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Perth, WA: transcript of media conference: anthrax, combating people smugglers and strengthening Australia's border protection, regional relationship, Coastguard, Cheryl Kernot, submarine contract, ABC.



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Kim Beazley - Media Conference - Anthrax, Combating People Smugglers And Strengthening Australia's Border Protection, Regional Relationship, Coastguard, Cheryl Kernot, Submarine Contract, ABC

http://www.alp.org.au//media/1001/kbmcwa161001.html Wednesday, 17 October 2001

ALP News Statements

Kim Beazley - Media Conference Subjects: Anthrax, Combating People Smugglers And Strengthening Australia's Border Protection, Regional Relationship, Coastguard, Cheryl Kernot, Submarine Contract, ABC

Transcript - Perth, WA - 16 October 2001

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

BEAZLEY: In relation to the concerns that are there in the community now about the possibility of a threat of terrorist attack by dispersal of anthrax, I just want to say two things. Firstly, there is a requirement for vigilance in the difficult times that we now confront internationally. But it's also important that there is no panic. It's better to be safe than sorry. It's better if you have a suspicious circumstances in relation to this, or any other matter, that you seek the help of an appropriate authority. I sought a briefing from our security services in terms of the current level of threat to Australia. The advice that I have got is that there are no specific threats against Australians at this time. That's the first point in it. The second point is that all cases investigated so far have not shown any evidence of anthrax. Having said that, of course, I go back to the point that I made earlier, that is that there is a requirement for vigilance, but no panic, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

In the security press release and platform that we put forward about a week ago, we did anticipate ourselves the possibility that difficulties might emerge in this area. One of the solutions that we suggest is a change in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention of Proliferation Act to massively increase the penalties for any person engaged in enhancing, dispersing, assisting in the production of weapons of mass destruction for the use of these sorts of purposes. That's the first point.

The second point is that there ought to be changes to search and seizure arrangements in that legislation, to give the authorities more powers to protect our community should such a threat emerge.

Again, having said that, it's important that in the contemporary situation that there is no panic and that panic is replaced by vigilance and that people who feel that there may be a problem should act in a way that, the principle that it's better to be safe than sorry and inform somebody in authority if they feel that there is a problem that they've become aware of.

What I'm releasing today are further details of our proposals to combat people smuggling and strengthening Australia's border protection.

We need a long-term solution to the issues of protecting our borders. We have supported all the measures that the Howard Government has put in place legislatively and putting the Navy on patrol, but these are temporary fixes to what is a long-term problem.

The Labor Party has dealt with these problems before in agreements that we arrived at internationally when, in the 1980s and early 1990s, we were dealing with the consequences of the refugee problems left over from the experience of the Vietnam War.

We are experienced in handling these matters diplomatically.

A long-term solution requires several things. Firstly, it requires a capacity to patrol our borders for 52 weeks of the year. That perception fundamentally underpins what is now longstanding with Labor Party policy on a Coast Guard. All the events of recent times show that that has to be part of a permanent solution to the problem we confront.

Secondly, an important part of that solution is a diplomatic solution. We must have a situation where we have an agreement in the neighbourhood specifically with Indonesia whereby those who come through our borders illegally are returned for proper processing and then, within the cap of acceptance of refugees, persisted with by the Howard Government, we take our fair share. That, at the end of the day, is the only sure disincentive to those who want to try to penetrate our borders for illegal purposes.

We cannot, as far as the Labor Party is concerned, never have been, a soft touch on these matters. People cannot come willy-nilly to Australia, there are proper processes, we accept refugees , we accept migrants, but there are proper processes by which you come to this country. More is just required in this diplomatic effort than simply the statement of it. Within the first 10 days of the election of a Beazley Labor Government, my Foreign Minister, and other Ministers, will go to Jakarta to start the process of negotiating this outcome.

It will require resources and we have to be prepared to put additional resources into processing and policing arrangements that we conduct jointly with the Indonesians.

It requires, too, as part of a long-term solution, a regional solution. We need to have the issue of people smuggling as a centre point of discussions in the ASEAN regional forum on security matters affecting us all in recent times, issues of piracy, issues of the illicit trace of drugs and arms have been matters of concern to the regional forum. We can add this to those matters of concern, if for no other reason than that those who are engaged in those other practices which worry leaders in South East Asia and Governments in South East Asia are exactly the same people who are engaged in these people smuggling processes.

