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Shadow ministry re-shuffle, flag

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Leader of the Opposition

29 April 1992 REF: TRANSCR\NM\TC027



SUBJECTS: Shadow Ministry Re-shuffle, Flag


Good morning Dr Hewson.


Good morning John.


Your mini-reshuffle - it's already been described as making a virtue out of a necessity. Have you crushed the rebellion among the Queensland Nationals.

Well, we had a very effective Party Room meeting yesterday, and I think Boswell and O'Chee were left in no doubt as to what their colleagues thought of what they've done. They apologised, and they undertook not to do it again, and we are going on as a

united team.

On the re-shuffle, well, I had been wanting to make some small changes for some time, and this was the opportunity that came along, so I took it.


What's the thinking behind, say, moving Andrew Peacock - who many would think is moving into, possibly, the "russet-coloured years" of his political life - from Attorney-General to Trade?

There was an attempt there to put both Peacock and Durack in portfolios that they're more naturally suited to. Durack is a top class lawyer, a lot of Constitutional experience. He would be a natural as Shadow Attorney-General.



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



And Andrew Peacock's got a wealth of international experience, and I wanted to strengthen our international side, so I moved him into that position, and moved Trade into the Shadow Cabinet, which I think is very important.


And the exuberant Alexander Downer, who some people are

dismissive've rewarded him and promoted him



Yes, well people don't really know Alexander Downer. He's a good talent, and I'm giving him a chance to prove himself. Defence is a top portfolio. We have a Defence Review that we will

release shortly, and Alexander will have the responsibility for carrying that.

I've also put him into Shadow Cabinet, and I expect him to play a larger part in the Fightback! program.


Won't he be releasing that Defence Review....most of that work will be Senator Durack's work though, won't it?


Well, it's been done by a committee, chaired by myself in fact, but also basically run by Senator Durack. And in that sense, Alexander has been very active in that role, and I think he's well qualified to handle the job.


Would you expect that this would be the last re-shuffle barring any further revolts before the next election?


Well, never is not a word you use very often in politics, but my view is we'll go to the next election with this team. I always said that I pick the team on their merit. I've made some

marginal changes on merit, and I hope everyone now settles down to the task ahead, which is, whatever it is - 6 or 9 months till the next election.


And it's also, I guess, a warning to everybody that if you don't perform, you can be shifted.



That's right. There's no doubt about that. I've made it very- clear from the beginning that unless you perform, you won't keep your j o b .


Did you ever consider not re-appointing a Queenslander to the Shadow Ministry. After all, the one you have chosen to replace Mr Braithwaite - Bruce Scott - has similar views on the sugar tariff issue to the man he replaced.


No. Bruce Scott was misrepresented last week in the paper. Bruce actually supports the decision on sugar tariffs and on our commitment to go to negligible tariff protection by the Year 2000 .


I thought I heard him at the back door the other day saying "I hope they see the Queenslanders' point of view."


Well, I'm not aware of that. And as far as I've spoken to Bruce, and Bruce is a wholehearted supporter of our position, and he's going out there to sell it. And as you correctly point out, he's going to do that in Queensland.

And I've also added Senator Ian Macdonald to the Shadow Ministry, and given him Local Government. H e ' s a Queenslander, with quite a standing in Far North Queensland in particular, and he'll be expected to play a large role in our electoral chances in that



Still on the issue of tariffs, it appears some MPs might be

getting, particularly from Victoria, getting a little bit concerned about the zero tariff policy and the way it's being seen as an end in itself - possibly even an ideological

obsession. Do you concede that that view could be costing you some support in the electorate - that perception of that policy?


I think the electorate is nervous about tariffs. I have no doubt about that. I think they are concerned that just cutting

tariffs, as the Government's done, will cost jobs, and that's right and we've said that all along. What we have to get

everyone to understand is that we aren't just cutting tariffs.


We'll cut tariffs in the context of major reform that lowers costs.


But that linkage is being lost isn't it? That linkage, that you're suggesting there'll be business costs cut?


Well, it's being lost because the Government's not delivering, and not because I think they doubt us.


But in terms of your own policy, your MPs are a little bit

concerned about the fact that you aren't making that linkage between a cut in tariffs and also a cut in business costs.


No, well the Fightback! package cuts taxes on business alone by $20 billion, and that's the point that they're out there selling. It may take the electorate time to get the totality of the

Fightback! package, which is the only way to look at it. We

don't have a stand alone tariffs policy. Our tariffs policy is part of a 20-point plan, and in that plan, are major cost cutting programs for business, which in most cases - well, take the car industry. I think the car industry will be a bigger industry,

a more dynamic industry. We'll all drive younger cars, and cheaper cars as a result of our reforms.

Now, I've no doubt if you continue to do what the Government's been doing, which is just cut tariff protection, you'll gradually shrink the car industry and increase the cost of cars to average Australians. But we intend to reverse that process as part of

genuine reform.


