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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Leader of the Opposition: Swan TAFE, Balga Campus, Perth: shortage of technical colleges; IR; reports of terror cells in Australia ; sale of Telstra/slush funds; submarines; David Hicks; opinion polls; NSW ALP.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON KIM C BEAZLEY MP
TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, SWAN TAFE - BALGA CAMPUS, PERTH, 3 AUGUST 2005
E & O E - PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Shortage of Technical Colleges; IR; Reports of Terror Cells in Australia ; Sale of Telstra/slush finds; Submarines; David Hicks; Opinion polls; NSW ALP
BEAZLEY: Two weeks ago here I asked the question: where are the two Technical Colleges that were going to be constructed here in Western Australia? Still no answers two weeks on, still no answers. The simple fact of the matter is this: the labour market issue of today is skills. That’s the most important thing that we need to think about in relation to the Australian workforce. The tragedy
this country now confronts is the result of 270,000 people being turned away from TAFE over the last 10 years. The Government should be thinking about skills and not thinking about taking away workers’ rights.
This Government’s extremist legislation now is going to both take away rights and, we find out today, produce chaos. There’ll be chaos for farmers, chaos for small business as they have to alter their affairs to fit in with the Government’s use of the corporations power. Corporations power means that the way you define workers, the way you define employers, is always going to be how they stand in relation to the corporation. It’s totally dehumanising, dehumanising this extreme legislation while you take away rights.
Now, overnight we’ve seen some statements, serious statements, made by leading police officials in this country about the number of terrorists or the number of people who they feel they need to watch because of the possibility that a terrorist offence may emerge. These are serious and disturbing reports. Because they go to matters which naturally, are going to be confidential, they’re not easy to discuss in public.
I just want to ask a couple of questions in relation to this. Can the Prime Minister say, and assure us, that ASIO and the police have all the power and equipment they need in this struggle with terrorists? Does the Prime Minister believe that everything that could possibly be done to ensure the safety of the Australian people is being done? Those are the questions which I’m sure that Australians want an answer to at all times.
Finally on Telstra, we saw Mr Trujillo, the new CEO, going out there and saying he thought it would be nice to have a $5 billion slush fund to clean up the bush. The Labor Party’s position on this is the people of rural and regional Australia and the people of metropolitan Australia do not want the Telstra issue to be decided by concerns about slush funds. They want the Government to back off and deal with services. What the Australian people want is decent services. They don’t want their company sold. They want its service levels to improve. So, what they want to hear from Mr Trujillo is how he’s going to do that. What they want to hear from the Government is not a discussion of National Party slush funds, but backing off and how they’re going to encourage Telstra to do what the people want - and that is deliver decent services.
JOURNALIST: With regard to terrorist cells, do you think ASIO and the AFP need more resources, more powers?
BEAZLEY: I ask the question of the Prime Minister here in regard to resources. I think this is the stage where you do ask that question when you’ve got senior figures coming out and saying, as they have, that a large number of people, or a substantial number of people, are effectively on a watch list, ask the Prime Minister the question because so much of this has to be confidential and I need to be very serious and deliberate about it and I am: do they have sufficient powers and equipment to do the job? Are the police sufficiently coordinated with sufficient powers across the country to do the job? Is there as effective a central
direction of this and channelling of information to various police forces as is needed to do the job? Can the Prime Minister give the Australian people a complete assurance on that?
JOURNALIST: If it’s OK for David Hicks to languish in Guantanamo Bay, is it OK for these 60-odd people that have been identified to be free in Australia?
BEAZLEY: I think it’s very difficult, without knowing the circumstances in each particular case - and we can’t know that because it’s absolutely necessary that the intelligence services and the police operate with a degree of confidentiality. And that’s not just important to the effectiveness of their operations, it’s also important to potentially, if they’ve got a wrong target, the civil liberties of the person involved.
JOURNALIST: Do we need to be assured that they are being watched well enough?
