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Transcript of press conference: Sydney: 18 March 1993



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COMMONWEALTH

^ ` PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY

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' >:a •:t' ^, MICAH

JOHN HOWARD MP MEMBER FOR BENNELONG

SHADOW MINISTER PDR INDUSTRIAL RET.A'TIONS, EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING

E&OE TRANSCRIPT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE HELD BY THE HON. JOHN HOWARD, NP, ON THURSDAY, 18 MARCH 1993, AT 70 PHILIP STREET, SYDNEY

Ladies and gentleman, I've called this press conference to formally confirm that I will nominate for the leadership of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party when that Party meets next Tuesday, and before dealing with the election and with the reasons why I believe the Liberal Party should choose me to lead it over the next three years, I would like to place on

record my great admiration and respect for the energy and commitment and dedication that John and Carolyn Hewson brought to the recently concluded election campaign. Modern election campaigns are very difficult and arduous undertakings and I believe that both John and Carolyn brought enormous energy and commitment to that campaign.

I don't think there's any point in denying the fact that the Liberal Party last Saturday suffered its worst political defeat since its formation in 1944, given the circumstances of very deep recession, of over a million Australians out of work

and of a public weary of ten years of Labor government, of a man as Prime Minister of this country who at times had •demonstrated to have been desperately unpopular it certAinly was a very debilitating defeat and it's a result that requires

very careful examination and very careful introspection by all members of the parliamentary Liberal Party as well as by members of the organisation.

And I want to say at the outset that I think that the Liberal Party should take time to analyse the reasons for the defeat and I believe there ought to be vigorous, constructive debate about it and I think the idea that somehow or other we can

simply batten down the hatches as though nothing had happened is quite unrealistic and we do need to have a period of very sensible and ongoing debate.

The Party, normally, after an election,,..vacancies arise for the choice of new leaders and in those circumstances I have decided to nominate and I have decided to nominate because I believe that of those in the parliamentary Party I can do a better and more effective and a more politically successful

job of leading the Liberal Party through what will be a very difficult time in its existence. We will be facing a government emboldened and encouraged what even many of its ardent supporters will acknowledge to be an unexpectedly

strong mandate and it will not be an easy task. And the Party

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organisation, as well as the parliamentary Liberal Party, will require enormous reserves of commitment and energy in order to achieve the task of winning back government in 1996.

I believe that I am the person best able to do that and to deliver government because I will bring to the job a range of political skills which are better than those of any other person on offer. It is not a time when one should be reticent about stating reasons why one is seeking the highest office in one's party. I believe if we have learnt anything from Labor over the last few years and most particuarly from Labor over

the course of this campaign is that in politics there is no substitute for an array of political skills. And those skills

not only involve a capacity to debate, argue and articulate philosophy as well as policy but also a-capacity to analyse what is the most politically acceptable way of communicating an economic message.

One part of the political skills that are necessary in this country in the 1990s is to relate economic policy to social goals and social visions. You cannot present economic policies as mechanisms in their own right as though they exist

in a vacuum and are ends in themselves. In case it is . thought that this is some post-election coming of wisdom on my part I might remind you that a few years ago I presented a document which I don't necessarily argue is suitable for the 1990s and

I acknowledge some of the contents of its not everybody would agree with, but a document called "Future Directions" which conceptually made the point that what you have to do is to put down your blue-print, your philosophical and social blue-

print, and then you've got to relate your individual policies to the viewpoint...blue- print. And that is an approach, and that is an attitude, that I have argued for very consistently over the last few years. It is important to relate what you are on about economically with your values and your objectives and your goals for Australia.

I think I can also bring a special quality to the Party leadership in the area of links with the Party organisation. I am a product of the Liberal Party organisation. I have spent all my adult life believing in serving and promoting the cause of the Liberal Party. I am not alone, of course, in

having done that.. There are,many other men and women in the parliamentary Party and elsewhere around Australia of whom a similar comment can be made.

And over the next few years a rather dispirited party organisation in some parts of Australia will need particular empathy and particular understanding and particular sympathy and I believe that I can bring, if I am chosen as the Leader

of the Liberal Party, a capacity to relate to, and encourage and understand and, where necessary, inspire the Liberal Party

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organisation whose reserves will be called upon as never before over the next few years.

There are just two other comments that I want to make about the future.

I think it is absolutely imperative that whoever is chosen to lead the Liberal Party does not in reality, or be seen to be adopting anything in the nature of a winner take all approach either in the policy or in the composition of the Party's

front bench. I think it is absolutely critical that all members of the Party feel that an inclusive approach is being adopted to the process of policy formulation and the choice of personnel.

Specifically, that means that the front bench must fully represent and be seen to represent the spectrum of views within the parliamentary Liberal Party and throughout the Party organisation.

