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Transcript of interview with Patrick Condren, ABC Radio 4QR, Brisbane, 10 July 1996



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I LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK CONDREN, ABC RADIO 4QR, BRISBANE, 10 JULY 1996

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

CONDREN: Federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, good morning.

BEAZLEY: Good to be here.

CONDREN: Thanks for your time. There are a number of issues in Queensland at the moment, not the least of which is the controversial Port Hinchinbrook development that was stopped by the previous Labor Federal Government. It's

been described as the next green battle ground. Which side will you be on?

BEAZLEY: Well, we made pretty clear our position, of course, some time ago when we decided that the project was environmentally unsafe. We did that on good, scientific advice. We noted the sensitive position where it is - in a world heritage area - but, above all, adjacent to what is arguably Australia's greatest tourist

attraction. And where there is absolutely a need to balance preserving the attraction with the developments that enable people to see it, and I'd be very interested to see what is emerging as a very weak Environmental Minister in Mr Hill has got to say to justify his change.

CONDREN: Given that it's going to be good for this State's economy, why shouldn't it go ahead?

BEAZLEY: There's a lot of things that would be good for this State's economy, including if there'd been a conclusion reached with Comalco on getting up in place a decent processing plant which would have been many billions of dollars worth of

investment here but which the State Government has allowed to walk. So, there's much that would be good for the Queensland economy, and jobs here are important. We've got a Federal Government slashing jobs in Queensland so jobs are always going to be very much on people's minds. But there'll be no jobs in the

environmental or tourism industry if Queensland's great environmental attractions go out the window. So, let's take a look at what they now say, Mr Hill now says, is the overwhelming scientific evidence which has changed the view, if you like, of the Federal Government, in this case. You don't have a lot of confidence when it's

announced by Tim Fischer over a radio program where there's a three week period of review. It doesn't sound to me like it's a bunch taking it terribly seriously. COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY

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CONDREN: Another project that's in the headlines in Queensland is Century Zinc. What are your views on that?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think the mine should go ahead. I think that's a view that is shared by just about everybody who looks at this issue. It is an important project for Queensland and it is supported basically by most of the Aboriginal community that is associated with it one way or another. I worry, however, that the Native Title Act has not been given an opportunity to work in this instance and having at last been started belatedly, it is now in the process of being truncated. I mean it's all very well these days to say 'well this is, you know, a hairy-chested, good initiative, get it off the ground,' all the rest of it. If the High Court brings down a chopper on you

because you've got your legislation wrong, then what is supposed to have been a speed up process becomes a massive slow down process. And I'm afraid I don't trust Mr Borbidge's judgement in this area very much.

CONDREN: Why should Century be allowed to go ahead and Port Hinchinbrook not? There's environmental concerns with both.

BEAZLEY: They are two different sets of concerns and the impact of one on a very important area of our environment is clearly much greater than that of the other -CONDREN: So some environmental concerns aren't as arguable as some others?

BEAZLEY: Well, of course. But you're always making 'on balance' judgements like that on questions of the environment, if you do anything at all. The point about a decent amount of environmental testing is not that things don't go ahead, but you know what you're doing when they do go ahead and, if what you're doing is going to create excessive damage, you don't do it. Now in the case of Hinchinbrook, a

process arrived at that conclusion; a process has not arrived at that conclusion in relation to the mine.

CONDREN: With regard to Century, the proposed Borbidge legislation will remove Aborigines from the negotiating process. Is that fair?

BEAZLEY: Well, let's have a bit of a look at it when it finally comes out because we've heard an awful lot about it. I think there's a couple of things that have to be clearly understood. One, the Native Title Act does not give Aboriginals the right to stop developments. It does not. It gives them a right to negotiate over a period of time and then arrive at a conclusion. Their rights are the same as yours and mine

over our freehold property. At the end of the day, we can negotiate through a process, but a government can resume. Of course, when it resumes then a compensation issue is raised. And I don't quite know what Mr Borbidge is getting at but when he says 'we’ll settle a compensation issue at the end of the life of the mine' - 1 mean if somebody were to whack a mine onto your property and said 'look sport,

in 30 years from now we'll work out whether or not you're going to be compensated', you might have a thing or two to say. Saying that sort of thing makes you a bit suspicious that perhaps the Racial Discrimination Act is not going to be observed either in the spirit or in the detail. And, of course, if that happens then the sorts of

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potentially disruptive processes via injunctive processes and via court decision are going to apply. So, at the end of the day, the miner becomes the meat in the sandwich. We don't get the jobs, we don't get the thing proceeding, and we get

bogged down in endless argument. I think there is a process there that could've brought this to a successful conclusion and that process has not been allowed to work. It didn't start early enough and it's now been truncated. I think the company, in a very important sense, is blameless in all of that. It wanted to work on this much earlier. But we'll take a look at the legislation when it comes forward, of course. We think that the State Government is perfectly capable of seeing this thing settled here

without any federal intervention at all.

CONDREN: So, in terms of getting Federal Government approval, you'd support John Howard if he wanted to go down that line?

BEAZLEY: Well, we'd take a look at the legislation as it came through. We'd take a look at any legislation from the point of view of whether or not it breached the RDA, and we'd take our own advice on that and have the argument on it when it comes through. But we can see processes here that would more than adequately complete it without the Federal Government being involved and -CONDREN: For example?

