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Westmead Hospital, Parramatta, Penrith Campus, 14 April 2000: transcript of doorstop interview [Badgery's Creek Airport; Telstra; Liberal Party conference; FBT; Korean War veterans widows; public hospitals]

Kim Beazley - Doorstop Interview

 

Subjects: Badgery's Creek Airport, Telstra, Liberal Party Conference, FBT, Korean War Veterans Widows, Public Hospitals

 

Transcript - Westmead Hospital, Parramatta, Penrith Campus - 14 April 2000

 

E & OE - Proof Only

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, can you tell us Labor's position on Badgery's Creek?

 

BEAZLEY: We have said persistently that Sydney needs a second airport and that it has to be an airport, of course, which is environmentally compatible with the area in which it operates. And we have said there has been a study and the Government is responding to that study. And we await their decision and their rationale for it. And when we get that, we'll be able to respond. So, our position is to support, in principle, the idea that there should be a second Sydney airport. Whether at the right location will depend, of course, on their response to the issues that have been raised in regard to the environment. So, as soon as the Government has a view on that, and we have a chance to study it, we'll work out whether they've responded correctly in our mind.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, Richard Alston this morning called your figures on Telstra "rubbery" and said that you're confusing profit with dividends. What's your reaction to that view?

 

BEAZLEY: It's quite wrong. You know, every person who buys a share does not simply buy on the issue of a dividend, buys on what they anticipate the value of a company is going to be as the years go by. And it is, therefore, the figures they've been using are inappropriate. If you really want to know the loss to the taxpayer, you have to look at what the share of the profit would be of the Government's stake in the entirety of the enterprise. And he is embarrassed because we've called him to account, and we've got a test case now. It's the result of the sale of the previous shares of Telstra. And the first tranche that went through saved $2.7 billion in public debt and lost the Commonwealth $3.5 billion that would have been the Commonwealth's share of….that equivalent share of the value of the profits. So, there is an economic case against privatisation, as well as a nation building case against privatisation. But Richard Alston went through extraordinary processes, and he's been through it before, of talking down his book. That's quite an extraordinary effort for a Minister. The figures we used were from Macquarie Equities and they are conservative figures and less than the levels of profit that have been achieved over the last...growth and profit …over the last five years. So, Richard Alston is between a rock and a hard place on this one. He's, at the same time, got to say that he wants to sell Telstra and what a good buy it is, on the other hand, say that the Labor Party's conservative estimates are over-estimates. I think his confusion on AM this morning is an indication of how difficult a task that is.

 

JOURNALIST: But what about the fact that he's saying that Telstra has one hand behind its back and can't really compete globally?

 

BEAZLEY: Telstra has many functions. It is a nation building enterprise. It has been there, built up over the years by the Australian taxpayers, to do a job for all of us. And it's not just simply a company. But I would have thought that when, in the week in which Telstra was announcing, without any further privatisation, major new collaborative adventures internationally, was probably the last point at which Richard Alston would be wanting to say something like that.

 

JOURNALIST: And what about the Liberal Party conference? Have you got a reaction to them using Phillip Morris sponsorship?

 

BEAZLEY: Yes, well, it's a sponsored Liberal Party, eh? You know, I'm not claiming that the Labor Party does not receive funds and ... we declare our funds, and from time to time, we've received contributions. But, it's got to be said, it's a pretty weird thing to have it actually as a sponsor of an event. But I'm less interested in their sponsorship than I am in what they're talking about. They're supposed to be, now, releasing their social agenda at this conference. Nobody is going to believe that this a show with a heart?

 

JOURNALIST: Can you confirm that the Labor Party will use Phillip Morris sponsorship for its July conference?

 

BEAZLEY: You've got to differentiate between people who come in and pay for business tickets to attend, and actual sponsorship. We don't have sponsorship of that nature. People do buy business observer tickets to come to Labor Party conferences. And in the past, I'm sure, you'd have to ask the National Secretary this, I'm sure Phillip Morris has done that. But it's a different thing from sponsorship. We don't have the "Telstra Labor Party".

 

JOURNALIST: I've heard from Phillip Williams, our Senior Political Correspondent, that Phillip Morris is coughing up $200,000 for the July conference.

 

BEAZLEY: $200,000 for the July conference of the Labor Party? I think $200,000 from anyone, I'd be surprised. I think you'd need to check your sources on that one.

 

...(tape break)...

 

JOURNALIST: Fringe Benefits Tax. The deal struck between the Democrats and the Government late yesterday. Are you satisfied with that deal?

 

BEAZLEY: Look, this has been…this last week has been like one of those used car ads that you see from time to time on television, which is "Gee, look at what we're getting out of the boss now. Get in for your chop before it's too late" Because they made a mess of the GST, because they've botched it, you've had $500 million flung out at petrol prices in the bush. You've had, I think, something like $300 million flung out at this exercise. You've had $500 million flung at tax avoiders in the taxation arrangements on dependent contractors announced yesterday. This Government is like a Father Christmas streaking down the middle of the main drag, hurling money in all directions. It will be very interesting to see where all this has led by the time we sit down and look at the new Budget. If they ever had a reputation for economic responsibility and good economic management, they should surely have lost it by now.

 

JOURNALIST: Just, finally, on the war veterans lunch on Tuesday. There's a story in the Australian today saying that many of the war veterans' widows had to actually pay for their lunch while Ministers invited their guests which were paid for by the taxpayer. Do you have a reaction to that?

 

BEAZLEY: If that is right, that's an outrage. If that is true, that is unconscionable. The Government should be providing, in its entirety, the cost of this lunch. Absolutely. That is a very ungenerous act, if that is true.

 

JOURNALIST: Any further comment on Mr Besley, and if he had a conflict of interest at the end of the day with the Fast Track Train and the sale of Telstra?

 

BEAZLEY: There is now no credibility at all in the Government's investigation of the further privatisation of Telstra - none. All three of the inquirers have, at some point of time, placed themselves in a situation where they've been supportive of the full privatisation of Telstra or, in some way or another, there with a relationship with the Government. You cannot have an independent inquiry on that basis. And the Government cannot pretend that anything it produces comes from a genuine commitment to a view that they'd arrive at a conclusion irrespective of Government views. So, that's that.

 

I'd just like to say a thing or two about our public hospital system, because I've just been privileged to go through one of the great Australian facilities. This facility here at the New Children's Hospital is an example of how good a public hospital can be, and it's an example of how much more needs to be put into our public hospital system. One of the three key issues which we will raise during the course of the next election campaign is the proper financial support of our public hospital system. There are massive shortfalls. I do believe that my fellow Australians think those shortfalls should be ...(inaudible)... This is one of the reasons why we've got to get off this hopeless agenda, this hopeless tax agenda, and on to the real social issues that affect the lives of ordinary Australians. And I've been grateful to have had the opportunity to get some good information on the sorts of resources that are needed in a place like this, and what could be done if it was correctly resourced.

 

JOURNALIST: How will Labor correctly resource it?

 

BEAZLEY: I think there is going to have to be more financial resources devoted. And, as time goes by, as we look at the budgetary arrangements over the course of the next couple of years, we'll be saying a lot more about that.

 

JOURNALIST: What's your position on shortening waiting lists in public hospitals?

 

BEAZLEY: I do believe that waiting lists are as much a Federal responsibility as they are State. It is generally the States which are held to account for waiting lists in public hospitals. I don't believe that that is fair. I believe that, in the end, the resources that are available to the Federal Government are substantially greater than those available to the States and that the Commonwealth needs to be held to account on waiting lists as much as the States are.

 

Ends

 

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