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Peter Beattie reflects on the Labor brand -

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Peter Beattie reflects on the Labor brand

Broadcast: 26/03/2012

Reporter: Chris Uhlmann

Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie considers whether the state's election suggests there's a
problem with the ALP's brand.

Transcript

CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: We invited the new Queensland Premier Campbell Newman onto the show
tonight, but he declined, and a short time ago I spoke with former Queensland Labor Premier Peter
Beattie.

Peter Beattie, welcome.

PETER BEATTIE, FORMER QLD PREMIER: Thankyou for having me.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Is the near extinction of your party, north of the Tweed, just a problem for
Queensland Labor or Labor's brand nationally?

PETER BEATTIE: Look, it is a problem nationally. The outcome of the state election was purely on
state issues - the privatisation of Queensland Railways and issues in the campaign, one in
particular, but the ramifications are national, because Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott are very
close. Tony Abbott campaigned for Campbell Newman. And we know that sitting around that COAG table,
the Council of Australian Governments, Julia Gillard will only have two friends, and one of them
will be from South Australia, the other Tasmania. So, in political terms, yes, it changes the
dynamic, but it also gives the Liberal National Party an enormous organisational base, and in
Queensland, the win by Campbell Newman was so comprehensive, it's very difficult for the Labor
Party to even form an opposition here.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So how does the federal Labor Party build its stakes in Queensland then? What advice
would you give to Julia Gillard?

PETER BEATTIE: We have to increase our presence here - that's the first thing. And secondly, we
have to set out and explain exactly where the benefits are gonna come from the carbon tax, the
infrastructure, where it will be spent. I mean, I don't think that's been explained fully to
Queenslanders, because frankly it hasn't started to be distributed yet. But Queensland will benefit
significantly from the infrastructure investment. And in a state that's growing as quickly as we
are, the huge LNG gas industry that's starting to expand, coal, mining - all those sorts of things
- we need significant Federal Government investment in infrastructure. That's been one of the
problems. There's not been enough Federal Government investment in infrastructure, particularly in
Queensland and Western Australia, where all this wealth is being created. The Federal Government's
benefitted - and I'm going back over 20 years, whatever - that money hasn't been reinvested back in
Queensland, and that's where that infrastructure fund will do - that's what it will do, but we
wanna know where that money will go, which communities will benefit and that's what has to be
explained.

CHRIS UHLMANN: In order to sell a message you have to have the trust of the people and also people
have to be listening to you. Do you believe that people are listening to the Federal Government
under Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan?

PETER BEATTIE: Look, I believe that Julia Gillard can win the next federal election. It requires an
enormous effort in Queensland. It requires coming here on a regular basis, spending a lotta time
here, getting more ministers to spend time here. Queenslanders are very clever. They are smart,
they understand good policies, but when they vote for you, they stick, when they vote against you
as you saw in Saturday in Queensland, they certainly vote against you.

But if you look at the federal vote, it is 47-53, six per cent difference, so in other words a
three per cent improvement would make it line ball - totally different to Queensland. We went into
this state election being 16 percentage points behind, Chris. That was impossible to make up in any
election campaign. It just couldn't be done.

Now the Federal Government is a totally different ball game, but what it requires is 17 months of
commitment. It requires regular visits here, spending considerable time, demonstrating the
financial benefits that come to Queensland. We wanna know where the money's going to - we know
where it's coming from, but where it's going to, where it's going to be invested and what the
benefits are.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But it you've made no traction in the last four years, why would you make it in the
next 17 months?

PETER BEATTIE: Well, you gotta remember that the program is now starting to roll out. 1st July,
you're gonna see a lot of these things, benefits to pensions and so on. So in other words, we're
now at the pointy end where people will be able to see the benefits. The real test is now - not
past, the test is now and how we sell the benefits of this, how we sell the benefits of the mining
tax. I mean, you know, people who complain about the mining tax - I mean, it's our minerals in the
ground, they belong to Australians. I mean, we should be benefitting from them. I mean, we sell
them off; whatta we got left? I mean, we should have left the investments and the money that comes
from the mining tax. And the whole concept of a mining tax means at the end of the day,
Queenslanders, Australians, will benefit from it. That's what we've gotta get across: what it means
in tangible terms, Chris - tangible terms.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Labor's state secretary in Queensland Anthony Chisholm says that this election marks
the end of the Carr-Beattie model and by that he talks about conservative economic management and a
law and order focus. Is that the way you see it?

PETER BEATTIE: Oh, look, I think that's a valid point. I mean, we were conservative when it came to
fiscal management. We had a strategy that was about balancing books. We had a triple A credit
rating when I was Premier. We were cautious about those sorts of things.

The bottom line is that we need to refocus. We need to make sure we try and become an opposition
here. And that's the real crisis for us, Chris: there is no Opposition here. We have seven or eight
members. There are 18 ministers in cabinet. We don't even have one member per minister. Some shadow
ministers will have to have three portfolios. But we need to get a future leader, we need to get
sound long-term policies, we need to reengage the community and remember who is boss, that is the
people of Queensland. Some people used to whinge about me when I changed my mind, and they used to
say "Backflip Beattie" and whatever, but I actually listened to people. 'Cause people are the boss
and we've gotta go back to listen to what people have to say, otherwise we will be out of power for
two or three generations instead of the nine to 12 years which this will require in our rebuilding.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Now Anna Bligh's seat of South Brisbane is going to be contested again in around
about a month's time. You said that Cameron Dick or Andrew Fraser should run for that seat. Neither
of them are going to stand. Do you fear that you might also lose that seat?

PETER BEATTIE: Look, I have to be honest, I would have liked one of them to withstood - one of them
to stand in that seat. I mean, I'm a strong supporter of Cameron Dick. He's a future leader, a very
strong person, but frankly I understand after the belting the Labor Party got on Saturday that
they'll want to reengage with their families and so on, and I respect that. I just I guess was
taking the optimum position. But look, the party will select a good candidate. Winning it's another
matter. It will be tough. It will be very, very tough. I mean, the party's got a council campaign
in five weeks' time at City Hall and in other local governments, but the Brisbane City Council's
the biggest in Australia. We'll be lucky to win it because the Labor Party's about as popular as a
pork chop. All those wards will be at risk. We've got a fight on our hands, but the problem for us
is we have to clearly say to Queenslanders, "We don't want Brisbane City Hall to be just the 19th
ministry." Campbell was the Lord Mayor. His deputy took over. We don't want Brisbane to be just the
19th ministry of George Street. So, we need balance. We need to make sure that there's an effective
Opposition because we know that good government only comes about when you've got a good opposition.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Peter Beattie, thankyou.

PETER BEATTIE: Thankyou, Chris.