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Sydney: transcript of doorstop interview: meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirrayuda, Lindsay Tanner.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - SYDNEY, 2ND DECEMBER 2001

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirrayuda, Lindsay Tanner.

CREAN: I had a very constructive meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Minister this morning. Kevin Rudd, my foreign affairs spokesman, and myself, indicated to him that we were wanting to develop long-term relationships with Indonesia, to do it in a constructive way, including from opposition, to be supportive of the government in a bipartisan way in developing a lasting solution, in particular to the asylum seekers. It was a very constructive dialogue today, a warmth in the meeting and I look forward to continuing that dialogue at later stages of my leadership.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean you will have seen the headlines. Has Lindsay Tanner cheated Australian taxpayers?

CREAN: Lindsay Tanner has made a comprehensive statement, as I understand it. The trip was taken within the guidelines. It was approved, both before and after. They are the Prime Minister’s guidelines. If there is anything wrong with them he can change them and we will be happy to support that.

JOURNALIST: Bob Brown says it’s fraud.

CREAN: Well I didn’t understand Bob Brown to say that. But let me say the trip was approved, both before and after, approved in accordance with the guidelines. If the guidelines need changing, we will support the change.

JOURNALIST: Bob Brown has also called for an inquiry into entitlements, what do you think of that option?

CREAN: I think that Members of Parliament have important functions to perform. It is essential for them that they have the opportunity to travel and to understand the issues. It’s important that what they do is within entitlements and on this occasion it has been authorised as within entitlements.

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JOURNALIST: So you won’t be talking to Lindsay Tanner about this and taking any action?

CREAN: Well, I will be talking with him further about it, but I’m satisfied with the explanation that has been made, but more importantly the government is satisfied with it, they approved it.

JOURNALIST: How appropriate is it for a politician to combine work with a honeymoon?

CREAN: Well, I think that’s the way in which the story has been portrayed. But let’s understand that the combination, as it appears to me, the combination involves him paying for the bit that was on the honeymoon. I sure that there would be many people, in many walks of life, in business and others who have combined business with pleasure. But the important thing here is that the trip was approved, both before and after it was taken as being within the guidelines.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that tribunal needs to be investigated and looked over?

CREAN: The tribunal will take whatever decision it likes. It has the important task of ensuring that what is approved or what is done is within entitlements. But, clearly, as this trip has been done within entitlement, I don’t see any further need for it to be taken further.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t that just taking the easy way out because politicians will just protect their entitlements?

CREAN: Politicians are entitled, like everyone else, to utilise their entitlements. What they can’t do is abuse it, and there is no evidence here that it has been abused. All of the evidence is, it has been approved, and that, as far as I am concerned, been approved by the Government.

JOURNALIST: Will you be calling for your members….

CREAN: I would always urge that, on the part, not just of my colleagues, but Parliamentarians generally. I think that there are issues of entitlement, and people should stick within entitlements. But on this occasion, on information available to me, it’s all been within entitlements.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t think there’s the need to go that one step further and review these entitlements?

CREAN: If the entitlements need reviewing, of course, we would always accept the need for that review. But on this occasion, the trip itself was within entitlements.

ENDS: