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Doorstop, 2 February 1997, Perth: transcript [Topics: Fraser by-election, Budget, Unemployment]


BEAZLEY: Well, we welcome the strong showing that our candidate, Steve Dargavel put up in Fraser with a very good election result to his credit, and we thank the people of Canberra, resident in Fraser, for that very strong support that they showed our candidate. This demonstrates, I believe, serious concerns in regional Australia. Canberra is our biggest regional city and the issues which dominate in Canberra, the collapse of educational opportunity, the loss of jobs, the removal of support mechanisms for the unemployed, like our labour market programs. All these things impact right throughout regional Australia. So, the Government ought to take this as a serious warning that there are real concerns out there as they sit down and formulate this Budget and don't make regional Australia and the services that all Australians rely on, the scapegoats of their Budget numbers.

JOURNALIST: Kim, the Liberals are saying that this is not a good result for Labor because the primary vote is down.

BEAZLEY: Well, if they want to go on that I suppose what we could do is compare the vote of the Liberal candidate with the Independent running in the Liberal interest this time - 36 down to 18. But we prefer to go on the two party preferred type measurement because that's the way we've measured things for the last 15 years.

JOURNALIST: Well, there was no Liberal candidate in this by-election, how could it have sent a message to the Federal Government?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think there was quite clearly a candidate identified with the Liberal Party, Liberal Party campaign workers, including, I think, one former candidate for a federal division, run by the Liberals and the President of the Liberal Party in the ACT said, 'well, we've got a good independent in the field'. I mean, they attempted to take advantage of the opportunity to marshal themselves a protest vote without formally sticking their banner up. If they really wish to have a role, if you like, in interpretation of these events their starting point is 36 per cent down to 18, and an 8 per cent two party preferred swing.

JOURNALIST: What was the single biggest issue in the election, do you know?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think there was a collection of issues, the ones that I named: higher education charges and collapse of places in universities, constriction of jobs in the public sector and elimination of public supported labour market programs. There's no doubt at all that these were the issues which played the most significant role in people's thinking.

JOURNALIST: There's an accusation that the Labor Party was behind the dodgy 'how to vote' card that identified the Independent as a Liberal candidate and suggestions that it's going to be referred to the police. What's your response?

BEAZLEY: Well, I don't know anything about that. I don't think there was any particular need for dodgy anythings in this campaign. You had the Independent clearly the Liberal candidate at the previous poll only, what, nine months ago. A 15 year long standing Liberal member as she took pains to point out to the community in the last week of the campaign, so we were not in a situation where we needed to do any work in that regard.

JOURNALIST: So, what lesson will the Opposition take from the result?

BEAZLEY: The lessons that we will take from this result, I think, is that we need to campaign hard and stay close to people. We need to stay close to their concerns and to ensure that in this period of Opposition we listen and learn from what they have to say to us. We did this here and it was very fruitful.

JOURNALIST: There was a swing against you, though, doesn't that reflect on your leadership?

BEAZLEY: There was no swing against us.


BEAZLEY: There's no swing against us. It's an 8 per cent swing to Labor by any conventional measurement and we have an 8 per cent swing to us with 11 candidates in the field and a 75 per cent turn-out, which is normal for a by-election, but on most conventional analysis works against the Labor Party. We've got a very good outcome.

JOURNALIST: Is this an important result in terms of the Labor Party rebuilding itself after the general election.

BEAZLEY: Yeah, it is. This is very important to us. It comes on top of a better than expected performance in Western Australia, though admittedly there weren't federal issues involved there. But of course in WA there tends to be a similar support between state and federal Labor from election to election, oddly enough we're one of the most stable states in that regard. That was a bit of straw in the wind. This is sort of a bale of straw in the wind which is good news for us.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, with the Budget looming, how should the Government fill in that $3 billion black hole? What should their priorities be?

BEAZLEY: Their priorities should be growth and confidence that they recognise that they stripped confidence away from the Australian people with the way in which they handled the Budget in the first instance and the way in which they handled their industrial relations bill. So, they ought to approach this Budget with a concern to build confidence. Unless they can get back to the sorts of growth numbers that we had when the Labor Party was in office, you can't deal with unemployment. And you won't get back to those sorts of growth numbers if they take a too contractionary view of the Budget.

JOURNALIST: Should the Coalition get re-elected if unemployment isn't brought down?

BEAZLEY: I think there are lots of issues. Unemployment, job security is an important issue. But I think emerging is education and also health. And I think those are the issues, real, bread and butter, down home issues for middle Australia which will determine the next election outcome.

JOURNALIST: But Amanda Vanstone made the comment that if they couldn't bring it down then they shouldn't be in Government.

BEAZLEY: Well, they won't bring it down therefore they shouldn't be in Government. They have decided to settle on an unemployment level between eight and nine per cent; that is what they now regard as the permanent position in Australia. And that's an appalling result, translating as it does into 30 per cent youth unemployed, and into probably when you count the numbers of people who would like to be working more hours than they actually are, around 20 per cent in an unsatisfactory position.

JOURNALIST: Do you have a position on Fischer's comment about a discrimination case in Queensland, a lesbian case, which he said was a disgusting outcome ...

BEAZLEY: I'm not familiar with it, I'm sorry.