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Opposition Leader discusses bombing of Australian embassy in Jakarta; industrial relations; sale of Telstra; and Collins class submarines.

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1 AUGUST 2005


Subjects: Bombing of Australian Embassy in Jakarta; Industrial relations; Sale of Telstra; Collins Class Submarines;

MURRAY: Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, joins me in the studio. He’ll be with us for half an hour this morning good morning Kim.

BEAZLEY: G’day how are you?

MURRAY: Fine Kim. I’d like to start in Iraq and get onto domestic issues a little later. Some very interesting stuff coming out of interviews with terrorism suspects in both Indonesia, in London and Rome in recent days. This fellow Rois, who’s just been interviewed up in Jakarta, makes some interesting claims. He says that the bombings that took place on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta last year he said was because of Australia’s support for the United States in Iraq. And in fact there’s a quote out of it, he says this “the intention to bomb the Australian Embassy was because the Australian Government is the American lackey most active in supporting American policies to slaughter Muslims in Iraq, it had the aim of preventing Australia again leaning on Muslims especially in Iraq”. When we look at what’s happening in London at the moment, about the bombing in London, one of the suspects interviewed in Rome says something exactly the same. He says the bombings in London were motivated by anger over the Iraq war. Now, what we saw recently was one of the victims of the bombing confront the Prime Minister on this matter and he appears to be totally in denial about the link.

BEAZLEY: The first thing you want to say about the terrorists is they’re propagandist and they’re liars so you need to take what they have to say with a pinch of salt. But there is no doubt we mismanaged our policy in Iraq and we still are. We have no exit strategy. What Iraq did was to raise our profile. But worse than that what Iraq did was contribute nothing in the war on terror except to give them a new field of operation. Now, we’ve been saying all along in the Labor Party, this will happen in relation to Iraq, you’ll give the terrorists a new field of operation what you should concentrate on is Afghanistan. There’s another story in the paper today about how bin Laden funded that bombing attack. Well bin

Laden shouldn’t be there. If we’d stayed focused on the conflict in Afghanistan and not been diverted to Iraq I reckon you could say there’s a fair chance we might have nullified bin Laden by now.

MURRAY: You say that terrorists are liars but you’re not suggesting they’re lying about this direct link between the terror attack and Iraq.

BEAZLEY: I know a fair bit about the terrorists’ ideology it’s the reason I decided to stay in politics in order to fight them. And they have a particularly cult view of Islam which is a cult of death and evil and that is the underpinning of their philosophy. The other issues like Iraq and Afghanistan and Timor they use to create a broader base for themselves in the Islamic populations. You need to comprehend that this exercise being engaged in by the terrorists is a propaganda exercise. However, it has offended Muslims, the involvement in Iraq did offend Muslims and the planning of it, the rationale developed for it, was all mistaken. Now the British and Americans are developing exit strategies from Iraq but I can’t see one from John Howard. And quite frankly what it’s done, without question, is lift our profile in the terrorist world, we had a profile there anyway, but it’s lifted out profile in the terrorist world and that has not been to our advantage.

MURRAY: If we had an endgame to our involvement in Iraq would it lessen the terrorist threat against us?

BEAZLEY: I couldn’t calculate that, I think the simple fact of the matter is we’re targeted anyway. But it is necessary to develop an exit strategy for both the Iraqi people and for ourselves.

MURRAY: You support us re-engaging in Afghanistan from what you’ve said.

BEAZLEY: We have argued that with them for quite a while, Labor Party weren’t Johnny-come lately here, we’ve been arguing about for that for the last 18 months. We said: listen you did not achieve your objectives in the initial foray

in Afghanistan, you achieved some of them. And what is amply clear now - you withdrew the Special Forces too early, both us and the Americans and we withdrew them for a very specific reason. They said the job was done in Afghanistan - it wasn’t. They withdrew them in order to involve them in Iraq. If we kept them there then the comeback of Taliban and al-Qaeda and perhaps even the capture of bin Laden across the border might well have taken place by now. It’s a tragedy. This is a tragedy of enormous proportions and when we look back historically over this period John Howard is not going to come out of it very well at all.

MURRAY: Are you counting down the days until there’s a terrorist attack on our soil here in Australia?

BEAZLEY: I think, for those of us in politics, John Howard and myself, we can’t be commentators, what we’ve got to say is what we would do. And I think what John Howard needs to come out and say to the Australian people is: I’m here to prevent a terrorist attack on Australian soil. I am going to do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen here. And part of doing everything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen here is getting your international diplomacy right. And getting your international diplomacy right means not making mistakes like Iraq.

