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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6109


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/05/1983

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 6109

E. O. E. Pro6f Only
HINCH: I am very pleased, because this is the first morning my,
program is going live to Sydney, in the 3AW studios my first
guest'this morning will be the Prime minister of Australia, Mr.
Bob Hawke. It i~ s 2 months since hie came to office and during
that time, some would say unusually for him, he has been keeping
a fairly low media profile and there are some important issues
around this morning
HINCH: Mr. Hawke, Good Morning. I said in my opening comments on
3AW this morning, I thought it would be unusual I would sit here
and use the name Bob Hawke and Richard Nixon in the same breath,
but Nixon many times used the words " national security". He used
it as an excuse to prevent publication of material in the New York
Times, Washington Post. You are invoking the same sort of thing,
of " national security". -Isn't there a big danger in that?
PM: I think there is a big danger in what you are doing of guilt
by association, Derryn. I have the responsibility of making a
judgement, whether the national security of the country is an
issue. I guess you agree that there is such a thing as national
HINCH: Yes, I do. There's a thing called Notices.
PM: Which are voluntary and which are not operative in this case.
SI just assure you that there is no doubt that the national
security of the country is an issue and I realize that in these
sorts of things the people of Australia and indeed the rnecia I
guess in particular have to be prepared to exercise some degree of
trust in the judgement of the Prime Minister and the Government.
I believe that manifestly the people will. in this case. I would
like to be able in some sense to discuss the issue more with you
Derryn and your listeners, but there is just the question of very
grave issues of national security being involved. Also, most
importantly, the case comes before the High Court tomorrow and you
will appreciate that we have got an interim injunction and it would
be quite improper to go into any detail when the matter is gjoing to
be considered by the High Court tomorrow.
H-INCH: I can understand that and that does limit the conversation
somewhat, but issues like. border issues. If say ten years ASIO
was in fact breaking into Billy McMahon's house. If, in fact,
smear and innuendo being disseminated in Washington to the CIA by
ASTO agents, surely now, ten years later, surely don't people have
the right to know that. Doesn't the news paper have the right to
try and publish that? / 2

PM: Derryn, I guess you read the whole of the article in The
National Times, did you?
HINCH: Yes, I did.
PM: Well,' you will appreciate that the questions that you are
di7recting to me go to only one part of the article about something
that is alleged to have been done by ASIO quite some time ago,
before the Hope Report. You will remember from your reading the
article that that is not all it says, by any means. It refers to
current matters involving our international relations. Let me make
this point, without, I believe, transgressing. The earlier
restraints which I imposed upon myself, which must properly exist,
let me say this, that if the allegations in the article had gone
only to something alleged to have been done by ASIO many years ago,
there is simply no question that we would'have gone to the High
Court. I wouldn't have been going to the High Court for an
injunction on those circumstances.
HINCH: Are you saying that there is much more and much worse than
the so-called tens of thousands of papers that we haven't seen,
and presumably you have, that there is much worse in that than what
The National Times has already published?
PM: No, I am simply saying if you read the whole of the article
that has already been published.
HINCH: Well, one of the allegations, of course, was about that in
Papua New Guinea and in Indonesia we had a room that could tap
local conversations in New Guinea and Indonesia. There is a denial
this morning saying that Australia was not doing and didn't have
the facilities to do that. If that were true then the information
The National Times has, is fallacious.
PM: I go back to what I said in the beginning of the program,
U-erryn. I am not going to talk in any detail on those matters.
HINCH: Alrigh t, let's talk in a general area. If it weren't for
newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post we
would never have found out about the Pentagon Papers, America's
illegal activitie~ s in Cambodia. The Washington Post this morning
has a story about Ronald Reagan giving money in Nicaragua. Those
things would not have come out and national security could have
hidden those things, couldn't they.
PM: Look, your line of questioning, Derryn, which I appreciate,
seems to be premised upon the proposition that there can never be a
situation in which the freedom of the media can in any way be
inhibited. That there is no consideration of national security
which will ever over-ride the r ' ight of the media to publish what
they will. Now, I simply don't accept that. I don't accept let's
take it to an extreme if you like so that we can make this point.
Do you believe that ifDerryn Flinch, or Toohey, or someone else, were
to publish something which would guarantee that the next day the
Soviet Union would drop an atomic bomb on Australia, that your right
to exploratory journalism should enable you to do that and that
there is no consideration of national security which would operate
to stop you doing that?