We would create a special representative. The office of that special representative would have as among his or her duties, the convening of an international conference of the region to address these people smuggling issues and to oversee Australia's enhanced diplomatic effort to secure a good outcome. We will require additional diplomatic representation in those areas from which people emanate to join the people smuggling program.

We will require, as I said in the statement I released some days ago now, an enhanced immigration

capability in those regions, we require too an enhanced Federal policing role in those areas as well - and all that is costed and engaged here in the program that I put out today.

I return to my original point, we must have a long-term solution to the people smuggling issue. We have supported Mr Howard's legislation on the current use of the Navy as part of the short-term fix. Clearly it is not enough, and the additional proposals that we announced today will enhance the capacity for us as a nation to have that long-term solution and give us as a people confidence that our borders are being properly protected - protected both by our own capabilities and by the quality of our relationships in the region.

JOURNALIST: You have said in the past that an international issue of refugees or asylum seekers treated by international events. Are you seriously trying to suggest in that graphic that the Howard Government is somehow responsible for that, and if so, why did it only begin to go up in 1998-99?

BEAZLEY: We have always said, the circumstances which emerged in Timor, posed a particular challenge to Australian Governments. What was done in Timor had to happen. What the Government should have focussed on from that point on, was enhancing the relationship with Indonesia to get us back to a point when we could have the level of discussion which produced a return to the sorts of figures that you see operating earlier on. There has always been the prospect of moving people through Indonesia and the region generally to Australia, but it has always been contained by the quality of the relationship that we have had with Indonesia. My criticism of the Howard Government in that period of time that you allude to, that's represented in that chart, is that the effort was simply was not made. But from the point at which our relationships when downhill, we should have seen whatever it is we could to put them back on track, not standing on our digs as to who should be first to turn up in this country, but responding positively to good suggestions that were made to us. We didn't.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, wasn't there also the problem of the whole Timor affair inevitably making that relationship extraordinarily difficult and secondly Indonesia itself was much more importantly falling into chaos?

BEAZLEY: As you well know, we have, because I have done speeches on these sorts of matters and question of the quality of the relationship in Indonesia some time ago, about how we got our relationship back on track, there were opportunities there that were not taken. You will recollect for example that then President Wahid, himself offered to the Australian Government, a tripartite discussion on matters of mutual interest with those likely to be emerging in authority in East Timor. I said at the time it was a magnificent opportunity to start the process of putting a relationship back on track. The Government's response was such a meeting, a discussion could not take place until there first be a visit by the President of Indonesia to Australia. That put that relationship on hold for some 18 months. This is not Kim Beazley in hindsight, we were advocating a positive response to that position a very long time ago. And if we had that positive response at that point of time, we would be in a much better position to build the sort of relationship to which could have changed those numbers.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley just to clarify, do you think that the number of boats is much greater because there wasn't that relationship in Indonesia to contain the number of boats coming to Australia?

BEAZLEY: We had a relationship with them in which they were aware of our concerns and acted accordingly. It didn't stop them all, as you can see from those figures, but it certainly kept those numbers low. It certainly had that affect.

JOURNALIST: Isn't there actually a cultural affect here, that that really reflects what has happened in the Middle East and people of the Islamic parties have been able to pass through the borders of Malaysia and Indonesia, without being stopped and never will be, and do you really image your diplomatic efforts will be able to stop that? Or wouldn't it actually create chaos within Indonesia itself?

BEAZLEY In 1998, those particular matters to which you allude did not occur, they have been there for some considerable time. Those who have been coming to this country in small numbers when we were in office, came from the same places, in the same circumstances from which they come now in greater numbers. It's just that a different attitude, in terms of their view of us, prevails. Now I'm not claiming that this is easy. I'm not saying it is a simple process that you have to go through. What I'm saying is that the effort has not been made. What I say is the effort should be made, and it should be part and parcel of a close relationship we build with our neighbour. We must keep on the agenda of Australian politics a close relationship with our neighbour. It doesn't mean that its going to be easy, ever. Nor does it mean we are always going to be in agreement. But we must build mutual interest in a friendly relationship between us. If we do, we do, we will have the background, we will have the basis, on which a dialogue can take place that means in the long-term we can start to bring those numbers down.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley what confidence do you have that you would be able to forge a closer relationship with President Megawati than Mr Howard. Is it built on the basis of the closer relationship that the Keating Labor Government had with Indonesia with Suharto regime? Do you think you can, if you like, go back to that sort of closer relationship?

