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Parliament House, Canberra, 12 May 1998: transcript of doorstop interview [Budget; waterfront; Australian dollar; One Nation]

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Subjects: Budget, waterfront, Australian dollar, One Nation


JOURNALIST: Well, Mr Beazley, do you think bafflers will give a tinker’s cuss ab out a Budget surplus?


BEAZLEY: No, I don’t. A Budget surplus is important, as we have said. As far as we’re concerned, if the Government’s parameters remain roughly as they’ve indicated over the last little while we would produce, a Labor Government would produce, three surplus Budgets in our first term of office as well. But we need to understand the basis on which this surplus has been built. It’s been built on the backs of the poor in this country. It’s been built on the backs of the students. It’s been built on the backs of the health system. Built on the backs of the States. The consequences of that all round have been poor services.


JOURNALIST: So, the Government won’t have any reason to crow tonight?


BEAZLEY: I don’t think the Government will have any reason to crow tonight. Firstly, it was an attack built on a fundamental lie about the previous administration. And then it’s been an absolute gallivant of Liberal Party ideological prejudice over the last three years that has denied people access to education, denied unemployed access to services, denied people access to a decent health care system. All of which has been fundamental to Liberal ideology as they rejected the idea of universal health care, assistance to the unemployed, and the fact that students ought to have affordable education.


JOURNALIST: Is this just the first instalment before the main game - tax reform and an election?


BEAZLEY: Well, it is very much a stopgap Budget. There is no question about that. It’s a stopgap Budget before their tax package and then their election promises. But it’s a stopgap Budget with implications. There is a whole raft of constituencies out there who know the truth, know that the Liberal Party’s election campaign is essentially being built on their backs, and they won’t forget it.


JOURNALIST: Are you going to be focussing on waterfront reform today in the House to try to deflect the attention from...?


BEAZLEY: Well, we’re not going to try to deflect attention from the Budget. The Budget itself will disappear within a few days. It will go out backwards. But we will be dealing with the waterfront issue. We support waterfront reform, but not persistent efforts at illegality in attempting to go around behind the backs of the High Court who have defended the rights of ordinary workers in this country and to find some other mechanism of achieving an objective which, at its heart, is illegal. That is the sacking of people for membership of a union.


JOURNALIST: Are you after Peter Reith’s scalp?


BEAZLEY: Well, we are going to put pressure on Peter Reith. We think that Peter Reith’s activities, and those of the Government generally, ought to be the subject of independent investigation. No doubt about that at all. We also note now that Peter Reith is going behind the back of the High Court to try to put in place a mechanism to achieve what he could not by direct frontal assault. Now, we are putting into the Parliament this week legislation that will make absolutely certain that what we think is now illegal -is definitely illegal and that is the sort of artificial construct by which companies could evade their obligations as Patrick has attempted to evade their obligations, to their workers. We’re going to be doing something positive this week to protect Australian workers, and to deal with the sort of situation that Peter Reith is trying to encourage.


JOURNALIST: Do you think you’ll get the necessary support in the Senate for two inquiries into the waterfront?


BEAZLEY: Well, we’ll see. We are going to have one related to the legislation, of course. We’re going to seek one related to the legislation. And then a broader one related to the conduct of this Government, which, to say the least, is reprehensible.


JOURNALIST: Would you support waterfront reform which includes union and non-union labour?


BEAZLEY Let’s get this absolutely clear. All the ports with which this Government likes to compare Australian ports have one thing in common with Australia. They all have in place a set of labour arrangements that incorporates one union. And it’s not a ma tter of arguing. It never has been a matter of arguing in relation to waterfront reform. Anti-MUA stances are part of Liberal Party prejudice, not waterfront reform.


JOURNALIST: How much has been done to counter the 12 year low in the Australian dollar, do you think, from the Government’s perspective?


BEAZLEY: Well, that’s, of course, a product of a number of factors. And part of it is related to the fact that the Government has actually got out of the business, in recent years, of encouraging innovation in Australian business and has reduced support for them to export. That all has its impact, but it’s only part of what impacts on the Australian dollar.


JOURNALIST: ...(inaudible)...?


BEAZLEY: Mr Howard is finding himself increasingly isolated from decen t elements of the Liberal Party. We have, now, the Victorian Branch coming out and saying they’re going to direct preferences against Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. They are taking the stand that Howard should be taking. And we also find out today this: that though Howard, in the course of the election campaign, and subsequently, tried to clothe himself in the respectability that came with suspending Pauline Hanson’s Liberal Party membership during the last campaign, today we find the truth. It had nothing to do with Howard at all. That was an initiative of the Queensland Branch of the Liberal Party. And that perhaps explains now why Mr Howard, ever since he’s been Prime Minister, has been prepared to play footsy with One Nation. There was never any conviction on his part. The sorts of statements and views that Pauline Hanson held were wrong. And he wants, somehow, to take advantage of that for his narrow political purposes. Now, a person like that, a person who is engaging in that type of activity, cannot possibly be said to have the country’s long term interests at heart, whatever might be his short term political gain.