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Opposition Leader responds to Prime Minister's remarks claiming he has double standards

ELLEN FANNING: Now, to a prime ministerial assessment.

PAUL KEATING: Alexander Downer, he's not going to make it. I mean, the poor, silly thing, he's wandering around tied up now with Michael Baume, you know, as a piece of essentially, you know, parliamentary filth. I mean, look, the thing is .. and that's what he traffics in - filth under privilege. These people never stop, and the thing about it is this, Fran, they must think I live under a rock. I know all about them, about their personal lives, about their finances, but I never use it.

ELLEN FANNING: Paul Keating on the attack on the P.M. program last night over Opposition Senator Michael Baume's probing of his recent purchase of a Sydney mansion. But it was not just relations with the Opposition which reached a new low last night. Mr Keating accused Bob Hawke of telling 'a straight lie' when he wrote in his memoirs that Mr Keating was reluctant to support the United States in the Gulf war. Well, the Opposition Leader, Alexander Downer, thinks those comments demonstrate that the Prime Minister is a hypocrite who applies double standards in public life.

After the Prime Minister's interview, it was Mr Downer who was on the attack on the home front. He spoke to Edmond Roy in Melbourne.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Look, the fact is that Mr Keating has double standards. He can dish it out but he can't take it. Mr Keating attacked Malcolm Fraser over the Fraser property of Nareen; he's attacked me for my background; he's attacked me for being a member of the Adelaide Club; the Labor Party's attacked my wife; Mr Keating's implied that I'm a racist; Mr Keating's attacked me for being a bigot; I mean, the list of abuse and denigration just goes on and on and on. But when somebody, a backbencher in the Coalition raises the issue of Mr Keating's new $2.2 million house in Woollahra, he squeals to the media. All I can say is it's the sort of double standards Australians are sick and tired of.

EDMOND ROY: About that backbencher and about the house, he says that he raised the issue, or you didn't raise the issue when he was in the House. Instead, he used ...

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Hang on, when is Mr Keating in the House? I mean, he turns up on Mondays when the Parliament sits on Mondays, which sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, but his imperial grandeur is such that he doesn't even bother to come to the Parliament on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. I mean, I was sitting in the House of Representatives today; I'm happy to raise any issue with the Prime Minister and debate any issue with the Prime Minister, but he wasn't there. He wouldn't grace the Chamber with his presence. And on Wednesday, the Prime Minister won't be in the House of Representatives either. On Thursday, he may grace us with his presence for one hour. The fact is, if the Prime Minister is not going to turn up to the Parliament sufficiently, well then he's not likely to have a range of issues raised with him.

Also, if I may add one point to that, during question time on Monday, I was quite happy to raise any issue Mr Keating wanted to raise and debate any issue he wanted to debate, but the fact is his Minister for Transport revealed his total incompetence in handling the Civil Aviation Authority that we decided on the spur of the moment to focus on the incompetence and ineptitude of Mr Brereton. Now, if Mr Keating on the rare days he bothers to turn up to the Parliament serves up Ministers whose record is simply incompetent, well then naturally the incompetence of the Ministers is going to be an important focus of our activities.

EDMOND ROY: He's also said that he knows all about your financial affairs. How does he know it?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I've no idea, but there are no secrets to hide. He's welcome to know all about my financial affairs. To tell you the truth, there is not a great deal to know about my financial affairs. I have absolutely nothing to ...

EDMOND ROY: Aren't you worried? Are you worried? Is it a kind of threat?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Not even a teensy-weensy bit worried about anybody knowing whatever they want to know about my financial affairs. They are limited and disappointing to those who wish to investigate that, but that rather .. I mean, if I may say so, disappointingly dull issue, I would rather have more extensive financial affairs than I have. But I make this point, I say to Mr Keating: Clean up your act. Why don't you start with cleaning up your act. You're the Prime Minister of this country and you set an example to the rest of the country. Get out of the gutter, stay out of the gutter, and concentrate on the things that matter to Australians instead of trying to play this game of deceitful double standards. We've had enough of it.

EDMOND ROY: When is this mudslinging going to end, then?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: When Mr Keating draws the line in the sand and says he will give up on his politics of abuse and denigration and, in particular, personal abuse and denigration. I mean, here is a man who has described my colleagues over the years as criminal garbage, as scumbags; he's sunk to the lowest of the lows in politics, and I can absolutely assure you, we are not going to lie down and take it forever.

ELLEN FANNING: Opposition Leader, Alexander Downer, speaking in Melbourne last night.