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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations: Parliament House, Canberra: Possible Senate Inquiry into Industrial Relations Changes; newspoll.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth





SMITH: Yesterday we saw the Government, in industrial relations, adding incompetence to extremism. Yesterday afternoon the Minister, Kevin Andrews, decided it would be a good idea to have a Senate inquiry on the Government’s extreme industrial relations legislation.

By last night the Prime Minister had walked away from that. So on top of their extremism we now have incompetence. The Government is making it up as it goes along and that goes not just to policy, it goes to process. This legislation should be the subject of a Senate inquiry and that should be a substantive Senate inquiry, not a quick and dirty Senate inquiry, where the Government just simply shoves it through.

JOURNALIST: Doesn’t it really show that Kevin Andrews just isn’t up to the job? He’s been contradicted on so many fronts and here we are saying I’m going to have a Senate inquiry and it’s shot down pretty quickly.

SMITH: As I say, I’m happy for Kevin to be the Minister for as long as he wants to be the Minister. I think it does show that Kevin certainly needs all the help he can get and we’ve seen that previously. We’ve seen it with the Prime Minister announcing the Taskforce chaired by Andrew Robb. And we saw Andrew Robb himself having great difficulty on the Neil Mitchell show last week trying to explain some of the detail, basically saying the Government didn’t know. So Kevin needs all the help he can get. Certainly the legislation would benefit from a thorough and substantive Senate inquiry.

JOURNALIST: …inaudible…

SMITH: I thought Andrew Robb was humiliated by Neil Mitchell last week, admitting that the Government didn’t know one way or the other about the detail of its legislation.

JOURNALIST: How long do you think the Senate inquiry will take?

SMITH: That would be a matter for the Senate, but on substantive pieces of legislation Senate inquiries, proper Senate inquiries, take weeks if not months. If there is a Senate inquiry, I suspect that given the arrogance the Government has with control of the Senate, that it would be a matter of days rather than a proper, thoughtful inquiry. The

truth is the Government doesn’t know.

Yesterday afternoon, the Minister says a Senate Inquiry, that it is the Government’s idea, that it is the Government’s proposal. By 7.30pm last night, the Prime Minister walked away from it. It is incompetence on top of extremism, the Government making it up as it goes along.

JOURNALIST: What can Kim Beazley ….

SMITH: As I’ve said before I don’t overstate the polls when they go our way or understate them when they go against us.

JOURNALIST: It’s been a long time since they’ve gone your way.

SMITH: I’m not sure that’s right. I think we remain very competitive. The truth is that there will be a thousand polls between now and the next election. This is a long haul race. I think that we are competitive. What is the choice for us? What would the community want us to do? Give up? Or keep on fighting? I’ll tell you we will keep on fighting, keep on fighting to hold the Government to account, keep on fighting to hold the Government to account on Telstra and industrial relations.

JOURNALIST: Kim Beazley’s ….. what’s going on?

SMITH: I think both in policy, in personality and in political terms we are competitive and we will remain competitive in the long haul race to the 2007 election.

JOURNALIST: We’ve heard this again and again, there will be thousands of polls between now and the next election. Everyone one of them just about is not looking good for you?

SMITH: It’s a statement of fact that there will be hundreds if not thousands of polls between now and the next election. I don’t want to resort to the old cliché that there is only one poll that counts. Some polls go up and some polls go down. There will be hundreds if not thousands between now and the next election. It’s a long haul race. My strong belief is that we remain politically competitive and we will be competitive right up until the 2007 election.

JOURNALIST: You don’t think any of these polls are eroding the confidence of the Party …

SMITH: They’re not eroding that and they are certainly not eroding our desire to fight, to fight to hold the Government to account on Telstra and on extreme industrial

relations proposals. What would the community, what would you have us do, in the face of a fortnightly poll? Give up or keep on fighting? I’m for the keep on fighting mode.

JOURNALIST: …inaudible…

SMITH: And that Coalition division will continue. We see division between the Prime Minister and the Minister on Industrial Relations on how the Government should handle its industrial relations legislation. We see division between the Liberal Party and the National Party on industrial relations and Telstra. So that division will continue and in due course I’m sure the division between the Prime Minister and Mr Costello will also re-emerge.

JOURNALIST: Harry Quick didn’t help anything either did he?

SMITH: As I said over the weekend, I profoundly disagree with Harry’s analysis about politics, public life, the Parliament, the Party and our prospects, and I wish him well for the future.


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651