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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Leader of the Opposition: Queensland Rail Workshop, Townsville: London attack; Industrial relations; Skills shortages; Peter Costello's Northern Australia visit; Australia's counter-terrorism laws; Airport/ports security; War in Iraq; Compensation for Cornelia Rau; Hwang children.

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Subjects: London attack; Industrial relations; Skills shortages; Peter Costello’s Northern Australia visit; Australia’s counter-terrorism laws; Airport/ports security; War in Iraq; Compensation for Cornelia Rau; Hwang children

BEAZLEY: The first thing I want to talk about, of course, is the situation in Britain. We condemn absolutely the outrages attempted in London over last night. Because these evil people did not succeed, we ought to be grateful, but

that ought not to in any way lessen our anger at what they attempted to do to British commuters. They were there to kill people. They failed, they bungled. That is to be welcomed. But their actions are to be condemned absolutely and we do that. The British people are a good, long suffering, tough people. They will not be cowered by terrorism. They will not change their views. They will not change their determination to participate in the struggle against global fundamentalist terror and we stand with them in that struggle.

I’ve been here in Townsville talking to workers about John Howard’s extreme industrial legislation. John Howard’s extreme industrial legislation will take away the rights of the workers here in this yard and we are undertaking to fight it and to

restore those rights that John Howard takes away. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is, this is a centre for skills. This is a centre of skilled Australians. There is now a 100,000 shortfall in traditional trades, traditional skills. We will need to train 100,000 people over the next few years or it will slow economic development and wealth creation in this country. This is the area of the labour market that John Howard has neglected. He shouldn’t be going on with his extreme changes to industrial legislation. What he should be doing is investing in skills. We are going to pay a terrible penalty, particularly in Northern Australia and Western Australia, for the failure of this Government to train Australians and to train them now.

So, this has been an opportunity to put out two messages. The first message is that we will fight John Howard’s extreme legislation. The second message is we will correct John Howard’s neglect of the need to train and skill Australians. We don’t believe that you resolve this problem by importing skilled labour. We believe you resolve it by training young Australians.

Now, we also have a visit - Peter Costello’s once-in-a-parliament visit - going on here to the North. This visit by Peter Costello to northern Australia is not about the needs of the people of northern Australia. It’s about the leadership ambitions of Peter Costello. He does not care what happens to people in this region. If he did he would announce up here now that he’s going to back off the sale of Telstra. He would announce now he’s going to back off the attempt to deprive them of their rights in the workplace and he’d announce now that he’s going to do something serious as Treasurer about the skills shortfalls here in northern Australia by training young Australians and giving them opportunities.

So, if Peter Costello was there for the people of the north, that’s what he’d be saying. Unfortunately, Peter Costello is up here for himself. You know, he goes north of Canberra, he gets a nose bleed. The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t do it very often and so you can guarantee that when it does it, he’s not doing it for the folk here, he’s doing it for himself.

JOURNALIST: Back to the London bombings. Do you think that there’s a need for tougher counter-terrorism measures?

BEAZLEY: The Government is not getting counter-terrorist policy right. We have got yawning gaps in aviation security. You had Max Moore-Wilton out there talking about that this week. We have got yawning gaps now in the protection of our ports. We have a different situation in this country from that situation in England. Tony Blair’s country does not live in an area of piracy. We do. We live in a region where piracy is rife on the international waterways. Yet we have going around the coastline of Australia flag of convenience ships with bogus papers and crews whose identities are unknown. Now, this is not good enough. We are dropping the ball on the basics. We talk an awful lot about what legislation we need in place. All the legislation in the world would not have stopped the London bombers. But even better security at the railways stations of Britain might have. What we want to do is to make certain that we can protect our populations. We will look with an open mind at any suggested changes in the law but we want to start to get John Howard engaged with practical measures.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, should Australia look at a system like Britain’s terrorism laws?

BEAZLEY: As I said, we will look at any set of laws that people put forward but laws are one thing, defences are another. What we’re finding in this country is that four years on from September 11, we still don’t have, certainly in regional airports, proper security measures. We still don’t have proper protection of our ports. It’s not good enough.

