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Sallyanne Atkinson gives her reasons for standing for the Federal seat of Rankin

ELLEN FANNING: A short time ago I spoke to Sallyanne Atkinson, and asked her about her political ambitions and the reasons for her sudden change of mind.

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: That decision was right for last October and I certainly wanted to get everybody off my back and have people stop asking me, you know, was I doing this or was I doing that. I wanted to stand back and have a look at how things were, but since then things in the public sense, in terms of the economy and unemployment and what's happening to Australia have got very much worse, so when the opportunity arose only recently to go for Rankin, I thought right, this is it, and I'll give it a go.

ELLEN FANNING: Why Rankin though? It's a seat based on the town in which Wayne Goss grew up. It's considered to be a Labor seat, although marginal. Why did you choose Rankin?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Well, in a sense Rankin chose me, because that's where the opportunity was. That was where the particular candidate stood down and Rankin was there, but I've also though always felt very comfortable in Inala. It was an area that is within the City of Brisbane when I was Lord Mayor, and I spent a bit of time there. I know you're laughing ....

ELLEN FANNING: It's going to sound strange, coming from a Liberal Lord Mayor to very much a Labor area. Are you going to have to re-invent yourself to an extent?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: No, no I'm not, because you know people of Inala are real people, the people of Rankin are real people and they certainly represent the whole of Australia. I find it very odd that the media particularly, seems to, sort of think of Inala as some sort of foreign place that I would not wish to go.

ELLEN FANNING: All right. You talk a lot about the economic crisis as a motivating factor moving you back into politics. What is it specifically about Fightback and about Dr John Hewson that's attracted you?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Well, I think first of all, what's attracted me about Dr Hewson is that he's got guts, and he's prepared to have a go, and he's prepared to do things that haven't been done before and I think the country's in such a dreadful situation that we need something that's very different indeed. I think Dr Hewson understands that there's something very wrong with the country, and ....

ELLEN FANNING: .... but specifically what is it about his formula for reviving Australia that you like. Is it the GST? Is it his industrial relations policy? What specifically?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Well, I think you know, you can't actually talk about GST in isolation. The GST is just one part of an economic package. It's a bit like ....

ELLEN FANNING: And how do you feel about that? How do you feel about the GST?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Well, I feel very good about it. I feel very good about it, and I can understand why people are worried about it, because it is difficult to understand and that's mainly because the media - if I may say so - have pulled it out and turned it into one thing all by itself. What it is, it's one part of a whole, it's a bit like talking about the wheel of a car when you're trying to describe the car.

ELLEN FANNING: You seem a little reluctant to talk about the specifics of the economic package. There's an event that I must bring up - probably one that you'd like to forget - that came up in the 1990 election campaign when you were introducing Andrew Peacock, and you referred erroneously to the level of the national debt. How much do you feel that that compromised you in the eyes of Federal Liberals?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Oh. I don't know. That's not a question that I can answer. I mean, the thing is when you're talking about debt, you can talk about it in so many different ways. You can talk about the nett foreign debt. You can talk about the operating account. You can talk about the current account. You can talk about ....

ELLEN FANNING: On that particular occasion you ....

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: .... the debt in the Budget. I was using it fairly loosely and I was fairly careless. It was a slip of the tongue and yes, I made a mistake, but you know, that's how it is. I don't know what effect that has in the long term. I'm sure everybody in their job makes one or two mistakes.

ELLEN FANNING: Indeed. At the time when you were Lord Mayor, you were considered one of the most prominent women in conservative politics. Talking about you becoming a Federal MP, would you feel any sense of obligation to be an ambassador for your sex in Canberra?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Oh no, not particularly. I've never felt any obligation to do any of these, sort of, the traditional feminist things if you like, but I suppose by just being there your'e an ambassador for your sex just by showing that ordinary women can do it. I've always said that I've got no particular special talents, I'm a very average person and yet I, you know, went into politics and became Lord Mayor of Brisbane. So anybody can actually do it.

ELLEN FANNING: Well, they say it's a bit of a boys' club, don't they? I mean, very few liberal women seem to make it to the top. Why do you think that is?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: I have a sneaking feeling that women have too much sense actually. I have a sneaking feeling that women really don't enjoy and don't respect the political process. I must say, I mean, that's the thing I find least attractive about all of this, one of the reasons why I said last year I wanted no more of it.

ELLEN FANNING: So not discrimination so much as women just don't want high office perhaps as much as, or as badly as men do?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Absolutely. I don't think that women are ambitious in the way that men are. I think what women want to do is to get something done and make things happen and that's way I'm back here where I am because simply I just feel enough is enough and, you know, we all have an obligation in this life to do what we can in our own small way. In the time that I've stepped back from politics, yes I've missed it and I think that, well this is something that I know I can do and it's something, some small way, where I can contribute.

ELLEN FANNING:Former Lord Mayor of Brisbane and now the Federal candidate for the seat of Rankin, Sallyanne Atkinson.