2 May 2001

Interview with Steve Chase, ABC 702 2BL


SUBJECT: HIH and leaked Liberal memo

STEVE CHASE: John Hockey has been listening to what John Della Bosca has to say and he has some very harsh things to say about the Carr Government.

JOE HOCKEY: If there is a levy or there is not a levy it's up to the Carr Government because the Carr Government is responsible for the compulsory third party scheme in New South Wales. And let me make this very clear, each state has decided to set up its own compulsory third party scheme, it's own Workers Compensation Schemes.

They choose the insurers that are allowed to offer those products or manage those products. At the end of the day the states have to be held accountable for their own laws and their own responsibilities.

STEVE CHASE: But the State Government would argue, wouldn't they, that the HIH collapse is a national issue and the Federal Government should help out. Will you help out?

JOE HOCKEY: The collapse of HIH is definitely a national issue. But just because the Carr Government levels an accusation at Canberra doesn't mean that we have to accept that that is right. And it's certainly not right that New South Wales which has a major, major problem with compulsory third party insurance and New South Wales has a major problem with its Workers Compensation Scheme.

I don't think it's fair on the taxpayers of Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria to have to bail out a scheme in New South Wales that has come about because of the incompetence of the Carr Government.

And the State Governments, and Bob Carr in particular, has a legal obligation to stand behind his own insurance schemes and we're not going to let him walk away from those obligations.

STEVE CHASE: Is the Federal Government going to have a national levy to help out HIH, yes or no, and how much money, if any, will the Federal Government put towards ameliorating this situation?

JOE HOCKEY: Steve, there are a number of issues that we're facing. I mean the first thing is no-one has been able to quantify the size of the problems associated with HIH. And the provisional liquidator has had a team in there for at least a month and a half to two months and he still hasn't been able to tell anyone the size of the possible hole in HIH.

So it's no use talking about levies, it's not use talking able bail outs if you can't quantify the problem. The second issue is that the Federal Government needs to tread very carefully on behalf of Australian taxpayers. Because if we step in we don't want anyone who has a legal liability, a legal obligation to HIH to walk away from that claiming that the Australian taxpayer is there to help.

We want those people who should be held accountable to be held accountable. You know having said all that we recognise that there are some hardship cases out there. There were more than a million policy holders with HIH. The overwhelming majority, more than 95% of them, have been protected because of the deals with the other insurance companies. We're looking carefully at our options on how we can help those most in need.

STEVE CHASE: Before I let you got your National President, Shane Stone, has told the Prime Minister your government is mean, tricky, out of touch and not listening. Is that an accurate assessment?

JOE HOCKEY: Steve as I understand it this memo was written in February after the Queensland election. So it's more than two months old now, it's nearly three months old, and I think three months ago we were perceived to be like that. We reacted I think appropriately on petrol, we reacted approximately on the BAS statements.

We, I in particular, spent a lot of time talking to a lot of constituents, listening to their concerns. We're doing what we can to address the concerns of Australians. And I think obviously Western Australia and Queensland were wake up calls to us as was the Ryan Bi-Election and it's much better for us to be listening and reacting than to be accused of being heartless and cold.

I think there's been a sea change in the government over the last two to three months.

STEVE CHASE: Interesting observations answered on how the government is travelling from Joe Hockey.

ANGELA CATTERNS: A very interesting observation Steve. Nobody has said anything about whether or not they're going after the rat in the ranks, the person who leaked this document. I'm sure they'll be doing that with vengeance.

STEVE CHASE: I think they might be doing that Angela. On a scale of one to ten I think this is a star rating nine.


STEVE CHASE: It's a corker.

ANGELA CATTERNS: It is a corker. Thanks for that Steve.