MURRAY: Let’s move on to some domestic issues. Obviously industrial relations is the hot political issue around Australia at the moment. You seem to have heated it up a bit on Friday when it appears you’re adjusting Labor Party policy on the run here about Australian Workplace Awards, now do you intend to abolish them or not?

BEAZLEY: I’m not adjusting Labor Party policy on the run. I’m saying exactly the same thing that I’ve been saying all year. AWA’s are insidious. And basically what has to happen to AWA’s is this - they’ve got to be prevented from undermining collective agreements and awards and it’s got to be an offence to force someone to sign one. And we intend to adopt a hardline as far as AWA’s and individual contracts are concerned. Because what’s happening at the moment is that AWA’s are undermining, in an insidious way, awards and undermining collective agreements. And we will not permit that to happen.

MURRAY: Greg Combet, the ACTU Secretary, says that nothing short of you saying they should be abolished is acceptable.

BEAZLEY: We are developing our own policy we have our own policies on this. We both have the same objective and the objective is to make absolutely certain that individual contracts cannot undermine awards and cannot undermine collective agreements and that people cannot be forced to sign them. So, frankly, it’s a beat-up.

MURRAY; Do you concede that Labor Party policy calls for the abolition and you’re now something short of abolition?

BEAZLEY: No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying on AWA’s is that nobody is going to bother with them once they are not in a position to. What they do now is undermine awards and undermine collective agreements. It’s as simple as that. How do you go about doing this? You put in the legislation prohibitions on that, and they disappear.

MURRAY: Why don’t you just say that you’re going to abolish them?

BEAZLEY: Because we will have to legislate in a way that effectively does the job. And that is what we will do.

MURRAY: It does appear that you bought yourself a blue with the unions here that will probably come up at your federal conference.

BEAZLEY: I’m not concerned about that at all. I have been saying exactly the same thing to the union movement as I say to the public, nothing different. As far as I’m concerned AWA’s are insidious. And quite frankly when you do the right thing about them and you make sure that they cannot undermine awards, that they cannot undermine collective agreements, and that it’s an offence to pursue them against an employee’s wishes, well who’s going to use them.

MURRAY: It appears that your problems with this pale into insignificance next to the Prime Minister’s problems. He appears to have at least two Senators, the new National from Queensland, Barnaby Joyce and Family First Senator, Steve Fielding from Victoria, against a whole lot of the issues on the basis of impacting badly on families and on fairness matters. And then on terms of taking away the States’ rights he appears to have a lot of problems particularly with some West Australian Senators here. There was a very big vote in the Federal Council of the Liberal Party which was a rebuff to the Prime Minister - he appears to be the one with real problems here.

BEAZLEY: Absolutely. He is in a world of hurt and he is there with his Party, very disunited on what he should do. And his Coalition Partners, very disunited. This is a real attack on Australian families. You saw Phil Ruddock out there the other day talking about these family consultancy centres, the best thing that John Howard could do now for the families is back off from his changed industrialised relations intentions -

MURRAY: It’s what he always wanted to do ever since he got into politics.

BEAZLEY: I don’t know whether he’ll back off or not but he would be well advised to because Australians don’t want an attack on their families like this. They understand exactly what’s going on here. The people are going to be forced on to individual awards. People are going to have to be deprived of penalty rates when they work overtime. That means they won’t be able to pay their mortgages. They are going to have their union protection removed from them. They’re going to have the Industrial Relations Commission removed from them. They don’t like this, they understand what it means. There’s nothing that puts pressure on families more than financial matters. If you look at the core of a family in trouble you’ll always find money somewhere. And as far as the Family First Party is concerned, and as far as any Member of Parliament is concerned, how can you possibly back this?

MURRAY: Can you sit back and let Barnaby Joyce and Steve Fielding win this fight for you?

BEAZLEY: We will need to legislate on this. This is going to be a fight that goes right through to the next election. They’ll get something through and it’ll be wrong. They’ll keep their individual contracts with their ability to undermine awards, undermine collective agreements. They will get rid of some of the penalties, they’ll do various things, they’ll get some things through. And we’ll go to the next election campaign making absolutely certain that people are going to get a sustainable way to live in the industrialised relations system. A fair umpire. The right to be represented by a union. We’re going to make sure there is a minimum wage set by a body independent of the Government and they’re not going to undermine awards. All these things we’ll be running on in the next election. The difference between this next election and all the ones I’ve ever fought is industrial relations will be a core issue. It’ll be a central issue. And it doesn’t matter what in the end what Barnaby Joyce and Family First do in the Parliament. That will be the fight, next election.

