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Republic: Opposition Leader discusses the issue.

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KELLY: For a start, it’s already unleashed division In. Labor ranks, division that wasn’t prominent in this debate so far. State Labor leaders like Mike Rann, Peter Beattie, and Geoff Gallop, federal colleagues like. Mark Latham and Lindsay Tanner, are already talking about the need for direct election as the model, While others, like Bob Carr, rule that out as a viable system. Kim Beazley will have to keep a lid on these enthusiasms, to some extent, to see that they don’t play too big a part at the next election where people are unlikely to support any immediate major revisiting of this Issue and the cost associated With that At the same time, though, he was, of course, the one who brought it up yesterday. He announced a three-step process under Labor, starting with a plebiscite on the simple threshold question, ‘do you want an Australian as your Head of State?’ Last night I put it to him that the latest poll suggests that we already know the answer to that question.


BEAZLEY: We do know that but we’ve never had that formally established And I think the correct way Is to move It on step by step. If we do not do it that way we risk, at some point of time along the process, people feeling that they have not been consulted. You know, that was the primary problem with the process we've been over for the last couple of weeks. People did not feel that there was all opportunity for them to put their imprint on this and many have reacted accordingly.


KELLY: You’ve said today that this gives Labor a good political opportunity. But what kind of opportunity is it, exactly, given that the seats that rejected a republic in the referendum are exactly the seats you’d need to win in order to win government? So, offering them another chance at this isn’t necessarily going to help your cause, is it?


BEAZLEY: I think you need to look very carefully at the results. There Is no doubt, I think that in rural and regional Australia much of the objection to what was, in

Australian historical terms for a referendum, a good ‘yes’ vote. If you look at the seats which rejected it, you can separate out, I think, what are called provincial seats, or regional seats. There, there probably was a strong satisfaction with existing arrangements. When you move over into the cities you get a much more mixed result. And there you see in parts of the cities where people feel most disconnected from how the economy Is operating and politics, that an attempt in their minds to deprive them of an opportunity for their say has produced a reaction. In the aspirational seats, which ... aspirational voters which are those that we require to pick up for the next election ...



KELLY: So, that would be seats like Hughes in NSW, seats like Casey in Victoria?



BEAZLEY: But the question is: who are the voters voting? And there area large number of, what you might call, aspirational voters, supporting the 'yes' case. And the negative case consisted of a large number of people who were our voters, Who will be voting for us for other reasons, one of which will be that we’ll be putting a model to them, or an opportunity to them, with which they can live.


KELLY: Well just on that, I mean, John Howard said: today there’s no point you trying to politicise this issue because that will only turn the. people off more. isn’t it true that this issue isn’t a vote changer, that people who voted ‘yes’ for the republic In Liberal seats, for instance, aren’t going to turn around and vote Labor next tIme, simply because you’re offering them a republic?


BEAZLEY: No That’s far too simplistic analysis. Fran. In any case, the issue is a fair way off The point Is: who carries forward: a modern agenda? Now, what does a modem agenda consist of? The modern agenda consists of answering the question if the economy is so good, how come myself and my family are not benefiting? And that covers a whole range of areas of policy family policy employment policies that we will be dealing with, of course; during an election campaign. The second is how webulid aknowledge nation. How we actually modernise the way that we do things to ensure that in the next century we have the sort of economy and the sort of society that Is capable of using new information technologies, new service industry those sorts of activities which go with a modern political agenda . And part of that is

the republic No-one would be silly enough to say that they’re going to win or lose elections on the subject of a republic. No-one will. But the point is, are we forward looking or backward looking? And John Howard is now backward looking


KELLY: Ok Isn’t i t another question though, how realistic are you in talking about offering people a chance to directly elect a president? Already we’ve seen two State Labor leaders come out today with a model for directly electing a president, a system that you, your Shadow Attorney-General, others in your Party, don’t really support. Doesn't that signal that the battle over this model will be even more divided than It was for the ARM model that people voted on yesterday?


BEAZLEY: Thats why l say we need a three-stage process. We need, firstly, to do people the courtesy of ascertaining whether or not they want a republic. Because if they don’t, there’s no point in going further so formally, we need to seek that The second thing is we need to ascertain people’s opinions on what model they want be it direct election or indirect election And then the third stage is to go from that to putting in place a formal referendum process the preference that is clearly established. Now, I thinkthat ... debate over that sort of issue would clarify the public mind and would at least accommodate or accustom, those who were of a minority point of view in the outcome to the idea that the successful outcome Is the appropriate one for the country.


KELLY: But if that process showed up a huge preference amongst the Australian voters for a directly elected president, you’re still going to be up against, and the Labor Party goes with that, you’re still going to be up against a Liberal Party which is not going to support a directly elected President, you’d have to say, on the basis of what we’ve seen so ‘far. So, it’ll be an even more divided campaign than we’ve seen this time around, Which, according to history, spells disaster?


BEAZLEY: Fran, why are you even bothering with this? You’re talking about a process, as was said during the course of this referendum campaign, which is five to seven years down the track. I can tell you this; If the Labor Party wins the next election the leadership of the Liberal Party will not be monarchists, and they would be very full participants In the debate on the basis that we want a republic and then determine how: best to get there. I think it would be a very fruitful debate on those various us models and who knows what outcome there’ll be five or six years from now. In the meantime, Fran, what I'm doing is saying that that is the direction in which we’re going to go. But, as far as I’m concerned, the agenda that we get on with now Is the agenda that addresses real needs for Australian families, real needs in our education system, a real sense of direction which we need to take if we’re going to start to build a knowledge nation, and: the sort of confident community we need in the future. And, frankly, the republic will be one part of that but it’ll be a small part.


KELLY: And just on that, I mean, the maps of the weekend vote are pretty startling, aren’t they? They speak of two Australia's, really? Those with opportunity voting yes’, and those without opportunity in the bush, in outer suburban Australia, voting ‘no’. Is that what they showed to you?


BEAZLEY If you read them that way, Fran, the ABC’s paying you too much. I mean, if you actually sit down and take a look at it, it’s a very mixed picture. Yes, there s a big vote for ‘no’ in the bush. in the bush there is a very strong defence of existing arrangements. In the western suburbs of the major capital cities there s a mixed result. Where there is a veryhighievel of non-English speaking background Australian populations there has been resounding ‘yes’ vote. Where the dominant Influence is what you might term, or Graham Richardson termed, ‘Anglo Saxon working class’, there was a very strong 'no' vote. If you seek an identification of where people feel most strongly the need for a direct election and demand their rights in that regard, It Is precisely among that group. In terms of the issue of the republic, Whether or not people are divided over that per se in principle, I wouldn’t say you could draw that conclusion from this result.


KELLY: Kim Beazley. Thank you very much for your time.


Thanks very much, Fran.