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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Leader of the Opposition: University of Melbourne: 1 April 2005: Senate reform; Single mothers re-entering the workforce; Proposed appointment of Arthur Sinodinos to Washington; Branch stacking.

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Subjects: Senate reform; Single mothers re-entering the workforce; Proposed appointment of Arthur Sinodinos to Washington; Branch stacking

JOURNALIST: Now that you’ve shown yourself as a reformer, specifically which of the Governments proposed reforms will you be supporting in the Senate?

BEAZLEY: What we’ll be proposing is what we ought to be doing about skills and infrastructure, the sorts of things not what this Government is talking about because it’s off the mark. We’re going to be talking about the sort of reform agenda that the Reserve Bank is talking about, that the OECD is talking about and what is necessary now. We have had falling productivity in the Australian workforce over the course of the last twelve months and the Government has no answers to it. Nothing that they are putting into Parliament contains an answer.

JOURNALIST: What about some of the things Mr Costello proposed last night like a national regulator (inaudible) and force people back into the workforce -

BEAZLEY: You don’t need a national regulator to do that. There are two million people in the Australian workforce, or potentially in the Australian workforce of working age, who are either unsatisfied with the amount of work they have now, have no work now, or would like to enter the workforce, but there are impediments to them in regard to their skills and regard to effective marginal tax rates, in regard to the availability of child-care. Instead of prattling on about how you ought to force people to do the things that they would do in their own interest and in the interests of everybody who came to work, how about providing them with the capacity to do so. Let’s just start to hear from this government about what it wants to do to provide incentive and encouragement instead of punishment.

JOURNALIST: So do you support single parents back to work when their children go to school?

BEAZLEY: There is no good forcing single parents back to work with their children going back to school if all they’re going to do is go into a round robin of working testing because they can’t find childcare, because they can’t get the skills or get a skills (inaudible) to provide themselves with employment. I know very few, and very few in my constituency, single women with children of child-age who don’t want to be in the workforce and in fact most of them are. Those who are not, almost invariably, have a problem related to child-care or a problem related to the issues of their skills and their workforce too, almost every one of them. I don’t know what world is inhabited by the people who sit in elite preoccupation in Canberra but it’s not the real world. The real world is of people who are supporting parents, striving to get themselves back into the workforce and facing impediments and barriers to doing it. That’s the real world, not the world apparently, however, of Peter Costello.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t intend to support any of the Government’s proposed, future economic reforms?

BEAZLEY: What are they? Please, kindly tell me what they are because we’ve heard a plethora from them about industrial relations but we see no Bill. We’ve heard from Peter Costello about what he wants to do about the disabled in our society. If he wants to get the disabled people off the disabled pension and back into work, what is he going to do about disabled friendly workplaces compelling businesses to put those in place? What he is going to do about the issues of training and skills amongst people with disabilities in this country. Is all he’s going to do for both them and single mums is to get them going around battering door to door of employers to get letters from them to say that they’ve got no work for them and therefore that they can continue to receive their benefits. Is that all he’s going to do? Or is he going to get real, and start to put in place the sorts of things that actually encourage workplace, friendly environments for those who have disabilities and skills for single women who are supporting kids to get themselves back into the workforce if they happen to be among the few who are not already there.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Mr Sinodinos’ appointment to Washington?

BEAZLEY: We’ve appointed people in the past who have come from ministerial staff. This government always takes what previous governments have done on the odd occasion and make a meal of it. This Government has cut back substantially on foreign representation by properly trained public servants, in areas that are critical to Australia whilst, at the same time make an absolute meal of appointing its own supporters to positions overseas. It’s not a bad idea, from time to time, to have an appointment in an embassy like Washington if somebody the Prime Minister really trusts in that position. I would say that this is a government, which now, given its record ought to be organising a bit of restraint

on that one and building up the numbers and expertise of those who are only traditional, diplomatic corps and seeing them properly employed.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, you’ve got the next generation of Labor voters just off to our left here ( a group of young school girls stopped to listen to Kim) is there anything you’d like to say to these young ladies about why they should be voting for you next time round?

