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Transcript: Radio 3AW with Paul Barber



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L e a d e r o f th e O p p o s i t i o n

1 November 1995

TRANSCRIPT OF THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. JOHN HOWARD MP RADIO 3 AW WITH PAUL BARBER

E & O E..................................................................................................................

BARBER:

Welcome to John Howard. Now some obvious questions first up. An election in the air?

HOW ARD:

Well, you'd think so. We've got some ads running to air tonight in all these regional seats. An interesting thing - they remind me a bit o f Faulty Towers and you know, in Faulty Towers it was don't mention the war. These ads are, don’t mention Paul Keating. You'd think the people who are running the ads are really independent

members rather than Labor Party members, a very interesting strategy. When you're back in the electorate you dissociate yourself as much as possible from the Government and the Prime Minister, but when you're in Canberra, you put your hand

up for their programs. It's a tactic that these marginal seat holders like Barry Cunningham in Macmillan and...

BARBER:

I thought if you can sing a bit in Ballarat you get a few bob.

HOW ARD:

Indeed. Well, that's right.

BARBER:

Anywhere you might get a few bob.

HOW ARD:

I think that's right. I think you will see a lot o f money. I mean, they've added $900 million unfunded to the Budget deficit, it hardly rated a mention. They've added $900

million o f extra spending in the last few months... COMMONWEALTH

pa r lia m en ta r y l ib r a r y

Parliam ent House, C anberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone (06) 277 4022 Fax. (06) 277 2055

BARBER:

So something must be going on. Well listen, you are an acute and astute politician. You have been around a long time. What's your gut feeling? Do you think December, yes, maybe?

HOW ARD:

My gut feeling is the Prime Minister has wanted to go before Christmas for a long time and if he gets what he sees as an opportunity, a chink of light, a pretext, an excuse, he will go before Christmas but the likelihood o f that is fast receding because time is running out. If he's to have an election on the 9th o f December he's got to call it by next Monday. If he's to have an election on the 16th of December, which would be

closer to Christmas than any election in my living memory, closer even than 1975, he's got to call it by the following Monday so well soon know. The probability is it will be after Christmas but he would, I am sure, like to go before Christmas. The economy w ont be any better after Christmas. It could indeed in some o f the crucial areas such

as unemployment, be in fact worse so there is an incentive to go before Christmas.

BARBER:

Well there's marvellous headlines, even today in The Australian, I notice, W orst Is over say economists. You’ve got two extremes, I'd hardly call them raging lefties, saying that the worst is over. More headlines like that and he might be tempted by...

HOW ARD:

Well, I hope he is.

BARBER:

You do? You say that you would prefer it before Christmas?

HOW ARD:

Look, I would be very happy to have an election at any time.

BARBER:

Yes but would you prefer it before Christmas?

HOW ARD:

I don't really mind. I suppose in a sense the sooner the better.

BARBER:

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There's no other way to ask this. If you were a betting man, do you think it will be before Christmas or March?

HOW ARD:

Well, I would say on balance March but if he sees what he thinks is a chink in the armour he'll go before Christmas, very definitely.

BARBER:

There definitely seems to be something. The temperature has soared or hyped up, hasn't it, the last 24 hours?

HOW ARD:

Yes you do have that feeling. I think the ads. I mean, the Labor Party is spending about a million dollars on these ads and it doesn't seem to make a lot o f sense to run them before Christmas and then everybody goes into that beautiful, euphoric, detached, sports-loving summer feeling that Australians get and any sort o f politics is

blotted out o f the consciousness.

BARBER:

Your very close and dear personal friend, Senator Kemot, has come up with the idea that the way to avoid phoney elections like we're having at the moment is fixed, four year term. Are you in favour o f four year terms, fixed?

HOW ARD:

I wouldn't mind a four year Parliament on the right conditions but I don't believe you can have fixed, I don't believe in fixed terms. I think fixed terms are sort o f inconsistent with our system o f Government but I do believe that it would be better if each Parliament were longer but...

BARBER:

So youYe in favour o f four years. Well...

HOW ARD:

I was in favour of four years what, six or seven years ago if the Labor Party had had a sensible proposal about the Senate but they proposed then was four years for the House o f Representatives and four years for the Senate. They were effectively reducing the power o f the Senate. We weren't agreeable to that. If they had then

come up with the idea o f four and eight and four, two terms for a Senator equalling one term for a Reps, we'd have been interested but look it's...

