy to have a change; that
the present government was very innovative when it first
got in, it made some really good changes, but now it’s got
tired and democracy is that you really should have a twoparty
system and, every now and then, throw one out and
put the other in and give triem a go.
Now, you’ve been phoning other people, asking them to
put their names to &e ads. Diu y ~ gdet many prominent
people? What are some of the names?
Dick Smith:
Laurie Qakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Qakes:
Dick Smith:
The names I’ve got, I’ve got 21 Australians and I only
wanted 15, so I did better than I thought I’d do, and they
range from Sir Jack Brabham to Roger Woodward, the
pianist, Johnny Raper, myself - various names like that -
Suzi Morony , various people, sports people, business
people, and so forth.
Now, Roger Woodward’s interesting because he played the
piano at one of Bob Hawke’s campaign openings, I think
in the ’84 election.
Yes, I think he’s similar to me. He’s been an admirer of
the present government: but we believe that you’ve got to
have change. I mean, this is not a one-party system in
Australia, it’s a two-party system, and the democracy only
works if you’ve got a strong and powerful Opposition;
you only get a strong and powerful Opposition if you give
them a go every now and then.
Now, I notice that there are no businessmen in that list
you just gave me.
No, I had a real problem because most of the people I
phoned said, ’Oh, look, we need a change’, but when I
said, ’Would you come out and make an announcement?’
they said, ’Oh, we can’t.’ And that was extraordinary.
Some of the top business people, one who actually went on
the list initially and then pulled out because he was feared
that retribution by the unions, if Labor got back in again.
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Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
I was told that the Labor Party are good haters. Now, that
really worries me because this is a democracy here. Why
can’t people stand up? Nicole Kidman stood up and she
said, ’I want Paul Keating to get back in again.’ Now, I
admire her for that because that’s what she believes. But
is business people do it, it appears there’s going to be
retribution. That worries me.
You don’t think the Liberal Party are good haters as well?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t think . . I think it’s different.
But I just think it’s a real pity of Aussies just can’t get up
and say what they feel.
What’s the Labor Party done wrong in government?
I think, of recent times, the whole micro-economic reform
has stalled. I think that’s an incredible pity. I think a
good example is: Look at Telstra at the moment. I mean,
there’s no doubt that Paul Keating’s sold everything off he
can because there’s incredible advantages to get on those
boards a shareholder who actually is going to lose money
if the organisation is not running efficiently. But, of
course, that’s all stopped and we’ve got Paul Keating
saying now, ’Oh, no, we’ve sold just about everything off,
but we must now stop.’ No, we mustn’t, we must keep
going ahead, keep the reform; we’ll save money for
Australia and get people working.
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Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Now, are you certain the Coalition will be better? The
reason I ask that is that Stan Wallis, Chief Executive of
AMCOR was on Business Sunday a little while ago, and
he said the Coalition had gone into the election with one
hand tied behind their backs because they weren’t
advocating radical policy changes the country needs.
Now, do you : gee with him?
Yes, certainly. And I’m not totally certain, but you’ve got
to give them a go, for a start. I think there’s a damn good
chance they’re going to be better because they’re going to
have new ideas. I’m a great admirer of John Howard. I
think he’s the Alan Border of Australian politics. He’s not
a showman, he doesn’t have a tremendous amount of
charisma, but he’s solid. Alan Border worked and he got
Australia on top. John Howard, I believe, can do the
same, but you never know unless you give the guy a
chance.
Have you had any second thoughts in the last week? For
example, John Howard’s been accused of trying to buy
votes; he’s made a lot of big-spending promises. Do you
agree with that approach?
No, first of all, I consider that the ritual of politics, and I
don’t like any of it and I think most people watching
don’t. But if both sides don’t do that, they are considered
bad politicians. Remember John Hewson who got out . .
John Hewson would be the type of politician I’d be. I’d
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Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
say, ’Look, this is how it is; bad luck, you can have it if
you want it’ sort of thing. Now, he was destroyed by you
people in the media because you said he’s not a good
politician. So at least John Howard’s being a good.. . .
We said after he lost.
terrific.
Beforehand, I thought he was
Well, fair enough. But the interesting thing is, it doesn’t
matter who gets in, if the economy doesn’t start to turn
around - and we’re an immensely wealthy country, it’s a
fantastic country, Australia - all of those things on either
side can be paid for if the economy turns. If it doesn’t,
well, obviously, any politician there, any prime minister,
is going to say, ’Bad luck, we can’t do it,’ just as Bob
Carr did.
But John Howard says that if that happens, he will keep all
his promises to individuals at the expense of cutting the
deficit. Now, is he wrong?
No, no. I think that’s what he’ll do because that’s what’s
sort of politically acceptable. I don’t like it, but I
suppose, what he’s saying is, ’It’s not going to happen,
I’m going to turn the economy around.’ And I believe the
economy will be turned around because the very fact of
getting a new government inspires people. The interesting
thing is, the Labor Government obviously leans towards
the unions, which is important, and the Liberal
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Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Government leans towards business. But because both of
those are major players in Australia, you can’t have one
government promoting the unions for 13 years or for 16 or
for 20 years, you need to flip them around. We need to
give business a bit of a promotion now. That will get
people employed; it will make it better for the unions.
Now, you have this image, which you colour (?) that
carefully of being non-political, non-party political.. . .
Yes.
And yet, you would have . . . . $ in the last election, too,
didn’t you, on John Hewson’s side?
No, I didn’t.
Well, you allowed him to use your name as one of the
people who would advise him if he won office. I mean,
it gave him a lot of credibility. That surely wasn’t
intervention?
No because he asked me. Do you know what, if Paul
Keating had rung up and said, ’Dick, will you give me
some advice . . . .’ , I would have said, ’Beauty! Of course,
I will’ because that’s the type of person I am. I want to
do something for my country; I’ve done well out of it.
John Hewson asked and so I said, ’Yes, I’ll do it.’
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Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Well, what do you think of Tim Fischer’s comment to
those clergymen that if they wanted to intervene in a
political campaign, they should go the next step and put up
for Parliament or shut up? Doesn’t that apply to you?
Well, yes it does. And the reason I haven’t stood for
politics is that 1’; have to be an Independent because I
don’t agree with the policies of both sides - I’m a free
person - and, as an Independent, I’d be like Ted Mack -
you’d work incredibly hard and you can’t do a lot. So I
think it’s probably better for me to be on the outside, but
certainly to come out and say, ’Hey, we need a change.’
This is a great country, but it’s not a one-party state. We
need to get another side in. If they’re no good, in three
years’ time, I’ll be standing there saying, ’Let’s vote them
out. ’
Now, you’re going to have a big say tomorrow because
you can afford to buy newspaper advertisements. Now,
Joe Bloggs out there, whose opinion, presumably, is just
as valuable, can’t. Now, is that fair?
Well, what I’m going to do is comunicate to people.
The reason I have the money is I’ve been successful in
business in this fantastic country under various
governments, Liberal and Labor, and so basically I’m
saying .. I’d rather keep the money myself and buy a new
car or I’d rather give the money to the Salvation Army.
It’s not a huge amount of money. But I’m going to stand
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up and say, ’Hey.’ You see, I think at the moment the
media is quite biased. I’ve looked, over the last two or
three days, and your colleagues are mesmerised by Paul
Keating. Now, Paul Keating is a better showman, there’s
no doubt about that, but when you see what’s happening
.. yesterday morning, in the Sydney Morning Herald,
there are two lbotos - one of John Howard with his hand
over his head in a vehicle, and the other one of Paul
Keating waving and people showing victory signs. Now,
someone’s selected those photos because they must have
had thousands. The media is rnesmerised by the so-called
showmanship of Paul Keating. That doesn’t say that John
Howard won’t make an excellent prime minister. I believe
he will.
Laurie Oakes:
Dick Smith:
Laurie Oakes:
Mr Smith, we thank you.
Thank you.
Back to you, Jim.