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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Leader of the Opposition: Parliament House, Canberra: 14 June 2005: Tax cuts; G7 & Third World debt; Petro Georgiou’s Private Member’s Bill, Brendan Nelson & skills shortages; Kevin Andrews & Industrial Relations.

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Subjects: Tax cuts; G7 & Third World debt; Petro Georgiou’s Private Member’s Bill, Brendan Nelson & skills shortages; Kevin Andrews & IR

BEAZLEY: I’ve had a chance over the last week to go pretty well to many parts of Australia and talk to many people about issues in federal politics and there’s no doubt in my mind the vast majority of the Australian people who have a view on the Government’s Budget propositions on tax cuts is that they’ve been dudded. Why won’t the Government vote for Labor’s fairer tax cuts? There’s a clear cut difference here. The Labor Party stands for fair tax cuts for all Australians and the Government does not. It’s as simple as that.

But this week the Government will have the opportunity to deal with that problem in the Senate. They will have the opportunity to support Labor’s fairer tax cuts and I would urge them to do so. But it’s quite clear in my mind that the public understands that Labor stands for fair tax cuts and the Government does not.

Then there’s the issue of industrial relations. Now, quite clearly, this is turning out a deal messier than the Government thought it was when it started to go down this path and appeared to want to accelerate the process. It now seems they’ve run into a few glitches and they’re not going to get their legislation in on

quite the timetable they wanted to. And well they might have pause for thought because what they seem hell bent on doing is inflicting substantial injustice on ordinary Australians in the industrial relations system.

Whatever they do over the course of the next couple of years, whatever they put through in the Senate, what I outlined over the weekend is the clear course of the Labor Party. We will move industrial relations forward from this Government to a fairer system that gives ordinary Australians dignity in the workplace and a decent chance to earn a living to support their families.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, last time Caucus met, or maybe it was the time before; they decided not to make a decision on the tax schedule -

BEAZLEY: We’re concentrating today and this week on the legislation in the Senate. I’ve made that clear. When the time comes to deal with the issue of the schedules, which is a side issue, we’ll be making decisions in the national interest at that point of time. But right now what we have is the bills in the Senate and what we’ll be doing in the Senate is moving our fairer tax package, that’s what we’ll be doing, a fairer tax package which, I might say from my impression, has a considerable amount of public support and the Government would be very wise to adopt it.

JOURNALIST: But the reality is that Labor won’t have the numbers to get its tax package through Parliament. So, will Caucus make a decision today on the schedules that could come up in Parliament this week?

BEAZLEY: The issue on the schedules is a side issue. We just said we’ll make a decision on that at the appropriate time and in the national interest. That is not the issue for today; whether they come into Parliament or not today. The issue for today is the bills and those are definitely going to be debated in Parliament today and the Government will, over the next couple of days, have a chance to vote for a fair tax cut that quite clearly a substantial number of Australians want.

JOURNALIST: But won’t you have to make a decision on the schedules by the end of next week?

BEAZLEY: All of that will be dealt with by the end of next week, quite right. But it’s a side issue to the main issue, frankly, a side issue to the main issue. As I said, we will determine our stance based on the national interest at an appropriate point of time. What’s appropriate now is a real fight for a decent outcome for Australians in the taxation system. Labor’s put up a proposition that is fair to all Australians, fair to all Australians, and does not insult seven million Australians as does the Government’s proposition. I must say, out of Canberra and around the parts of Australia I visited last week, there’s an awful lot of support for our position and a lot of understanding of it.

JOURNALIST: If you’re talking about the national interest, Mr Beazley, you’d have to assume that you’ve got to look at the reality of the situation, not hypotheticals. When you’re talking about the national interest once the tax cuts are either going to come in or they’re not, do you want to stuff around small business or not?

BEAZLEY: You can make all those determinations yourself. You can count numbers like anyone else can count numbers as far as the Senate is concerned. What I’m interested in is getting the right outcome for the Australian people and you can make whatever calculation you like about the Senate, as far as I’m concerned, what the Senate needs to do is to pass a fair tax package and then we can ask a very simple question of Mr Costello: will you support or block

the fair tax package that’s passed through the Senate? I very much hope the Senate will do that. I don’t know if they will but I hope they will. There’ll be plenty of time to resolve those other issues after that.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the suggestions that the Government is going to consider following in line with the G7 and retiring greater amounts of debt to the poorest nations?

