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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3375

Mr PEACOCK —My question is to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister and his staff have for some months been backgrounding senior members of the media that the honourable member for Port Adelaide should not return to the Ministry in the near future and that he should not be actively lobbying for his early return? If so, what has caused the Prime Minister to alter his views on the issue?

Mr HAWKE —I am not aware that what my staff does or does not do falls within ministerial responsibility for answering questions in this House, but I am more than happy to address myself to the substance of the Leader of the Opposition's question. As with his staff, if I may say so, many interesting things are said, some of which would upset him if he knew about them. But being the total gentleman I am, I shall not share them with the House, any more than I would share with the House some of the things that his own members have been saying about him, because that would not be fair either. Obviously in this whole area a lot of discussions have been going on. Let me make it quite clear that, in the process of considering the appropriate course of action, I have considered a number of alternatives. I do not deny that; of course, I have considered a number of alternatives.

Mr Peacock —The answer is yes, is it?

Mr HAWKE —We have reached the position where members of the Opposition can ask the questions and give their own answers; and the answers will be about as idiotic as the questions when they come from that side of the House. The question obviously has exercised my mind as to what should be the appropriate course of action. There are arguments which could justify this course or that course, and in respect of each possible course of action there are balancing considerations. In respect of the proposition that has been put explicitly and implicitly that I did not act as a free agent in the final decision and that I was the captive of Caucus, I simply ask the Leader of the Opposition and others to look at the record. I am not directed to by Caucus. That is a matter of record. If indeed I understand the position put at times by certain members of the Caucus, Mr Young would have been back in the Ministry long ago. I did not think that was correct, and it has not happened. In the balance of considerations and taking everything into account, I believe I have made the correct decision. It has been supported by my Cabinet and I believe it will be supported not by part of the Caucus but by the whole of the Caucus. I believe members of the Caucus will do that because they believe, like I do, that the appropriate balance of considerations should lead to that result.

Finally, an area in this matter not within the domain of Caucus at all is the question of whether Mr Young should go back into the Cabinet or not. That is a matter for myself in consultation with my three fellow leaders. I have indicated what I thing should happen. I believe my fellow leaders will support me. There is not the slightest shred of evidence to suggest that the decision that has been taken in this regard does not represent what I finally believe is the correct answer. That belief of mine is shared by my Cabinet and I believe it will be unanimously supported by my Caucus.