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Hello and welcome to Meet the Press.

Helping pick up the pieces after

all the brawling. Labor's finance

spokesman and policy coordinator

Lindsay Tanner. What I'm focused on

and what we all should be focused

on is building the strongest

possible policy alternative and

making sure that we're going to

build a better country. We speak to Lindsay Tanner about operation

sunlight and later one of

Australia's biggest charities

condemns measures to force single

manyer thiss off welfare, but first

what the nations papers are

16: reporting this Easter Sunday April

Well, Kim Beazley has given Lindsay

Tanner the task not only of keeping

a tight rein on Labor's spending

proposals but also to coordinate

policy development. This morning he

promises to shed more light on how

a Labor Government would do the

numbers. Welcome back Mr Tanner?

Morning Paul. Well before we go to

taking the fudge out of the budget,

last week was dominated by the

Cole inquiry into Australia's

kickbacks to Saddam Hussein. The

star witnesses were the Trade

Minister, the Foreign Minister and

on Thursday the PM. All claim they

weren't told, they didn't ask and

anyway they didn't believe wheat

exporter AWB would be so low as to

bust UN sanctions supported by the

Australian Government to bring down

the Iraqi dick tailtor. Well Mr

Tanner, Labor's outraged as are

the major papers and yet all the opinion polls have John Howard

streets ahead of Kim, how do you

explain that? The opinion polls

actually show Labor in front thing

issue is having some impact but ultimately there's core principal

involved here. The Government's

answer to the charge that it knew

all about the whot board bribing

of Saddam Hussein seems to be that

it was incompetent so it's defence

is it's OK, we were only

incompetent. We got a Foreign

Minister who doesn't read his own

cables but neither does his office

a Deputy PM too snowed under to get

to the fundamentalal issues, the

brm who hasn't evengate a system in

his office to ensure that the

really important cables are drawn

to his attention. They're

effectively saying don't worry, it

was only mere incompetent. The

people who for years have been

trumpeting their credentials as the

great protectors of Australia's

national security are now revealed

that basically to be running the

country like zig and zag. It is

joke that would've got these people

saying it's not a problem because

we didn't know what's going on,

they should have known what's going

on and Australia's international

embarrass wplt this is very serious.

Well it does seem that the

ministers were using incompetent

as a dense but isn't the fact that

with the economy going so well that

the Government's record for

economic expense is its strong

point, strong suit, and the

perception that Labor would not be

as economically competent, it's

weak point, in fact stopping it from

becoming Government? There's no

question that the Government's overall economic position is

reasonibly strong at the moment

superficially but under neath the

surface there are major problems.

We are drawning in debt. We are

cruising on the proceeds of very

high commodity prices but at the

same time privilegity is going

backwards, our investment in

learning and education and

skillingst is going backwards and

we've got an every ever increasing

debt. The chookins will come hom to

budget paip series a bit like money's going, deciphering the hard for you to track where your Costello is that it will be very forth coming budget from Mr thing you can be certain about the presented, under Labor. The one way that the budget is going to be announcing a major overhaul of the roost at some point but today I'm

trying to unravel the da Vinci code

at the moment. All sorts of flaws.

Where he fix that I noticed in the

paper that you'll be releasing

later today you say that the

budget papers don't really let nen

see where the money's going and in

enables the Government to pork

barrel, also enables the Government

to spend $55 million on

advertising. Isn't the problem for

you the voters seem to like this?

Look lease obvious political

challenges a in this Paul but as

far as we're concerned the key

guarantee of credibility for Labor

is transparency and disclosure. We

will make sure that it's all

properly disclosed so for example,

there are something like $30

billion worth of tax concessions

handed out by the Government every

year, that's only very loosely

accounted for in the budget. You

don't get forward projections of

what that's going to cost. In some

casings they're not even assessed

at all. The end result is that

you've got no serious ability to

compare the cost and effectiveness

of tax koj sessions with expenditure. We'll fix that and

account for them and we're going to

fix many of the prorprb problems.

For example you've got two sets of

budget paymenters, the budget

papers themselves and the portfolio

budget statement, the more detailed statements. Two different

accounting frame works that don't

talk to each other. We'll fix and

that make sure you can track

spending from both sets of papers

so people can understand. The

Treasurer released the report into

international comparison of auls's

taxes during the week. He was happy

to finder with were compartively

low spending and taxing although

our top reet of 48.5 % was above

the OECD average. Thfrpblgts is an

interesting report and it shows

that we're a little over the

average and obviously that's

something that we'll have to bear

in mind. Well Lindsay Tanner,

should he do more than bear nit

mind come the kugtkugt budget There

is a genuine issue with respect to

that but it is nowhere near the

number one issue in the Australian

tax system. The big issue which is

a effectively confirmed again by

this report, is the punitive rates

of tax that ordinary middle income

earn verse to pay, when they are

increasing the apoint of work

they're doing, doing more overtime,

or changing jobs or increasing

hours because of the interaction

between the tax system and the

family payments system N some cases

people are losing 60 to 730 cents

in extra dollar they earn We flow

the problem, but fixing it is

extremely difficult isn't it?

