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Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra, 5 December 1996: transcript

EOE - PROOF ONLY

BEAZLEY: That's the message of the day, team - don't get sick. The cost of your pharmaceuticals is going up, bulk billing is compromised and, on top of that, the Prime Ministerially approved price rises for health funds have eaten up the rebate they promised you before you get it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there's a link here, that you're being forced to take out private health insurance now if you're a high income earner and now the health funds are moving to put bigger exclusion periods in?

BEAZLEY: An obvious link. And as the Government, as it will do over the next few years, moves to push more and more of middle Australia into a no-choice situation as far as health insurance is concerned, then they're quite clearly turning the health insurance funds loose.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government is also planning to erode community rating?

BEAZLEY: Well, we'll see, won't we? I mean, everything else has gone. It will be very interesting to see what happens with that.

JOURNALIST: Is there also a message 'don't go to your university after passing the HECS ...?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think what went through the Senate yesterday, and let's concentrate on the policy rather than the process, was a product of a lie told to the young people of Australia during the last election campaign. And two things have been hit: opportunity for kids, and the clever country. What the Government has done has put disincentives to go to university and disincentives to do sciences and engineering. It's killing kids opportunities and it's killing the future of this country.

JOURNALIST: And what does it say about the future of the Telstra Bill?

BEAZLEY: Well, we'll see what happens to the Telstra Bill, but it's an argument that we have always made. What counts is the vote you put in place in the House of Representatives. That changes the policy. What the vote in the House of Representatives has meant is declining educational opportunity, more expensive health, and higher joblessness. That's what the vote in the House of Representatives meant last time, and it's been delivered in full.

JOURNALIST: But do you think, in any way though, that HECS getting through is an indication that the Government might have some success on Telstra as well?

BEAZLEY: Look, we've said all along, as we've reminded people continually since the election, the bulk of what the Government proposes to do will get through. The important thing is the policy. Do you like the policy or don't you? Forget the Senate. It's the policy. And if Telstra gets through it means yet another hit at the clever country as our electronics industry goes down the tube, and that just follows up on fewer engineers, fewer scientists as a result of their discrimination against them in higher education charges.

JOURNALIST: What are the latest talks the Opposition has had with Senators Harradine and Colston? When were they and ... when were the latest talks the Opposition has had with Senators Harradine and Colston on Telstra?

BEAZLEY: Well, we talked to Senator Harradine on this subject and I've talked to Senator Colston on it. What their views are we'll find out when the vote is on. But, at the end of the day, as I said before, on all important things, the Government is going to get the bulk of its legislation through - and its legislation is bad.

JOURNALIST: On the republic, are you pleased the Prime Minister seems to be dealing with your suggestion seriously and in a fairly non-political way?

BEAZLEY: Yes. I'm glad the Prime Minister responded to the views I put forward in the spirit in which I presented them to him. We've got a lot to talk through on this issue. He has an opportunity to secure himself a place in history by moving us in the direction that most Australians now want to go. We'll see if he takes it up.

JOURNALIST: Back to Telstra, will you be stepping up talks with Senators Colston and Harradine after the way they voted yesterday?

BEAZLEY: I think that probably it ... to all intents and purposes, though they're not saying it, the two of them have already determined what they're going to do. And we'll just have to see what it is.

JOURNALIST: When do you think there will be a vote?

BEAZLEY: Well, I don't know, but I'm told very likely today, probably this morning.

JOURNALIST: Can you change their minds before then?

BEAZLEY: I don't know what their minds are.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about Alan Bond, as well, pleading guilty yesterday. What's your reaction to that?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think it's a good thing that punishment will be handed out for people who have defrauded the public. I think it's not before time as far as he is concerned and you'd hope that in future the wheels could grind less slowly and less lengthily.

JOURNALIST: So, would you have anything to say to Alan Bond today?

BEAZLEY: No. I'm not here to gloat or anything. I just think justice has been served.