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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: Monday 8 March 2004: Liberal Party leadership; family payment debts.

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Wayne SWAN MP Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services



SWAN: Well it’s pretty clear this morning that the Prime Minister has put Peter Costello back in his box. On both television this morning and in the Courier Mail he has made it pretty clear he’s going to work until he drops. So I think we’ve got a real battle about to take place in the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party and really the losers here are going to be the people of Australia and good policy. It’s pretty clear what the Prime Minister intends to do is have a big election-eve bribe. And what he’s been doing is putting the Australian people under tremendous financial pressure to shore up his position against Peter Costello.

We can see this in the family payments system. For example, the Prime Minister has been sitting on proposals to relieve the debt burden on Australian families for a very long period of time - his own secret cabinet documents show that. But what he intends to do on the eve of the election is hand out this bribe. He’s cancelled Christmas twice for Australian families but he’s going to give them a bribe just before the election to shore up his position against Peter Costello. So good policy is the victim and the Australian people are the victims of this leadership rivalry.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t he saying nothing’s changed?

SWAN: Well what’s changed is the instability in the Liberal Party as demonstrated by Christopher Pyne on national television on Friday night. There’s clearly a ding dong battle going on behind the scenes here and the Prime Minister through both the Courier Mail this morning and the Today Show this morning has got on the front foot to try and put the Costello backers back in their box.

JOURNALIST: You must love this?

SWAN: Instability in Government is not good for the country and it’s certainly not good for the Australian people because all of the available evidence shows that in the family payments system and in the health policy system we’re getting bad policy outcomes and that’s putting the Australian people under financial pressure.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t this good for the Labor Party?

SWAN: Well we’re going to set our agenda and we’re going to go out there and fight the election with a positive agenda for the future of the country. I think

what we’re seeing are all the hallmarks of a tired government and a government that’s lacking direction.

JOURNALIST: Should the opposition categorically state that there shouldn’t be any tax rises before the May Budget?

SWAN: Well there was nothing remarkable about what Mark Latham had to say yesterday, its only common sense and very prudent policy.

JOURNALIST: There’s no real talk of a challenge though, Peter Costello hasn’t got the numbers has he, why should he rule anything in or out?

SWAN: I seem to recall some time ago, when these matters were relevant that a lot of pressure was put on people to provide categorical statements. Peter Costello has not provided that categorical statement and the Prime Minister is very sensitive about it which is why he’s given a very extensive interview which is all over the front page of the Courier Mail this morning and has gone on national television to say he is going to work till he drops. I think that’s a pretty clear message to Peter Costello.

JOURNALIST: What does this say about politics? Three months ago your Party was in turmoil…

SWAN: I think what this shows is that this Government has been in power for eight years, its now lacking direction, lacking purpose and riven by internal tension. It just shows what happens to a long term government when it gets tired and runs out of ideas and has no third term agenda above offering a bribe on the eve of an election as an excuse for a third term agenda.

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull has vowed not to tell a lie when he reaches Parliament. Is that a vow all politicians should make?

SWAN: Well I think all politicians come to parliament with the very best of intentions and we all try to do our best. We can be from time to time imperfect human beings.

JOURNALIST: You would make the same pledge?

SWAN: I’ve always tried to do my best in politics and to be as honest as I possibly can.

JOURNALIST: Have you told a lie?

SWAN: Not to my knowledge no. But as you know these matters will be endlessly debated.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Kay Patterson’s, the apparent measure to extend the cash bonus to people who continue to work after retirement age?

SWAN: Well her current scheme to encourage people to stay in the workforce is an abject failure. So any positive or beneficial change to that would be

welcome but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Senator Patterson is really out of time and out of ideas. ENDS Monday 8 Mar 04 Web:

Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Matt Linden on 0407 430 613