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Transcript of doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra: Monday 29 September, 2003 :Ministerial reshuffle.



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Wayne Swan MP Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA, MONDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2003 - E & OE - PROOF ONLY

SUBJECT: MINISTERIAL RESHUFFLE

SWAN: I just want to say a few words about the reshuffle. When you have a look at it, it’s the same old teapot, just different cosies and they don’t fit. How you could possibly put Senator Patterson into Families after she has failed in Health. She had brought user pays to health, where people have to pay and pay and pay to use the heath system.

After failing in Health, you could move her sideways into Families - I just can’t imagine how low a regard John Howard has for Australian families, taking his most significantly failed Cabinet Minister and placing her in the critical Families portfolio.

It really does beggar belief and I hope Australian families don’t get the same treatment she was handing out in the health system, because in the health system families have paid and paid. She has created a three-tiered health system, now she’s moving to Families. The person who has stripped Medicare has now been put in charge of families whose tax returns the Government has stripped. I don’t see that we’re going to have much improvement when it comes to families.

I also think its pretty interesting to see that three of the senior Ministers who the Opposition has targeted in Parliament and put under very considerable pressure have been moved in this reshuffle - Senator Vanstone, Senator Patterson and Minister Ruddock. All three have had to be moved because we’ve had strong and effective opposition in the Parliament. That has produced this outcome today. But I don’t know if, for example, putting Dr Abbott into Health - in there kicking heads in the health system - is necessarily going to be good for the health of Australian families. So that ‘s why I say: same old teapot, different cosies that don’t fit.

John Howard is famous for putting square pegs in round holes. We’ve seen that, for example, with Danna Vale who has had responsibilities removed. It’s a good thing that Wilson Tuckey is leaving us, but many more should also be leaving, because there are many more incompetent Ministers in this Government who are causing tremendous damage in the community.

JOURNALIST: The Government’s done something about its duds. Is Labor going to do something about theirs?

SWAN: Well, we had a reshuffle not too long ago, and I don’t believe we have duds; we have a very strong frontbench, as you know.

JOURNALIST: Not one dud?

SWAN: Not one dud.

JOURNALIST: Do you think this has shored up Simon Crean’s position in the Caucus?

SWAN: Hey, we are here talking about the Government, thanks very much. We’ve put pressure on three very senior Ministers - they’ve all been moved. You are all aware how we have targeted Senator Vanstone, how we’ve targeted Senator Patterson and how we’ve targeted effectively in the Parliament, Mr Ruddock. Today they’ve been moved.

They’ve been moved because we’ve held this Government accountable in the Parliament. That’s why they’ve been moved, and that’s a good thing. But the problem here is that there has not been an improvement. I mean, putting Abbott into health is one that all Australian families should feel nervous about. Putting Senator Vanstone into immigration - the most heartless Minister in the Government, the meanest Minister in the Government - says a lot about its social priorities. But to put the most significant failure in Cabinet in charge of family policy just beggars belief.

JOURNALIST: Doesn’t that just make your job easier?

SWAN: My job is to get a good outcome for families, it’s not to score political points. The problem at the moment is that Australian families; through the stripping of their tax returns, through the flaws in the family payment system, through the targeting of carers of disabled children, through the attack on pensioners, are suffering.

What we require in the Families portfolio is a highly competent and committed Minister. What we’ve got now is someone the Prime Minister regarded as a failure in Health, who introduced user pays and as recently as last week, who went out and said the Government’s no longer going to provide free immunisation for Australian kids for two very serious diseases. And her reward for doing that is to be promoted to the Families portfolio. It just beggars belief.

JOURNALIST: Do you regard it as a promotion for Senator Patterson?

SWAN: Well it’s certainly not a demotion. I naturally regard the Families portfolio as one of the most important in the Government. It is one-third of the national Budget. Senator Vanstone has been in there attacking the most vulnerable people in our community at the same time Senator Patterson in Health has been stripping away the essence of Medicare. She then, for her incompetence, gets moved to Families. Well that’s not good enough, because Australian families deserve better.

ENDS Monday 29 Sept 03 Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329

Web: www.SwanMP.org Michael Lye on 0407 012 088