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Queensland University of Technology, 19 April 1999: Transcript of Doorstop [F-111 accident, East Timor, GST]



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP,

QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, 19 APRIL 1999

 

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

 

Subjects: F-111 accident, East Timor, GST

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, let me just say something about the F-111 crash, which you’d be aware of. Firstly, it’s a matter of very deep regret to the Opposition that this accident has occurred and I’m sure, with all Australians, our prayers are with the two missing men and the search effort which is going on for them at the moment. We can only hope and pray for a good outcome to that search.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

OK, Mr Beazley, just on East Timor. What sort of role do you see for Australians there now?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, firstly, what has to happen is that the militia has to be disarmed by the Indonesian military. That has to happen immediately and the area pacified. The Indonesian military armed them in the first place and they can disarm them now. They know where the guns are. That’s the first point. The second point is the United Nations must be engaged immediately by the Australian Government to optimise the pressure on Indonesia. Indonesia must know, and indeed President Habibie does know, that, aside from the very important issues of human rights in Timor, Indonesia’s long term reputation is dependent on a decent outcome for this process of self-determination. And you’re no friend of Indonesia if you don’t put maximum pressure on Indonesia right now to secure a decent outcome. Then, from the Australian point of view, what we ought to be prepared to do is to contribute to that outcome by making ourselves available to the United Nations for the purposes that the United Nations can get in place.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is there an argument that this situation wouldn’t have occurred if, while in government, the Labor Party had done more up there, rather than just sort of washing hands of it, to some extent?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Not at all. I mean, this situation, this opportunity, arises from the changing political equation in Indonesia. Just as the opportunity arises, so too do the dangers and we’ve seen every aspect of those dangers in the last week or two. And the Australian Government has got to seize the initiative here. It’s not just a question of the odd chat to President Habibie, we must make the running on this, optimise the pressure on Indonesia, use the United Nations.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Would you go so far as to say we should send in troops?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

We have already said that any agreement brokered by the United Nations that involves the establishment of peacekeeping force we’d be prepared to participate in. We think that that’s a high level of possibility that that will occur should the Indonesians stabilise the situation, as we think they must.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

The GST. Is John Howard going to get that through, do you think?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

John Howard has been completely obtuse and deliberately ignorant about the fact that his compensation package fails utterly. He was exposed yesterday for yet another piece of misleading propaganda. We had $17 million worth of it in the election cam paign at taxpayers’ expense, and yesterday we got more exposure of false information free to air on this occasion. The Prime Minister was revealed as ignorant at best of the comparative taxation position between Australia and overseas, and deliberately obtuse when it came to discussion of the fact that pensioners get no compensation.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think Brian Harradine can still be swung to the Government side if they increase compensation?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I don’t think Brian Harradine can be a bit impressed by the performance of the last couple of weeks or by the evidence of the Treasury.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What sort of messages would you send to Senators Colston and Harradine?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

The message we would send to them is that this is an unnecessary tax. It’s an unfair tax. It’s a tax not compensated for. It’s a tax which will destroy jobs. Vote it out.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But there’s also, I think, a growing perception in the community that the GST is going to become a reality. Is it time, as has been suggested, that you’ve had advice that the Opposition should get with the program, so to speak, and make changes?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I suppose there’s a growing feeling amongst all members of the community on $100,000 a year-plus that the GST is an inevitability. There is a continuing fear among average Australians that the GST will oblige them to carry the whole tax burden. I’ll get with the ordinary Australians’ program. And the ordinary Australians’ program is to defeat this bill.

 

(tape break)

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Have the F-111s reached their due date, use-by date?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No, I don’t think so. They’re still a very good aircraft. These tragedies do occur from time to time, the way military aircraft have to be flown. From time to time, these eventualities arise, no matter how new or old the aircraft is. But we will just have to concentrate, I think, now, on putting all our thoughts and efforts behind the search and rescue for the two fliers.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Has Mr Howard been forthright enough on his stance on what’s happening in East Timor?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

I think the Government has to seize the initiative. I think the Government is always playing catch-up on this. The time has come not to mince words with President Habibie or the Indonesian military. It has to say you armed those militia, disarm them now, create the conditions of stability. The time has also gone too long since we ought to be going to the United Nations and using every element of the UN to put pressure on Indonesia to achieve this outcome. You’re no friend of Indonesia if you do not optimise the pressure at this time. Indonesia’s international reputation and the prosperity of their people ride, to a considerable extent, on a decent, peaceful outcome in Timor and we’re not getting it, and they’re not getting it.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think blame clearly lies with the Indonesian Government?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, there’s no question that the Indonesian Army armed these militia. There’s no question about that. That’s a matter of public knowledge and has been for some considerable time. If you arm a bunch of people, you know who you gave the weapons to, you can take it off them. And that absolutely has to happen now.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

How would you characterise Mr Howard’s position?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, always catch-up, always one point behind the play on this matter. It’s time he got out in front, understood that that very important relationship that we have with Indonesia is not advanced, at this point, by us not being forthright on this matter, absolutely forthright. We have got to get an outcome which produces a decent human rights and lifesaving, now, outcome for the people of East Timor, but we also need it for Indonesia. I mean, Indonesia’s reputation will just disappear if this sort of thing keeps on going.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What sort of action do you want from the UN?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, the United Nations, of course, has to negotiate with the Indonesian Government. What I would hope is that they could get themselves on the ground as soon as possible.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

And what sort of forces on the ground?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, in the end, it will be whatever is required to ensure peaceful transition. In the end, that is what the United Nations will have to do and the Australian Government needs to indicate to the United Nations that whatever that involves we are there to assist them.

 

ends

 

 

 

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