20150515

JANA WENDT

"As your world change by the hour, one thing remains constant - the peole you know and trust," one TV news commercial trumpeted. In Australia, "When they got something to say, they talk to Jana." Between 1988 and 1992, Jana Wendt hosted 'A Current Affair', "Look, I do what I do, and I do it the way I think it should be done. I don't construct anything for television. What I do on television is: No. 1, what is within my capacity and, No. 2, what I think is acceptable to an audience every night at 6.30."  

In February 1989, then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, talked to Jana about his government's budget forecast in relation to inflation and trade figures. 

Jana: The figures are not good are they? 

PM: No...but I must take issue Jana with an observation you made that we've heard nothing but bad news… 

Jana: Mr Hawke, I wonder whether most of our viewers would understand that they have to look at it in the longer term…We've done in 7 months what you forecast that we would have done in a year. 

PM: ...Economic forecasting is not an exact science...But there's a recognition that it is not necessarily an overall accurate figure and that's why the statistician, Jana, is reviewing the way he looks at this...Jana, in your personal life, in decisions you take, if 12 months after the event you had known, the events of that 12 months, would every decision you'd taken earlier been exactly the same? We all are wiser with the benefit of the experience of the previous 12 months, not just Treasurers and Prime Ministers. 

Jana: But Prime Minister, you run the country. 

PM: I do run the country, yes...Just let me give you a simple statistic. With investment in this country it's now running at a higher level as a proportion of our whole activity, higher than it's run for 35 years (since 1954) and that is the problem of a strong economy which has got to be slowed down a little bit. 

In March 1990, the PM talked to Jana about his election campaign and the economy over 7 years (1983-90). 

Jana: Election campaigns are about communicating to the people who'll be voting for you on Saturday (March 24, 1990) or not voting for you. Do you think you can make this message plain…? 

PM: Well, I hope so, Jana. I mean, it is a reasonably complex message but the simple fact is, if I can put it this way to your listeners and not use economic jargon, we were expanding that rapidly that we were consuming 8% increase, we were producing 4% increase and that gap, we were importing and that was wiping up our external deficit. We had to slow things down and these last accounts that are out today (in March 1990) show that we've got it back in to kilter. The increase in consumption is the same as the increase in production, but importantly the production now has been channeled into exports against imports. That's the turnaround. 

Following daily news Jana said in 1992 "is something that gets you in the end - that constantly having to be across everything, every newspaper, every newsmagazine, the whole lot...I didn't find it at all boring, but if I am to be honest with you, it became very wearing, as in tiring. Your energy levels have to be up, up, up every day for it...The program needs someone who is absolutely charged up at the front of it." 

One TV presenter made the observation at the time, "Monday is a 'Hi! Here we are, glad to be back!' day, so you're a bit more vibrant - white shirt, colorful tie, olive or greenish jacket...(whereas for Friday) blue is a good color, white shirt and a strong tie. Blue is conservative, has a sense of finality about it." 

In July 2001, one-time Ambassador Stapleton Roy talked to Jana on the Australian 'Dateline' program. The transcript of the interview had also been posted on the U.S. Department of State website. 

Jana: We are watching a chill come over relations between the U.S. and China. In view of that, what would the U.S. expect of a country like Australia that has friendly relations with China? 

Stapleton Roy: I would expect some patience. I think we had a rough patch in the relations between the U.S. and China this spring (April 2001), when we had a new administration coming in. Every new administration that has come into Washington in the last 25 years (since 1976) has had a rough patch with China, as part of its early time in office. I think that we're coming out of that period. 

Jana: So, when people talk about the emergence or the development of a new Cold War between China and the U.S., you think that's entirely off beam? 

Stapleton Roy: I think that's not where we're going to end up. I think you can find some attitudes in the U.S. that would move us in that direction and you can find some attitudes in China that would also contribute to that process. I think that the American government, looking after the interests of the American people, is not likely to move in that direction. 

Jana: Australia is the only U.S. ally that has given full-blooded support to the (then George) Bush administration's proposed missile defense system. But that support is very likely to antagonize China. Are there risks in that for the region, an antagonized China? 

Stapleton Roy: I think the region doesn't want an antagonized China and I don't think the Administration wants an antagonized China. I think the Administration has come into office committed to a national missile defense system, but the U.S. government is now beginning the process of engagement with concerned countries. 

Jana: (Then) Defense Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld has described Australia as "truly important to the U.S. in the context of problems posed by China in the Asia Pacific region." In the event of a Chinese move on Taiwan, would the U.S. expect military assistance, cooperation, from Australia? 

Stapleton Roy: The U.S. does not want military confrontation with China. Our focus is going to be on avoiding that. 

Jana: Let's accept that avoidance is obviously where you would like to go, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that such an attack would take place, is it? 

Stapleton Roy: Let me explain why I don't think it's a good question to answer. If we got into a confrontation with China, would the U.S. be able to have full use of bases in Japan? The Japanese government can't answer that. If we got into confrontation with China, would we be in a position to demand total support from the Australian government? No one's in a position to answer that. We would have to look at the circumstances at the time, how the crisis came into being and what the nature of the stakes were. So when we pose the hypothetical question, we are essentially raising issues that other governments haven't addressed yet. 

Jana: China has for some time been making overtures to Pacific Island nations, for instance, in Vanuatu it's offering alternative interest free loans to push out the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund). How does the U.S. assess those kinds of moves? 

Stapleton Roy: I would say that, in general, we don't have any opposition to China engaging in what you would call normal governmental behavior in trying to increase its influence in the region where it's located. The question would be whether it was engaged in a strategy that was designed to undermine programs that were viewed as necessary for the economic or physical wellbeing of the region. 

Jana: Let me turn to Indonesia for a moment. As a former ambassador, do you believe that a Megawati (*) presidency in a matter of months (in 2001) is an inevitability? 

(*) Megawati Soekarnoputri became the 5th President of Indonesia from July 2001 to October 2004. 

Stapleton Roy: I think it's likely, based on Indonesian specialists, and I'm talking about Indonesians, not foreign specialists. At the same time, I don't consider it an inevitability because of the unpredictability of developments in Indonesia. 

Jana: Are you talking about the unpredictability of the current President (Abdurrahman Wahid) as well?  

Stapleton Roy: No, I would say the President's unpredictability was completely predictable. For those who were familiar with him. He is a man with an alert mind who will alter his positions as he sees new aspects to the issues he's dealing with.

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