Howard letter blasted the Nats

By: Tony Koch

A DEEPLY hurt and embittered John Howard once told a senior Liberal colleague that the Queensland National Party was so discredited it ``does not deserve to wield influence in any future government'' in the state.
In private correspondence unearthed during research underlying a new biography of former Queensland Liberal leader Terry White, Mr Howard demonstrates how wounded he was by the abortive ``Joh-for-Canberra'' campaign that derailed his first tilt to become prime minister in 1987.
Mr White, founder of the Terry White pharmacy chain that extends throughout Australia with 162 stores and an annual turnover exceeding $1 billion, fell foul of then Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1983 when he crossed the floor of parliament and voted against the government.
Mr White was then welfare services minister and an outspoken advocate of the introduction of proper committees and review systems in Queensland where there is a Legislative Assembly but no house of review or upper house.
The document was contained in a file of confidential correspondence Mr White had filed away at the end of his political career in December 1989 -- less than a month after the exchange of letters with Mr Howard.
Details of the letter and dealings between Mr Howard and Mr White are contained in my book A Prescription for Change -- the Terry White Story to be officially launched by corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald on March 2 in Brisbane.
Mr White and Mr Howard formed a friendship through their political ties and in October 1989 Mr Howard wrote an opinion piece in The Australian in which he blasted the role of Bjelke-Petersen and his followers in Queensland.
Mr White wrote a congratulatory letter and in his reply to that letter on November 8, 1989, Mr Howard said: ``The Queensland Nationals have done an appalling disservice and caused great damage to the conservative cause throughout Australia.
``They comprise some of the arch-hypocrites of the right-hand side of politics and do not, as I said in the article, deserve to wield influence in any future government in Queensland.''
Mr Howard was re-elected Liberal leader and wrested government from Labor prime minister Paul Keating in 1996.
Mr White said yesterday he harboured no ill feeling towards the Nationals and supported the notion of the Liberals and Nationals amalgamating into the Liberal National Party in Queensland. ``I have a passing interest in politics these days but no direct involvement,'' he said. Mr Howard yesterday declined to comment on his letter.
TOMORROW The Liberal Who Stood Up To Joh -- read exclusive extracts in The Weekend Australian