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Hon. John Moore MP Announces Retirement

Transcript - Hon John Moore MP Announces Retirement

JOHN MOORE:Well this afternoon I've called this press conference just to announce what I guess everybody already knows that I intend to resign from the Cabinet and retire from Parliament in the new year.

I've judged ... in my view and in the Prime Minister's view that the time is right. The white paper has been finished and therefore the way ahead has been set up for defence over the next 10 years. The funding arrangements are there and there'll be capabilities, and a timetable for capabilities' purchases are all in the white paper. It's now really a time for change because the area of the management of that is the implementation. On top of that when I look around the period in defence, which is really only two years and a bit, it has been a time of remarkable achievement.

I came to defence with no real preconceived ideas at all but the very great desire to push or form an agenda, and as I got further into defence I came to note that it really badly needed a very big shake up in management, and so I regard the changes in management and the reform generally of the Defence Department as one of the hallmarks of my stay there along with the deployment to East Timor, which was an outstanding success in every way. A very great credit to the people who went there and a very great credit to Peter Cosgrove as the Commanding General, but also a very great credit to the whole of the ADF under Admiral Barry, who is the CDF.

The other areas of significance, I think, at the time would have to go to the submarine saga. When I came to the portfolio everyone in Australia knew there was a thing called 'dub-subs'. They didn't know what the problem was but they were an ongoing legacy. I point to the McIntosh/Prescott [phonetic] Inquiry and, as a consequence of that, I followed that through. The outcome from that was seen on Thursday last when submarines four and five came into their Sterling base essentially upgraded and augmented in terms of the firing ... the command system.

That, I think, is quite a step forward in the period it was undertaken considering the McIntosh Report was in May '99.

Of the overall air and defence, I want to thank the members there. There are some very brilliant people in the Defence Department, very brilliant indeed, and with the improved leadership from Dr Alan Hawke in particular, I want to say that I think their future's very bright. They have the white paper, they have the dedicated money, they have the plan to go forward. They have improved management.

The most significant things I've said in the RUSI speech for the next year is to get on top of financial management which is still a question, so the Defence Department figures are creditable at all times. To get on top of systems, which are badly lagging in defence - a programme that must be followed through in the future. You cannot have a situation where the stock position is not known or recorded. You cannot have a situation where the three systems in defence don't talk to one another and produce you the accurate results that you require.

Now thirdly, the personnel. It's a very big challenge in defence to be able to meet defence numbers in the future. The personnel area of defence will have to come forward with new and innovate ideas on how you best attract people to the defence forces in the future because you badly all the people you can get of the right quality to meet the requirements as laid down in the white paper.

And finally the reform of acquisition, which has led to the creation of the Department of Material which will need to be worked through over the next couple of years, particularly in relation to the very extensive acquisition programme that's set out in the white paper.

Today you would have noticed that the contracts ... the tenders were called for the helicopters and tomorrow - I think it's 11 o'clock - I'll be signing, or someone will be signing on behalf of the government, the contract for A-Works [phonetic], a very big programme in itself. A significant development for the defence of Australia.

So, two big programmes - the submarines put back on trail. A-Works, after 20 years' effort, contract to be signed tomorrow. A white paper setting forward the programme for the whole of defence over the next 10 years plus funding - all set out in it. And a very successful deployment to East Timor.

Now finally I would like to thank the Prime Minister and my colleagues in Cabinet, in particular, for the great opportunities we've had. It's been five years of intense interest - first in Industry Department, which had the same challenges culminating in the vest [phonetic] Australian. There was a thing round at present ... at one time during that where the government didn't have an industry policy. It was a bit like every parrot was parroting away at that. In the end there was industry policy there and there was not one question in the House - I think I'm right in saying this - on industry policy in the last year after that came up.

And the question of the reliance - of the support the government came in response to the Productivity Commission's findings on the auto-industry in Australia, which was a very big divisional area within government. The government came out and supported the industry proposition which I put forward. I believe that was very significant for industry in Australia and also very significant for defence. You cannot have a significant and well run defence operation without heavy industry. You can't have a heavy industry without an auto-industry.

So I believe overall that that's worked out pretty well. So can I thank the Prime Minister very much for his support over the years. We've worked very well together. I believe the second Howard Government has achieved an enormous amount for Australia, an enormous amount. And history will record it as ... I think in quite high terms. And the credit for that really goes to John Howard.

I've been around politics long enough to know all the Prime Ministers since Menzies and I can genuinely say that none has the grasp of politics that John Howard has and I'm quite sure with that he can win a third election.

Finally to my staff who've been with me for very many years. Lorraine Kennedy, I guess, was for many years. Brian Loughnane, he's not here ... but Mike Scrafton, and to the many people standing here. Can I thank them.

You're only as good as your staff. If you run a good office, you'll get good results and I think it's fair to say that my office has done a very good job supporting me over the years. So, thank you very much indeed.

Finally I'll just thank those who aren't here today, particularly my wife who's put up with a hell of a lot in 25 years of me travelling down here and being in politics. Anybody who's been around here for 25 years has probably had enough, and I think you'd all agree.

So, thank you.

REPORTER:When did you make the decision?

