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Beazley demands inquiry into Coalition advert -

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Beazley demands inquiry into Coalition advertising

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley is calling for an independent inquiry into the Coalition's election
advertising that led to a Reserve Bank complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission. Mr Beazley
says the issue is a question of national interest.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Let's go straight to Perth now and our program guest, the Leader of the Opposition,
Kim Beazley. Good morning and welcome.

KIM BEAZLEY, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Very good to be with you.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Did you overreact to this Reserve Bank matter given that it does seem to the work
of one maverick campaign official?

KIM BEAZLEY: No, it's not one maverick campaign official; it's the whole campaign. Here is another
example of exactly the same sort of, if you like, boiler plate-type production appearing in another
Liberal Party seat and campaign. We need an independent inquiry into this, Barry. We need to
establish very clearly what's happened here. How the Liberal Party treated the issue once the issue
was raised with them. It beggars belief that the campaign director who received the complaint from
the Reserve Bank would not have referred it into campaign headquarters. What we do find of course
is that nothing happened in their own campaign. They kept on traducing the reputation of the
Reserve Bank for the entirety of the rest of it.

This is not a question of Labor crying stinking fish or being worried about the result or whatever.
It's a question of the national interest. The independence of the Reserve Bank, its integrity, is
absolutely critical to the proper functioning of the Australian economy. Political parties have got
to be actively discouraged from traducing that. A decent independent inquiry into this would of
course target what the Liberal Party did to traduce that. But as a signal down the years, it would
stand as a beacon, if you like, or a warning post, for all political parties.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But there is no suggestion the Reserve Bank was particularly upset by all of this.
They got a complaint and they passed it on.

KIM BEAZLEY: The Reserve Bank did quite a bit. They started off by referring the matter to the AEC.
When I said that I had never seen anything like that in 25 years of politics, that is what I have
not seen in 25 years of politics. Can you recollect any time in the last 25 years the Reserve Bank
writing to the AEC to complain, and if you look at the content of the letter, it's a direct
complaint, about the character of a piece of political advertising? What the AEC said was, "Our
powers are more limited than that. There is little we can do about the fact that your reputation
has been traduced. You will have to take it elsewhere yourself", which they did. They went to the
person who authorised the particular pamphlet. But that was because it was that pamphlet that was
handed in. They could have taken this pamphlet from Parramatta which says the same thing. They
could have taken examples from Stirling here, all across Australia. It was a Liberal Party boiler
plate pamphlet changed with the authorisation and the odd fact here and there from campaign to
campaign. It was then replicated in stuff like this, where if you look, it has "Reserve Bank"
effectively stamped all over it as the source. That is what traduced the reputation of the Reserve
Bank. We have got to have a process that deters political parties from doing this again.

BARRIE CASSIDY: If this has had an impact on the reputation of the Reserve Bank, what impact do you
think that will have politically? Might it now, I suppose, need to demonstrate that it can and will
resist political pressure?

KIM BEAZLEY: The Reserve Bank is blameless here. They have had nothing to do with this. This is the
Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is the one who spuriously used their imprimatur during the last
election campaign to beef up their effort. It is they who have got the questions to answer here,
not the Reserve Bank.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Do you make any comment about the make-up of the Reserve Bank and its board?

KIM BEAZLEY: I saw that Mr Howard was out there the other day saying helpful things like, "Most of
the people on the board are my friends". I don't think that was necessarily particularly helpful.
But there are precedents for that. I think that we have all got to be jealous as Australians of the
independence of the Reserve Bank. We can have views about where we think interest rates ought to be
going and we ought to state those views. But we can do that outside the context of placing pressure
on the independence of the bank or, more particularly, we can go through election campaigns without
using them as a spurious source of propaganda.

BARRIE CASSIDY: When the Prime Minister said during the week there will be no significant rise or
fall in interest rates in the next year or so, was that a fair call and is that a call that he is
entitled to make?

KIM BEAZLEY: He is entitled to talk about interest rates. We have been encouraging him to do so,
and he is now doing that. But what he defines as significant and what you and I might define as
significant, and more particularly what ordinary Australians might decide is significant, is
something totally different. He is saying that a few rises of 0.25 basis points are okay, not big,
not a worry.

BARRIE CASSIDY: He said 2 per cent or more is significant.

