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Meet The Press -

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October 3rd 2004

MEET THE PRESS PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello and welcome to Meet The Press. Six days to go and
the Coalition fears a Greens resurgence will put Mark Latham in the Lodge. Today Senator Bob Brown
has his say. First, what the nation's press is reporting this Sunday, October 3. The Sydney
'Sun-Herald' leads with "Anger as child porn offenders walk free. 25% of those accused in the
under-age pornography swoop had been convicted of earlier offences." The Brisbane 'Sunday Mail' has
"Latham's tax dodge. Labor leader Mark Latham has refused to guarantee taxes won't rise if he wins
government. But he says he has no plans to put them up." The Melbourne 'Sunday Age' says "Labor
puts Medicare gold cards on table. About 1.2 millions Australians over 75 will be issued with a
gold-coloured Medicare card as part of Labor's pledge to give this group of older Australians free
private or public hospital treatment." And there are conflicting polls in the nation's papers.
Newspoll in the News Limited papers has the Coalition hanging on in 12 key marginals for a similar
election outcome to last time. While the Taverner poll and the Fairfax papers has Labor comfortably
ahead in four of the same marginals. The polls all suggest that the Greens are garnering more
support at the national level than ever before. Later we'll have the view of Newspoll's Sol
Lebovic. For now, welcome back Greens Leader, Senator Bob Brown. You've been all over Australia in
the last five weeks. How are you reading it?

GREENS LEADER SENATOR BOB BROWN: Good morning, Paul. It's a very volatile election. The Greens are
doing extremely well. But who will win government is going to be determined between now and next
Saturday night. I think there's a mood of excitement in the electorate. I've picked that up. It's
right across the age groups. People are still making up their minds. I think the long walk up the
school path to the ballot box might determine the outcome on Saturday.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Is it your view that the nation's best interests would be served by a change of

BOB BROWN: Ah, a personal view is that it would be, because I think any government that's been
there for three terms is likely to be jaded, but this one is particularly jaded. The Howard
Government has taken something away from our feelings of pride as Australians. It's become a
harsher, more divided society. The environment has been left off the agenda, the public health and
education has been made second rate and people are feeling worried about that. I mean, a lot of
people feel that they're losing out. Of course, the shibboleth of security, as Mr Howard would have
it, is not there this time as it was before. All parties are concerned about security, all parties
have different programs for that, but I think it's going to be a very interesting week and Mark
Latham is looking fresh. Who knows?

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, both parties are yet to release their policies to save old growth forests.
Earlier in the campaign the PM had this message for the Greens.

PRIME MINISTER JOHN HOWARD (Earlier media appearance): We don't crave the approval of minor
parties. We don't go crawling to minor parties for approval. If they want to express approval,
that's their right. But we're not going to adjust a policy to get the approval of the Greens.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Senator Brown, to get your approval, whether he wants it nor not, what does he have
to do on old growth forests? And, before you answer, perhaps if I could show this graphic. This is
prepared by the Wilderness Society. All of those red areas are the areas of old growth forest that
conservationists want preserved. So is that more or less the parameters of what you were after?

BOB BROWN: First let me say that the Greens have been working very hard to get better outcomes on
public health and education, the troops home from Iraq, a better outcome for East Timor and the -
in the environment area, the Government is very much lagging behind Labor and way behind the Greens
on the restoration of the Murray-Darling system. Mr Howard doesn't want to ratify Kyoto. He's going
to leave Australia with George Bush, stranded, as the rest of the world moves on to tackle global
warming. That having been said, the forest issue will be a litmus test. Both of the big parties
have given their cakes to the electorate, but now they are coming with the icing and it remains to
be seen what they will do about forests. It is important that Mr Howard and Mr Latham both know
that those red areas, the bottom line for the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness
Society, Greenpeace, is the high conservation value of forests and their wildlife in Tasmania, and
it is critical. I mean, these are being - 44 football fields of these forests are falling every day
during this election campaign. They're being logged at night, here on Sunday. The poison is being
put out. The fire bombs are following. It's an absolute destruction of some of the most marvellous
ecosystems on the face of the planet and it needs urgent action to stop it.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just picking up on that point. It's obviously your view that Labor's credentials
are better than the Coalition's. Why then aren't the Greens preferencing Labor everywhere?

BOB BROWN: Well, not on the forest. It's Labor chainsaws that are in there, Paul. The PM signed the
death warrant on these forests, but it's the Labor chainsaws in Tasmania which have gone into them.
The preference issue, let me say this, is very important to voters. Most voters will put their
preferences where they want to, me included. But, what is important here is that people vote for
the Greens to get an alternative, and a responsible alternative, particularly into the Senate. This
Senate vote this election is fraught, because whichever party gets in there, for example on the
issue of public education or on the issue of the environment, they're not going to produce the
outcomes that most Australians, I believe, want to see, and that's where the Greens are important.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Is it disappointing to you that Mark Latham hasn't put his forest cards on the
table yet?

BOB BROWN: Yes, it is. PM Howard has left it to the last week. I predicted that two or three weeks
ago, that he would do that to - well, you know, because of...

PAUL BONGIORNO: They are both circling each other.

BOB BROWN: ..political engineering. Well, the PM is setting the schedule here. But we need to see
what both the parties are going to do on forests and that will have a final determination for many
voters who value an Australia that looks after its heritage and is concerned about the next
generation and their right to see such things as the Tasmanian forests.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Yesterday the Wilderness Society said that the Greens had made themselves
irrelevant by already giving so many preferences to Labor. What's your answer to that?

BOB BROWN: I'm a member of the Wilderness Society right from the outset and will continue to be.
No, the Greens are the most relevant party in the Parliament here and will continue to be because
it's our drive in Parliament that has made the forests in Tasmania, the political issue that it is
in these elections and which is going to - and I'll be straight about this - if the packages are
good, I'll say so. If they're not, I'll say so. In the next couple of days we're watching like a
hawk to see that the big parties do rise to the occasion and protect one of the most extraordinary
heirlooms Australia has in its natural realm.

PAUL BONGIORNO: OK. Time for a break. When we return, we ask, are the Greens soft on drugs and out
to destroy traditional family values?

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet The Press with Greens leader Bob Brown and welcome to the panel
Jennifer Hewitt, the 'Australian Financial Review' and Malcolm Farr, 'The Daily Telegraph'. The
Deputy Prime Minister likens the Greens to an avocado, green on the outside with a nut at its core.
But last week at the Press Club he wasn't joking.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JOHN ANDERSON: I've wanted to make a point that they are not some nice, warm
mid-way house between the Coalition and the Labor Party. They're not. They're economic and social
policies are quite radical.

JENNIFER HEWITT, THE 'AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW': Well, he's got a point, hasn't he? People think
they are voting for a party that likes trees and they get all sorts of other policies on the
economy, on social justice.

BOB BROWN: Well, Jennifer, people don't think they are voting for a party that just likes trees.
They do know that we've got good economic policies right across the board. Let me just talk about
the economy. John Quiggin from the University of Queensland has cited the Greens policies as
responsible and coherent in a way that the other parties should emulate. The Greens have turned out
in this election to be the conservative economic managers. We have said that instead of these
massive tax cuts, we'd put that money both Labor and Liberal are entertaining, over $10 billion
each extra during the election campaign, we'd be putting that money into public hospitals, into the
public school system and fast public transport and public housing. Now, that would be without the
cost overruns and the using up of the surplus, which this country is going to need for a rainy day
further down the line. Here's the Greens, the ones with the halter on this runaway, give-away
election expenditure tag. So, far from being the radicals, we are the most responsible party - and
I emphasise that - THE most responsible economic managers in this election campaign.

JENNIFER HEWITT: Does being responsible mean Australians should pay a lot more tax?

BOB BROWN: No, it just means that we shouldn't be giving away like the big parties are.

JENNIFER HEWITT: That means, though, that they'll pay more tax because there won't be tax cuts?

BOB BROWN: Well, the tax cuts - that's right. The polls show - 65% in the polls show that
Australians would prefer the money going to hospitals.

MALCOLM FARR, THE 'DAILY TELEGRAPH': So you think Australians don't pay enough tax at the moment?

BOB BROWN: No, I am saying that Australians are paying the right amount of tax, Malcolm, but we
shouldn't be engaging in the give-away tax cuts and then put more money away from the surplus into
the electioneering that's going on at the moment. We didn't need to do that. Most Australians in
the opinion polls agree with the Greens on that point.

JENNIFER HEWITT: But you also say that high-wealth individuals should pay more tax. What does
high-wealth mean to you?

BOB BROWN: Well, high-wealth means the millionaires that...

JENNIFER HEWITT: $85,000-plus, like the Labor Party?

BOB BROWN: We wouldn't have given them tax cuts. I mean, all parliamentarians are in that category
of over $85,000 or over $52,000 that the Government is talking about, Jennifer. But other people
got left out in that and now Labor has come along with another...

JENNIFER HEWITT: But you are saying they should get a tax increase if they earn a lot of money.

BOB BROWN: No, we are saying that the tax should stay where it is, but there should be taxes on
people who are extremely wealthy and there's other forms of taxation there which would apply.

MALCOLM FARR: But, effectively, that's a tax increase because that's the way that bracket creep
works. You don't see any relief - I mean, you don't see any case for relief for any level of

BOB BROWN: Oh, yes, we do. For example, we'd take the GST off public transport so we would get
people 10% of their fares straight off. But, let me talk about bracket creep. I'm glad you brought
that up. I see Mark Latham getting a rollicking in some of the Sunday press because he won't commit
to not increasing taxes in the future - and I think that's responsible. If John Howard has
committed to not increasing taxes in the future, he knows he's telling a fib. Bracket creep will
increase taxes. He knows that. So in that sense, I think we're getting a more honest answer out of
the Leader of the Opposition than we are from the PM.

MALCOLM FARR: What about families? What have you got that specifically goes to the sort of families
that make up 99.9% of Australian households?

BOB BROWN: Firstly, the Greens would ensure through $300 million spending that there would be a
year of preschool for all children in Australia and we'd extend that to two years. We're also the
only party that's committed to parental leave when a new baby arrives. 18 weeks first up, moving to
26 weeks. Do you know Australia is one of only two countries in the OECD that doesn't have that? At
the other end - and this is very important for families - we'd remove the HECS fees. Instead of
those tax cuts that Mr Costello came down with in the last budget, we'd have put some of the money
into getting rid of HECS fees. Thousands of young Australians, since John Howard came to office and
those HECS fees were increased, don't go from secondary on or into tertiary education because of
the brick wall...

MALCOLM FARR: Let's go back to maternity leave. How do you pay for that?

BOB BROWN: You pay for that through the taxation system and through the government revenue that's
available at the moment. One of the things that the Greens won't be doing in the coming years -
although I hope it will be within a decade or two, we won't be in government - but we will be
pursuing policies like parental leave, because we believe that that's essential to nation building.
I reiterate there, Malcolm - it is very important to know this - John Howard has been in office for
eight years but has denied this country parental leave when babies have arrived. We're one of only
two countries in the OECD that's in that situation.

JENNIFER HEWITT: One of the parties that's running on a family program is Family First and they are
actually saying that you are extreme on all sorts of issues. They don't seem to be very impressed
with your family policies at all and you are complaining about their ads. But you do have extreme
views on drugs, don't you?

BOB BROWN: No, we don't. Let me just talk about Family First. It's an un-Christian group. It seems
to be motivated by hate. It has been talking to the PM about how to get extra representation in the
parliament because the PM wants to use Family First to get control of the Senate. Through its
preferences or if Family First senators are elected, he can get total control of the Parliament,
including the Senate. Coming back on to the drugs policy, Family First was asked about that in
Tasmania this week and doesn't have one. That's a sign of a party that's covering up a lot. The
Greens policies...

PAUL BONGIORNO: But the point...

BOB BROWN: ..are to minimise the harm to young Australians. We have a death toll of one young
Australian per day on average at the moment.

PAUL BONGIORNO: But doesn't Family First's objections come down to the fact that your policy would
have marijuana sold over the counter?

