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Transcript of interview: ABC Radio with Peter Jeppeson Program: 12 January 1993: earthquake monitoring; West Australian election; Qantas merger

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Interview, Minister for Tourism and Resources, Alan Griffiths ABC Radio, Peter Jeppeson Program 12 January 1993

Compere: Yesterday on the program, Mr Kevin McHugh, who's Head of the unit that monitors earthquakes in Australia, warmed that we're not spending enough money on earthquake research and after the interview the Minister for Resources and also Minister for Tourism, Alan .. Griffiths, asked to outline the government's funding on

earthquake monitoring. Mr Griffiths, good morning.

Alan Griffiths: Good morning.

Compere: Before you start, let's get your reaction to what Graham Campbell sort of indicated about the West Australian electi on. How do you think it's going, how do you see Carmen Lawrence performing at the moment?

Alan Griffiths: Well, I think Carmen Lawrence has clearly earned a reputation as Australia's foremost, or close to it, Premier on any objective assessment. She is a great contributor to public life in this country. Carmen Lawrence has also indicated that the contest will be a tight one, that Labor in Western Australia is coming from behind. That is a judgement with which I would concur.

Compere: Could she win?

Alan Griffiths: Yes, I think she can. I mean, I think in Australian public life people are increasingly looking to the qualities of individuals. It's not now the case that you can simply have an ALP or Liberal Party or National Party stamp on your forehead. I think that's a good thing and I think Carmen Lawrence is one of those who clearly is accepted by the public as being qualitatively different and certainly if it was a two horse race, her against Mr Court, then I

think the election result could be predicted right now. But of course, there are a whole range of other factors involved.

Compere: Even with the odium of the ALP in Western Australia over the last ten years?




Alan Griffiths:

Well, they've had their moments, as I suppose any governments have. I mean, it didn't matter frankly whether it was Western Australian Labor or Nick Greiner's government in NSW. I mean, they were tough times, difficult times, and ...

Compere: ... or the Cain Government in Victoria ...

Alan Griffiths: Yes, I think that's true. But I think you would have to say that Carmen Lawrence is in a different political situation than Joan Kirner inherited.

Compere: So she'll win?

Alan Griffiths: I think she can win. But I think it is a very difficult one to predict. Certainly I think you can predict that this one will be close.

Compere: All right, lets move back to the whole question of earthquakes. Obviously, in some ways for many people, a less exciting issue unless you live in a place like Newcastle. What are you actually doing to protect the

community against earthquake disaster - I mean, what does the Commonwealth actually do?

Alan Griffiths Well, short of hoping and praying there is frankly not a lot that can be done to stop earthquakes, of course. But having experienced one, they focus the mind wonderfully on what limited array of measures are available to

governments to try to at least get the predictive part of it in place and then, as a function of that, to do things like U

improve building standards and so on. In terms of the

situation that we have, in the last Budget we increased, and significantly, the funding available for earthquake monitoring in Australia. We are linked into an international system and Australia is regarded as one of those countries taking this issue very seriously. Most of the Australian states now have gazetted changes to their building codes. Unfortunately, Victoria is the stand out there - they've not yet made that decision. I earnestly hope they will. This is one of those areas where, of

course, governments are often persuaded to do nothing because there seems to be no driving imperative to do something. But then of course Newcastles come along, and in that case we suffered $1.5 billion worth of damage,

which of course pales into insignificance when compared to...

Compere: ... the loss of life too ...

Alan Griffiths:

yes ... 13 lives, which is the point that I was just about to make. So, we really do hope that the State Government here will heed the example of their other colleagues in other states and gazette changes to building codes so that

we can at least make a start now for an earthquake that may appear here in 20 or 30 years time.

Compere: Apart from running around and setting standards for buildings and whatever, I mean, what sort of monitoring do you do? Because, Mr Kevin McHugh on the program yesterday was quite concerned that not enough money is being spent on the actual monitoring. He said that there are benefits to be gained through monitoring. What do you actually do, what monies do you provide for that?

Alan Griffiths: Well in the last Budget we provided incremental funding of $1.5 million to improve the earthquake monitoring processes in Australia. What we're doing essentially is ensuring that in high density population areas that we have an improved monitoring capability, and the

objective here is to really learn more about our continent, and over time to assemble the sort of data that will enable us to make better judgements about what further measures we should be taking in building codes and so on. So it is a complex task and it is one where we don't have a magic wand. The amount of funding increase was significant in a tough fiscal environment, and I had to fight very hard in Cabinet, I can assure you, to get it. It is regarded by most observers as a significant increase - and it is - and it ought to be regarded as that. But anyone with a serious interest in the issue obviously wants more money, and Mr McHugh falls firmly, and I'm happy to say I support his sentiment ...

_Compere: ... I mean he does it with the very best interest of the community ... but I mean, where exactly is the monitoring taking place? Principally in Western Australia and, you know, the main earthquake sensitive areas?

Alan Griffiths: No, what we're doing, certainly in the earthquake - = • sensitive areas - -Western Australia is the part of the

continent most susceptible, then it comes across the continent. But even on the eastern seaboard, really from right from north to south on the eastern seaboard, it is still you know, relatively earthquake prone, and so we're having monitoring stations in all of the major capital

cities, obviously Newcastle, Darwin and so on.


OK, lets leave that particular issue there. Putting on your Tourism hat for a moment. Do you favour the return of Paul Hogan to promote tourism and tourists especially for America?

Alan Griffiths: Well, I think the first point I'd make there, Peter, is that Hogan really is owed a debt of great gratitude by the Australian people for his past contribution in tourism. think he's fantastic - that's my own lacking objectivity judgement about him ...

Compere: But putting aside ... I mean, let's talk hard marketing here

Alan Griffiths: Well, I think that's the issue again, and that's a more difficult one. I think the first point to make here is that the Australian Tourist Commission are set up with representatives of the industry, people with very high powered marketing skills. They're the ones who make

the main judgements in this area. Unless there was something compellingly bad about their judgements then I wouldn't see it my role to intervene. In the circumstances that have been outlined, there is a possibility of using Paul Hogan for part of a marketing

exercise. John Hutchison, the Chairman of the ATC, has indicated as much. But what we have now is a situation where Australia is regarded in most of our customer countries as the most preferred destination to visit. I

mean, we've already got their attention, they want to come here, but this is a long haul market - very price sensitive. What we need to do now is really show them what we have to offer. So we're moving away from personalities and we're getting more into product-based marketing, and I think that's the way that we should

continue to go.

Compere: As the Tourism Minister, what is your attitude to the merger of Qantas and Australian Airlines as far as their names are concerned?

Alan Griffiths: Well I originally proposed that in 1987, so I was a keen supporter of it. In -terms of the name, it's an-interesting one. When I move around talking to different tourism people in other parts of the world, it is very often the case

that the recognition of Qantas is not as strong as I had thought, and I think as Aussies we are all very committed to the term Qantas, but I am frankly not so sure ...

Compere: What would you prefer?

Alan Griffiths


Alan Griffiths: Well, I think it is not so much a matter of what I prefer as Tourism Minister, but I think there ought to be a debate about whether we have a name Qantas or whether we have a name Australian. But, that is a debate to be had

and looked at on the basis of proper marketing advice and so on.

Compere: But at this stage you favour a mergered name?

Alan Griffiths: I think I'd have to because, everywhere I go people are confused about the term Qantas. They don't often know, without the kangaroo, they don't know just whose airline it is - and that's a problem for us I think.

Compere: All right then, some interesting issues there. Thanks for your time today.

Thank you very much.

That was the Minister for Resources and for Tourism, Alan Griffiths.