The Opposition Leader, Mrs. Thatcher, has arrived in Australia from New Zealand on the latest stage of her overseas tour. She'll be in Australia for eight days as the guest of the Liberal party; her first official function was a news conference in Sydney. Our Correspondent, Bob Friend, was there: [end p1]
News conferences in Australia have a reputation for being very tough indeed. Today's though was positively restrained. No, Mrs. Thatcher didn't particularly mind being referred to as the “Iron Lady”. Yes, her husband did help her enormously in her political life, and she was pleased with last week's trip to New Zealand.
In New Zealand, she was attacked by the former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Bill Rowling, for her strong anti-Socialist speeches, which he said constituted a break with political protocol. Today, she made it clear she didn't share Mr. Rowling 's interpretation, and wouldn't be changing her style.
I expect to say what I believe in, and to put that across fearlessly and firmly. That is what I always do. I think the centre parties and those parties who firmly believe in freedom and liberty as I do, have to in one respect only be behind the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party had a socialist international for years. They've visited one another's countries. They've held international conferences. We haven't. We've been slow at it.
Mrs. Thatcher has been aware that there's been some criticism of her for leaving the country at the time of the TUC conference. She thinks that the knowledge she's gaining justifies the trip. [end p2](2) The Times, 14 September 1976.
Mrs. Thatcher emphasizes US role in defence
Sydney, Sept 13.—Mrs Thatcher the Conservative Party leader, said today that a tremendous buildup of Soviet naval forces constituted a potential threat to the West.
She declined to single out Soviet activity in the Indian Ocean as the prime danger area when she was questioned on her arrival from New Zealand about Australia's preoccupation with the region since Mr Fraser became Prime Minister.
Mrs Thatcher, who flew here from Christchurch to begin an eight-day visit to Australia under the auspices of the Liberal Party, told a press conference that defence was a global problem.
“None of us can go very far without the efforts of the United States”, she said. “Each of us must play our full part in alliances with the United States. America has first to look at the Atlantic and the Pacific.
“We in Europe are very active in Nato … We therefore have to look across the world at America … Australia and Japan also and the several regional alliances.
“We in the Nato countries rely on ships to bring us our main supplies. The Soviet system gets most of its supplies across land. We therefore need extensive naval forces to protect our supplies and she does not.
“Therefore, you have got to ask: ‘Why the tremendous build-up of naval forces? It obviously constitutes a potential threat.’”
Asked if she was worried about the labels applied to her by Soviet commentators, “Iron Lady”, “Ice Lady”, a Cold War Warrior”, Mrs Thatcher replied with a smile: “I shall be very grateful if I am not called anything worse”.
Questioned about the role of a woman in politics, she gave as her prescription: “She has to be very competent, very thoughtful, very capable, very persistent, very strong.”