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Opposition Leader discusses AFL; forthcoming election; taxation; refugees; PBS; One.Tel; workers' entitlements; parliamentary terms; Indonesia; Konrad Kalejs; Stephen Conroy; and banking policy.



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Kim Beazley - Radio 3AW, Melbourne - AFL, Federal Election, Taxation, Refugees, PBS, One.Tel, Workers' Entitlements, Parliamentary Terms, Indonesia, Konrad Kalejs, Stephen Conroy, Banking Policy

http://www.alp.org.au//media/0501/kbivawnm310501.html Monday, 04 June 2001

Kim Beazley - Interview with Neil Mitchell Subjects: AFL, Federal Election, Taxation, Refugees, PBS, One.Tel, Workers' Entitlements, Parliamentary Terms, Indonesia, Konrad Kalejs, Stephen Conroy, Banking Policy

Transcript - Radio 3AW, Melbourne - 31 May 2001

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

MITCHELL: The important thing first. What has happened to the Dockers?

BEAZLEY: Oh dear. That is a constant source of depression for me every weekend. You expect to be uplifted but you don't. I am sorry for Damian Drum.

MITCHELL: Did he have to go?

BEAZLEY: Once the rumours start on you on something like that it is a bit like politics, isn't it? It becomes a bit inevitable half the time and I guess it was pretty inevitable that he was going to go. But whether that will improve their performance that is a very moot point. There is a real problem for AFL now, or for Aussie Rules in Western Australia. It is not just the Dockers having problems. There is also the Eagles. And there is a lot of competition for Aussie Rules in WA that the rest of the country doesn't really see.

MITCHELL: Do you think it is really having an impact on support for Australian football in the West?

BEAZLEY: In the West, yes, absolutely. I was told, I don't know if this a fact, for example, the Catholic school system has always been a sort of underpinning strength for Aussie Rules right throughout the southern states anyway, Victoria, South Australia and the like. But more kids play soccer now than Aussie Rules in the Catholic school system and, you know, if you want to see wild rabid supporters in West Australia you don't go to Aussie Rules matches, you go to the Perth Glory games.

MITCHELL: Is Damian Drum a bit too nice?

BEAZLEY: Well, I have never been coached by him so I wouldn't know.

MITCHELL: I got the impression that he wasn't walking around kicking butts though.

BEAZLEY: Well, you get that impression, that is true. They probably would, you would say in logic, they need a really hard Victorian coach.

MITCHELL: Not Neale Daniher. ...Joe Gutnick...

BEAZLEY: A really hard Victorian coach might help but I think the reality is there is just not enough talent for two great teams in WA at the moment.

MITCHELL: Really...

BEAZLEY: Because an awful lot of people have left it. I mean, the number of great players now playing for clubs here that are ex-Dockers are legion, including Brownlow Medal winners.

MITCHELL: Who?

BEAZLEY: Woewodin.

MITCHELL: Yeah, but you wouldn't give him a go.

BEAZLEY: Well, precisely. These are the sorts of mistakes that...

MITCHELL: You are sounding like a South Australian, 'Oh, all our footballers went over to play for you'.

BEAZLEY: Well, it is true.

MITCHELL: Well, why don't we forget the national league? You have your own little minor competition and we will have a big one.

BEAZLEY: The long-term future of Aussie Rules depends on the success of the national league. There is no doubt about that because the other codes are developing real strengths in the professional elements of them and real attractions. If the AFL hadn't sort of got off the mark early and formed itself by now union, in particular, and soccer would be really making it...

MITCHELL: OK.

BEAZLEY: What are we talking about? This is ridiculous.

MITCHELL: To less important stuff. When is the election?

BEAZLEY: That is in John Howard's gift. He has one big problem that nobody really talks about very much and that is that he has announced his retirement and the longer the election goes the more people are likely in an election campaign - if he doesn't call it early, for example, he calls it at the end of this year - will say, 'Well, listen Mr Howard. You are making all of these promises on tax and education and health and all the rest of it -what does it mean? How are you going to be held accountable, you are off in six months?'

