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Transcript of doorstop interview with the Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, Canberra, 9 May 2005. Subjects: Skills shortages; Tax cuts; Peter Costello; Douglas Wood.

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10 MAY 2005


Subjects: Skills shortages; Tax cuts; Peter Costello; Douglas Wood:

BEAZLEY: This budget will be tested. And it will be determined as to whether or not it’s a success by the amount of serious new investment in it in the skills of the Australian workforce. That is where we’re going to get our next spurt in growth and a guaranteed continuation of our prosperity. The Reserve Bank

said it, the OECD has said it. It’s the skills of the Australian workforce which count now. And there are many ways in which you can invest in that, but that’s what’s got to be clearly identified as new and substantial in this budget

Secondarily to it and just as important is investment in infrastructure. The blockages that are inhibiting the performances of our exporters These two things are what is now putting the pressure on interest rates in our economy. These two things are the things which are most lacking. The Government’s only answer to it at the moment is to import skilled workers. What we’ve got to do is to see that young Australians, indeed all Australians, get trained to do the jobs that the economy now needs.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that given the projected surplus that there is any need to sort of punish mothers, unmarried mothers and the more disadvantaged?

BEAZLEY: We’ll take a look at what’s in the budget papers of course when it comes down today and we’ll have a better idea. But an $80 hit on a person struggling to support a couple of kids or a kid is pretty hard. That’s pretty hard.

JOURNALIST: Is the food off the table stuff?

BEAZLEY: That definitely is food off the table. But let’s see what the real intentions of this government are and at what, all Australians, including people who are supporting kids need, is the option, the opportunity to get the skills that they need to be full participants in the workforce. I hear these Liberals wondering around all over the place saying all that’s required here is sticks. Always remember this about mothers: they are in fact doing the most important job in the

Australian community and that’s bringing up kids. That’s making sure that kids are properly nurtured. Supporting parents, single mums who are doing that have that most important element of their lives that they need to maintain to their satisfaction in shape if we’re going to generate the next generation of good

Aussies. So, they’re doing an important job now, but, they deserve an opportunity. They deserve an opportunity to get into the workforce and we need skilled Australians, skilled young Australians, skilled middle-aged Australians to

generate the prosperity, remove the blockages, the impediments to growth that are now driving interest rates.

JOURNALIST: Should tax cuts be a priority in this budget?

BEAZLEY: We’ll see what the Government has to say about tax cuts. But, tax cuts are no good if they don’t enhance incentive. We will judge anything in relation to tax cuts by the extent to which they encourage people to participate

in the workforce and improve themselves. That’s what we’ll be about when we look at tax cuts.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Peter Costello will still be Treasurer this time next year?

BEAZLEY: He says not in all things that he’s had to say so far and that’s the whole problem with the Government at the moment. We’ve got serious issues in skills. Serious issues in infrastructure. Serious issues in incentives and

they’re worried about each other. And the whole of this budget is now being viewed the prism of the Leadership contest when it should be viewed through the prism of what gives Australia the next spurt in growth to ensure that we sustain the prosperity, the jobs, the lifestyles that we need to make Australians a happy people.

JOURNALIST: The deadline on Douglas Wood is up without any word on his fate. Is there anything that you can think of that hasn’t been done that should be done?

BEAZLEY: People are working on it very carefully. People are giving it an enormous amount of concern and consideration and attention. Everything that people have done so far, the family, the Ministers and others engaged in this has been on the basis of the best advice. And we can only pray that some of this gets through for those who are his captors and will get an outcome which sees

him alive. That’s what we’re all playing for.

JOURNALIST: Would you have paid the money to charity as the family have if it was your family involved?

BEAZLEY: I said at the outset of this I wasn’t going to be into micro management or micro commentary on all the steps that have been taken.

Everybody, as far as I know, is acting in accordance with what has been identified as the best way of handling this sort of situation. And that includes everything being said by the family and my heart goes out to them.

JOURNALIST: They’re really prejudices against the Muslim community because of Australia’s involvement in the Middle East do you think this is a bit of a watershed situation too, between the Australian non-Muslim community and the Australian Muslim community?

BEAZLEY: Well it does seem to me that the Australian Muslim community is putting its shoulders to the wheel as well as its Leaders to try to secure an outcome that sees Mr Woods come out alive. And they are involved, as many others are involved, in trying to bring this shocking situation to a conclusion that is: I was going to say a happy conclusion, it can’t be a happy conclusion, but a

successful conclusion in relation to ensuring that Mr Woods stays alive.