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Parliament House, Canberra, 18 April 2000: transcript of media conference [misleading GST advertising; family tax package; Howard government budget irresponsibility; Telstra; coalition personal attacks; Dr Theophanous resignation; GST rollback; party presidency; individual contracts; uranium mining; Sydney airport]



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Kim Beazley - Media Conference Subjects: Misleading GST Advertising, Family Tax Package, Howard Government Budget Irresponsibility, Telstra, Coalition Personal Attacks, Dr Theophanous Resignation, GST Rollback, Party Presidency, Individual Contracts, Uranium Mining, Sydney Airport

Transcript - Parliament House, Canberra - 18 April 2000

E & OE - Proof Only

BEAZLEY: John Howard and the Liberals have been out at the weekend saying that they care. Well, John Howard cares all right - he cares about getting re-elected. And, apart from that passion on his part, there is no other element of passion for the ordinary Australian in anything that they have been doing recently.

We have here three press releases in which we are dealing with different aspects of this care to get re-elected on the part of John Howard.

The first thing that I'm announcing here today, and that's why our Shadow Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, is with me here, is that we intend taking a case to the ACCC on false and misleading advertising. If it's good enough for firms that advertise in a false way associated with the goods and services tax, to be facing massive fines, then it's good enough for the standard applied to corporate Australia to be applied to this Government. The Government has gone through an unprecedented looting of the public purse on the part of its campaign activities to defend its goods and services tax.

Now, I know that Governments of all political persuasions, in the past, have advertised their programs. And I know, too, from time to time, you can put a question mark over whether or not an appropriate distinction is drawn between information and propaganda. But, whatever has been done in the past pales into insignificance in comparison to what the Government is doing now - $80 million, so far, spent on advertising the GST. And I'd invite anyone to look, in particular, at those advertisements that deal with the so-called benefits to the family, and say that it is anything other than propaganda. And that $240 million family package that was announced by John Howard, the first year, the start up year, is around $60 million. So, the $80 million being spent on advertising the GST is, in fact, more than what is being spent on the first year of the start up of the family package. We've already exposed in Parliament how deceitful those family ads are. We've already exposed how deceitful they are. How you can find yourself in a set of circumstances, in having a child, whereby you actually go backwards at certain times

of the year, given the new means test that has been put in place, before a GST goes on, far from John and Wendy being $40 or $50 in advance, John and Wendy, in fact, go backwards and then the GST comes in on top of them. And we have detailed here, in the press release, a whole variety of families and circumstances in which they are manifestly worse off. And, in all cases, not getting the $40 to $50. And you'd find an awful lot of Australians find themselves in the families that we describe here.

So, false and misleading advertising - $80 million of false and misleading advertising -paid for by the Australian taxpayer. And Mr McClelland has written to the ACCC and also written to the other private advertising standards agencies with a view to them having a look at this Government's performance, whether or not this Government is now morally obliged to have the Liberal Party pick up the sort of costs that have been entered into on behalf of the Australian taxpayer, and whether or not that sort of false and misleading advertising ought to be taken off the air.

Well, part of the John Howard cares for John Howard's re-election campaign that operated over the weekend was the announcement of this tax package of some $240 million. Now, that $240 million in no way makes up for the $5 billion extracted from social programs, most of which had a substantial family impact while this Government has been in office in successive Budgets.

Now, I notice that Senator Newman was challenging our figures the other day. So, I draw your attention to a couple of things. These cuts, which we outline here, are all in Senator Newman's Budget papers.

So, Senator Newman has a complaint about our identification of $5 billion. Senator Newman ought to issue some backdated corrections for the Budget papers that have been put forward by her colleagues over successive Budgets. Part of that $240 million package was a certain amount for childcare. Huge numbers were said to be caught up in the additional benefits that were going to be handed out there. If you did actually pick up every single shift worker, for example, the amount that you'd be looking at would amount to about $15 per shift worker, per year in childcare. You'd be lucky to get half a day's childcare out of that. And that would use up the entirety of the amounts.