MURRAY: So, on that basis you are expecting that they’ll get through most of the package because if they vote for that they’ll get it through?

BEAZLEY: They will do everything to get John Howard’s obsession in place. And we can only say to John Howard: be wise, back off, don’t do this. But I don’t think people are ever going to trust them again on industrial relations. They know what they really mean and they now know what they want to do if they get the power to do it.

MURRAY: For a lot of it the people wouldn’t have to worry about trusting them. If you can trust Joyce and Fielding, the two new Senators, then a lot of it will be gutted. Can you trust them?

BEAZLEY: Let’s see how they go they’ve got a few issues on their plate. Not just this, they’ve got Telstra as well. We’ll see at the end of the day what they do. I think, at the end, they may well be capable of being at least in the case of Barnaby Joyce, being bought off with some minor adjustments here and there. I’ve got no doubt in my mind we’re going to have to go to the next election with a clear cut position on industrial relations that will restore the capacity of the balance in our industrial relations system to give families in this country a fair go.

MURRAY: Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, is in the studio to take your calls. First up for you, Kim, is Alex from Winthrop. Good morning, Alex.

CALLER: Good morning, gentlemen, particularly Kim. I think you’re doing a great job but look, I have two very big concerns. One of them is the continuous union thuggery in the construction industry. How do you propose that you would be tackling that if you’re not going to have strong industrial relations laws? And then secondly, you’re talking about balance with respect to dismissal laws. The problem still remains that an employer has got a real difficulty in getting rid of employees who are either very disruptive in the workplace,

particularly about union affiliations, or indeed if they’re bludging. Now, the process that’s there at the moment makes it very, very difficult for an employer to actually have the right to working out who’s actually going to be in his workforce. I’ll leave you to answer those two.

BEAZLEY: OK, I’ll pick them both up. Look, on the case of the current balance of the industrial relations laws, the current laws are tilted against collective bargaining. Remember, John Howard’s already had one crack at this and we say right now the balance has been removed, but not all rights. Workers still have some rights and those rights disappear if John Howard gets his extreme proposals through. So, we think the problem here is not the unions, the problem here is that the Government has tilted the balance against ordinary workers and we would want to see that balance restored. That’s the first point.

On the question of unfair dismissals, it’s a baby and the bathwater question. If you remove people’s rights not to be unfairly dismissed, you remove an important protection for them in the workplace. At the same time you want it to work properly, in small business in particular you want it to work properly because you get a situation where a small businessman’s got one bad employee that they need to be able to get rid of. It’s very hard for them. So, we say rather than go down the road of unfair dismissal removal, which would merely send people

down to the Supreme Court for an unlawful dismissal, the most sensible thing to do would be to remove the capacity of lawyers to charge contingency fees - because that’s actually what gets people going - and the second thing would be to allow the Industrial Relations Commission to go to the employers’ location of work to hold the hearing there. See, what happens now with small businesses is that often they have to shut the business for a day and go down to the IRC and have an argument there. If the IRC comes to the small business it’s a different atmosphere, a different consideration applies. So, don’t remove the unfair dismissals, just remove the capacity for people to create mischief because you’ve got to keep a balance.

MURRAY: The Prime Minister’s line that this is about small business is made a sham by the fact that he talks about workplaces of 100, which is 98 per cent of all those businesses, even more. BEAZLEY: And you’ve got Peter Costello out there saying, ‘well, let’s remove it for everybody’. You’ve got to see how this is operating. You force people into individual contracts, allow them to be unfairly dismissed, remove all their penalties, holiday pay and the rest of it, gut the IRC, and what does somebody do when they sit down with their employer and have a discussion about where they’re at? They’re in a position of total vulnerability. So, the reason why he’s expanded it way beyond small business is so that the whole panoply of pressure goes in there against an individual.

MURRAY: Or is it just an ambit claim so you can negotiate back in the Senate to 50 or 20 or whatever?

BEAZLEY: Yeah, the people should never kid themselves about this. John Howard is a great spin merchant. He’s always out there to spin the view that he’s a reasonable man even when he’s being totally unreasonable. What he won’t back off on is what he wants to do about penalties, nothing the IRC, removal of the IRCs capacity to determine minimum wages, that’s what he’s really after, and the ability of unions to operate in workplaces. That’s what he’s really after and he’ll compromise on nothing there.

MURRAY: Frank in Dianella’s on the line for you, Kim. Good morning, Frank.

CALLER: Good morning, Paul. Good morning, Kim.

BEAZLEY: Morning, Frank.