BOB BROWN: Well, no, it doesn't. It comes down to the hard drugs problem where we're seeing a death
toll. That's not coming out of marijuana - the biggest death toll in Australia, by the way...

PAUL BONGIORNO: But you do have that view on marijuana, don't you?

BOB BROWN: No, I don't have that view.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, your party does.

BOB BROWN: Of decriminalising. That's very different to the legalising...

JENNIFER HEWITT: I guess it is controlled availability in appropriate venues. What's the

BOB BROWN: That's right. That is harm minimisation, but this is not legalising as Family First
would have it. Let me just say this - the prohibitio...-

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just quickly, Bob, we're just about out of time on this segment.

BOB BROWN: ..increases the death toll of young Australians. Family First, I believe, their policies
actually threaten young Australians, whereas the Greens are trying to minimise that threat.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for another break. Coming up - pollster Sol Lebovic. And in the cartoon of the
week, Nicholson in the 'Australian' picks up to the reaction to Mark Latham's bold idea for
Medicare Gold. Mr Howard is underground reading the policy and saying, "There's a black hole here

PAUL BONGIORNO: You are on Meet The Press. One of the most assiduous poll-takers of public opinion
is Sol Lebovic. His Newspoll in next Tuesday's 'Australian' will be anxiously awaited by all sides.
Producer Elisabeth Bowdler spoke with him and began by asking how the Greens are travelling.

NEWSPOLL MANAGING DIRECTOR SOL LEBOVIC: Well, the Greens are doing really well as the third major
force. They've overtaken the Democrats who were the major force at the last election. The Democrats
got about 5% of the vote. They were closely followed by One Nation. But both of those, the
Democrats and One Nation, support has really fallen away. So the Greens are there by themselves as
the third major force now in Australian politics.

MEET THE PRESS PRODUCER ELISABETH BOWDLER: Is there support at a constant level?

SOL LEBOVIC: It pretty much is. We've had it very much in the range of sort of 6-8% primary support
for many months now. They have been around that level. They just move within that tight range. So,
their support seems to be quite constant. It will be interesting to see how they go in the election
when people actually go to vote and know they've got a Greens candidate in their seat.

ELISABETH BOWDLER: Is the flow to Labor significantly different from previously pre-election

SOL LEBOVIC: Yeah, the flow to Labor, interestingly, in this particular election campaign, tends to
be closer to 70-30. 70% of all minor party and independent support is going to Labor. In previous
elections, it was closer to 60-40. So, in a sense, that means that the Government has got to do
much better on the primary vote to end up with a two-party preferred vote, similar to what they got
last time. So it is going to be a bit different in that sense this coming election. But in all of
the polls we've been doing for a number of weeks, for months now, we are getting this distribution
that's very close to 70-30.

ELISABETH BOWDLER: What kind of role will polls play in the last week of the campaign?

SOL LEBOVIC: I don't think the polls play a large role. I see polls very much as giving a sort of
progress score as we go into the final and it's a bit like, you know, the Rugby League final coming
up. We're giving the score at sort of half-time and well into the second - next week it will be
well into the second half. But the side leading well into the second half may actually win and they
may not. So we won't really know the outcome of the election until election night itself because
people on the day can change their mind and we've seen that in past elections. I think the '93 GST
election was a classic example of that, where in fact people did change their mind in the final
days of that campaign. So, the role the polls play is very much just to give the progress score as
we go into election day. But I'll be watching the election result on election night as closely as
anyone else.

MALCOLM FARR: Senator Brown, your preference allocations are this marvellous magical mystery tour
all around the shop. You don't go for Family First, but you do put at the top of your Queensland
Senate list Mr Free Marijuana. You preference the Social Alliance ahead of the Democrats, which is
an interesting matter of weighing up the two parties. But can I go to Labor Party preferences? In
the seat of Brand you won't give preferences to Kim Beazley, but in the seat of Wentworth you are
giving preferences to Labor's David Patch. What's Kim done to you?

BOB BROWN: Well, the local groups determine those preferences, Malcolm, but let me go back to your

MALCOLM FARR: But you're the leader of the party, aren't you?

