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Transcript of interview between Matthew Abraham and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, on 2CN (ABC) at 8.50am on Friday, May 31, 1991



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PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA ยท T H E S E N A T E

SENATOR ROBERT HILL

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHAD O W MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA. A C T . 2600

PHONE (06) 277 3170

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW BETWEEN MATTHEW ABRAHAM AND T&iifek 3 OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE, SENATOR ROBERT HILL, ON 2CN (ABC) AT 8.50AM ON FRIDAY, MAY 31, 1991

MATT ABRAHAM:

Somebody, of course, who no doubt is watching the events with glee is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the

Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill. Good morning.

ROBERT HILL:

Good morning Matthew.

MATT ABRAHAM:

Senator Hill, can you believe your luck?

ROBERT HILL:

Well this has been going on for some time so we're not surprised. It was inevitable that it would reach this sort of climax

although it also seems inevitable that it be put off because that's forever to become the style of the Hawke Labor Government. So there's no decision this morning and the battle goes on over the weekend and what happens in the meantime? Coronation Hill was supposed to be the subject debated by the Cabinet last night

and that had to be deferred again and it just seems incredible that Mr Keating and Mr Hawke are now going into a Premiers'

Conference obviously not having prepared for it properly and not knowing who's going to be Prime Minister and Treasurer next week.

MATT ABRAHAM:

Senator Hill, when did you first learn about the leadership crisis?

ROBERT HILL:

Well the latest event we learnt late yesterday. But, as I said, this has now been ongoing for many months and it was inevitable that it would reach this stage because basically Mr Keating realises he's only going to get there by pressure and that has to be continued to be applied and that's what he's been doing for months.

MATT ABRAHAM:

If Mr Keating is eventually elected as Leader, will he be a more formidable opponent for you than Mr Hawke?

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

2.

ROBERT HILL:

Well, but for the fact that he really is now locked into this economic crisis - it was his recipe, it was the recession we had to have - I would have said yes. I really think that Mr Hawke's time has come and gone and that's part of the problem for the Labor Party. Most of them realise that as w e l l . But they're afraid about the Keating option because of the fact that, well,

apparently because he's unpopular - but that might be changed - but really because they now know that the Australians who are unemployed, those who are struggling, the bankruptcies and so forth, will be linked to Mr Keating and he can't avoid that.

MATT ABRAHAM:

Still, though, we're looking at two years down the track. You don't think he would have time to fix the economy and his image?

ROBERT HILL:

He hasn't demonstrated that he's going to do it. We're now in the worst economic shape arguably since the 1930s. They still don't seem to be prepared to take the decisions that are

necessary to make Australia competitive again, the major structural changes, and so I don't think so, no. They're in there now, they're a Government now. Mr Keating, everyone tells us, is really the one who pulls the reins now. If he was prepared to make the changes that were necessary to overcane our

structural deficiencies, he would have done so by now.

MATT ABRAHAM:

What are the Opposition's tactics likely to be, Senator? Is it simply now a case of sitting back and letting the cards fall into your hands ?

ROBERT HILL:

It certainly isn't. I think I've said to you before, what's good about us at the moment - not only the fact that we have stable leadership and greater confidence in each other than we once had - but furthermore there's a determination to get on with the job of preparing as an alternative government to finalise the policies. We've got a series of meetings coming up to settle the

last of our outstanding policy issues and to really ensure that we're in a position when we take over to hit the road running and to implement the changes that we do really believe are in

Australia's interests.

MATT ABRAHAM:

It would be an interesting scenario, wouldn't it, to have either the Prime Minister Mr Hawke or Mr Keating sitting on a backbench. Would you like them on your backbench?

ROBERT HILL:

I've seen all that happen on our side in the past and it simply won't work. Mr Keating, presumably, will go to the backbench next week or in a few weeks time whilst Mr Hawke maintains this slender majority, but he's going there to continue to press for

the leadership and therefore it's more destabilising than ever.

3.

So that's not an answer, that's just another interim towards change. I suspect in the end Mr Keating will win. I think he'll wear Mr Hawke down. That's the strategy and it usually succeeds and I think probably in the end it will succeed in this instance.

MATT ABRAHAM:

You have, as you said, seen it within your own party and it was very destructive. I presume you'd be quite dismissive of any pledges of undying loyalty from either man on the backbench.

ROBERT HILL:

I certainly would because, but I don't think you'd get it from Mr Keating either. Those days are passed. There's been all this nonsense of loyalty you'll remember after Mr Keating literally bucketing the Prime Minister at the Press Club just in December. There was a meeting between the two and they pledged loyalty to each other. And it was obviously a total sham. We now know of course of this incredible agreement that was reached before the

last election which also was a sham. What was a sham, I guess, was the Prime Minister's subsequent promise to the Australian electorate that he intended to stay the full term when he had an agreement which had been witnessed by each side's witness - which

I just find amazing, an incredible event - that in fact he would get o ut. Why? Because it was time, Mr Keating deserved his term. We just find the whole thing astonishing.

MATT ABRAHAM:

Although you would say he had a balance of witnesses at that

meeting with Mr Kelty from the union movement and Sir Peter

Abeles from big business.

ROBERT HILL:

If you want to put it in those terms, but what apparently was to be one witness and the other party didn't trust that, so each side wanted their own witness. Now, these are the two men who are running the Government and running the country. That's how much faith they had in each other and as a number of Labor people are now saying, the choice of Sir Peter Abeles is amazing in

itself because there's a question about whether he's even a member of the Labor Party.

MATT ABRAHAM:

Senator Peter Hill. Senator Robert Hill.

ROBERT HILL:

A Freudian...

MATT ABRAHAM:

A Freudian slip. Thank you for your time this morning.

ROBERT HILL:

O.K. Thank y ou.