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Transcript of doorstop: Red Cross headquarters, Melbourne: 1 February 2005: Paul Pardoel; Red Cross and the tsunami; Iraq; Victorian economy; Steve Bracks; abortion; campaign logistics.



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FEDERAL LABOR LEADER KIM BEAZLEY

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, RED CROSS HEADQUARTERS

MELBOURNE

1st FEBRUARY 2005

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

SUBJECT: Paul Pardoel; Red Cross and the Tsunami; Iraq; Victorian Economy; Steve Bracks; Abortion; campaign logistics

BEAZLEY: There’ are just a few points I want to make before I answer you questions and the first is this. Can I, on behalf of the Federal Opposition, express our sincerest condolences to the family of Flight-Lieutenant Pardoel, his family here and his family in the UK. It is a demonstration of how difficult and how dangerous the situation is in which he operates and it’s a reminder that all our armed services personnel find themselves in difficult and dangerous times.

And it’s a matter of their great professionalism, not the security situation they face which has caused the injuries and deaths in the Australian camp to be so small. But finally something has happened, albeit with the British Forces and we

are deeply sad about it.

I’m going to go now with my Deputy Leader to talk to the folk at the Red Cross to get a heads-up from them on what is happening with the work they are doing around the Indian Ocean region in the aftermath of the tsunami. I’ve been in Australian public life for a very long time and I have never seen the Australian people react to anything like they’ve reacted to this. They’ve had an outpouring of the heart that speaks immensely well of us and part of that outpouring has been a surge of contributions of course to the volunteer organisation like the Red Cross. So, this is a good chance for me to express gratitude for what they’re doing and find out how they’re doing it.

The third thing I’m going to do today is to talk to Steve Bracks. He’s a good friend and a good Premier and one of the things I want to talk to him about is the issue of infrastructure and the issue of skills. We left, when we were in office, a good economy and the Government has coasted and benefited from that economy but there are now serious gaps emerging which call into question the capacity to sustain this over the next few years and one of those gaps is the

level of Commonwealth responsibility for infrastructure. It’s about $500 million worth of Commonwealth money swinging in relation to Victoria. It’s time the Commonwealth stopped playing politics and got on with it, over to you.

JOURNALIST: Is that a reference to the tollway, or what is that a reference to?

BEAZLEY: There’s a whole lot of projects here that the Commonwealth ought to have at least some level of responsibility. Things like the Calder Highway, like the Geelong By-pass, like what’s happening in the Ports. We have now got to

identify these things. Basically most of our good economic and the good economy has been a product of consumption. We now have severe infrastructure bottlenecks. We have a serious trade deficit, the worst trade position since World War 2. We have massive skills shortages across the country. You see, the problem with the Howard Government is it’s been enormously effective at political positioning from crisises and hopelessly ineffective on delivering outcomes, and we can see that writ large in the area of skills. Now, we’ve got a good economy now, but it these issues are not resolved in the next few years it’s not going to look so hot.

JOURNALIST: Should federal Parliament next week debate what the policy should be in Iraq now that the elections have been held?

BEAZLEY: Of course Iraq is a matter for the federal Parliament. We have very clear positions here. We think that it’s time the Australian Government started to match the professional performance of the Australian Armed Services in Iraq with a professional performance on its part. It has not counselled the Americans at any point of time during the course of this conflict. It’s not been the ally they needed and counsel is necessary now on this issue of what the United States does from here on in. The US must not engage in a civil war, be dragged and sucked into that over the course of the next year or two. It should use this opportunity now to start to get the Iraqi folk to resolve their own internal affairs with their own negotiating process

JOURNALIST: So will you bring on a debate to make that point, and debate that point?

BEAZLEY: One of the things I’m going to make absolutely certain of over the course of the next three years is we don’t foreshadow Parliamentary tactics. But one of the things we will do is hold the Government accountable in all areas they need to be held accountable and this is one of them.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, the report in the Sydney Morning Herald today about Labor’s internal showing that you would lose a by-election in Mr Latham’s seat, are you concerned that Labor is going to be coming from behind?

