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Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen believes Sinclair and Howard to blame for election loss

PETER THOMPSON: There's some soul searching in the National Party following its dismal showing in the election, and Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen has hit out at one of his long-time allies, Doug Anthony, the former federal leader of the party. Mr Anthony said, at the weekend, that blame for the Coalition's defeat at the election rests fairly and squarely with Sir Joh and the Queensland party president, Sir Robert Sparkes. But the former Queensland Premier has opened another deep wound with the release, this week, of his biography Don't You Worry About That, where he accuses Sir Robert of gross disloyalty and causing him more headaches than all of the Queensland Opposition leaders put together. But Sir Joh told Greg Walker the real blame for the Coalition's troubles rests not with Sir Robert, but John Howard and Ian Sinclair.

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Doug seems to have lost his way since he got out of politics - that's quite obvious - by making a stupid remark like that. Who they should blame is Sinclair and Howard. If they had gone with me a couple of years ago when I ran for the job as Prime Minister rather to put Australia on the map again and getting it running on the rails once more, then they would have been in there today.

GREG WALKER: Sir Joh, Doug Anthony was making the point, though, that it was the fall-out from the Fitzgerald inquiry that was largely to blame for the Coalition's poor performance, particularly that of the Nationals.

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Oh, it amazes me that somebody like Doug Anthony would be stupid enough to even imagine that that would have an effect on it. Every State in Australia's got far worse problems than we have. You take New South Wales, you take down the years. You take Victoria, the billions of dollars that are lost; Western Australia, South Australia, corruption, police, in the Government and everything.

GREG WALKER: Yes, but Sir Joh, you were Premier during those 20 years when this corruption was taking place.

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Yes; and didn't Queensland grow and expand? We abolished death duties and gift duties; we forced the whole of Australia to do it.

GREG WALKER: Doug Anthony also says that the only way to overcome this rivalry between the National Party and the Liberal Party is for a merger of the two. Do you think that's a good idea?

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Oh, well, look, I wouldn't support anything he says now. Really, he seems to be pretty jumbled up. I suggest that there ought to be another party down the middle, and if the Liberals and the National Party want to join it, let them join it.

GREG WALKER: Do you think a merger is a good idea, though, between the two?

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Well, I wouldn't say that they've got to amalgamate. I said let there be a conservative ..... to go down the middle. I could organise that quite easily, and we'd put candidates in every seat. Do a General MacArthur. If the Liberals and the Nationals didn't want to come with us, just go round them, but put a candidate in - they'd come. They'd have to come this time because they can't win a race themselves, and racehorses that don't win races - nobody backs them - and the same in the field of politics. They've lost so many races.

GREG WALKER: Sir Joh, just changing the subject for a moment. Your biography, of course, is out this week, and in it, Sir Robert cops a lot of flak. In fact, you said that he gave you more trouble in the time that you were Premier than all the Opposition leaders put together.

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Well, when you have an Opposition leader, you can at least sail into him and point out how stupid it is, what they are saying or trying to do. But when you have your own organisational president, you've more or less just got to cop it. He did it so often in so many ways, and every time our rating dropped and every time it got us into trouble. And he liked doing it, obviously, because it sort of made people think: `Well, it's great we've got him there. He keeps the party going on an even keel'.

GREG WALKER: Why didn't you criticise him when you were Premier, Sir Joh? Why ....

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: We tried to keep an even keel in the political arena.

GREG WALKER: It's a bit late now, though, isn't it, to come out ....

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Oh, I'm not interested in him or anybody, now. The sooner he gets out of the party, and Ahern and Gunn and a few of them, the better for the party, because they'll never get anywhere with them there.

GREG WALKER: Well, just on that subject, Sir Joh, do you think Sir Robert Sparkes will survive the year out?

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Oh, I'm not interested whether he does or whether he doesn't. He won't, but I'm not interested any more. I'm not interested in the National Party. I keep right out of it, right away from it, wouldn't have anything to do with it.

GREG WALKER: All right, Sir Joh. We might leave it at that, then.

JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN: Yes. You got your money's worth, didn't you?

PETER THOMPSON: Eight cents a day for the ABC. Sir Joh.