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Election '96: Independent candidate for Curtin discusses the comments by Reg Withers that the Liberal Party was waging a disgraceful campaign against the Independent candidates in Western Australia

MONICA ATTARD: The civil war in the West Australian Liberal Party continued today with claims that John Howard is aware of the dirty tricks the Liberals are being accused of. Allan Rocher, who's standing as an Independent in Curtin after losing his Liberal endorsement, says he's keeping Mr Howard informed of the campaign being run against him. Mr Howard said today he and Mr Rocher are still good friends, but his loyalties are with the endorsed Liberal candidate, Kim Court, the brother of the West Australian Premier.

Ross Solley asked Mr Rocher if Reg Withers' comments today that the Liberals were wasting their time campaigning against Mr Rocher would harm the Liberal Party.

ALLAN ROCHER: Well, I hope not, in the sense that they were directed at what has happened in the seats of Moore and Curtin, my own seat of Curtin, and in Swan and, of course, in Kalgoorlie involving Graeme Campbell. There should be no impression left in anyone's minds that they were intended to harm the Liberal Party because Reg Withers, like myself, regarded it as our number one obligation to secure a change of government.

ROSS SOLLEY: Just what role did you play in getting Reg Withers to speak out in the way he has?

ALLAN ROCHER: Well Reg, as he has said, has only been back from England for a couple of weeks. I contacted him about a week ago to ask if he'd care to speak at a function I was holding for my campaign support group at City Beach Surf Life Saving Club, and Reg agreed. And that's about it. Now, no one tells Reg Withers what to do or what to say and I wouldn't begin to try.

ROSS SOLLEY: Well, it's well known that you and John Howard are quite close. Did you give him any warning that this was going to happen?

ALLAN ROCHER: I did try to keep, by way of facsimile, John, or his office, up to date with the developments here and with the type of advertising that the endorsed Liberal candidate was involved in, in Curtin, but other than that I haven't spoken to him. I simply sent him copies of press reports and advertisements and left it up to him or his team as to whether they did anything about it or not.

ROSS SOLLEY: And have you had any feedback from Mr Howard or his office?

ALLAN ROCHER: No, and I didn't expect any. I mean, it was simply to provide the information and leave them with the decision as to what is appropriate in the circumstances.

ROSS SOLLEY: So what sort of things did you send Mr Howard?

ALLAN ROCHER: I sent a copy of the advertisement that my opponent was running and what else was it - some information, the editorial in the West Australian yesterday, so that he got the flavour of what was going on.

ROSS SOLLEY: Well, Mr Withers says the main reason he spoke out was because he was disgusted with the campaign that was running against you. How would you describe the campaign which the Liberal Party has been running against you, and can you give me some examples of the sorts of things they've been doing?

ALLAN ROCHER: Well, the line they're running, over the last two or three weeks especially, is that a vote for me is somehow a vote for Keating. Well, that's convoluted logic by anyone's reckoning. And that was coming through in their advertising, that's coming through in their campaigning, oral and written. And I agree with Reg. I think it's a disgusting approach. I mean, to misrepresent my position in that way is quite unwholesome, as far as I'm concerned.

ROSS SOLLEY: Where do you think that line is coming from?

ALLAN ROCHER: Well, it's coming from the people who are running the campaign and is being parroted by those who are out there actively campaigning.

ROSS SOLLEY: It's not coming from the Federal Liberal Party, from Canberra, you don't think?

ALLAN ROCHER: Absolutely not, not at all.

ROSS SOLLEY: Have you spoken to Andrew Robb at all, or has Andrew Robb been in touch with you about this line?

ALLAN ROCHER: I've kept Andrew informed in the same way as I've kept John Howard informed, but he has not been in touch with me, in answer to your question.

ROSS SOLLEY: Is it understandable, though, that the Liberal Party should be doing everything in its power to make sure that the local Liberal candidate does get in, rather than an Independent, even though you have pledged your support to John Howard if you win?

ALLAN ROCHER: Of course it's understandable that they should try and win the seat for their endorsed candidates, but that should exclude the deliberate deceit that they've practised in their advertising and in their campaigning.

ROSS SOLLEY: When you lost the seat to Ken Court, you said at the time that you believed, or that you were certain that his brother, Richard Court, the Premier, had been involved in some way. Is he still involved? What sort of campaign are the Court family running against you?

ALLAN ROCHER: Well, let me correct the premise first. I haven't lost the seat to Ken Court and I don't intend to. But as to Richard Court and the family, of course they are involved and Richard has been out knocking on the door of a family in City Beach that I know of and talking to them for 20 minutes because they declared, in one of the Liberals' spurious 'phone polls' that they conduct that they'd be voting for me. Now, he stood on the doorstep for 20 minutes trying to convince them otherwise. This is the Premier of Western Australia who hasn't got anything better to do.

ROSS SOLLEY: Do you think it's appropriate for the Premier to be involved in that way?

ALLAN ROCHER: Well, I put it to you: Do you? Wasting 20 minutes or more; presumably he went to other houses. Is that appropriate time spent by a premier of Western Australia?

MONICA ATTARD: Allan Rocher, who's the Independent candidate for the seat of Curtin in Western Australia.