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5DN Studio, Adelaide, 22 April 1997: transcript of doorstop [Carmen Lawrence, Mal Colston]

EOE - PROOF ONLY

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, can we ask you first of all about the Carmen Lawrence situation and where do you go from here?

BEAZLEY: Well, firstly, let me say how sad I was to see the circumstances that emerged yesterday. Not surprised, but sad that that would occur. It's been a long time coming. Of course, what happens now is that Carmen Lawrence, as she indicated to me a long time ago, stood aside. I'll be making a few announcements later today in terms of her temporary replacements. And we'll just have to see what is the outcome of the trial. I can't comment, of course, sub judice from this point on, but I wish her all the best.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident she will be cleared?

BEAZLEY: Well, I very much hope she's going to be cleared and that's what all of us in the Labor Party hope for, and we'll just have to wait and see the outcome.

JOURNALIST: You said earlier that you were optimistic about her future. But do you fear that this could be the end of her political career regardless of the outcome of the court case?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think that she'll come through this process a strengthened individual. She's a very tough woman. She's put up with an awful lot in her political career, her very short political career, and she's achieved a great deal. And she has a deal of public sympathy - some opponents, but also some very strong public sympathy. So, I hope that somebody as talented as she has got a future in Australian politics - yes.

JOURNALIST: You've made some, I suppose, cautious comments about the way that this was initiated through what you believe were politically charged means. Do you believe there's a dangerous precedent being set here at all?

BEAZLEY: Look, I would love to comment on your question. I would really love to give this a giant spray but I'm afraid the requirements of sub judice and the fact that I want to go back home frequently mean that I can't say anything more.

JOURNALIST: What was her emotional state when she told you last night?

BEAZLEY: Well, she was very sad, obviously. Any of us would be. We're all human beings. But she's also tough and I think she'll come through it.

JOURNALIST: What was your emotional state when you heard the news?

BEAZLEY: I was also extremely sad and upset. I've got to know Carmen pretty well over the years and I'm not somebody who gives up friends lightly and I'm worried for her.

JOURNALIST: You made a reference to Blue Hills?

BEAZLEY: Well, it's, what, nearly two years since the Royal Commission...the best part of two years since the Royal Commission concluded and it's taken this long for the matters to emerge.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think that is? Why so long?

BEAZLEY: Well, as I said before, there are certain things I can comment on and others that I can't. And, so, I just merely note the fact.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us who will replace her on the front bench and have you made that decision yet?

BEAZLEY: Well, we've got to talk to a few people about it. But, of course, it's a temporary arrangement and we'll make some announcements about that later today.

JOURNALIST: Given that this was no big surprise, what was it that Carmen Lawrence knew, or what was it that she said to you that gave you an indication that this may well happen?

BEAZLEY: Oh, you are always aware when there's an ongoing police investigation. You know, police are talking to witnesses and that sort of thing. So, we've been aware that this has been on the cards. And also, if you recollect, at the conclusion of the Royal Commission, this is a possible outcome that was speculated upon.

JOURNALIST: Talkback callers didn't seem to be particularly interested. I think I heard one call come through. Why do you think that's the case?

BEAZLEY: I think it's because talkback callers are basically worried about their economic circumstances. Most of the calls that came through that related to the political process went one way and another went back to that essential point of people's sense of insecurity, and that's far more important to them than what happens to us politicians.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, the Royal Commission took its toll on the Keating Government in the run up to the last election. I mean, how much longer, irrespective of the outcome of the trial, can you carry Carmen Lawrence?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think that she has done the appropriate thing in indicating to me a long time ago and then backing it up and standing aside. I think that the day to day life of politics will continue without Carmen but it will be better if she was back in it. We still have a very effective presentation to make on a whole range of key issues for the Australian people, and I think there's a bit of evidence around that we're making it.

JOURNALIST: She's not terminally wounded as a political future?

BEAZLEY: Well, as I said, I hope not.

JOURNALIST: A question on the Colston issue Harry Evans, the Clerk of the Senate, was on radio this morning talking about the proposition of having a Senate inquiry just considering the evidence of Christine Smith and of Senator Colston. What do you think about that?

BEAZLEY: Well, absolutely. Look, this point needs to be made: the Government is defending Senator Colston one trench line after another. They are doing a slow retreat as they look at their investment going up in smoke. And they're not going to let that happen easily and Senator Colston is being, from their point of view, wonderfully protected. Now, the simple fact of the matter is, and that gets to the nub of your question, it is possible to isolate the areas of police investigation from the areas of misleading the Senate. It is no big deal and no big problem. And the Clerk of the Senate has pointed that out. It is possible to test whether or not Colston misled the Senate without going into the merits of the particular travel allowance claims. A simple process. Harry Evans is dead right on that.

JOURNALIST: Just one last question on Carmen Lawrence. Her legal costs. Should they be funded by the Government and taxpayers?

BEAZLEY: No. In these circumstances, no they shouldn't be. And nobody has asked for that. Carmen has not asked for that and nobody has asked for that and nor would they be funded by the Labor Party. But I imagine that there would be a substantial number of Labor supporters and supporters of hers who would want to contribute.