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Doorstop Interview: Brian Howe university house, ANU

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. TNJTτ?τ\π7(Π I n !H , W b > Brian Howe R E L E A S E Deputy Prime Minister Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services


J: Are there concerns in the Labor Party about a revamped fightback!

BH: Well I think Dr Hewson had a long, long time to consider his position and for him to cave in at this particular point I mean its really not I would have thought very, very promising. He's got ten days to remake the world and frankly I think the difficulty is the whole thing's unravelled, I mean this is a ball of wool that is just going to string out and out and out.

J: What if he remakes the world as you say and people accept it and believe that Fightback! can rejuvenate the coalition?

BH: Well I think Dr Hewson's had all year to make changes, he's had Sir William Cole working away there he's really now at a point where obviously the pressures in his own party room (interrupted). I think Dr Hewson has obviously succumbed to pressure I think the reality is that any party room, the backbench and I get a sense that (inaudible) the pressures that have been coming on him are just so great and Dr Hewson's cracked and I think thats really a bit of a worry, that someone who has on the one hand presented himself as absolute

fundamentalist absolutely fundamental on the other hand now is really just caving in to those pressures.



Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Social Justice Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Commonwealth-State Relations

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J: How many people with the state of the economy at the moment - a more pallitable Fightback! package might cause some worry to the Government as well?

BH: Well I think whatever, the difficulty for Dr Hews on is that if he's been admired because he had some strength we now admire him because he's flipped it, I mean Dr Hewson is really now showing that in the end of the day he doesn't really have a great deal of integrity. Doesn't have a great deal of backbone, but when the pressures come on from the backbench and those people out and around the marginals well he's got to make some decision. Now having made a decision early on to construct a very, very complicated, very large package, very, very complex, the difficulty you have with that

is that once you start to hop into it where do you stop - and you're going to see Fightback! I could see that in say relation to the health area, I mean you're talking there about very, very large amounts of money

$1.3 billion over the public hospital system, supposedly to be replaced by private insurance, no certainty that money will finish back in the public hospital system, possible closure of beds, these issues are very complex and if Dr Hewson's had the chance to explain the fact of the matter is that he's stopped explaining and he's now running.

J: Mr Howe are you saying that there are no people within the ALP with any concerns at all about what the Coalition may come up with on the 18th?

BH: Well I'm saying that I think as far as Dr Hewson is concerned he's finished - and its pretty obvious so to those in the Labor party (interrupted by Journalist - no panic from the ALP?) no certainly no panic from the ALP, I think the Prime Minister's indicated in the

course of this week on a number of occassions that he is in extremely good form, that his rhetoric is constantly reaching new heights and that he is certainly looking forward to an election in which he is quite confident we can win.

- that the divisions that are emerging within the Coalition why would that concern us? I mean we know that you can't win - a divided party simply cannot win Government in Australia and what you've got there essentially is the hardliners who are going to be

fighting in the party room, with those who want to make some changes and the divisions are really now about to appear and over the next few weeks I think you'll see those divisions manifest right across Australia.

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Ji (inaudible)

BH: Well he's got to reduce his package by $4 billion, I mean its not so much the initial change its the consequential changes that are going to be fought. I mean essentially what Dr Hewson is doing now - what

he's refused to do in an ordered way in the cause of this year - I mean a number of people have come to him for example the Catholic Church on food they came to him - they gave him the opportunity to do that in an orderly way - to think it all through - but what's he going to do - he's going to make these changes now as part of a flurry of change that'll be ill thought out and will give the Government the maximum opportunity to continue the attack.

J: But if he adresses some of those community concerns in Fightback! doesn't that mean ...

BH: Well I think its the way he's adressing, I think its the way of addressing the concern, I mean I think if from time to time if Dr Hewson made a change because he believed an argument and felt he needed to respond to it but its making all these changes in a sort of panic ten day period, in which he's just been unable to hold out any longer. I mean the pressure really has got to Hewson and he's now on the run and so he's going to make these changes on the run and h e ' s going to make very, very complicated, very difficult decisions in a mode which really is just not suited to do it - so that

I'm afraid, I mean you may have - I don't have a great deal of confidence that in the next ten days Dr Hewson has got much chance of reshaping his world - his world is fundamentally cracking - there's a quake within it and that quake is going to grow wider so that ultimately the house of cards is going to come down and Dr Hewson's leadership must be - people are talking about that now, I mean you know, just weeks before an election, months before an election, you've got really Dr Hewson's leadership effectively under attack, I mean you've seen those headlines from Dr Hewson during the year that he would rather go than make changes to his precious Fightback! well now he's making changes, I mean the choices really are is he going to go, is Dr Hewson going to walk out the door? well that might be a bit of a worry, I mean really the position over there

is in the Coalition ranks is one of panic and I would have thought that that's a favourable climate for the Government, but we'll keep working on developing our policies.