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Transcript of doorstop interview: 18 January 1992: Sydney: unemployment; One Nation; Airport Curfew; Badgery's Creek Airport Quadrant Poll; Parliamentary Standards



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Leader of the Opposition

P

18 Janua ry 1993

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TRANSCRIPT OF DR JOHN HEWSON MP DOORSTOP MEDIA CONFERENCE 70 PHIWP STREET, SYDNEY

E & 0 E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Unemployment, One Nation, Airpo rt Cu rfew, Badge ry's Creek Airpo rt Quadrant Poll, Parliamentary Standards

Hewson:

The survey released today by the National Australia Bank is confirming our worst fears - that unemployment will rise to over 12% and wi ll only fall very slowly under this Government's policies.

/' So it's confirming what we said towards the end of last year - that this recession is much deeper and much more protracted and much more painful than the Government has been prepared to admit, and it emphasises the need now for urgent action in order to deal with the problem of unemployment.

And as we move towards Australia Day the challenge is there for the Prime Minister to tell us how he's going to deal with a 12% unemployment rate. He claims to be a Labor Government. How can he possibly claim to represent the interests of workers when unemployment is approaching 12%?

OK, we'll take some questions.

Jmlst:

It obviously shows then that the One Nation Statement's outdated?

Hewson:

The One Nation Statement was never a genuine a ttempt to deal with the problem. It was a political response to Fightback!. It was designed to give the Government a platform, and in particular the Prime Minister a platform, in order to a ttack us. It's never been a serious a ttempt to deal with our problems.

COMl.1ON'NEAE_TH PARLIAMEN TARY i i 3RARY

M ICAH

Parliament House. Canberra. A.C.T. 26(X) Phone 2774022 "^"^"

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2.

Jmlst:

Are you today asking the Prime Minister to call an election now, or to set out his policies?

. f'^!r?:T'^

Well, I've been asking him to call an election for quite some time. He doesn't seem to listen. But I think, to be frank, it's the only way to deal with this problem, is to give the people a choice. The economy's been dri fting now for over two years as he's made his run for the leadership, and as he's dabbled in his time as Prime

Minister rather than ge tting on and doing the job, which is solving our economic problems.

Jmist:

Isn't the situation in Australia much the same as it was in N 'ew Zealand in the run-

up to the last election where commentators said that it wouldn't ma tter who got in next time around, unemployment and the economy wouldn't improve?

Hewson:

Well, I don't accept that. I believe that we have the answers. We have a plan. We have a plan that will create two mi llion jobs over the rest of this decade, and the sooner we get into a position in Government to be able to implement that plan the better. Its the only this country's got.

Jmist:

But it's taking you on trust, isn't it?

Hewson:

No, we've put out the detail of that plan over the last 14 or 15 months:- We've argued the detail of that plan. We are the only Party with a plan. We're the only Party to demonstrate how you can bring down unemployment and bring down debt, and I think it's true, we should be given our chance.

Jmist:

But it's a bit of a punt, you know, that we've given Paul Keating a go - now you're asking us to take you on trust.

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3.

Hewson:

How much more pain would you like from the Government? I mean, they've been there for 10 years. 10 years they've said they could deal with our economic problems and they've all got worse.

All you've seen over that 10 year period is really record after record being broken -record unemployment, record debt, record bankruptcies, record pain and hardship for the people of Australia.

Jmist:

But there's no 100% guarantee that you'd be any better.

Hewson:

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Well, we have a plan. We have an answer. We have a detailed plan. You can take any element of the plan and it starts to do the job. Abolition of payroll tax, for example, will create 200,000 jobs by the Prime Minister's own admission. There's one policy, out of hundreds of policies that we have, that will immediately start to

create jobs.

Jmist:

Mr Hewson, can the electorate have any faith that you won't change that plan again?

Hewson:

I believe they can because we've put out the detail. We've always opened to listen to people, and we do. We respond. When we hear an argument like the one that was put to us before Christmas about us being unfair, we listened and we excluded food from the GST. So now we can go to this election offering people

cheaper food as well as cheaper petrol and cheaper education and cheaper health. But the basic structure of Fightback!, the structural integrity of Fightback!, has been maintained and -it-will -be maintained and it will be implemented.

w Jrnlst:

The Opposition split today on the airport and having a curfew at all. Do you think you're really united enough now?

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4.

Hewson:

Look, the Opposition wasn't split at all. This is Gary Punch doing his, the same event he sort of pulls every time before the Federal Election - something to do with the Mascot Airport.

The fact is that our policy has been very clearly stated. We believe in the curfew. We will keep the curfew and the residents around the airport will have no, should have no concern that there'll be any additional noise as a result of any of our

aviation policies. We are not going to change the curfew, and I think if you look at what's been said over the last few days it was just a beat-up - a beat-up by Gary Punch and a beat-up by some elements of the media, but nothing to do with our policies.

Jmist:

r

...inaudible...

Hewson:

No, Mr Fischer's been talking about efficiency in the administration of Mascot and Mr Jull has been talking about how we will handle a significantly larger number of ,tourists into Australia. And under our policy we project something .like 10 million tourists by the Year 2000. That's nearly a four-fold increase on what we've been

getting in recent years. And it's one of the reasons why we're so strongly of the view that we should fast-track Badgery's Creek, because that's the airport that can actually take up the slack, while maintaining the curfew at Mascot.