MITCHELL: Well, wasn't it honest? He hasn't said six months, but he won't go...

BEAZLEY: He went further than that. He said he wouldn't be completing the next term. Full stop.

MITCHELL: Isn't that honest? You were in turmoil because you had an honest senator talking...

BEAZLEY: It may be honest. It may be honest but is it adequate? That is the point.

MITCHELL: Would you rather that he fudged and...?

BEAZLEY: Well, I would rather, if he is not going to complete his term, that somebody who is going to complete a term lead the Liberal Party into an election campaign so that when we lay down our promises I can be held accountable for them at the subsequent poll and my political opponent can be held accountable for them at the subsequent poll. Because in the end the only real guarantee of party promises is an election campaign, is the opportunity for punishment. In the case of John Howard, he has got credibility problems with anything he has to say. For starters he has got form on the 'never ever' front and secondly in the end what does it matter what he promises? He is off.

MITCHELL: There is a rumour he is going to call an election this weekend. Do you think that is possible?

BEAZLEY: It is a possibility. This is about the first weekend he could call it and have the Senate and House of Representatives go out at the same time. So, it is up to him, of course, what he chooses to do. We have always said Parliaments should go their full-term but he called on the election campaign at the beginning of the year, in a move which surprised us. Normally speaking what governments say is, well, there is 12 months at least to go on this and we will get on with the business of governing. Instead, he got out there on the stocks and said we are in an election campaign. I don't think business thanked him for that and we have had, effectively now, four or five months of campaigning.

MITCHELL: OK, is there now reason to bring it on early, go for it?

BEAZLEY: Well, there is no reason in terms of the technical Constitutional...

MITCHELL: If you think that it is affecting business.

BEAZLEY: ...and as I said it is up to John Howard. Suffice it to say, from our point of view, we are ready at any time.

MITCHELL: Even if he calls it this weekend?

BEAZLEY: If he called it this weekend we would be ready, yes.

MITCHELL: So when do you start releasing more policies?

BEAZLEY: Fair dinkum. 74 policies on our website. I put out a stack of funded policy in my Budget Reply and guess how much is out there from the Government? Zip. But there is one thing the Government is doing - they are floating the tax cut business. They are out there saying, 'Oh, income tax is too high'. That is pretty rich from an outfit that has just done what they said was the mother of all taxes...

MITCHELL: Is it too high?

BEAZLEY: Let me just complete that thought and then I will get back to your question. And they are out there saying it and then we ask the simple question: How are you going to pay for it? They have got candidates out there saying the GST should be put on food, should be rolled onto food. Howard himself said that last time and obviously with the budgetary situation if you are going to put in tax cuts now from their point of view, the dimensions they are talking about, you would have to raise the indirect taxes. But his income tax...

MITCHELL: Is income tax is too high?

BEAZLEY: The tax collection is too high. This is the highest taxing and spending government that we have had.

MITCHELL: Are you talking about income tax or overall tax?

BEAZLEY: The lot.

MITCHELL: Well, what about income tax specifically?

BEAZLEY: Well, the totality of taxes.

MITCHELL: Well, what about income tax, is income tax too high?

BEAZLEY: Income tax always has to be analysed, of course, but I don't think at the moment our priorities are income tax changes. It's GST changes.

MITCHELL: So income tax is not too high at the moment?

BEAZLEY: Not too high at the moment.

MITCHELL: It is going up by $22 billion.

BEAZLEY: You always have to keep an eye on it but you also have to have your priorities right.

MITCHELL: Income tax is not too high?

BEAZLEY: When we were in office we constantly cut income taxes. We had seven cuts to income tax and we made very substantial changes. The taxation regime overall is too high.

MITCHELL: OK, ...tax is...?

BEAZLEY: No we are saying that our priority is rollback.

MITCHELL: But you are saying income tax is right, it is not too high, you are happy with it?

BEAZLEY: We are saying that our priority is rollback. That is what we are saying.

MITCHELL: Yes, but I am asking you - you say income tax is about right?

BEAZLEY: It is not at the point at the moment where you would make it your major focus.

