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Opposition Leader discusses the Parliamentary debate on Iraq; and football.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT 0F INTERVIEW - RED SYMONS, 774 ABC MELBOURNE, 13 SEPTEMBER 2002

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Parliamentary Debate on Iraq; Football

SYMONS: I have with me the Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Simon Crean, and he’s also the number one ticket-holder for the Kangaroos. Good morning.

CREAN: Good morning Red, how are you?

SYMONS: Mr Crean, er, you’re not Your Worship, are you?

CREAN: No, ‘Simon’.

SYMONS: You’re the Right Honourable?

CREAN: No, not Right Honourable.

SYMONS: I always feel like I should call you ‘Mr’ Crean.

CREAN: Well no, that’s my father.

SYMONS: Aah, okay.

CREAN: Now my father, as you know, was in politics. It’s funny, he told me one time, he never understood what the generation gap was all about until people started referring to him as Simon Crean’s father.

SYMONS: (laughs) It must have been a great day for you; not such a great one for him. I guess you come from a dynasty, but did you actually have any choice about the Kangaroos, about what was once North Melbourne, or were you forced by your family?

CREAN: No, no, Dad wasn’t really a Kangaroos supporter.

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SYMONS: He wasn’t?

CREAN: We didn’t go to football as kids. I played tennis, I swam, I did all sorts of things. When I got interested in football was when I started with the Storemen and Packers Union in 1970. North was at the bottom of the, pretty close to the bottom of the ladder at the time, but there were North Melbourne supporters on the committee of management of the union. They said, come on, come over to a game of football. So I’d go over on Saturday afternoon. There were a lot of Storemen and Packer members over there, because of the wool stores in Kensington. So the identity, the culture, all of that developed, and I’ve been with them ever since.

SYMONS: I wonder, is there a relationship between various unions and various football teams?

CREAN: Well there could be. In fact, when I came into the union, I think it was almost a requirement to be an Essendon supporter. I came in with Bill Landeryou, and Bill Kelty was there. They’re all Essendon supporters; I broke the mould, I went with the Kangaroos.

SYMONS: Somehow I don’t associate Essendon with a union, because I suppose, yeah, Essendon and Collingwood, they’re the ‘Mick’ teams, aren’t they?

CREAN: Yeah, well (laughs) sectarianism, you think? It’s all religion, one way or the other.

SYMONS: Mr Crean, a two-part question. Who do you expect will become the coach of North Melbourne, the Kangaroos, I’m sorry? And, should we expect war?

CREAN: Well, the first question I have absolutely no idea. I am, after all, only the number one ticket-holder. It is a great honorary position, it’s a great privilege but it doesn’t require too much involvement.

SYMONS: Do you know who’s the number two ticket-holder?

CREAN: No, but there is a joint number one ticket-holder, a female number one ticket-holder, Sigrid Thornton.

SYMONS: Aah, Sigrid, yes. Well she lives, in fact, in North Melbourne.

CREAN: She does.

SYMONS: And she’d be very pleased that everybody in Melbourne actually knows that she now lives in North Melbourne.

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CREAN: She’s a great North Melbourne stalwart.

SYMONS: So you don’t think that Wayne Brittain, perhaps, having displaced … There must be some disappointment about Denis Pagan having abandoned the Kangaroos.

CREAN: Well, yes there’s disappointment that he’s gone, and he will be a big loss to them. But I think at the same time there’s a real recognition of the great contribution that Denis has made to the club, and that won’t be forgotten. He got the best out of the players and, at the start of the season, everyone was saying, no Carey, no ‘Roos. Well, Pagan proved them wrong again, and they actually played exceptionally well, particularly towards the end of the season. So I think that he goes with mixed feelings. Obviously people would have like to have kept him; I’m one of those. But the reality is he’s not there, so you’ve got to move on.

SYMONS: Do you think football is becoming too mercenary, that people just chop and change according to where the income is coming from?

CREAN: It’s no more mercenary today than it was 15, 20 years ago. I think the mercenary dimension of it started some time ago when the big money came into the sport.

SYMONS: I suppose I have to do this. What do you make of George Bush’s ultimatum to the United Nations?

CREAN: Well, I think the important thing to recognise, Red, is that he is now saying the solution needs to be pursued through the United Nations. And I think that’s a big change, and I welcome it. I think it’s terribly important that the United Nations be the vehicle through which the diplomatic solution is pursued. The getting of the inspectors back in there is terribly important. And it seems from overnight reports that the Iraqis are prepared to accept - and let’s wait and see what the final statement is - but are prepared to accept that course of action. So I welcome the fact that the UN is being used to pursue a diplomatic solution.

