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Government Gags Debate on Coronation Hill

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John Hewson Leader of the Opposition M e d i a R e l e a s e

170/91 20 June 1991


The Government has once again showed its contempt for the

Parliament by its decision to gag Opposition attempts to seek from the Prime Minister an explanation of his irrational and hypocritical decision to ban mining at Coronation Hill.

The decision not to mine Coronation Hill was not a unique

decision, but it was a decision of unique significance.

It was the first test of the Prime Minister after the leadership battle. It was a litmus test of the Prime Minister's capacity to consider rational argument, assess an issue on its merits and provide real leadership in the midst of the worst economic crisis

since the 1930s.

It was a litmus test of the influence of the Looney Left and the first evidence of the deal that the Prime Minister struck in order to buy their support to retain the Prime Ministership.

It was also a litmus test of the Government's attitude to mining and development - the Prime Minister made it so in the 1990

election campaign and especially so given the 'guarantee' given by the Prime Minister to BHP in respect of the conservation zone in the Park.

In simple terms, it was a litmus test of the Hawke Government's capacity to govern. It failed miserably. And given the extent of the leaks on this issue, the Government is now even more

deeply divided and the policy paralysis even greater than it was before the leadership crisis.

The Australian people deserve to receive a full explanation from the Prime Minister on this vitally important issue. With the Government's economic credibility already in tatters, we now have the spectacle of a Prime Minister unwilling to debate the

Coronation Hill issue in the Parliament.

Regrettably we have a Prime Minister who is afraid to account for his actions to the Parliament.

This is not only an indication of the disregard he holds for this institution, but it is yet another insult to the Australian people.

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