CALLER: Last week it was reported that Centrelink workers were being coerced into signing AWA’s and we’re being stripped of al leave entitlements, including superannuation. That was the most incredible document I’ve ever heard. Have you checked that one, Kim on Centrelink?

BEAZLEY: That’s what the Commonwealth Government is doing overall. They’re forcing people onto AWAs and individual contracts. They go worse than that. They’re now putting out criteria related to Commonwealth-funded road projects, building projects, the like, which if the State Governments don’t agree to effectively force individual contracts on the workers, they’ll deprive them of the money. So, they’re doing it this to their own public servants and they’re now trying to make the States cooperate with them in this injustice in the broader workforce. Now, this is what we say: we have got to eliminate the capacity of AWAs to undermine awards, undermine collective agreements and enforce people’s choice so that they cannot be pressured. It becomes an offence to pressure someone like that to make them sign an individual contract. That’s the position I’ve adopted for a considerable period of time now and it’s the

right way to go. The balance is all tilted now, let alone what John Howard decides to do. Now it’s tilted very much against workers and what few rights they now have, John Howard wants to remove. But you can see the problems with the current laws where people can be forced onto contracts as you describe with those Centrelink workers. I’m sure that’s going on.

MURRAY: Sam in Kelmscott’s on the line. Morning, Sam.

CALLER: Good morning, mate. How are you Paul? How are you, Kim?


MURRAY: Good thanks, Sam.

CALLER: Yeah, good mate. Look, just on the question of Greg Combet wanting you to spell out the Labor Party’s position and totally ban these workplace agreements.


CALLER: I’d like you to -

BEAZLEY: Greg knows my position and I’ve discussed it with the ACTU and we have said that we consider AWAs insidious. There’ll probably be about a million of them by the time the next election is held. Our proposition is that what you should do is stop their capacity to be used to cut wages and conditions and to ensure that people are not forced to sign them. Who’s going to bother about going through with an AWA when those conditions apply? They don’t apply now and they will apply even more so on the constraints to force workers into AWAs or even more so with the Howard legislation. I don’t think you need to worry about this one. I have a very firm view that these are insidious and there’s an appropriate way of dealing with them - and we will.

MURRAY: There are a couple of issues before we run out of time here, Kim. You’ve been a big defender of the Collins Class submarines. It came up during your time. There’s been a flood of information coming out in The Australian newspaper over the last week about continuing faults with the Collins

Class subs. Do you still defend them?

BEAZLEY: Absolutely, and you’ll also notice in the stories that they are actually nice enough to say that they perform extremely well - and they do. The Americans are very fearful of them in exercises and it points out a major weakness in their anti-submarine capabilities, but you leave that to one side. The Navy has to operate them safely and when they get reports which say that they’ve got to operate in a certain manner in order to be operated safely, they should adhere to the suggestions -

MURRAY: So, these aren’t design faults, they’re operational faults?

BEAZLEY: Well no, they’re not operational faults. They’re faults in individual items of equipment. Now, they happen in all warships but the difference is when it happens on a warship on the surface that’s one thing. When it happens in a submarine underwater, that’s another. So, they actually have to be extra careful that they understand any difficulties that are associated with any item of equipment. I notice the Navy’s out there defending themselves saying that they had all those reports and have acted on them.

MURRAY: Kim, finally, have you spoken to Bob Carr about his resignation as NSW Premier?

BEAZLEY: Yes, I have. I’m sorry to see him go. I think he envisages very much in the sort of timing that Neville Wran chose to exit on top of the time he exited and he’s certainly been a good servant of the NSW people.

MURRAY: Did you ask him whether he’s after your job?

BEAZLEY: I have so often tried to get Bob into Federal politics and other people have tried at different points of time to get him in as Federal Leader. He’s not interested. And I think he’s had enough - seventeen years as a party leader and seven years of that as Leader of the Opposition - he’s not in the business of humbling himself in that way again.

MURRAY: Did you ask him, just to reassure yourself?

BEAZLEY: I’ve asked him so often to get into Federal politics. You know, you can only ask so many times and then you think that perhaps you know the answer.

MURRAY: Because you know that there’s a school of thought around that that’s the issue, this is a fallback, that if you fall over, he’s there?

BEAZLEY: I think they’ll find that Bob’s made up his mind about politics and his political career is at an end.

MURRAY: He had some interesting advice to his successor last week. All he said he had to do was make sure the trains run on time in Sydney and he’d be home and hosed.

BEAZLEY: I think that’s probably right. I think it’s a good piece of advice.

MURRAY: Thanks for talking to us, Kim.

BEAZLEY: Good to be with you.