MITCHELL: When would it be a focus? What percentage is that to attract? What number of people have to be caught up in bracket-creep?

BEAZLEY: You always keep an eye on bracket-creep - and we did. When we were in office we didn't put in indexation in the system - no wise government does because you always need to keep flexibility in your revenue raising arrangements and if you actually put in indexation formally you deprive yourself of that.

MITCHELL: ...you buy votes?

BEAZLEY: ...not the ability to buy votes...

MITCHELL: Indexation gives you this pool of money, doesn't it?

BEAZLEY: ...and therefore you always ought to be prepared to hand it back and we did.

MITCHELL: What is wrong with indexation as a fair way of saying, all right, you paid this amount of tax and it continues that way?

BEAZLEY: Because when you are managing an economy. Let me say this firstly, in principle - it is right. OK, in principle it is right not to allow over time the tax rates to operate in a way that brings more and more people by what by then is an average income into a net and higher income bracket. So, don't get me wrong. The principle of insuring that there is a protection of a tax position of the average taxpayer is correct, I am not opposing that. The question is: do you do it via indexation or do it via handing it back at the point of time the budget can afford it? Why do you need the flexibility? Because the budget is an important tool in managing the economy overall and therefore if you straightjacket yourself you may create consequences on another front. For example, you may place yourself in the position where you put pressure on interest rates. I mean, there are these sorts of things that you have got to consider when you are managing an economy but - should you be returning bracket-creep, as they call it, at some point of time? Yes you should. You should be returning bracket-creep but what I am saying is the issue now in taxation is rolling back the GST, that is the issue.

MITCHELL: Do you accept though, I mean, people on average weekly earnings are nudging the highest rate. You don't have to be earning a hell of a lot of money to be paying the highest rate of tax.

BEAZLEY: If you actually look at the stories that are in the papers today, that is not happening at the moment. People on average weekly earnings are not nudging the highest tax rates at the moment.

MITCHELL: Not far off.

BEAZLEY: Actually they are a fair way off, the average weekly earnings to the highest tax rates. But, theoretically over time, they will reach that point. So the point is at what point of time do you act and what is your priority now? Now, as I said, when we were in office we had seven tax cuts and they more than took care...

MITCHELL: Sure.

BEAZLEY: ...bracket-creep, more than took care of it and that was our policy. Our party policy says that over time that is what you have to do too. But what is the priority now, right now as we approach this election campaign in the next six months? That priority as far as taxation is concerned - because we have that mother of all taxes, that behemoth on our laps at the moment - is the goods and services tax. That is our priority.

MITCHELL: OK. Roll it back, where? Simon Crean is saying, you know, set up a committee to look at it. When does it get rolled back?

BEAZLEY: We are going to do two things. The first thing we are going to do is offer people a decent package on it during the course of the election campaign. So it is not putting it off into the never-never -it is a down payment, if you like. Secondly, we also know if you look at the budgetary circumstances which we confront there are going to be possibilities to do more on it later and we also need to have the chance to sit down with the Taxation Department and go through its impact on things like charities which is very difficult to comprehend at the moment from Opposition. So, we say a committee, a committee

that after you have had your first tranche of rollback will look at what else needs to be done, what else needs to be done with the simplification of the tax system.

MITCHELL: Does that mean day one of the Beazley Government there is rollback or would it wait for the committee result?

BEAZLEY: No, day one of a Beazley Government there will be rollback.

MITCHELL: What?

BEAZLEY: Well, I will claim the same privileges of Howard and Costello. When you asked them on tax they said, 'Wait for the election campaign'. So say I, 'What is good for the goose is good for the gander'. We've already said a bit, though, on the fact of rollback. We have mentioned it in a number of items and indeed in my Budget Reply speech I mentioned it in relation to the charities with a funded little package for them. But on the question of rollback, you will get a package but we also say this is not all there is. This is not the end of it. There are other things that will need to be done and having the advantage of government you have a chance then to consult with the Treasurer and what he can do.

MITCHELL: There is a belief among charities, some charities in this town that you are looking at removing the deductibility of donations to charities by business. Is that right?

