An interview with Graeme Campbell, past Member of Parliament for Kalgoorlie. During his time in parliament he was often described as the Maverick from Western Australia (although his enemies called him the Pest from the West). This continues our series of interviews, giving readers new information from different political viewpoints.
What motivates you in politics?
Desperation. I am fearful of dying and leaving the country worse than it was when my parents came here. If I die tomorrow, that would be the case.
The development of factional politics has had a detrimental effect on Australians politics. Politicians are much more frightened of their factions than they are of the people who elect them – they only need to face them every four years whilst they have to face their factions every day.
What are your current goals?
Well, I don’t want to give up politics; it’s like a drug.
I’m trying to make sense of the crazy stuff going on.
Some Aborigines who want to start a different party have approached me. They believe that the Aboriginal Industry has been hijacked by the Greens, well, maybe hijacked is the wrong word, rather the Aboriginal Industry got into bed with the Greens – and a lot of Aborigines didn’t like that. They are saying that the “Stolen Generation” is not the problem and that welfare is genocide. And the solution to all the problems that beset Aboriginal people is jobs, jobs and jobs. They point out that the employment situation is a lot worse than it was twenty-five years ago. They’ve approached me for some support, it has some potential, but it’s early days yet.
I’m interested in state politics, although it is pretty much a mess. The Labor Party here is appalling, even bordering on fascism, and I find that very distasteful.
What are your long-term plans?
At 70 years of age, it’s not easy to have long-term plans.
I want to see governments made more accountable. I see the push for a republic and I say to myself “Who in their right mind would want to give politicians more power?”, because I have not yet seen a model for a republic that would not give more power to politicians. I see no value in a republic and I’ll resist it as strongly as I can.
The present push to amalgamate local governments will play in to the hands of the centralists who want to do away with the States. Amalgamating Local Councils does not lead to any economies of scale or operation. Indeed the evidence that I am aware of shows that it adds. What it also does is increase the opportunity for corruption and makes local government far less responsive to local issues. Bigger councils inevitably indulge in empire building, they take on tasks that are not the core business of local councils and this provides the opportunity for Canberra government to deal directly with these new bigger regional entities there by weakening the States and giving us centralism by default. As we move to a more centralist regime the less populous states will be disadvantaged. I believe that federalism is by far the best way forward for our Nation.
The people have voted convincingly in a national referendum that they do not want recognition of local government in the Constitution precisely because they realise that such recognition will help the centralism desires of both sides of Federal politics.
I went into parliament as a centralist, but I had been in parliament for 12 months when I changed my mind. Centralism would be bad for Australia. I will resist centralism wherever I see it.
What do you think of the electoral successes of the British National Party, and do you think something similar could happen in Australia?
What Australia is crying out for is leadership, it doesn’t matter where it comes from so long as people address the real problems – the success of the British National Party demonstrates that people are dying for leadership.
Doing things right isn’t that hard, if they just think.
Take the economic crisis – now is the time to be building roads and ports, to be building infrastructure that will increase our ability to compete in the future. Infrastructure spending can start very quickly and the creation of jobs can be guaranteed and controlled.
I get very angry about the situation. There was more meaningful employment for Aborigines 20 years ago; in this State, entities like the Main Roads Department all employed many Aborigines, but when they privatised road building these jobs ceased to exist.
The contractors under quote to get the job, they save money by skimping on compaction so the road formation does not last; if the situation goes to litigation, the contracting companies fold up, and the State has to cover the fixing of the roads. Did this ideology provide cheaper roads? The answer is no but it did lead to a reduction in standards.
When the Main Roads Department was in operation, Aborigines would be working with them for 30 years, and they would encourage their sons to get a road job – but now, with contracting jobs being a temporary thing, not a permanent job, and those Aborigines are laid off, then they encourage their sons to go on the dole.
The responsibility for that situation is a combination of the Labor Party and the Democrats, who went along with the idea that “the market will decide”, but the market is an imperfect tool.
We used to put money into school programmes, which used to feed the Aboriginal children, and for some of them it was the only decent meal they got. But the government said that was paternalistic and gave the money to the parents instead, and now that money often goes onto alcohol. This was due to Political Correctness and left-wingers.
An Aboriginal friend of mine has said that if the government builds up a culture of welfare, then there can be no Aboriginal advancement.
I now lobby when I can; I would love to be in Parliament. Pauline Hanson got me out of parliament; she set back the nationalist movement 30 years; no one will ever get the opportunities that she had. I told her that I would lose my seat if One Nation ran against me, but they did, and took 8½% of the vote from me, which meant I lost the election.
Denis McCormack, who is one of the greatest nationalists in the country, asked some media people why did they give Hanson all that publicity and not Graeme? They told him that Graeme could look after himself. In politics you live and die on publicity – and it all went to her.
Pauline Hanson’s speech made her. But in fact that speech came from my office, it was written by John Pasquarelli of my staff – I lent him to Pauline Hanson, then she took him full-time. He did a very good job for her, but she sacked him because he was stealing her thunder.
When I ran for One Nation in this state, I did well in the Senate, but got no preferences. At the time, Pauline Hanson was attacking me.
I decided to run for One Nation to support John Fischer, who at the time was the leader of One Nation in this State and Held an Upper House seat in the Pastoral region. He has a lot of calibre and was by far the best man in the Upper House, but at the subsequent election, standing as an independent, he did not get enough preferences. His demise was a great loss.
Would you be prepared to network with and have electoral pacts with other groups?
I have a view that the only thing that can rescue Australia from factional politics is more genuine independents. I am always prepared to talk to other groups.