But if you want to know actually what has happened to childcare that that $15 million is there to deal with. This is a very interesting chart. It shows cumulatively what has been lost from childcare. What has been lost from childcare on this side over successive Budgets and this shows here, these little steps here, show what is going back. That is the true picture of the real level of John Howard's concerns.

The real level of John Howard's concern for the family. His was the family package (the final insult). Now, why did John Howard feel that he needed to do that? Well, he needed to do it, he felt, obviously, in order to get himself re-elected. What an extraordinary revelation of Liberal Party tactics on a whole variety of fronts at that 'let it all hang out'

conference that they had over the weekend.

But he also knows this: that right at the heart of family policy in Australia now is the new family tax. And the new family tax is the GST. Every time you have a child, with a goods and services tax in place, you enter a new tax bracket. It's a new phenomenon in Australian political life. You have all the costs of the kid come dumped on top of you, plus 10 per cent. Because there's virtually nothing that was there previously that you needed when you were looking after a child that was attracting any other form of tax and now it's come whacking in on top of it.

And John Howard knows that Australian families are not fools. But he's doing his level best to try to do that with this derisory $240 million package, this derisory package.

Well, there are basically two questions that need to be asked about that $240 million. One is: why is he doing it? And I think I've already given the answer to that because he sees himself in a degree of electoral trouble and he wants to get out of it. Because nothing in that package actually solves a problem for any Australian family.

But the second reason why it is so derisory is that they have blown everything - blown their entire fiscal position on the GST package and they are not in a position to do anything more.

And the last bit of blowing of their fiscal position occurred in the last week of sitting. I thought, in the last week of sittings, I was living inside one of those used car ads that you see from time to time on television in which you see a booster come out into the yard and say, 'the boss upstairs has gone mad. You should see the deals that we're handing out today.' Because during the course of that week, they diminished the fiscal position of the Commonwealth to the tune of some $1.6 billion - at least. And when we pick them up on their lies about what was happening to John and Wendy and the average family and they said, 'oh, well, Senator Newman has got a fix for that', there was nothing in detail in terms of the cost of that fix, however many hundreds of millions that might amount to. Nothing in detail on how you claim that fix. And when we pointed out to them that postgraduate students and a number of other people in the community would not be receiving any form of GST compensation they said, 'ah hah. You have forgotten our other package. Oh, really, what was in that package? Well, we don't know. And how do you claim that package? Well, we don't know'. Wait and watch this space for these matters to be released. And so, those are two elements, the cost of which we do not know. I suspect the cost in Senator Newman's case might end up fairly small. Basically, because she's put a 30 September deadline on it. And if you actually look at the complex interplay between the new means test for what used to be the parenting allowance, I think it's called Type B, or something or other, family tax package, if you look at the timing of that, you only really start to run into substantial problems if you get a spring bub or a summer bub. And then you really start to have the problems with the backdated means test. You see, if you keep it to 30 September you

might actually minimise any of the compensation arrangements that would be associated with that.

But then we also had, in direct breach of an agreement that they had with the Labor Party to keep their business tax package revenue neutral, they ran away from a major area of tax avoidance and we have still not seen their legislation on that other area of tax avoidance in relation to the issue of the circumstances of family trusts.

So, what we got from the Liberals was an awful lot about me over the weekend. An awful lot about selling a non-existent set of benefits to the Australian families, an awful lot about trying to reposition, in the face of the most savage attack that there has yet been in Commonwealth taxation history on the ordinary Australian family and not many solutions in real terms for the average family in the situation they find themselves.

Now, that final blowing of the fiscal position of the Commonwealth brings me to another point. And the tip-off, really, should have been there for all of us in the middle of last year.

Two years ago, after the full year effect of the savage $8 billion worth of cuts to the knowledge nation and the family that the first few Budgets, couple of Budgets that the Liberal Party put in place, there was a prediction by Treasury that now we would be looking at, this forthcoming year, a surplus of $8 billion. That's what their figures said. And, yet, last year, they sought and gained from the Opposition, support for the introduction of a Timor tax to keep the Budget in balance in the next year.

