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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley: Perth: 27 February 2005: Western Australian election win; Republic; Iraq.



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FEDERAL LABOR LEADER KIM BEAZLEY

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP PERTH - 27TH FEBRUARY 2004

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: WA ELECTION WIN; REPUBLIC; IRAQ;

BEAZLEY: Can I start first by congratulating my good friend, Geoff Gallop, on his very good election win. He has every reason to be proud of his achievement and so does his team, all of them. Those who are his ministers, those who were his candidates and, of course, the party organisation. They can be very proud of their achievements over the last few weeks. From the point of view of federal

politics, there were no federal issues here. The election was fought on state issues and it’s done no harm to the morale of the federal Labor Party at all, your questions?

JOURNALIST: Would this have been possible with Mark Latham do you think?

BEAZLEY: It’s not for me to say. I’m not an analyst of these things but we said these things when I became Leader. Our objective was to restore stability to the Labor Party and accountability to the Government. Be a good Opposition and then ultimately to put up the alternatives to be an alternative government. And I think we’ve gone a long way to achieving stability and it probably helped.

JOURNALIST: You played a reasonable role in this campaign you can’t say you didn’t play a role.

BEAZLEY: I’m a West Australian Member of Parliament and that’s the context in which I was playing a role in this campaign. I’m a well-known West Australian politician and I enjoyed the fact that I was given sufficient trust by the campaign organisers to get about the marginal seats and chat to folk. When I was talking to them basically I was talking about state issues.

JOURNALIST: Is the outcome better than expected?

BEAZLEY: I’d have to say in all honestly at the end of last year I assumed that we were in a lot trouble. That we were facing the possibility at state level of a defeat and I don’t think I was alone in that assumption, that seemed to be the

general view of most of the commentators on politics. That makes Geoff’s achievement all that much greater.

JOURNALIST: If you’re in that situation after only one term surely there’s a lesson for State Labor, what do they have to do to keep in (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: Obviously what Geoff had to say yesterday was very important. He said ‘we’re a good and we can be a better team’. I thought that was an appropriately humble approach to the trust that’s been (inaudible) by his electorate here. Can I say this also because I don’t (inaudible) eastern states politicians understand this, here’s one not only in circumstances where he’s come from behind, he’s also won against an electoral lower portion that most Australians don’t comprehend. They’d comprehend it if I said it simply like this - if you took in any state the ten best Liberal seats, cut them in half and gave the Liberals two seats for each one of them, that’s the handicap that Labor starts out with in Western Australia.

JOURNALIST: A couple of days before the election you were saying that it was still too close to call and you weren’t actually that confident. Were you really feeling that way, did you think it was perhaps going to go to the Liberals?

BEAZLEY: I thought it was too close to call and I wasn’t all that confident. I didn’t tell you any lies, that’s exactly how I felt at the time and it was the tightest election too, it does and will come down to a handful of seats and a handful of votes. That is often the way in state politics and federal politics it’ll be the way again here.

JOURNALIST: Mr Gallop has had a bit to say about federal politics as well, saying that Labor has to have the confidence that it can win and really look at some issues like states losing power to Canberra and things like that. Are these issues you’re prepared to take on?

BEAZLEY: I’ve got total confidence we can win and we will of course resist federal power grabs against the states. There’s a growing sentiment in this country and a growing understanding that the control the Liberals have established in the Australian Senate puts them in a very, very powerful position

and there are a lot of Australians not comfortable with that. One of the alternative centre of influence in Australian politics is at the state level. I’m West Australian I’ve always respected the contributions states make to the Commonwealth.

JOURNALIST: What was it do you think that got Labor across the line?

BEAZLEY: I think what got Labor across the line was the fact that it was in the end a good stable government. The people in Western Australia who thought about it were not prepared to take a risk. Nothing in the Liberal campaign in all honesty commended the Liberal Party to the Western Australian people; frankly it was a very ordinary campaign.

JOURNALIST: So a carbon copy of the federal election then?

BEAZLEY: Different circumstances, different players obviously. But I’ve said before as Leader of the Labor Party I understand thoroughly that the Australian people, while they want vision, they don’t want gambles and they want to make sure that their government and their alternative government are operating on the basis that the pose no risk to the Australian and Western Australian population when they’re elected.

JOURNALIST: State’s rights, will that be a major factor (inaudible) do you think?

BEAZLEY: I think that’s looking at it in a very old fashioned way. Cooperative relationships between the federal Government and the states that deliver good services, good outcomes for people and solutions that is certainly part of my intellectual makeup and will be part of our policy makeup.

JOURNALIST: You were talking about the one vote one value issue, would you encourage Geoff Gallop to further pursue that matter?

BEAZLEY: I wouldn’t presume to advise him on anything. I just simply point out the fact that his achievement has to be measured against that basic statistic that I gave you. There’d be very few Labor Parties around Australia who could win on that basis.