BEAZLEY: It's built on capacity, common sense and application. You don't assume anything in the relationship. What you do is try to create things in the relationship. You don't seek to exploit the relationship for any domestic political purposes. What you seek to do is to build the relationship for the long-term - and always keep to the forefront of your thinking, no matter how difficult it is, one thing an Australian Prime Minister must always have at the back of his or her mind, is that part of their duty to protect Australian citizens is to create a sound relationship in the region. These are different circumstances from those which prevailed back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. But they're not impossible circumstances.

When I was in Indonesia a year or so ago, a year and a half ago, I think, basically, from memory, I made a speech which was very well received at the time and I took the opportunity to discuss its content with a number of Indonesian leaders, some of whom are still in office, including the current President who was then Vice-President. That was, we had a new basis of relationship with Indonesia. Partners in geography and partners in democracy - and that what I wanted to do was to respond positively to their initiatives. When I arrived there, it was at the time that President Wahid released his idea of a tripartite discussion on which he was quite enthusiastic. I put forward the idea at that time of a gathering that included, not only three, but Papua New Guinea, to look at the developmental issues and our mutual interests in that area. That was well received at the time as an extension of it.

It's these sorts of relationships that make the change. If you don't build these sorts of relationships, you don't get long-term solutions. If Prime Minsters are not devoted to long-term solutions, then you won't get a better performance in terms of the protection of our borders. Nobody could say that the way in which the Indonesian issue was handled around Tampa represented a high point in Australian diplomatic activity. You have got to be able to do two things simultaneously - protect Australia's borders physically as best you can, but at the same time, ensure a viable diplomatic environment.

JOURNALIST: … Mr Howard hopes to talk to President Megawati when he's at APEC. Given that you've said he shouldn't be going to APEC, does that undermine that criticism you made …

BEAZLEY: The point I'll make about Mr Howard and APEC is this: he has never been an enthusiastic supporter of APEC, or a major contributor. In the first couple of years he was Prime Minister, as everybody in this gathering well recollects. He was pointing out that that multilateral style of diplomacy was something that was identified with the Hawke and Keating Governments. He wanted to shift away from that, go to bilateral arrangements. He was not comfortable at those APEC gatherings and he was not, unlike his predecessors, a significant initiator of policies and initiatives. He wasn't that when he was a full-blown Prime Minister and he goes to APEC without the authority of Prime Minister of this country. He goes to APEC with the authority only of a caretaker Prime Minister. I'll be writing to him today to say in those circumstances it is only right that he be accompanied at APEC by a representative of my Party, given that he is in caretaker mode. What he should be doing over the weekend is continuing to participate in the Australian political debate on who should govern this country over the next three years. I would urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his position and stay here. I do not believe that he can significantly advance Australian interests at APEC given his caretaker role, and given his past attitudes to the organisation.

JOURNALIST: Would you make a visit to Indonesia your first priority?

BEAZLEY: Yes, I think I would. I think that it is important because we have this issue, which is so important to the Australian people, and it's an issue that directly engages the region that the most sensible thing that I can do to advance our security is to visit in the region, including Indonesia.

JOURNALIST: … would you see any prospects of … security to … Keating achievements …?

BEAZLEY: No, I think we have to look to other mechanisms. I think we have to look to the different sets of arrangements where different countries, or Indonesia in particular is a different country now, but there is no reason why we should not build up the people-to-people contacts, the agreements that are associated with that, in a way that helps us deal with this problem.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, would it be right to characterise your approach as a return to full Keating style engagement with Asia?