Now, that was the tip-off that the money had all gone. The Government might blithely say it was the Democrats' deal on the GST that caused that - rubbish. Absolute rubbish. It was not the Democrats' deal that caused that. It was the Commonwealth ladling out dough to try and bribe the GST through and, as a sort of little subset of that, the arrangements that they've put in place for the health fund rebate. When you take those two out, that is what's blown it. There were some associated cuts, small cuts in the high income areas in the income tax area, which took some of the pressure off the Democrats' deal. And, you'll recollect, they also told the States that they could keep their taxes running longer than was originally intended. So, the actual impact on the Commonwealth Budget was nowhere near the $8 billion that was allegedly there in place.

So, what we now have, their lack of generosity is a product of these two things: firstly, their genuine lack of concern about the ordinary Australian family and their confected newfound affection. And the second is, they are in a substantial fiscal bind of their own creation. And that substantial fiscal bind has left them in this position, that after eight years of growth we might just have the Budget in balance, or small surplus - eight years of growth, we might just have that situation pertaining now. And we will have to see, of course, as the Budget emerges. But they've also left themselves in a position when they

actually find a real problem confronting ordinary Australian families that there's precious little they can do about it.

And they wander around talking about themselves as economic managers. They've botched the GST's administration. I mean, their excuse for the $440 million that they're losing in that tax evasion through the alienation of personal services is that the Tax Office cannot possibly enforce the taxation system given all the problems on its plate. Pardon? The Tax Office is not in a position to ensure the fairness of the tax system? Have you ever heard a Treasurer stand up and say, 'I'm terribly sorry but the Tax Office can't do the Tax Office's job'? Well, they can't do the job for one reason and that's Costello's utter, utter incompetence that has seen him go down the road of major tax changes without preparing the ground by a proper accumulation of new public servants capable of implementing it and imposing on the few who are there, a timetable that they cannot conform with. And, as a result now you've got Costello standing up in Parliament and saying that the Tax Office is not in a position to enforce the Tax Act.

Well, the time has come for some serious analytical attention to be drawn to this Government. The time has come for a bit of accountability. Not a bad period for this to occur. After all, we're only halfway through this Parliament. Only halfway through this Parliament and there's another two Budgets to go before the next election. A good time, I would suggest, for a bit of close attention by those who's job is accountability in the Australian system. And there are two sets of people who have the job of accountability in the Australian system. One is us, the Opposition, that's what an Opposition does. And the other, of course, is the media who are supposed to be there to keep all Governments honest.

So, we have put out, as I said, we're having this 'sit-down' today, basically, to look through these issues and to take a bit of a cold hard look at where Mr Costello and Mr Howard have brought the Government of this nation to deal with both the fairness and with the competence of their management job. And I'd say on both fronts they're not looking too good.

But also, as I said, I recollect where I started out in all of this, false and misleading advertising. And we're going to do a bit on the accountability front and invite a number of other bodies that are supposed to perform a role in our community on the accountability front when it comes to that.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that by … small surpluses … deliberate strategy on behalf of the Government to limit any scope for your roll back promise?

BEAZLEY: Well, I doubt very much whether that is a motive. But one of the reasons why I've had the guts in the political system to withstand the pressure to lay out, prematurely, where it is that we intend to take the roll back, or any other matter of policy, for that matter, apart from setting down a set of general principles, is, I think,

that people have been misled enough in this society, misled enough by governments. And what they want from an Opposition, when the Opposition is finally putting a platform forward, is a realistic picture of what the Opposition can actually achieve. And, in the light of all the figures I've been putting out, it's going to be very hard to establish that. So, what I've said to others who've asked me that question when it's arisen in the past is this: the state of the Budget does not affect the direction in principle in which we want to go - be it on roll back, be it in relation to any of our Knowledge Nation measures, be it on any of the policy fronts. But it sure as heck will affect the time, there's no question about that. And we will need to know the better particulars of the fiscal situation of the Commonwealth before we can give people finality on that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Howard cast doubt on the credibility of your word over Telstra on a couple of occasions at the weekend. In view of Labor's record on privatisation, do you feel at all vulnerable on that? Is that a first term promise only or a 'never, ever' promise? And, finally, could you enlighten us as to whether you were or were not at this meeting when Telstra was supposed to be offered for sale?