JOURNALIST: What do you think about jailing people who preach fundamentalist views or terrorist views?

BEAZLEY: Incitement to terrorism is already an offence under Australian law and incitement to kill and to invite hate and destruction upon your fellow citizens should be banned. We’ve got no problems with that. But I tell you this, that is only one layer of issue. If you are not dealing with the protection of our people with proper security measures at regional airports, with proper security measures governing the shipping operations off our coastline and in our ports, you’re not protecting anybody.

JOURNALIST: So, would Labor boost security in those areas? What’s your proposal?

BEAZLEY: Yes, we would. As far as the Labor Party is concerned, transport security is a key issue. That’s why we’ve got a special ministerial spokesman on it. If we came into office we would have a Department of Homeland Security that would coordinate all the various departmental activities now uncoordinated in these areas and with a decent investment behind them so that we have an opportunity to assist the States who have regulatory responsibilities in this area but are cash poor an opportunity to make sure that they can do the right thing about properly protecting our people.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, is this a reaction to the war in Iraq?

BEAZLEY: You mean the bombing attacks?


BEAZLEY: Until the police investigate the motives of the particular people involved we cannot know that. I answered a question on this yesterday and I said this: there is no question at all that the conflict in Iraq lifted our profile in the terrorist community but we were there with a profile in the terrorist community anyway prior to that time. We have been in the crosshairs, and obviously in the crosshairs, since September 11 in the US and then the manifestations in Bali and with the bombing of our Embassy in Jakarta.

Now, we are in this struggle and what is required of our politicians is that they stop worrying about themselves and how they’re looking politically and deal with the real problem. Our quarrel with what the Government did in Iraq was that it was the wrong priority. The real issues in the struggle with terror central were being sorted out in Afghanistan - in this case, not sorted out in Afghanistan - and we were distracted from that. The Labor Party said, ‘get your priorities right and stop worrying about how you’re looking, get your priorities right’. And now we’re in a quagmire when what we ought to be doing is freeing our hands to deal with the main problem.

JOURNALIST: John Howard seemed pretty adamant yesterday that it wasn’t related to Iraq. Do you share that view?

BEAZLEY: He can’t know that and I can’t know that. Commonsense tells you that the conflict in Iraq lifted our profile amongst the terrorist community. But I say lifted the profile. We were there anyway. They had us in focus. They

had us in focus for things like Timor; for the things that we did in Afghanistan - and these things were right - and they had us in profile because there is a disagreement between us and those fundamentalist terrorists about the character

of society and the character of our relationships with Muslim States which we think are right, we think are beneficial to our people and to the with whom we relate.

So, we’re in a struggle and we have to get everything right in that struggle. We’ve got to get our laws right. We’ve got to get our protections right. We’ve got to get our priorities right and our governments are not always doing that. We’ve got wrong priorities in Iraq, wrong priorities. We said that was the focal point of terror; in fact it was Afghanistan. Now, we in the Labor Party are prepared to see Australian commitments beyond Australian shores where it serves Australian national interests and the real struggle with terror serves Australian national interests. But you’ve got to get it right and John Howard got Iraq wrong.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Cornelia Rau’s compensation bid?

BEAZLEY: This is the price you pay for incompetence. This is the price the taxpayer pays for mismanagement. The Immigration Department has bungled, but moreover, the Ministers have bungled and this is the price we pay for Ruddock’s and Vanstone’s maladministration. Don’t forget, if you’re a

taxpayer, that the $7 million that you may have to dole out if she succeeds in her case in this regard, is $7 million you had to dole out because Ruddock botched this. Ruddock is a bungler.

JOURNALIST: The case of the children at Villawood, though, what should be done there? Should that be referred to the inquiry?

BEAZLEY: That obviously has to be inquired into but what is it saying? It says that the bungles and the mismanagement are continuing and that’s why we need a proper Royal Commission. Royal Commissions are not just there to be politically used against the Labor Party when you don’t like administrative arrangements over Centenary House. Royal Commissions are there to do a serious job and part of their serious work is to get your administration right. We need a decent Royal Commission into migration now before it costs us another $7 million if somebody else is going to settle a case, or try to settle a case, on the same basis that the Rau family is.