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Transcript of interview: Radio 6PR: 19 May 1993: Federal Election; Liberal. Party; Pay Television; Ministerial Responsibilities; Women in Parliament

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Leader of the Opposition

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19 May 1993

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SUBJECTS: Federal Election, Liberal. Party, Pay Television, Ministerial Responsibilities, Women in Parliament


Six months ago it was that John Hewson seemed to be riding the crest of a wave that would carry him into the Lodge and his L iberal/National Party Coalition into Federal Government. In

those days no one questioned his leadership or considered challenging him.

But a lost election and a leadership challenge later, Dr Hewson heads what seems to many a publicly divided Party, whose Federal. and Queensland Presidents evenly talk openly about taking policy decisions away from him. And whose senior leadership aspirants, they're still out, criticise his stand on major issues like republicanism and that sort of thing.

He's here, he joins me in the studio. Welcome back.


Morning Howard.


How are you?


I'm good, I'd wish I was here as Prime Minister, but I'm here.


Gee, I thought you were going to be.


Well, we always knew it was close. I mean, from September of last year we knew it was close.

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Did you?


It was very close. In fact you might remember our polls collapsed in September, pretty much after that Kennett announcement in Victoria about penalty rates and leave loadings and we were struggling to regain our momentum the whole time.

And when we got into the election campaign it was just line ball all the way and it came down to contest after contest in separate seats and it was very close. It was about 1500 votes.


Yeah, but you were up against an opponent who was presiding over a near economic disaster for this country, In retrospect was the big mistake - and I know this might sound like a sad indictment of the Australian electorate - that you actually produced a policy. Was that a blue?


Look, I don't personally think so. I think what we did was we left ourselves too exposed on too many policy fronts and it was easy for them to run a scare campaign against any of those. On Medicare for example, on industrial relations, wages in particular, on tax. And they just ran the most dishonest campaign in the history of this country and frightened people. And I think that is a very sad thing.

But to be fair we did leave ourselves open to too much of that sort of scare campaign. I do think however, and I still believe, that the circumstances of Australia are the worst they ve been in 60 years. And we still need leadership, people who are prepared to call it the way it is and argue the case for change. Perhaps we went too far, that's certainly the vote of the electorate.

Although, it's interesting how many people have come to me since saying, well, you know, what you said in the campaign has proved to be right. I mean the economy isn't coming out of the recession in any significant way, exports are not going gang busters as the Prime Minister said.

And when they criticised me extensively in the campaign for suggesting there might be 500,000 long termed unemployed, the other day the Minister admitted that that's probably the case. Look at our balance of payments,. look at our unemployment situation. Sure we lost the election, but the economy is still drifting badly.



But none of what you're saying is going to do you any good for at least, well almost three years.


Well, I think our role as an Opposition is obviously to put maximum pressure on the Government to deal with these problems. And I fully expect that a large part of the policy package we took to the election will be vindicated by the passage of time,

by unfolding events and of course by the fact that the Government's pinching large parts of it almost every day now. And I think in those circumstances our role is to make sure that they actually deal with the problems and not let them drift


Because the bottom line is rising unemployment and real pain and hardship for average Australians.


But one of your several detractors within the Liberal Party is the President in Queensland, Paul Everingham. And Paul Everingham says a few things, reportedly says a few things, I assume these are correct in the paper_

He says

"Dr Hewson and Mr Howard did not understand that policies had cost the Party the election because they are both, in the final analysis, ideologues".

He says

"Policy ±g not the be-all and en-all. Winning is the be-all and end-all. And I can only keep repeating the message of the French election to them, where the conservatives -without a policy to bless themselves with - won 400 of 500

seats by standing still and saying nothing against an unpopular Government.

Now he's suggesting that would have been a better way to go. What do you say to him.


Well, we've actually tried that. If you think objectively about our performance in the last ten ye


..tried no policies...



