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Museum of Sydney, 9 May 1997: transcript of doorstop [Pauline Hanson; Wik 10 point plan]


JOURNALIST: Is the Coalition's discomfort over Hanson, perhaps, is it Labor's gain. Does that give you any satisfaction?

BEAZLEY: No. It's the country's loss. That's the problem. You know you can't look at this in the polls. The polls shift and change all the time. And it's a pity the Coalition has only started to fight this issue once the polls went against them. You have got to look at this in the broad terms of the broad national interest. You have got to look at it in terms of long standing, not temporary political leadership. We need always strong political leadership on the subject of our enmeshment with the region around us. Fairness in Australian society is an important element of it, but the long term future and security of our people is critical as well and basically, Prime Ministers, Governments have to be permanently on the job, not occasionally.

JOURNALIST: You think the gains of the last Government in Asia are now being rolled back by the present Government?

BEAZLEY: Critically, massively, dangerously, and we have to reconvince the Australian people that their future - and I think they understand it - that their future, the future of their kids is dependent on the quality of our engagement in the region around us, and leadership has to come from the Government and leadership from the Government has to provide opportunity for the average Australian citizen. It's our security, our health and our wealth and I do think that that is better understood in the Australian community than the Government gives them credit for.

JOURNALIST: You said in your speech you wanted more from the Prime Minister than he did last night.

BEAZLEY: I want it regularly from the Prime Minister - and unqualified. You don't need to have a discussion of political correctness whenever you happen to mention some critical point about Mrs Hanson's stance or anyone else who takes that sort of view in the Australian community. And you have just got to deal with it as part of the normal practice of politics, as I do, as all of us ought to do in politics on the day to day basis when a microphone gets stuck under your nose.

JOURNALIST: Is that enough to prevent the revival of the ugly Australian image in Asia?

BEAZLEY: I think there is high watertable in Asia on the old Australian image that we managed to suppress when we were in Government to the very great benefit of this nation. But it doesn't take much to retrigger it, and it's been retriggered.

JOURNALIST: What about the situation, for example, with support for ASEM from Japan? We've seen Zhu Rongji coming here. Do you think there has been some successes from this Government?

BEAZLEY: Well look, I think that sooner or later we will get into our heads that it's important for us to do that. I don't think that this Government has had any successes in the region at all. What you've got is regional good will. You know it was interesting seeing the Japanese Prime Minister here come with a load of interesting initiatives. It was interesting to watch the Indonesians seven or eight months ago present a table of opportunities for the Australian Government. That was respect for the role we have played over the last thirteen years. What surprised me was the startled appearance of the Prime Minister when presented with it in both countries. It was as though he didn't quite know what had been put on his plate, as though he did not quite know how to handle this quite, in terms of the region's culture, quite effusive approach to him. And he seems not to understand, because whenever I hear him speak about it, he says there is actually no problem in the region around us from the debate that has been going on here. You see, if he actually believes that, then it shows how far away he is from a real understanding of the thinking in the area.

JOURNALIST: How much good will is left?

BEAZLEY: Look, there is potential good will out there, substantial good will. We have many friends, many friends in the region and they stand and look aghast at the lack of leadership in this country over the last twelve months.

JOURNALIST: Are we using that good will up. Are we running out of it?

BEAZLEY: Well, we can run out of it, there is no question about that. And we can recreate it. We have just got to get back on the job.

JOURNALIST: You made a point in there about supporting Stephen FitzGerald's comments about Foreign Affairs not doing enough. What do you want to see Foreign Affairs do in terms of education on this issue?

BEAZLEY: Well, it's not just Foreign Affairs. It's all levels of Government. It's educational institutions. We have to proceed from one level of understanding to an even deeper level of understanding. It has to be a step by step progress. The trouble is we have gone down that road, but we've started to walk back. You can't afford to.

JOURNALIST: But what would you like to see Foreign Affairs do specifically?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think into curriculums. I do think that we do have to in the languages we teach, the cultural studies that we do in the schools. We have made good progress. I think there are many people in curriculum departments who are aware of that, but it has to get better and better. And to a degree we've stalled.

JOURNALIST: When you see Howard being soft on Hanson, is the Labor Party perhaps being a little bit soft on tho ten point plan on Wik? What do you see it as meaning and if it means extinguishment, would you agree with that?

BEAZLEY: Well, it would be very difficult to know what the Prime Minister thinks. He's got one variant of it for the public. He's got one variant for the Aboriginals. He's got one variant for the Nationals. He's got one variant for the Liberal back-bench and he's got a different variant for himself every day. I mean, he is just playing politics with this issue. You can interpret his 10 points one way or the other. He seems to understand this: that if you don't act within the powers of the Commonwealth, and the powers of the Commonwealth cannot extinguish national title, then what you do not produce is certainty. Now we have pointed that out, we stand ready to provide that certainty for the pastoralists and we believe that certainty, not can be provided with, but can only be provided with a recognition of Native Title, native property rights. And it's possible to legislate this way. We need that legislation. We need to see that legislation before we can make a determination whether what we have on our hands is a sort of defacto extinguishment that he speaks out about out of one corner of his mouth when he is talking to the National Party executive or the protection of everybody's rights which is what he says out of the other side of this mouth when he talks to a broader Australian public.

JOURNALIST: But would you support extinguishment?

BEAZLEY: No. And not only would we not support it, we don't think it's possible. And if it were to be possible, if we are wrong in that assessment, it is not possible without a cornucopia of taxpayer subsidised compensation. And we think that is an unfair outcome and also a daft outcome.

JOURNALIST: Why is it unfair?

BEAZLEY: Well, it's unfair to deprive people of their property rights. That's what's unfair, and you are not permitted to deprive people of their property rights. But it is also possible - and this is absolutely critical to get this understanding - it is actually possible to give the pastoralists all they need. It's not a big problem. And you don't actually have to jump through hoops or make a meal of it or be particularly impressed by the implosion of the Queensland National Party as it struggles to find relevance in contemporary Australian society, and more importantly relevance for the bush they have so royally persecuted over the last twelve months. This does not have to be taken seriously. And what we ought to do is simply get on with the legislation, the legislation that gives everybody certainty. And when that legislation hits the table we have some understanding of the legal requirements that are on the Commonwealth and we will be scrutinising it carefully to make sure that they are being met.