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:P.O Brisbane 13th fir ILL No .0^-229-34^1 13 Jun 9b 11 ': lb No.00b P.01

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Leader o f the Opposition

13 June 1995 jj/tol

TRANSCRIPT OF THE LEADER O F THE OPPOSITION THE HON JOHN HOWARD M P

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW CABOOLTURE, 13 JUNE 1995

Topics: Republic

H & OE: .............................................................................................................................................

Journalist:

(Inaudible) you're making it up as you go along.

Howard:

Well, that’s absolute nonsense.

Journalist:

W hat about this suggestion that if they don’t get it right the first time they'll have a second go.

Yes. In other words they are determined to get their option and no other option, so they’ll keep coming back again and again until the Australian people get it right. That’s the sort o f arrogant attitude they have.

Could the referendum that Keating has proposed in the way he's proposed it be passed, or do you think it would be something that would be defeated in the next government?

Well, the current indications are that it would fall on its face. But look, that’s why you have a Convcnti chi and you have the sort o f procedures that w e've adopted. 1 mean, the bottom line o f all o f this is that no matter who wins die next election there's going to be a vote. The difference is that the Australian people will decide their Constitution under me. Under Keating they’ll get only his option.

Howard:

Journalist:

Howard:

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Journalist:

Is this issue a good illustration o f the style and strength o f the two leaders? At the lunch (inaudible) to be a strength o f your leadership strength and style.

Howard:

Look, the whole election campaign is a test o f leadership style and strength. W hat I'm offering the Australian people is choice. What the Prime Minister is offering them is a take-it-or-leave-it dictation o f only one option,

Journalist:

M r Howard, speaking o f your People's Convention, will the Australian voters know the detail o f its composition and fee form o f voting for fee popular pan o f it when you go to fee election?

Howard:

Well, we may say something more about i t I haven't decided feat yet.

Journalist:

So it's possible, is it, feat fee composition - the details o f fee composition —

Howard:

Well, I can tell you right now feat fee people who ate elected will be elected in a totally democratic, representative fashion.

Journalist:

It will be a nation-wide poll, or will it be —

Howard:

Well, there are various ways o f doing it, Jim, and all I can promise you is feat it will be fair and democratic.

Journalist: ·.

Just on the question - you were talking before about when you first - about your expanded response to fee Republic, you spoke o f promoting what emerged as a clear consensus from fee People’s Convention. By talking about promoting, does feat mean you will actively campaign for something that emerged out o f a clear consensus?

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Howard:

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Well, it means that the government o f the day, having invested trust and resources in the Convention, and having gone to that trouble, and when you’ve got a consensus, has an obligation to support what comes out o f it

Journalist:

But does that simply mean putting out a ‘Yes’ case?

Howard:

1 think die level o f involvement is something you decide at the time, but clearly it means supporting i t I mean, if you’re asking m e to announce details o f campaigns years in advance, 1 mean, 1 ’m not going to respond to that But I can tell you that w e’re not engaged in some sort o f phoney exercise. If a consensus comes out it will be promoted and that’s why w e’re committed toil.

Journalist:

But there is some kind o f elan that comes from being the Prime Minister and some kind o f leadership power that that brings with it.

Howard:

I’m aware o f that. I’m well aware o f that

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Journalist:

I f you were the Prime Minister and actively promoting, actively campaigning for something that emerged from the People’s Convention, that would have far greater force than if you were to run dead on it simply with a ‘Yes’ (inaudible).

Howard:

Well, I think the level o f involvement in a campaign is something you should talk to me about at the Lodge in a few years’ time.

Journalist:

If there’s no clear consensus out o f the Convention or the plebiscite, does that mean that there’s no need fra- a Republican referendum and it’s (inaudible)?

Howard: '

Michael, Pd be perfectly astonished if you didn't at some stage get a steer on what the Australian public wanted.

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Journalist:

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Last week you spoke about perhaps there was a willingness to embrace - in a speech on Sunday you said there's probably a mood for change. Has your reading o f support for the Republic changed in the last week?

Howard:

No, not particularly. As you know, it is my style not to read a text and inevitably you’ll get some differences o f nuance from one speech to another. Look, my position is very simple, Michael. I support the present system. You know th a t 1 don't walk away from that, I ’m not ashamed o f that, but 1 recognise that a lot o f people don’t, and in that circumstance the honourable, correct, proper thing for a political leader to do is to promise a mechanism that will totally involve the Australian people and to give them a total range o f choices. Now, I've got nothing up my sleeve. I'm not hiding anything. I f the Australian people want a Republic they will have i t I f the Australian people want a popularly elected President they’re entitled to have i t In the process and along the journey people will contribute their ideas. This debate has a long way to run yet and, in the course o f it, the merits or otherwise o f the present system will be further emphasised or exposed, and I think you’ll see a lot o f shifts and surges and retreats o f public opinion as the debate wears on

Journalist:

But even though it's running in an election context you don’t sec it as being at all influential in the next election?

