Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview with Dr John Hewson MP - Leader of the Opposition Hyatt Regency Hotel, Adelaide, Friday, 15 June 1991



Download PDFDownload PDF

Leader of the Opposition k***

tf}; O

?: v

TRANSCRIPT OP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH DR JOHN HEWSON HP - LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION HYATT REGENCY HOTEL, ADELAIDE, FRIDAY, 15 JUNE 1991

E & OE - PROOF COPY ONLY mrm/transcr/0006

SUBJECTS: Coronation Hill and Bulla; Senator Evans in South Africa; Government1s failed foreign policy

approach; John Singleton; Premiers1 Conference; Government and banking; consumption tax;

immigration; Liberal Party campaigning; Accord Mark VII; PM'e campaign.

Jrnlst; ·

Dr Hewson, do you think that the Bulla wasn't there ten years ago. That would be your belief.

Hewson;

Well the argument has emerged in the course of the last ten

years. We've seen our Shadow Minister, Michael Wooldridge, has done a lot of work and given a couple of speeches in the

Parliament on how some of these considerations on Aboriginal heritage have emerged in the course of this debate on

Coronation Hill. People forget the fact that Coronation Hill was mined in the 50s and 60s.

Admittedly it was mined for uranium at that stage, now the proposal is to mine it for gold. The point I ’d make is that

Bulla didn't appear to be disturbed when half the hill was removed in the 50s and 60s, so we think that as the Resource Assessment Commission has basically done, they've put the issue back to the Government, said if you want to decide to go

ahead and mine it you can, so the decision is really back in

the Government's court. What concerns me is the delay, the excessive delay in making decisions about projects like Coronation Hill. Its not a big project, but its become the litmus test of the Hawke Government's bona tides on

development versus other considerations.

Jrnlst;

But doesn't what you say show scorn for the Jawyon people's religious beliefs. That's what they say they are, the Bulla story.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY M IC A H

2

No, not at all. i think that, as I say, Michael Wooldridge

has done a lot of work in terms of putting the detail on it.

There's no way that I'm in any way attempting to scorn their beliefs or to question some of the arguments that people have put, but any objective assessment of it seems to lead you to the view that Bulla wasn't disturbed, lets put it in those

terms, back in the 50s and 60s, so I think that the Resource Assessment Commission has basically said that the Government ought to reassess the issue and make its own judgement. It

can't really pin it on Aboriginal Heritage considerations, Just like it can only really pin its position on an

environmental consideration cause the arguments on the

environment were eliminated some time ago.

Hewson:

Jrnlst:

On South Africa, could Senator Evan's behaviour be Justified?

Hewson:

Look, I don't believe it can be. He sort of stumbled from one gaff to the next goof right throughout the whole process.

He's there as a representative of the Australian people. He was there for principally to look and to learn and to listen about what was happening and to formulate a view on the

relaxation of sanctions in the light of now a very significant and irreversible process to remove the legislative pillars of apartheid and in that sense, you know, he created an enormous

amount of controversy, he got Ministers off side, he got the media off side, he got, he created a very, well as people are saying, a public relations disaster.

Jrnlst:

Do you think there should be another place found for him?

Hewson:

Well, Senator Evans is notorious for taking these sorts of approaches and in recent days our standing in a lot of areas has dwindled, in part because of the emotion and domestically driven foreign policy that both Hawke and Evans have

generated. They grandstand and they run policy on emotion. They don't approach foreign policy issues from the point of view of what's in the best interests of Australia.

3

Jrnlst: 1

Did you really say that the Government: has got off side with the Governments of Malaysia, PNG, the Pacific islands, some Pacific Islands, China and Taiwan. Do I understand you

correctly?

Hewson:

Well, I think if you go through each of those, let's go

through them. I mean they haven't bothered to, they're

playing catch-up on Taiwan, in terms of Taiwan they are now recognising that within existing diplomatic constraints you can significantly'improve our trading and other economic and cultural links with Taiwan.

On mainland China, the whole process has been driven by

emotion. It went from a very emotional love affair almost, with China, to the post Tinanmen Square situation where they wouldn't talk to any of the senior Chinese officials, and

indeed, i led a delegation to China to see Li Peng and Jiang

Zemin and others and put the case of concern about human

rights quite correctly. Its only recently the Government has now swung back.

Their attitude to Chinese students is entirely based on

emotion, not the existing DORS procedure for assessing whether or not an individual is a refugee or they're not.

In PNG we've lost our role as being an effective broker in

what was a very difficult situation between PNG and

Bouganvllle. In fact part of that role fell to the New

Zealanders rather than to Australia.

In the South Pacific Forum, there are press reports of the

Prime Minister trying to chase the Prime Minister of Fiji Ratu Mara, to say that he'd changed his mind in relation to the

Fiji Constitution.

And so you can go on.

I mean, in each of those cases there's plenty of evidence

about the extent to which, as I've been saying, we've been

marginalised because the Government hasn't given due

consideration to our position and our first and second foreign policy priorities which are really associated with our

immediate near neighbours in the region.

Jrnlst:

What about the $2 million?

4

$2 million is totally unjustified. Its a very crude attempt in terms of funding the ANC to pick winners. And what we've

said consistently is that you need to talk to all groups in

South Africa, all black groups as well as the de Klerk

Government in order to get a first hand view of what’s

happening. Now the Government courted Mandela, they almost elevated him to something approaching messiah status during his visit here, they didn't extend a similar visit to Chief Buthelezi, which they should have done as we said at the time. There are other African groups that need to be consulted as well. Now I don't think in that environment its appropriate

for our foreign Minister to wander into a country, back one of a number of organisations as if its potentially the key player or the key government group or whatever in South Africa, and I took his role to be one, as I said before, to listen and to

learn and to get a first hand knowledge of the circumstances which would require him to speak to all groups and not to just talk to some and to just fund one.

Hewson: ϊ

Jrnlet:

Do you think his visit has really set back the cause of

Australia/South Africa relations?

Hewson s

I listened to the Foreign Minister for South Africa on radio this morning and he was pretty unfriendly in a sense towards some pf the statements that have been made and some of the

policies that have been followed by the Hawke/Evans

Government. There's no doubt, as he said, that they made a

mess of the sanctions issue from the very beginning. The

Government has now recognised that their sanctions policy was wrong and they’re trying to play catch-up politics, taking on the view that we've put for quite some time that de Klerk

needs international recognition and encouragement in order to sustain the process within South Africa. It is an

irreversible process. He is about to eliminate most of the key legislative pillars of apartheid, in that sense he needs some international recognition and the best way to give that is relaxation of a range of sanctions on trade, on investment, on sporting and cultural ties. And I think that that's the

approach to take.

The Government's playing catch-up politics, they've focussed on the sporting sanctions, which really aren't going to do much good, if you like for the black South Africans who are

particularly disadvantaged by the trade, investment and economic sanctions.

5

Dr Hewson, apparently Labor's advertising man, John Singleton, has told Bob Hawke that he's finished, he can't get up in

another election campaign, is that good advice?

Jrnlst: .

Hewson:

Well, we don't think he can get up in another election

campaign. I don't know what John Singleton has told Bob

Hawke, but our position is we really don't care who we fight at the next election campaign, we have to win in our own right if we are going to win.

Jrnlst:

Apparently Mr Hawke has bought a mansion in Sydney. Is it

time for him to retire there?

Hewson:

Well I wondered when I heard that story whether in fact that's what he had in mind. It seems to me that he's already lied to

the people of Australia once about his intentions and that was in the course of the last election campaign. I hope that hie recent statements are accurate, that he intends to fight right through to the next election. We'd be delighted to take him

on.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, in your speech inside you mentioned that all the Premiers were happy with the outcome of the Premiere,

Conference. It seems there's the notably exception of Labor President John Bannon who has whlnged about his treatment from Hawke and Keating. Can you understand why Mr Bannon would be complaining about his allocation.

Hewson:

I hadn't heard- Mr Bannon complain. I was impressed at the

time by the fact that none of them really seemed to complain and clearly Mr Bannon has had some ideas on infrastructure development that maybe weren't satisfied on that particular occasion, but they got a significant increase in real terms in overall funding and a number of special additional payments were made to some of the States for particular policy

development.