BEAZLEY: In case you haven’t noticed we’ve had a pretty rough time over the course of the last little while, from the last election onwards, actually from before then. And it is going to be hard, if you had your druthers, you wouldn’t have by-elections at all and if you’re going to have them you’d like to have them later in the cycle rather when there’s still a bandwagon effect for the other side. But we’ll fight that election, I think and hope that the people of Werriwa comprehend that it’s a product of very genuine reason and that is the illness of the sitting Member. I was out in Werriwa over the weekend and people were very friendly in their response but they also had issues.

JOURNALIST: How tough is it going to be?

BEAZLEY: Hard. It’ll be hard.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you’re going to lose it?

BEAZLEY: You always fight to win but it’s going to be hard circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Labor Leadership tensions have also been blamed for a downturn in Victorian Labor’s fortunes, what sort of assurances will you be offering Steve Bracks when you meet him today?

BEAZLEY: What I’ll be offering Steve Bracks is my constant help and my willingness to be in a fight. I mean, I’m going to fight for the right things to happen in this country. I’m going to fight for the creation of a federal Labor Government. Part of that process is going to be based on a willingness to have collaborative arrangements between the federal Government and the States so that we can end the blame shifting that goes on in so many critical areas. So

that’s what I’ll be offering Steve Bracks and I think he’s going to be pretty welcoming of it.

JOURNALIST: One of the prominent state issues has been the (inaudible) Frankston toll-road, do you think the Bracks government was right to put tolls on that road?

BEAZLEY: That’s behind us now. Things are proceeding. What we have to do at the federal level is start being supportive of the states and we’re sort of half in half out of the infrastructure issues of this country. At one moment we say it’s all the states responsibility and another time we say, we’ll do this or that when it suits the national party politically at elections. We’ve got to be responsible nationally for infrastructure and collaborative with the states and stop trying to politically exploit them.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to those who say your decision to set up your east coast base in Sydney will make the national focus of politics more Sydney-centric?

BEAZLEY: That is a wrong analysis. This is part of my seriousness now, as I’ve learnt a bit over the course of the last nine years in opposition and one of the things I’ve learned is I have to throw myself heart and soul into this. I need a West coast base and an East coast base. If you’re going to do an East coast

base, Sydney is one hour from Melbourne and one hour from Brisbane and that’s the sensible thing to do. It doesn’t make me love Melbourne any the less, this is a lovely city of the mind and it’s a great place to be and this is Australia’s only social democratic city, so that’s cool. But nevertheless, the visits will be plentiful but I’ve got to position myself on the East coast and Sydney is the sensible place to be.

JOURNALIST: Will your appearances on the campaign trail in Western Australia be plentiful, I mean, how involved are you going to be over there in your home state?

BEAZLEY: There’s a lot of me to pass around and that’s where my family is and I’ll be going back there tomorrow and I’ll be for the rest of this week I’ll be stuck right into that campaign.

JOURNALIST: The issue of abortion has come up again, been raised by Ron Boswell for instance. How do you feel about seeking those extra statistics?

BEAZLEY: Look, Howard said it was off the agenda. Howard said when Mr Abbott started raising it as far as he’s concerned that was not going to come up. You know, in the Labor Party, abortion is an individual issue. It’s something that we all work through with our own conscience. For me, my part, I’m opposed to

it, but that’s a moral position it’s not a position which relates to legal sanctions. I think the Australian people have taken the view and the Australian Court system has taken the view that criminal sanctions are inappropriate here and that these are matters that are worked by each family and each person in their own circumstances. For those folk who have my view I think that it’s important not that we seek to punish, to criminalise but seek to help and we need a changed view I think on that front.

JOURNALIST: How do you feel about the debate coming up again, is it a debate that you support, that you want to have?

BEAZLEY: There are moral issues in the community and moral issues will always emerge in politics. I think that when any of these issues arise we always need to be very aware of the many human circumstances surrounding it. So

those of us in politics who confront these issues should not be exploitative of them but sincere about them. I think that Mr Howard said he did not welcome this coming on to the agenda and I suspect he won’t.