BEAZLEY: No.

MITCHELL: No....as part of funding rollback.

BEAZLEY: No.

MITCHELL: It was one of the questions raised around some of the charities. I agree that I could not believe that it was likely. But John Howard's bid is no tax rises in the next term. What's yours?

BEAZLEY: Well, we are certainly not going to raise taxes in the next term. Full stop. Nothing. We have made that amply clear. The taxes that impact on ordinary Australians through from the excises that go on fuel, the impact of the Medicare levy, the income tax rates, goods and services tax -we will be reducing that. Do you know why? Simply this: we now have the biggest taxing, biggest spending government in Australian history. So when you have got the biggest spending and biggest taxing government there is always going to be opportunities to deal with waste and...

MITCHELL: What about company taxes?

BEAZLEY: We have part-ownership of the company tax system.

MITCHELL: So you assure us that you won't increase that...

BEAZLEY: We did the deal with this bunch...

MITCHELL: OK.

BEAZLEY: ...on company taxes, on capital gains taxes, on all those matters related to the company taxation. The point is this...

MITCHELL: Let me get this clear. There will be no increases in company taxes under you?

BEAZLEY: We have got no plans to increase company taxes at all and I am taking it a point further by pointing out, because a lot of people have failed to give us reasonable credit on this. We said that we were not against tax reform, we are against the GST. And the proof of the pudding was being able to sit down with the Government and saying, 'OK, in a bi-partisan way, we will put through these tax changes', and that is exactly what we did. So we are not looking at changing the taxation regime to the detriment of taxpayers - we are looking at changing it in their favour in the case of the goods and services tax. And then we are looking at savings to ensure that the spending programs we are putting in place in our first term will be capable of being paid for out of reprioritisation.

MITCHELL: No tax cuts, no spending cuts, reprioritisation...

BEAZLEY: Sorry, give me another word. Reorganising priorities.

MITCHELL: OK. So no tax increases, no spending cuts, changing priorities with the way that you fund rollback. Is that it?

BEAZLEY: Well, that is what we have been saying and that is what we are going to do.

MITCHELL: ...much money...

BEAZLEY: Fair bit.

MITCHELL: What are your priorities?

BEAZLEY: Take a look at the cancer program that we put in place. Very large. And what constituted it? Two things. Firstly, the beginnings of a cut back in government advertising over the course of the next three years and taking a portion of existing policy in relation to cancer and changing its focus.

MITCHELL: What about your other priorities? We have heard about that one, what other priorities would you change?

BEAZLEY: Then we go to education. You saw us take from Category One schools and redirect those funds towards public schools.

MITCHELL: Yeah, but this isn't funding rollback. I am talking about funding rollback. What priorities have you changed to fund rollback?

BEAZLEY: What we were doing in that effort of ours, there is also, I might say, a cut of a particular tax concession to which the payment to political parties or the tax concession on payments to political parties. And we would take off the obligation currently being experienced by charities that give assistance to the poorest people in this community by paying their bills, removing the GST from that, which is an example of rollback.

MITCHELL: We still don't understand how you are going to fund rollback. You have talked about getting money elsewhere but where are you getting the money to fund it? What are the priorities you are changing and saying those dollars are going into rollback?

BEAZLEY: ...pork-barrelling and government spending.

MITCHELL: How much?

BEAZLEY: That is what we are doing.

MITCHELL: How much?

BEAZLEY: And you will know in the election campaign.

MITCHELL: Pork-barrelling is still helping people, even though it is pork-barrelling, I mean...

BEAZLEY: Pork-barrelling is helping governments get re-elected.

MITCHELL: Yeah, but it is putting ...electorates...

BEAZLEY: We are now seeing Auditor-Generals reports, parliamentary committee reports suggesting that good work to deal with problems in relation to the environment, good work to ensure that there is a decent equalisation of the experience of people in regional Australia with their telecommunications, is being tainted and undermined by an unwillingness to focus on the good public policy elements of it and a willingness instead to pork-barrel. And then in regard to this government's performance on advertising, there is a lot more money to scrape out of that, a lot more money to scrape out of their consultancies.

