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South Australian Submarine Corporation, Adelaide, 9 October 1997: transcript of joint doorstop [Topics: Unemployment figures; SA election issues; Constitutional Convention; New federal ministry; Ekkart Arbeit]


JOURNALIST: Glad to be in South Australia, Mr Beazley?

BEAZLEY: Always good to be in South Australia. The reason why I'm here is to recommit us to the acquisition of two extra submarines. Jobs is the key issue in South Australia and defence industries is central to jobs in South Australia and the submarines are central to defence industry in South Australia. And unless there's a good Labor showing on Saturday, the pressure will not be on for the Federal Government to take the decision it should have taken months ago. There are real risks now that people are going to be laid off here, reals risks that what is an industry which is at the cutting edge of Australian technology will be diminished unnecessarily. The decision has to be taken that this is a Federal Government that only responds to political pressure and the only political pressure that's around on the horizon is the opportunity to ensure no Liberal landslide, with a strong Labor vote on Saturday.

JOURNALIST: What are your comments about today's unemployment figures?

BEAZLEY: Well, the overall position is pretty much as people expected, the numbers bounce around. It's not good enough if we'd had a no-change policy position at the last election and there'd been a Labor Government re-elected, the unemployment numbers would been well south of here, But though, in some ways, there is a welcome increase in jobs this month nationally, as far as South Australia is concerned, it's all bad news. It shows that those bad unemployment numbers here in South Australia have become frozen. It shows that in the last three and a half years of Liberal Government in South Australia the position has actually not improved, but got marginally worse. And there has to be a jobs strategy here if there's going to be any getting to grips with this problem, young people being given an opportunity and workers who've devoted their lives to getting skills, having an opportunity to exercise those skills.

JOURNALIST: Nationally though, has Amanda Vanstone's job drought broken?

BEAZLEY: No, I don't think so. If you take a look at it, these figures bounce around for months and months. What's happened here is that the last two months, which were unexpectedly low, have been corrected. What's happening now is the numbers are bouncing around the eight per cent mark, eight and a half per cent mark. And that's just no good. There's no ambition in that. If we had not had the sorts of destructive policies that this Government has been putting in place, we had authoritative estimates that by the end of this Parliamentary term the unemployment numbers in this country would have been around about the six per cent mark. There is just going to be no prospect of achieving that with the sorts of policies that we have in place here in this nation.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, do you have any thoughts on the Prime Minister's decision not to show up in South Australia for the campaign?

BEAZLEY: Well, he's got not much to say here, that's the truth of the matter. South Australia has borne a disproportionate burden of the regional cuts that have been associated with the Federal Government's policies. Everybody knows they over- cooked their last two budgets, everyone knows that now. And Australians have paid a major penalty as a result of that. So, he has very little to say here and as a result of that, I'm not surprised he doesn't turn up.

JOURNALIST: You'd have to concede, though, that Labor didn't do a very good job in their last term?

BEAZLEY: That's dwelling a fair bit on the past, isn't it. I mean, are we going to look to what the future of this State is, or are we going to keep dwelling on the past? I mean, the simple fact of the matter here is you have the worst Liberal Government in the country, there's no argument about that. It's divided and they're more concerned with each others jobs than the jobs in South Australia. That's the truth of the matter. Every South Australian knows that and there's no reason for South Australians to keep punishing themselves.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, on that issue of the past, do you think South Australians have forgiven the Labor Party over the State Bank?

BEAZLEY: Look, the Labor Party fights this election as an underdog. There's no question about that. We got a belting here at the last election. The problem is this: if the Liberals get a landslide on Saturday, the appalling performance of the last four years will continue, you can guarantee that. And this extraordinary arrogance on the part of the Liberal Party, where they think they can afford attacking each other and ignoring what's going on in the State, will simply continue. And apart from that, there'll be no pressure on the Federal Government to do the sorts of things they ought to do in relation to both this issue of the extra submarines, and, I might say, also, the Darwin to Alice Springs railway line. Now, we welcomed that initiative when that initiative occurred. But I've got to say that every single set of figures that I've seen about that Darwin to Alice Springs railway line suggests that $300 million ain't quite enough. Now, we don't want to see that disappear, as the snow in spring, once the election's over.

JOURNALIST: ... think South Australians have forgiven the Labor Party?

BEAZLEY: Well, you'll find out, I suppose, to some extent, on Saturday. I'm not a prophet.

JOURNALIST: You can't be really expecting a Liberal landslide, though? I mean, you must be expecting to claw back some seats.

BEAZLEY: Well, the Liberals have got three quarters of the seats in the State Parliament here. Now, does anybody think they would deserve it? Does anybody think they deserve to be in that position, three quarters of the seats with the sorts of performance they've put up? But it also means, of course, the logic of that is that the Labor Party fights this election from a very much underdog position.