BEAZLEY: Well, firstly, that there is a negotiating process underway. You trigger the Native Title Act. There are time limits on those negotiations. At the end of the day, you can conclude it, and if the State Minister does not like the outcomes, the State Minister can intervene to change it. That's under the Native Title Act. It can be done. That's point one. Point two: if you don't want to go down that road, it is also possible for the State Government to introduce legislation that indemnifies the company against any successful compensation claims and the process can proceed. The Native Title Act does not prevent State Governments or anyone else that has authority - local governments, the rest of it - from doing the things that the

... Federal Government, that they could normally do with any form of title in the community. It just ensures that there is, at the end of the day, appropriate compensation.

CONDREN: I come back to the point of removing the right of Aborigines to negotiate in this particular case. Isn't that unfair? It's their land, isn't it? They have a right to have a say?

BEAZLEY: Well, that's got to be established, of course, that it is their land, and that's a matter currently being considered by the High Court as to the extent to which native title on that land has been successfully over the years suppressed. So, that's a matter yet to come through. But the right to negotiate is an important right, there is no question about that. And it is also one which, if allowed to come through

to a conclusion - which I believe it would before the State Government got hairy- chested and involved - then I think that it would've produced a good outcome here and still could. And I think ripping away the right to negotiate, I think it's very arguable as to whether or not, when you do that, you do breach the RDA. But I'd

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say you'd have to look at the details of the legislation before you could reach any conclusions on that.

CONDREN: A little closer to home. Don McDonald has been appointed the Chair of the ABC. Do you support that?

BEAZLEY: Yes, I think it's a good appointment.

CONDREN: Despite his close relationship to the Prime Minister?

BEAZLEY: Well, I'd hate my friends, who happened to be distinguished members of the Australian community, be excluded merely because they've got my telephone number. And I think it's quite proper for the Prime Minister to appoint somebody that he knows well to that position. So I wish him very well in the occupancy of the

Chair. I hope that his elevation means that what is circulating currently in the Commonwealth bureaucracy to massively slash the ABC - which would destroy its capacity to be a genuine national broadcaster and to perform the important cultural and social role that the ABC does in this community - that that appointment will put

in abeyance what is clearly the intentions of people like Mr Costello. If it does not, of course, then the new Chairman is going to have a very, very difficult road to hoe.

CONDREN: Given his close links to the Liberal Party though, isn't that a danger?

BEAZLEY: I think that he will need to be very careful, like any Chairman of the ABC, that the independence of the ABC is sustained, independence from political interference. We always had views on the ABC when we were in Government, most of them made us gnash our teeth, but at the end of the day we respected the

independence of the ABC and the same thing applies to Mr McDonald.

CONDREN: You're on tour throughout Queensland over the next few days. What's in Queensland for Labor?

BEAZLEY: W ell, this is, of course, this is a very important State in the political scheme of things and in the economic scheme of things for the nation as a whole. I frequently come to Queensland, always have as a Minister and on this occasion

we're having a Shadow Cabinet meeting in Townsville, and we've got a few issues. The massive cuts to federal spending is having a major impact in the regions of Queensland, a major impact. There are 18,000 public servants. You talk about big industries and jobs in Queensland, there are 18,000 public servants here and 2,000

of them are on the chopping block at the moment. And there's an enormous closure of offices and threats of closure of offices from the CES, Social Security offices, Tax offices, Administrative Services offices, right up and down the coast and inland in Queensland. And that has a very material effect both on the delivery of services and on employment in those areas themselves.

CONDREN: Federally, can you turn around the anti-Labor sentiment that was expressed at the ballot box this year?

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BEAZLEY: Well, there's no doubt that a very solid anti-Labor position was put forward in Queensland at the last election - and it has not been honoured by the Liberals. I mean this is one of their best Liberal and National delegations - two more than Victoria - there are five times as many Cabinet Ministers from Victoria than there are Queenslanders. When we left office we had 41 % of our Queensland

delegation in executive positions. That's now down to less than half -17%. So Queensland's wonderful support for the Liberal and National parties has not been honoured.

CONDREN: Well, despite that, despite your support in executive positions of Queensland, they turned against you.

BEAZLEY: Yes, that's right.

CONDREN: So how do you turn that anti-Labor feeling around?

BEAZLEY: Well, we do have a problem, not just in Queensland, but in all of what the south-east corner describes as the outlying States - including the one I come from in Western Australia. I think we have to listen, that's a most important thing. We have to get a message back from what people are saying about whether or not

they think that we're sufficiently mainstream in our concerns. I think many of those mainstream issues that we addressed early in our period of government are coming back on the agenda again - jobs, jobs security, education, health. They're all

currently being targeted by Mr Howard against the promises that he made during the course of the election campaign. That assurance that we need to give, that we are concerned with those mainstream issues, because we are, because our achievements are back on the agenda again, I think that's the road back. But I've got to get a few messages and I've got hear what people have got to say.

CONDREN: Mr Beazley, thanks for your time this morning, and enjoy the sunshine in Queensland.

BEAZLEY: It's always terrific to be here.

ends