BOB BROWN: No, no, I'm not a dictator. We've got a democracy in the Greens. We've got 8,000 members
and we've got branches which make up their own mind on a whole range of factors and issues. But the
preferences are secondary to us to getting primaries. But let me go back to your first assertion.
People have to know this, that in the Senate in various States, if they vote for the Coalition or
the Labor Party or the Democrats, they can put in a far-right candidate. Not the Greens. Because
the preference flow goes away from the Greens. The only safe way of getting the Greens into the
Senate is to vote for the Greens. Let's talk about preference flows. Did you know Labor flows in
Victoria and Tasmania go to the Family First before the Greens? The Coalition does in almost all
cases. The Democrats give their preferences to Family First before the Greens in South Australia.
So you've get to be very, very aware - voters have to be very, very aware of all over the shop
coming from those other parties.

MALCOLM FARR: As soon as we have the two leaders in there, we'll have a shot at it. But you are
here now. Can you say that your preference allocations are merely the mechanics of pragmatism to
get the votes in, that they're not representative of anything else, that you're not favouring a
particular ideology in one party over another?

BOB BROWN: No, I can't because...

MALCOLM FARR: So Mr Free Marijuana is there not just for pragmatic reasons, but because you reckon
he's got a pretty good case to make to the people.

BOB BROWN: In Queensland I would reckon because there's a whole range of other policies that are
important to the Greens there which have stacked up. For example, better funding for public
education and school.

MALCOLM FARR: From Mr Free Marijuana?

BOB BROWN: I would presume so. I would presume they are better than the Opposition's or the

JENNIFER HEWITT: Bob, in practice, though, the Greens really act as a huge advantage to the Labor
Party, don't they?

BOB BROWN: In practice, the Greens voters do go, as Sol Lebovic was saying, Jennifer, 70-30 to the
Labor Party. But just yesterday an elderly lady in Launceston asked me how to put her preference,
how she should vote if she voted Green, so her preference went to the Government. It's a mixed bag
and it very much indicates where people have come from in the past, and that's one of the wonders
of our democracy.

JENNIFER HEWITT: But why are you so antagonistic to Family First? Aren't they doing on the right
what you're just really doing on the left?

BOB BROWN: Except we are open. Family First policies aren't out there. They've had secret
discussions with the PM. They are about...

JENNIFER HEWITT: What, as opposed to your discussions with the Labor Party?

BOB BROWN: We are open about it. We tell people what we do. That's the big difference. They don't
say where their funding is coming from. We do. It's a very different kettle of fish and I'm proud
that the Greens are as open and responsible and direct with the electorate as we are.

JENNIFER HEWITT: You seem to be fairly conspiratorial about Family First.

BOB BROWN: Yes, I am, because I think it's a conspiratorial set-up. I think they haven't been open
and honest about what they are doing, for example about the extreme right religious connections
behind it, and I think they should be.

MALCOLM FARR: Speaking of the extreme right, I don't know what you'd gain from having a look at
your voting record. Over the last three years the two Greens senators, yourself and Senator Nettle,
voted for the Liberal six times, you voted with One Nation 75 times, you voted with Brian Harradine
106 times. You don't mind nudging up to the extreme right occasionally, do you?

BOB BROWN: You've got it back to front, Malcolm. You've got it totally back to front again.


BOB BROWN: Yes. What you are saying there is on many occasions the cross benches voted together and
that's included One Nation and/or Brian Harradine supporting what the Greens were doing.

MALCOLM FARR: They were supporting you?

BOB BROWN: That's right. I can tell you in the main, when it comes to such issues - and let me go
back to it, because it's so important - as not draining funds away from the public education system
or properly funding hospitals or the environment, very often those components of the Senate vote
the same way.

PAUL BONGIORNO: OK. We're right out of time. Thank you very much for joining us today, Senator Bob
Brown, and all the best for next Saturday.

BOB BROWN: Thank you.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thanks to the panel, Jennifer Hewitt and Malcolm Farr. Until next time, it is
goodbye from Meet The Press.