The Liberal Party is a broad church. It does involve people with a range of views and it is absolutely essential to its viability, to its strength and to its capacity to recover over the next three years that that range of views be faithfully

and accurately reflected in the composition of the front bench and I want to make it very clear as I announce my candidature that if elected that will be a firm commitment which will be delivered in full to the satisfaction of the parliamentary Party and to the broader community.

And the other point that I wish to make is that I am not running any ticket with anybody as deputy leader of the Party. A-number of my colleagues who I know, respect and like are considering nominating for the position of deputy leader of

the Party. It is a matter for the Party to decide its deputy leader, as it is a matter for the Party to decide its leader. And I make it very clear I would be very happy to work with the man or the woman who is chosen by the parliamentary Party

to be the deputy leader if it is my privilege to be asked to lead the Party next Tuesday.

Do you have any questions?

(inaudible)

I beg your pardon?

How are the numbers looking?

Very good.

(inaudible)

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I believe I will win and I will win comfortably.

.,.can you unite the without the (inaudible)....

I believe a lot has happened since those years. I believe that many of the antagonisms at a personal level that existed then have disappeared. I am encouraged in that belief by the fact that some who were clearly seen as not supporters of mine at that particular time have indicated to me that they are going to support me on this occasion. I think all of us have been sobered by the experience of those years. I think all of

us have been sobered and we've all grown up a little bit as a result of the experiences of the last three years and, most particularly, the experience of last Saturday. I don't believe there is anybody in the Liberal Party now who believes that his or her responsibility is other than to do what they can collectively together to secure the defeat of the Labor Party at the next election.

(inaudible)

No, I don't. I think you could make that claim if I had disappeared from sight after I had ceased to be the Leader of the Party in 1989. I might remind you that, over the last four years, I have continued to maintain a very active profile

as a senior front bencher. If I had disappeared and was suddenly dusted down and resurrected then perhaps they would be entitled to take that view. But I don't think anybody would doubt that over the last three years I have worked

tirelessly to help John Hewson and Peter Reith and that I have remained a very relevant and influential figure in the parliamentary Liberal Party and in the broader community.

(inaudible)

Well you could say that, Michael, of anybody. Well I would...! would...look we could talk about the scale of (inaudible) policies, I think there are a number of reasons why we lost. Some of them are related to the content of the

policy, some of them are related to explanations of those policies, some of them are related to different strategies and to different tactics. I believe that I am seen in the community as a person of substance, of durability. Somebody who has values and beliefs and holds to them, but equally

somebody who has an empathy with middle Australia and very much a person who believes that you have to relate particular policies in their mechanical details to the broader social

goals and the social visions of Australia.

(inaudible)

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If I were to become Leader I would want John Hewson to stay in the parliamentary Party. I would accommodate him in whatever position he sought. I would do the right, decent and honourable thing by John Hewson as indeed other Leaders have done in relation to those who have gone before them.

(inaudible)

I'm sorry?

(inaudible)

well I will stay in the parliamentary Party. I have a contract with the people of Bennelong for the next three years and I will place myself at the disposal of the person who is elected to lead the Party and I will continue to help the

Party and work towards achieving the goals that I continue to have for my country.

(inaudible)

You know as well as I do that in the heat of campaigns and particularly on an occasion when it is far from absolutely certain what the outcome is that kind of response to that kind of question is totally legitimate.

(inaudible)

well that was a totally accurate statement.

(inaudible)

Well, you know, you know, no I wasn't.. You know as well as I do that when a Party loses an election and it became very clear as the night wore on on Saturday that we had lost that election that anybody is then entitled to nominate for the

vacant position.

(inaudible)

I decided to nominate as a result of approaches I received on Sunday and Monday.

(inaudible)

Look, I haven't called this press conference to bag John Hewson or to analyse his personality. I regard that as both odious and impertinent of me and I don't propose to do it. He

remains, despite the fact that we are engaged in competition for the highest office in our party, he remains a friend of mine a man who I respect and I do not intend to engage in some kind of psychoanalysis of it. I content myself with promoting

what I believe to be the reasons why I could do a better job

than anyone else in leading the Party.

Have you spoken with Dr Hewson?

Sorry?

(inaudible) I don't know. I'm only aware of two candidates at this stage. There may be more, I really don't know.

(inaudible)

Well I think John Hewson and John Howard are the two. ..1 don't know of any others, There may be others, I don't know. But at this stage I am aware of John and he is aware of me and I don't know of anybody else.

(inaudible)

Yes. I went to see him yesterday afternoon. I spoke to him on Sunday and I expressed my sorrow that we'd lost the election and I said that I would not tender any advice to him as to whether he should run again because, understandably, he may not regard that as totally objective advice and it was apparent from that comment that I was taking stock of my own position. I saw him yesterday and I told him that I would be running and that I would be making a formal announcement today. We had a totally civil conversation. We talked a bit about the election result and that is how we left it.