BARBER:

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How serious are you about it? I mean, would you like to see something else, that four years?

HOW ARD:

Look, it's not at the top o f my list and it's not going to be something that's going to feature in the campaign but you asked me a question. That's my position.

B A R B E R

The campaign, when it happens, whether it's from Sunday on or whether it is next year, are you concerned that it's going to be a dirty, rough campaign?

HOW ARD:

Oh, it will probably be rough and tough. I don't intend to make it dirty in a personal sense, no.

BARBER:

So you w ont go after Keating, the man?

HOW ARD:

No, not as far as he is a private individual is concerned. I will go after his behaviour as a public figure as he is entitled to go after my behaviour as a public figure but as far as, you know, his personal life, his private life is concerned, it's no concern o f mine. Pm not the least bit interested in it. It's his business. I think in that personal sense, no.

BARBER:

So I mean would you go after the Warren Anderson...?

HOW ARD:

I mean, hang on, that relates to the performance of his duty. I mean, what is involved there is whether he failed to disclose to his Cabinet colleagues that somebody who was a close...

BARBER:

So you won't go after Keating, the man?

HOW ARD:

No, not as far as he is a private individual is concerned. I will go after his behaviour as a public figure as he is entitled to go after my behaviour as a public figure but as far as,

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you know, his personal life, his private life is concerned, it's no concern o f mine. Fm not the least bit interested in it. It's his business. I think in that personal sense, no.

BARBER:

So I mean would you go after the Warren Anderson..?

HOW ARDt

I mean, hang on, that relates to the performance of his duty. I mean, what is involved there is whether he foiled to disclose to his Cabinet colleagues that somebody who was a close, personal..

BABBER:

...ten years ago, aren't you?

HOW ARD:

But that doesn't..

BARBER:

It's 1995.

HOW ARD:

It doesn't alter the fact that if you took a decision which you, alone knew was going to benefit somebody who had a very close, personal association with him, let me give, let me give you a hypothetical...

BARBER:

How come it took you yean to come up with it?

HOW ARD:

Well, let me give you a hypothetical example. Do you really believe that when he was Prime Minister, if Bob Hawke had taken a decision which he alone knew was going to benefit Sir Peter Abels, that that would have passed by without comment?

BARBER:

But this is a bit different from that?

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BARBER:

I would say who cares.

HOW ARD:

Well, who cares? What, you think it's perfectly all right for somebody who is a Liberal voter to have his union dues which enjoy tax deductible status to be used to support the Labor Party?

BARBER:

But what sort o f priority does it rate?

HOW ARD:

But Fm not saying that is the most important..

BARBER:

It's the old kick the unions thing.

HOW ARD:

No, hang on. Now careful. You are being facetious in saying that. Look, we are no suggesting...

BARBER:

I am not.

HOW ARD:

You are. We are not suggesting for a moment that that is the one and only thing in the election campaign. 1 mean. I wouldn't have even mentioned it if you hadn't have raised it.

BARBER:

Yes but it's the sort o f headline you look at and you think, oh my God. Are they yesterday's news?

HOW ARD:

I do n t write the headlines. You ought to complain to Paul Kelly about putting it on the front page.

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HOWARD:

Why is it different?

BARBER:

Well, we're talking about Northern Territory Government wanting to make a (inaudible) o f Parliament House.

HOW ARD:

But you're talking about somebody who's as beneficiary. Look. Tm not alleging anything other than, I'm not alleging anything other than that he failed to disclose when he was Treasurer that somebody who was very close to him was going to get a significant financial benefit from a decision that the Government was taking. Now, I'm not saying that the decision o f itself may or may not have been right. That's not the

issue. The issue is whether there should have been disclosure.

BARBER:

Is it worthy o f being an election issue? Would you try and use it in ads?

HOW ARD:

Look, I don't believe...

BARBER:

Where do you rate it on the scale?

HOW ARD:

Paul, I don't believe on the facts currently available is anywhere near as important as things like family living standards and economic reform. Those things are infinitely more important but it is part o f the pattern where this Government seems to do favours for people who are seen in the community as being well off or ready and disclosures

are not made.

BARBER:

Why I raise that one is because there's another headline today I saw where Reith vows to tax ALP union donations. I thought, oh my God, we saw all that in the 70s when you were campaigning then. I mean, shouldn't you be looking at 1995 issues like superannuation?

HOW ARD:

So in other words you think, well hang on.

