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Transcript of doorstop interview: CEDA symposium, Melbourne: 10 August 1993: Liberal Party Presidency; Mabo; Prime Minister's Leadership



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Leader of the Opposition

IM

10 August 1993 REF: TRANSCR\SC\DT\0020

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW DR JOHN HEWSON MP CEDA SYMPOSIUM, MELBOURNE

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY ;

SUBJECTS: LIBERAL PARTY FEDERAL PRESIDENCY; MABO; PRIME MINISTER'S LEADERSHIP

Jmlst:

...been a lot of talk about the Liberal Party leadership....Liberal Party presidency, who do you see.... as running the organisation?

Hewson:

It's strictly an organisational matter. I stay out of it. Just keep my head down and focus on what I've got to do which is beat the Keating Government and the organisation will make that decision.

Jmlst:

...inaudible...

Hewson:

No I've said, on the contrary, I've said I'm relaxed about them all. I know them all. I've known them all for many years and I'm relaxed about it. I can work with any one of the three. So I'm going to sit back and watch the competition.

Jmlst:

...inaudible...

Hewson:

Yeah, even though. Even though, yeah. He's obviously changed his mind.

Jmlst:

Regarding the Mabo issue,...inaudible... divisions developing within the Labor Party particularly between the Premiers and...

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 277 4022 COMMONWEALTH parliam entary library MICAH

REF: TRANSCR\SC\DT\0020 2.

Hewson:

I have absolutely no doubt that the division is very real. We've seen in recent days the fundamental division between Tickner on the one hand and Walker and Keating on the other. I think Tickner's basically been frozen out of it. And now and most importantly we've got fundamental divisions between Keating and Goss. And you know in a lot of times you look at the Labor Party and the petty bickering you wouldn't worry about it because it's just the Labor Party doing what they always do. But this case is very important. It's about $1.75 billion worth of investment and the Prime Minister's turned a deaf eat to it. Mr Goss is dead right. The Prime Minister must give an assurance that he'll do whatever has to be done to ensure that the Weipa mining operations

continue and there's a climate in which that investment goes ahead. The Prime Minister's now been given a deadline by, in effect by the bankers and investors in the project to give that assurance and he's simply got to do it. Goss is dead right. He's

arguing about investment, he's arguing about the investment climate in Australia and he's arguing about something like 2000 jobs that will be lost if the Prime Minister doesn't act. Look it's time that the Prime Minister put aside his past failures, it's time he put aside his bickering with State leaders right around Australia and he reconvened the Heads of Government meeting as a matter of urgency and he should sit there for as long as it takes to solve the problem. We've got to have legislation, complementary

Commonwealth/State legislation, as a matter of urgency to secure existing title and they'll have to agree on what they're going to do about native title in the future. He should do that now. He should do it before the budget because time is running away.

Jmlst:

...inaudible...

Hewson:

I haven't seen those comments. There's that sort of talk right around Australia. It's not the first time I've heard it. And what you've got is an environment that's just being created by a leadership vacuum on the part of the Prime Minister. And as long as it goes on, every day it goes on the uncertainty grows, the division in Australia will grow.

Look at the division that not only exists within the Labor Party but between the Commonwealth and State leaders, within the Aboriginal community, within the mining industry, within the pastoral industry and right across the whole Australian community and that division is very real and it should be avoided at all costs because you're getting an environment where people are getting frustrated, they're getting very worried about where things are going to go and the Prime Minister, it just show's an appalling lack of leadership. He doesn't seem to care less about the state of the division, the extent of uncertainty or the extent of the division in Australia. He's got his idea about what he wants to do and that's presumably to assure his place in history, you know hang the rest of us it and hang the cost in terms of our economic

environment today.

3. REF: TRANSCR\SC\DT\0020

Jmlst:

Do you think the States should have their own legislation with the Commonwealth backing that up or do you think the Commonwealth should take the lead in this ...inaudible.... , : ; : ^

Hewson:

I think the reality is that to effectively secure existing title you've got to have joint or complementary Commonwealth/State legislation and that's why that Heads of Government meeting is so important. I mean if the States go off on their own, there’s always a risk of challenge in the courts. If the Commonwealth goes off on it's own the States will fragment out from underneath him so the Prime Minister just has to, you know, eat a lot of crow and go back and start to force the consensus he should have been working on in the course of the last 12 or 14 months since the Mabo decision. There is no alternative than in the present circumstances than to have complementary Commonwealth/State legislation.

Jmlst:

Had you won the election ...inaudible... how would you do it differently?

Hewson:

Well we should have been sitting down and we've would have been, he should have been sitting down and we would have been sitting down with the States to reach that agreement. You know we have a federation. The States have principle responsibility for land management in Australia and they have quite different assessments of what

Mabo means to each of them and in those circumstances the Prime Minister's got to provide the lead, he's got to pull the meeting together, the Heads of Government meeting and the State and Territory leaders and the Commonwealth have got to negotiate with the matter. There's no alternative and you know, he's seems to have no concept of that, that's what leadership's about. It strikes me as a massive irony that this man ran on leadership. Remember back in 1991 he said at the Press Club,

at the Christmas function at the Press Club, that we'd never had decent leadership in Australia and he promised a touch of excitement and hard-headed leadership. Ever since he's been Prime Minister we've had no leadership at all. I cant think of one issue that the Prime Minister's provided any lead on through that entire period and

Mabo's a classic case of the failure of that leadership. And the cost that it's having should never be underestimated. The environment is already, the investment climate is already being destroyed. The uncertainty grows every day. The division grows every day and he's simply got to act. And I say, go back to the Heads of Government

meeting as a matter of urgency, that's stage one.

Thank you.