BEAZLEY: Look, firstly, let's deal with the first of those things. Mr Howard now realises he's without many arguments that are at all convincing to the Australian people on privatising Telstra. The Australian people don't want it further privatised. Telstra shareholders, in the main, don't want it further privatised. So, Mr Howard and rural members of his own Coalition do not want it further privatised. So, the position that confronts is the last line of defence. Well, you might think it's a bad idea but the Opposition would do it anyway. And I see they've put out reams and reams of things that I've had to say about privatisation but their great misfortune is that in all the reams that they've been able to put out they haven't found Telstra anywhere. They have not been able to come across Telstra at one point. Now, it is true that in government there were all sorts of ideas circulating at different points of time about whether or not Telstra should have been privatised, part-privatised. Suffice it to say, the Labor Party always rejected it in the end as an option and I have always rejected it as an option. The biggest political fight of my career dealt, at least in part, with the issue of part-privatisation of Telstra, on that occasion because one of the models that was put forward was for the privatisation of OTC, you might remember, and that made the vehicle of the competitive model … the competitors at Telecom, as it then was. I took the opposite view and saw OTC merged with Telstra and said that this is the … Telecom, I should say, this is the publicly owned entity. The publicly owned entity. And that is going to be the focal point, both in the development of our telecommunications system and competition. Because as I said, competition, the success or otherwise of it, for the foreseeable future will be determined by the terms of inter-connection and the cost of inter-connection, with the main carrier, the main net. I'm dredging back 10 years in argument now, coming to that position. But that was my argument at the time and I've maintained it ever since. Telstra is different from the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas. Unlike the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas, it enjoys near monopolies, or monopolies,

on some of its services and massive market dominance in just about every area it undertakes. It enjoys the capacity to engage substantially in unfair competition and it enjoys the capacity to use inter-connection to its net to keep its competitors limited. It is a body which requires constant attention and regulation if we're going to get the sort of competitive environment that we need. It also returns a darn good profit to the Commonwealth. It does not need subvention of taxpayers funds. It is, in fact, better for the Commonwealth budget in public hands than it is out of it, including considerations of public debt interest retired. And it's being sold for a mess of pottage by this Government, as it goes through pork barrelling. No Labor Government, presided over by me, will continue the privatisation of Telstra, full stop. Full stop. We will persist in the reservations that we placed in the prospectus. We have not deceived the Australian people. The positions that I have adopted and how we would intend to use those positions are laid out for all to see in the prospectus, we insisted upon that. And that is our position. Mr Howard will attempt to convince you otherwise. And he will attempt to convince you that this is a 'never, ever'. He may even try to say to you, 'Mr Beazley will be as deceitful as me. He will give you a 'never, ever' for one term but really on the next term around he will put in place with a start up date immediately after the next term of Parliament and invite you to continue to support it'. I will not do that. That is not my position. That is not my position.

JOURNALIST: Were you at that meeting?

BEAZLEY: People had views about whether or not Telstra should be privatised. I am not going to go into details of discussion in Government but I am going to say this: I have never been a supporter of the privatisation of Telstra.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, the Prime Minister and Lynton Crosby were launching, or relaunching, their personal attacks on you at the weekend. How are you going to show Australian voters that you have got the ticker to be Prime Minister?

BEAZLEY: You know that I think that that is ... I was taken aback by that proposition. I would have thought that commonsense would dictate that you don't reveal to the Australian people that you have a strategy to play the man. The Australian people hate playing the man. And if you have a strategy to play the man, generally speaking, you keep it concealed. You know I can remember when I used to play rugby and you are in a bit of trouble with the other side. They had more flair, they had more ideas, they had more capacity than you as lineout forward what you used to do was you would bring the backs up flat, you would foul the lineout so their scrum half got bad ball and you would go through and crump him. That is what you would do. And something to the equivalent of that is being played by Mr Howard and the Liberal Party in relation to myself. They have got no ideas any more. I mean that was obvious. They had one good idea, I have got to say at this conference, which I was absolutely delighted to see and I offer John Howard bipartisan support on this. They actually passed a resolution saying that we

ought to have a population policy. Well, bully for them. Who was out there when Pauline Hanson was rampant arguing that we need a population policy that incorporated higher immigration. Me, you know. The bloke who is not supposed to have any ticker on these things. Me. Now that it is safe to have that they come crawling out from the undergrowth with an idea of picking that one up. And I am absolutely delighted to join them in a bipartisan approach on that issue. If they are prepared to have it and I give John Howard this challenge today - stick up a piece of legislation for a population council, we will be in it and will serve on it.