[Ad break]

MITCHELL: The Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley is with me. We will take some questions or calls, Chris go ahead please.

CALLER: Good morning Mr Beazley, and Neil, thanks for the opportunity of having a chat. I am one of these people who fall into the category of bracket creep. My work situation: I actually jumped two tax brackets because of the overtime I worked, like hundreds of thousands of other people if you read the front page of today's Herald Sun. Am I to gather from your preamble that a Beazley Labor Government's going to do nothing to help middle-income earners with the bracket creep problem?

BEAZLEY: Well, your question is always what the budget can afford, and when you do it. When is the right time to do it? And when we are in office we not only helped people with bracket creep, we gave them a lot more back than simply bracket creep. And don't think for one minute that we are unmindful of responsibilities in that regard. The point is what is the priority now? And for us when you have got this behemoth of a tax sitting on the laps of the ordinary Australian taxpayers - the GST - that's our priority. So the resources that we have available to us, in very tight budgetary circumstances, the savings that we can make elsewhere in the budget that can be apportioned to the taxation, the direction in which we are pushing them, is getting to grips with this goods and services tax.

MITCHELL: So you can't even say that you will do anything in the first term of Government?. If you win the next election, you can't say you would?

BEAZLEY: The easiest thing for politicians is to wander around saying, you know ,in the long term distant future, we are going to X, Y and Z. I don't want to promise or issue baloney on that front frankly. What I am focussed on is the goods and services tax. Suffice it to say if somebody has been in government for 13 years, and a government which seven times cut the tax rates that handed back more than bracket creep, I'm not unmindful of the problem. But the problem that we face immediately, now, at this moment, is not bracket creep. The problem we face immediately now is the goods and services tax.

MITCHELL: That doesn't offer much hope, though if you believe this Herald Sun thing. Half a million workers into the top tax rate, the next four years, well that's...

BEAZLEY: Well that's no luck to them. Well, that is four years .What we are talking about now is what we do about tax immediately on getting into office. And what we do about tax immediately on getting into office is to deal with the problem that people have on their plate right now.

MITCHELL: But is that fair? I mean you talked about income tax being fair at the moment, is it fair if 500,000 people are dragged into...

BEAZLEY: Obviously governments have got to look always at who has been dragged into different tax levels when it's assumed that those tax levels are for a higher income bracket and at point of time that these people now really are. But all governments ought to focus on that from time to time. What I'm saying is now we are dealing with a situation where the primary problem in taxation is the impact of the goods and services tax and that's what we ought to be focussing on.

MITCHELL: Paula go ahead please.

CALLER: I would like to think that this election was fought on something else other than tax. Neil Mitchell might be obsessed with tax but I'm one of a group of people in this country who are obsessed with something else, and that's the broken heart of this country. At the moment we have got refugees being mistreated, violently locked up, Labor let the ... out of the box when you introduced mandatory detention, and now what are you going to do about it?

BEAZLEY: Well, on the case of refugees, we'd do these things. Firstly, if people enter the country illegally you have to detain them.

CALLER: Why? You don't have to detain them.

BEAZLEY: Because, if you don't detain them you allow yourself to be overrun by illegality.

CALLER: We didn't detain the Vietnamese refugees and look at them. They are now our fellow countrymen, our students. They are in our hospitals, they are in our workplaces, they are our neighbours. They are Australians. We didn't lock them up and treat them like this.

BEAZLEY: No, what we did with the Vietnamese was to enter into an agreement internationally on the legal movement of refugees. When it became clear that many countries were going to experience a surge of refugees after the Vietnam War, the rest of the world sat down - including us - and worked out the orderly repositioning of refugees. Basically, they were all going to Malaysia at that time, and Malaysia took about a million. Can I finish that Neil, because the lady is a good hearted woman and she deserves a decent response. And what we did then was to work out how legally we could ensure that every country took their share, if you like, of people who were displaced like that. And we are still in that program. And the way things operate now is that for every person that comes into this country illegally and then is accepted as a refugee, then those who stay in the system who are still in the camps elsewhere, who can't afford to pay the money to the international criminal gangs which encourage this type of trafficking, who can't afford to, miss out. Now I think that's unfair But, having said that, it doesn't mean that people get cruelly treated and the reputation of this country is besmirched.

MITCHELL: So what would you change?

BEAZLEY: The thing that we have said is this, that we would put a judicial inquiry into the way in which these camps have been conducted. We see too many acts of violence and problems associated with them. We need to get to grips with this, get some decent recommendations off somebody who has had a

chance to look on the ground at what's going on and then you implement it.

MITCHELL: We've got two inquiries today, one into the GST rollback and one into the refugee camps.

BEAZLEY: Well, what a surprise.

MITCHELL: How many inquiries are you going to have?

BEAZLEY: What do sensible governments do when they see a substantial problem? Go bull-headed into it?

MITCHELL: I thought there'd be enough time to work out what to do on this issue.

BEAZLEY: They establish a decent information base for themselves and then they act. That's what they do. And governments which don't do that have a tendency to make a major mess of public policy.

MITCHELL: Peter, hello.

CALLER: I want to let Mr Beazley know that I'm a disabled pensioner and I've got some kiddies and I went to the doctors yesterday and you can't even get cough medicine on prescription anymore for the kids. It's outright disgusting.

MITCHELL: Why not?

CALLER: Well, the Howard Government stopped it.

MITCHELL: What do you mean by cough medicine? Antibiotics or something?

CALLER: No, cough elixir. You know the cough medicine you used to get. On prescription you can't get it any more. So, I've got to pay $14 over the counter plus GST. It's disgusting. The quicker Howard goes, the better, mate.

BEAZLEY: Thanks very much, Peter.

MITCHELL: I thought you could just buy...You always bought cough medicine over the counter.

BEAZLEY: Oh, there are various types, aren't there. I mean, some you get prescribed, some you don't.

MITCHELL: Garry, go ahead.

CALLER: Surely, Mr Beazley, you'd agree that the wholesale sales tax system that we had for so long had enormous inequities in it. The GST has certainly got rid of a lot of those inequities.

BEAZLEY: I don't see how. And I tell you something else about the wholesale sales tax system - it collected $17 billion from 80,000 taxation points to raise $17 billion. The GST collects $50 billion from two million taxation points to raise $30 billion. So, if that was the answer to the particular question, what a hell of a question it must have been.

MITCHELL: Just while we're on the issue, Zyban, and the arthritis drug being affected on the PBS, what changes would you make with PBS?

BEAZLEY: We respect the PBS system. We think that it allows a decent health judgement to be made on things. The problem that we see at the moment, you can see it in relation to...and I want to have a bit

of a look at it in relation to folk experiencing difficulties with cholesterol, is that it seems to be that the Government, instead of allowing the PBS system to work out what works, what's effective and what ought to be subsidised, is intervening with the savings option. And we don't think that's the way you operate the PBS system - or ought to operate the PBS system. So, we're having a look at it because we're getting contradictory answers out of the Government on what they're supposed to be doing with this, and we want to get to the bottom of it.

MITCHELL: One.Tel - big enormous problems. What implications does that have, do you think in this country?

BEAZLEY: Well, I'm sorry to see it happening. That's the first point. But I tell you what it triggers up in my mind as you listen to Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch expressing concerns about those who've exited the company. The top end of town goes out with vast rewards for success or failure in this country. I tell you who I'm worried about, I'm worried about the 1400 One.Tel workers who may well walk out of this without their various benefits having been properly protected. So, you know what I'm going to do about it? I'm going to protect them - them and those who are in the textile factories and those in all those areas who have now found themselves out on the grass with their entitlements only being partially refunded. We're going to put in place a scheme that guarantees them 100 per cent of their entitlements.

MITCHELL: Paid by whom?

BEAZLEY: Paid by 0.1 addition to the Superannuation Guarantee Levy that is paid by companies. The effect of that, which is quite small, but the effect is quite large on your capacity to protect workers' entitlements...

MITCHELL: It won't happen...

BEAZLEY: ...pretty good insurance scheme.

