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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Treasurer: Sydney: Costello's comments on National Party, Telstra and interest rates; Refshauge retirement; opinion polls.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer



SUBJECT: Costello’s comments on National Party, Telstra and interest rates; Refshauge retirement; opinion polls

SWAN: I want to say a few words about Peter Costello and his comments about Telstra and interest rates. The truth is that Peter Costello is happy to spend like a drunken sailor when he’s looking for votes in the Liberal Party room - $66 billion during the last election campaign, $24 billion in tax cuts in the recent Budget - but when it comes to $5 billion for country Australia he says it’s going to push up interest rates. Who is Peter Costello trying to kid? The only thing he’s interested in doing is creating problems between John Howard and the National Party. This guy hasn’t got a clue about what’s going on in rural Australia. He’s only interested in the Liberal Party room, that’s what this is all about: Peter Costello and his rivalry with John Howard. Not about services in regional Australia. The truth is the responsible thing to do is to keep Telstra in public hands. That’s the responsible thing to do.

Journalist: (Inaudible.)

SWAN: Peter Costello is saying that what John Howard is planning to do will push up interest rates. This has come from the guy who spent $66 billion during the last election campaign, $24 billion in the last Budget. The truth is this is about the internal rivalry between John Howard and Peter Costello. What Peter Costello’s trying to do is create conflict between John Howard and the National Party. It’s as simple as that.

Journalist: The resignation of Andrew Refshauge … (inaudible) … the morass in the Labor Party?

SWAN: I don’t think so. I wish Andrew well in his retirement, he certainly deserves it. I’m sure we’re going to see renewal today in the New South Wales Party, and that will be a good thing for the Labor Party and a good thing for the state.

Journalist: Are you concerned about Kim Beazley’s performance in the opinion polls?

SWAN: I’m actually very happy about the latest opinion polls but, as you know, the polls bounce around. They come and they go. These two polls put Labor in a winning position. So, with Kim Beazley, Labor is moving ahead. We’re rebuilding and moving towards the next election. We’re getting our policy agenda together, and out there

holding the Government accountable. I think what these polls show is that there is extreme dissatisfaction and unease in the community with the Government’s extreme industrial relations agenda. There’s unease with the Government’s proposals to sell Telstra. I think you’d have to say, when you look at these polls, they don’t react very favourably to the tax cuts delivered by John Howard and Peter Costello in the recent Budget.

Journalist: Does it concern you that the recently retired New South Wales Premier is more popular than Kim Beazley?

SWAN: No it doesn’t concern me at all. Both of these opinion polls put Labor in a winning position. Labor’s rebuilding and moving forward under Kim Beazley. We’re holding the Government accountable on vital issues like their extreme industrial relations policies, the sale of Telstra, the unfairness that’s there in the tax system. We’re holding them accountable and we’re getting the results.

Journalist: So you’re happy that Kim Beazley’s reached his lowest popularity rating ever?

SWAN: These polls bounce around. But what we’ve got is a situation where the Government is being held to account, and Labor’s moving ahead.

Journalist: Are they bouncing pretty low at the moment?

SWAN: I don’t think they are bouncing pretty low at the moment, because the truth is that Labor is in front in those opinion polls. You’ve got to say that this Government would be very unhappy with this set of polls. Absolutely no doubt about that.

Journalist: You might be better off with Bob Carr in charge?

SWAN: Kim Beazley’s in charge and he’s going to lead us to the next election.

Journalist: Would you welcome Bob Carr in the federal caucus?

SWAN: I welcome renewal of the federal caucus at any time. But Kim Beazley’s leading the Labor Party, doing a good job, and you can see it there in the polls today.

Journalist: Does the federal caucus need renewal?

SWAN: There’s always a case for renewal and the Party has its processes to handle that. We’re watching that in New South Wales today. It happens all the time, and every political party in the country has to do it.

Journalist: Do these polls reflect a need for renewal?

SWAN: These polls reflect a Labor Party, in the federal parliamentary wing, as making progress against the Howard Government, holding them accountable. Holding them accountable for their extreme industrial relations policies, holding them accountable

for the sale of Telstra, holding them accountable for their unfair approach to tax and the living standards for working families.

Journalist: Did you back the wrong horse in Kim Beazley?

SWAN: We’ve got a very good set of polls today, which I’m happy with. But I don’t read too much into any one set of polls. The truth is that polls come and go, they bounce around. The Labor Party is making tremendous progress holding this Government to account, and that’s a very good thing.

Journalist: Shouldn’t they be a bit better considering the IR controversy?

SWAN: I think if I was the Howard Government I’d be pretty unhappy with this set of polls. They were taken at a time when international security conditions are working in favour of incumbent governments all around the world. I think they’re a pretty good outcome in those circumstances.

Journalist: Shouldn’t the Labor Party be streets ahead considering IR is their … (inaudible)?

SWAN: The Labor Party is actually winning in both these polls, if you want to interpret one set of polls you can see that the Labor Party is ahead and doing well.

Journalist: But the leader isn’t?

SWAN: It’s always difficult for opposition leaders; we see that around the country.

Journalist: But it’s particularly difficult for this one?

SWAN: No, it’s not particularly difficult for this one. Kim Beazley and the Parliamentary Party are doing a good job holding this Government to account. You can see that in the opinion polls today. It doesn’t matter how you read them, Labor’s

ahead in this set of polls, that’s a good thing. But I don’t read too much into them, because we’ve got to continue to rebuild and hold the Government to account and put forward an alternative policy framework in the lead-up to the next election. That’s a two and a half year job and that’s what we’ll do. Thanks. ENDS.

Tuesday 2 August 2005

Contact Jim Chalmers 0417 141 676