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Parliament House, Canberra, 16 February 1999: transcript of doorstop.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 16 FEBRUARY 1999 

 

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

 

Subjects: GST, Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Senator Ellison, Republic, One Nation

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

Mr Beazley, the Democrats are indicating they may not be voting on the GST until after 30 June. Is the thought of the balance of power perhaps getting to their heads?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Well, the GST modeller of choice for the Government, Chris Murphy, yesterday came out and said that, as far as he was concerned, the GST was unfair. He may be a supporter of it but he said it was unfair. And we had Mr Costello out yesterday saying, ‘oh, well, I’m not going to compromise, I’m not going to move an inch on any of this’. And, so what we are left with now is not a single piece of intellectual underpinning that says that the tax shift which is occurring here in this country now has any fairness to it.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

But on the timing of the vote, were you under the impression back in November when the inquiries were set up that there would be a vote by the end of June?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Well, the Democrats will have to think their position through on that, as will Senator Harradine, as the vote in the Senate gets closer. But more important than the timing is the content. And what is quite evident now is that the Government intends to pursue this tax without any form of amendment in any shape or form. It intends to pursue it against the advice, virtually, of all the modelling as to its impact on the economy and employment, and it intends to pursue it irrespective of whatever evidence is presented to the Senate Committee. So, of course, that’s always going to raise somebody’s interests.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

And if Senator Colston can’t make it through his current term in Parliament, you’ll be claiming a Labor Senator as a replacement?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Well, certainly. If anything were to happen to Senator Colston and he left the Senate, then the Constitution, not just us, the Constitution requires his replacement with a Labor Senator.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

What is the latest on his health?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

I don’t know. We’re not in daily communication with Senator Colston, I must say.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

But have you heard anything since Christmas? 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Nothing beyond what you’ve seen in the papers.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

Mr Beazley, the Aboriginal protest yesterday. Do you think it was time that the police moved in?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Look, I think the starting point of all of this was a little bit of Liberal Government ‘silly season issue raising. They suggested they were going to remove the Aboriginal Embassy, which has become a focal point in the understanding of the Aboriginal community generally around Australia. The creation of that embassy was a point at which they started to speak for themselves in Australian politics. And it has enormous symbolic resonance with them. The Government decided it would play smart politics and suggested that they might remove it. Every piece of trouble has emanated from that piece of stupidity by this Government. Since then, they’ve promised to meet with the Aboriginal protesters and have not done so. They ought to just get on with it. If they meet and have a talk with them, and give them reassurance, this may well end. But it won’t with the Government adopting the attitude it is now, having sought to exploit the issue in the first place.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

Do you think we’re seeing some more infighting within the WA Branch of the Liberal Party with Ross Lightfoot’s dig at Chris Ellison?

 

BEAZLEY 

 

Well, Ross Lightfoot has raised the question John Howard must answer: what was the intent of his Minister? Why was he picking those folk up? And was he picking them up, as Ross Lightfoot seems to believe, for the purposes of influencing them in preselection baffles that he was confronting? This has been raised, not by us, it’s been raised by the Liberal Party in the form of Senator Lightfoot. And it’s an issue that this Prime Minister has to deal with, and so far failed to.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

So, Chris Ellison does have more questions to answer?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Look, he has Senator Lightfoot’s questions to answer, his Liberal colleagues’ questions to answer. What was his intent? What were those folk doing on his plane? Were they there because he was seeking to influence a preselection outcome. We don’t raise these questions, the Liberal Party does.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

Under the old rules, do you think there was enough room for confusion in some of these things?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Well, some people have said there was.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

Did you ever get confused?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

I don’t frequently use charter flights, I’ve got to say. So, the issue hasn’t arisen with me. But whatever there was there, obviously Senator Ellison feels he had a problem with it, otherwise he wouldn’t have paid the money back.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

Chris Schacht came out yesterday as not being a man of God. Do you think that there’s going to be widespread support in the Labor Party for your position that you’re all for God?

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Well, the Constitution guarantees religious liberty by not establishing a religion in this country. And that’s one of the few guarantees that there actually is, of a general political nature, in the Constitution. And freedom of religion is an important thing to our fellow Australians. All the same, I just think, in these circumstances, it’s not the right front to be fighting on. There are a number of issues up there. The principal one, of course, is the republic, and that’s what we ought to be concentrating on.

 

JOURNALIST: 

 

And the Newspoll today showing One Nation support has collapsed to just two per cent. You would welcome that, but it would also appear that their support is going back to the Government.

 

BEAZLEY: 

 

Well, firstly, it’s good news. Any fall in apparent community support for One Nation is good news. It may be premature to say this, but it is quite possible that their own internal shenanigans have now so disgusted their own supporters, they’re not seen as a viable means of protest against things in our political system to which some in our community take objection. And that can only be good news. Whether that is sustained over the next few months, we’re just going to have to wait and see.

 

Ends

 

 

JS