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Goninans locomotive factory, Townsville, 23 February 1998: transcript of doorstop [Regional employment; Goninans; ACT election; Iraq crisis]


BEAZLEY: One of the critical focuses of the Shadow Cabinet's meeting here in Townsville is regional employment. The Government has dropped the ball on regional employment. The unemployment figures here, and admittedly they bounce about on a monthly basis, but the trend line has been solidly up since 1996 when the Government was elected - jumping recently from 9 per cent to 12 per cent. And the Government has made its own contribution to this with 600 job losses from the Government sector. It's dropped the ball on regional administration and on regional employment. So, I'm spending a bit of time while I'm here, in one of my frequent visits, looking at some of the areas of employment potential.

JOURNALIST: with Goninans just losing a contract there, looking at losing perhaps 100 jobs?

BEAZLEY: Yes, a surprise decision by the Queensland Government, that one. Goninans here has the potential to be a centre of engineering excellence, not just for North Queensland, but also for the Asian region. I would have thought that the State Government would be in to reinforcing strength a bit there.

JOURNALIST: Any other issues the Shadow Cabinet meeting today in Townsville, obviously a commitment to the area, but any particular issues that. . . ?

BEAZLEY: Yes. I'll be talking to Mayor Mooney in particular about his Council's plans for the habourside development. I've already had a conversation with him about that, as you know. I'm going to advance that further and make sure that Mayor Mooney's views are well known by the Shadow Cabinet. I think there's great potential in that for an extension now of what once was a very good Better Cities program operated by the previous Government. I think that those changes would emphasise Townsville's capacity in the tourism area and also provide good jobs while they're being done.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the ALP's performance in the Canberra election, your comments about that.

BEAZLEY: Well, every side on the Canberra election was running against John Howard. So, I ought to be pretty pleased, I suppose that the anti-Howard forces won 100 per cent of the vote. But the performance of the Labor Party team wasn't good enough. They're going to have to look at themselves pretty closely, I think, over the next little while. And no doubt they will.

JOURNALIST: Does that have any implications for the Federal seats in that area?

BEAZLEY: Voters in Canberra are very canny. They know very well that the way you put pressure on the Howard Government is not necessarily through the local elections but defeating the Liberal Senator. They know very well that if the Liberal Senator were to lose the Howard Government, were they still in office, would be on bended knee to Canberra, so massive would be the implications of that for the Senate balance. So, I think people in Canberra are pretty canny about their vote and I don't think this particular vote has much implication for that, except, as I said, 100 per cent of the vote went to candidates who were running against John Howard.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the Iraq crisis situation, do you take any confidence out of the outcome of Kofi Annan's talks with Saddam Hussein?

BEAZLEY: All of us have set great store by the United Nations and hope that they are going to produce an outcome that ensures the ceasefire provisions in relation to weapons of mass destruction would be upheld. And we have been supporting the placing of maximum pressure on Saddam Hussein to produce a result. It does seem as though there are hopeful developments there, but of course we will wait to see the details.