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Parliament House, Canberra, 27 September 1999: transcript of doorstop [republic, employment conditions for reservists, Gareth Evans, footy finals]



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA,

27 SEPTEMBER 1999

 

 

E&OE-PROOF ONLY

 

Subjects: Republic, employment conditions for reservists, Gareth Evans, Footy finals

 

 

BEAZLEY:

 

It’s quite evident that the main battleground in this republican issue is among Labor voters. There are a number of Labor voters who intend to support a direct election model for a republic and are unhappy enough about the current model to be, at this stage, suggesting that they might engage in a ‘no’ vote. My message to our supporters is this: whether you’re in favour of a direct election or an indirect election, the cause of the republic will be massively set back if it goes down on November 6 th It would damage the republican case for a considerable period of time. The threshold issue on November 6 th is not the mode of election of a President, a safe model has been offered. The threshold issue is the republic and we need to keep the focus on that.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So, you don’t think the question’s a failure?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

The question, the whole of this campaign - the question, the advertising campaign - has been set up by a government which leans to the ‘no’ case to minimise the chances of it getting through. Those of us in the Labor Party who are supporters of a republic - either model - need to recognise that the set up here is to minimise our chances of success. And our job is to get the maximum degree of unity behind a very necessary change for Australia. And that’s what I’m about.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Couldn’t a secondary referendum spook some voters into fearing more radical changes are in the offing?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No, because whatever happens in any referendum, be it a referendum on the Senate, be it a referendum on States’ rights, be it a referendum on the terms of Parliament, be it a referendum on the terms and conditions of the election of a President of the republic, the last say is with the people. They are the ones that count.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So, what are you saying to the direct electionists about this referendum? Is it the first step in an on-going process or is it the final say on what sort of system we have?

 

BEAZLEY :

 

What I’m saying is that the republic is the threshold. The terms and conditions of the election of the President and the President’s powers, like those of any other aspect of the Australian Constitution, are always there open to change. The one irreversible thing that would occur on November 6 th would be the firm statement that Australia now owned its own Head of State. That would never change. But, like any other part of the Constitution, any other aspect of that process could change at any point of time if the people willed it. So, people need to not be distracted by a chap like Peter Reith, who’s been on all sides of this issue - all three sides of this issue in the course of the last decade - or John Howard, who has given the worst possible chance to the republican referendum that he’s capable of giving it. You don’t need to be distracted by them. You need to focus on the main business and the main business is a statement by Australians about ourselves - that we own our own constitution, we own our own Head of State.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Beazley, now that the football finals are out of the way and some of the Victorian election, are you expecting that the debate over the republic will intensify now?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Yes, I do. The debate over the republic is intensifying. It is also, I think, getting the right degree of focus. We’re beginning to get down to the fundamental threshold question and we’re beginning to recognise those that are distracting from it, deliberately distracting from it, and we are beginning to understand why they are doing so. They’re not about getting a different model for the presidency, they’re about getting no republic.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Beazley, is Gareth Evans about to tender his resignation?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

This is a matter that’s entirely in Gareth’s hands. It’s a matter for him to make up his mind on and he will, no doubt, tell us in due course.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Has he spoken to you about his possible departure?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Gareth and I have had discussions about that but I think it’s a matter for Gareth.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

When did those discussions take place?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I think it’s a matter for Gareth.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What sort of changes do you want to see to leave entitlements for reservists? Where does Labor want to ...

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I think what has to happen with reservists is that they have to have leave entitlements made a matter of award conditions. They have to be protected in their employment. Employers who are doing the right thing and granting leave, proper leave, to reservists should not be penalised by being in competition with employers who aren’t. And, if it’s there in awards, that will mean that their reserve leave is protected. I think it’s also important for State Governments, the Federal Government, and for private sector employers to be prepared to guarantee the jobs of those who are now reservists who desire to join up for a period of time associated with the deployment in Timor. I think that’s a very important thing to do. We’re looking at ways in which we could give that a legislative base. It’s easy to work out a legislative base for the award element on leave, and we are looking at a way in which we do have a legislative base for guarantees of jobs. This is the way to get the numbers that we need for this particular exercise.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Beazley, the Government is flagging some cuts to welfare spending. Do you believe the Social Security budget has much fat that can be trimmed?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

We probably have the lowest Social Security budget in the industrialised world. We have highly targeted welfare in this country. It is important that those who are on welfare payments have the opportunity to be trained to get back into the workforce at whatever particular level their abilities and talents permit them to do. But that is a different matter from slashing benefits. You know, it’s an interesting thing. The Government’s contemplating slashing benefits, exactly the same benefits that are being used in compensation for the Goods and Services Tax. Now, what does all this mean? We believe that incentives ought to be applied here, and there are two levels of incentives. Firstly, a decent earned income tax credit. That’s one incentive to get people into the workforce by ensuring that they get properly rewarded when they get there. And the second thing is to provide opportunities for training to re-enter the workforce with a decent skill. Those are the things the Government should be doing, not going down the road of punishing welfare recipients already operating within a highly means tested system.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

And just back to the footy. What did you make of the Prime Minister’s triple failure as a tipster?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Yeah, not too good, eh. I must say that ... well, I’m glad he was wrong about Jeff Kennett. I’m glad he was wrong about the Roos. I’m not so pleased about him being wrong about St George. But the lesson of all of this is: don’t have the Prime Minister on your side. I take great heart from that in this campaign on the republic.

 

 

ends

 

 

att  1999-09-30  09:52