6

In that sense they did very well In the midst of the worst

recession In 60 years--. And I think in terms of what was

required, and that is the maintenance of a fairly firm line on · fiscal policy, the Government backed off a stage. They were obviously distracted, Hawke and Keating sitting there in a notable farce performance in the Premiers' Conference, and

they were distracted by their own leadership contest and not by the requirements of economic policy at the present time in Australia.

Jrnlst:

They bought off the Premiers, they failed to buy off a key one in the Labor President.

Hewson:

Well, look, as I say, I haven't heard John Bannon complain. I think he probably did better than he expected. it may not be, it may be he's talking more for South Australian consumption when he's made some of those comments.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, you said in you speech that you didn't think the

Government had any business running banks. Does that include the State Bank?

Hewson:

Well, I was talking at the Federal level and I don't think

they have any business running a Commonwealth Bank and we

would privatise it as a top priority. I imagine when we get

to Government they will have sold 30% of it, we'd sell the

other 70% as an early priority.

Jrnlst:

Wouldn't it be ... to have that policy at a Federal level and

not at a State level.

Hewson:

well, I leave State decisions to State leaders, but my own

view of things like banking is it's very difficult for

governments to run them as they don't have the expertise in government and they don't have the management experience and they haven't got the capacity to supplement their capital.

7

SO you can make your own decision In relation to the State of South Australia or the? State of Victoria, but as far as I'm concerned at the Federal level, the cage is clearly

established, not Just the Commonwealth Bank, the a i d c is

another example of where the Government ought to get out of the business of banking.

Heweon:

What's you advice to Mr Baker on the matter then.

Hewson:

I don't give Mr Baker advice and he doesn't give me advice

either and I think that's the only way to be. They have to

call it on State issues the way they see it in the State and

I'll call it on Federal issues the way I see it federally, and I won't tell them what to do and hopefully they won't tell me what to d o .

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, you mentioned a package to help sell you

consumption tax. Will you elaborate on that.

Hewson:

No, you'll just have to wait. Just have to wait for the

package. But we are very conscious of the need to sell it and very conscious of what's got to be done in order to educate

people about the benefits of the sort of change in the whole tax, indirect come personal tax system that we have in mind.

Jrnlst:

Can you indicate when you might be releasing details of that.

Hewson:

No, we like to do it at a time of our choosing and we are very

conscious of the need to allow plenty of time to sell it.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, on immigration .... are you advocating a reduction in our immigration intake and by what amount.

V

8

Well, we've said in the past that those two factors will work on the immigration intake in the near term, that is there are less people applying to come to Australia in the midst of a

recession and we have a lesser capacity to absorb migrants in a recession. We haven't put a number on it, we believe that

if the Government administers the existing criteria correctly rather than debasing them as they've been doing, that the

numbers could fall off quite significantly. We haven't tried to put a number on it. We don't actually think targeting is

the way to go in the sense that the Government has in the past set specific targets, found it difficult to achieve them and therefore allowed in fact a lowering of the immigration

standards in order, criteria if you like, that they've set in order to achieve a particular target. I don't think that does anybody any good.

Heweon:

Jrnlet:

. .. . a reduction ...

Hewson:

Well we've said that we would expect there to be a sizeable

reduction. We haven't said how big a reduction that would be. And we, on the basis of what I ’ve just said, you have to be

willing to accept that there will a reduction in the intake for the two reasons that I identified.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, what sort of changes do you see need to be made to

the Liberal Party to run more successful campaigns and

capitalise on ...

Heweon:

Well, I think the principle changes have been firstly to put the leadership issue behind us and to run as a unified

effective team. Secondly, I think to be prepared to stand up and say what we believe in and to be prepared to fight an

election on fundamental differences between ourselves and the Government and thirdly to put in place a very effective grass roots organisation, seat by seat, which is essential, I think, to winning the election. The experience, for example, in New

South Wales recently, take neighbouring seats like Manly and North Sydney, one won, one lost, the difference was in the

quality of the grass roots campaign that was run in those two seats.

9

I think we have taken a . lesson from a number of the recent

experiences that you need to improve your grass roots

campaigning techniques and approach. Its something that we've been very conscious of and at the Federal level are making

sure that when we go to the next election we have built the

appropriate structures and got the right people as well as the right candidate, operating at a grass roots level. And that means a lot of door-knocking, it means a lot of phone polling, it means a lot of targeted direct mail, it means a lot of

community contact, it means a lot of public meetings. I've been doing more and more public meetings as I've gone around rather than just Liberal Party functions. We've got to market our message in various ways but a range of levels.