BEAZLEY: I wouldn’t be cheeky enough to ask them to vote for the Labor Party. What I’d do is ask them what they think we should be doing. What do they think the priorities are, what do they think would encourage them in the

workforce, what would be the things that most interest them in life? We are in that situation where we are doing a bit of learning and we are gradually evolving our policies and part of that process in evolving them is listening to what other people have to say to us. Not necessarily the folk here but certainly as we devise policies on education, we’re going to be listening to them.

JOURNALIST: Are you going to do anything about allegations about branch stacking in the Victorian ALP, you’ve now got party members protesting outside headquarters?

BEAZLEY: I’ve said this repeatedly. We went through the agonies of a huge set of changes in the party rules, both in terms of the circumstances of which you could recruit members and in terms of settling disputes once disputes occur. None of these have been used. I just say this to any Labor Party member, either involving myself or Mr Bracks, if you have a grievance, first activate the appeals processes. If you don’t like the outcome you get at the state level, go to the National Appeals Tribunal. All these things are available to Labor Party members, if they believe somebody has proceeded beyond normal areas of recruitment into branch staking. As far as I can see, as far as I’m aware, those processes have not been activated and they should be.

JOURNALIST: How are you going to show or sell the general Australian public that you are a reformer?

BEAZLEY: I’ve more experience in it than just about anyone else in Australian politics. I can now look at Mr Howard and Costello and look at what they’ve done and look at we did. I was in the Cabinet that did things like de-regulating the financial sector. I was the Defence Minister who reformed the defence industries. I was the Education Minister who presided over the creation of the National Training Authority. I served in the Governments that made the changes in the tariffs arrangements that opened the Australian economy to a global involvement which has driven our prosperity. I was in all of that. Where is Mr Howard and where is Mr Costello when they’ve given us a GST? And they’ve still taking it out on the unions and everybody they dislike amongst the poor and dispossessed in this country, they’re not reformers.

JOURNALIST: Do you concede though that you’ve got a tough job ahead of you given the Newspoll figures?

BEAZLEY: There’ll be a hundred polls between now and when the next election is held so I’m not going to take much notice of fortnightly polls, at least not for another couple of years. It’s a question of a: listening to what people are telling you, b: the subject of those of those polls who actually have a view that is important to, ultimately, to the election process, the real election process. I found in the three months I’ve been Leader, the opportunity to talk to Australians about what really worries them, in the West Australian state election and in Werriwa has been extremely beneficial. Do I think we have a message that will ultimately be able to see us elected and do I think people are concerned about the character of this Government? Yes I do. And I think sufficiently to defeat them.

JOURNALIST: Is this too much for a hard nosed pragmatist to sell this (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: Mr Howard is clever politician and he has cleverly used the beneficial economy that was given by us. Unfortunately, he squandered the legacy and we now know that. We can see it in the slowing growth rates and the rising interest rates and in the collapsed productivity in the Australian workforce. He’s had a pretty good run he’s had nine years before these things have shown up. The starting point of what I need to do I indicated when I first became Leader a couple of months ago and that was to hold the Government accountable. This Government has not been held accountable for the last nine years basically and it’s not just the Labor Party who’s got to hold them accountable, it’s the media as well. You’ve got to go through the forensic process of dissecting what is they do, not for what they say, but the effects they have. There is some evidence around that people are becoming willing to do that. That may, I believe, elect a Labor Government if people do that. Whether it elects a Labor Government or not, what it will do is improve the quality of Australian democracy.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying that you would be unable to instruct an Advisory Council (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: I think that we have to and we are working our way though this and we want to be cautious about how much we reveal because we’ve already see, as the Government has come to recognise that we’re talking about the things that really matter, how they tried to get a political fix in and they’ve done that with a maximum (inaudible) we’ve got to be very careful about that. I think that this Authority will have to have sufficient power that if a Commonwealth acts against it, it will be forced to be held accountable. If we’re going to get the states on board, we will have to ensure there is sufficient arms length from the Commonwealth for them to be able to trust them. So, they will have to have considerable amounts of authority over expenditure. What the detail of that will

be that’s a work in progress and we’ll tell people in plenty of time before the election.

JOURNALIST: What do you think to wake up to a picture like that? (picture of Peter Costello surrounded by babies)

BEAZLEY: I think what an excellent idea it was that the Labor Party had to provide that baby bonus and what an interesting thing it is now that as Mr Costello announces it, people forget where it came from.