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Dump Dawkins now

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

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For the past six months, the Minister for Employment, Education and Training has seen himself as a one-man ginger group within the Government.

In fact, he has been an unguided missile shooting down the

Government's own policies.

In his National Press Club address last November, he boasted

* that his experience surpassed almost all other Ministers,

* that the "clever country" idea was really his, and

* that he had been formulating policies to "maintain a contemporary and creative society" for almost 10 years.

He then demanded that the Government adopt an industry policy which involved explicit Government assistance to selected exporters.

In his Australia Day address this year, he slighted the Hawke Government's record, saying that

* the Government should "revive (Whitlam's)

comprehensive image of what Australia could become".

In his weekend address to members of his own faction, he demanded that the Government

* reject the "prevailing economic orthodoxy",

* impose profit-sharing on Australian companies,

* move to a lower, fixed exchange rate by sacrificing other macro-economic objectives,

* support the VFT process, and

* make employers part of the Accord.



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Mr Dawkins believes his factional standing allows him to give the Government gratuitous public advice. But this should not be enough to protect a Minister, even in a Labor Government, who has also made a shambles of his portfolio.

But if Mr Dawkins' mismanagment of the ELICOS programme and university amalgamations is not enough, his sustained flouting of Cabinet solidarity ought to warrant the sack.

According to Mr Keating, the Prime Minister is very concerned about Mr Dawkins' outburst and, in Cabinet this morning,

described it as "unacceptable".

But what is the Prime Minister actually going to do about it? Has he told Mr Dawkins that a repeat will bring instant dismissal? And even if he has, is this good enough?

Last May, the Prime Minister warned Senator Button not to repeat comments made outside his portfolio, saying that "the Senator understands full well that there will be no repeat" and that Button "only has the one (life)".

This didn't stop Senator Button, last October, attacking the Government's interest rate and environmental policies nor did it stop him, last month, from admitting that Australia was in a rolling recession.

Nor did it stop Ministers Kerin, Howe, Hand, Keating, Tate and Cook publicly airing their views on the Government's forthcoming uranium policy review.

Similarly, Mr Hawke's constant admonitions against Cabinet leaks have not stopped a flood of information out of Cabinet - all slanted to make the leaker look good and the Prime Minister look bad.

It's not enough simply to rap Mr Dawkins over the knuckles. The Prime Minister's authority has been gravely undermined - by leaks, public dissension from Government policy and, most of all, by the Treasurer's constant guerrilla warfare over the


Mr Hawke needs to show his strength. He needs to show that he is not all talk. He needs to show that his warnings mean something. He needs to show that his threats are not empty. He needs Mr

Dawkins' head on a platter.

Otherwise, expect the leaks, the dissension and the leadership challenge to continue as before.

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