Labor's talking tax reform rather

than tax cuts, that's fine, but tax

reform means broadening the tax

base somewhere else, doesn't it,

for example will you commit today

to pay for anything tax reform that

you make that you'll do something

about family trusts, a promise the

Treasurer made in 19978 but so far

hasn't delivered on? I can't make

specific commitments, it's not my

port 2308o to begin with and ox

obviously we are working on the

options that face up. I do have to

look at where the dollars are

coming from and one of the things

that Mr Kogs tello won't do is cut

out the outrageous waste of money

you see all through the budget,

where it's the government

advertising that's ballooned that

you mentioned before, the appalling

regional rorts scannal where you've

seen Mels and millions of dollars

poured into handing money around to National Party friends in marginal

electorates. There's many areas

where we can cut back on spending

that provides us with those

opportunities. But we are committed

to serious tax reform. And in the

last bugts we put forward an

alternative which involved

lowering the tax realities for

middle income earners which

involved changing those thresholds

to tack thal effective marginal tax rate problem.

When we return with the panel dwrb

the more Morgan poll shows 5 8perls

of Australians agree with exporting

uranium to China. Is Lindsay Tanner one of them?

You're on Meet the Press with

Labor's Lindsay Tanner. And wrk to

the panel Allison Carabine Radio

2UE and Peter Charlton the

'Courier-Mail'. The Government's

agreement to sell uranium to China

has the support of nearly 60% of

Australians according to the

latest Morgan poll. And as Labor

debates changing its no new mines

policy, 47% of its supporters agree

with the export of our yellow cake

for peaceful purposes, not so keen,

former Oils lead singer and now

Labor MP Peter Garrett? I think

unless the threshold questions of

risk, of safety, of additions to

nuclear proliferation, of consent,

prior, prior proper and informed

and of the long-term safe and

economical capture of radio active

waste, we shouldn't go any further

down the nuclear cycle Well Mr

Tanner if Labor is to win the next

election it must convince voters

of its economic credentials,

doesn't the party's three mines

urain yim policy make that more

difficult to achieve? Morning

Alison. I think it's perfectly

reasonable for a reexamination to

occur of Labor's uranium policy.

Been in place for many years and the world's changed in many

respects over that time but the

most important issue, the core

principal it's based on is nuclear

no-one proliferation. The problems

in that area have got worse in

recent years. Everybody's worried

about Iran getting nuclear weapons

for example. There's some big

questions of principal we have to

address and the problems of the use

of uranium, export of it, are not

getting smaller in the nuclear

proliferation area , so it's

something that we certainly

required to have a very serious

rethy about but I think Peter

Garrett stated the issues very

well. They're the kin of problems

we is have to address Would you

agree it's ill logical that's OK

for the Government of the day to

dig up and export uranium from

three niepbs Australia but not from

anymore? The purpose of the policy

has been to restrict the export of

Australia's uranium. It involved a

praing natic acceptance that some

export was already occurring, some

contracts and mines in place and

that's been the position for a very

long time. The world has changed.

It's changed in both directions,

the problems of nurses weapons

proliferation are now greater than

they were but of course you've also

got global warming as a different

issue that is influencing how

other countries are dealing with

nuclear energy. So, there's some

very big issues we've got to

address here. We'll do that in our

own time, we'll do that according

to our own timetable and not be

stam speeded by the media or the

Government, they're issues we'll

deal with here but we'll do that on

the basis of clear principles and non-PLO proliferation of nuclear

weapons is the most important.

Kim Beazley is deferring any debate

until next year's national

conference. Doesn't that create a problem or a perception at least

that you have a leader where's not

prepared to lead on such an

important economic issue? No, not

at all because on that basis you'd

have Kim Beazley pronouncing

instantously on every issue that

came up no matter what the broader

issues involved. That's clearly

stupid. We need to have a strong

considered debate about Australia's

approach to the nuclear fuels cycle,

about the export of uranium and

there are a number of issues that

haven't been canvass yet that are

very important. We could play a

much stronger role as a uranium

exporter as part of a relatively

small number of major exporters in

using that influence collectively

for good on nuclear weapons

proliferation. We really don't do

very much of that at the moment as

a nation. We don't seek to collectively use our influence

along with the influpbs of other

countries like Canada who are major

uranium exporters to try and

restrict the proliferation of

nuclear weapons throofpl's number

of things we could be doing, but we

aren't doing yet and I think should

be central to the debate about the

future of Labor's policy and the

future of Australia's approach. You

say that there needs to be a

committee debate but there's not

much of a debate going on within

the Labor Party itself, the debates

being run by the Greens, even

leading member of left are saying

we need more uranium exports. What

happened to the passion in the

Labor Party on uranium? I think

there's still plenty of passion

there. If you go to the average

Labor brafrpb meeting you'll hear

some passion on those issues.

