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Howard ready to implement policies

Howard ready to implement policies

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: And to borrow from the Keating vernacular, John Howard must surely consider Saturday
night's election result his sweetest victory of all.

Not only has he increased the Coalition's Lower House majority after eight and a half years in
office, but it now looks likely they'll control the Senate - a rare event in modern politics.

John Howard is now poised to push through substantial policy changes without any further Senate
frustration and may soon even have the power to change the Senate itself.

In a moment, we'll take a closer look at the big-ticket items on the Howard agenda, but first,
political editor Michael Brissenden.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It's the day after the day after, and Mark Latham still looks like he's
campaigning, but the enormity of the Government's win and Labor's loss is sinking in fast.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: But we'll continue to advance our positions as we believe in them,
but obviously we respect the judgment and verdict of the Australian people in full, and if the
Prime Minister has got an majority on both houses, he'll be exercising his mandate.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: We are very keen for the Parliament to sit as soon as possible, and we
want to say to the Australian people that we respect the mandate that's been given to us.

It's a very strong, a very emphatic mandate but we are very keen to get on with the job of
implementing as many as we can of the policies we took to the public during the election campaign.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The final result is still unclear.

There are still eight or nine seats where the outcome is in doubt, but the Government will
certainly have a bigger majority in the lower house.

The biggest impact of Saturday's poll, though, is the result in the Senate.

The Government can be sure of 38 senators, exactly half, and look well on the way to winning the
fourth Senate spot in Queensland.

That would give it a majority in the upper house, the first prime minister with such power since
Malcolm Fraser in the '70s and before him, Robert Menzies in the '50s.

But modern politics is a different game.

Harry Evans, the Clerk of the Senate, says John Howard's victory will have historic consequences.

HARRY EVANS, CLERK OF THE SENATE: Past governments which have had party majorities in the Senate
couldn't always have control their senators and their senators were ready to, some of their
senators were ready to vote against their government if they thought it was doing something wrong.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: There were many occasions in the Fraser years when Coalition senators refused
to support government legislation, particularly legislation designed to change the role or the
power of the Senate itself.

FRED CHANEY, FORMER LIBERAL SENATOR: I during my time in the Senate, which was quite a long time,
and having had experience of a Senate, a government with a Senate majority and a government with a
Senate minority, then an experience of being in Opposition, firmed the very strong view that it's
quite good if the government doesn't control the Senate, because it forces it to take things a bit
more slowly, to consider matters more carefully.

I don't think the real complaint about Australian democracy is that there not enough legislation.

I think very often there's too much legislation.

And having a Senate which really has some authority and is able to check governments is, I think,
quite useful for Australian democracy.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Fred Chaney was a Liberal Senator during the Fraser years.

He says the independence shown by many in the '70s simply wouldn't be tolerated today.

FRED CHANEY: What's happened in Australian democracy generally is that the idea that disunity is
death has taken a very strong hold.

So the notion of individual members of parliament or senators taking independent stands is very
much frowned on within the political parties.

And I think individual independence has diminished accordingly.

JOHN HOWARD: There is a sense inside the Government that this new mandate has given us the
opportunity to do a lot of new things, to implement our program, to do some new things that are
consistent with our philosophy, and therefore broadly consistent with what the Australian people
voted for.

But it is not a mandate to do reckless, disruptive things and we don't intend to do either.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And the things the Prime Minister says will be first up are industrial
relations reforms like unfair dismissal legislation, the full sale of Telstra, and, of course,
media ownership changes, all legislation that's been blocked by the previously uncooperative upper

Harry Evans, though, thinks it's unlikely the Government will stop there.

Reckless or not, he knows that controlling the power of the Upper House has been on the agenda with
the governments of both flavours in the past.

In 1999, one suggestion that was floated was to restrict the Senate to parties that had attracted
at least 12 per cent of the vote.

That would effectively remove independents and minor parties from the equation.

This sort of change does not need constitutional approval.