KIM BEAZLEY: The first rise of 0.25 per cent created a crisis in the mind of many Australian
families coming as it did on top of the increase in the premiums for their private health insurance
and the increase in their petrol bills. The ordinary Australian family, the average middle
Australian family, paying their mortgages are now being squeezed. They are borrowed up to the hilt.
So a 0.25 basis point rise has a very big impact. They believe that if the ordinary Australian
believes that if rates rise the Liberals broke their election promises.

BARRIE CASSIDY: We have just had a big week with our Asian neighbours. Did Paul Keating get it
wrong when he predicted that Asians would never deal with John Howard?

KIM BEAZLEY: John Howard has had an awful lot of trouble reaching this point, and he has not been
terribly helpful in most of his efforts in the region for us to be able to reach this point. We are
very lucky at this moment. We have in Indonesia an Indonesian politician who really understands
Australia and Australians and thinks that it is important to understand Australia and Australians.
That is a new thing. It's a very good thing upon which we can build, and we should do so. We also
have in Malaysia a Prime Minister who is exactly the sort of Prime Minister that the times need,
with his capacity to sensibly handle Islamic issues in relation to the current struggle with
fundamentalist terror. So these are two very good developments. But are we utilising these to the
full? No, we are not. There is a benchmark here, and that is entry into this East Asian discussion.

BARRIE CASSIDY: How significant is that, though? Why should that be the litmus test?

KIM BEAZLEY: Alexander Downer and a few others said something like that when this was first
proposed, that Australia really needed to be a member of this, and so we do. We are not sure how
this is going to go, but it may end up being the central regional construct, if you like, in the
East Asian region. If we are not there, we are damaged both in security terms and in terms of our
economic interests. It is in the Australian national interest to be in there. Unfortunately, John
Howard's positioning, at the moment, will not permit us to get there.

Understand this about that Treaty of Amity, any ally of the United States could cheerfully sign
that treaty, and two have, the Koreans and the Japanese. But it has added significance in Australia
because of the errors that John Howard made in his South-East Asian positioning when he started
big-noting himself on the issue of pre-emption. What might be a possible strategy for the United
States is not for us, and merely compromised our diplomacy in the South-East Asian area and raised
to a higher notch the significance of Australia deciding to sign or not this particular agreement.
We should sign that agreement, I believe, and get on with the business of getting into this
organisation.

BARRIE CASSIDY: We are almost out of time, but I wanted to raise Gallipoli with you. There are
fresh reports today about what awaits those going to Gallipoli in a couple of weeks time, where
they will see that roadworks have really changed the landscape to some extent. Does that matter? Is
it essential that the view should be as close as possible to that that the troops saw all those
years ago?

KIM BEAZLEY: If the reports are true, it's a tragedy. Some of the journalists concerned rang me
about it and described what they had found. If what they had found is an accurate representation,
that is absolutely a tragedy. Young Australians go there year after year to try to get an
understanding of what their ancestors went through. It has become as sacred a site for Australians
as anything else you care to imagine. Part of the challenge for them, part of what they want to do,
is to be able to imagine exactly what they went there. Therefore, the topography is significant. If
the topography has been changed, that is significant.

It is just so typical of this government. They have great political positioning. They went out
there and argued that the Turks should do something about providing better transport facilities in
the area and said that they were going to put this on the World Heritage register and the
Australian national register and then there was no follow through, no effective follow through. If
what has happened is that the topography of the site has been substantially altered, then that's a
tragedy, because it cannot be repaired.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Sure, point taken that Australians fought and died there, but in the end it's
Turkish land, so to what extent can we tell them what they can and cannot do with that land?

KIM BEAZLEY: Absolutely, but it is we who asked the Turks to do this. This is very important to
understand. This is not something that the Turks naturally would have arrived at doing themselves.
They were happy to leave thing as they were. But we started putting the pressure on the Turks to do
things about parking arrangements and about the road system through the area. We put the pressure
on the Turks. I am not here attaching any blame to the Turkish Government at all. This is a lack of
follow through by John Howard. If what has happened is true, and I hope it's not, but I will have a
chance to look at it myself in another couple of weeks, then the blame lies entirely at the feet of
the Australian government: using a political opportunity to clothe yourself with the national
heritage and then not following through properly.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning.