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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop interview: 'children overboard' affair; Governor-General; South Australian election results.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 20TH FEBRUARY 2002

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: ‘Children overboard’ affair; Governor-General; South Australian election results

CREAN: I am pleased the Prime Minister has finally followed my advice and had a full press conference on this issue. And I think he must now know why there is very little belief in his story. The Prime Minister has now admitted, yesterday, that he did speak to Mr Reith and Mr Reith expressed doubts about the story. That’s not what he told the Parliament last week. Yet despite those doubts, which we now know were also expressed to him by Mr Scrafton on the same night, and which we also know were passed to his senior adviser, Mr Jordana, despite that advice and those doubts and those of Mr Shackleton the Prime Minister still goes to the Press Club on the 8th of November and continues to tell the lie.

The other interesting piece of information that came out of last night was the Federal Police contradicting the Prime Minister’s versions of events that even if the parents didn’t throw their children overboard they effectively threw them overboard because they scuttled the vessel. The Federal Police advice is; it was the people smugglers that scuttled the vessel.

The Prime Minister continues to lie about this and we believe if it takes time to get that information through the Senate we’re prepared to wait. The Prime Minister hasn’t come clean at his press conference yesterday we will continue to pursue him in the House but we are prepared to wait. He continues to lie but we will continue to pursue him on the truth.

JOURNALIST: Is there a distinction between doubts about the photographs and doubts about the story?

CREAN: This is the distinction the Prime Minister is seeking to make. But put yourself in these positions. He says on Thursday in answer to a question from me if he asked if there were any doubts? I specifically asked the question “Prime Minister did you seek in discussions with Minister Reith

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any information as to doubts?” He categorically says “no”. At the press conference he does on Friday he says that he had these discussions with people, including Mr Scrafton who was added to the list on Friday, he had discussions with them to establish whether they had any doubts. Now, Mr Scrafton, we know, had doubts about the video. Mr Reith, we know, had doubts about the photos. You can’t selectively go to just one to suit your argument. There were doubts around the story and if the photos and the videos were supposed to be evidence of the story and doubts were being raised about both of them through different sources you would have thought it was the story that was in doubt. That is the conclusion you would have to come to from a Prime Minister going out saying ‘are there any doubts?’ Being told that there were doubts and yet he goes in to the National Press Club and says “I have absolutely no evidence to justify why I should change my story. I have checked and the story stands.” He said that the story stood even though all around him were expressing doubts.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean, are you prepared express any support for the Governor-General today?

CREAN: No I can’t express support for the Governor-General at this point. What I have called for is the Governor-General to explain the new allegations made against him. Clearly his first attempt at that explanation on the Australian Story has failed. There are new allegations emerging today. It’s essential that the Governor-General answer all of them - and let’s hope this can be cleared up quickly.

JOURNALIST: Do you think he should go?

CREAN: I am prepared to wait and hear what his explanation is and I will have something to say later in the day when I’ve had the opportunity to read that explanation.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean, do you have a view on what is happening in South Australia at the moment? Possibly weeks or even months of instability with the Liberal Party planning legal action.

CREAN: Well, it seems to be the sour grapes that’s occurring in South Australia. I would have thought that even Rob Kerin should understand that the Independent has chosen to support Labor. He should accept that as a fact of life and allow the Government to be sworn in and to act and govern in the interests of South Australia. Instability in any State is not good. I think in the interests of all South Australians, Rob Kerin should understand the circumstances and allow Mike Rann to form the Government.

JOURNALIST: Defence sources are saying this morning that they were ordered to crop and doctor the photos that were released publicly of the ‘children overboard’ incident. Do you have any information about the doctoring of photos?

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CREAN: Well I think that the opportunity will present itself today in Senate Estimates where Defence will be there for further information in that regard. You see, the Prime Minister stonewalls in the Parliament but his defence crumbles either through information we get through Senate Estimates or through revelations in the public or in the press. The Prime Minister wants to build a cocoon around himself but the fact of the matter is this is a Government that has allowed a lie to be told, now we are getting the cover up exposed. If it takes beyond the Senate Estimates, the Senate Inquiry, we are prepared to wait. Ms Halton will be in the Senate Estimates today but can’t be questioned on issues related to her taskforce role because she is in another function. Well, if she’s not prepared to give evidence today, and she may well choose to say something today in Senate Estimates, let’s wait and see. But we’re prepared to wait for the Senate Inquiry.

But you see every day new revelations appear that contradict the Prime Minister and I think that the longer the Prime Minister tries to obfuscate the longer he takes to really own up to what everyone believes and that is that he knew he story was wrong. He should come clean, he should tell us what the true state of his knowledge is and explain why it is that he was prepared to continue to deceive the Australian public in the lead up to the last election.

But you see we’ve got new evidence today that it’s not just lying during the election that this Government was involved, in they were also lying yesterday. Because the Prime Minister said it was the people themselves, the passengers who scuttled the boat. What evidence does he rely on for that? Certainly not the Federal Police. Because the Federal Police say the evidence was; it was the people smugglers that scuttled the boat. So here you have got the Prime Minister saying, well, if the parents didn’t throw the kids overboard they effectively did it by scuttling the boat. Trouble is there’s no evidence that they scuttled the boat. What’s the evidence on which the Prime Minister relies for that? The Federal Police have blown him out of the water on this issue. It’s just another example of the deceit that the Government will step to.

JOURNALIST: Have you had any discussions with the Governor-General’s office overnight or this morning?

CREAN: No, I haven’t.

Ends.