BEAZLEY: Oh absolutely, we need that. And that is the question I’m asking the Prime Minister. Can he give us the assurance? Because it’s up to him, he’s got the information, they report into him. Can he know assure the Australian people, given the serious and credible reports from serious and credible officials, can he give us the assurance that the police have the powers
that are appropriate to them and the equipment that they need to do the job? Likewise with ASIO - is the central coordination good enough, is it there to his satisfaction, and above all, can he give us overall a guarantee that everything conceivable that could be done to protect the community is being done? Now he alone knows how to make a judgement about that. He alone receives all that information. He alone has to accept the responsibility.
JOURNALIST: Do you think these people should be under constant surveillance?
BEAZLEY: They have to be under the level of surveillance that will achieve the outcome. And what is the outcome? No terrorist attacks in Australia. That’s what has to be done. That’s why we need the Prime Minister’s assurances on those questions I’ve asked.
JOURNALIST: What about the suggestion that people be using their video phones to photograph suspicious people on buses and trains, like people just using phones, their regular phones, to take photos?
BEAZLEY: The Government has encouraged Australian citizens to be vigilant and we don’t disagree with that. You have various ways in which you can report things that you think might be suspicious when these matters come to your attention and concern you. From the conversations I’ve had with people in our intelligence community and the police generally, they welcome community participation like that.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that people of Middle Eastern appearance might be being stereotyped in this surveillance?
BEAZLEY: You’ve always got to be tremendously cautious about that and that is why there is a requirement for sobriety and commonsense in the way the whole system is operated and that is a job of the Prime Minister. Above all, what the Prime Minister has to do is to assure himself that absolutely everything is being done to protect Australians.
JOURNALIST: Another US military prosecutor has come out and said that he’s got concerns about the military commission process. Is David Hicks going to get a fair trial under it and if not, what can be done?
BEAZLEY: The military commission process is not appropriate. The Opposition has said that for a long time and we have absolutely no objection to people who have committed terrorist attacks on the United States, or their armed forces, being properly tried. Absolutely none. In fact, we think it’s essential. But they must be properly tried and in the United States that means a civil court.
JOURNALIST: You would have seen the unfolding story about our submarines and those hoses. What’s your position on that and how concerning is that?
BEAZLEY: I think it’s obviously important that the Navy keeps these submarines and the warships, everything, all areas of the armed forces, under review, they keep checking the safety of their operations and the quality of
equipment that has gone into them. And if they need to make adjustments, make it.
The Navy has come out and said that they’ve seen those reports, obviously, they’ve had them for a couple of years and that they have made, or are in the process, of making the adjustments to ensure that operations are safe.
Submarines do critical things. They’re not necessarily always things that we can talk about but it is the strike arm now of the Australian Navy. They must be operated safely and they must be operated effectively. Now, I believe the Navy knows this. If the Navy does not have the resources in order to be able to do that, we ought to know that.
JOURNALIST: You’ve had some high level resignations in NSW from the Labor Party this week. Is something going wrong there? Why all the resignations at once?
BEAZLEY: There’s change. What’s going on there is a great political figure, a great Australian political figure has left and a very good one now is in the making. I think the people of NSW are going to find a couple of years from now when they have to make a judgement about his role, that they do like Mr Iemma. They are going to find him different from Bob, with different strengths, but they’re going to like him a lot.
JOURNALIST: How do you rationalise the approval ratings, personal approval ratings, with the Party’s approval ratings?
BEAZLEY: Well, as you know, I don’t comment on polls. I do say this though: one of the things I’m proud of since becoming Labor Party Leader - after a devastating defeat and a very difficult period of time - that we are contestable
with our political opponents. We are contestable, I think, because we’re pursuing the right issues. We’re worried about what’s happening to Australian familles. They’re worried about the security. They’re worried about their financial stability and their security. That is where the Australian people want the Labor Party to concentrate and that’s what we’re doing. As a result, generally in a period of time when Oppositions which have been heavily defeated don’t do all that well, we’re contestable. Thanks a lot.