JOURNALIST: Andrew Theophanous resigned today. Did you try and talk him out of that resignation or were you pleased to see him go?

BEAZLEY: I did try to talk him out of that resignation, yes. I won't go into any more of the conversation. I notice that he didn't in the remarks that he made to you. I am sad to see him go. I am sad to lose any one of my number. He had various reasons for it. It is not the way I see the world, the reasons that he has for it, but nevertheless those are his reasons. He indicated, I think to you, that he basically sees himself, except in some areas of migration policy, he basically sees himself aligned with the Party whose standard he bore in the last election. And it remains to be seen how he operates in Parliament as to whether or not that is so. But I don't like to lose any of my numbers and I was sorry to see him go. But that is his decision and there is nothing I can do about it.

JOURNALIST: What is your attitude on alleged factional agreements - which were then broken - of putting one's brother in the seat? Does this sound a bit strange, surely, for a political Party?

BEAZLEY: You thought that sounded strange for a political Party, did you Michelle? I will take you at your word you have been around an awful lot longer than I have, and commenting on the Canberra scene, but you say that that is unusual. Andrew's final break, as I understand it, came when he sought from the National Executive an intervention in the process to delay the ballot after nominations had been called for in Victoria. The National Executive looked at his letter and considered it. The National Executive took the view that there was nothing going on in relation to the calling of preselections that was in any way abnormal and that the preselection should go ahead as called. It is rare anyway that a National Executive would intervene in that process and there were no grounds for the National Executive to intervene. This created a situation in which Andrew felt he faced some difficulty and that along with other factors seems to have produced his decision. There is nothing much I can do about that. I think that the Victorian Branch was acting appropriately in calling nominations when they did, shutting them off when they did. We need to get our candidates going and so they chose to take the course they did and Andrew chose to take the course he did.

JOURNALIST: Do you think, though, that suggestions of a previous deal to get his brother in, if correct, suggests that the Victorian Branch doesn't conduct itself in the best

possible manner?

BEAZLEY: Look, there are always arguments about what goes on inside Parties and there are always deals being done about preselections. That has been so since the beginning of the Federation, the beginning of the Australian Labor Party and I would suggest that it is not an unusual feature of our political opponents. In many cases more of a problem with them now than it is for us. You may well feel that there was an arrangement in place in which he had an entitlement to consideration. By and large at the end of the day the preselection panels meet and determine on a candidate and it is not always that easy to dispose of these seats in accordance with a set of predetermined outcomes. He wanted one outcome and apparently it didn't occur.

JOURNALIST: But don't you think it contributes to the difficulty of parties getting good candidates if you have those sorts of attempted set-ups?

BEAZLEY: I think we have got some very good candidates Federally out of Victoria. And I know that a lot of people have been doing some, you know, backroom bargaining to get them up. But we have got a magnificent group of candidates out of Victoria at the last election. Some truly excellent new Members. Some truly excellent new Members and some very safe Seats. And I have been very heartened by what is being handed to us out of the Victorian organisation and I have got no complaints about the standards of our candidates from Victoria, none.

JOURNALIST: Would you have preferred that Dr Theophanous left Parliament rather than blocking the arrival of another ALP Member for Calwell?

BEAZLEY: Well, generally speaking I would be of the view that if you resign as opposed to be expelled, you resign a Party endorsement, that you had sought and successfully contested an election with that you would exit from the Parliament. But if you chose not to, what I would say is that you have an obligation to keep voting with the Party on whose ticket you were originally elected. That is a view that I have expressed about others in the past and I will express it again here.

JOURNALIST: Did you express that to Dr Theophanous?

