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Press Gallery, Parliament House, Canberra, 18 February 1999: transcript of doorstop [employment; republic]



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP PRESS GALLERY, PARLIAMENT HOUSE

 

Subjects: Employment, Republic

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Beazley, how much fear would these draft proposals put into workers, especially those who are unemployed?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, the problem with this, there are many problems with it, but the starting point is the deception, isn’t it. When John Howard went into the election campaign saying no worker would be worse off, and what this is, is a blue print for a massive assault on people with low wages in our community. That what it is about. It is lies and deception. And Mr Reith is beginning to erect that to an art form, but he is only doing his master’s bidding. The second point about it, which is more interesting. is that when they come to the positive side, in so far as there are any carrots in this, the only ideas they have got are Labor ideas. Read between the lines. Work for the dole has failed, what you have got to do is pick up Labor’s wage subsidies and training programs. That’s the first thing you can read, and the second thing you can read is, you really can’t do anything to encourage people off welfare into work, and reward people who are actually on low wages for their effort, unless you do the tax credit system that the Labor Party is talking about. We are supposed to have no ideas. The only ideas they have are ours.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

The Minister said . . .brain storming….bigger agenda?

 

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, you know, in the case of the brain involved here, a bit of a light rinse is all that one would normally expect of it, but it’s not brain storming. This is the sort of thing that was done to me by Bob Hawke when I was made Minister for Microeconomic Reform. He said produce for me the objectives over the next couple of years, and I did. Obviously Howard sent Reith a letter forget about our election promises sport, produce for us, something that conforms with the extremities of Liberal Party prejudice so we can have fun for the next couple of years, and he has done it. This is exactly what they intend to do.

 

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well as I said, the carrot side of it, the side of it that actually tries to deal decently with the work force and we don’t say it should be accompanied with the sort of oppression that they are actually proposing the carrot side of it, there are no ideas other than ours. I mean we are the people who come with the decent open hearted spirit to the Australian people and say, you know, we want to improve your opportunities, here are the ideas to improve your opportunities, and ours are the only ideas in town. But that is the sugar coating, as far as this package is concerned. The real belief is the destruction of living standards of ordinary people, and 1 tell you this, I am really beginning to take umbrage at this front bench, all of whom have got the structures of family trusts that hardly any other Australian, not all of them but most of them, have structures of family trusts that avoid the full taxation responsibilities, they are able to do it legally, but they do it, only a very small percentage of Australians are like that. They are the children of privilege, and the organisers of privilege, and their claims for travel allowances would be greater than the living wages of vast numbers of Australian families, whom they now want to persecute.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

And what does it say, therefore, about the Liberal Party’s philosophy towards the disadvantaged in our community?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well basically, they are there to be politically exploited. They are there to be positioned, they are there to be push polled, but the last thing they are there to be, is have a chance for their lives to be improved. And, in so far as you pay lip service to that, just do what the Labor Party wants to do.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think that these proposals, could in fact increase employment in this country? Does it have merit, do they have merit in that sense?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No. I think that we really have to start to look at what is in fact the American experience about increased employment. I mean, we say, we always focus on the American economy on the low wage element of it. What’s driving the American economy now Is the productivity produced by the highly skilled end of their workforce, and the fact that they are able to go to newer and newer, better methods of production, as the result of that. We have to go down that road too. We have to start to encourage innovation, we have to start to encourage education for life, a constant reskilling of the Australian population. This is what drives jobs now, that’s the modern economy, these blokes are just locked in the past, real  1980s stuff.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Extreme ...bargaining chips….(inaudible)

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Now this is not for public consumption. This is a public consumption by accident. Now this is the real intention, this is not a document that ever was going to be released, until we got hold of a draft of it. So, that’s why you know these are the intentions, this is what they are going to do. If it was simply out there as sort of ideas to be floated around, a green paper or something like that, which you will see plenty from us during the course of this year, it’s out there for the public to have a bit of a chew over. This is for the Cabinet to implement, over the course of the next couple of years, and what a deceptive bunch they are.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

...(inaudible)

 

BEAZLEY:

 

No. But I wouldn’t expect to. We heard, from what Mr Howard wants to do, it was good enough for the founding fathers to have hundreds of people draft the Constitution, it has been good enough for those of us who want a Republic to have a full range of consultation, as far as that is concerned but it is not good enough for Mr Howard, he has to write the preamble himself. The Constitution belongs to the Australian people not Mr Howard. Now we are prepared to be cooperative in this process and to add whatever ideas we can, and to encourage them to get out there and see what’s available in the community. And we are also concerned that it should be a genuinely unifying document, we are not yet convinced that’s a Government concern.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

. .. preamble. Is there some sort of time limit by which the Government must have the preamble up for discussion?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Look, it’s up to the Government. We are agnostic on whether or not there ought to be an accompanying referendum with the Republican referendum, it will be a secondary issue for the Republican referendum when it occurs. Because the way in which it will be structured it will not have any Impact on the long term interpretation of our Constitution but it ought to be a decent statement about who we are as a nation. Now, if it turns out that you can’t get it in place by November, what have you lost? Nothing. So, we think that if you can, do it, if you can’t, don’t. That’s our position on the preamble, you don’t have to get your knickers in a knot about it, you can just get out there and do your level best to consult something through that has got the support of more than 50 percent plus one of the community, it has to be better than that, and see how it goes. But you won’t get there, if you’re not open about your preparedness to accept other peoples ideas.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

If the Howard Government came up with a proposal in September sometime, would that be too late for the election?

 

BEAZLEY:

 

Well, look at the proposal. If the proposal is very close to what was put down by the Constitutional Convention, which 102 delegates supported, I suppose you could say that there has least been a form of consultation there, but if it was vastly different then there would be a problem.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Thanks very much. 

ends.

 

 

 

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