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BARBER:

But why raise it? As you look at it you say, oh, they're yesterday's men.

HOW ARD:

Hang on, look, look, that is by no means the most important issue in the election campaign and you know that you're stirring the pot just even suggesting that it is.

BARBER;

B ut it's a headline. You said that..

HOW ARD:

Yes well that's not my fault

BARBER:

What I'm getting round to telling you is that's The Australian for you but what I'm getting around to is you have got this image problem haven't you because it looks like when you see headlines like that that all we're talking about is issues that w e canvassed in the 70s and early 80s, yesterday's men.

HOW ARD:

What, you think it's irrelevant. 1 don't think it is. Can I tell you that. I think what happened...

BARBER:

I mean, list of policies about superannuation.

HOW ARD:

If I were a union member and I thought that the money that I was contributing to the general affairs of the union were bang used in a tax deductible form to support the political party that IVe never voted for at any stage in my life, I would be as angry as hell whether I lived in the 1990s or the 1970s.

BARBER:

All right, now let me put it another way. I mean, the Barber bureau o f research would come to the conclusion, at the end o f the day in this election, whenever it is, most o f the people I know say to me, well, it's really a choice between two people, policies for some, yes but not much. It's essentially how good a manager people think you are or

how good a manager people think Paul Keating is, and when you get headlines like that, that’s when the tag, oh is it John Howard, has he gone into the 90s yet o r not?

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HOWARD:

I don't... can I say that I don't believe that the election is just about personalities, I really don't. I think it does revolve a lot more around... it also revolves around performance. I mean, this Government has now been in power for 13 years and my Labor opponent has either been Prime Minister or Treasurer for all o f that time bar six

months. So more than any other period o f time since the M enaes era, you're really looking at a situation where somebody has been running the country for a very long period o f time and therefore you are entitled to judge that person's capacity by the

state o f the country. I mean, when you've been there for 13 years, you can't blame the rest o f the world, you can't blame foreigners, you can't blame the press. You really do have to accept responsibEty for it and I mean, you can talk about a particular headline

in The Australian but that 13 years performance and the fact that we do have 27% youth unemployment and we do have the worst current account deficit in the western world, we do have some o f the highest real interest rates in the world, we now have a rate o f inflation which is at the upper end o f the western world's performance. Why do you say Oh?

BARBER:

Inflation? Even the economists are saying that's under quite a good job.

HOW ARD:

Can I tell you, they don't.

BARBER:

What rate o f inflation do you want?

HOW ARD:

Well hang on, are you saying, what do I want? Well the rate o f inflation we have now is5 .I.

BARBER:

What would you promise?

HOW ARD:

Hang on, hang on, let me finish. The rate o f inflation in the United State is 2.1. In Japan it's 0, in Germany it's 1.8. Even in Britain who gets blamed by the present Government as being an economic basket case, it's 3.9. I mean, we keep getting told by this man that we are world class performers. We are constantly told that he has

done a better job than anybody else. He says this is as good as it ever gets. H e says, what are they going on about but when you actually look at the accumulated economic evidence, this is what, this is what people...

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BARBER;

So how are you going to make....when are you going to give us some policies?

HOW ARD;

This is what people are entitled to do when they get to an election campaign. They arc, and they're doing it now, and they are saying to themselves, okay, we are having a look at this bloke, Keating. He's been there and he's been running the show for 13

years and look at what he's delivered.

BARBER:

All right. Say I accept all that. I say to you still, what are you going to offer us as an alternative. When are w e going to see the policies?

HOW ARD:

W e are certainly going to stick to the strategy that we've so far adopted o f releasing our campaign initiatives when the campaign starts which every successful Opposition Leader in the last 20 years in Australia has done. That is not to say there aren't already a lot o f policies out on the table, an enormous number of policies. You take something like industrial relations. The main elements o f that policy are already very well known, the main...

BARBER;

TheyVe even done a deal on the wharves by the looks of things this morning.

HOW ARD;

Look, don't believe it.

BARBER:

So you don't believe that?

HOW ARD:

TheyVe had 13 years to do something about the wharves and the throughput time in Australian wharves and ports is in the most charitable interpretation, 50 to 60% slower than comparable ports around the world. I mean, there have been so many false dawns in the area o f waterfront reform. I will believe that only when it happens. We were told this 12 months ago, that the waterfront problem had been solved and you saw the

head of Conaust yesterday attacking the Government's reform agenda. 13 years theyVe had to do something about that and we’re expected to believe right on the death knock, on the eve on an election....