JOURNALIST: Do you think South Australians have got much of a choice when you've got two Leaders battling out their personal differences in court?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think South Australians found out the choice they had a day or two ago. What they found out is what I've known for a long time. And that is that they've got in the Labor Party Leader in this State, a bloke who can cut the mustard. Now, it's not ... winning a debate is one thing in politics. But it's what it symbolises that's important. How you advocate the case of your State at Premiers' Conferences, how you advocate the case of your state when businesses are taking decisions about where in Australia they're going to invest, how you advocate the case of your State when you've got a Federal Government hell bent on taking decisions that are against your interests. What everybody in South Australia found out in the debate this week is that John Olsen can't cut the mustard but Mike Rann can.

JOURNALIST: Can we ask Mr Rann about the job figures ...

RANN: I think that today's figures, which show a return to the highest unemployment on the mainland and the highest youth unemployment on the mainland, just underline my view that we've actually got to be bigger than the bickering of the past and the divisions of the past. One of the things that I've said, is it's imperative for us, if we win the election, to call together a jobs and growth summit to bring in together the Leaders of all political parties, the leaders of unions, business, particularly small business, and to agree on a charter for growth in this State that we can all sign off on. Now, I'm prepared to be part of that process, win or lose, come Saturday, because it's the big issue. We need a common cause for our kids and a common cause to give our kids jobs in this State, not have to go interstate to find work. And that is our central pledge. We've announced some very bold plans, very bold tax plans, in order to give tax breaks to industries to take on workers. Our First Start Scheme, which is aimed at employing 2000 young people a year, there is no more chance or opportunity in this State than now to come together and fight to create jobs. We cannot afford a government that is totally divided. A divided government isn't going to be able to achieve anything other than scrambling and fighting amongst themselves for their own jobs. I guess my plea to the Liberals is that we have got to concentrate on the main issue, and the main issue is jobs and I'm prepared to be part of that process. The Labor Party has come out with a very bold plan for jobs growth - our enterprise zone, our First Start Scheme, our tax breaks to help small business. What we need is bold strokes and a vision for the future, not more tinkering around the edges.

JOURNALIST: Were you surprised by the increase in youth unemployment?

RANN: Well, I think that the message that we've been getting out in the electorate from parents means that we weren't surprised. I mean, parents are saying to me constantly, 'look, will my kids have to go interstate to find work? Will the only road for their future be the road to the eastern States?' And so, the youth unemployment issue is the critical issue facing us as we go into a new century. But it's not just youth unemployment, it's also mature aged unemployed. That question of jobs security. And we've got to really try to instil some confidence and growth in our economy and we can only instil confidence and growth if we have a united front for jobs, not a divided government.

JOURNALIST: How damaging are these figures to the Premier?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think it's damaging for the State. I mean, what it shows is that since the last election there are now 2000 less jobs in this State than there were less full time jobs. And what it's also showing, of course, is that growth is basically zero. I mean, the last two quarters we've seen negative growth in South Australia. South Australia cannot afford negative growth. We've got to start building some confidence in the system and you can only build confidence if you have a united front.

JOURNALIST: Was it a risky strategy for Mr Olsen to call the election, knowing that these figures would be out just days before the poll?

RANN: Look, you'd have to talk to him. I mean, I just think that this is an issue that is beyond politics in the sense that after the election all of us have to combine to work together to create jobs. We're a very small State in a very vulnerable position. We have to embrace business, embrace unions, embrace small business and bring the leaders of all political parties around the table in a recovery summit and together, even if we have to knock a few heads together during that week, reach an agreement for jobs growth that we can all sign off on. I don't believe that's beyond us.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, ... Robert Ray's comments in The Australian today in relation to the Constitutional Convention and the election of a president, or a head of state?

BEAZLEY: Oh, look, there'll be about three propositions. That's one of them that'll be put the Constitutional Convention when it occurs and no doubt there'll be an awful lot of discussion held at the time. At the moment now there's a republican team out there and they're running just on the basic principle of whether or not Australia should have its own head of state. And our concentration is on that at this point.

JOURNALIST: What's your personal view? Should it be elected by Parliament or the people?

BEAZLEY: I thought that a reasonably robust model was put up by the previous Prime Minister. But we have an open mind on that. I think that, when you sit down and work your way through it, there's a good logic behind it. But I thoroughly accept the view that other people might have a different view. We'll have the opportunity to deliberate on that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, is Mr Rann's jobs summit concept the kind of thing which Labor could look at federally following the next federal election?

BEAZLEY: We've got to take one step at a time, I think it's brilliant. I think it's unselfish. I think it reflects a constructive attitude. From our point of view, the first step that we are taking as far a unemployment is concerned, in South Australia, is to do what no federal party has ever done before, and in the case of South Australia, and in the case of Tasmania, to develop a national state-based strategy to put in place the mechanisms for job growth, so that's the first thing that we're concentrating on, and I'll be very interested to see what comes out of the South Australian process as we sit down to put the finishing touches on there.

JOURNALIST: ... last Sunday that Newcastle, that Federal Labor supported the concept of Newcastle becoming a special free trade zone. Isn't there a problem inherent with that in so far as why can't we have one in this part of the country, or why can't we have one in Tasmania?

