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Interest rates; senator Richardson, coral sea

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Leader of the Opposition

9 May 1992



E & EO Proof Copy Only

Subjects: Interest rates; Senator Richardson, Coral Sea

J m l i s t :

First of all to credit card charges. There's been a call for a public inquiry. It seems the people's bank - The Commonwealth Bank - is the only one that won't lower its charge rates.

Hewson: c Well, it is very difficult for an outsider, to what is obviously an internal debate, to comment on that because they're obviously

going through a process with the Government and among themselves as to what, is the appropriate way to charge on credit cards. We all would want lower interest rates and we want lower interest rates on credit cards as much as anything else. But there is not too m u c h for me to be gained by getting involved in that debate without knowing the detail. I thin* credit card rates are

amazingly high. I think in circumstances where the official interest rates are down now - 6 or 6.5 per cent I think - to have such high credit card rates is very hard for the average

Australian to understand. I don't think you need to go as far as an inquiry but there ought to be a fair bit of public pressure on the banks to reassess the way they actually do make these decisions. At least they should give a public defence as to why

they need an interest rate at that level.


Dr Hewson, the Graham Richardson affair, what sort of an effect is that having on the Government?

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




Well, it's obviously a debilitating crisis for the Government and one that Mr Keating really ought to deal with. As every day goes by, as I said yesterday, we have more questions raised about Mr Richardson's involvement in relation to the Marshall Islands affair. Today there are queries about the nature of the

reference he gave and the circumstances under which he gave it and as I say, the only way to deal with it is for Senator

Richardson to stand down or for the Prime Minister to stand him down while there is a full inquiry into what role he played. It is a very important issue. Ministerial propriety, ministerial conduct are fundamentally important issues and Mr Keating has to stand up and tell the people of Australia what standards he is going to impose on his Ministers in his new Government. So far

all they’ve seen is that he's prepared to put mateship - his

friendship with Graham Richardson and other members of the NSW Right - against the leadership that this country needs at this time.


Do you think the Prime Minister has been dithering on this one or has he been really compromised?


Well, I think, as every day goes by and Keating doesn't act he compromises himself more and more. Because there is no doubt that people would not understand why a Minister involved with an interesting communications debate in the Cabinet, for example, wouldn't declare a directorship of a radio station. Indeed, he

accepted it after he became a Cabinet Minister. Equally, they don't understand why he would get involved in court proceedings in another country - in the Marshall Islands - and apparently use his position. He certainly mislead the Senate on now a couple of occasions. The fact that he said one thing and then he has been proved to have said another or done another should cause the Prime Minister's alarm bells to ring in his ear s . He should

stand Senator Richardson down and find out the true situation. As I say all we get from one day to the next is more and more

contradictory statements. We see evidence that Senator Richardson has mislead the Parliament now on a couple of

occasions. That should be enough of an alarm bell for our Prime Minister to act.

J m l i s t :

Turning to today's festivities. There has been a lot of debate in recent weeks about Australia's relationships with Asia - direction in which we're moving. Do you thing there will every come a time when we could commemorate something like this, the bra v e r y and courage, of these men alongside the Japanese?


Well, it is a very difficult question. My view is that we're

here for very personal reasons from Australia's point of view and that is to acknowledge the contribution and the sacrifice that our fighting men and women made on our behalf, on this particular occasion 50 years ago, in the Coral Sea battle. We are not here to celebrate what the Japanese did in that situation. To me that

is quite a separate issue from the relationships we've

subsequently developed with Japan. They've emerged as our major trading partner. They are a major source, I think they are our third largest source of foreign investment into Australia. We've gone ahead and rebuilt a post-war relationship on a different basis. But I think when it comes to celebrate what's done in

circumstances like the Coral Sea battle, or as we were a week or so ago in Papua New Guinea, we're celebrating what our people did. In that sense it is very personal and it is something that we recognise as a celebration in honour of Australians and our

links with the United States as we fought together against an enemy. The enemy, in a sense, is secondary. The fact that we

fought and we fought hard for what we believe in is what really matters.

Thank you.