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Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra, 19 November 1996: transcript [Satellite emergency, History]


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has expressed concern that he wasn't told for two hours by the Defence officials about yesterday's potential catastrophe. Does he have every right to be concerned about that?

BEAZLEY: Well, he should be told. That's obviously the case. They seemed to have done everything right in terms of putting in place emergency procedures except, obviously, telling the one person they should have told about it and no doubt they'll have to smarten up their act on that.

JOURNALIST: Is it embarrassing that the Prime Minister has to wait until he's told by the US President?

BEAZLEY: Yes. It is. There's no question about that and he's obviously pretty annoyed about it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister should investigate what went wrong?

BEAZLEY: Well, what went wrong is pretty obvious. There's a telephone in front of the emergency coordinator and there's a telephone on his desk and the two didn't ring simultaneously. That's the problem. So, he will no doubt feel obliged to fix that up.

JOURNALIST: Mr Howard gave a fairly important speech last night and he seemed to be papering over some of our history with Aboriginal people. Do you think that he's trying to re-write Australian history?

BEAZLEY: I think that the Prime Minister has an odd characteristic in a man who has successfully contested the last election. And that is he seems desperately keen to lay the ghost of his predecessor. And we had him over the weekend saying, 'I can't actually get around Asia because Paul Keating did that and Paul Keating is tall, therefore I must be small'. And that approach, that attempt, to lay the ghost of his predecessor is becoming an interesting psychological process, but not terribly edifying. I think that the one predecessor of his that he apparently admires, Bob Menzies, confronted one tough situation in his life, and that was in 1941, and he was found wanting by his Party at that point in time and that flawed, considerably, his subsequent career. The period from 1949 onwards, when the Liberal Party was in power, was a period of missed opportunity in this country. There is no question about that. It was a period of economic ease, given international circumstances. And it was an ease which we took no advantage of. And I think that that's, though it's now a very long time ago, it is something of a national tragedy.