BEAZLEY: Well, what I was talking to Dr Theophanous about was him not resigning. That is what I would say now.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, can I just clarify something on roll back? ...(inaudible)... Where are we at? Are books going to be GST free?

BEAZLEY: What we have identified are these things: books, we have identified (rent on) caravans, we have identified doing something for charities, we have identified doing something for education. We have identified doing something for health. Because you would be aware in the areas of education and health there are areas which are still

effectively being covered the GST. Books being one of them.

JOURNALIST: Will it be extended to journals and newspapers?

BEAZLEY: No, books is what we said. Books is what we said. And what we will do is, we will look at what our fiscal position is and give people a sense of priority about when we will do those various things. We will find also, I mentioned the Budget as one reason why at the moment we would be unwise, any Opposition would be unwise to be more detailed than that. And I should say that I have even more reason to claim that than Peter Costello did when he did back in 1994 - about not releasing Party policy until the course of an election campaign. But there is another reason as well. Every day we sit down and look at this GST another anomaly drops out of the hedge and bites you on the ankle. And it is quite conceivable when we sit down and see the operation of this GST that we will actually find problems of such dimensions that they subsume any of the things that we have assigned priority to so far. It is quite possible we will find a set of those anomalies that do just that. In which case we will not want to have locked ourselves in so tight that when we start to shift something else up ahead of another set of priorities we can regard it as having broken a promise. Albeit a promise in advance of an election actually being called. So we have to keep the maximum degree of flexibility for that reason as well. I think we are going to find a whole range of problems that none of us have even thought about with this GST. Some of them will be the consequences of botched administration as a result of the way in which Costello has gone about his business. But others will be genuine unanticipated consequences.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister and the Treasurer believe that the shows all over with the GST, that the debate is not so much on what it is or whether it should be implemented but the mechanics of its implementation. If you get elected given that it would be a year or 18 months time or so and after that settled into roll-back, do you think that you might find people think, "God, not more of this, not more of the tax fiddling not more changes, not more unsettled periods in the tax area."

BEAZLEY: One thing we need to be careful of directly related to your question is the issue of complexity, the government promised simplicity and one of the many lies they have told the Australian people was that this would be more simple, and the Australian people now realise that so we need to be careful that any propositions we put forward have the virtue of simplicity and can be simply and easily understood. That will be one of our objectives, I think that if this country is happy in a way in which you suggest with the operation of a GST 18 months from now, it will be the only country that has ever implemented a GST when that is the case. I would doubt very much whether the circumstances that you eluded to would apply, but I do think more generally, that's on roll-back, but I do think more generally that anyone who wanders onto the scene proposing wholesale changes to tax from now on, at least for some considerable period of time and proposing to do something super dramatic about the taxation system will be

taken out by the electorate and metaphorically dealt with.

JOURNALIST: You would have to limit...

BEAZLEY: You would have to keep it to the issues of roll-back, yes I do believe that. I mean if you went for wholesale tax changes the business community would say, we have just put in place five billion dollars worth, at least 2.8 billion, but probably five billion dollars worth of new equipment and personnel to get this tax in place, we have got all these forms out there we have got all these things that we have got do and you come and tell us you want to turn the taxation system on its head again, no I don't think so.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, in the run up to the National Conference there has been a bit of a stoush in the Party about industrial relations policy. How much of a roll-back do you want to see of free market flexibility in that area put into the National Platform and secondly is Mr Della Bosca for President now completely beyond doubt in the Party?