BEAZLEY: Blair is out there leading on this and, really, Howard and Costello should be out there leading on that as well. The question of global poverty is a very serious issue and there’s a strong bow-wave of support now through many of the other creditor nations to give people in Africa in particular but the Third World generally, a bit of a decent, fresh start and I would support that and I hope that Howard and Costello will too.

JOURNALIST: In the wake of the tsunami, though, the Government expressed a bit of doubt as to the retiring of debt as a way to support those in poverty, given that it wouldn’t be direct aid. What do you make of that argument? Does that have any credence?

BEAZLEY: I think you have to go to what people who are responsible for administering the affairs of people in this situation are talking about and they do talk about the issue of retiring debt, or cancelling debt. So, quite clearly, the creditor nations, the leading creditor nations which include people like Britain, are of a mind to go down that road and it seems to be the sort of view that’s prevalent in the United Nations and prevalent amongst the countries that owe the money. So, I think there is a general feeling now that this is the right way to go and they seem to be putting the right caveats on it all and that’s a good thing.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) any chance of convincing John Howard to soften his position on mandatory detention?

BEAZLEY: I think it’s time these bills were in the House, frankly. There’s been enough talk about that publicly to this point. I think the time has come to get kids out from behind razor wire, get families out from behind razor wire, get the stuff into the Parliament so we can all deal with that. The Labor Party has moved, at different points of time, amendments to government legislation, sometime private members bills of our own after the last two or three years, which picks up an awful lot of what’s there in the Georgiou legislation. I’m afraid to say no Liberals supported us. Well, there now seems to be a bit of support for some of the propositions that we are putting forward to end the shambles that is in the Department of Immigration and to put in place a humane regime to protect our borders. The time has come, really, for Mr Georgiou to ensure those bills are placed in the House and then we can debate them.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor going to try and force them in again?

BEAZLEY: We’ll wait and see what happens in the Liberal Party rooms today but I think there’d be a widespread expectation in the public that Mr Georgiou would do something like that during the course of today.

JOURNALIST: But he does seem to be pretty earnest in his efforts. He’s been holding talks with the Prime Minister. Is that the right approach to be, basically, forcing him on the issue? He seems to be doing this in the best interests of (inaudible).

BEAZLEY: As I said, we put forward all these sorts of propositions - well, many related to them, not the total of the issues he covers but many of them - we’ve put them in the House, we’ve put them in the simplest possible way, the easiest possible way to pass them and, frankly, not a single Liberal has stood with us when these things have been put up in the past. So, I think we’re entitled to say, given that past record, the time has come for the Liberals to put them in the Chamber so we can debate it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, you described Brendan Nelson as an animated raccoon. They can be quite endearing, though, can’t they?

BEAZLEY: I find him an extraordinary character. You know, we’ve got a crisis in skills in this country, a really massive crisis and we’ve got that crisis in the face of a burgeoning foreign debt and a burgeoning balance of payments

problem and a horrible problem on exports and the Reserve Bank and everybody else is saying the Government has dropped the ball on skills, they’ve made a complete mess of it. So, what does he want to do? He wants to dance about the Parliament talking about whether or not students should pay compulsory fees for amenities. I mean, what are the priorities of this guy? Raccoons, insofar as they have any characteristics, is that they tend to be all over the bush like a fruit bat and that’s about where he is when it comes to dealing with the serious issues of skills in our community.

JOURNALIST: And Mr Bean for Kevin Andrews? What’s going on there? What’s the (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: He gave a very Bean-like analysis, I thought, of the Labor Party’s approach to industrial relations in his comments the other day which leads me to just come out and say very emphatically this morning, draw attention to what I said over the weekend about our principles, and to emphatically say this morning whatever he says, we are going to be moving forward with an industrial relations agenda to make it fairer, the industrial relations system, fairer for all Australians.

Thanks very much.