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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations: Western Australia Parliament House: Perth: 22 May 2005.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

E&OE T41/05



SMITH: Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Anderson was on national television this morning and just a few comments on some of the issues he raised.

Firstly on the Government’s so-called National Water Initiative. It is quite clear from Mr Anderson’s comments this morning that he’s much more concerned and interested in imposing an extreme and ideological industrial relations approach on the States than he is about the National Water Initiative. It is quite clear that he is more concerned about imposing an extreme industrial relations approach upon the States than he is in getting their cooperation to pursue the National Water Initiative.

Secondly on infrastructure. This morning it was quite clear that after years and years of neglect and complacency we are now seeing from the Government decision making on the run, policy on the run and inconsistency. For years we’ve been saying that we needed a new national institution to bring the Commonwealth and the States and industry

together to bring a national interest focus to infrastructure. And for a number of years John Anderson’s has been saying that AusLink was the answer to that. He said this morning he had been working on AusLink for three to four years but out of the blue last week a surprise to all concerned including the Prime Minister, he says he wants to add

ports to that. So much for policy consistency. So much for AusLink, his much trumpeted national institution or organisation to drive infrastructure. Everyone knows that AusLink is a failure in that respect.

So far as ports are concerned, he has the audacity this morning to say that he wants to be cooperative with the States on ports. Nothing could have been more predicated to send the States into a pink fizz than the way in which he announced his ill thought through proposal last week.

Finally on the Future Fund and Telstra. It’s quite clear that there is a big fight going on within the Government about where the proceeds of the further sale of Telstra will go if the Government is successful in further privatising of Telstra. It is quite clear the Treasurer wants to lock up these funds in the Future Fund and it’s quite clear that National Party want to use that for further National Party pork-barrelling.

JOURNALIST: Another issued raised by Mr Anderson, what about what he and Prime Minister have said on increased tax breaks and increased benefits for farmers suffering in the drought? What does Labor say about that?

SMITH: Firstly, all Australians are concerned about the adverse impact of the drought on farmers and Australians generally. So there is a lot of political, a lot of community, and a lot of policy sympathy for their plight. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have made it clear that they’re proposing to have a discussion at Cabinet tomorrow about some detailed arrangements. We’ll happily wait until the Government announces what those detailed arrangements might be and then we’ll comment on the detail then. And that of course will be primarily a matter for our relevant Shadow Ministers. But as a general proposition I think all Australians have sympathy for and all Australians are concerned about the adverse consequences of the drought. There is sympathy for public policy initiatives, so let’s wait and see what the Government details in the course of the week and we’ll then give you a detailed response on those proposals.

JOURNALIST: Do you think they should be made to quickly offer them some help?

SMITH: We certainly need to show the rural and regional communities, to show farmers, that there is sympathy for their plight. As I say the best way that Labor can do that or show that is by indicating in general terms the same sympathy that we have for their plight as the general community does. And then when the Government announces the detail of its package to quickly respond to that, which we will.

JOURNALIST: So do you think today that Mr Anderson is putting politics well ahead of his own constituency of farmers affected by the drought?

SMITH: I didn’t make my comments in the context of the drought. I made my comments in the context of the National Water Initiative. When the National Water Initiative was agreed between the Commonwealth and the States in the last Parliament,

with all of the States except Western Australia, who then heard that part of the National Water Initiative was industrial relations? And when the States received that demand in the course of last week, they were surprised as anyone. The point I’m making is that John Anderson made it clear this morning that so far as cooperation with the States on the National Water Initiative is concerned he’s clearly much more interested in pursuing and imposing on the States an extreme ideological industrial relations agenda.

JOURNALIST: He also made a comment about a skills shortage being with farmers and the bush.

SMITH: We’ve got a skills crisis in Australia generally. Just as when the Reserve Bank increased interest rates in March by .25 basis points it said one of the reasons was infrastructure constraints and the bottlenecks in infrastructure, the other issue the Reserve Bank drew attention to was a skills crisis in Australia. They are two issues in respect to which this Government has been complacent and neglectful, and in both those areas of infrastructure and skills generally they have been exposed for that complacency. A skills crisis in rural and regional Australia is a subset of that and, yes, exacerbated by the drought and drought conditions. But a skills crisis generally, together with infrastructure,

is an issue in respect of which this Government has been complacent about for a number of years.


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651