BEAZLEY: The Presidency of the Party is not in my gift, Mr Della Bosca is being mooted as a candidate. He is an acceptable candidate as far as I am concerned. There are other acceptable candidates too and those are things which are being talked about. I think Mr Sword was a candidate briefly at the last ballot, he is an acceptable person, and Mr Jones has been a very good Party President. As I have said, there are a number of acceptable candidates out there. Mr Della Bosca is one of them. I can work with anyone I have seen mooted as a potential President. But to deal with the industrial relations thing, because I see there has been a bit of speculation around. Not at the last election campaign - not when Mr Reith's first tranche, first wave, of industrial relations changes went through - and not at any point since, have I ever given any indication that I would tolerate for one second longer, than the legislative changes would allow me to tolerate, the system of AWAs that have been put in place by Mr Reith and the accompanying Orwellian Office of Employment Advocate. As far as I am concerned they are out, out, the moment the Labor Party gets into office and has an opportunity to legislate on this matter. They are specifically put in place to damage the capacity of the ordinary Australian to bargain effectively for their wages. They are a product of a government determined to create insecurity for ordinary Australian wage earners and families. The priority as far as I am concerned in industrial relations is the issue of the ability of the umpire to operate effectively as a conciliator and arbitrator and the ability for them to intervene in disputes. A change therefore in the character of the legislation which actively encourages employers to lock out and employees to strike which is what the current legislation does, changes on that front, and also the rights of workers to collectively bargain. Now by saying that it doesn't mean that I rule out the capacity for individual contracts to exist. In fact the AWAs outside the public sector have had a negligible impact on the industrial relations system in this country. More heavily used are what are called for want of a better term common law contracts and some employers

have chosen to go down that road. But I do not want common law contracts used in a way that undermine collectively arrived at agreements but the common law contracts have existed as long as there has been a common law and I don't think it is common sense to see common law contracts, individual contracts in that sense, eliminated. These are views that I hold firmly and views that I will persist with, not just for some sort of cobbled together agreement at the conference. I'm not all that interested in the conference position on industrial relations, I'm interested in what we take before the Australian people. I did try in the last election campaign to make industrial relations an issue because I think stability in the workplace, fairness in the workplace, a sense of confidence in the hearts of the ordinary Australian is an important thing in terms of the happiness of our community, and Peter Reith has set about undermining that, both with the Acts he has brought down and his own behaviour associated with those, as seen writ large in the MUA dispute. And when we get into office that sort of unfairness and confrontation to my mind ends.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you just one other platform question, and that is on uranium which over many conferences has been either avoided or an issue of high passion. What is the justification for keeping any restrictions in the platform on uranium, the number of mines?

BEAZLEY: No new mines. The Platform is now no more mines.

JOURNALIST: And what is the justification for that? Do you support that?

BEAZLEY: Yes I do.

JOURNALIST: Why?

BEAZLEY: Because I think that we are into the nuclear cycle as far as we want to be as a people. I recognise that contracts are entered into, agreements set up, people rely on a supply and once the supplier is established - and a government has always got to be mindful of issues of sovereign risk. So that's why I would not go into the election campaign on the basis of shutting down a mine that already existed. But we say no new mines because Australians have got a question mark over the nuclear fuel cycle, they have got a question mark proliferation, they have got a question mark over environmental and safety issues associated with it. And I have that myself.

JOURNALIST: But why is a new mine in any sense given the appropriate safeguards and so on, why is a new mine different from any existing mine?

BEAZLEY: Because it puts us further and more long term into the operation. You know, around the globe now, people are trying to work out how to get rid of the product of reactors. And you have got people going around the globe trying to find safe places to put the product of European waste. And what that suggests to me is that people have not come to the conclusion - are not coming to the conclusion - that these things are

operating with optimal safety. Now you have to balance things here, you have got to balance how you look at how the rest of the world is handling this and the sovereign risk issues that are involved in your activities with supplying the materials. And I think the Labor Party has come to a reasonable balance on these things.

JOURNALIST: You went out to Penrith last Friday. Badgery's Creek is an issue there. Labor policy is very vague, it doesn't deal specifically with Badgery's just says there should be another airport in the Sydney basin, yet you have the State Government opposing Badgery's and you have the inner city federal MPs thinking it is a terrific idea. When is there going to be some consistency in the Labor approach to it?

BEAZLEY: You correctly outlined what the Labor party policy was, in the original statement that you made. There was an environmental impact statement done. There were questions as to whether or not that environmental impact statement was adequate. The government is now responding to both the environmental impact statement and what I have said, is we will wait to see what they come up with in relation to Badgery's - their rationale and any additional information they have - before we make up our mind. Suffice it to say that we have always been of the view that Sydney needs a second airport.

Ends

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.