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Transcript of doorstop interview Dr John Hewson MP Melbourne



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12 APRIL 1991

TRANSCRIPT'OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW DR JOHN HEWSON MP MELBOURNE

E & OE PROOF COPY ONLY

Journalist!

First of all Dr Hewson, Mr Hawke misleading Parliament yesterday. Did he handle that matter well?

HewsonI

Well, he has left all the questions unanswered really. The allegations have been made that he gave an assurance to Mr Connell about the gold tax and he has denied that. Until he comes clean and gives a full explanation of what happened at

that lunch and what he said and what he didn't say, the doubt about his propriety in the matter will continue.

Journalists >

He said today, apparently in Sydney that it was a memory lapse. Do you think this is just a cover up?

Hewsoni

Well, I think that it probably is in the sense that it is well known, the facts are well known. They had made a number of statements on the record about a gold tax that they weren't going to change the exemption that the gold industry enjoyed.

However, the post lunch statement by the Prime Minister in the letter of the 7th July was that a gold tax wouldn't be changed in the course of the next parliament. So it was a much more specific statement made after the lunch.

Now I am surprised that in view of that shift that it couldn't be remembered. Particularly an issue that was so important if you like, particularly in Western Australia, at the time of the '87 election.

Journalist*

But wasn't it an honest mistake? It was relating to events some time ago, and he did correct himself very quickly.

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Hewsont

Well, it shows an appalling lack of support in his office that they couldn't have over many days, established a position in relation to what he had said and when he had said it and we had the distinct impression in the Parliament that he was just refraining from answering the questions, ducking and weaving.

In fact he made light of the questions to start with and then he got himself in hot water and came back with an explanation that he and his people hope would get him off the hook, And of course all it has done, is put him more on the hook. And he will stay on the hook until such time as he gives a full explanation of what happened at the lunch and whether he did or he didn't make those assurances.

Mr Connell said under oath that he received an assurance. The Prime Minister says he didn't give one but the letter that was released after the lunch certainly gives a clear cut statement in respect of the next Parliament and was a commitment that was met.

journalists

To what extent has Mr Hawke's integrity suffered from all this?

Hewson t v

Well, his integrity is in question and will remain in question until he answers the questions that have been raised about what happened, and I would think that he should just give a full and complete response.

See there are so many unanswered questions as to what actually happened at the lunch, whether gold was discussed, whether the assurance was given and how did the Government make the decision to give a specific commitment in relation to the next parliament.

We hear today, at least we read today in one of the newspapers that Senator Walsh and Mr Keating were not consulted before that specific commitment was given. Now it seems that the Prime Minister is acting unilaterally in giving a specific assurance and in that sense the question marks will continue until the Prime Minister comes clean.

Journalisti

... (inaudible) ... this week's revelations in the Royal Commission into the Labour Council

Hewson«

I'm sorry, how 7

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Journalists ,

How damaging to the Labour Council

Hewsoni

Well, they are always damaging when you don't answer them.

And if you try to cover them up or duck them or mislead, you make the problem worse and as I say there is no substitute in this business for coming out, up front and saying exactly what happened and standing or falling by that record and I think Mr

Keating showed a sensitivity in the Parliament yesterday as to what he knew, when he was asked about it, whether or not he was aware of the letter that went out on the 7th July. He said that was insignificant.

I found that an amazing statement for the person who is responsible for tax policy. That he didn't think it was important. Whether or not he knew the decision was being made about a major element of tax policy. So, there are so many unanswered questions about Mr Keating's role, about Mr Hawke's role and those questions will continue until they come clean.

Journalisti *

Can we move to another issue. Your party is now supporting full disclosure of political donations. Is that a big win for you?

Hewson *

I don't see it as a win, I see it as the logical and appropriate position to take on the issue. I think politics has changed a lot in this country and will change a lot more in the 1990s.

As I have said in the past my disposition is towards disclosure, we have got nothing to hide. We are quite happy to pursue disclosure provided it is fair and equitable.

Really what I was saying yesterday, is I have set up a group of people on our side of the Parliament to draft a piece of legislation which we think would be appropriate from the point of view of ensuring fairness and equity and that will either be a Bill that we will put into the Parliament ourselves by way of a Private Members Bill, or it will be the basis on which we move amendments to the Government's Bill. So we are

very suspicious that when the Government talks about disclosure they mean disclosure for us and not for them. So we want to make sure that it is disclosure is across the board and that is across everything.

There is a lot that people should know about the process of Government.

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Journalisti

In fact your party organisation has expressed some concern about whether or not legislation can be drawn up fair and equitably. Are you going to be able to overcome those concerns?

Hewsoni

Look I share to some extent that view in a sense that we have to look at the legislation to determine whether it is fair and equitable and I know that they have said that they remain to be convinced. That is a healthy attitude to take. ,

We will scrutinise the legislation to make sure that it is fair and equitable, and where we feel that it can be improved or where equity can be achieved by way of amendment then we will propose certain amendments. I had hoped that the

Democrats and the Government in fact, if they are all genuinely interested in disclosure, will make sure that the disclosure that is achieved, is widespread, is across the board and is equitable to all the parties concerned.

That is a reasonable position to take and we will be as objective as we can in looking at their legislation. But one is naturally suspicious of the Government when they say we want disclosure. As I say', it is usually disclosure for us

and not for them. And we want to make sure that there are no particular advantages to the Government in that legislation.

Journalisti

That resistance is not creating a split or a division between the party organisation and the parliamentary party?

Hewsoni

I hope not. I mean we all wait now to look at the legislation and in that sense it is up to the Government. The ball is in their court to not only bring the legislation forward, but to bring it forward in the most equitable and fair manner they can, and I think the organisation and the parliamentary party now will wait to see what they come up with, although we are going to push ahead and draft what we think is the appropriate

form of disclosure legislation.

At least to have that there as a backstop against which to measure the legislation they propose, so we are being as constructive as we can. I see disclosure as a very important issue and it is one that needs to be addressed across a whole

lot of government, not just in relation to political fundraising, but importantly in relation to political fundraising. So we will see what they bring down.

I would say we will remain totally opposed of course to the ban on political advertising which is designed to give them a particular advantage when they are broke and they don't expect to raise any money going into the next election.

Journalisti

Could Mr Goldsworthy be a little bit more difficult to make happy about the legislation than yourself?

Hews on i

Well, you will have to ask Mr Goldsworthy that question. I mean, I have had a few discussions with Ashley and I have read his press release which summarises his view as you have put it to me and I was pleased to see that he is going to wait and

have a look at the legislation.

Journalistt

Just one last question. Nick Bolkus has just come out to say that the legislation over disclosure that you are supporting is so full of loop holes that it is deceiving the Australian public.

Hewson i

Nick Bolkus would have no idea. I mean, poor old Nick, he is out of touch on all these things, but the pressure is on him now, he has got to produce.a piece of equitable disclosure legislation. Let's have a·look at what he comes up with. He has made a lot of statements, he has tried to draw a number of conclusions from our press release. He would have no idea. So let's see what he produces in due course.

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