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Good evening. A scathing

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passed on when people in

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APPLAUSE

Good evening and welcome to

predictble 'Q&A', the program another live and under

questions. Tonight where you get to ask the

questions. Tonight I'm joined

by Australia's Defence

Minister, fits. Academic and

musician Kate Crawford, the

former Minister for the arts

and sport now shadow

Attorney-General George

Brandis, founding member of the

Chaser and could've been intern

to Hillary Clinton Charles

Firth. And New South Wales

State Liberal MP Pru Goward.

Please welcome our panel.

APPLAUSE Before tonight's

program our audience put

forward the questions they'd

like to sct panel. We've chosen

those we think are the best.

The members of the panel

haven't seen those questions,

they'll be answering them off

the cf. 'Q&A' is live, you can

send your name, address and

questions via the Webb at 'Q&A'

rr. Or by SMS to the number on

question and answer question your screen. via the Webb at

and answer

At 'Q&A' rr.

This question from Romi

Zavala-Cano. Why despite the

fact that her husband is a

political figure that Ms Neal

seems to be copping all the

flak. Do you think that jender

is playing a part in the

treatment? Belinda Neal is the

Federal Labor MP whom Kevin

Rudd has ordered to undergo

anger management counselling

after a series of headline

stories about her temper. Her

husband is the New South Wales

education Minister. This all

began after a big night out

that both of them had a

restaurant rather brilliantly

named Ig wanna Joe's. Sexism or

not? Lucky me. This is one of

those quite nasty stories. It's

a case of bad behaviour,

whichever way you slice it.

When it comes to whether or not

there's a gender bias here, I'm

not entirely sure there is. I

think Kevin Rudd has play this

had quite well by suggesting

very quickly Belinda take

herself off to anger management

therapy and in some ways we can

learn from this that hopefully

in the New South Wales

Government we'll see Iemma step

up and do the same for Della

Bosca. If that doesn't happen

at the very least I hope the

Liberals will realise that

possibly once amongst their

ranks Troy Buswell couldbank

about seeing a therapist if

indeed they do have therapists

for chair sniffing. I'd like to

think we'd see a few more of

our politicians who tend to get

a bit tense to see a therapist.

I think it's healthy. Charles

Firth, you're no stranger to

angerment classes. I tend to

agree with you. I think Belinda

Neal has been treated very

unfairly in this. I agree with

the version of events that one

of her mates put out very early

on in this peace, she wrote a

statutory declaration saying

that Belinda Neal never lies. I

think subsequently we've found

that that statutory declaration

is entirely true.. So... She

never swears, she's a person of

great, sort of moral... I think

the thing that's going on here

is that Kevin Rudd has the

numbers to be able

numbers to be able to rap

Belinda Neal over the knuckles.

Morris Iemma is a wimp who

needs Della's support in caucus

and can't do anything about it.

It's mates versus, you know,

Belinda Neal, she's a little

woman backbencher, might as

well... No, not...

LAUGHTER I'm not saying that...

Shall I give you a...

Shall I give you a... Quit

while you're ahead. That's the

- pru, you'll back me up,

you're a feminist. Wellering

sort of! I think the whole idea

Shall I give you a... Quit LAUGHTER I'm not saying that... of this all being about her...

sort of! I think the whole idea you're a feminist. Wellering - Pru, you'll back me up, while you're ahead. That's the

while you're ahead. That's the Shall I give you a... Quit LAUGHTER I'm not saying that... of this all being about her.

of this all being about her... sort of! I think the whole idea you're a feminist. Wellering - Pru, you'll back me up,

I'mlist lost for words. It's

nothing to do with her bad

behaviour. That's just a red

herring. What?! This issue is

about whether or not she She

by threatening people with corrupted the lays of the land

their jobs and threatening

their licences. It's a very

serious issue. Oh come on!

no... Pru, you've put your

sexual discrimination political hat on. Put your

Commissioner hat on and creas

the - address the point made by

Labor MP Julia Irwin this

morning in defence of Belinda

Neal. She says the women of the

Parliament are always being

singled out by the media for

these kind of stories. Do you

deny sna? - that? Absolutely.

It doesn't May pay anybody to

behave badly in Federal or

State politics. I don't think

she's been singled out but to

keep trivialising it as a bad

behaviour issue when we're

talking about a corruption

issue is a serious thing. Wh

where's the corruption? The

possibility of there being corruption. That's what we

should be investigating. Not

whether Mr Rudd is ideally

placed to be a counsellor.

Anger management? That's not a

hanging offence. There'd be

nobody in this room who

couldn't probably deal with -

do with a bit of that. It's

whether she has abused her

position as mema member of

Parliament particularly with a

- by her marriage of someone

who by inference she can draw

into that. This is an ethical

question. Joel Fitzgibbon,

you're the same party, the same

Parliament. By the way, Julia

Irwin also pointed out your old

mate Mark Latham broke a cab

driver's arm and there was no

party action against him.

Certainly no anger management

classes.

LAUGHTER Is this a - one rule

for men, another for women? He

always gets a mention. I was pretty confident I might be

left out of this part of the

conversation. On the issue of

sexism I think another

politician is basically the

wrong person to scsmt we all

develop a pretty healthy

cynicism towards the media.

Something went wrong

obviously, that night. You

about I think it's been largely

beat up by the media. It was a

piss-up at a pub that got out

of hand and it's been blown out

of all proportion. There's

nothing to do with - But kids

got their jobs - The

law. That's not true. You and

WorkChoices, remember that.

Kids got their jobs threatened.

Yeah, it was an incredibly

embarrassing event. Where the

power obviously rushed to her

head, she's bust just been

elect add backbencher. There we

are. You've finally got it. The

power has rushed to her

head. I'm with Pru. It is about

bad behaviour but there's a

deeper issue. The deeper issue

is abuse of power. Why have I

been put between two prudes?!

LAUGHTER Just listen for a

moment. ... Is a powerful

person in her own right. Come

over to that side. Influential

member of Parliament, married

to a State Labor moib and when

- Minister and when a scene

turnsing wli what is her

reaction? It is to say "I are

the power - have the power to

deprive you of your licence,

because of who I am, because of

the political networks to which

I belong to make sure you get

sacked". That's not just about

bad behaviour. That is about

abuse of power. George, you

have ever been to the Central

Coast? If she wants to be lady

of the Central Coast she can be

it. They can have the Central

Coast. (all talking over each

other) Hold on. Hold on, hold

on everybody. Hole on

everybody. George. George. Just

wait a minute. Joel Fitzgibbon

I want to hear if there is a

defence to what's being said over this side of the table. First of all,

table. First of all, George

should know by thank you now

that when the Government of the

day has got itself in a big

enough pickle it doesn't really

need the assistance of the opposition, just trying to

point score on the issues, not

helping to answer the very

question that was asked. That

was whether Belinda Neal has

cop add harder time because

she's woman. I like to think

the answer to that is no. But

when you run for Parliament you

put yourself to - before the

court of the

Unfortunately there are no real

rules of evidence or any

procedural fairness involved.

We all put ourselves up for ha.

We've got to expect tougher

scrutiny than members of the

general public. I don't know

what happened - absolutely. I

don't know what happened that

night. Tony, none of us dosmt

we'll sue ho it washes out over

the course of the next few

days. Sno you've got a pretty

fair idea. Six spontaneous

statutory declarations from the

staff and they were sufficiently persuasive to persuade the Prime Minister to

interrupt his trip to Japan to

ring her up to counsel her.

They were persuasive enoif

enough get the Deputy Prime

Minister to openly condemn her

in the media this morning. You

can't airbrush this away by

saying it doesn't really

matter. What matters is the

character of the threat, to use

the power that this person has that others in the community

don't have. That the victims of

the threat stmt have in order

to subject them to a detriment. Alright. Well...

APPLAUSE George Brandis SC, we

should make the point. I want

to hear your response. George

is a lawyer, he should know

better. He has come to a

conclusion without knowing all

the facts. I don't know all the

facts. We'll let that wash out

in the end. I'm not here to

defend Belinda. She's good

local member. She's entitled to

some procedural fairness and

we'll let it wash out. It would

be sexism if it was just about bad behaviour but I think there

is a bigger issue. That is why

it continues to be an issue of

public interest. We're going to

another question op the same

subject. From Sonia erington.

Hi. As the public demands

greater transparency and

accountability from

corporations, governments and

public figures should a three

strikes you're out type of

system be implemented? Question

is to what you do about issues

like this. Kate Crawford? Well, it's got a certain kind of

appeal. You can keep them accountable. You could say

you're up to No. 2 you better

be on your best behaviour. I

also think that ultimately

politicians are people too.

They are prone to making occasional nightmarish

decisions and in thecation of

Belinda I think possibly some

very poor judgment calls on the

night. This can tend to happen.

I don't want us to turn the

process of democracy into a

best behaviour area, where

everybody has to be running

around making sure they're

being very politically correct

and on their best behaviour at

all times. I think we do need

to scrutinise politicians'

behaviour but I'd be really

wary of mandating any kind of

three strikes policy. Joel Fitzgibbon, would you get one

strike for a big night out at

Scores night club in New York?

If you got so drunk you

couldn't remember seeing the

lap dancers?

LAUGHTER It's not me proposing

the system! I'm not going to go

there. but I think suffice to

say I think our democracy works

pretty well and if Belinda Neal

and any other politician... I

think the Democrating process

will have taken care of her in

threories' time. Is there a

sort of Labor certified anger

management team that are going

to be brought in? I haven't

quite worked out where this is

going to happen? Does anyone

know? I suspect there's about

to be. I was a bit pissed off

with Rudd coming out and sort

of condemning Belinda Neal when

if you look at the separation

of powers. she's a backbencher,

she's part of the legislature,

Rudd's in charge of the

executive. I know this is all a

bit technical but Rudd has

nothing to do with Belinda

Neal. It's the party who should

look after this sort of thing.

A three-strikes you're-out

policy, I think it should be

three-strikes and you're in. I

don't understand why people

don't like their politicians to

be a bit human. The Scores

night club thing, you were...

Saw the internal party polling,

Joel. It gave him a bit of a

bump. It was the mini sex

scandal that Kevin Rudd needed

to have.

LAUGHTER Of course it was sell

All set up. Three strikes

you're out, I agree in the best

test of how the electorate

feels about somebody is that

vote every three or 4 years,

and that's when they make a

valued assessment, that's when

they take into account human

frailtyies. Because the

electorate has a great nose for

what's right, and for fraud,

and they've got a great nose

for knowing when somebody was a

bit off balance but on-balance

is a good person. I think

that's what they'll do in this

case. Let's see if anybody from

the audience wants to make a

comment. Yes, down the front.

I'm just - quite amazed at

this hasn't come up before. The

comparison between the Belinda

Neal incident and the John

Brogden incident. Both forms of

bad behaviour, both examples

where the media have played a

massive part. This is something

that hasn't been commented on a

lot. We're seeing huge hysteria

generated in the media, much

larger than what the incident

probably justifies and in the

case of John Brogden we saw

someone that really was in a

lot of troublg, lost their

political career, what do you guys really think about the

power of the media in the whole

cycle of this incident? Kate

Crawford? It's a crshl power.

If we started being a Walkley

Awards to the people who sold

papers rather than the

journalist who is wrote them

Belinda Neal would be getting a

Gold Walkley. She'd been on the

front pages of the papers for 5

days running. In the case of

John Brogden that was quite a

damaging experience. In this

sense there does have to be

some accountability by the

media to say these are human

beings, people's lives that are

in fact under extraordinary

strain. We can see how this

plays out with our politicians

when they are in fact becoming

very upset. I think in the case

of blinda, rightly, she's not

coping with this very well

right now. This is an issue for

the media sector to think about

and to scrutinise its own

ethical practice. George

Brandis, should you as a - an

opponent get this in

perspective or should you score

as many big political points as

you possibly can while this

story's still running? For a

start I think that Belinda

Neal's behaviour and what Kevin

Rudd and Julia Gillard have

made of Belinda Neal's

behaviour really spikes for

itself. Without anybody having

to score any political points.

This was plainly bad behaviour.

It was considered to be such by

the Prime Minister and as I -

point I was making before is that it was something worse

than that because it was an

attempt to abuse baur. You look

at the John Brogden case,

right, now John Brogden lost

his career over that. Over that

event. We will wait to see with

interest what happens to

Belinda Neal. I think anybody

who goes into public life just

has to accept the fact that

what they do what, they say,

their public conduct, which

includes conduct at any public

place, is a proper matter of

scrutiny and of public

judgment. That's one of the

prices people pay for having

careers in public life. I

haven't heard anyone

incidentally suggest that it is

inappropriate for the media to

call attention to this. OK, I'm

going to go to another question

from the audience on the same

subject again, from Linda

Daniel. As part of that media

coverage, Belinda Neal is

reported to keep photos and

names of her enemies in the

freezer. Do you keep track of

your enemies and if so how?

LAUGHTER George Brandis, let's

start with you. I'm not really

sure who my enmys are.

LAUGHTER You don't have any!

They're all on your een Own

sides, George. I'm not sure

that I do indeed have any

enemies but if I did I

certainly wouldn't engage in

the kind of Nixonian behaviour

that's attributed to Belinda

Neal. There is something, I

don't know if the reports are

true, these reports were sourced within the Labor Party. It seems particularly in New

South Wales to have this

extremely Gothic culture,

but... there are areas of the

Labor Party particularly in New

fighting the State of Origin South Wales - You still

State of Origin, are you?

Queenslander? You one. You won. There are areas of the New South Wales Labor Party that

are seriously weird. These

reports that came from within

the Labor Party that this

person puts a photographs and

the names of her legion of

enemies in the freezer I

think... I can't improve on

that. I don't wants to make

light of it but you did once

refer to a former prime

minister as a lying row dent.

Rode ent. I never did, you

know. Did you at least keep his

name in the refridge

rarity? No, far from it. I have

a photograph of him on the

mantle piece. There you go. I

keep the name of my enemy in

the freezer. His name's

Kelvinator. Oh... I got some

applause. Shall the rumour I

heard 'cause I've got links

into the ALP, the rumor I heard

with the Belinda Neal keeps her

enemies in the freezer! Joel

Fitzgibbon, I'm sure you can

refute that at the very

least. I'm wondering whether

George is prepare ed to sign a

stat deck rr on the rodent. I

think we should be grateful the

only thing in the freezer is

the photographs. And now... In

politics we all have enemies.

It's a reality. You only need

about 50 plus 1% to survive and

I find the best way to keep

them to account is to have a

good memory. An Annen my is in

your own eyes. Most people

don't take too much notice of

anybody anyway. If you have

your enemy in the freezer it

tends to be because you think

they're your enemy. You'll be

surprised very often to know

they don't even know your name.

I think the whole idea of keeping people in the fridge

really is a reflection of... On

how you see your self in your

world. Or something that happen

nd Adelaide! I wonder if all those people in the freezer

have been told their names are

thrsmt Seriously for a moment,

politicians tend to... Thanks

for ing us back down to

earth. Tend to keep their

enemies on speed dial. I was

looking at Joel's phone before.

You should see the people on

his speed dial. It's all his

enemies. Kate Crawford, do

appreciate Professors have

enemies? Associate Professor

s. The I cad my, everyone's

friends. We stab each other in

the back in journal articles,

it's very effective. Then we

have collections of voodoo

dolls. No, I think this is one

of those particularly political

issues of having to really

track your enemies.

Unfortunately in the case of

Belinda I think the is

increasing - the number is

increasing rapidly this

particular week. The gentleman

with his hand up. No, sorry,

wrong one. I beg your pardon. I

think - what hasn't been

addressed is this could abbig

problem for the Government

considering even though she's a

backbencher she got drunk while

the Government's trying to

combat this whole binge

drinking culture in Australia.

I think that would come back to

really hit the government and I

was wondering if the Liberals

are gonna try and attack the

Government for that sort of

issue. Joel Fitzgibbon, I

don't suppose binge drinking

was involved in this case but

might like to take that. I'm

not Belinda Neal's lawyer but I

come back to the basic point,

was Belinda Neal drunk? We were

talking about the power of the

media, and you have come to the

conclusion she was drunk

because the media said she was

drunk. I don't know whether she

was drunk or not but if she was

then thank would be a... No,

Charles, because on a

backbencher salary she could

never afford them. If she was

drunk that's an inconsigs ebt

message from the Government and

that would be bad for the

Government. It wasn't just the

media, though. There were

reports from the staff. That's

the whole point. If there were

six reports from the staff, why

would six staffers lie about

it? These are now subject to a

police investigation, Tony. We

have to be careful about what

we say. There is a serious

point this man is making and

that is six members of the

staffer with no motive to do

so, spontaneously produced

statutory declarations making a

serious complaint. I think

really you do a disservice to

your own government to try and

trivialise this. I agree, Tony,

there was obviously sufficient

activity at that club that

night to cause the Prime

Minister to become sufficiently

concerned to issue a statement.

I accept that. But let us not

knot come to all these

conclusions before she's had

her, if you like, day in court.

Particular ply when so much of

this information is coming from

the media. 5 days in a row now.

It's pretty tough. Tonight as

well. I'm going it draw a line

under it now. Remember that 'Q&A'...

APPLAUSE

'Q&A' is live from 9.30 in

the eastern States. You can put

your questions via our web site

or by SMS, simply text your

name, location and question to

the number on your screen.

Thanks for all of the

questions you've been sending.

We can't ask them all but this

week we put together a sample

of what you've been asking.

You'll find last week's measure

of what's on your minds on the

web site. Let's go back to

tonight's issues. Our next

question comes from Mathew

Tukaki in the audience. Um, my

question is - I'll ask a

question in a minute, I agree

with Charles on the question of

Belinda Neal. I want my

politicians to be human. OK,

she's probably been bad and

John Della Bosca's probably

been bad but I want to know

they're like me so I can vote

for them, whether they're

Liberal or Labor and I think 5

days in the press I'd like to

hear something about education

and health and indigenous

affairs and other things than

whether or not she did or didn't...

APPLAUSE And indeed your

question. My question - is it

time that women were allowed to

seb on the frontline? And by

"Frontline" I mean in physical

combat roles in our defence

forces especially given that

our recruitment and retention

rates are starting to drop and

have been for a long time? Is

it time we bit the bullet, not

literally, engaged more women

actively in our defence

forces. Pru Goward. As

Commissioner that was quite a

big issue and in the end I

concluded that it was going to

be a matter of time and the

community was not comfortable

altogether with it. But that if

you had women of a certain

strength and certain capacity,

then why not, that you

shouldn't be judged for the

frontline on the basis of your

agenda but on the basis of your

ability to perform that role.

I'm sure that's where we'll get

to. The other issue I noticed

was because some women rarely

have frontline combat duties

they then don't get considered

for promotion up into the

consider ranks of the service

and no wonder so many of them

drop out. Were you finished?

Kate Crawford. I think it's one

of those issues where equity's

involved f women wish to fight

in the frontlines I think that should be their choice. I think

there is a bigger issue here

which is about the culture of

joining the military, at the

moment it's a very masculine

culture. Unfortunately there

are some really nasty incidents

of women having to go through

processes where they're being

humiliated at work simply

because they want to be part of

defending their country. In

actual fact I think we have to

look much more closely at that

kind of very male culture of

the military before we can

start saying this is a level

playing field. At the moment it

simply isn't. Charles Firth. I

don't think anyone should join

the military.

APPLAUSE Yeah. Save what, 16,

$17 billion a year. Could

divert that into education. And

how come all our questions

tonight are from, you know,

people who are feminists and

things. You have stacked...

This is the action, that's

right. I think - this is the

ABC,that's right. Pru brought

up the serious point that the

officer classes are stacked out

with men. Part of that is about

recruitmentment of women into

the sort of lower ranks of the

military, actually the officer

classes come from a stream from

day one nowadays through ADFA

and stuff like that. That's

where you have to look for

jender equity. Joel, that's

what you should be going and

doing tomorrow morning. Is

getting some quotas in there,

like the ALP. Always happy to

follow your advice, Charles.

thanks. On a serious note, Joel

Fitzgibbon, give us your view

on the actual question - should

women serve in frontline roles

in combat? It's a very serious

question. Hopefully the

audience will know I've been

very active in this area in the

relatively short time I've been

the dwoim ster. Only 13% of the

permanent Australian defence

force are womenment . The

number's been stagnant for a

time. It's declined. Part of

the problem is cultural as Pru

has identified. One of the

barriers in my view, is the

inability of women to progress

all the way through the ranks.

I say we're restricting our

talent pool here by sending a

subliminal mess age to women fa

while they could become the CEO

of a major bank they can never

become the CEO of the Australian defence force. I

think that does restrict our

pool. We've got to do much

better. We're working up some

programs to deal with it. Yes,

inability to go all the way to in the minds of some women the

the frontline could be a

barrier to their decision to

join the defence force. Could

you imagine in your time as

Minister women serving in

frontline combat roles in Afghanistan? The reality here

is that we do discriminate in a

sense against women by

excluding them from some

frontline positions. It's

changing, we're bringing down

some of those barriers. I'd

much rather see us Dick

discriminate on the basis of

physical ability than an

gender. Can you join the SAS

for example if you're

woman? No, you can't. Some

people would argue it shouldn't

be on gender, if a wim - women

has the ability to be just as

fast and strong and as agile as

a man, applying the - for the

same position arguably she

should be allowed to do that

position. This is a debate that

runs deep in the defence

forces, you get all sorts of

spurious argument abouts why

women shouldn't be performing these roles. There are some

pretty good arguments from time

to time as well. You asked the

question, you get to have a

response. The follow up

question is do you think it's

not a case of what happens

within the military but public

perception that we don't

actually - we're in the

prepared yet to see women die

in combat? Is it more about

what the public think as

opposed to what we should be

doing and as a matter of public

policy? Just following through in making senior appointments

in senior ranks? I like to

think that the people who put

up most opposition to women

fighting in the frontline are

people concerned both about the

safety of women and the safe of

the - safety of the people she

would serve next to. There are

some fairly valid

arguments. What are the valid

arguments? There is quite a lot

of evidence about women serving

in the frontsline role. That it

would be distracting. There's

that. If you are in a dangerous

combat situation apparently men

are more inclined to take the

bullet for a woman, risk their

lives as well as... There's all

sorts of gendered relationships

in the frontline that can from

compromise in the end all of

them. Isn't that something

about training that... Yes, I

think other armies have tried

that. I think the Israeli

army's tried that. There is

just gonna be a limit on this

until we either improve the

training or have some other

ways of doing it. It's

quite... There's quite a few

with their hands up. There is a

young women with her hand

up. Is this like a parallel

between the military and

politics? Because it does seem

that politics especially in

this country, it's very male

dominated. And women when ever

they get high up they always

seem to be discriminated. I'd

throw that straight to Pru

Goward because when you entsr

ed New South Wales politics you

described it it's a most sexist

environment. I'm often reminded

of this. I think it's very

tough for a women. There is

such a think as collegiality

and I think there is a sense of

isolation that a lot of women

report the . The hours, the

intensity of political life is

not easy for somebody with a

strong commitment to a family.

I think the aggressiveness of

the Parliaments and the fact

that you are expected to be

aggressive as a way of proving

yourself to your colleagues, I

think that makes it more

difficult for women. Also I

think increasingly men. I think

it is just a matter of

increasing the numbers,

increasing them on merit, not

on quotas. And making sure in

the end that the party that

you're a member of recognises

that you've all got a right to

be there and not to pigeon hole

anybody. Not to give women the

soft stuff or to expect they

can't handle economics.

Alright, I'm going to change

the subject again. Let's go to

a video question from our web

site uploaded by Sturtle, from

Western Australia.

Question is - why should a

child with less money in his

pocket receive a lesser

education? Private schooling is

fundamentally wrong, it

promotes inequality, it

definitely isn't egalitarian,

why on earth does Labor support

it? Kate Crawford. It's

interesting, isn't it, because

private education is by its

nature an elite institution.

It's for people who have the

money who can afford it. That's

why it's so appealing to

parents to say you're going to

get this fantastic education

for your child. You should

consider private education. I

however happen to be a

passionate advocate of public

education, and unfortunately

what we have seen in the last

10 years particularly looking

at the way in which Howard

decided to fund private

schools, we've seen a real loss

of resources in this critical

sector. I think unof the thing

we need to do is think about

one of the things we - what can

we offer in public schools to

draw parents to say "I can

trust this system for my kids".

I have been to both public and

private schools. The reason why

I was sent to a private school

for my high school education

was because my mother wanted to

send me to a single sex school

because she had read the

research and it's still the

same today that women tend to do better in single sex ebb

vierms in high school. She

couldn't find the town that I

grew up that there was no

single sex public school. We

need to think about the sorts

of things parents are looking

for and find ways the public

sector can offer this. I think

it's a critically important

thing we have strong public

education. George Brandis, I

know you're going to be for

freedom of choice for parents,

but it does stand to reason the

more you pay for education the

more you get. I am - you're

right, Tony - in favour of

freedom of choice in education.

I think there is a false premise in the question.

Because what it's gentleman who

asked the question disregards

is the fact that many of the

poorest schools in this country

are private schools. In

particular, the poorest schools

in the Catholic system. You

have, people... The Catholic

schools are the large Estelle

employment of the private

school system. And you have a

large element of the Catholic

school system which is less

well resourced than many public

schools. So I think this

stereotyping notion that if you

send your children to a private

school therefore you are

seblding them to a wealthy

school is not sen - is nonsense. I do believe in

freedom of choice. I believe

that parents are entitled to

send a child to a school that

teachers will bring them up,

for example, in the family religion or if they don't want

the child brought up according

to a particular religious faith

as Kate in the example of Kate,

if a parent wants a child

brought up in a single educated

in single sex school that's a

matter for the family, that's a

matter for the parents, what we

need to do is we need to fund

those schools and give parents

the incentives to... The

financial capability of being

able to afford those schools.

So rather than reinforcing the

perception of elitism by making

the schools so expensive that

the only upper middle class and

very wealthy people can afford

them what, we need to do is put

them in the reach of middle

class and lower middle class

and working people. Which is

what the Howard Government

tried to do. It was obscene the

amount the Howard Government

gave to private schools.

APPLAUSE If it was genuine

freedom of choice, then the

Government would give all their

money to the public schools and

you could go to the private

schools if you wanted to pay

for it and that's your choice.

That's freedom of choice.

APPLAUSE And then you would are

have a much better public

system. I know it's all about

the Catholic vote and has been

since Menzies and that's why we

have this terrible system.

Let's blame Menzies, a-agree.

But it is just obscene... the

Federal Government... I think

it was something like $8

billion a year more to... Um...

The private school sector than

the public school. By the end

they were funding the private

school sector more than the

university sector. It's an

obscenity. You've forgotten the state Government that is

entirely fund the State

sector. I'm talking about the

Federal Government.

Howard. Don't be ridiculous. The Federal Government is there

topping it up. That's the only

funding the private schools

get. They don't get... I'm

saying it was an obscene amount

of money. They fund all the universities and that was less

than the amount they were

giving to Kings School for

their 17th... Olympic swimming pool.

APPLAUSE And their polo

field. That's not true. Quick

point Pru Goward. The point

about private education is that

no Government could ban it, the

points about public education

- I'm not saying ban it, just

make people pay for it. OK. The points about public education

is we've got to invest in it

properly so our public

education is competitive with

private education, all these

parents do not snd these scils

kids to these schools just because they're snobs. They

think they get a - Because

Howard underfunded the

Government system. That was

long before Mr Howard. I think

we have to take public

education seriously. Joel

Fitzgibbon, this is a

fundamental point. You have to

ask the obvious question - why

is it countries with bigger

populations than Australia,

France and Germany, can have a

perfectly good public secondary

education system that everyone

wants to send their kids to, so

they virtually have no serious

private education system. Why

is it so different

here? Notwithstanding George's

misguided views and his attempt

to argue the Howard Government

had the balance right I hope

everyone on the panel indeed

everyone in the audience agrees

on one point - that every

Australian child is entitled to

be able to access a decent

education. I know that numbers

are changing, I think still

around 60% of Australian kids still attends a public school.

If we don't properly resource

public schools we don't have

much of a future. That should

be the starting point. I can

agree with George on one point

- parents should have a choice.

I'm the product of the

Catholic system myself. Our No.

1 pliert should - shall -

priority should be thery

sourcing of public schools. Why

do we argue about one or

either? Why aren't we investing

sufficient money to ensure

every kid gets that opportunity

then later on argue about how

we carve it up. I think we can

safely argue we're doing more

but the balance wasn't right,

George, last time around. I

think we can do much

better. It's not a zero sum

game. Every dollar we invest in

education is a dollar well

spent. The money that the

Howard Government invested in

private education most of which

went to poor schools, every

dollar of - it did. (Audience

protest) If you look at the

figures there is no question

most of that money went to poor

schools and particularly in the

poor... In marginal

seats. Every doll art Howard

Government invest end those

schools made those schools more

affordable and therefore less

elitist. I have to quickly

gog... We're going to finish up

with this topic shortly. Down

the front there are a number of

young women with their hands

up. I want to make a statement

first - thank the State

Government for offering us the

teachers less than the CPI pay

rise so thank you. We ob yuly

work between 9 and 3. That's

what we do. I have a question -

I go to McCellar girls, which

is a public girls school.

is a public girls school. I

want to know, you say that we

put all this money into private

education when most of their

students are paying 20,000-odd

dollars to go do that school

every year. I know that I have

friends who go to school and

take apple laptops, they are

these amazing resources, I know

that we go to school and it's a

great school, but we don't

obviously have the same

resources, we have nowhere near

the same resources. Yet we put

money into these schools where

stients students are paying

$20,000 a year each student and

why are we put sog much nun

money into schools that are

being so funded by their own

students?

APPLAUSE I'm gonna throw that

to Joel Fitzgibbon. Really that

is a question for the sitting

Government. Yeah, sure. Surely

you'd agree that there is no

harm in the Government

investing the equivalent of the

what they don't spend sending a

kid to a public school on a

private school. That's not

necessarily I would've thought

such a heinous crime. But can

we just touch on computers.

We've got this lap top computer

roll-out happening Tony, Julia

Gillard today announced the

recipients of that project for

the first round. I made a

number of announcement as as

consequence of that today in my

own electorate. Those computers

went pretty fairly across both

the public and private sector.

Importantly the goal was to

ensure that every student

whether attending a public

school or private school

eventually faces a

computer-to-student ratio of no

greater than one to two. That's

the objective. Not debating

about who ask most deserving

but making sure all children no

matter where they go to school

have access to that important

technology. It's no use giving

the kids computers though if

the teachers don't have one. I

don't have a lap top. They're

gonna be computer literate but

I'm not. You don't have access

to the computers? I have my own

personal one but I don't have

one at school I can use all the

time when I need it. Don't

think anyone in the Government

believes dropping a computer on

someone is the total solution.

There is teacher training

involved and - in connections

and access to high speed

broadband which we're also

doing. These are all important

issues as well. Schools in my

electorate are so run down they

don't have enough power to run

them. They can't run

them. That's a state Government

issue. Let's not put it in the

too hard basket because it's an

infrastructure issue. Let's

have governments working

together. Let's not overproms

because one. Problems with the

so-called education revolution

and the tool box of the 21st

century, it sounded great but

when you looked at the Labor

Party's policy it hadn't taken

into account the cost of the

infrastructure. You're

delivering on an end product

without providing the

infrastructure to enable it.

That was a tremendous hole in

your policy. Your government

did what, George? The Howard

Government spent more on

emceags both secondary and

tertiary education than any

Australian Government had ever

spent. You had $3 billion out

of universities for a

start. Higher education

endowment fund. You give

someone a car they'll need some

fuel. We didn't ignore these

issues, he with were - just a

policy to bring the student ratio down. We will now work

with the schools and State

Governments to make sure they

can properly be resourced.

Let's try and do T let's not

try and put it in the too hard

basket that George seems to

want to do. Let's get on with

the job and overcome these

problems. Wait a minute. You're

watching 'Q&A' with Joel

Fitzgibbon, dwoim ster, Kate

Crawford, shadow

Attorney-General, George

Brandis, Charles Firth and Pru

Goward. Next week we'll have

another panel next week. You

can be part of the audience by

register ing on the web site.

Let's go to our next question

from Alan Clarke. When can I

ask my question in Where's Alan

Clarke? We have our Prime

Minister is in Japan at the

moment, he's taken the high

moral ground about whaling.

That's very commendable. On

the other hand, here in

Australia we have so many

animals that have to face the

horrors of factory farming, of

live exports and of mulesing,

et cetera, and he says nothing.

Does the panel find that

hypocritical? Kate Crawford.

Well... there's a lot of

things that could be said about

whaling. I think I'm pretty impressed with the fact this

Kevin Rudd's decided to continue fighting this issue

while he's in Japan. That takes

a certain amount of guts.

APPLAUSE So... We've got it to

give him a tick if that. There

are issues here with our own

eco system. This is one of the

things the Greens party is one

of the few parties who still

talks about these sorts of

issues actually does quite

well. You might notice it's

very unpopular when politicians

say "Let's save the Kwoka"

because what we want to hear

are these much bigger stories

at the moment. I think people

are much more worried about

things like inflation,

indigenous rights, so in fact

those issues unfortunately have

gone off the boiler at the

moment. You have to give Kevin

some points for sticking to his

guns in Japan this week. It's

much easier to say something

you can do nothing about,

that's what he's done. That's

not true, Pru. He can do a lot

about all these issues. In

terms of whaling all he has to

is offend the Japanese, they'll

hit back with something else.

If it gets solved it won't be

because he decided to say

something in Japan. Charles

Firth. I was going to take

proud prude Pru Goward' side

but I don't think I want to any

more. I tend to agree that the

whole whaling thing is a red

herring. You have ever tasted

whale? It is delicious. I don't

understand what whole issue is.

But, I think there should be

more whaling, but... yeah. I

agree, the mulesing, I don't

know whether you know about

mulesing which the process of

cutting off the tails and

everything. That's far more

hideous than anything the

Japanese do, when they serve it

up all nice. (audience call

out) Mulesing? It is not worse

than anything that's done to

the whales. That's ridiculous.

didn't you see it's footage? It

was appalling. I see, so

because of jap ease d it and

Australians don't? No, it's...

Isn't the whole whaling

thing... It's essentially

mining the sea, taking out and

slicing up living creatures.

Mulesing, unsavoury practice

but not of the same scale, in order of magnitude of

difference it's Humely

different. It's not even in the

same ball park. Audience

member:... Keep talking about I

think talking about education

of children and... All this is

very self indullgeing compared

to the situation where in

Myanmar children don't even

have enough to drink or clean

water or enough education. Will

our politicians put more money

into foreign aid? More money to

overseas aid? Yeah. I disagree.

I don't think you should have

foreign aid at all. We just

went off the topic for a while

there. Stick with whaling. Hang

on a second. I'm a bit

confused, I think... Yes,

things like mulesing are not

great, but yeah, there's the

alternative of what happens

with the... Is also an awful

thing. The thing with the

whaling is the declining

population. Isn't that the

issue that there's very few

left? Therefore the... There's

only one point I'd make. I

looked into this earlier.

Professor Tim Flannery,

Australian of the Year last

year describes the Minge whales

as the rabbits of the sea. I

don't know in that is true or

not there is a debate about

this. I think this is one of

these issue that is Rudd has

picked up to distract everyone.

It's not a... It's just not a

huge issue. It's something to

signal to the Chinese that he

is pro Chinese rather than

Japan. It's caused him a bit of

diplomatic thing there, but he

knows that Japan are going to

buy our wheat and our... Um

lamb anyway. So it's a really

nice piece of political

propaganda. It's what the Gunns

was to Howard. George

Brandis. I wanted to make this

point about the whale issue,

part of the problem with this

issue is the Government has

gone about it in the wrong way.

For ever since the election of

the Rudd Government it's had a

two-track policy. There has

been this flamboyant gun boat

diplomacy in the Southern Ocean

and threats to sue Japan in the

international Court of justice.

The advice to the Australian

Government and the advice to

the New Zealand Government to

too was that there was no

realistic prospect of success

through the international Court

of Justice. What Andrew Robby

has been saying all along is

don't go about it in this way.

Pursue it through the

International Whaling

Commission. Low and behold

Kevin Rudd has woken up to this

fact and said we think now it

ought to be pursued through the

International Whaling

Commission. Wls as well as the emotion that is surround this

subject which we all understand

we have to get the right

approach, we have to get a

solution that will work. I'm

afraid on this as on so many

other issues, Kevin Rudd has

substituted an efficacious

approach to a real solution for

a very flamboyant public

statement. Joel Fitzgibbon.

APPLAUSE It's very true George

that Kevin Rudd's approach is

somewhat different than John

Howard's approach. John

Howard's approach was to do nothing.

APPLAUSE No, John Howard's

approach was to pursue the

matter... Not true. John

Howard' approach was to spur

sue the - pursue the matter

through the International

Whaling comois which we did, lo

and behold Kevin Rudd today

announces "We think we ought to

pursue this through the

International Whaling

Commission". The punters

usually get it pretty right and

they know instinctively two things, the slaughter of whales is

, and that John Howard did

very little Kevin Rudd's having

a G it's this idea he picked it

up as some sort of popular

stance is ridiculous. This ran

enormously throughout the media

over the Christmas period. Like

any good prime minister he

responded. I think he did the

right thing in responding. He

got the wrong response. He a

response that was flamboyant

and showy but

ineffective. Let's see whether

we get an outcome. Exactly.

Audience: Where's Mr Howard'

Minister for environment today?

Who is he with?'s he he's with

Sea Shepherd. So this is how

much he endorsed Mr Howard's

policy. Ian Cam bell is in fact

the Australian representative

when he was Minister for the

environment at International

Whaling Commission pursuing the

same policy which in one breath

Joel condemns is not doing

enough but in the next breath

admits Kevin Rudd has at last

seen the wisdom of. Are you

embarrassed, George, that your

ex-Minister... I'm in the at

all embarrassed that the new

government having for 6 months

condemned the previous

government for not doing enough

has at last seen that the way

the briefly government was

going about it was more likely

in the end to be rewarded with

success and therefore has

adopted precisely the policies

that we adopted by pursuing the

matter in the appropriate forum

not through flamboyant gun boat

diplomacy. ... Sea Shepherd and

other like minded people

achieved more in one single

whaling season than you did

over the last 11 years.

APPLAUSE Lets me break into

this. I want to ask a question

of Joel Fitzgibbon - you've had

one armed vessel monitoring the

whaling fleets in the Southern

Oceans, would you ever consider

using the Navy to stop it

happening? Highly unlikely,

Tony. Interestingly, despite

common misconceptions on these

issues we don't really have the

capability to d these things

over such long distances, I'd

be at every point very very

resistant to any sort of

intervention. Certainly that's

the position of the Government.

Questions from the floor.

We'll go to this gentleman down

the front then up to the back.

My question... The comparison

between the two and the

hypocrisy, we seem to have

drifted away from that a little

bit. It begs the question does

a pig or chicken feel any less

pain than a whale? That's the

point that Charles Firth was

making. Kate Crawford. I can

almost take that one as a

comment. We're opening up

really quite large questions

here about how we deal with

- They are interesting

questions, though, because when

there was a cull of kangaroos

that are used here for pet

food, that are used here for

human food, there was an outcry

from Japanese. And from the

Europeans. Is there a

fundamental difference between

the two. Not just mention there

was a European outcry n

Canberra people ran around to

try and free the kangaroos from

that particular incident.

Obviously these are

extraordinarily difficult

issues. We're ge