HARRY EVANS: The Senate can be changed by ordinary legislation and that has been mooted in the past
by governments of both persuasions and with a majority in the Senate, the temptation may be

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But while that's all possible, Harry Evans say Government control will have
some immediate consequences as soon as the new Senate sits on 1 July next year.

HARRY EVANS: Well, if the Government does control the Senate, I think the tendency will be to
suppress any committee inquiries that are embarrassing or inconvenient to government, that's what
governments seem to do nowadays.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: What role will it play then?

You would have to wonder what role there is for the Senate if it doesn't have the power to actually
have inquiries?

Or if the inquiries are meaningless?

HARRY EVANS: That's a very good question.

I mean, there's great talk about mandates.

I mean, if the mandate theory is correct, then the Government has a mandate to do what it wants
after an election, what do we keep either house of parliament for?

We have one rubber stamp already.

If we are to have two rubber stamps, do we need either of them?

The taxpayer may well ask that question at some stage in the future.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Now there's something to ponder.

If the Government doesn't control the Senate in its own right, though, it will more than likely do
so with the support of the conservative Family First candidate Steve Fielding.

He now looks certain to take the fourth Victorian spot.

The final Senate result won't be known until the end of the week, but the soul searching in the
Labor Party is already well under way.

MARK LATHAM: I ran the best campaign I could.

I was happy with our campaign in that it was positive, we were setting the agenda, putting forward
initiatives, but at the end of the day, the Australian people re-elected the Howard Government,
re-elected the Howard Government, and we totally respect their judgment, their verdict.

We want to learn from the things that we've found out in the campaign, the things we found out on
voting day and we'll try and learn from those judgments as best we can and I've outlined how in
economic policy the key area in the Coalition's campaign.

We've got do better for the future.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, that's stating the obvious.

The loss overall for Labor was bigger than anyone had expected, but there is, at this stage, no
suggestion that Mark Latham's leadership is under threat.

But the recriminations are starting to trickle out.

This morning, Kim Beazley's former chief of staff, Michael Costello, offered the most frank and
fearless assessment so far.


We now face probably at least two terms before we can win government again.

We face at least three years with John Howard pretty much in control of the Senate.

The prime responsibility for this lies with Mark Latham and those who put him there.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The bottom line is Mark Latham didn't have the answer to John Howard's focus on
the economy.

With that sort of argument dominating the campaign, and a heavily mortgaged electorate, many think
the very public embrace of his mentor Gough Whitlam was particularly unhelpful.

Well, that's one theory anyway.

No doubt there'll be plenty more of them in the days and weeks ahead.

KERRY O'BRIEN: There certainly will be.

Political editor Michael Brissenden.

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Howard win not unexpected, says analyst

Howard win not unexpected, says analyst

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: Of course, everyone's an expert after the event on why people voted the way they
did, but one man who's been absolutely consistent all year - and as we now know was right on the
mark - is social researcher Hugh Mackay.

For decades now, he's talked regularly with a wide cross-section of Australians for his quarterly
Mackay-Ipsos Report.

I spoke with Hugh Mackay a short while ago from Brisbane.

So, Hugh, taking us back to basics - was it really all about the economy and did John Howard have
this election in the bag long ago?

HUGH MACKAY, SOCIAL RESEARCHER: John Howard certainly had the election in the bag, I'd say, six
months ago without any doubt and probably two years ago.

I mean, we have to go back pre-Mark Latham to remind ourselves that everything was looking pretty
bad for Labor throughout 2003.

There was a flurry when Latham was elected the new leader.

But it was just a flurry, and by March, certainly, our qualitative research was saying it was
basically all over.

And of course when you say because it was about the economy, that's the overwhelming truth of it
but there was a kind of a bedrock, almost a given in this campaign, which was that national
security was also an issue and that was an agenda completely controlled by John Howard.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But are you saying - I mean, two years ago when you say it arguably was in the bag
for John Howard then, a lot of that was put down to the leadership of Simon Crean and the Labor
Party that wasn't going anywhere.