SYMONS: Do you think that’s a genuine opening of the door, or is he just saying, I’m going to give you one last chance before I do what I really want to do?

CREAN: Well, I think it is an important opening of the door. The UN involvement is what the Labor Party has been calling for since April, since we determined our position. We’ve been absolutely consistent on this. The good thing in the last couple of weeks is that the Government here in Australia has moved in that direction, accepting that direction. Importantly, the US has.

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SYMONS: What would you do if you were in George Bush’s shoes?

CREAN: I would do what he has done tonight, but I would have done it earlier.

SYMONS: Aha (laughs).

CREAN: As we indicated, and consistently I’ve said, that was the position that I adopted and promoted from the Labor Party’s perspective back in April, Red. I’ve been entirely consistent on this.

SYMONS: So do you think John Howard has been a little tardy in his response to this?

CREAN: He’s been behind the game. He’s been following, not leading. He has - in relation to Iraq, in relation to Kyoto, in relation to the International Criminal Court - he gives the impression that he won’t take a decision until the Americans have. He gives that impression of simply being the follower of anything that the US says. Now what Australia wants is a Prime Minister that’s prepared to stand up for Australia, not a Prime Minister that just follows what the US does.

SYMONS: The US Ambassador in Sydney a few days ago suggested that if one were to be committed to a war in Iraq, then one should also send one’s sons. Mr Howard is at an age where I believe his sons are of military age. Do you have sons that you would be prepared to send to that war?

CREAN: No, I have daughters. But I also have great confidence in my kids and the generation that are around today that they will make their decision, and they will make it in a mature way. We should have confidence in our children, we should have confidence in them being able to make their decisions based upon the facts.

And that’s what I call for, Red, is for the Prime Minister to outline those facts, to be prepared to take the Australian public into his confidence and let them make decisions that impact upon them. Let them make judgements about decisions that the Prime Minister may at some stage choose to lead on, but do it on the facts. Give people the information; let them make their decisions.

SYMONS: John Faine joins us; good morning, John Faine.

FAINE: Good morning Red; morning Simon.

CREAN: Hi John, how are you?

FAINE: I’m very, very well. And, yes the plight of your football club is a matter of great international concern. I understand it was raised …

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CREAN: … internationally; was it raised in the UN? And what was the resolution they carried on? Return Pagan, or you’ve done the wrong thing by Wayne Brittain?

FAINE: I think Saddam Hussein and Denis Pagan’s name were mentioned in the same breath.

CREAN: Was it the sympathy vote for Wayne Brittain, or was it the concern and fear for the great talents of Denis Pagan.

FAINE: They said Saddam Hussein is the devil and, of course, Pagan/Devil, I mean they’re interchangeable, aren’t they those two.

CREAN: I think we should let those AFL inspectors in immediately and see what other weapons the Carlton Football club … But they seem to be hurling them at each other at the moment, John.

FAINE: Well there’s much similarity between the regime of Saddam Hussein and John Elliott, of course. They’re both teetering on the brink and fighting for survival.

CREAN: Well, I think there’s great similarity in the Carlton Football Club and the Australian Democrats, their inability to get their leadership together.

SYMONS: Do you guys want to do your retractions now, on air, or do you prefer sending emails to people?

CREAN: SMSs.

FAINE: It’s called satire, you can get away with a lot with satire.

SYMONS: The question we have to ask ourselves is, would we be prepared to send our sons to play with the Kangaroos?

CREAN: Well there have been many proud parents of sons that have played, that have worn the Kangaroos’ jumper. There will be many more to come.

FAINE: On a more serious note I do, in fact, have the genuine transcript here of what George W Bush said to the United Nations General Assembly. Now, we were promised that he would reveal to us the evidence, the facts that he would rely upon to garner international support. And I’ve read the five pages now of his speech, and there is no evidence. He talks about the history of the lies, the deceit, and so on, the persecution of his own people by Saddam Hussein, and so on. But there is no fresh evidence here, so I’m a bit disappointed on that front.

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There are two very significant things, though. He says that the United States, as a symbol of its commitment to human dignity, will immediately return to UNESCO - which is very interesting, because the USA has refused to put in its share of money to UNESCO for years, and that’s been hindering the work of that organisation. And he also says that America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices.

The Prime Minister is joining me at half-past-eight. We’ve got the Opposition Leader now, we’ve got the Prime Minister later on. So we’ll take up some of those themes with John Howard when he joins me at half-past-eight later this morning.

SYMONS: Mr Faine, Mr Crean, thank you both for being with us.

CREAN: Mr Symons, it’s been a pleasure.

(ends)