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Journalist discusses proposed anti-terrorism and industrial relations legislation; and evidence in Denpasar court that AFP informed Indonesia Police about Bali Nine.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2005




FRAN KELLY: After all, the government has announced it will introduce its anti-terrorism laws on Cup Day. Michelle Grattan joins us from Canberra. Michelle, good morning.


MICHELLE GRATTAN: Good morning, Fran. It’s about as precarious an occupation I think as the horses undergo.


FRAN KELLY: Certainly high stakes. Michelle, Labor is now attacking the anti-terrorism bill and wants extensive changes. What changes is Labor putting forward?


MICHELLE GRATTAN: It’s saying that the bill is very flawed, that there needs to be much more judicial review and that the sunset clause, which applies to parts of the bill, should apply to the whole thing. Of course it says the ‘shoot to kill’ provisions should be withdrawn and it’s on song with the premiers on that, and a whole lot of other changes too. It basically is, of course, much more critical of the bill than the premiers who’ve signed off on the broad principles of it, apart from ‘shoot to kill’.


FRAN KELLY: Does that make it a bit tricky for Labor? I mean all the Labor premiers are still backing the legislation, albeit with a change or two. The polls show that voters support it. Has Labor left its criticism a bit late here? Not much time to persuade the public and even some of the premiers of the dangers of this bill, as it sees it.


MICHELLE GRATTAN: It did seem to sit on the fence for quite a long time, Fran. When he was asked about it earlier, Kim Beazley always tended to say: well, what we need are practical measures rather than particularly changes of the law. Then it was going to wait to see the detail of the legislation. It’s come out at last but I do think, as you say, that while … I think what it’s saying is correct—it’s left as more or less the only one saying it. Perhaps Jon Stanhope from the ACT is now more critical of the whole thing than he was before but basically the Labor premiers, even those who were saying there could be constitutional problems—Peter Beattie and Geoff Gallop—are still saying they are behind the bill, they just want to make sure that there are not going to be court challenges later.


FRAN KELLY: Okay. Michelle, on IR—because of course those laws get introduced next week as well—another poll in your newspaper shows the government’s advertising campaign doesn’t have appeared to have swayed people. Virtually the same number of people are still opposed to the changes as were before the TV ad blitz.


MICHELLE GRATTAN: That’s right and of course it’s been an immense campaign so one would have expected perhaps some movement. The government probably thinks that this is a slow-burn campaign, though, that it will stop opposition, which is very high, getting worse.


But one figure I think is quite interesting in this poll, Fran, and that is that 57 per cent of people felt the changes would make no difference to them—hardly any thought they’d be better off and quite a few thought they’d be worse off. But nevertheless, you have a majority feeling they won’t be affected.


Now, I think when the government gets the legislation through and bedded down, that’s potentially quite an important figure for it if in fact the reality of the legislation is that between now and the election, people on the whole don’t feel worse off.


FRAN KELLY: Okay. Michelle, just finally, there was evidence in the court in Denpasar yesterday that showed that the Australian Federal Police handed over the ‘Bali nine’, virtually lock, stock, and barrel, all the details of what was about to play out with that drug-smuggling operation, to the Indonesian Police. Will this attract more criticism for the AFP, do you think?


MICHELLE GRATTAN: Probably. I think it’s quite a difficult issue because on the one hand obviously our police want to cooperate with the Indonesians, and indeed police in other countries, in dealing with crime. On the other hand, of course, when the death penalty is involved, there is a bit of second-guessing and many people will say: well, the police should have waited and picked up these people when they arrived in Australia. I think it’s a difficult decision for the police but certainly in this particular case I think they will come under criticism.


FRAN KELLY: Okay, Michelle, we’ll talk tomorrow. Thank you.