Howard:

Oh, I don’t believe it will be. I think the Australian people want it out o f the way as a party political issue. A Liberal - somebody who wants a Republic can freely vote Liberal knowing that Ire or she will get a full range of choices. Equally somebody who supports the present Constitution will know that a Coalition Government will give them an opportunity o f expressing their view, and in feet in the public education that leads up to the Convention we, unlike the present Government, will be even-handed. One o f the features o f this whole debate is the way in which the Government has loaded the public dissemination o f information all cm tire Republican side. It’s amazing to me that the opinion polls in the fece o f that are reflecting still a stubborn degree o f strong support for the present system, and part o f it is that the conventional wisdom from the Government has become that there’s only one side o f the argument There arc two sides o f the argument W e’ve got a very successful Constitution and all o f that has to come out in the debate, and I don’t think the Australian people want the election complicated by this issue. They really don’t What they’re saying to me is, ‘O e t it out o f the way. We’ll come to th a t’’ The first referendum is the referendum on Paul Keating They can’t wail to get to the ballot box on that one.

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Journalist:

M r I toward, how do you plan to turn the focus away from this issue on to issues like health and unemployment?

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Howard:

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Oh look, that happens naturally. I mean, you don’t sort o f announce - meanwhile, back at the economy. What you do is to make it d e a r that no matter who wins the next election there’ll be a vote on it and a Republican can easily vote Liberal knowing full well that John Howard will give him or her a full range o f choices. Inevitably the focus will return because the Australian people will see that if the Labor Party and the Prime Minister want to persist with only talking about this issue, then they have something to hide.

Journalist:

You referred to the Newspoll, the Republic not rating.

H ow ard:

No.

Journalist:

Isn 't it true, though, dial that wasn’t even given as an option for people to vote on?

Howard:

I don’t know what the background was but I do know that in a Morgan poll only a few weeks ago on issues, the Republic got one.

Journalist;

In your consultative plebiscite, say you have three choices and one o f them only comes up, say, 34 per cent and the other is around 30, would you - does your commitment to put that to a referendum still stand?

Howard:

Well, what I’m committed to is to give the Australian people a full opportunity to vote on die issue and to resolve the matter, Jim, and 1 really think, with respect, that that is the sort o f question that I ’ll answer when that outcome accrues. I mean, for that outcome to occur you need two circumstances. You need (a) the lack o f a consensus and (b) you need what you suggest by

the nature o f your question is an inconclusive outcome from the consultative referendum. Well, let’s wait and sec if there is an inconclusive outcome, i can give you this assurance, that we won’t sort o f try and hide behind the figures in that consultative referendum to avoid the matter being put to the Australian people.

Journalist;

But you would regard - it sounds like you would regard that as meaning it had been put and resolved?

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H ow ard:

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No, it doesn’t mean that at all, Jim. You’re playing word games and 1 don’t want to play word games. I just want to repeat my position and that is that the Australian people, by voting Liberal, will have a total unfettered opportunity to resolve this matter in their own way according to their own choices in their own time, and before the turn o f the centuiy we’ll have a Convention, then, if we don’t get a consensus, w e’ll have consultative referenda mid the Australian people will be able to vote on the matter and resolve it, no ifs, buls, maybes, no tricks, no sleight o f hand, nothing hidden, nothing up the sleeve, no hidden agendas, full range o f choices. The Constitution they want, not the Republic Paul Keating wants.

Journalist:

(Inaudible) $140 million to put your proposal in. Do you agree with those figures?

H ow ard;

I haven’t the faintest idea but if you’re talking o f - 1 mean, if cost is a consideration in this, then you ought to leave things exactly as they are now. I mean, what, are wc into el cheapo democracy, are we? I mean, you know, if the Government is - 1 mean, I find this - are you seriously saying the Government is talking about cost? 1 mean, it costs $40 million to have a referendum. Kim Beazley is talking about having more than one. I mean, if the Government is worried about cost that is an argument for no change at all, none at all, no referendum. Thank you.

Supplementary Comments on the Beazley Statement

What Kim Beazley has said is fascinating What he’s saying is that if the Australian public doesn’t accept Paul Keating’s option the first lime, they’ll keep putting it up again and again until, in their words, the Australian people get it right Now, that is arrogant take-it-or-leave-it democracy. It’s not choice and it’s the antithesis o f what I stand for and whal I believe in.

ends.