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Opposition Leader discusses government advertising; ALP policies; GST; ABC; refugees; and Aston by-election.

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Kim Beazley - Radio 774 ABC Melbourne - Government Advertising, ALP Policies, GST, ABC, Illegal Refugees, Aston By-Election

Thursday, 21 June 2001

Kim Beazley - Interview with Jon Faine Subjects: Government Advertising, ALP Policies, GST, ABC, Illegal Refugees, Aston By-Election

Transcript - Radio 774 ABC Melbourne - 20 June 2001


FAINE: Mr Beazley, good morning to you.

BEAZLEY: Good to be talking to you. You sound as though you are having more fun than I am. I just had my efforts to get in the government advertising keeping it honest bill in Parliament and the Government has just knocked me over, you see, so I am here in high dudgeon.

FAINE: Well, I am glad that you have been knocked over in our direction Mr Beazley. What sweeteners, what disclosure of policy do you make for the people of Aston? You've played your cards pretty close to your chest so far.

BEAZLEY: Well, there are a few policies that we have out there now, of course. We have demonstrated that by cutting back on things like the indulgence in government advertising, by redirecting the funds going to Category 1 schools we could do quite a bit for the people of Australia. Just taking what we would be prepared to cut off advertising so far and there will be more to come that we'll fund with a bit of reprioritising and $150 million anti-cancer or counter cancer program. Now given that one in three men by the time they are 75 and one in four women will have a brush with cancer to start funding the breakthroughs in that area to improve diagnosis, to get in place solutions, that is a pretty good set of policy alternatives. You ask what policy we have released. That is not a bad one for starters.

FAINE: Mr Beazley, you are speaking to a small crowd here who are listening to you over our monitors and I haven't seen anybody get terribly excited about what you have just been saying. They are more concerned, they have told us so far this morning, about freeways, petrol prices and the GST.

BEAZLEY: That is fine but you asked me what you could do if you knocked over things like government advertising, you could do things about that. Well, I do have an opportunity to say to John Howard contrary to what you say the GST is not behind us. You know, a campaign in a seat in a by-election is an opportunity to make statements outside the context of changing the government so there is a chance there to make a statement to John Howard about whether or not you think that the GST is

behind you. It is also an opportunity to make statements about some of the issues, I agree, that affect you locally and insofar as the Scoresby Freeway is concerned we have supported the expenditure of funds on that freeway that were announced by the government. However, we do note and this is something that we are going to talk further with the State Government about it doesn't seem to have triggered a solution and the State Government feels that it is not enough so that is obviously something that we are over the next few weeks going to have to give some consideration to.

FAINE: Mr Beazley, to what extent do you also roll out a social agenda? To what extent do you talk about things like human rights for refugees? To what extent, perhaps, do you bring in issues such as the ABC itself which is almost in-play according to last week's Bulletin magazine as an election issue itself?

BEAZLEY: Yes it is. The ABC is in-play as an election issue. Its proper funding and defence against political depredation is very much in-play. I do believe that the way in which governments deal with the ABC has to be looked at to ensure that the sorts of appointments which place pressure on management, that is a political pressure as opposed to the normal pressures that always ought to be there for proper financial accountability, these are the sorts of things that governments now have to start being a bit self-denying about. Just as government advertising so it is with the ABC. It is time for governments to understand that in a democracy there have got to be alterative influences, alternative views to the Australian public and a properly funded public broadcaster free of interference is central to that. Now, the Government regards that as a joke. The Government has spent its time attacking the Friends of the ABC as an undue influence as though they have any inputs on the ABC and talk about themselves as being the defender of the ABC's independence - it is just the opposite. This is the sort of semi-Stalinist type of campaign that has been run on the ABC by the Government and I congratulate the Friends of the ABC for assisting it. We ourselves will put in place measures to keep the ABC independent and properly resourced, properly resourced to do the education and cultural task that it does for the Australian community.

FAINE: ...the One Nation candidate for the Aston was telling us before that she will be campaigning in relation to illegal arrivals and fake refugees here in Australia. This has become a major issue with disclosure after disclosure including from a parliamentary committee with a majority of Liberals on it saying that the Government is currently on the wrong track. What would the Labor Party do differently?

BEAZLEY: Well, it is a mess. The starting point is you have got to get the policies right. I actually happen to believe that you can't just walk into the country and expect not to be intercepted and detained. But the point is how do you do it? Now this committee came forward with a series of good suggestions. It suggested, for example, for the protection of the vast bulk of the people coming into the country on this basis that those who are likely to propose serious difficulties and problems of violence and are unlikely to be successful in their applications ought to be separated from the others. Now I don't see why this suggestion ought to be dismissed out of hand. But I think the whole process is so bad that the starting point has to be a judicial inquiry to give proper advice to government on how it ought to do the incarceration activities that it is now doing with an open mind as to whether or not there ought to be a separating out of people who are likely to commit acts of violence and criminality and who are likely to succeed in getting in. But at the end of the day it has to be understood that it is not an acceptable thing for people to come into this country unlawfully however good the reason. It also has to be understood that our borders are bleeding not just on this issue but potentially in relation to quarantine, potentially in relation to illicit drugs and potentially in regard to our fishing industries. We need now a coastguard. The time has come for a coastguard in this country that at least means our borders are protected with the

diligence and vigour that the borders, for example, of the United States are. A maritime nation like ours cannot afford to be without one.

FAINE: Does that mean the Navy is failing in its task?

BEAZLEY: No. It means that the Navy is not there for constabulary purposes. We need a body now. There are about five or six bodies which currently have, if you like, a coastal protection role. There is the Navy. There is the Federal Police. There is Customs. There is Fisheries. There is Coastwatch. It is all over the place. The time has come to bring it all into one.

FAINE: So rather then create yet another body you are saying you would consolidate the existing ones and call it a Coastguard?

BEAZLEY: That task that all those existing bodies perform with the exception of Coastwatch, of course, those bodies would continue to exist for their other purposes and do their other functions that wouldn't subsume the totality of functions of the Federal Police, or Customs, or Quarantine, or whatever but for the purposes of interdiction around the coastline then it would be subsumed in a single coastguard.

FAINE: And finally Mr Beazley will you be making a personal commitment to campaigning here in Aston over the next three weeks?

BEAZLEY: Well, I already have.

FAINE: Will you be here again?

BEAZLEY: I have already campaigned in Aston and I will be in Aston again.

FAINE: Well, I hope the ABC will be here to meet you and to cover your visits around this electorate. It is going to be as we said this morning many times a litmus test of the mood of the electorate in the build-up to the federal election later this year. Thank you for joining us on the program and I look forward to seeing you in the studio when you are in Melbourne on a suitable occasion as well.

BEAZLEY: OK, Jon, see you then. Federal Opposition, the Leader of the Labor Party speaking to us from Parliament House in Canberra.

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

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