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Opposition Leader discusses who is the appropriate person to open the Olympic Games.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

INTERVIEW WITH HOWARD SATTLER, RADIO 6PR,

WEDNESDAY, 6 JANUARY, 1999

 

E&OE-PROOF ONLY

 

Subjects: Olympic Games

 

SATTLER: The Leader of the Opposition, who could almost have opened the Games had his side won the election in October. It could have been you, Kim.

 

BEAZLEY:    No, I would not have done it, Howard.

 

SATTLER:  Wouldn’t you?

 

BEAZLEY: No, I don’t think that it’s right. I think there is, in fact, a bit of a rule in the Olympic arrangements that the Head of State has to open the Games. As part of your bid process, that you do that, and that’s why I would have preferred, and certainly, if I had been Prime Minister, I would have put before the Australian people firstly a referendum on a Republic. And, assuming that was carried, an appointment process for President put in place before the Games were held. In fact, if John Howard sticks to the timetable that he has argued he will, there will be a chance of at least a Republic issue to vote on in November this year. And, if the proposition that the Convention approved got up, then it will be easy to appoint a President by August - September of the year when the Games are held. So, I would think that the preferable course. But, if that course is not followed...

 

SATTLER:

... I’m starting to cringe. Come on, you’re not going to say...

 

BEAZLEY: .. .and we do not have an Australian Head of State, well, I think that it would be perfectly ludicrous and, obviously, John Howard concedes this himself, it would be ludicrous having the Queen of Britain opening the Australian Games.

 

SATTLER: Oh, hang on. He’ll say, ‘no you’re wrong, Kim, she is the Queen of Australia’, and so will people like Kerry Jones, who is sitting on the line listening to this.

 

BEAZLEY:

Well, evidently, it’s not good en ough for John Howard...

 

BEAZLEY: . . .because what John Howard is saying, apparently, and he has said it before publicly, is that he would open the Games.

 

SATTLER: ... Right...

 

BEAZLEY: .. .and, therefore, in those circumstances what I think, and if that is so, he is sustaining and maintaining that position, based on the rumours around all over the east yesterday. Which is why I put out that press release saying that 1 think that that’s not appropriate. Then, the Queen’s representative in Australia, the Governor- General, would be the person who ought to open the Games.

 

SATTLER: I know. But what would that say to the world about Australia? It would say that we were still subservient, wouldn’t it?

 

BEAZLEY: There is every risk of that, which is why I think the preferred course is to have us determine this year that we ought to have an Australian Head of State. And, if we approve that, then to get an Australian Head of State in place to open the Games.

 

SATTLER: Yeah, alright, obviously those who are pushing the Republican cause, and I am one of them, can use that as a big lever to vote for the Republic in November.

 

BEAZLEY: Well, except that the Prime Minister has said that he would not appoint a President in time.

 

SATTLER: Well, that’s the point. If we vote in November, surely he has got time before the Games to do all of that.

 

BEAZLEY: Time to burn. No problems at all. He could very readily do that, and I think the pressure ought to be on there to do that. Of course, we have to get the issue through the Australian people first. But I think, even if we fail to get the issue through the Australian people, or we do but we fail to have a President in place by the time of the Games, I still don’t think the Prime Minister is the right person to open them.

 

SATTLER: So, for your lot, you would say either the President, if that gets up, or the Governor-General...

 

BEAZLEY: .. .or the Governor-General, as the representative of the person who is effectively the Australian Head of State.

 

SATTLER: Now, if protocol allowed it, Kim, what about an absolute champion athlete?

 

BEAZLEY: Well, I think that there is a lot unifying in that. I don’t think that is a bad idea, the idea that you have put up, but you know the Olympic Games set-up,  it’s tight bound as all get out, and my view is they probably will insist, as they have in the past, on a Head of State opening the Games.

 

SATTLER: Well, the Americans came close to it in Atlanta with Muhammad Ali actually lighting the flame, didn’t they?

 

BEAZLEY: Well, that’s right, and I hope that there is a real role in the torch processes and all the rest of it for great Australian athletes. I am sure there will be...

 

SATTLER:

hope so...

 

BEAZLEY: .. .as they come forward. But the opening, actually, is generally done by the Head of State. Now, sometimes that can be a highly political figure, like it was Clinton who opened those Atlanta Games, but then that’s the American Head of State. The Prime Minister is not the Australian Head of State.

 

SATTLER:

 

Alright, Kim, keep enjoying your holiday.

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Thanks, mate.

 

SATTLER:

 

Thanks for your time today.

ends