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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 12 October 2006: \nBali; Skills shortages; Labor women; Industrial relations; North Korea.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON KIM C BEAZLEY MP

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA 12 OCTOBER 2006

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Bali; Skills shortages; Labor women; Industrial relations; North Korea

BEAZLEY: We reflect with grief and pain today on those who lost their lives four years ago with the atrocity in Bali. Our thoughts are going to be with the families of the Australian and other victims of that terrible event. We will never forget them. We will never forget that event.

I’m disappointed that four years on we see an intelligence report, as we did the other day in the United States, saying Jemaah Islamiyah, the outfit responsible for this atrocity, is stronger now than it was then. This just goes to show we must be entirely focused in our struggle in the war on terror on this region. Getting the thing right here, because that’s what ultimately protects our people.

Now, John Howard has got this skills package out today. Can I just say this: one of the reasons why we are now facing rising interest rates is John Howard’s failure on skills and trades. His failure on skills and trades has created those bottlenecks in the Australian economy which have put upward pressure on interest rates.

Now, only Labor understands the skills crisis, just as only Labor understands the interest rates reality and the impact it’s having on people. Now, this is a small step down the road of addressing that skills crisis.

John Howard is not the man to fix it. I am. We are the ones, in the Australian Party, with the serious plans for dealing with this - giving our kids a chance. John Howard turned 300,000 young Australians away from TAFE over the last decade. This picks up about 10 per cent of them. This picks up a small percentage of them. A sort of $3000 apology to them. We’ve got to have a full scale plan here that also picks up what our kids need. Kids encouraged to do trades while they are at school; an opportunity for apprenticeships; an opportunity for TAFE places.

The plans we’ve put out include paying for the TAFE fees of those who go into the areas of traditional trades where we have shortages. Putting in place, in each school district, a trade school that gives kids a chance to choose to go to that school from their other schools, to pick up the early parts of an apprenticeship. They come out of school with a couple of years of an apprenticeship under their belt. A completion bonus encourage kids to finish their apprenticeships. This is a skills plan.

Now John Howard at last is acknowledging his failure. But he’s not the man to fix it. What this means of course is this: Skills, trades, Howard’s failure in this area is going to front and centre be an issue at the next election. And the Australian people will have an opportunity to put in place a Government, led by myself, who will be serious about these issues. Over to you.

JOURNALIST: If the voters see an $837 million package put out there on skills, are they really going to think that there’s much difference between what the Government’s doing and what Labor is doing?

BEAZLEY: Voters are going to see there’s a crisis. What John Howard has finally conceded is that there is a crisis. And voters are going to look for the men and women a plan to fix the crisis. They’re not fools, they understand absolutely that this is just a small step. They understand it’s got very little in it for kids, coming though, encouraged into the system of picking up a trade - very little in this package for them. They’ll be asking questions about this package: Why now; why have you waited so long; why is there very little there for kids? I mean these are the sorts of question people are going to be asking and: Why on earth haven’t you picked up this issue earlier and run with it seriously.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it better late than never though?

BEAZLEY: When you’ve been arguing like we have for the best part of 10 years that this ought to be the focus, it is important that we demonstrate that the other side is at last recognising what we’ve been arguing about. So, they are now beginning to recognise the full extent of their failure. And this represents a step in addressing the consequences of their failure. But you actually need to have in place a government with a serious plan and we’re the only people in the ballpark on that.

JOURNALIST: Are you offended by suggestions the female on your frontbench are a bunch of ex-wives?

BEAZLEY: I’m deeply offended by that statement. Look at the terrific women that will be part of my governing Cabinet. Look at Jenny Macklin; look at Julia Gillard; Tanya Plibersek; Nicola Roxon; Penny Wong; Kate Lundy. We have got a fantastic group of women who will be very serious Cabinet Ministers. They are among the heaviest lifters that we have on the Federal Labor Party

frontbench. And one of the things I often say when I’m out addressing groups in the community: one of the things that will surprise and delight you about the election of a Labor Government is for the first time in your lives you will look at a

Cabinet that looks like Australia. You will look at a Cabinet in which there is almost a genuine gender balance. You’re going to look at a Cabinet in which women are there, playing a real role in many positions. Then of course you’re going to be getting at a woman who is Deputy Prime Minister. So all these sorts of things are part of what the Labor Party offers. All I can think of is this is a bit of sour grapes.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the ACTU’s idea that Labor should look at doubling minimum standards if elected?

BEAZLEY: There is not a person in this country that does not think that John Howard’s minimum standards are inadequate. There is not a person in this country who does not believe that John Howard’s minimum standards are all part of his wage-cutting agenda. So, there are lots of people, apart from the ACTU, who’ve got a few views on this. We’ll take a look at what the ACTU has to say. We’ll take a look at what business has to say. We’ll take a look at what people have to say about what we ought to be doing about putting a fair system in place and we will indeed do that.

JOURNALIST: Shouldn’t it be a priority to get this policy out there of exactly what alternative Labor will be offering sooner rather later, giving you said you’re going to rip these laws up?

BEAZLEY: In a systematic way we are putting out our policies point by point. And we will do it at times of our choosing and then argue each of those points through until there is a complete public understanding of why we are making the argument and case on each of those points about the industrial relations system. We’ve got to drive in the solid arguments about how the AWAs are wage-slashers. We’ve got to drive in the solid arguments about how collective bargaining improves both productivity outcomes for the economy and ensures a bit of wage fairness for the ordinary Aussie.

We are going to debate this line by line, month after month, week after week. And we’ll put out our policy at times of our own choosing and argue each single point in that policy at times we see fit.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that North Korean neighbours (inaudible) sanctions with military action?

BEAZLEY: North Korea are sabre rattlers and they stand condemned for rattling the sabre on this particular issue. They are the ones who have committed the act which has destabilised the region and threatened the peace of

the area. They are the ones who have taken the initiative in a way that has

worried ordinary, decent, sensible people around the region. Now, what has been said to them, is the rest of the international community is going to impose sanctions on them for their behaviour and it behoves them to change.

ends