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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Treasurer, Wayne Swan: Waterfront place, Brisbane: 25 January 2005: Consumer Price Index, leadership.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer



SUBJECT: Consumer Price Index, leadership

Swan: The CPI figures for the December quarter show a rise of 0.8 percent, exceeding market expectations and up from 0.4 percent in the September quarter. When you take the volatile items out of the basket we see a significant 0.7 percent increase in the price of market goods and services, up from 0.3 percent in September. Now this is the biggest increase in the price of non-volatile goods and services since March 2002.

So these figures basically mean that families are paying more for services and everyday things such as food and child care. When you look at the figures across the twelve months you see that people are paying more for housing and other everyday items.

So these figures are not welcome figures, they’re not alarming figures either. What they do reveal is that families are being put under increased financial strain by rising prices. And at a time when families are paying to send their kids back to school, they’re certainly not welcome.

Journalist: Who is to blame?

Swan: There’s no doubt that there are underlying inflationary pressures in the economy, and these inflationary pressures are having a big impact on families. Families are paying record taxes. We have the highest tax take in Australian history, and the combination of rising prices on everyday goods and that high tax take is putting pressure on Australian families. Of course when it comes to that tax take,

there’s the policies of the Howard Government.

Journalist: Are these figures a symbol that perhaps there’s worse to come?

Swan: I’m very optimistic about our future as a country, and I’m optimistic about the economy. But there’s no doubt that these figures do signal inflationary pressures which, I might add, are not being caused by rising wages for example. This has occurred in an environment where wage rises have been kept under control. So, worrying signs but, when it comes to the economy for the future, there are other

worrying trends as well. We all know that the level of personal debt and national debt is very high at the moment, and that we have a very poor export performance. These matters are leading to a very high current account deficit and so on. But these are matters for another day.

Journalist: Will you be voting for Kim Beazley on Friday?

Swan: Well, I talked about this at length last Wednesday, and I said I wasn’t going to publicly canvass my views on the leadership. Because I think that what the leadership debate has done is show Australians what a range of talented people we have on the Labor Party frontbench.

Journalist: Kevin Rudd’s declared his support for Kim Beazley, will you do the same?

Swan: And everybody’s aware that I’ve always been a close supporter of Kim Beazley and that we now have an emerging contest. But it’s not my purpose here today to advocate for one candidate over another. My colleagues have a very clear view about who I’ll be supporting.

Journalist: Should Julia Gillard, in that case, remove herself from the race?

Swan: Look, I wouldn’t be putting Julia under any pressure on this matter. I think she has a right to stand for the leadership if she wishes to. It is the right of every member of caucus to put their name forward if they think that they have some support, and if they have the credentials for leadership. And it’s been pretty clear to me that all of those people that have put their hand up have very good credentials for leadership. And it’s entirely for them, as to whether they put their name forward.

Journalist: (Inaudible) … for the Labor Party, in terms of unity, for Julia Gillard to withdraw?

Swan: No, I’m not buying into that debate. I think she has a perfect right to nominate for the leadership if she wishes to. That’s entirely a decision for her. And it is one that she must take, assessing the possible contest in her own terms. I don’t believe that anybody should necessarily be putting pressure on any candidate not to stand. That is a decision that they have to take.

Journalist: Did Mr Rudd do the right thing in withdrawing?

Swan: Kevin outlined his reasons here yesterday as to why he withdrew, and that was a matter entirely for him.

Journalist: (Inaudible)

Swan: Well that’s a matter entirely for him. I’ve got a high regard for Kevin, and he’s one of those talented people who will play a very big role in the Labor opposition as we unite around a new leader in the run-up to the next election. You know, the thing I

really sense about the Party is that, in the past week or so, it’s feeling a lot better about where it’s going. We have had a debate about the leadership and, in the process of doing that, we’ve put behind us, if you like, the stresses and strains of the last few months. The most important thing that the Labor Party has to do is to unite around a new leader.

Journalist: (Inaudible)

Swan: There’s no doubt that Kevin Rudd is a future leader, as are many others. What this leadership debate has demonstrated is the depth on the Labor Party frontbench; Stephen Smith, Lindsay Tanner, Kevin Rudd. There is a whole range of people on the Labor Party frontbench who can aspire to lead, and who can make a very significant contribution on our frontbench.

