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Transcript of Interview Dr John Hewson, Leader of the Opposition AM, ABC Radio

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21 June 1991 REF: TRANSCR\0219.tmc



SUBJECTS: Coronation Hill, ALP Leadership


Well, it has been a hell of a month for the Labor Government, with the Hawke/Keating leadership challenge, the economy in deep recession and divisions on mining at Coronation Hill. The Opposition is now in the enviable position Of waiting for what

it sees as inevitable success at the next election.

A week ago, the Coalition was on retreat in the Barossa Valley to discuss future political strategy. We have been joined now in our Canberra studio by the Opposition Leader, John Hewson and to talk to him our chief political correspondent, Maxine McKew.


Dr Hewson, if I can take Garry Johns point first, if Cabinet ministers can't take decisions on the merits, they should resign. Do you agree with that?


Well, an awful large number of them would have had to have

resigned by now and they would have resigned on many issues in the past. I think it is, though, indicative of a very

fundamental problem and that is policy paralysis in the

Government. There is has been an enormous lurch to the left with Hawke retaining the leadership, they have dominant influence now over policy.

We have seen it in the first test, on Coronation Hill, we will see it probably again next week with uranium. We will probably see it most decisively in the budget in August.


Would you reverse the Coronation Hill decision?

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 774022

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Hews on:

Well, we would obviously like to but I am not sure we will be

able t o ..


What problems do you see..


..or easily. I guess the key thing would be that we would need to carry a bill through both Houses of Parliament, so we would need to have control of both Houses of Parliament, but we are looking at that now.


In making other such decisions Dr Hewson, would you take due weight of the fact that aborigines should have a say in

determining their future?


We thought that was exactly the position that should have been pursued and that is give the Jawoyn people the right to negotiate with the joint venturers.


So, have the Government get out of the whole process.


The Government should have stood back and said, look, if the aboriginal people, the Jawoyn people can agree, then mining should be allowed to go ahead. Particularly given the lead they had given BHP early on, saying that they were not anti-mining in effect, in relation to the conservation zone. The Jawoyn

people's beliefs have shifted, the Jawoyn people are divided as 'to whether mining should go ahead. In those circumstances, the Government should get out of the way and let them negotiate with the joint venturers.

McKew :

The Prime Minister of course, insists this is a one off case, therefore it is inaccurate for mining companies to see an added sovereign risk having entered the whole question of investment in Australia now.

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Hews on:

I don't think anyone would believe him. The fact is that it

really wasn't a one off case, if it had one off significance, it was a litmus test for his leadership following his victory over Paul Keating. It was certainly a litmus as to the influence of

the Left and I think it was seen by the mining industry as a

litmus test of his attitude to development and to mining


Look, over the years of his Government there has just been

increasing delay in red tape, in green tape and black tape and so on, and mining projects are not going ahead. This was lifted by his own Ministers as a test case for him and for his

Government and he failed.


Dr Hews on, what eventualities are you at the moment preparing for? Are you basing for instance, your strategy on the fact that Bob Hawke will be Prime Minister at the end of the year or Paul Keating or in fact someone else?


Well, we have worked off a strategy which we set in place 15

months ago, a three year strategy to win in our right and that meant that we didn't particularly care who lead the Labor Party. .




. .but you have overlapping scenarios that allow for different events and changes in the leadership. I think right now Bob Hawke is going to try and stay as long as he can, he has a deep

seeded hatred, I think, of Paul Keating, doesn't want to pass the Party over to a non traditional Labor Party person. He is trying to elevate others like Simon Crean, Brian Howe or John Kerin, or Kim Beazley. Trying to broaden the stakes, leave the Party to

a person of his own choice. Undoubtedly Keating's people will continue to destabilise and I guess Gary Johns is in a sense one of those and so there will be instability over the whatever, next several months, right through to the next election.

I think Hawke is determined to stay but I think equally Keating's people are determined to undermine. So, it is a period of

instability which is bad news for Government. But I think the key thing is, from our point of view, it doesn't really matter who gets up, whether it is Keating or Hawke or anybody else, they will have to do that with the support of the Left Wing and for

the first time in eight years, the Left Wing has now got a very

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powerful hold over this Government. Indeed, for seven of those eight years they never had an issue, now they have had the Gulf War, they have got uranium, they have got public ownership and of course unemployment.

So, the Left have got a very powerful position and it is the

lurch to the Left and the change in policy which is fundamental. Which will in sense help us because we can identify a clearly differential stand on most policy issues.


Just a final point Dr Hewson, what about a report yesterday though, that said in the Barossa Valley one of the things that you did consider was that in the eventuality of Paul Keating becoming Prime Minister, you would expect him to go to the polls within a hundred days.


Well, I think he will. I mean, his only argument I guess, in

taking over is that he is going to try and make some change which is sort of a mythical argument. He had the unusual position of eight years with the full support of the Prime Minister, but I think he would come in and try and do a grand Kennedy style

vision for the year 2000 and go to the polls seeking a mandate as early as possible.

I think the longer he sat in that position, if he were to come in say, lets say September/October, the longer he sat in the position of leader, the more of the recession and the pain and the misery of the last eight years would stick on him. So, my

guess is that he would go to an early poll.

McKew $

Dr Hewson, thank you very much.