You've heard our shadow Minister

for the environment putting the case

in public as to why the existing

policy is entirely reasonable, only

just within the last week or so, so

there's no doubt there is still

passion about the issue in the

Labor ranks but the passion is not

for the line by line literal words

of the xiing apologysy, it's about

what's underneath it, the fear of

nuclear weapons, about our concern

that Australian uranium is going to

end up in the nuclear weapons of

other potentially hostile countries,

it's our concern about what happens

to nuclear waste. We know the left

has been concerned about that, is

the left also concerned about the

latest chapter in the Howard

Government's policy on asylum

seekers? John Howard seems to have

handed over control of Australia's

immigration policy to Indonesia.

We'll have to change the slogan

obviously. Lit now be w we will

decide who comes to this country

and in what circumstances, except

when Indonesia gets really really

upset and then they can decide. That's effectively what the

Government's done. Because of this

drama about the West Papuan lfg,

they have buckled to Indonesian

pressure and it's a problem of John

Howard's own making. It's hardly

surprising the Indonesians are

angry when we've been spending a

lot of energy as a country putting

pressure on them to stop refugees

from the Taliban and Saddam Hussein

coming to Australia, it's hardly a

big surprise they're offended when

we are accepted as refugees people

from their country. Should we not

have accepted them, should we have

sent them back? No, I think it's

perfectly reasonable for the

decisions to have been taken in

accordance with Australian law,

that they are refugees, what John

Howard's trying to do now is

prevent that from happening when

these people fled from their

country, that they were allegedly

being persecute in, they weren't

people who'd gone from Afghanistan

to Malaysia to Indonesia, and were

not fleing from the actual country

that they feared, they were coming

from the country that they feared,

they'd come to Australia, they

should have been processed in

cordance with with our law and the

decision made whether or not they

had a well founded fear of

persecution under the act and that

happened correctly. Is there any

sympathy in the Labor Party for an

independent West Papua? Look I, I

don't believe so and certainly I

don't think that's a appropriate.

We need to keep in mind that all

around our region there are

separatist movements, there are

disputes, some of them violent,

about particular sections of

nations. You've got nit boganville,

in southern Thailand, there are

many parts of our region often with

ethnic differences and religious

differences involved where there

are major disputes, sometimes even

mini civil wars involved here and

Australia cannot set itself up as

the umpire of other countries,

boundaries. We believe that West

Papuaa is part of Indonesia, it's

recognised by the United Nations

and that's where it should stay

Back on to Labor's economic

platform, the ALP is opposed to

the full selloff of Medibank

Private. Why is it so important to retain Medibank Private in

Government ownership? There's a

couple of issues involved here.

Firstly, the Government should be

using its ownership of Medibank

Private to improve the performance

of the health insurance market. Its

very badly performed at the moment,

premiums keep rising way, way

above the cost of living. That's

hurting ordinary families. That's

in spite of the the huge amount of

mown the Government pouring into

private health insurance courtesy

of its rebate. It's got a weapon

there that could help it make the

market for efficient and it doesn't

use it. Secondly, the value of

Medibank Private the capital that

its seeking to in a sense liquidate

or to realise, was actually built

up by its members including me.

I'm a member of Medibank Private

and it's been over the years the

people who have contributed the

premiums who have helped to build

the value in that company, not

contributions from the Government.

So, although legally they might be

entitled to sell it, there's a big

question mark over their moral

entitlement to sell. Thank you very

much for joining us today, Lindsay

Tanner. And coming up, one of

Australia's biggest charitys is

boycotting a Government handout for

single mothers and disability

pensioners, Vinnies says it's

immoralment an Easter themer and

xabt minutes is taken up by

cartoonist Bill Leak in the the

'Australian'. Oh well, main thing

is they know not what we've done.

The baner reads, always look on the

bright side of life.