JOURNALIST: The federal Liberals had quite a few people here working on the Liberal campaign. Some big names like Textor and Hanke and they seemed to have failed. What are the implications for the federal Liberals?

BEAZLEY: I think if they anything to do with Mr Barnett’s campaign then they must bear some responsibility for any inadequacies in it. I think that overwhelmingly though the focus was the people who were if you like, the frontline people. Geoff Gallop, his team, Colin Barnett, his team. The public had a really good look at them in a long campaign and decided that Geoff was the best option.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel sorry for Colin Barnett, you must know how he feels today?

BEAZLEY: Yes I do. I always operate on the basis the Liberals aren’t my enemies, they’re my opponents. I take the view they’re my fellow Australians and should I be fortunate enough to be elected Prime Minister of this country it would not be on the basis of any malevolence to those who didn’t vote for me.

JOURNALIST: On another issue, Prince Charles is arriving tomorrow night, will you be greeting him and what do you think of his visit?

BEAZLEY: I’ve met him on numerous occasions and I find him a very nice man. I look forward to, if it comes to that, I look forward to an opportunity for a quick chat with him. But I firmly hold to the view that Australia needs its own head of state.

JOURNALIST: Do you think his marriage will actually help the Republic at all (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: I think Australians are very much more deep thinking than that. I think if Australia ultimately votes to become a Republic, which I sincerely hope we will, we will be doing that on the basis of a judgment about what we think is important in having an Australian Head of State. It won’t be a judgment about the current arrangements associated with the personalities involved in Australia’s Head of State arrangements.

JOURNALIST: Is there anything the monarchy can do to help (rest of sentence inaudible)

BEAZLEY: They’re not an Australian family. I think the Queen has been a terrific Queen and if I was in Britain I’d be enormously proud of her and as an Australian I’d be proud to have her as Head of the Commonwealth. Our quarrel is not with the House of Windsor our requirement is a positive one; let’s have an Australian Head of State.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: I think so; I think we’ll get away with it.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of Iraq. Do you see an exit strategy for our troops?

BEAZLEY: It’s more important to ask the Government that question. Now, we had Mr Downer out there today saying: ask the Labor Party what it would do. I think the question goes the other way and it’s a very simple proposition. I think that whether you’re for or against the Iraq war, and I was against it, most Australians would consider that we’ve done our fair share. John Howard told us for two years that we’ve done our fair share and he told us in the last election

campaign we have done our fair share. Now, all of a sudden, in the aftermath of that election he says - oh well, I’ve changed my mind, we’re going to put substantial strength back into Iraq, no, the question’s to him, not to the Labor Party. This was not the right thing to do, not at all; it was not the right to do and not in Australia’s national interest. Now, I’ve written asking for a proper briefing and I’ll tell you this, we’re in Opposition but as far as the Labor Party is concerned, our duty on this in Opposition is to hold the Government accountable for what we think is a bad decision, point one.

Point two; make sure that our troops who go there want for nothing. There are all sorts of questions here, all sorts of questions. What’s their air cover going to be? Where’s their air support coming from? The Dutch had almost three times as many troops as this in the field, why is one-third the number of the Dutch troops going to be adequate for the task that they confront? The Dutch, I think, had armoured fighting vehicles, we don’t, we don’t have armoured fighting vehicles, and I’m not sure whether or not the Dutch had tanks. But this is an environment of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles of which Australia is getting some in the case of tanks, in the case of armoured fighting vehicles, no.

These are all things which an Opposition would legitimately question a government about and so should the media be questioning the Government about that and I’ll be taking an opportunity to talk to the Government advisers about how they see these things. We see all sorts of reports out there now; we see a report that they were looking at this from November. If this is true, that the Defence department was looking, with government direction, at this issue last November it makes it one of John Howard’s most cynical acts. You can’t relate that to any particular outcome, if that is true, point one. Point two we also see reports saying that there were five options presented to the Government of which this was the least favoured, what were the other four options and why were they rejected. I think the time has come for the Government to start and answer a few questions. The Opposition wants to be briefed on this because basically we think the Australian people should be briefed on this.

JOURNALIST: You don’t have any evidence though that the Defence department recommended this in November, do you?

BEAZLEY: I’ve only got what is there reported in the media. There’s that element of it and there’s also the element of the Japanese invitation. I want to know whether the Japanese’s formal approach to us came as a result of British and Australian initiatives to the Japanese telling them that they should. These are really legitimate questions for an Opposition faced with a massive amount of Government deceit to start to work its way through. This is not in Australia’s national interest decision. John Howard said to the Australian electorate and he

said it for two years, - Australia has done its fair share in Iraq, we don’t want to do anymore. Now, why did he suddenly change his mind and the circumstances in which he’s changed his mind is a terrible deceit and it casts doubts of course. Those issues, plus the issues of adequacy, cast doubt on any views he might express on this being the only troops that will be committed

ENDS