But do you concede though, that there's probably a need to better sell that zero tariffs policy as part of your overall policy package?


Well, I've conceded that we need to better sell our total

Fightback! package, and that's what it's all about. And in fact, I've put a new management group into the Shadow Cabinet

specifically for that purpose. We are scaling up, if you like, our efforts. But to some extent, we were always doing that. I've had a 9 to 12 month program to explain our package.


We started off with a range of public meetings and letter box drops, or mailout to every household in Australia which is almost completed now.

And then we scale that up in terms of a national media and public meeting campaign. And that's really all that's don e . There's been some scaling up of that. I've put more resources into that. But we were always, in a sense, planning to do that.


This morning's Financial Review though is running a headline "Coalition MPs Get Jittery Over Tariffs". Now, the impression is that everybody is concerned about your zero tariff policy. There is some concern, at least.


No, they're not concerned about the policy per se. People

express views as to how to explain it or to market. And look, the Party Room yesterday - we must have had 20 or 25 speakers - overwhelming support for our policy position. Overwhelmingly attacking, if you like, Boswell and O'Chee for not toeing the

line and observing Party processes and talking in the Party Room rather than outside.

And look, I would say that most people came out of that Party

Room meeting yesterday buoyed by the enthusiasm for our position as much as anything else. Sure, we don't underestimate the task that's in front of us. We know we have to work hard - long and

hard. We will work every hour of every day to the next election to explain our position.

I think the Financial Review exaggerates any concern in our Party. I don't say that there isn't concern among all people as to how to better get our message o u t . But we aren't giving up. All we're doing is re-dedicating ourselves, if you like, to the

task of explaining ourselves.


If we could now turn to the Flag - another issue of yesterday. Prime Minister Keating formally announced his intention to move towards changing the Flag. Here's what he had to say about your view of Australian nationalism.


Jack Lang had the weights of all of you people - the weights of all of you. He knew what yon were - snivellers to forces abroad; crawlers to forces abroad; lick spittlers to forces abroad; and you've never changed. You don't understand Australia. You don't

understand Australian nationalism. The Labor Party has had to drag you screaming to every national event.


We had to drag you out of the mess in World War II and prosecute it successfully for you. And we had to finally remodel the

Australian economy after the mess you made in the post-war years. The fact is, Mr Speaker, the Liberal Party never meets the

challenge. They'll be dragged screaming on this, and at one stage Mr Speaker, when Australia has a Flag of its own -

unambiguously Australian - people will look back on those debates and they'll turn up the Hansard and they'll giggle at the Member for Bennelong's remarks, and the Leader of the Opposition's remarks - just as today you can giggle at the ones in 1943 for

the fact that they don't comprehend the notion of nationhood. They don't advance our nationhood. You've never understood it. You've always thought it was subordinate and derivative. It's not and it never will be whilever the Flag of Labor flies in this



Strong words Dr Hewson. Isn't it the case that while the Union Jack is there, it's as much a symbol of England as it is of



I think what that shows is Paul Keating can't handle the pressure on this issue. He picked the wrong issue and he's got a lot of pressure in his Party. He's also revealing an appalling

ignorance of our history and the value of our heritage and the feelings of average Australians. The only one who is uncertain about our future and our standing in the world is Paul Keating.

I've been through Asia dozens and dozens of times. Nobody says to me, "You guys are insecure down there because you have the Union Jack in the corner of your Flag." People are...


So you think he's just making that up then?


Well, I think he's trying to capitalise on what he perceives to be a mood in the community in the midst of the worst recession in 60 years that he inflicted on people - that there's a sense of disillusionment, a loss of confidence. And he's trying to

turn that to a phoney nationalism, and the Australian people are not going to be part of that. I mean, his selective

interpretation of history is just Jack Lang.

As I said to him yesterday, you learnt very little before Jack Lang, and you learnt nothing after Jack Lang, and what you've got is Jack Lang's version of history. And you can find the same lines. Lang used to talk about us grovelling to the Brits.


Keating has such a selective interpretation of history, and a total disregard for the values and institutions that Australians hold dearly. I think what you've just heard is a good example

of that.


While it might be a digression, you've been willing to follow him up that alleyway, haven't you?


No, we've said...and we've resisted the temptation all along...


Yesterday, Question Time was devoted...


Well, one day out of many days devoted to just pulling him back because of his disgraceful behaviour overseas is totally justified. At some point you stand up for what matters in this country, without downplaying the significance of jobs. Jobs are the dominant issue. We will stay on jobs, but you can't let him get away with the behaviour that he pulled in Indonesia, or the comments he made on the Kokoda Trail. As I said to him

yesterday, if he's prepared to kiss the ground of the Kokoda Trail, he'd better be prepared to kiss the Flag under which they fought and under which many of them were buried.


John Hewson, we must leave it there. Thanks very much for

speaking with AM.