..and we tried no policy and policy. No detail and a lot of detail. It says to me that while policy's part of it, there's a lot more to winning elections. And the winning really does come down to our capacity to match the Government at the grass-roots level in a campaigning sense. And so while the

organisation points to policy, I point to changes in organisations fire power and capability. I mean, when they have full-time unionists in a marginal seat, working that seat in a very professional way and we've got volunteers from our side and a few blokes from the football club and so, it's a lot tougher to win those seats.

And it's matching them on the ground with a genuine grass-roots fighting capability that's just as important.


Alright, your message to Paul Everingham and other people within the grass-roots of the Party, perhaps is it, to go out and recruit a few more people to try and help when the election comes round.


Well, I think we have to get more professional right across the board. And I'm not denying the fact that Everingham and others

feel very strongly about the policy formulation process and I really understand the fact that they would like a larger say. We gave them a significantly larger say, I mean, they sat on Federal Executive and never raised any arguments against Fightback...


..what were they doing then...


..they were happy to go to the election with Fightback!...


Oh, were they...

Hewson:, there's a fair bit of, you know, re-writing of history by people after the event. But if you step back from it and look at the circumstances, I understand they want more influence and I will, as I've said, I'm happy to look at ways in which we can get the Party organisation more involved in policy.


In the end though, the final decision is that of the Parliamentary Party, having had all that consultation because we are after all the elected representatives of the people.


Well, the Queensland electorate didn't elect Paul Everingham President of the Liberal Party and Au.;tralian electorate didn't elect Ashley Goldsworthy as the President of the Liberal Party of Australia, So I mean, what say should they have?


Well, I think as representatives of our grass-roots in cur organisation, they should have a substantial say and we're looking at ways in which we give them a much greater say. And I think this is quite positive. From the point of the view of the Party...

Battler: you. Isn't it dividing the Party?


No, look, I think it's an important change that has to take place within the Party. You see, a situation I want is where people want to join the Liberal Party because they feel they can actually have a say and have a influence and make a worthwhile contribution. Now, that's something that's been lacking in the past and people I think at the Bras. -roots have become quite disillusioned about joining a political Party like ours. And we've got to change that.

And part of that process is to open the Party to more policy debates and more policy forums so that they actually do have a chance to be heard and to put their arguments directly to the the members of Parliament from our side,


Yeah, but within the Party, what you've got going on at the moment is Ashley Goldsworthy and Everingham bagging you and bagging the leadership of the parliamentary Liberals.


Well, I don't think actually public bagging helps either way...


That's what they're doing.



Well, I think it is counter productive and I don't enter that game. I mean, my view is that they can express their views as toughly as they like, strongly as they like to me directly or in any of the Party forums.


Have they done that?


Well, we've had one Federal Executive meeting where we analysed the outcome of the election and there are many more to come. And I'm in favour of opening it up, I'm in favour of having more federal meetings on policy where they can speak openly. I think

one of things we have to get away from in the media, is whenever we have a debate on our side of politics about policy, it's

written up as division, rift, leadership challenge, whatever.

When the Labor Party has a debate on policy, it's written up as an informed debate and we've got to change that so that people understand that ultimately, yes, we'll come to a view as to a policy position on a particular issue. But surely we have to

recognise, we have got to be mature enough to recognise that there are differences of opinion within our Party on a whole range of issues and they should be given an airing, they should all be heard and in the end a decision should be made against the

background of a full debate.

I'm happy to have that and I think we have to change the psychology of the media as much as some people in our Party.


Our friends in the country are listening, so welcome to you, it's good to have you with us for this hour of the program and you're hearing Dr John Hewson, who's my guest in the studio.

Dr John Hewson, the Leader of the Opposition, who looks in many people's eyes like a caretaker leader at the moment, because he's had one challenge against him already from John Howard since the election. He's getting public criticism from people at senior

levels within the Party. How long before you're challenged again and where's it going to come from?


I don't think I will be challenged again. I made a very....


..between now and the election, you won't be...


Hewson: I made a very strong commitment to stand in the full

knowledge of what would go on for a while in the Party. I mean, there are people in our Party, it might come as no surprise, that have egos and ambition, and I think...


•.good morning Mr Costello.