Are you saying that the change to Mark Latham did little or nothing for Labor?


Yes, I am saying that.

Because I think in fact although commentators were very savage on Simon Crean and there was a
problem certainly of a lack of profile for Simon Crean - but remember, we're now all saying the
same thing about Mark Latham, the problem of a lack of profile - I don't think -

KERRY O'BRIEN: But what do you mean though, a lack of profile?

HUGH MACKAY: A lack of familiarity, a lack of sense of comfort.

The opposition leaders that we have elected to the prime ministership have all been household words
in the last 54 years.

Think of Whitlam, think of Hawke, think of Howard, 20 years in the Parliament before he became
prime minister.

That's one of the prerequisites in modern Australian politics, an Opposition Leader that's got the
feeling of being safe hands, because we really know this person.

KERRY O'BRIEN: To the extent that John Howard is clearly such a shrewd, focused and dogged
campaigner who almost never takes his eyes off the ball it would seem, from year to year, what
could Mark Latham have done to unseat him?

HUGH MACKAY: It sounds pathetic to say this but I think the answer is nothing.

I honestly think that going into this campaign, going into this year, Howard was effectively

Circumstances all favoured him.

I mean, things like house prices, things like the national obsession with home renovations and
backyards, I mean, people would refer prefer to watch home renovation programs than current affairs
programs on television.

When they're in that kind of mood they're not in the mood to throw out the Government that has made
them feel, in their mind, so comfortable.

Now I suppose you can never say a situation is impossible, a mountain is unclimbable, but I think
this mountain was unscaleable for Latham and probably for anyone on the Labor side.

KERRY O'BRIEN: If you're right about this campaign not being all that relevant to the result, then
the huge resources and energy that went into the last six weeks - the massive amount of money spent
on advertising, the mail-outs, the endless round of policy announcements, the billions of dollars
being thrown at the public - counted for very little in the end?

HUGH MACKAY: Well I'm tempted to quote some ancient wisdom - "Sound and fury signifying nothing."

I think that is counting for almost nothing.

I think a lot of analysis over the last six weeks - and we've discussed this previously on this
program - I think a lot of the analysis completely misses the point of the bedrock situation.

Of course even in the polls, there are fluctuations that make it look as though the electorate is
volatile, this is neck and neck, people are in a lather of indecision.

I couldn't find the evidence for that but I have to say - and I hope this doesn't sound too cynical
- there is now a modern election campaign industry that sustains itself by telling us that it's all
too close to call and that what someone said last Tuesday was the turning point in the campaign.

I mean, there are PR operations and advertising agencies who do, I have to say, have a vested
interest in making everything look like a cliffhanger.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Although, you'd have to say that, in one case at least during the campaign, the
old-growth policy in the last week of Labor did very clearly seem to hurt them significantly in two


That's probably true, but of course, we don't know that.

We don't know what would have happened if that policy had been differently presented.

Considering what happened on the mainland, it would be a brave person who would say if that had not
happened Labor would have held those seats in Tasmania.

I certainly wouldn't confidently assert that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So, will it be business as usual for the Prime Minister from an even more powerful
position than usual and what can - what does Labor do, to seriously challenge that impregnability
that you've seen leading up to this election?



I don't agree with Michael Costello that Labor are now stuck with two more terms in opposition.

I think every term is a fresh opportunity.

We don't know what will happen to John Howard.

We don't know what will happen to the economy, we don't know what will happen to the international

And we don't know how well Labor will perform.

But Labor have to get it into their heads strategically that the election campaign for 2007 began

And unless they'd act as John Howard acts and makes every statement in a sense a campaign
statement, then they're going to face the - anyone who thinks that it's time to act when an
election is called, strategically, really has missed the point of how this game is now being

KERRY O'BRIEN: Hugh Mackay, thanks for talking with us.

HUGH MACKAY: Thank you, Kerry.