JOURNALIST: Jenny Macklin. Your own style as Deputy, do you think you’d expect it to change at all under a Beazley Leadership, have you been under any pressure to change your style?

MACKLIN: Not for Kim, no. I think it’s very important to provide a very strong policy role, to be the person who steps in when necessary as of course I’ve had to over the last little while. And that’s why I’m very pleased to be here at Red Cross today of course. Immediately after the tsunami we had excellent briefings from the individual agencies. We visited Caritas. Kevin Rudd of course also played a very important role at that time, both with the voluntary agencies and visiting Indonesia himself. So, I think the job of the Deputy is very much to provide that supportive role, to provide strength and stability when necessary and otherwise I’m sure we’ll work very cooperatively, we’ve worked together a lot in the past and I very much look forward to it in the future.

BEAZLEY: And what you need in a Deputy is somebody with a good head, a good heart and total loyalty and I couldn’t be better served.

JOURNALIST: In terms of setting up your new offices as Opposition Leader, will you be re-hiring Michael Costello?

BEAZLEY: No. Michael’s got a very good job and he made huge sacrifices to work for me in the past and I wouldn’t even begin to try and impose those sacrifices on him again.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, you mentioned yesterday or a couple of days ago that you saw budgets as something that would be balanced within an economic cycle, I was just wondering, could you elaborate, does that mean that you’d be happy for a deficit in some quarters?

BEAZLEY: It’s a golden rule. While ever there’s growth about there should not be deficits. While ever there’s growth in the economy, budgets should be in surplus. So, while we have a situation now that we can foresee out into the future of growth in the Australian economy, the budget should be in surplus. I think, not enough criticism has been directed towards the Liberal Party for their performance during last year’s election year, a $66 billion punch into the budget and election promises that were not funded by savings. What ever might have been the public judgment in the course of the last election campaign we were far less impactful with our promises on the fiscal stance of the Commonwealth than the Liberals. The time has now come for not only the Labor Party, but for all of

you in the media, to start to hold this government accountable in economic management terms because they have coasted on a very good situation and the mathematics is starting to run out.

JOURNALIST: You (inaudible) East coast base in Canberra?

BEAZLEY: No, I think that the sensible thing to do is to be where the people are, of course there’re people in Canberra and I love Canberra but the people are in the major capital cities and that’s where I need to be.

JOURNALIST: How does the logistics work running three offices full-time?

BEAZLEY: With great difficulty.

JOURNALIST: Just to get back to the budget issue, is there a time when you’d ever be comfortable with having a deficit?

BEAZLEY: I cannot foresee those circumstances and the point which I am trying to press is that we keep that good growth going. If we keep that good growth going there’ll never be a deficit.

JOURNALIST: You were coy on the question of a full blown debate on Iraq but doesn’t this issue transcend politics?

BEAZLEY: I’m not the least bit coy on the question I don’t mind debating Iraq any time. But I’m coy on the question of revealing to you our Parliamentary tactics because of the funny habit the Liberals have of reading your articles.

JOURNALIST: You said it’s difficult running three offices, how expensive is that going to be?

BEAZLEY: We get a certain allowance. Of course it’s going to be expensive to me paying rent or whatever it is I do in the house I either acquire or rent in Sydney, that’s my problem and it’s not a taxpayer problem basically because we get an allowance and right around the country there are things that are called the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, they’re fully operational all the time, they’re available for the use of Members of Parliament and they’ve available for the use of Leaders.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned this morning that one your mistakes first time around was that you stepped back from the Hawke/Keating economic record, how do you recapture that ground and that reputation?

BEAZLEY: It’s very easy because the public now has got a very broad understanding I think and so have you in the media that the good Australian economy was the product of hard and controversial decisions taken during the time of the Hawke/Keating government for which we paid some penalty politically. But now everybody understands that that’s what’s permitted the growth economy and because everyone understands that, it’s not so hard.

ENDS: