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Lynton Crosby, Liberal Party Federal Director

REPORTER:
Mr Crosby, welcome to Sunday and congratulations on the victory.

LYNTON CROSBY - LIBERAL PARTY FEDERAL DIRECTOR:
Thanks Laurie.

REPORTER:
Why was the Prime Minister so sad though when he claimed victory last night? I mean, he'd just had a huge win. Why did he look as though he'd lost?

CROSBY:
I don't think he was sad at all, Laurie. It's been a very tough struggle for five weeks, he's performed very well, and I think last night was a very good speech.

REPORTER:
But Kim Beazley came out happy, joyful. John Howard didn't look joyful at all.

CROSBY:
The bottom line is Laurie, we won a majority of seats in the parliament. It's an important result for Australia, it gives us the opportunity to introduce our tax plan for a better Australia into the twenty-first century.

REPORTER:
But what is your latest assessment? How many seats has the Coalition lost, and what majority will you end up with?

CROSBY:
Well, I think we're looking at probably about a ten seat majority, and that's a good working majority. A good majority in the face of what was a massive scare campaign from the Labor Party, which they carried right through into two polling places on Sunday, with kilometres of plastic wrap saying say no to the GST.

REPORTER:
Well, a ten seat majority, that's a far cry from what you've had at the beginning of this ... the parliamentary term. It was forty-four seats, wasn't it?

CROSBY:
Well, it was, but we faced a massive onslaught from the Labor Party with a very aggressive and dishonest scare campaign. And in the face of that we saw what such scare campaigns can do in 1993. I think it's a great result, and I think it's a reflection of John Howard's persistence and determination and belief in this plan for a better Australia.

REPORTER:
Did you do any exit polling to find out why people voted the way they did?

CROSBY:
We did Laurie, and in fact the exit polling really demonstrates some polarisation in the community. The most significant reason that people voted for us was our tax reform plan, and the most significant reason people voted for the Labor Party was tax reform as well. What we also found was as many as fifteen per cent of people made up their mind on the day.

REPORTER:
So as they went into the polling booth?

CROSBY:
As they went into the polling booth, yes.

REPORTER:
So it was all about the GST?

CROSBY:
Well, people had the choice of going backwards under Labor, with really no plan, no clear understanding of what Labor would do if they were re-elected, and the opportunity to do something for Australia with a plan that was ... would build and strengthen our economy and secure our future into the twenty-first century.

REPORTER:
How anxious were you before the votes came in last night? I mean, when you saw Newspoll on Friday night, giving Labor fifty-three per cent, I mean, were you in wrist-slashing mood?

CROSBY:
Well, you don't like to see a series of bad polls, and in the period when you're not polling yourself, and when advertising no longer is on the air, it's very much sort of a bit of a no man's land, so everything that happens you look at and you wonder. We saw a poll of coffee beans in Western Australia that indicated we might win, that gave me some hope. Then I saw Newspoll, and started going the other way.

REPORTER:
And then some psychics on television last night said Labor was going to win anyway?

CROSBY:
(laughs) Yeah, well, you needed to be a psychic to say that.

REPORTER:
(laughs) You didn't win the majority of Australians. I mean, the Labor Party had more than fifty per cent of the vote, and yet you won a majority of seats. How did you do that? What strategy in the marginal seats enabled the government to survive?

CROSBY:
Well, what that ... what you're saying here is that Labor's strengthening its heartland, and in other areas. But in the seats that matter, where John Howard focused his campaign throughout the course of the election, we were successful in holding. I think that was due to a very determined, persistent and focused effort by the Prime Minister. I think he did a fantastic job as a campaigner, he is Australia's leading campaigner, no doubt about that at all.

But also a very good performance by our local candidates and members. Labor seemed to have this cult of the personality, you know, Cheryl Kernot or David Hill, as if you could bring someone who had little association with the community into that community just because they had a bit of a name, whereas our candidates, the Trish Draper's, the Dana Vale's of the world, and many more too numerous to mention, all worked on the ground effectively on local issues, and we targeted those local issues, they targeted those local issues, not just during the campaign, but over the last two and a half years.

REPORTER:
Why didn't New South Wales shift in the way other states did?

CROSBY:
Well, I think it's a combination of factors. I think that we ran a very strong campaign there, a very well resourced campaign. It's the Prime Minister's home state, he campaigned very strongly there as well. As I say, some very good local members who worked very effectively there, and their marginal seats and preference strategies I think came into play quite strongly.

REPORTER:
Kim Beazley has picked up Labor's vote. As you say, he's now within ten ... well, I suppose within five seats of forming government next time around. That gives him a pretty good springboard. Do you think that the Labor Party now is a big threat next time around?

CROSBY:
Well, it depends what Simon Crean and a few others want to do. I can't imagine him sitting there quietly for the next three years and sort of sitting around not wanting to take the opportunity to have a more significant role in the party.

REPORTER:
Well, Gareth Evans has announced he's going to walk, so presumably that solves that problem. You will anticipate that Simon Crean will be deputy, wouldn't you?

CROSBY:
Well, leave that to the caucus. I think it's pretty surprising that someone would announce their resignation in effect four hours after they've been elected.

REPORTER:
But given that the way you used Gareth Evans in your commercial, I assume you'd acknowledge that his departure would strengthen the Labor Party electorally.

CROSBY:
Well, I don't know what it will do Laurie. I mean, the bottom line was that the Labor Party were offering Kim Beazley as prime minister, probably Simon Crean as deputy, if you believe some of the interviews Simon Crean gave during the campaign, and Gareth Evans as Treasurer. So, it was entirely legitimate to let people know who would be running the economy.

REPORTER:
Now, Pauline Hanson failed to win her seat.

CROSBY:
Mm.

REPORTER:
Do you think the One Nation threat has now been crushed?

CROSBY:
Well, I don't think threat is the right word, but ...

REPORTER:
Well, they're certainly a threat to the Coalition.

CROSBY:
Well, certainly many of the people who voted for One Nation in Queensland, and even last night, were previous Coalition voters, probably of the ratio of two to one or more, which demonstrates that throughout Labor's pontification on this whole question of One Nation and preferences, they had a political motivation, and that was to try to split and disrupt and divide the Coalition vote, that's what they were always on about, and therefore it was, in that sense, a risk for us, and we were the party that paid a price for that. But we were able, through our preference strategy, which the Prime Minister has sort of articulated two weeks out and more, able to secure those preferences as we needed.

REPORTER:
But do you concede that if the major parties hadn't decided to put One Nation last, they would have won certainly Blair and maybe one or two other seats?

CROSBY:
Well, that's possibly the case, but the fact is we put them last. As a result she's been unsuccessful in Blair, and I think we'll see limited influence from them over the course of the next three years. Of course, it's important for us to continue to communicate to the people who may have been attracted to One Nation to continue to articulate good policies that will ensure that they continue to support the Coalition in the future.

REPORTER:
The government's next major hurdle is to get its tax legislation through the parliament. Assuming it does, we have a GST from the beginning of the year 2000.

CROSBY:
And tax cuts Laurie.

REPORTER:
Does that mean ...

CROSBY:
Very big tax cuts.

REPORTER:
Right. But does that mean that the 2001 election will also be a GST election?

CROSBY:
Well, I wouldn't want to predict what an election in three years' time is going to hold in terms of issues. It's difficult enough at the start of a five week election campaign to know what's going to determine the vote five weeks hence. So, of course the tax plan will be implemented. It could have an effect. There'll be many other factors, I'm sure, by then.

REPORTER:
How certain are you that John Howard will lead the Liberals ... Liberal Party into the next election? Or would it make sense to have a transformation mid-term?

CROSBY:
No, I think John Howard has demonstrated an enormous capacity. He presented to the Australian boa... people a plan that was good for Australia, in which he was firmly ... to which he was firmly committed, and I think ... and he will want to take that plan through the term of this parliament, and he deserves and will be Prime Minister as long as he wants to be.

REPORTER:
Mr Crosby, we thank you.

CROSBY:
My pleasure.

Transcript supplied by Rehame



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