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BARBER:

It looks like they're going to do a deal with the unions.

HOW ARD:

I am veiy disbelieving o f th a t

BARBER·

I'm told that you've got to go so just a couple o f very quick ones. Can you promise us that your policies when they are handed out during the campaign will be real alternatives rather than just varying degrees o f the same, such as privatisation?

HOW ARD:

No, I will promise you that...

B A R B E R

I mean, a true alternative.

HOW ARD:

Well, where it is in the national interest to have a true alternative, you're not seriously saying that if I think the Government is doing something good, that I should just be different for the sake o f being different.

BARBER;

When was the last time you actually said the Government was doing something?

HOW ARD:

Well, about ten years ago they did a few things that I agreed with.

BARBER:

(inaudible)

HOW ARD:

They were largely steals o f our policies but Paul, the last thing we want is a campaign where my Labor opponent and I generate differences with each other just for the sake of being different and where I agree with the Government on something and where we have a common policy, then we ought to both... I mean, take for example our relations

with the Asian Pacific region. Both sides o f politics support a very deep political and economic involvement with the region. Paul Keating is desperately trying to run the line that we don't. That is ridiculous and it's against the national interest and I won't be

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presenting a different policy there. I will have some different emphasis but I won't be saying that unlike the Labor Party I am going to adopt this approach towards the Asian Pacific region because there is a commonality, a certain degree o f commonality. What I will be emphasising is where we are different, where we do have a different approach, I will be emphasising different policies but I am not going to go into the election campaign just disagreeing with every single thing the Government has done. I don't

think the Australian public wants its intelligence insulted by an alternative Prime Minister behaving in that fashion.

BARBER;

All right. Two more real quickies because you really have to go. I know this but will you absolutely guarantee that should you become the Government there will be no way, shape or form as to how states can in fact raise their own taxes, a la the old consumer tax?

HOW ARD;

No, they won't be allowed to do it and they won't do it. There won't be...

BARBER;

Keating wrote an article, I think it was today (inaudible)

HOW ARD:

I mean, he really does, he really is sort o f adopting the Goebbels' tactic o f repeating a lie frequently.

BARBER;

He says you're not to be trusted. It's all for rhetoric.

HOW ARD:

I will sort o f be very happy for the next election campaign to be a referendum on whether they believe Paul Keating or John Howard.

BARBER:

One more. What role will Jeff Kennett play in the election campaign?

HOW ARD:

Oh, a very supportive role.

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BARBER:

Well, how do you mean supportive?

HOWARD:

I am sure that he will be ready, wilting and able to campaign particularly in the state o f Victoria.

BARBER:

Right. You won't be sort o f hiding him under wraps?

HOW ARD:

Certainly not.

BARBER:

Right. You will be giving him a major role?

HOW ARD:

An appropriate role for a state Premier..

B A R B E R

A major role or won't you give me...

HOW ARD:

No, no, no. Look, he will have a very important role in Victoria and a very supportive one. He's been a very successful Premier. His ratings remain very high. He inherited a basket case from the Labor Party here and as most Liberal Premiers around the country did and he's done a first class job. As far as I'm concerned, he will have an

appropriate, a prominent, a significant, whatever you want to use role, but bear in mind, it is a Federal poll and people will be asked to choose between John Howard and Paul Keating, not between JefFKennett and John Brumby, not that I've any doubt as to what the verdict o f the Victorian people would be when they get the opportunity to

make that choice.

BARBER:

N ot between Paul Keating and Jeff Kennett?

HOW ARD:

They will be asked to choose between Paul Keating and John Howard and Paul Keating has his personality, Jeff has his. I have mine. We're all very different people.

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' W d itiioi

Jeff Kennett is a different personality from me. We both have our strengths but we do things in a different fashion but we are close political co-operators. We w ork together in a very effective fashion and I have a lot o f respect for the job that he's done in Victoria but he's got his own style. It's different from mine but it’s effective.

BARBER:

And the last word, otherwise Π1 be shot by your minders, will you be coming down to the grand prix here in Melbourne next year, March?

HOW ARD:

Well I've been asked and I'd like to come but I can't make any commitment because I think there might be an election around that time and it may well be that the circumstances o f my campaign program prevent my being here but I mean, I think it

will be a great event

BARBER:

All right, terrific to see you again. Thanks for coming in.

HOW ARD:

Thank you Paul.

ends.

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