JOHN MOORE:I think it really came to me after the white paper was delivered and I thought about it for a while that, you know, from here on in it's a managing process [phonetic] and then last week there was the 'Once Is' dinner in which I was the only remaining 'oncer' who'd gone the full distance. There were some other oncers from '75 around but they'd lost their seats and come back in the Senate and other ... and [inaudible] came back in the House.

That was significant and then I guess I looked around and saw the age of some of the ... some of the Ministers from '75 and looked at those and thought gosh - it's time, mate, you looked at yourself.

REPORTER:Mr Moore, do you know who your successor is and what would you like them to achieve in their portfolio?

JOHN MOORE:I don't know ... you should refer that question, really, to the Prime Minister's office but what I'd like them to do is to carry out the white paper programme and be very mindful of the four tasks that I outlined for defence this year. An actual management, systems, personnel, Department of Material.

REPORTER:When did you actually inform the Prime Minister that you'd decided to ...?

JOHN MOORE:We had discussed the matter in Sydney last week and it was left open and I wrote to him this morning.

REPORTER:What plans do you have for the future?

JOHN MOORE:I think I'll return to the business community. I was a member of the stock exchange for very many years. It was always my intention to try and get back again. Not many people in politics have succeeded back in business but then again not many people thought you could get the white paper out.

REPORTER:Would you accept a diplomatic post?

JOHN MOORE:No. No, definitely not.

REPORTER:There was a suggestion earlier today, Mr Moore, that you might sit on the back-bench for a while.

JOHN MOORE:No. That's quite emphatically 'no'. No. I will leave Parliament before the House sits.

REPORTER:Would you mind causing a by-election at all?

JOHN MOORE:That's a matter for the organisation. I've been the ... I'm also the longest serving State President that the Liberal Party's had in Australia's history. I understand the problems of organisations and I would find it difficult to imagine we can't get a good enough candidate to win Ryan.

REPORTER:Did the Prime Minister suggest to you at any stage in your discussions over the last week or today, or yesterday, that he would like you to stay on the back-bench for a while?

JOHN MOORE:No. The discussions between John and I are strictly between ourselves but at no stage did it entertain me staying on the back bench.

REPORTER:Do you have any regrets? Things that you would have liked to have seen augmented [inaudible].

JOHN MOORE:Yes. Yes. The biggest regret I've ever had was the 13 years in Opposition. That was a terrible waste of time at a time when I was, you know, at my best. You're not at your best in your 60s, you're your best in your 40s and that was a terrible waste of time. But as my wife wanted me to get out of politics in '83 as soon as we lost then. It turned out she had a better judge of politics than I was, I guess.

REPORTER:Mr Moore, why do you rate Mr Howard as better than Menzies? That's ...

JOHN MOORE:No, I didn't rate him better than Menzies I said putting Menzies to one side and I say that because when you're young and impressionable - I met Menzies when I was in my teens - so he was larger than life. Very imposing guy in a physical sense and persona. So, I put him to one side because he's larger than life. But all the others in some respect I've either worked with or directly with.

Harold Holt in terms of the Capricornian by-election, which at that stage of the game I think I was Treasurer and Vice President of the Liberal Party in Queensland. That was quite an experience having both Harold Holt and Zara [phonetic] up there.

Then the years of Billy McMahon in which in the end he disowned his Cabinet in the last week of the election campaign and wondered why we nearly lost ... nearly won.

I mean that was a motley crowd selection considering. Then you go on to Whitlam, who was clearly the worst Prime Minister Australia's ever had in my time.

REPORTER:Can you tell us ...

JOHN MOORE:Then we go on to Fraser who, as I said the other night at 'Once Is' dinner, you know, the way you had 43 new members, which was the largest single intake in one election, was because of the huge social convulsion to the Whitlam years, and of all those 43 that came in only came really as a direct result of that. A lot of them ... in those days, people ran home every night to - dare I say it - to watch the ABC News because that was, you know, it was interesting times and people were generally interested. And so all these people came in.

There was a gynaecologist, a clutch of lawyers, farmers, so forth - even a stockbroker. And they came at an average age that come '83 they were very much the lost generation. Twelve are left, six made it to the front-bench and of those six three came from Tasmania. That was the lost generation.

You go into the days of Hawke. Hawke was obviously very, I think, very competent in his job. A populist by nature and not particularly good in policy I thought but Keating was imaginative. And I come to Howard who I happen to think currently gets a tremendous bagging by everybody but in history will treat him very well because he has stayed with the hard issues, stayed with the line, and generally won.

REPORTER:Also imaginative?

JOHN MOORE:Well, you don't have policies without imagination. I mean policies are hard work put together, drive them through the Party, you know, and John has been the driving force on policy in the Party.

REPORTER:Can you tell us exactly when you actually finally conclusively made the decision to retire ... to retire from the Cabinet, retire from Parliament?

JOHN MOORE:Probably coming back from Timor at the weekend.

REPORTER:Right. So you'd made it before last night?

JOHN MOORE:Oh, yes. But I've made ... I was in Timor - last week I did submarines in Perth and up the North to Alice Springs Pine Gap and then Timor and I was coming back from Timor and I was thinking, you know, it's really time you probably did something else. This is pretty rough.

REPORTER:Before you wrote to the Prime Minister today, had you informed him on the telephone that you were going to resign?

JOHN MOORE:We had a general understanding of what was a probability. Anything else? UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

JOHN MOORE:Thank you.


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