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Old Parliament House, Canberra, 11 February 1998: transcript of doorstop [Nursing homes, Louis Farrakhan, Constitutional Convention, Gulf crisis]

EOE

BEAZLEY: The sorry saga of the Government's attack on the elderly through their nursing home programs continues with another retreat by the Government that does not deal with the problem. The fees that are now charged, the daily fees that have been brought in, not one cent of which goes to nursing homes, not one cent of which goes to the care of the patients, have had a 28 day reprieve but that is all. The hit will still be there, no benefit in terms of the care of the elderly and a major problem for ordinary, in the past middle-income elderly who absolutely need to be cared for in nursing homes. This is going to be an absolutely critical issue at the next election.

JOURNALIST: So, this is just delaying the inevitable, the four week reprieve?

BEAZLEY: It is yet another derisory retreat. A retreat that is not retreat. A retreat that leaves the policy which is basically in error in place, basically unfair, basically confiscatory of the assets of the most vulnerable people in this community.

JOURNALIST: Should Louis Farrakhan be allowed into Australia Mr Beazley?

BEAZLEY: He's made an application for a visa, has he? I must say I haven't given it a moments thought. I'll take a look at it and see what...

JOURNALIST: Do you see him as a person of good character?

BEAZLEY: Well, generally speaking people are allowed into this country unless there is some specific problem that's been associated either with a criminal offence or with a likelihood that they'll create and deliberately seek to create trouble here. I can't say I've had a look at it, so I wouldn't give a response on that.

JOURNALIST: On a republic, time is running out for a consensus to be reached. Are you still confident by Friday afternoon that can be done?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think the problem here is what it has always been, and that is the fundamental flaw in the structure of this Convention. As each day emerges, as each day goes by, one thing is clear and that is that the appointed delegates by the Prime Minister, overwhelmingly of monarchist or ultra-minimalist variety, are going to have a very substantial say in what the outcome is going to be. Well, we're working constructively with this to try and produce a good outcome from this Convention and we'll continue to do so. But as the crunch time comes in the last two days all the weaknesses in the structure of the Convention are likely to be exposed.

JOURNALIST: How soon do you think we should be sending these people over to the Gulf?

BEAZLEY: I have no idea. I mean, this is a matter I need to get further briefing from the Government on. There's an amount of detail which clearly they haven't worked out. They haven't had discussions with the Americans as to what it is or what time our troops should be placed in the area and we will be seeking briefings over the next couple of days on those matters.

JOURNALIST: What would you say to the families of some SAS people who are now worried about what they're going to be sent into?

BEAZLEY: Well, I'd say as I would have said to the families of everybody who went to the Gulf War in 1991 and has been involved in our various overseas commitments of which there have been several over the last decade and a half - and that is that the country wishes them well, the country will be concerned for their welfare, concerned that they have everything that they need when they find themselves in difficult situations and appreciates their courage and sacrifice.

JOURNALIST: Are you happy with the level of briefing you've been getting so far? You said just now you'd be seeking briefings, I thought the Government was offering you briefings?

BEAZLEY: Oh yes, that's right. Don't misinterpret what I had to say in my remarks then. Yes, they offered briefings. I think too, it's early days for them as well. They have to talk this deployment through with the Americans and there'll be, probably, a substantial number of questions they can't answer. Those questions will obtain clear answers over the course of the next couple of weeks.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, the Democrats want Parliament recalled to debate this issue. Do you think that's necessary?

BEAZLEY: No, I don't think that's necessary. I think that there is a major difference between the set of circumstances now confronted and that which applied during the course of the Gulf War. This is an issue of the correct mode of enforcement of a certain element of the cease-fire, a very important element of the cease-fire, that which absolutely required that Saddam Hussein disarm himself or be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, this is a massively different picture from that which was in place in 1991.