MITCHELL: Well, that won't do much for these people, will it?

BEAZLEY: Well, we're not in office, are we?

MITCHELL: Well, you won't..

BEAZLEY: So, we will have the opportunity to do it on getting into government. But the story of the One.Tel workers is a weekly story. And you've got to concede that.

MITCHELL: Do you think the Packers and the Murdochs have got a responsibility to pay it?

BEAZLEY: They're clearly got to sort out their relationship with the previous management of One.Tel, and they sound as though they're going to sort it out big time. And likewise on the situation in regard to HIH and the directors there. We've go to start to get a bit of respectability and fairness into the life experiences of people in this country when there's a bit of economic distress. Because there's real inequalities.

MITCHELL: Interest rates, should they come down further?

BEAZLEY: Governments ought to always operate in a way that maximises pressure downwards on interest rates. You'd have to say, if you took a look at the figures that are of the economy at the moment, and it's bouncing along at a very slow rate of growth, you'd hope that there'd be room for further

adjustments downwards.

MITCHELL: Longer terms for Parliament? How long do you want?

BEAZLEY: I think a four year term is right. That can only happen with a referendum. And I think that it gives governments a better chance to make a few sensible judgements. But, if you go to do that, one of the things we do have to talk about is how we ensure the governments serve those four years. There's a bit of a tendency to trickiness in our political system which means that not even three year terms tend to be kept.

MITCHELL: Indonesia. Are you concerned by what's happening there?

BEAZLEY: Yes, I am.

MITCHELL: What are the implications for this country?

BEAZLEY: Well, they're our neighbour. It's never good for us if there's instability in the neighbourhood. But we wish them well. There's not much we can do about it. We ought to be offering a helping hand in the circumstances in which they find themselves. But we also have got to understand now that we have a democracy on our doorstep, not the situation as was, and we're going to have to be used to the fact that they're going to, and have to be sympathetic to the fact that they're going to change their arrangements from time to time. I might say, the last time the Prime Minister visited Indonesia was when Suharto was in power. And he made a most obsequious speech at the time, as I recollect. He hasn't been back since. But if he's got a view to being of some assistance with our neighbour, he might have gone there a bit more recently.

MITCHELL: Konrad Kalejs, suspected Nazi criminal. A decision made on extradition, and appeal lodged. Do you believe that the Australian Government should be sending him back?

BEAZLEY: I think that if a person is guilty of war crimes they are obliged to face their accusers. If there is an allegation, a credible allegation in relation to war crimes. It doesn't matter how old they are, it doesn't matter where they come from, they should face the music. If any person were to be guilty of the sorts of crimes that were rampant during WWII then they ought to be held to account for them. The lives of millions and millions of people were destroyed and there has to be a continuing accounting.

MITCHELL: Stephen Conroy. Forgiven him for telling the truth yet?

BEAZLEY: Stephen Conroy is a very valued member of our team. And it's not a question of him telling the truth. Whatever his opinion might happen to have been at that point of time, it was not correct. We had been, and he was not part of that process, working on options to give us a decent start up in education, health policies and rollback without doing anything to increase the tax burden on people. He wasn't in the loop on that, he wasn't to know.

MITCHELL: So, he's forgiven?

BEAZLEY: I always appreciated good hardworking frontbenchers, and he's one of them. You should see the ripper of a banking policy he's come up with. Courtesy of Conroy's work, we're going to do this when we get into office as far as banks are concerned. We're going to get a social contract with the banks that includes no fees for pensioners' accounts, frill free and low fee accounts for ordinary families. And when a bank wants to move out they have to guarantee that the service in that particular area is maintained. If

the banks don't accept that in terms of an arrived at social contract in discussion with the Government, then we will legislate it. Stephen is doing good work on that.

MITCHELL: Good luck. Thank you for coming in.

BEAZLEY: Thanks very much.

MITCHELL: And I make the offer again, if you become Prime Minister, you're welcome on the program once a fortnight.

BEAZLEY: Well, very happy to come on the program but I think I'll come on when I've got something to say.

Ends Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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