HINCH: No, I do not.
PM: well then, of course you don't. Now, that means, as soon as
you give me that answer, it means, necessarily, that there is such
a thing as national security which at some point must be invoked
against the necessary rights and freedoms of the media.
HINCH: Yes, but
PM: Now, I listened to you at great length. I didn't interrupt
you in any way. I am simply saying to you, Derryn, that if, in fact,
we do, as you honestly do, concede the point I am making, then
someone is to exercise a judgement. Now, initially, in this case,
I, as the elected Prime Minister of the Government, in consultation
with some of my colleagues, exercised that judgement. We went to
the Chief Justice of the High Court, put our view and asked for an
interim injunction. Now, he has granted that. The High Court will
then hear further argument on the case tomorrow. Now, those are the
appropriate processes. You have got to understand that your x~ ights,
which I cherish, aren't absolute. There are processes in the
community in which the Government and the judiciary have got to be
involved, where there is a counterbalance of interest. If we don't
initiate those counterbalancing considerations which involve the
security of the community and just say to you, you do what you will,
then that's an absurdity.,
HINCH: One which sticks in my mind, though. John Kennedy, when the
New York Times got word of The Bay of Pigs invasion, the New York
Times was asked not to publish it. It did not. After the event
and after the fiasco, Kennedy said he wished the New York Trimes had
published it, had blown it and he wouldn't have gone ahead with it.
PM: I don't know what logical conclusion you can draw from that,
o; ther than this. I will tell you the logical conclusion, the only
thing that follows from that and that is that a Government or a
leader of a Government may make a mistake of judgement. Now, of
course you may make a mistake of judgement. I have said to you,
during the election campaian I said throucihout, that in my time in
Government I will make mistakes. I can assure you that I haven't
made a mistake on this one.
HINCH: Because you are accusing virtually The National Times of
being unpatriotic or not being in Australia's interest, irresponsible,
being these are my words..
PM: They are your words and you will have to answer for them, not me.
HINCH: Mr. Prime Minister, when Gougjh Whitlam was running the
country, one of the thiings that people thoughtmight have helped
bring him down was that he had a recalcitrant public service who did
things to embarrass him Liberals in the public service who tried
to bring him down. Do you believe the same sort of thing could
apply here, that this material has been leaked to The National Times
with your overseas trip coming up to embarrass Bob Hawke, Prime
M in is ter?

PM: No, I doubt it very much Derryn.
HINCH: Well, you are obviously attempting to find the leak.
According to The Age on Saturday there was an attempt to sue the
publisher for damages if they don't reveal who the leak is.
PM: If I wasn't attempting to find the leak the electors of
A-ustralia should do everything they could to throw me out. I would
be grossly irresponsible if I didn't try and do that, but the fact
that I am trying to find it doesn't mean, as the logic of your
question seems to involve, the proposition that it was done to
embarrass me. I think there may be more sinister considerations
than that, but I am not going into those. The fact is that whatever
the reason for it being done the process has got to be discovered
as to what did happen, if it possibly can be.
H Of course, the xerox machine has become the truth serum of the
1980s and it is very hard to plug leaks harder than it would have
been in the past and even Nixon setting up his plumbers unit could
not plug leaks. It is a huge job, isn't it.
PM: In the press statement I released on Friday I emphasised at
the beginning that this wasn't a question of my Government being
embarrassed by the fact that a document was leaked. I think,
throughout the history of democratic government leaks occur. I
don't get upset about a leak as such. My concern is the question of
the national security and that is very much involved in what has
been leaked here. What you must understand is that here there have
been references to documents, of which there were, as it has said,
there were only a couple of copies. This sort of thing is going to
very fundamental issues. Now without accepting, as I said in my
statement on Friday, the proposition that any specifi~ c allegation is
true, because some of what there is in the paper is true, some of it
is not and I am not going to confirm or deny any specific parts,
but there is specific there that anyone, whether it was Derryn flinch,
Bob Hawke, Andrew Peacock, can let me say. I briefed Andrew on the
occasion of the information.' I briefed him at length and he
completely endorses the action that I have taken, so, anyone I
suggest, whether it was Derryn Hinch, Bob Hawke, Andrew Peacock, or
anyone who had a concern for this country, would have acted as I did.
HINCH: Is it true that some of the material not published was in
fact critical of your predecessor Malcolm Fraser and therefore could
have been to your political advantage if you had let some of it run?
PM: Well, I don't know what was not published.
HINCI: Don't you know what is in the other tens of thousands of
pages? PM: Well, how could I. How could I know what is in the other tens
of thousands of pages?
HINCH: Well, I just assumed

PM: That Brian Toohey had got in touch with me and said, look
Bob, here is a list, a dossier. Come on, come on, come on.
HINCH: Has he been in touch with you?
PM: No. Of course not.
HINCH: The National Times did not get a comment from you at any
PM: No.
HINCH: Toohey, of course, has been a thorn to the past Government.
Jim Killen, of course, at one stage I think banished him from the
Defence Department, so, do you have any personal thogghts about
Toohey? PM: I would think it better that I didn't express them.
HINCH: Alright. Well, if we move on from that I suppose, because,
as you say, there are restrictions on you for the High Court
tomorrow and, of course, the American Government lost theirs when
they tried against the New York Times.

Transcript 6109