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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Leader of the Opposition: Swanbourne Barracks, Perth: 24 August 2005: Farewelling of troops to Afghanistan; teaching respect in schools, Islamic summit, Barnaby Joyce.

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Subjects: Farewelling of troops to Afghanistan, Teaching respect in Schools, Islamic Summit, Barnaby Joyce

BEAZLEY: Firstly, can I say how strongly the Opposition supports members of the ADF who are about to go to Afghanistan and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister and express our appreciation to our soldiers for what they are about to do and what they have done for us.

This is a very important deployment. Afghanistan, the border with Pakistan, that is the crucial fault line in the struggle with global terror, global fundamentalist terror. And so the troops who should go off in the next little while, go off to the critical battle, if you like the critical struggle, in what is the most important struggle of our age.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: It’s easy to make that judgement from hindsight. At the time it was suggested that the job had been completed, but it hasn’t been. We know that now, and for some time now the Opposition has suggested that this should occur.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: I won’t put it that way. I’d just say that it needs to be done.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) to the trip?

BEAZLEY: My message to the troops and the Australian families behind them: We stand behind their families, we appreciate what they’re doing and we understand the pressure that is there on their families. We would want to make sure they wanted for nothing. We honour their commitment. We know they are the most effective warriors on Earth and they’ve been well trained and they’ll do their mission well.

JOURNALIST: If there is a tragedy and one of the men (inaudible) or be (inaudible) and their families, do you have (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: There will always be concerns for us. The circumstances where casualties occur, where families are in some ways, or in many ways, left bereft - and also financially bereft - that’s not acceptable. There’ve been changes put in place in the system. We will see if those changes are enough and we’ll always keep an open mind on that matter.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)


JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BEAZLEY: It’s not a question of being happy. I think the right thing is being done. We are concerned that it should be done well and the people who do it should be well supported. I believe the Government is supporting them well, they have got the right equipment, they know from their past experience what they’ll need. And we’ll also always keep an eye on that.

JOURNALIST: Were the troops able to give you any sort of feedback (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: Well, it’s sort of not really appropriate to talk about their feelings on these things but suffice to say they have a keen sense of professionalism and a great sense of commitment and they know what they’re doing is what they’ve been trained for.

JOURNALIST: Is this an ideological (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: No, but we have tried to put in place a compromise which the Government should accept. Now, what we have done on student unionism is, I think, commonsense. What the Government, the extreme Government, is doing just makes no sense at all. We said to the Government, ‘look, OK, the SRC, the Students’ Representative Council activities, the political activities, ought to be voluntary. But please the amenities - the childcare, the sporting facilities, the facilities there for counselling, the facilities for catering for the students - this is not union stuff. This is, seriously, amenities that are necessary to ensure people can be effective students. So, we’ve given away a bit, now they can give away a bit.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Mr Howard made a comment (inaudible) and (inaudible) schools. Do you have concerns about how that (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: What is plain yesterday is that the summit seemed to pick up a suggestion which we’ve been making for some time from the Opposition. That is that we think that in the school curriculum there needs to be programs associated with respect, teaching respect; respect for each other; respect for the community; respect for Australian values. It does seem as though the summit picked up that idea yesterday and I think that’s very important. This is important not just in Muslim schools, it’s important in all our schools.

JOURNALIST: But you wouldn’t support (inaudible) if you like, keeping an eye on, you know, activities (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: Let’s get a really decent curriculum out there. Let’s get that respect for each other. Let’s make sure than any Aussie kid who goes through a school - whether it’s a Muslim school, a Christian school or a public school - emerges from that with a solid tolerance for everybody else in that society and respect for our values of mateship and democracy. I think that’s the important thing to do.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Mr Howard’s (inaudible) targeting (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: No, no. I mean, what we’re doing here is important in the struggle with terror. It’s not the only thing, I might say. I think some of the more defensive measures associated with what goes on in our ports, our railways, our

communications facilities, not enough is being done there. But nevertheless, that awaits another day and another conversation. In the meantime, yesterday, good start.

JOURNALIST: How (inaudible) the Government (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: Look, Barnaby Joyce has got to do what he told the Queensland people he would do and if he doesn’t do it he’s finished.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) on Osama bin Laden (inaudible) is there anything (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: If I was I wouldn’t be having a chat with you about it.