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Business excited over possible sale of Telstra

Business excited over possible sale of Telstra

Reporter: Tim Lester

KERRY O'BRIEN: After five years and two failed attempts, the tantalising prospect of a more fertile
landscape in the Senate has allowed the Government to consider fulfilling its long-held desire to
sell off the rest of Telstra.

And while the dust hasn't fully settled on the Senate numbers, market analysts are already doing
the sums - pretty tidy sums too they are because a float of the remaining 50.1 per cent of the
telco would raise about $30 billion.

And while the brokers are rubbing their hands, one group of businesses is more nervous than

Other telcos are worried about a giant like Telstra let off the government leash.

Business and economics editor Tim Lester reports.

TIM LESTER: As the strength of its win emerged on Saturday night, so too did a sense that this
might be more than a nod to the Coalition to press on in Government.

This was a result to recharge some of its most contentious plans.

SENATOR NICK MINCHIN, LIBERAL PARTY: We've now had four elections where we've received a mandate
from the Australian people for industrial relations reform, sale of Telstra, issues of that kind,
that the Senate has denied that the Government mandate.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: The Australian people are saying something to all sides of politics
and that is that if they vote for a Government, with a set of policies, they believe that that
Government should have the opportunity of implementing those policies.

TIM LESTER: No policy better embodies the Government's struggle with an independent-minded Senate
than its plan to fully privatise Australia's dominant telco.

Today the PM wasn't embellishing the plan, but he certainly was not backing off it either.

JOHN HOWARD: We certainly will press ahead very strongly with things that we believed in for a long

TIM LESTER: On Friday, the privatisation question had been an if.

This morning, the market woke asking only how and when.

MARCUS PADLEY, 'TOLHURST NOALL' STOCKBROKER: The market talk at the moment is that the T3 float is
likely to happen probably in the second half of next year.

TIM LESTER: Telstra loomed large today for Melbourne stockbroker Marcus Padley as he gathered
material for his daily newsletter.

MARCUS PADLEY: Of course $30 billion worth of stock being sold into the market will attract some
fees, the talk in the market is around $100 million.

TIM LESTER: For those who make money on floats the sheer scale of the Government's selling more
than 6 billion shares in Telstra is enough to make the knees tremble.

MARCUS PADLEY: There is now of course, a scramble to get a role in the T3 float.

Some of them will be caught on the hop because the Senate vote was not expected.

They now have to start endearing themselves to the people choosing people who will have a role.

That will probably involve a lot of research, a lot of very positive research about Telstra, and
the job of course to have at the moment is being a telecoms analyst.

They will be in hot demand over the next 12 months and you could write your own salary.

TIM LESTER: And there are knees trembling elsewhere at the thought.

Not from excitement but from worry.

Telstra's competitors have always known entering telecommunications in Australia meant playing with
an 800-pound gorilla but it has always been a short leash to the government.

Today, it's closer than ever to unchained freedom where shareholders and market forces guide the

Yes, there's a regulatory framework but right now other telcos insist that's not enough to stop
them getting hurt.

DAVID FORMAN, COMPETITION CARRIERS COALITION: There seems to be a simple proposition that most
people would agree with, that is, that you don't privatise monopolies.

TIM LESTER: David Foreman leads a newly formed industry group for five of Australia's
telecommunication companies.

His group and Telstra's major competitor, Optus, both insist they're not opposed to privatisation,
but both say it could harm our telecommunications.

PAUL FLETCHER, OPTUS: If the privatisation is handled badly, you could end up damaging competition.

TIM LESTER: For as long as Government has canvassed the idea, regional Australia has feared a fully
private Telstra would stop investing in uneconomic areas.

Paul Fletcher from Optus argues it could be a danger for all Australians.

PAUL FLETCHER: In some countries, where the competitive sector hasn't been sufficiently strong, the
incumbent telco has tended to under-invest, to the detriment of consumers.

You might for example look at New Zealand where some commentators have said that's exactly what

DAVID FORMAN: Telstra is too big to regulate.

It's across too many markets, too many wholesale markets and retail markets.

TIM LESTER: So the telecos in his group favour some form of so-called structural separation.