Jrnlst: .

What about the structure of the Party, thought? More having a central.

Hewson:

We have already made a number of changes to bring about what we think is an effective national campaign and approach. Some of those changes have been announced, some haven't. But our concern in an organisational sense after the last Federal

election loss was to ensure that we did have an effective

national campaigning force and the role that the Federal

Executive now plays, the way that translates to links with the State organisations, the improvements that we've developed in the development of policy between the organisation and the Parliamentary Party are all parte of developing a more

effective campaigning force federally. In the past there's been a lot of weight put on key things like television

advertising and some of that sort of then where if the ban

doesn't go ahead we will probably put less weight on

television advertising but more weight on grass roots

campaign.

Jrnlst:

But it failed in New South Wales.

Hewson:

Well, I'm not talking about New South Wales. I'm talking

about Federal campaigning capability.

10

But I ’m talking about it in terms of having more ...

Jrnlst:

Hewson:

Well, you can’t say it failed. Some seats, sure, were lost

because of the lack of an effective grass roots organisation in force. One that I had a fair bit to do with, part of my

seat, the seat of Vaucluse, where Michael Yabsley was under a lot of pressure from independents, shows you what you can do with an effective grass roots campaign in a difficult

situation. Yabsley had a tremendous swing, proving the point I've just made and I just say that if you generalise that

experience across the seats you've got to win, you can build a very significant majority.

Jrnlst:

Ralph Willis is talking about Accord Mark VII this morning. What's your reaction to that?

Hewson:

Well they have a lot of trouble with Accord Mark VI right now in the sense that its under a enormous amount of pressure, its been rejected by the IRC, yet some are trying to go ahead and implement it, metal trades being the r.ivst recent example. My position is very simple, that I don't think there should be, any further wage increases until they are linked directly to performance and to my mind the best way to do that is to go to

genuine enterprise bargaining, that is enterprise based labour agreements rather than try to resurrect some manifestation of the Accord in the centralised system. The centralised system has been a major source of the problem in Australia, as

distinct from it being a solution.

Jrnlst:

So its futile for the Government to persist another Accord.

Hewson:

Well, I don't think they have the confidence of too many

people, including many of their own, when they're trying to formulate a new deal and the last one is still under attack at various levels all over the country.

11

Mr Hewson, has you visit to South Australia been programmed to \ coincide with the Prime'Minister1s visit to Queensland to take some air time away from him.

Jrnlst:

Hewson:

No, I've had a longstanding commitment to come here today to do two meetings, this lunchtime with the Corporate Treasurers and tonight we have a large Liberal Party function and that's been in our book for quite some time. The Prime Minister's

decision to campaign in the last week arose when he cancelled hie overseas trip. He was expected to be overseas right now, and having lied to the Australian people he's gone back to try and reestablish hi6 links with the Australian people and I noted that he's picked Labor, ...(interjection)... well I

didn't lie to them and I don't have to establish, reestablish the links with them, and I haven't picked safe Labor seats.

Jrnlst:

Y ou’ve been coming out with the same issues and you've both been saying we've lost base with the people being in Canberra.

Hewson:

He certainly has.

Jrnlst:

You've both been saying the same thing, you've been saying we've lost touch with rural Australia so we're coming here to make sure we know what’s happening.

Hewson:

I think Bob Hawke is responding to my early criticism of him that he ought to get out of Canberra, out of the white cars,

out of the VIP aircraft and meet the people of Australia. Now we've consistently done that since I became leader. Almost every day that I don't have to be in Canberra for Parliament we have been travelling somewhere in Australia. Not with a media crew, not in any sense trying to attract attention, but

getting out and meeting people and listening to their problems first hand.

12

Just a final chapter ζ>η Senator Evans. Do you say he should stand aside, that, he's not up to the job?

Jrnlst:

Hewson:

No, look, I think Senator Evans will have to give a complete accounting to the Prime Minister of what he did and why he did it. He's done a fair bit of damage, further damage, if you

like, to our international reputation and he's turned what should have been a very productive opportunity into a public relations and diplomatic disaster.

Thanks.