You're on Meet the Press. In July

the Government will be using a big

stick to encourage disability

pensioners and single mothers into

the workforce. If they don't comply,

they can lose their benefits for up

to eight eight weeks. Those

considered extremely vulnerable

will be are referred to charitys for

payments up to $6 50 to get by. The

St Vincent de Paul society refuses

to participate. Its national

director for social poll

circumstances Dr John Falzon joins

us. Welcome Dr Falzon Good morning

and happy Easter. The Minister

Kevin an Druce rejects Vinnies view

of the scheme and says it's not

immoral to nudge people to stand on

their own two feet? Our position is

very simple. We maintain that the

entire welfare to work legislation

takes away dignity, and does not

offer hope to the people who really

need the opportunities to be able

to engage in the workforce and in

society. Rather than really

providing the framework for people

to move into the labour market,

what it does is moves people from

one welfare payment on to another

lower paying welfare payment, it

makes people vulnerable to the

threat of payments suspension for

up to eight weeks, now we maintain

that it is immoral to take away

100% of a person's income,

particularly where there are

children involved. Who are at

absolutely no fault, to take away

100% of their income for up to two

months is not a way to enable

people to engage productively or

meaningfully in the labour market

If we accept your a Argentinament n

aepbs seasons St Vincent de Paul

cutting off its nose to spite its

face. These people will come to you,

will go to other charities because they haven't got anything and

you're saying to the Government we

don't want your money? We're saying

this - we will always be there for

those who have been breached, we

will always provide assistance,

that's what we do. We proif provide

charitable assistance. What we

maintain though is this - these

people are receiving chart charityy. What they deserve the

justice. It is not justice to

breach someone and then to refer

them to a charity to institutionise

this form of charity, to make

people feel that they are only

deserving of carty rather than to

have a right to be maintained and

sustained as a famlifpl we will not

be part of a system whereby people

are made to feel humiliated. We

want to see a system where people

maintain their dignity, where

they're given a chance certainly to

participate. We want to see some

carrots, not just sticks. Two

questions - one, what does it do

for a family to have income taken

away for two months and what does

what's the cumulative effect on an

organisation such as yours or the

Salvos? People come to our members

and tell us that they have no money

to pay bills, they tell us that

they have no money to put food on

the table for their children, they

tell us that they are unable to

provide a simple birthday cake for

a child when she or he reachs a

birthday. These things affect

family life not only materially but

in a profoundly emotional and

spiritual sense, people are losing

a sense of hope. What we would like

to see is a vision of hope, a

politics of hope, rather than one

of condemnation where people are

being Demonised and blamed for

their poverty. What we have long

advocated is very simplely the

main recommendation of the Senate

report into - the Senate inquiry

into poverty and that is that we

have a national anti-poverty

strategy. And that it looks at all

elements, adequate, income support,

at the moment. If you are a single

mother with two children, the

maximum allowance will only bifr

give you 76% of a minimum low cost

budget to maintain your household.

Dr Falzon, is the problem

exacerbated by the new labour laws.

Will we see the rise of a US style

working poor in this country?

Absolutely. If we follow the United

States path, what is definitely

going to be on the cards is people

moving out of the frying pan and

into the fire. This is the American

experience. It's all very well to

get the welfare roles down, that

might look good on paper but these

are really people involved. What

happened in the United States was

some people moved temporarily out

of poverty and into some kind of

minimum prosperity in the very

short-term but this was Pro

cyclical, then people found

themselves in even greater poverty

in the the greater term. Where do

they go? To charity, to extended

family networks to a balance of

lici tirbgs and illicit work. To

all sorts of means to maintain

their families but this is not the

sort of vision we want for

Australia, we want a fair and

equitable vision where there's

investment not only in adequate

income security but a labour market

where people are given the

protections they deserve. Also, let

us not forget, you can't just look

at income. We must look at the

expenditure items, where there has

been a shift of cost burden from

the public purse to the private

pocket, who does this hit the most

Zuej that the Government is in

danger of losing the Howard

battlers as a voting constituency

as a result of the combination fr

othese two policies? What Vinis is

concerned about is that the cohort

of people who are at the very

bottom at the moment is going to

grow, already we are seeing a

phenomenon that is new to

Australia's history and that is the

growth of the working poor. Over 1

million according to the Senate

inquiry into poverty. Recently we

saw that very good report on low

cost and low paid workers. We saw

evidence of what it is like to be in the workforce without those protections, we've had both

protections removed, income

security, social security system is

fast becoming a social insecurity

system. And the labour market, when

those regulations are removed and

protections are taken away, already

we see if a single mother

voluntarily leaves a job or refuses

a job offer, she can be breached.

It is highly likely that under some Australian Workplace Agreements,

she will be placed in a potion

where she will have to choose

between her child and the job.

You've given Australia lot to think

about. Thank you very much for

joining us today, Dr Falzon and thanks that Allison Carabine and

Peter Charlton. A transcript of

this program will be on the web.

Until next week, goodbye. Supertext

Captions by the Australian Caption Centre