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Transcript of doorstop interview: Perth: 18 November 2005: Vivian Alvarez Solon; Australian troops in Iraq; Nguyen Van Tuong; WA ALP President; Industrial Relations; terror video.



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Australian Labor Party National ALP

21/11/2005

Vivian Alvarez Solon; Australian troops in Iraq;

Nguyen Van Tuong; WA ALP President;

Industrial Relations; terror video

Kim Beazley

Doorstop Interview Perth - 18th November 2005

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

BEAZLEY: Just a quick word on the Alvarez Solon case. The Immigration Department under this Government has become a turnstile of incompetence. They don't know whether they are deporting Australians or importing criminals. They are of a shocking standard, and this simply has to be fixed in the interest of protecting our borders and the lives of Australians.

JOURNALIST: Why did they take so long, do you think, to bring her home?

BEAZLEY: Well, the simple fact of the matter is they've been arguing the case with her lawyers and others about what the compensation package is. This is the penalty you pay when your Immigration Department is simply a turnstile of incompetence. So that has been, I think, the principle factor behind the slowness of which things seemed to have happened. That's not good news for Australians, and we need to be aware that we pay the penalty when governments are incompetent.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the compensation package was big enough?

BEAZLEY: Well, that is something that's going to have to be worked out by the Government, but it's going to be substantial. You can't take an Australian, deport them overseas, and have them living in shocking conditions, and not pay a penalty for it. That's one of the many reasons why we need a competent Immigration Department.

JOURNALIST: The Iraqi Prime Minister's office is talking about Australian troops no longer needed in the South of Iraq. Do you think they are right?

BEAZLEY: It makes it absolutely clear that this rotation of Australian soldiers should be the last. The Australian Government must make that clear to the United States. Our priorities are Afghanistan and Southeast Asia, and of course, defending ourselves. Now the Government needs to be clear cut with our American allies. The Iraqi Government has made absolutely clear to us that the principal element of our deployment has served its purpose.

JOURNALIST: If they are saying they are not needed now, why wait?

BEAZLEY: Well, we have a rotation going through, an exit strategy needs to be prepared. If they are not necessary now, they should come home.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect there will be calls for them to be redeployed?

BEAZLEY: Yes, there will. Its been made amply clear that the United States is - at least the leaking around the AUSMIN talks - clearly imply that the United States wants us to continue. We need to be clear cut now. Not keep them dangling, be absolutely straight with the Americans now and say: "We've done the job there as far as we are concerned, and as far as the troops in Al Muthanna Province are concerned, they are coming back". And our priorities are Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. That's where we add value, and that's where we are going to maintain a presence.

JOURNALIST: John Howard not being told about the hanging date for the Australian in Singapore, when clearly a date had been set, do you see that as a snub for our Prime Minister.

BEAZLEY: Well, we Australians act in good faith internationally and we expect to be treated in good faith. At the same time, I'm less concerned about what Howard was and wasn't told than I am about what is going to happen. And I hope the Government will find a multiplicity of ways of presenting again our case to the Singaporean Government that Mr Nguyen should not hang.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying he hasn't tried hard enough to date?

BEAZLEY: No, I'm not going to say that actually. We have all tried very hard in our different ways. We in the Opposition don't have the authority of Government. We've tried hard. I am very conscious of the number of times the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and other Ministers in fact, have made representations to the Singaporeans. I do think the Singaporeans need to comprehend that we in this country take this enormously seriously, and there will be a poor element into our relationship with Singapore if this goes ahead, and that would be very unfortunate.

We are moved by principle, and most of us are opposed to the death penalty. But more than that, or as well as that, all of us feel that this young man has got something to say about the people who are the real problems in the drug industry, and he would be a useful witness in bringing to brook some Mr Bigs.

JOURNALIST: In what way do you think do you think it could damage relations, and how seriously?

BEAZLEY: Well, relations are things of practicalities and they are also things of the heart and spirit. We have enjoyed an enormously good relationship with the Singaporeans. They are lovely people to do business with. We have Singaporean training bases operating here in Australia. They're good friends of this country, and indeed they are allies of this country under the Five Power Defence arrangement. Now, I don't expect all that to collapse, I don't. But, that good spirit that's there, that underpins all of the practicalities - that will be damaged.

JOURNALIST: With everything that has been done to try to change their minds, is it simply a matter now of hoping there will be a change of heart, or can something practical be done?

BEAZLEY: Well, for many Australian's it will be a matter of hoping, but for Government Ministers, they are never helpless. They can keep presenting the case right up until the time, and we should.

JOURNALIST: On IR quickly. The Senate Inquiry - has it uncovered a bit, achieved much, has it really achieved anything?

BEAZLEY: Well, it's too short, like the gagged debate in the House of Representatives - and the Senate debate will be gagged too at the conclusion of it. It has severely embarrassed the Government - the Inquiry. The revelations of employers intending immediately to lower wages in the hospitality industry, for example, that has exposed the Government. And many other elements of this package have been exposed, like the lack of control over how many hours will be worked a week, that sort of thing has been exposed. So, I think a lot has come out from the Inquiry, but nothing that was unexpected by us I have to say.

This is a botched piece of legislation producing an unjust situation and the Government should back of. If the Government doesn't, I will go into the next

election campaign promising to rip this legislation up. It's unsaveable. We will put in place a system that gives people justice.

JOURNALIST: Sarah Bourke - new State ALP President?

BEAZLEY: Well, you understand that party leaders or political leaders, parliamentary leaders, don't go around telling the machine who should and who should not be elected. There are lot of good candidates in the field, and Sarah is one of them. She is a good soul, and Brian and his family stand well with me.

JOURNALIST: Geoff Gallop has always distanced himself from (inaudible).

BEAZLEY: Brian is a life-long friend of mine. We did things together as kids and starting off in political life. Geoff doesn't have the same relationship with him, and that's a matter for Geoff. For me, I see things differently, and I wish Sarah well. But I also say, there are other good candidates in the field, and I am not selecting from among them.

JOURNALIST: The terror video that came out yesterday, your reaction to that, given the naming of Australia, Howard, Downer, etc.

BEAZLEY: The correct stance in this long struggle is one for us where we have to be stoic, we have to have stamina, and we have to be clever. We are constantly under threat, and will be for a very considerable period of time. It emphasises for me how important the Southeast Asian sphere in this struggle is, and how important it is for us to reprioritise and to give that area the significance it deserves.

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.