BEAZLEY: No, but it is engagement. The world moves on. You don't walk backwards, you walk forwards. The world moves on. But there is no question that disengagement with the region around us is not an option as far as Australians are concerned, for Australian Governments. It can be diminished in significance as a matter of deliberation by an Australian Government for a period of time, and that's what this Government has done, but it has the capacity to come back to you all the time if you neglect it for too long. I'd say that those statistics are in part a product of that neglect and the answer to dealing with those statistics re-emphasises the fact that disengagement is not an option.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, there's a lot of debate about the Coast Guard … being about conflict. In the costings you've got for … chart saying you can pay for it out of existing programs … If you're going to diplomatically get Indonesia to agree to take all these refugees and somehow turn the boats back there, why would they do that for $11 million over four years …

BEAZLEY: There's a couple of point I'd make on that. Firstly, you know that constraints that we are under in budgetary terms. Our absolute determination that we're going to govern responsibly in an

environment in which the Government has blown the Budget, how much they've blown it, you're going to see in the course of the next couple of days. But what I say is that we have to be able to deal with all our problems within difficult financial circumstances. What we have to do is to make a good start on dealing with them. You won't build the Coast Guard overnight, which is why I've said that for the short-term we supported the Prime Minister's initiatives legislatively and in terms of the use of the Navy. But we also have substantial resources now being bound up in Coast Guard-like activity, in several departments of state. What you'd be doing with a Coast Guard is bringing that together. There's an absolute imperative on dealing with it now because there is a tender process under way for replacement of the Fremantle class patrol boats. I notice in those tender arrangements that far from seeking that tender on the basis of ships capable of sustaining the sorts of hours that were originally judged necessary in the circumstances that we find ourselves, have been altered to be cut by one third - one third the number of hours they're supposed to be able to sustain at sea. I think you'd find that if you started to orient the buy to the type of craft a Coast Guard would need, then you will get better bang for your buck, so to speak. You'd get an enhanced capability as far as the Coast Guard is concerned for the same money.

JOURNALIST: On your first trip to Indonesia, would you immediately seek to revise your proposal to …

BEAZLEY: I think the centrepiece of the visit would be to listen in the first instance, to get a better understanding of exactly how it is that they perceive us. But I would also put on the table the Arafura Sea proposal that I put on the table about 18 months ago to see if this was a mechanism through which an appropriate discussion could take place in the long-term. It is a matter of the most profound regret that that initiative of President Wahid's 18 months ago wasn't seized by us and, no doubt, the fact that it wasn't seized has been noted by our Indonesian counterparts. I don't want to raise unreasonable expectations. What I want to do is to get back to the business of building relationships with Indonesia. Only by doing that, will we be able, at the end of the day, to ensure that our borders are secure.

JOURNALIST: In the agreement between you, becoming Prime Minister, should that occur, and an agreement with Indonesia, should that occur, what would you do with asylum seekers who actually make it into our waters and are….would you actually…sending them to Papua New Guinea?

BEAZLEY: If agreements had been put in place, I would persist in the course that we have now. Because, as I said, we've supported the Government on those matters. You will recollect who was the first to suggest that what ought to be done in the case of Tampa was to find a safe haven for those who were concerned on board that ship. You will also recollect who mocked whom in Parliament when that suggestion was put out into the public arena. It's not a long-term solution. I know that. Everybody in this country, I think, in their hearts knows that as well. We can't keep on doing that forever. We need a different solution. In the short-term, that is all we have.

JOURNALIST: Would you process on Christmas Island instead?

BEAZLEY: I see the Government is processing some on Christmas Island and then sending them on. The point is, you have to act in a way that discourages people as best you can from coming here. We had to do some minimal processing just simply when you're going through transfer. The Government has put in place legislation to permit that. But as far as I'm concerned, we would utilise all the options that had been presented to us, effectively, by our political opponents and that we've supported while they've been put in place. The point about all of that is that it's short-term. I know it's short-term. But I also know that it will take a while before you get both the Coast Guard in place, so you have to keep using the Navy,

and it will take a while before you get this diplomatic position in place. In those circumstances, you have to act in a way that discourages people.

JOURNALIST: … Kiribati?

BEAZLEY: I think you've probably got enough points out there to operate with.