Jmist:

How long can you guarantee the curfew will stay in place under your Government?

Hewson:

Well, we have no plans to change the curfew. In fact, it took a lot of us by surprise. We were absolutely fascinated-to see that anybody was even speculating about this. I mean, it's never been taken to Shadow Cabinet. It's never been

debated. It's never been proposed and as far as I know, there are no plans anywhere to make a change. So as I say, it's just a strict media beat-up.

Jmist:

Things can change if you get into Government.

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5.

Hewson:

No, but look, there are ways of dealing with the problem of a significant increase in the number of tourists, and I've given you the best one - that's to fast-track Badgery's Creek, and that is a policy commitment by us. We will fast-track the construction of Badgery's Creek airport and we'll do it through the private sector. And I think that's the best guarantee that it will be fast-tracked, and we'll be able, from Sydney's point of view, to handle the significant increase in the tourist

numbers we predict between now and the Year 2000.

Jmist:

Mr Fahey today said he welcomed the debate on a 24 hour curfew...

Hewson:

I think Mr Fahey also said that it was a Federal issue, and it is. And as far as we're concerned our Government will not be changing the curfew.

Jmist:

What about the Quadrant poll, the results out today, showing a bit of swing ifowards the Government?

Hewson:

It's one of the rare occasions I actually agree with the .Prime Minister. If you take polls pike that in the silly season, they're not worth the time that's put into them. It's exactly what he said last week and I agree wholeheartedly.

Jmist:

Shouldn't the Opposition though be right in front of the Government despite... because of poor economic performances?

Hewson:

There's only one poll that matters and that's the one that's coming some time between now and April 3, and on that one we will be in front.

Jmist:

Another poll out today shows that young people are cynical about voting and 20% oJJ them won't be doing that. What are you going to do about that?

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Hewson:

Well, I haven't seen the detail of that. I've heard about it. One is obviously disappointed when people are cynical of our political system, and I think that should be see by all of us politicians as a challenge to do something about it.

It's one of the main reasons why I intend to make a major statement on parliamentary reform in the next few weeks, because I'm tired, quite frankly, as I'm sure most Australians are, of the Parliament being seen as something of a circus -the media, some large elements of themedia just focussing on the games that are

played in the Parliament, rather than on the substance of debate and the issues. And quite frankly, I'm sure young people, like most Australians today, in the worst recession in 60 years just simply can't understand why there's so much focus on the theatrics of Parliament and why Parliament doesn't do the job that it's meant to do. It's a genuine forum for debate, a genuine forum for Government and

Government. We intend to change it.

Jmist:

How can you legislate to change high jinx in the Parliament?

Hewson:

Well, we can set a standard in terms of behaviour. We can change some of the rules and Standing Orders and practices of the Parliament to ensure that the Parliament is actually focussed on its main task.

And to give you one specific example, if Question Time were actually Question Time, where questions were asked and genuinely answered, then you would have a completely different public attitude, I believe, to the Parliament. But as long as Question Time is seen as an opportunity for the Government and it's Minister's to

get up and simply bucket the Opposition, we will all be called into disrepute as a result of that sort of behaviour.

Jmist:

You're not thinking about a Prime Minister's Question Time or something like that are you?

Hewson:

No, I'm thinking of actually making Question Time work, and that is, questions, genuine questions being given genuine answers. We are looking at one option as a, jime limit on answers, and we will make a detailed statement, as I say, in the course of the next few weeks about some of the changes - not only in relation to

Question Time, but in relation to the conduct of the Parliament as a whole.

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7.

Jmist:

Mr Hewson, the Coalition's tried that in New South Wales with not much success. What are you proposing that's different?

Hewson:

I don't know what they've tried in New South Wales but ours will be successful because we'll not only make the changes but I'll make sure they're carried out.

I would expect that my Ministers should be prepared to stand up and answer questions directly, and quite frankly you shouldn't be a Minister if you can't.

Jmist:

How can you guarantee that? You'd have to have the Speaker in your pocket if you're talking about what...

Hewson:

No no. I mean, there are also many proposals about the Speaker. But as far as Ministers are concerned I will expect my Ministers to answer questions and their ` performance, as I see it, will be judged on how they do their job - not only privately within Cabinet and in running their Department, but also publicly in explaining to

people what Government policy is, and being accountable to the people. That's what Parliament is about. That's what Government is about, and we are about increasing that accountability. So my Ministers will be appointed on merit, and they'll then be held accountable for, in the case of Question Time, answering questions.

Jmlst:

And you won't use Question Time to attack the Opposition?

Hewson:

No look, I don't think that's what Parliament's there for. I mean, if you want a debate where you can take both sides of an issue, I think you should elevate those debates. But I think it's a tragedy.

A few weeks ago I tried an experiment on the Prime Minister and the Government, and that was to foreshadow on a Sunday night that I would move three Matters of Public Importance - on three major national issues, and I would challenge the Prime Minister and his Ministers to debate those issues.

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