I think ambition is a good thing, but you know, I actually think that they're starting to rally behind us now. We did much better than anyone expected in the first two weeks of Parliament, we've got the Government on the back foot. Two Ministers really who

should have stood down.


Well, they've helped you out a bit haven't they?


Well, no, we had that. We've used it, I think, obviously to our short-term political advantage, but it goes to the very heart of this Government. They are hopelessly disorganised, they had no plan, they had no sense of priorities and they can't even handle

something as simple as a tender process for Pay TV.


But it's not their fault, it's the bureaucrats fault, you've heard them say that.


Well, I constantly hear Senator Collins in particular saying that. But I mean, he's ultimately responsible, he signs off under the Act as totally responsible 'or those processes and you know, if the head of his department bungled, he bungled. And in

that sense I believe very strongly he should have stood down, pending the outcome of what should be a full Senate Inquiry into the whole thing.

And as every day goes by its becoming a bigger and bigger farce. I mean, we are the laughing stock of the international television industry and the investor community right now.


You want to talk to Kerry Stokes over here.



Well, I hope to do that in the course of the next couple of days, I mean, because there's another dimension to the problem as well. Everytime they do something to sort of patch up the last mistake, they make it an even bigger problem...


..oh but wait, Senator Collins assured last night that he has assurances that there won't be anymore mistakes.

Hew eon:

Yes, that's right. He's been saying that for weeks. Look, it goes to the very heart of ministerial responsibility and it's about time the Prime Minister was not allowed to duck this issue, but he got dragged in and said why he hasn't stood Collins down.

I mean, ministerial responsibilities are an important element of our process of government. It's fundamental to our process of government. There's been clear breaches of it, I mean, the guy signs off under the Act and takes total responsibility for it. So in that sense, it's failed, it's failed dismally, he should go.


He's not going to quit, David Beddall, his junior Minister is not going to quit, the Prime Minister won't let them quit. The Prime Minister won't accept the resignation offer from the head of the department. The deputy head of the department goes in and tells

that she's been under great strain and all this sort of thing -haven't we all.

And what do you do next? Where do you go next? The Democrats are defacto Labor Party an this issue.

Hew son:

Well, that's exactly right. I mean, the whole thing is a farce, the Democrats are a massive disappointment. I mean surely if they stand up for keeping the bastards honest, this is a classic case where they ought to get to the bottom of it.

The Democrats ought to be leading this one and saying, come on, let's get the detail, let's have an inquiry and as you say, they're defacto Labor Party on this. They're sitting back, they're basically aiding and abetting the most unbelievably

incompetent Government we've seen in a very long period of time.

And it does go in the end back to the Prime Minister. Just look at their ministerial standards though. I mean, we were going to have a generational change of ministers and he brings in Frank

Walker, brings back Richo, nothing changed between the Marshall


Islands fiasco and now, except an election. Nothing changed about Richo, somehow he comes back in. Breteton is in there and they're protecting people like Collins and Bedall. If you were in private enterprise and somebody working for you had done that, you'd would have lopped their head off weeks ago.


What are you going to do about them now?


Sustain the pressure, get to the bottom of it, get the

information, expose it for the true farce it is and then put maximum pressure on the Prime Minister to do his job.


You reckon you'll get any heads?


Well, I don't see it in a sense of getting heads, but I think they should stand down, definitely. It's an open and shut case. When the guy signs off under the Act, he's totally responsible, he can't run around blaming everybody else, I mean, it's all this Sort of 'Yes, Minister' stuff you know. He blames Sir Humphrey, blames Sir Humphrey's assistant. The fact is he's responsible, he's the Minister.Settler:What do you think about your colleague Jim Canton's idea of having two members for every seat and every other one would be a woman?Hewson;Well, I'm encouraging all our colleagues of course to look at ways in which we can get more women into the Parliament.Sattler:Yeah, but not that way surely?Hewson:Well, I mean, it's an idea that's worth looking at. I haven't talked to Jim about it yet, I've only seen the newspaper reports on it. But I think we should look at all ways by which we can increase the number of women in Parliament.