DAVID FORMAN: May not be that you can so break up the company into separate companies but you might
have to change the internal structure of Telstra so that it can't use its market power in one area
to advantage itself over competitors in other areas.

TIM LESTER: But here the Government is torn between its role as the ultimate regulator where the
pressure is to rein in Telstra and as the major shareholder wanting to sell its stake, where the
pressure is to let Telstra run, remains strong and drive up its value for the sale.

PAUL FLETCHER: The regulatory muzzle needs to be tightened.

That is, the industry regulator, the ACCC and the Government need to have the powers to take
Telstra on when it's a fully privately owned company to make sure that it doesn't squash

TIM SMART: There are regulatory impositions in place that restrain Telstra's pricing power, make
sure its levels of services to regional and rural areas are adequate.

And I don't see those regulations that Telstra is subject to today changing at all as a result of a
Government sale.

TIM LESTER: Analysts like Macquarie Securities' Tim Smart are pondering how quickly this sale might

Maybe even in the wake of Telstra's August results a year from now.

TIM SMART: We'd expect October, November, does seem logical for a number of reasons including the
Telstra full year results, the best period under which to undertake the sale.

So that sort of October, November, time frame, whether it's in '05 or '06 seems reasonable, yeah.

TIM LESTER: Today, the ACCC was not commenting, nor Telstra.

For some, with a Senate yet to be settled, it's too soon to talk but the shift towards a fully
privatised Telstra is unmistakable and the issues it raises are right back on the agenda.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Tim Lester with that report.

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Industrial relations set for a shake up

Industrial relations set for a shake up

Reporter: Matt Peacock

KERRY O'BRIEN: There are few individual policy areas closer to the Prime Minister's heart than
industrial relations.

He's given it his close personal attention for many years and, but for frustration in the Senate,
would have gone a lot further with change in the workplace than his Government has been able to

Now, as well as pushing through those reforms that have been rejected by the Senate, Mr Howard is
being urged by business groups to implement an even more radical shake up in industrial relations -
one to further limit the power of unions and reshape the role of the industrial relations

MATT PEACOCK: When electrician Dave Funnell sacked an employee that he suspected of poaching a
lucrative contract, he never dreamt it would cost him $5,000 for unfair dismissal.

DAVE FUNNELL, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR: There isn't a court in Australia that would have protected me
for what he did for me.

It was just unfair and I think the whole definition of fair and unfair in the workplace relations
has got to be redefined.

MATT PEACOCK: Australia's peak union body, though, says it's usually the other way around - workers
are dismissed over basic rights.

SHARAN BURROW, PRESIDENT, ACTU: If a staff member couldn't stand up against bullying or harassment,
couldn't raise issues about safe workplaces, or, indeed, couldn't request fair wages and conditions
without fear of being summarily dismissed, then that's not a workplace that most Australians would
say is a fair thing.

Yet that's a possibility.

MATT PEACOCK: But employers say that it's an all too common story.

Frustrated by red tape and regulations, they'd rather not hire if they can't also fire.

DAVE FUNNELL: A lot of small businesses will definitely be putting on more employees as soon as we
know there's some sort of protection from these unfair dismissals.

PETER HENDY, AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY: Well, it is very possible to see those laws
change and that would be good and that would be pro-employment.

I mean, we've got low unemployment now, a 23-year low, but at 5.6 per cent, that's still 600,000,
700,000 people on the dole queues and we'd like to get that down further.

SHARAN BURROW: I would challenge John Howard to do what he said he'd do on Saturday night, to
govern for all Australians, not just for business.

MATT PEACOCK: Forty-one times John Howard brought his unfair dismissal laws before the Senate and
41 times he was blocked.

Now the Senate's within Government grasp and employers are urging him to go further.

PETER HENDY: We still have six separate workplace relations systems in this country.

And that's silly.

We should be getting it down to one system and that should be advanced as soon as possible.

That will require a Senate majority, but that is something that we'll be arguing for.