Attacking things obliquely is often the best way to achieve goals, rather than attacking them head-on. If you are in power, you can do something, but if you are outside you can’t.
With the Australian citizenship matter, having new migrants fill in a questionnaire was not the answer; it won’t work, migrants are able to learn any test you want. I would return the 5-year waiting period for citizenship.
The Labor Party reduced the waiting period to 2 years, as they wanted to get more votes, and most migrants vote for Labor; the Liberal Party didn’t want to oppose the change in case they looked like racists. Having a 5 year waiting period provides a better margin for security.
It would be best to have migrants sign a Statutory Declaration that they agree that Australian law takes precedence over all other laws; then, if they want to introduce Sharia Law, there would be a question of whether they had committed perjury. Having spent time in Islamic countries, I am very worried about Islam.
I say we have an obligation to discriminate. We do discriminate anyway – when we close an immigration office in Manchester, and then open one in India or China, it clearly discriminates. Not only that, in Europe our immigration staff at the front desk are so rude to potential migrants that they soon give up. In third world countries would be migrants often got past the front desk by dint of corruption.
I strongly believe that in immigration matters that we have an absolute right, indeed an obligation, to discriminate. There was a case of a British woman who was refused entry to Australia because she was too fat, and another was refused because she was too skinny – but we let in people from Third World countries with every disease, including AIDS – tell me that this is not discrimination and explain how this benefits Australia!
It is too late to put in place an economically protectionist regime; we should be supporting things that we have an advantage in – and we could look at implementing some not so obvious ways of protectionism.
People say that “Free trade is the way of advancing economies”, but the USA built a strong economy based upon a competitive internal economy alongside a protectionist external economy. Prior to world war one Germany had a very protected internal economy and a very aggressive export policy. It is too late to reverse the situation. People would object if the prices of clothes substantially increased. However, we should be taking some measures, such as saying that all military uniforms should be made in Australia. There is enough demand for police, military and fire fighting uniforms to keep an industry going in Australia.
The government should have a policy of only using Australian-made vehicles wherever possible.
When I was in Parliament, I tried to get the government to buy the British Westland helicopter. The Army wanted this machine, but the acquisition process was left to the Air force, there were many in the Air force at the time that saw Australia as an extension of the US military, they weren’t nationalists.
The Blackhawk helicopter has had a very indifferent record where as the Westland has gone on to become recognised as one of the best medium lift helicopters in the world.
The Westland company was the only company who offered to transfer all its technology to us. They said that Australia had one of the best set-ups for manufacturing helicopters in the world.
I even had the Chinese interested in buying Australian-made helicopters, they wanted to supply the engines. I arranged this with Rolls Royce and they said that would not be a problem as China made a lot of Rolls engines under licence and they were right up to spec, that they were able to provide engines for us. But the government went for the Blackhawk and in doing so we acquired the oldest, most expensive helicopter with the highest maintenance cost. Above all they denied Australia a helicopter manufacturing industry. The only explanation for this odd decision is either stupidity or corruption.
It was the same with four-wheel drive vehicles. Australia has a need for these type of vehicles. We make a vehicle called the Oka. This machine is at the forefront of its class. I tried to get the government to delay the tender for the Army for a few months so that the Oka Company would be ready to tender. They refused and we lost an opportunity to establish a genuine manufacturing industry that would have given us a better product and greater security.
We also lost having an aircraft industry in Australia when we got the F1-11. We have made this plane in to a formidable platform, but had we joint ventured the TSR2, which was probably a better plane, we would still have an aircraft manufacturing industry. It’s hard now to get into the fixed-wing aircraft industry, but we could have a helicopter industry. Rotary wing aircraft add immensely to our battle field capacity and our security. After all Australia is among the highest per capita users of helicopters in the world, we should have got the TSR2.
A similar situation occurred with the submarines – we could have had a submarine industry. The Collins class submarine decision cost us billions. Costs were doubled and more costs were hidden in the refits carried out before they went to sea. I would not be surprised if the final cost was triple the original price. Even the most charitable observation must concede that it has been a most expensive lemon.
The British offered us a better submarine that actually complied with the request for tender document. They offered it at a fixed cost with a guarantee that all subs would be built in Australia and that they would transfer their entire Diesel submarine manufacturing to Australia.
I mention these things because it is important that we learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately this seems to be beyond us. For example we should be mining and processing uranium. The uranium industry has a lot of high-class jobs in it; it is an industry that they can’t take out of Australia.
Whilst I was in parliament I had quite a few successes. I got free needles distributed to diabetics, subsidies given to rural kids to go to school in the national capital, stopped superannuation users being forced into situations where their capital was being eroded, and held off the gold tax from 1984 to 1991 (which gave time for companies to invest in the gold mining industry, without being scared off). But what haunt me are my failures, not my successes.
There are two types of freedom in the world: economic freedom and political freedom. The difference is that economic freedom buys political freedom, but political freedom won’t win you economic freedom.
Why were you sacked from the Labor Party?
Andrew Ollie was interviewing me for the ABC about the loss of the Western Australian State election that I felt that Paul Keating was responsible for. I got on well with Andrew Ollie although the ABC is now pretty much a left-wing subversive organization. He asked “Is there anything Keating can do to improve the situation?” and I replied “A state funeral would help”.
I won the pre-selection for Kalgoorlie but then the Labor Party leadership took the pre-selection off me some months later. My comments on TV were used as a reason but by that time they were two years old and the real reason lies in the machinations of the Left.
I was not actually sacked from the Labor Party, I resigned after my pre-selection was revoked and stood as an independent.
Do you have any further words for Australian nationalists?
Nationalism has to be an outgoing nationalism. We cannot have a narrow insular nationalism.