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Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Page: 95

Mr BALDWIN (9:04 PM) —It is no secret that, as proud Australians, we are all saddened by the loss of the Ashes last night, but we congratulate England on their victory. We all face challenges in life—some we conquer; some we lose. We all know that Kim Beazley, the Leader of the Opposition, went to a lot of trouble shifting to Sydney to be closer to the political action but, sadly, it did not restore his status as patron of the Newcastle Knights. His demise from that role is a very sad and sorry tale, one that perhaps should be revealed only behind the closed doors of the party room and then in jest at the official briefing.

It is fortunate for Mr Beazley that, when he was rolled by Latham for the leadership, he was dropped as the patron of the Knights. He was rolled for the job by Michael Costa, who is now known as ‘the minister for wooden spoons’. It is fortunate; otherwise we naturally would have blamed Kim for the Knights’ poor season and the wooden spoon. Or would we?

Everyone will understand that I only mention this story in humour and jest, but it is a story that I do not think the Leader of the Opposition can weasel out of—or, should I say, wriggle out of. But I will not say that, because it conjures up a vision. I say this in the same humorous way that Kim described the Prime Minister in the privacy of the caucus room. ‘Wriggle’ conjures up a vision that I do not think even Mr Beazley’s most ardent supporters would want to spend much time visualising, so I say ‘weasel’ rather than ‘wriggle’.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Paterson will refer to the Leader of the Opposition by his title.

Mr BALDWIN —I refer to differing versions of an event today—the real doorstop transcript, and the Leader of the Opposition’s airbrushed version of events. It started in the Labor caucus today, where the Leader of the Opposition laid blame for the loss of the Ashes squarely at the Prime Minister’s feet. To quote AAP:

“You can have your rugby tests, you can have international soccer, but this is what matters and there has been a frittering away of the spirit and he (Mr Beazley) holds that weasel (Mr Howard) responsible for it” a spokeswoman quoted the Labor leader as saying.

Read: Julia Gillard, member for Lalor, leadership aspirant and official briefer for the Labor caucus. The Leader of the Opposition was not helped today by Senator Stephen Conroy in an interview with Jason Morrison on 2GB. I will recount this for the benefit of members present.

Morrison: ... did you hear him say that about Mr Howard today?

Conroy: I was in the party room and I can say to you I am a little surprised at the reporting. It was very much tongue in cheek and my understanding is that ... Julia Gillard gave a briefing to the gallery where she went through a lot of Kim’s comments so in terms of I’m not aware if people rushed out and told people but my understanding was Julia Gillard gave a report to the assembled.

Morrison: I think that how it worked out is that Julia Gillard was asked questions about it because already some pretty senior and well known identities of the ALP had already run upstairs and told everybody to make sure you found out about it.

Whilst Mr Beazley may dismiss this as the work of someone else, at the doorstop it was all his own work. When questioned on why he called the PM a weasel and why he chose that particular description, his transcript is different to the full version. It was unfortunate for him that Alison Carabine on 4BC Drive with John Miller played the full grab:

Kim Beazley: Look I was speaking in jest. I don’t believe that the Prime Minister is responsible for us having lost the Ashes— not completely.

And now for the airbrushed part:

Journalist: Do you believe he’s a weasel?

Kim Beazley: Thanks very much. Good on you. See you later.

Carabine: So he was only joking, but when he was given the opportunity then to withdraw that description, he declined to do so.

It would appear that, in regaining the Labor leadership, Beazley inherited Latham’s air brush for selectively cleaning up press transcripts to suit. Latham left it on the desk for Kim—a useful tool, no doubt.

Going back to the beginning of this supposedly humorous tale told in jest, it is best summed up by 2UE’s Steve Price. Today he said:

Kim Beazley’s got to be kidding doesn’t he?

Reports out of Canberra have him blaming John Howard for the Ashes loss and calling him ‘a Little Weasel’. Now that shows what sort of party room solidarity Kim Beazley had—the moment he made those comments they were leaked , they were out to the rest of the media straight away.

Now name calling is pretty pathetic when you get to that level of federal politics and do we really want the alternative PM using such language? As for the Ashes jibe ... it was just stupid.

Kim Beazley plays right into John Howard’s hands with this sort of stuff, the electorate doesn’t like it and while many might disagree with John Howard’s policies and the direction he’s taking the country in, we don’t like the highest office in the land and the highest officer in the land being called a ‘weasel’.

That’s the sort of stuff Paul Keating used to go on with and look what happened to him.

I am sure that this was just a tale told in jest, but, if it is a joke, who is it on?