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Parliament House, Canberra, 9 December 1998: transcript of doorstop interview [private health insurance; Mark Waugh; Shane Warne; republic]



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA,

9 DECEMBER 1998

 

E&OE-PROOF ONLY

 

Subjects: Private health insurance, Mark Waugh & Shane Warne, Republic

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Beazley, Michael Wooldridge this morning says the health rebate legislation will be re-introduced in March, just prior to the State election. Is Labor facing a potentially damaging political fallout in NSW if it is again rejected?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

This Government will pay a very heavy penalty for their incompetence as policymakers if they put this back in the same form in which it is now, assuming they lose it in the next couple of days. This is a piece of slothful policy. It caps nothing as far as the gap between what you pay when you come out of a private hospital and what you’re covered for, and it does not force the price of premiums down. In fact, it’s based on an assumption that premiums next year will rise at twice the rate of inflation. I mean, this is policy incompetence grand-scale. And all they’re trying to do is create an alibi for themselves for their failure in the public health area and, indeed, for that matter, in the private insurance area.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you surprised about Senator Colston overnight suggesting that he will support the rebate?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

We have our own position, and we’ve put that position forward. We do it on the basis that we happen to be in a minority in the Senate...(tape break)...and, therefore, we have our views. Our views on this happen to be well informed and well motivated and based on what people need and people know they need. And that’s a decent functioning public hospital system. And if anything is to be done in the private health insurance area, it at least has the effect of keeping it affordable - and this doesn’t.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you surprised, though, that Senator Colston has…?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I’m not surprised by anything the Independents, the Greens or the Democrats do. That’s a matter for them.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What’s your view on the Democrats’ compromise proposal?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I think that the problem here with this proposition is that it’s so ill thought out. The sensible thing for the Government to do would be to go away and rethink it and actually do something for the health of the Australian people which seems to be the furthest thing from their mind. But, in any case, the Government yesterday rejected the Democrats’ compromise proposal. So, on that basis, you’d have to assume it won’t go anywhere.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But what about... I mean, it’s an interesting compromis e and the fact that it incorporates a means test addresses your problem with it which is, you know, high income earners shouldn’t be getting a rebate.

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No, that doesn’t address our problem. Our problem is this: if you’re going to do something in the private health area, and you don’t cap premiums and you don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re doing something that works, I might say, that works about the gap, then you’re not actually doing anything. What you’ve got at the moment is a rebate which, because of the consequences there’d be for pensioners if it was taken off, we wouldn’t support taking it off. But the effect of that rebate has been negligible in so far as people accessing private health insurance. I mean, just contemplate the enormity of this: $1.7 billion - if the latest figures from health are to be believed - per year, being spent to mark time on health. That’s got to be dopey.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Beazley, on another subject, do you believe Mark Waugh and Shane Warne have brought the game of cricket into disrepute?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Look, I think that’s a matter that’s been dealt with, obviously some time ago, by the Board of Control. It seemed to be an appropriate mechanism for dealing with it at the time. I don’t have anything to say on it.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Why do you think it was kept quiet?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I have no idea. Ring the Board.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Was that a good thing, though?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, ring the Board about it. You know, really, I’ve got a few fish to fry without having to be responsible for disciplinary matters of the Australian cricket competition.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

On another topic, then, how do you think the referendum next year will go on the Republic?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Look, I hope it passes. I think it would be a detrimental thing for this nation were it to reject the opportunity to put in place an Australian Head of State. We have reached that stage in our development where we need to move on; where we’re moving into the next millennium and the next century, and we need to move into it with our Constitution brought finally home. That is not to say that we haven’t been well served by the Heads of State that we’ve obtained from another country - we have been. But the time has come to move on.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you confident that the Prime Minister will encourage a full and open debate on the issue and he won’t stand in the way of Australia becoming a Republic?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I’m confident he’ll encourage a full and open debate. There’s no question about that. He undertook to do that when he held that Constitutional Convention. He undertook this year he’d place a proposition before the Australian people. I would hope, though, that he would see his way clear to come out and support a Republic. I think the truth of the matter is that the Australian public looks sideways at any proposition that’s not endorsed by the major political parties. And, so, we need him to be in the trenches there supporting it.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you confident it will pass, or is his support necessary to make it pass?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No, I’m not confident it will pass. I think that, if you look at the history of referenda, there would be at least as much evidence there to give you cause for pessimism. But I would say this: we would not do ourselves any good as a people - we’d not do ourselves any good in our own image about what we’re about, the fact that we stand proud, independent and free - if we were to find, for some reason or other, that we’d rejected it. My fear about this is not so much the Prime Minister’s attitude, though that is one concern I have. My concern is that the people might not see the Republic issue, as the threshold issue rather than the mode of election of a President. I think that what people will need to emphasise in the debate is that the Republic is the thing. If people have criticisms or queries about this or that aspect of the mode of election of a President, that’s something that can be debated and fixed up through time.

 

ends

 

 

 

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