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Transcript of doorstop interview: Perth, Western Australia: 23 January 1992: Attorney General; immigration



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Leader of the Opposition

23 January 1992 REF: TRANSCR\0363.tmc

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP DR JOHN HEWSON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Attorney General, Immigration

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson, what are your comments about the Solicitor General row?

Hewson:

Well, I think the Attorney General, Mr Duffy, has to give a

complete account now of this very extraordinary event. And apparently he has reversed a Cabinet decision, on his own, while he was on holidays. Announced on the board last night, rather than by way of press release, having not consulted anyone, didn't even tell, apparently, the acting Attorney General, claims not to have consulted the Prime Minister and yet he was, in the past, defending Dr Griffith very extensively in the Parliament.

So, he has changed his mind, we want to know why he has changed, what factors have led him to change his mind, why he didn't go through the normal processes of Government and so on. He should

give a complete account of this very extraordinary affair.

Jrnlst:

Why do you think he has done it?

Hewson:

I have no idea, we have absolutely no idea why he has suddenly changed his mind. He went out there and argued the case for

quite along time and particularly in the Parliament last year and all of a sudden he changes his mind, while he is on holidays. Doesn't announce it properly, doesn't consult people and it is an extraordinary affair. It was a very controversial appointment

at the time. You would imagine that if it was that controversial then, it would be even more controversial if it was reversed, in that sense I am staggered that he didn't go through the normal Cabinet process.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 2774022 L · '

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Jmlst:

Should Dr Griffith now resign?

Hewson:

Well, I think we need a full account of the circumstances before we make any judgements. There is obviously something quite fundamental that has led Mr Duffy to change his mind and he will have to give a full account, particularly since he defended Dr

Griffith so strongly in December.

Jmlst ϊ

How would you describe the ..(inaudible).., in a nutshell, how would you describe it?

Hewson:

The matter, it is just an extraordinary and bizarre series of events, taking a very controversial decision which most thinking people rejected totally late last year. They have now reversed it in a very sort of clandestine way, announcing it late at night and not consulting people, no due process. The man is on

holidays, the acting Minister didn't know. It is bizarre, it is extraordinary.

Jmlst:

..(inaudible)., you don't think he should have been given paid leave...

Hewson:

Not at all. I mean, we raised, Andrew Peacock in particular raised most of the, I think, major points about the original appointment. It was unbelievable that a man could continue to hold the office of Solicitor General and go into private

practice. A massive conflict of interest, some of which have become evident in some of the departmental advice that was released by way of FOI requests made by Mr Peacock.

Jmlst:

Apparently, Mr Dawkins was calling for bi-partisan support on the immigration debate.

Hewson:

I think he ought to start by having a word to his Prime Minister. I mean, that was hardly an attempt to achieve a bi-partisan position on immigration by moving a racial slur against us. It is ridiculous that Mr Dawkins should now, after a couple of days, try and defend what was indefensible.

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An attempted racial slur by the Prime Minister, rather than an effective statement on immigration policy, it is unforgivable.

Jrnlst:

..(inaudible)..

Hewson:

We will give genuine support to the difficult decisions and immigration is a very difficult decision in Australia. As you know, you have got to have a very measured and very careful

debate on matters like immigration. If they come to the view, as we have done after very careful consideration, that there should be a substantial cut in the immigration intake - that it should be immediate in view of the labour market situation in Australia, that there should be a greater emphasis on skills,

that it should be a non discriminatory immigration policy - well then, there is a basis there for a bi-partisan approach.

Jrnlst:

But do you think that you have got to more than just what Simon Crean is saying, and that's with a poor economy, fewer people are going to want to come and that is going to solve the problem

itself.

Hewson:

Well, it is bot h . I mean sure, fewer people want to come, we

have been pointing that out now for about a year, but we have a reduced capacity to absorb people too, in a recession. I think something like 35 per cent of those who have arrived in the last couple of years, have ended up on some sort of Government

benefit. It doesn't do them any good, as new migrants and it doesn't do us any good as a nation in the midst of the worst

recession in 60 years.

So, we came to the view that although we support a long term in increase in immigration, the short term, it has got to be c u t .

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