DR JOHN BUCHANAN, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: I think this is what will be interesting.

If the Government is trying to override the States, it might end up a messier situation than you
currently have.

MATT PEACOCK: Industrial relations expert Dr John Buchanan believes that Mr Howard may now
revolutionise the Australian workplace.

DR JOHN BUCHANAN: Australia is already seen as an out layer in the Western world when it comes to
industrial relations.

Employers can essentially pick and choose whether they negotiate with a union or not.

There is no other country in the world where that happens, not even New Zealand now.

So even before this election, Australia was a bit of a freak on the world stage.

If we break down the remaining edifice that we have, we will become a real social laboratory for
quite extreme free market ideas, I think.

MATT PEACOCK: Already, the building industry has been singled out for special attention.

Union organisers like Dan Murphy may soon find it much harder to enter a building site to sign up
new members.

DAN MURPHY, CFMEU ORGANISER: If you're not on site, you can't do much for the workers.

The right to be able to speak to your members is very important for any union.

It's a fundamental.

MATT PEACOCK: Also in the Government agenda, secret union ballots and independent contracts to be
excluded from the industrial relations system.

PETER HENDY: It is a very big opportunity.

If the Government actually does have a workable majority in the Senate, a lot can happen that would
significantly power the Australian economy on into the next 10 to 15, even up to 50 years.

SHARAN BURROW: What kind of Australia do we want?

That's the debate that we'll have in the Parliament and in the public.

The ACTU will be at the forefront of that debate and we would hope that whoever holds the balance
of power, whether it be Family First or whether it be the National Party, that the rights and roles
of people actually concern our lawmakers.

MATT PEACOCK: For decades, Mr Howard has urged radical workplace changes.

He's never had a better chance.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Matt Peacock with that report.

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Actor Christopher Reeve dies

Actor Christopher Reeve dies

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: Christopher Reeve was loved as the actor who brought Superman to life, but it was
the courage he showed after a horse accident left him a quadriplegic that earnt him the world's

A passionate advocate for stem cell research and an effective lobbyist for medical funding, Reeve's
high-profile fight to walk again ended earlier today.

He lapsed into a coma after a heart attack on the weekend and never recovered.

He was 52.

I spoke with Christopher Reeve when he visited Australia in 2003 to promote stem cell research.

Here's part of that interview.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The various aspects of the program sound both arduous and unrelenting, as you say.

Do you have any clear sense which of the therapies has really been yielding the dividend?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: I would say that probably the most beneficial is aquatherapy, being put in a
pool, and the benefits are tremendous.

And almost anything's possible in a pool.

In the pool, with my upper body being supported by others, I was able to actually take steps on my
own in a swimming pool.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you count that as walking?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: Technically speaking -

KERRY O'BRIEN: Given your goals?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: Because I once said that I hoped to walk by my 50th birthday and technically
speaking, I made it.

I mean, I didn't do it all by myself, but the steps forward were done by myself.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You were quoted as saying, "No-one can say exactly what technologies or avenues of
research will lead to cures.

Nobody would argue that.

So," you say, "we should err on the side of unfettered scientific inquiries."

Isn't that a little bit open-ended?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: No, it's deliberately open-ended, yes.

We should err on the side of unfettered scientific inquiry, but I mean by 'unfettered' is that when
public policies are being debated, I don't think that any particular group or religious or social
conservatives, I don't think that they should have a seat at the table.

I think that this is public policy, like a decision to go to war or various other decisions that
our elected representatives make - should be handled in the same way.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Coming back to the personal - in your book Nothing is Impossible, you wrote that you
still carry anger.

Anger at what?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: That - that this is my life.

There are days when I want the old life back again.

The things that I took for granted, just as you were saying, some people in Australia take this
country for granted, how beautiful it is, and what a wonderful place to live, but, yes, there are
times when -

It's primarily that I didn't expect that politics would be such a determining factor in hope.

I thought hope would be the product of science and funding.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Christopher Reeve who died earlier today.

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