This is the affirmative action stuff that the Labor Party's been on about...



..I'm not going to prejudge it, but I think we want more women in Parliament and I will be looking at a number of ways in the course of the next few years to do that. I've been delighted that I was able to put five into the Shadow Ministry and we could have actually had six if Bronwyn had accepted the position that was offered to her as well.

But we've got to start looking at women to stand for pre--selection Parliament and more women in the

ways in which we can get more and more women to get into the Cabinet and the Ministry.


Alright, but isn't that back to the Ashley Goldsworthys of this world who are spending a bit too much time you'd think at the moment criticising you and other parliamentary members.

Shouldn't they be encouraging women at the grass-roots level and shouldn't their pre-selection committees be putting up more women. Isn't that where the root of the problem is and particularly in the Liberal Party? Hewson:

Some of these issues are being looked at now. Ashley Goldsworthy has set up a taskforce on a whole host of Party issues and pre-selection is one of them. We do need to get a process where people really want to come in and stand for the Liberal Party, women want to come in and stand for the Liberal Party.


Well, why aren't they getting in?


Well, we've had a pick up in recent times and that was very encouraging. We had quite a lot of female candidates on this particular occasion and it's happening more and more. But there's a lot more we can do. When you look at the Parliament,

it does look a bit like a male club, doesn't it? Everyone around in their pin -striped suits and their high collars and I think that's wrong.


Women really do need to be fairly equally represented in the Parliament. Now, you can't maybe make a quantum leap and jump there like the Carlton suggestion would have you believe.

But you can do a hell of a lot more to get a lot more women in there because they bring a different dimension to any of those policy debates, as we've found within Our Party, that's why I've promoted somebody...

Battler: you do at home..


..that's right.


I mean, would she consider standing for Parliament, has she every expressed any aspiration to do that?


Carolyn, no. She hasn't, she doesn't want to stand for parliament. She's ha pp y to support me in that role and she did a fantastic job, still doing a fantastic job. Although, she's now back at work full-time...Battier;You sent her back to work, you said I didn't get the job...Hewson:Oh well, I'm a kept man...Battler:..I'm sorry, I didn't get the job, you've got to go back to work.Hewson:I'm a kept man. She did enjoy the time she had off though, I must say. She got to see a lot of friends, a bit of exercise,but she's very keen obviously, as she should be, just to continue her career. She's got a new position, she's still a director within Schroders, but a new position and she seems to be enjoying it. So we're back to the hard slog of another three years to knock off this crowd next time.Battler:You're going to be there.


Too right. I didn't come back to not he there. absolutely committed to the sort of things we said. is time the country had leadership where you can tell and you can actually argue the case on it's merits. going to back off that and I think a lot of 1 vindicated. Sure, we'll change some of the policies it of events... Sattler:

..GST is dead, is it. Is it dead?

Hews on:

Jook, I'm I think it the truth We're not

will be the light

Well yes, we've dropped the CST as part of the package because the election really gave you a clear message on that. But in doing that we don't give up on tax reform, we don't give up on sales tax reform or indirect tax reform and cutting business costs and so on. We haven't given up on any of those objectives, we'll just be looking at other ways in which we can achieve our tax reform objectives.

You know, the Government only got one mandate out of this election, which is not to raise tax and you can bet your pants that they're going to be raising every conceivable tax between now and the next election., And I think they'll have their own GST, they won't call it a GST but it will be a giant sales tax maybe, rather than a goods and services tax. But they've got billions and billions of dollars to raise, the budgetary

situation is a disaster.

I see they're giving no clear sense of direction, the dollar's got weak overnight again, financial markets are getting very nervous, our commodity prices have Eiollapsed, our exports are weak, not going gang busters like the Prime Minister said in the election campaign, but are very weak. Our balance of payments

is a major problem, in those circumstances, they've got to give a clear sense of direction on fiscal policy and you know, you'll see them. .they should be cutting the expenditure and I'm sure that they'll raise taxes, all of which we will oppose because that was the only mandate they got, not to raise them.


It will be an interesting three years.