JOURNALIST: … relationship with Indonesia should you win the election. Are you concerned about President Megawati launching, if you like, against the United States … any bombing of Taliban in Afghanistan…impact this might have …

BEAZLEY: Firstly, we must support the efforts that are being undertaken by George Bush and Tony Blair to get to deal with this scourge of international terrorism. I'm thoroughly aware that there are different views about what is the appropriate way to do these things. But I agree with the course of action that the United States and that the United Kingdom are proceeding with at this moment. I don't think that there is any other alternative than what they're doing to get at what is a very serious problem indeed and we should support them practically as well. But you ought to be able to sustain a relationship with your neighbour on the basis of your mutual interest, not your mutual agreement. Nobody has ever suggested that what we ought to do is to work out a way in which our foreign policies and Indonesia's foreign policies move in tandem. That can never be the case. What you have to do is to ensure that where there are areas of mutual interest, and particularly where there's an area of Australian interest, that we want addressed, that we can arrive at reasonable agreements. It will always be thus. So, from time to time, there will be disagreement on a particular element, or event in or occurring in the international political system. The point is, how you ensure that those disagreements, which will arise from time to time, and may from time to time be quite severe, don't curtail your capacity in those areas of mutual interest to conduct a good relationship. There's nothing particularly new in any of that. That is the heart of diplomacy in so far as diplomacy protects any country's national interest.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, there's a report in The Australian this morning that the stamp duty transaction of Cheryl Kernot's is being investigated by Queensland authorities. Do you have any knowledge about that? And, if it turns out to be true, will you be taking any action?

BEAZLEY: Happy to take that question when I'm sure that we've exhausted everything on the Coastguard and border protection. Have we exhausted everything on the Coastguard and border protection?

JOURNALIST: There's another report in the paper today saying that the Navy has told the Government they worry about the Coastguard … to the Navy.

BEAZLEY: There'll be different views in the Navy on this matter. The point is, what is the Government's view of the national interest? The United States operates on this basis. It is a great maritime nation, and we do, too.

One of the things that I draw your attention to, insofar as the Navy is concerned, is the … the two things I draw your attention to. Firstly, this is a de facto naval auxiliary that we're dealing with here so in wartime it comes effectively under naval control.

Secondly, it is also a body which would provide the thing that the Navy enjoys most from its current patrol boat operations, and that is the ability to train in command junior officers and that, plus other

specialists, insofar as their specialities are enhanced by service with a Coastguard, would be available for rotation through the Coastguard.

Getting the proper personnel levels in our armed forces over these decades is going to be a major challenge for government and ensuring that the personnel who are appointed actually perform their tasks at the core of whatever defence service requirement is, is going to be an increasing challenge. There is a smaller and smaller percentage of the community, from which you draw, for the purposes of serving in our armed forces.

That's what's making recruitment more and more difficult, more and more competition for a smaller percentage of the Australian population for service. Increasingly, the burdens of taking on new technologies in our armed forces are going to challenge that basic demographic fact. So, being able to assist a task by utilising that task for the purposes of training, but not at the same time being obliged to perform it yourself, I believe has got enormous long-term advantage to the Navy.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, I understand that this morning Mr Howard made an announcement about the submarine major refit contract going to Adelaide. Do you support that announcement and, if so, why Adelaide and not Jervis Bay?

BEAZLEY: That's not on the Coastguard. Is the Coastguard now finished? Indonesia diplomacy now finished? Right. Then I'll take Dennis' and then yours. Dennis.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, … this morning, there's a report that Cheryl Kernot's stamp duty transaction is being investigated by Queensland authorities. Do you know anything about that, and if it turns out to be true, will you be taking any action?

BEAZLEY: I don't know what the position of the Queensland authorities is but I've seen the report that you allude to in which the relevant taxation commissioner said that he'd be looking at that. I imagine that, should he do so, it'll pose no problems for Cheryl. I notice, also, in the same report, a whole series of people who have some independent expertise in that matter also coming out there and saying that, as far as they could see, there was nothing wrong in Cheryl's arrangements. I see there are four Cabinet Ministers now devoted to this particular task of attacking Cheryl, which is an indication of the extent to which this Government has an agenda for the long- term, in terms of the capacity of its Ministers to focus on matters related to their portfolios and the development of long-term policy. But I have confidence in Cheryl on these matters. She is defending herself, as she's entitled to, and I'm getting on with the election campaign.

JOURNALIST: … some standards, though. I mean, if some investigation is raised, should she step aside during that investigation?

BEAZLEY: I have seen no suggestion of a police investigation. I have seen no suggestion of anything remotely approaching that. The question you make, that you put, doesn't arise in those circumstances. And I note the opinions that are being expressed - obviously by several people with expertise in these arrangements, as far as the tax is concerned- and none of them seem to see any problem with this at all. Now, you had a question on the submarines.

