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Doorstop, Parliament House, 16 October 1996: transcript [Topics: Blind trusts, Lindsay by-election, Pecuniary interests, Senator Vanstone]


JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, does the Opposition support the concept of blind trusts for Ministers?

BEAZLEY: Well, this is a classic, this little suggestion of the Prime Minister's. You can't get the Ministers to fit the guidelines, so you make the guidelines fit the Ministers. And you establish a trust which, I think, as people sit down and think their way through it, might well seem to be a blind eye trust, as opposed to a blind trust. Just as the Prime Minister was turning a blind eye to his Industry Minister yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Does it now appear as though Tim Fischer and John Fahey may also be in trouble over this?

BEAZLEY: Well, we'll take a look at that in the course of the next couple of days in Parliament. But, quite clearly, what we could live with for 13 years, as John Howard now confesses, that the so-called great new changes in his guidelines are really just a consolidation of ours - for 13 years we lived with that - he hasn't been able to live with it for one week.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's Mr Howard's worst week in Government?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think that this is a very ordinary government and, day by day, it's ordinariness is revealed, be it on its management of Australian foreign policy, be it on his failure to lead in so many areas of the need in moral stances of the nation, if you like, in terms of keeping our unity. And now in enforcing standards which, with great fanfare, he announced were going to make all things new. I mean, it's an interesting vignette of yesterday's affairs that whilst all the focus was on how John Howard handled the millionaires on his front bench, the Parliament was passing a series of laws that put in place savage restrictions on the pensioners and the battlers' entitlements to social security. That was going on whilst all the focus was on the millionaires. That symbolises this Government.

JOURNALIST: The Opposition now accepts that it is reasonable ... Peter Costello's explanation for his wife's shares on Monday. Do you accept the explanation yesterday, over John Moore, that an investment company like Bligh Ventures is like a super fund?

BEAZLEY: It's absurd. It's a completely ridiculous suggestion. If you take a look at the particular companies in which it has a controlling shareholding, they're very limited in number, they are all directly related to it. There's an interlocking relationship between the directors. And all of those companies benefit substantially from decisions that have been taken by governments in a whole range of industry assistance. It is precisely the reason why John Moore said he had a potential conflict of interest with it. Only Mr Howard seems to have discovered that what is a pretty ordinary cell of companies associated with a venture capital company, somehow or other equates to superannuation funds. Well, the numbers of companies in which superannuation funds invest are so legion they don't mention them in their Annual Report - at least by name. In this particular instance, everybody it invests in has been effectively mentioned in their Annual Report because of that interlocking relationship.

JOURNALIST: Senator Vanstone has admitted her Wright family, the millionaires supposedly claiming AUSTUDY and welfare, was actually a fiction invented by her Department. What does that say about her Ministerial advice?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think that they have used, over the course of the last six months, they've used the language and attitudes of the battler in Australia whom they've sought to identify with, to skin the battler in Australia. And now they are exposed for what they are. Millionaires' row along the front bench skinning the battler in this community and demanding of them a standard they will not impose on themselves.

JOURNALIST: How serious is it for a Minister to mislead a Senate Estimates committee?

BEAZLEY: It's pretty serious to mislead a Senate Estimates committee. There's no question about that.

JOURNALIST: You must welcome a week like this in the lead-up the Lindsay by-election on Saturday.

BEAZLEY: Well, obviously, now people in Lindsay have a chance to make a statement about the way in which this Government has thumbed their nose at them. The way in which this Government has deceived them in terms of what it said it would do to a whole range of benefits and of initiatives that they have been used to getting - be they kids in university, be they pensioners, be they mums using childcare centres. This Government thumbs their nose at them and then mocks them by the sort of behaviour that we've seen as they defend the interests of millionaires' row.

JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed at the Prime Minister's response yesterday to your proposal on the bipartisan resolution on Aborigines/migration? Or are you hopeful now that something can be put together?

BEAZLEY: Well, apart from that entirely unnecessary flip on the way through I was quite happy that the Prime Minister responded to the initiative and we'll see what we can negotiate with him. I mean, I think it is terribly important that we do get a statement of the stand of this Parliament, and of all Members of Parliament, that reflects the obligation upon all of us when we know something to be true to argue it in the general public, and create a healthy democracy as a result.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you will win the Lindsay by-election, given the polling showing that you probably will on preferences?

BEAZLEY: Look, that's an Andrew Robb trick. I mean, I think Newspoll reflected the position more accurately. But, in a sense, that's analysis now. There'll be plenty of time for analysis after the by-election. The point now, really, is for the people of Lindsay, in the last few days before the poll, to really contemplate the fact that this Government does deserve a bit of a tickle up on the way through.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident of winning the seat?

BEAZLEY: No. I'm not.