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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop interview, 25 June 2001: President Wahid's visit, AWA's.

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Kim Beazley - Doorstop - President Wahid's Visit, AWAs Tuesday, 26 June 2001

Kim Beazley - Doorstop Interview Subjects: President Wahid's Visit, AWAs

Transcript - Parliament House, Canberra - 25 June 2001


JOURNALIST: President Wahid's visit. Good news for the Indonesian-Australian relationship?

BEAZLEY: Yes, it is. We're very glad that he's coming here and a bit sorry at this momentary disruption to his plans. But it's the first time in a very considerable time that an Indonesian Head of State has visited here and the difference, I suppose, is now in the relationship between ourselves and Indonesia is that we're partners in democracy these days. And that ought to be celebrated.

JOURNALIST: Is there anything you would attempt to tell him or reassure him about foreign policy towards Indonesia and Timor under a Beazley Government?

BEAZLEY: I think it is common sense in this country to seek a good relationship with your neighbours. That is just common sense. I think it is useful to have in place a dialogue which is frequent. And when I last saw President Wahid he'd had an idea that we ought to put in place a tripartite dialogue between Australia, Indonesia and the emerging forces in Timor, the emerging Government in Timor, and that this would be a dialogue or a trialogue in that case, which would see a constant addressing of any irritant issues between the three. We had a further idea, and that was for an Arafura Sea Council, which would have added Papua New Guinea to that conversation. We think that there's a lot of merit in that, a lot of merit in keeping that type of discussion going to ensure that, firstly, that we mutually assist each other in our own development, economically, and that issues of political stability and the like are there for constant consideration. So, I would put the same views to him again.

JOURNALIST: Will you get a chance to have a chat to him today at all?

BEAZLEY: Well, it depends when the plane comes in. Under the previous plan, yes, I would have.

JOURNALIST: Do you think, as one Liberal backbencher was suggesting, that we should try and get our security relationship back with Indonesia?

BEAZLEY: Well, it's not on our agenda that we should do that. But that's not to say that you wouldn't be in a position to have discussions about regional security with Indonesia. We get through the ASEAN

regional forum which we attend and that's a whole south-east Asian regional security dialogue. That's an appropriate forum for those sorts of issues to be handled.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, doesn't it blunt Labor's attack on AWAs to have some of your own staffers employed under those arrangements?

BEAZLEY: No, it doesn't. They won't be employed on those arrangements after the next election if we win because we'll abolish AWAs, point one. Point two; they have no choice. Their threat to take action by withdrawing their labour or not signing up against the Government when they're going on to an Opposition staff is, you'd have to say, pretty thin, pretty thin anyway - the senior executive service across the capital, forced on to AWAs. But there won't be a problem with that after the next election. If we win, we'll abolish them. That's the first point. The second point is, I notice that Natasha Stott Despoja had something to say about that today or yesterday. Well, my response to that would be could she have a conversation quickly with Andrew Murray because when we reiterated our intention to abolish AWAs a couple of weeks ago, Murray said that we shouldn't count on the Democrats letting us get it through the Senate. So, I take encouragement that it seems, from her conversations today, that Natasha is prepared to discipline Murray and ensure that our AWA proposals, if we get the chance to put them in place in Government, will get through.

JOURNALIST: One of the Democrats, though, seems to have had a choice with AWAs. Why couldn't Labor staffers?

BEAZLEY: Well, they are obviously thrashing about to work out some way to deal with it. That's the Democrats, they want their cross votes in the Senate. How do you reckon we'd go?

JOURNALIST: If you thought you had the numbers now to revisit AWAs before the election, with an altered Democrat leadership now, would you do it?

BEAZLEY: Well, I would, of course, but the problem is this: you might be able to secure a Senate majority for that proposition but how would you get it through the House of Representatives. That would be the difficulty. But, suffice it to say, this may well clarify issues in the next election campaign. I think, on what we've seen, from what Natasha Stott Despoja has had to say, as opposed to her Industrial Relations spokesman, Andrew Murray, we will probably be able to go to the next election not only with a policy to abolish AWAs, but guarantee we can.

JOURNALIST: And your SES staff, they look forward to being stripped of the AWA option?

BEAZLEY: Well, they're absolutely convinced that this is the wrong way for the Australian workforce to go and the wrong position in which they're placed. We are going

to get rid of them. They had no choice but to sign up to them, like many others in a similar situation across the country but hopefully it's a temporary problem.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Mahathir's comments yesterday about Australia's treatment of Chinese Australian…?

BEAZLEY: I haven't seen any of Mahathir's comments. I haven't seen any of his comments.

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

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