JOURNALIST: Yes. I understand this morning Mr Howard made an announcement that Adelaide would get the major refit work for the Collins Class submarines, which is worth more than $1 billion over 20-30 years. I'm just interested in whether you support that announcement and, if so, why Adelaide and not

Jervis Bay?

BEAZLEY: I support the Defence Department making the determination. That is the only appropriate way you can treat contractual matters like that. They have to make the judgement about what is the appropriate place to do that refit, based on their understanding of the intellectual property issues and the technological issues involved. If Ministers interfere with that sort of thing politically, a tender process or a bidding process like that politically, we are in trouble. That's the first point I'd make on it. So, what I've said is if, at the end of the day, that is the recommendation, then I'll support it and I understand that that is the recommendation. What I would point out is this; we have obtained here in Western Australia massive employment as a result of decisions I took when I was Defence Minister to ensure that the Navy was shifted in large proportion to Western Australia and to ensure that it was properly sustained here. We put in place a ship-lift capability in order to be able to do that. The day to day, or the operational, work that is done on the Collins Class submarines is done here in WA to the considerable benefit of employment in this State. But I made that decision on the basis of the national interest. I made that decision on what was the right thing to do with the Navy. I believed it was a political decision to leave the Navy in the Eastern States rather than put them where they could be most effective and efficient - and that is here. But, having taken a national interest and properly-based decision in those circumstances, I just want to assure people I'll persist.

JOURNALIST: ou've spoken a lot about building ships in WA and South Australia. Is there a future for the naval dockyard at Williamstown in Victoria?

BEAZLEY: There will be bids for these Coastguard patrol boats from WA, from South Australia, from Victoria, from NSW, and from Queensland and Tasmania. In the production of small ships of this character, North Queensland and Western Australia and perhaps Tasmania have quite a substantial foothold, quite a substantial foothold. I suspect that Dr Gallop was very sensible when he put forward, in his correspondence to me, a letter alerting me to the potential of Western Australia in that regard, with the suggestion that we should focus, that there should be some attention paid to Western Australian capability. No doubt, when it comes to making a deliberation on these matters, that capability will put Western Australia in very good stead. But Williamstown will be in that, as well. So, no doubt, will South Australia, Tasmania, and North Queensland and Newcastle.

JOURNALIST: There's been some talk, though, of Williamstown closing. Would you allow that to happen?

BEAZLEY: I would hope that that wouldn't occur. I would hope that they'd be able to find themselves additional work. But I also know this: once a tender process goes forward, then it is up to the individual yard to make its case. It'll be the duty of those who run Williamstown, if they're interested in this - just as it's the duty of those who run the yards in Western Australia, if they're interested in this - to get their bids in.

JOURNALIST: What did you make of today's Newspoll?

BEAZLEY: Well, I've told you before, I'm not an analyst, I'm a fighter. We started this election campaign in tough circumstances. What I'm pleased about is that for the last week we have put forward positive, affordable solutions for the future of our nation and we've committed ourselves to a long- term effort to deal with the problems. Only a long-term Prime Minister can fix these things. Only a long-term Prime Minister can properly protect this country and only a long-term Prime Minister seriously interested

in our health and education problems.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, Mr Shier seems to have a fresh set of problems. What's your comment on this and if you were Prime Minister, would your Government be interventionist in regard to the management problems at that ABC? And, if so, in what way?

BEAZLEY: I believe that a properly and resourced and independent national broadcaster is a major contribution to Australian public life. The ABC should be independent, properly resourced and free from Government interference. The ABC for the last five years has been starved and thugged politically by this Government. That has been their intention deliberately to intimidate the ABC by thugging it politically. I don't know the character of the Board's relationship with Mr Shier, the Managing Director, but I do know this, the appointment of the CEO is a job for the Board, not the Government and there clearly is a requirement here for the Board to clarify for you and for everybody else what their particular problems are. For me as an alternative Prime Minister, what I have to say is this: I will not interfere in the ABC, I will see that it is properly resourced. While, from time to time, it's always legitimate to complain about anything that is said on a radio program or a television program about yourself, thugging them politically to try and change their political orientation is out of court as far as I'm concerned.

Ends

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.