Mr Howard, has ...(inaudible)

Well that will be a matter for the Party to decide. I am not going to, in advance of the Party having discussed what it thinks of individual policies, I am not going to start handing down ex cathedra pronouncements of my own. I will obviously bring to the Party discussion about the IR policy, taxation policy, tariff policy, health policy, education policy. Whatever position I hold, I will bring to that discussion my own views but it would be getting off to the worst possible

start in these new unexpected and difficult circumstances for me or indeed anybody else to say well, for one thing we are not going to change this or we are not going to change that.

Mr Howard, you wouldn't see a future for the GST, would you?

Well that's a matter ultimately to be determined by the Party. John has expressed his view. I mean my own personal view and ultimately the question of whether the GST goes or stays is a matter for the Party room it is not matter for one individual but my view is that as a result of Saturday's election there

does appear to be some political difficulty with it and I

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think that is a view that most of my colleagues would come to. But I repeat it is ultimately a matter for the party to decide what happens to it as, indeed, it is open to the party to

decide what happens to the industrial relations policy.

(inaudible)

It certainly won't on my part.

(inaudible)

...look, look, look. one...hang on, hang on...I'm going to win on Tuesday. But if I lose I won't be taking my bat home and misbehaving let me make that clear, okay?

(inaudible)...your industrial relations policy...(inaudible)

Look, look...well I don't think the description right-wing is a fair one. I know it's a....

(inaudible)

...well, I think there are some asnpcts of our pn1inips •.hMt.

could qualify for that. There are others...as I heard somebody say a moment ago that I was too conservative. Conservative and radical, as I understand it, have always been regarded as being on opposite ends of the spectrum. I think any political party is a mixture of reformist policies and conservative policies. The Liberal Party in Australia has always been a unique blend of conservatism and liberalism and

I think we have to make certain in our policy reviews over coming weeks and months that we reflect that balance of view in our Party. Now I think one of the things we have to do is to encase all of our economic and industrial and education policies within our broad social goals for the community. It

is not good enough to sell mechanisms and nuts and bolts. What you have to sell are the broad national goals and the broad social reasons why you regard those changes, and why you regard those policies, as essential to the future of our

country.

...role in the Liberal Party. ..(inaudible)

Well I think the republican issue, whilst I don't think it bulked large in the campaign, I believe it is an issue that ought to be debated openly. I don't, I don't hold to the view that it's something that should be ignored. I don't regard

issues of national identity and national symbols and national constitutional arrangements as diversions. Although they might be employed as diversions they are not diversions in themselves. The form of government this country has is

important and whatever personal views I hold on that matter I

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think we ought, as Australians, and we ought, as the Liberal Party, be willing to participate in the debate. I recognise that there are a range of views in the community and, ultimately, of course, all of these things are determined by the Australian people. We will remain a constitutional monarchy whenever the majority of Australians want us to. Obviously if the majority of Australians through a referendum want to change our system of government then we have to accept

that view and I am a democrat - small "d" - ahead of anything else and the will of the majority of the Australian people is ultimately what will decide our form of government.

Mr Howard, if we can just get back to numbers...(inaudible)...

Yes I am, very confident.

(inaudible)

I'll win.

(inaudible)

I beg your pardon?

(inaudible)

A number...

(inaudible)

Oh, I'm not going to be that specific but I am satisfied on the basis of my own personal discussion with colleagues and also with other colleagues who are talking to colleagues again

on my behalf that I have a very comfortable lead.

(inaudible)

...very comfortable...

(inaudible)

Well, I've heard people in the past sort of declare all sorts of things. I can, look...you know...I believe I am going to win. I've spoken to a lot of my colleagues and I will continue to speak to my colleagues and others are speaking and

talking to me as always happens in these things and should happen. I do not think we should have a juvenile approach to the fact that we are dealing with a very serious decision for the Party to make. I am taking time to talk to my colleagues.

I think that is important, They are entitled to that and I believe on the best assessments I can make I am doing very _ well and that I will win comfortably. Obviously, as I am sure

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John would acknowledge if you ask him the same question, we'll know that on Tuesday.

(inaudible)

Look, I'm -not going to speculate about that. it's a matter for the Party and for the individual men and women in the Party to decide how they are going to vote and I believe I'm going to win comfortably and I can't really say any more than that.

(inaudible)

Well I understand the announced candidates to be Alexander Downer, Peter Reith, Peter Costello. I have heard of Wilson Tuckey. I have heard talk of others. "I don't know who the other are.

Will you be able to work with Wilson Tuckey?

I will work with whoever is chosen.

(inaudible)

I don't accept that I don't appeal to women voters, nor to younger voters. There's no...I haven't seen any field evidence of that at all. I think some of the policies that I have advocated are very acceptable to women voters. I, for

example, have always supported for some years a policy which recognises that the aspirations of women in our community have changed. That stereotyped attitudes to their roles in society are out-dated but it is important that families in our community be given a choice as to whether they are double

income or single income households. I am not in favour of a tax policy that mandates a choice in one or other directions but rather one that underwrites that kind of choice.

There is no doubt in the world that over the last twenty years the role of women (inaudible)...as somebody who has a daughter who has just left school and gone to university I am constantly reminded of the ned to remain abreast of the

changed attitude of women, particularly younger women, in our community.

(inaudible)

Oh, look, look...I am going to win on Tuesday and please let's not start talking about something...things further down the track. Look.. .1 am. ..whoever wins on Tuesday will have my total, undivided support between now and the election. If it

is me, I expect John Hewson will give me his total, undivided support. On the other hand, if I win...if he wins I'll give

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him mine.

...you expect the...(inaudible)

Yes, you could put it that way, yes. You could.

What sort of role.. .(inaudible)

Look it is really presumptuous and bordering on crass of me to start talking about that other than to simply state that if I am successful on Tuesday I will accommodate John Hewson and I will go out of my way to do the decent and honourable thing so

far as he is concerned.

(inaudible).,.summit...go back to the drawing boards (inaudible)

Well I will certainly go ahead with the conference that John has spoken of. And I would certainly want to have the widest possible discussion with people in the Party organisation. One of the things that I do think the Liberal Party has to understand - particularly when it is in opposition - that although the ultimate say about policy is something that

rightly belongs to the parliamentary Party the organisation can hardly be expected year in, year out, to raise the money, provide the workers, provide the organisational support without having some kind of broad input to the formulation of policy. I think it is very important that the members of the parliamentary Party understand that.

Mr Howard, if you do lead the Party to the next election why do you think Australians are going to vote for you...(inaudible)?

Well, I believe that if I am given the opportunity again of leading the Liberal Party that I will be able to fashion the presentation politically of our policies in such a way that they will win very strong and sufficient support to enable us

to win the next election. That's why I believe that we will be successful if I am chosen as the Party's leader.

Do you accept that those policies need to be changed. ..(inaudible)?

Obviously, obviously there will have to be some changes. I am not going to pre-empt the process of examination. I have ideas of my own and I will provide those ideas to the forums of the Party that discuss the policy during a review process.

But I think it is also...having acknowledged that some changes are needed I think it is also desirable to avoid the sort of knee-jerk reaction of saying we've got to throw out all of our policies and start again. I don't think the Party should get

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locked behind closed doors over the next three years re-writing in minute detail every single paragraph of its existing policies. I think we ought to spend as much time as possible out in the community listening to what people are

saying and also communicating the basic values and beliefs...Tn politics the correct order is to put down your basic beliefs and your basic values and then relate specific policies and specific changes to those values and beliefs and

I think perhaps in recent times it has been a failure to get things in that order and to get things in that perspective which has complicated the communications challenge the Liberal Party has faced.

Do you accept some of the criticisms... (inaudible)... social agenda got lost last time around. ..(inaudible)

Look, I agree with them to this extent that I think you have to have a very clear view of what your goals for the country are, and what your broad social vision is and then your detailed policies in a mechanical sense flow from that. That

is the point I made earlier. First, state your goals and your values and your objectives and that has to include what you called a social agenda. Politics is not just all about economics but it is an important part, and I don't walk away

from my identification with certain policies. I would be a hypocrite if I did that. I don't pretend to this gathering, nor will I pretend to my party colleagues, that I haven't

given support to particular policies. I don't engage in that kind of double standard. But I do assert that long before last Saturday I argued privately and publicly that you couldn't present economic policies except in relation to a

broad social agenda and broad goals for the future of Australia and Australians.

...Was that a mistake, the last campaign?

I beg your pardon?

(inaudible)

Well I'm very happy to sit here all afternoon and talk about them but I think in, I think in deference to my party colleagues if we are in the business of inclusive discussion I think what I ought to do is to first give my colleagues the

benefit of what I think would be a proper definition of the national goals and objectives of Australia as we move towards the next millenium before I give it to anybody else. I am simply stating the point that if you want to get the presentation of your policies right the first thing you have

to do is to identify what your values and goals and

objectives are and then relate your...the specifics of your policies to those goals, values and objectives.

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Just one last question...

Yes.

(inaudible)

Well look the Party will decide who the Leader is and who the deputy,, .I simply state the principle that I will, if elected Leader I will serve with whoever is chosen as deputy. Thank you.