Journalist: Have you spoken to Mr Beazley and is he confident?

Swan: I haven’t spoken to Mr Beazley today, but I would think that Mr Beazley is continuing to seek the votes of caucus members. This ballot is not over until Friday and every vote counts. So I think that Mr Beazley will be out there talking to those caucus colleagues who have yet to make up their mind, and I think there would be a number of people in that category.

Journalist: Do you include yourself in that list of (inaudible)..?

Swan: Well I leave it to others to nominate whether they think that I would be good leadership material. I’m certainly not going to throw that into the ring today. The most important thing today is for me to do what I’ve been doing, which is to concentrate on my job as Shadow Treasurer.

Journalist: (Inaudible)… Julia Gillard is actually going to stand?

Swan: No I don’t know. And that’s entirely a matter for Julia.

Journalist: As a Beazley supporter were you involved in, or made aware of, the dirty tricks that she spoke about?

Swan: Well I’m certainly not aware of them and have not spoken to any member of caucus who is aware of them.

Journalist: If Kim Beazley is elected as leader on Friday is that sweet revenge for what happened with Mark Latham?

Swan: Look I don’t think anybody takes pleasure out of the political circumstances in which the Australian Labor Party has found itself since the election last October right through to the end of January this year. Which is why I made the point that I sensed talking to my colleagues a growing sense of relief that we’ve put the worst behind us, and a sense of optimism that we can unite around a new leader after Friday, and do

the most important job that the people of Australia think we should be doing. Which is keeping the Howard Government honest, keeping it up to the mark, making sure that it implements its election promises, and providing good accountable government. You see you can’t have good government without a strong opposition. And the most important task before the Labor Party at the moment is to unite and become a very strong, effective opposition.

Journalist: (Inaudible)… Peter Beattie was criticised for not supporting a Queensland candidate. Mr Rudd said he wasn’t getting total support from the Queensland Right etc. Do state boundaries make any difference in this sort of debate do you think?

Swan: They’re part of the equation but only part of the equation. There’s a complex range of factors which are bought to bear on the appeal of the individual. Where they live is part of it, but who they are is a more important part in my view.

Journalist: Were you pleased to see Peter Beattie come out and support Kim?

Swan: Well I was pleased to see Peter Beattie express his view. Because he is a significant member of the Australian Labor Party and, as being a premier, a custodian, if you like, of not only the political interests of the Labor Party but the national interest. Which is most important here. This is not something that is just about the Labor Party. As I said before, the most important thing required in our democratic system for good government is a good, strong and effective opposition. And that’s what the Labor Party’s got to do; become a good, strong, effective opposition and we can restart that process, as we unite around our new leader on Friday. That is our most important objective.

Journalist: Do you agree with the comments of the premier of New South Wales and of Queensland that Mr Rudd will eventually be prime minister of Australia?

Swan: Well, I think Mr Rudd’s a very talented member of the Labor Party frontbench along with many others. Along with others, there are many people on the frontbench who have got the capacity to be prime minister of Australia. That’s the good thing that this leadership debate has shown.

Journalist: It’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

Swan: It’s neither way. My purpose today is not to provide a ringing endorsement to any candidate, or a potential candidate, over the other. But I think what the leadership debate has absolutely shown is the depth of talent on the Labor Party frontbench, of which Kevin is one. I know Kevin very well. He has great capacities. And he’s had a lot of support from me over the years. And we have worked together in opposition very well. But I also happen to know many of the others very well. I happen to know Kim Beazley very well and I’ve worked with him very closely over the years. Similarly with Stephen Smith and Lindsay Tanner. That’s why, in the interests of unity, it’s not my task to be evaluating one candidate over another candidate. I

didn’t do it earlier in the week, last week, and I’ve got no intention of doing it this week.

Journalist: On the assumption that Julia Gillard has spoken to you regarding trying to garner your support, what did you tell her?

Swan: I haven’t had a discussion with Julia Gillard. But I’d be more than happy to, and look forward to it. Thanks very much.

ENDS Tues 25 Jan 05

Contact Jim Chalmers 0417 141 676