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ALP leadership: allegations that a Centre Left faction campaign is under way to destabilise the ALP and its leadership, starting yesterday with Senator Walsh's claims about the Prime Minister's use of ASIO material

PAUL MURPHY: And the acrimonious fallout from the Peter Walsh revelations continued this afternoon when the non-aligned Victorian Member, Neil O'Keefe, attacked the Centre Left faction as the major villain of the piece. A strong Hawke supporter, Mr O'Keefe insists that much to the embarrassment of the majority of Paul Keating supporters, the Centre Left has refused to accept the finality of Monday's Caucus vote. Graham World recorded this interview with Neil O'Keefe earlier this afternoon.

NEIL O'KEEFE: Well, it's become evident during the day that the Centre Left has embarked on a clear strategy to pull down Bob Hawke by the leaking of information, and they don't care about the destabilisation of the Government, and I am just not prepared to tolerate that kind of behaviour.

GRAHAM WORLD: Well, on what basis do you make that sort of claim about the Centre Left, or that allegation?

NEIL O'KEEFE: Well, that information upon which the 7.30 report was based last night just didn't come out of nowhere. I've received very strong advice today that there's a campaign of revival of old stuff and selective leaking going on with the intention of destabilising Bob Hawke, and I'm just not prepared to stand for it.

GRAHAM WORLD: What sort of information have you received?

NEIL O'KEEFE: Well, I'm not going into what my sources are, but it's a clear campaign. What I am saying, though, is that there's a very clear, I guess signal here to members of the Press Gallery that they ought to at least have a close look, as Brian Toohey said this morning, have a close look at what turns up on the table now and do some checking before you just run with a story.

GRAHAM WORLD: Well, Peter Walsh hasn't commented about that story on the 7.30 report.

NEIL O'KEEFE: No, but I mean, as far as Senator Walsh is concerned I think we've reached a pretty sad situation. Look, he made a strong contribution as Finance Minister, but quite frankly, when an old dog starts frothing at the mouth and chewing over old bones, you've just got to take it out to the back yard and have it put down. And I think the quicker Senator Walsh takes his resignation pension the better for everybody.

GRAHAM WORLD: Well, what about the phone tap issue, though? There were questions in the House today from the Shadow Attorney-General Andrew Peacock. What about the detail? What if Mr Hawke did use phone tap material in contravention of the law?

NEIL O'KEEFE: The Prime Minister's made a very clear statement about that. It was made again in the House, and I don't intend to add anything to it. There's nothing needs to be added to it. It's 1983-84 information. What I am saying to you here is that this strategy that's been embarked on by key figures in the Centre Left is not well regarded in the Caucus. There are major ... all factions, in fact, I can say, have now moved to give strong assurances that they are disassociating themselves from the actions of the Centre Left in leaking this information and reviving the old bone and ....

GRAHAM WORLD: What sort of assurances - from whom to whom?

NEIL O'KEEFE: Look, they've been as high as ... I mean, this has been terribly embarrassing, for instance, to Paul Keating supporters. Paul gave an assurance that there would be no further destabilisation. He's, in fact, designed the standards, rung the Prime Minister to reassure him that he had nothing to do with this, and I totally believe that. People as high as Senator Richardson and Senator Loosley have confirmed those assurances. The Centre Left have been badly isolated, and no one in the Caucus respects the way they're conducting themselves, in the way that Senator Beahan last Sunday night on national television said they would. He said that if they didn't win in the ballot last Monday they would continue to keep going on this strategy ....

GRAHAM WORLD: But didn't he retract that the next day?

NEIL O'KEEFE: He denied it next day, but look, I used the old dog analogy in respect of Peter Walsh. Here we're faced with the situation that if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog and smells like a dog it probably is one, and Senator Beahan's assurances last Sunday night are looking pretty hollow.

GRAHAM WORLD: You are making some pretty strong claims about the Centre Left's agenda here, though.

NEIL O'KEEFE: Well, it's been spelled out by Senator Beahan last Sunday night.

GRAHAM WORLD: You're drawing a bit of a bow there.

NEIL O'KEEFE: I don't believe so.

GRAHAM WORLD: This destabilisation, though, has been very disturbing for the Government. It's upset Members, obviously, over the last few days. How long can it go on before it effectively pushes Bob Hawke out of the office?

NEIL O'KEEFE: Well, it's not going to push Bob Hawke out of the office, but clearly the Government, Members of the Labor Party, supporters of the Hawke Labor Government, can't tolerate this going on. And that's why I've taken the step of publicly exposing it and I hope I am sending a very clear signal to my Centre Left colleagues in the Caucus that they do themselves no good or grace by performing in this way.

PAUL MURPHY: Neil O'Keefe with Graham World. P.M. approached the convener of the Centre Left, Senator Michael Beahan, and while he declined to be interviewed he emphasised that he had nothing to do with the Peter Walsh revelations and repeated what he said in an interview on Monday night, that he would not be involved in any further challenge.