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Parliament House, Canberra, 24 June 1999: transcript of doorstop [family policy; Senator Heffernan; Warren Entsch; Andrew Theophanous; Heather Hill]



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 24 JUNE 1999

 

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

 

Subjects: Family policy, Senator Heffernan, Warren Entsch, Andrew Theophanous, Heather Hill

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Yesterday, John Howard released his family policy. And what was it? It was one free marriage consultancy for every new-to-be Australian family. This is his answer. An answer that was, anyway, provided in the Budget. The fact that he is about to put in place the most confusing and massive tax slug on ordinary Australian families in his GST. And, at the same time as he has massively increased the cost of childcare. This is US-style spin doctoring at its very worst. And spin doctoring at the highest level of Government. To try and claim that this bagatelle makes you family friendly when you’re doing those things to Australian families is the ultimate hypocrisy.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Senator Heffernan’s resignation from Cooba. Is that an admission of guilt?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, this is obviously a very amnesic Government. I mean, there’s no two ways about that - a very amnesic Government. My problem with Heffernan is less the fact that he forgot his directorships and placed himself, advertently or inadvertently, in breach of the Government’s Code of Conduct - that’s evidently not worth the paper it’s written on. My problem is his agitation on family trusts. You sit down there and look at the fact that he’s got about half a dozen of them, and this guy appears to be leading the National Party, though he’s a Liberal, along in a campaign against the Government’s family trust legislation that’s included in this tax package. Now, you haven’t heard much about this. And the reason you haven’t heard much about this is the Labor Party basically agrees with the Government’s position. It is the only tax reform that actually does what the Government says tax reform should do, and that is get every Australian to pay their fair share. And what Heffernan, and, evidently, the Nationals are doing - and Heffernan in his place as Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet - is campaigning to get rid of that, or to massively amend it. And the consequence of that is going to be that the one measure, actually, the one of two measures in this package which actually ensures that people pay their fair share of tax gets compromised, while a massive new tax comes in on every Australian household. I mean, that is the sort of wretched public policy position of the members of this indisciplined Government.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So, do you want his resignation?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, I want Entsch’s resignation. That’s what I want. That’s the bloke who is massively in breach of the Code of Conduct. I’ll take a look at what Heffernan had to say yesterday. Those were questions basically being asked in the Senate. But my problem with Heffernan is what he’s reported to be doing in the area of family trusts.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is he in breach of the Code, Senator Heffernan?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, obviously he’s in breach of the Code. Whether it’s advertent or inadvertent, I don’t know. He himself knows he’s in breach of the Code. He came out with all sorts of weird excuses for it last night. But, in terms of breaches of the Code, on a Richter scale of 10, we have Mr Entsch on 15, and Mr Heffernan somewhere less than that.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is it appropriate for Senator Minchin to try to gag CSIRO, in terms of talking about this?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No, it is not. And, isn’t it interesting? And aren’t those reports today different from those documents that were tabled by Mr Howard last night. Quite clearly, Entsch has been out there verballing the CSIRO report as to what it actually means. It means something very different from what he’s had to say: that ‘he certainly hasn’t been pressuring CSIRO’. But, on his own documentation, he seems to have had about a dozen ‘non-pressuring’ contacts with CSIRO. And he just happens to be the junior Minister in the portfolio that incorporates CSIRO. Clearly, agitation from Entsch is very different from agitation from, say, for argument’s sake, the Member for Petrie, or the Member for Brisbane, or whatever.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

How do the allegations against Dr Theophanous stand on the Richter scale?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, it’s been well known for some time that Dr Theophanous has been under investigation, and that’s been a matter of public record. A matter of public record placed there, I might say, by Dr Theophanous himself. Thus far, no charges have emerged from that. And no comment ought to be made, and even, perhaps, if charges were laid on that matter. It’s a matter for the NCA. It may be, depending on what happens, a matter for the judicial process. And that is not something that ought to be commented on while those matters are under consideration.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Will you publicly defend his innocence, though?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

You always are entitled to a presumption of innocence. It doesn’t matter who it is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Dr Theophanous or Mr Smith. You’re entitled to a presumption of innocence under our judicial process.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is this going to muddy your campaign against Mr Entsch?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Not in the least. If charges were to emerge, and even if they don’t, the fact that he is the subject of investigation is what is called ‘accountability’. That’s what’s called ‘accountability’. What’s going on with Entsch is called ‘not being accountable’. That’s what’s going on there. Entsch is in breach of the Government’s Code of Conduct. Entsch is probably in breach of the pecuniary interests requirements of the Constitution. Entsch clearly has a bit of a case to answer on the subject of the Code of Conduct and the potential conflict of interest. But no accountability is taking place for Mr Entsch. Not like the accountability for everybody who now has to handle this tax system. So, we have two standards in this country. One for the rest of us, and one for Mr Entsch.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

After the High Court ruling on Heather Hill yesterday, are you considering going to the High Court, like a High Court challenge for Entsch?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

The High Court challenge has clearly indicated that the High Court thinks it has jurisdiction on matters. But, as I said, we’re not going to place ourselves rapidly in a position where we are curtailed in our ability to examine Mr Entsch’s affairs in Parliament.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Would you support monarchists’ calls for a referendum to determine whether Australians of dual citizenship should be able to stand for Parliament or for President?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I’ll take a look at that one. I think it’s a good thing, basically, that we Australians have in our representatives a demand for undivided loyalties. But we also permit dual citizenship in this country, and that’s no bad thing either. So, it’s worthwhile to have a bit of a look at that. But I’m more interested in the referendum on the republic. What the High Court indicated with absolute clarity yesterday was that the Australian Head of State is the Head of State, according to the High Court, of a foreign power.

 

ends

 

 

rw  1999-06-25  12:19