BEAZLEY: Foreign trade zone it was, not free trade zone. It's a slightly different matter, and it's the idea of manufacturing in bond, and the United States has done this very well in reviving manufacturing industries in different parts of the country. They've got some five hundred of them. You'd have to start up slowly to experiment with them and Newcastle is an obvious case in point as to where you'd start, but you wouldn't limit yourself to that and that would be part of the sorts of considerations that we'd have in relation to a jobs program in South Australia.

RANN: We've already announced at the state level our concept of enterprise zones in places like Whyalla and Port Augusta and Port Pirie and also in the southern suburbs around the Noarlunga area. And these are state-based zones, ten year exemptions from state taxes for industries that relocate and add value in terms of technology and jobs. So we regard our own concept of enterprise zones the first time it's ever been tried in Australia based on successful United States and British models and we think we've got to try some of these kind of bold strokes to create jobs. I guess the other point too, about today, is that in the past that Kim Beazley and I worked on the submarine project some ten years ago, and it's an example of Labor governments at federal and state level - what we can achieve in regional economies, such as South Australia - when we work together. When we work together for jobs. This is a shining example of a Labor commitment that was delivered here in South Australia that needs to deliver again.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, the Howard Government's three new ministers have been sworn in, are they going to be sort of left to get on with their jobs for a while, into the business of running the country, or what's going to be the attitude there?

BEAZLEY: It's a bit of weakness on his part, he was very critical about the size of Mr Keating's government and if you count the Parliamentary Secretaries he's now produced a larger one. Now, they're administering 30,000 fewer public servants. The only people who haven't lost jobs at the federal level are members of the Liberal backbench. Jobs and job opportunities for Liberal Party backbenchers was what Mr Howard's reshuffle was about and an unwillingness to take hard decisions. Ministers who should have gone did not go and other Ministers were added. More people in line for the benefits of ministries with no work to be done and this is a very bad move on his part.

JOURNALIST: And you wouldn't be going easy on the newcomers?

BEAZLEY: We certainly wouldn't be going easy on the newcomers, but there's such a lot of them. You know, it's so hard to pick you targets. It's such a huge Ministry we deal with now and I've been trying to set an example with a small, tight, opposition front bench but it's obviously not an example being followed.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rann's promising a ten Minister Labor Government in South Australia. What would your figure be at a federal level under a Labor administration.

BEAZLEY: Well, if he wants to actually perform as effectively as this Government has, he could probably limit himself to two. But he is obviously a more restrained man than that and he wants to do a deal better. Is it an example for us in Federal Government? Mike sets plenty of examples for us in Federal Government and I suspect that might end up being one of them.

JOURNALIST: Does this State election have any implications federally?

BEAZLEY: No, it's a State election about State details in terms of, you know, how you might measure a federal vote. But, does it have implications federally in industry terms, yes, massively. If there is a good showing from Labor in this election it will increase the Federal Government's nervousness no end and you might see an extra couple of submarines as a result of it.

JOURNALIST: Any comments on the appointment of the German athletics coach and what the Government is doing about it?

BEAZLEY: Well, I agree with what the Government is doing about it. I don't think that this appointment should go ahead without more detailed examination. The East Germans cheated in the 1970s and 80s and they cheated in a way which threatened the health of young people all over the world and anybody who has been involved in that process requires some detailed inquiry as to his past before he's appointed.

JOURNALIST: Should it be more than just a review though?

BEAZLEY: Well, let's see what the outcome of the review is. I think it would want to be pretty detailed and I think you'd want to have a fairly good explanation as to what his role has been. And it's just grand scale cheating by the East Germans, that's been revealed. People actually knew it at the time, but they couldn't prove it, it's now proven, and the consequences of that for health of kids around the world is just appalling.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, what exactly will you be saying at the Sub Corp today.

BEAZLEY: Well, I'll be saying at the Sub Corp all the things that I like to say at the Sub Corp which is at the cutting edge of Australia's defence. This is at the cutting edge of Australia's industry. We haven't got enough of them.

JOURNALIST: inaudible

BEAZLEY: Well, I think they have to. But unfortunately it's a decision they should have taken six months ago. Now the weights got to come on. There's only one thing on the horizon which will put the weight on them and that's this Saturday's vote.

JOURNALIST: When you were in Government you wouldn't purchase the two extra subs. Why have you changed your tune now?

BEAZLEY: We didn't have to take the decision at that point of time. The reason why the decision has to be taken now is that they will start shortly to run down the workforce, skills will be lost, costs of start up will be greater. The decision was delayed as they looked at the costs involved, with the Department of Defence, in doing it. The costs are easily contained. They hit a maximum, I think, in about 2002/2003 of about $150 million, and that in an equipment defence budget of over $3 billion is easy to sustain. They ought now to get on with it, and if they don't get on with it there'll be a big penalty to be paid at startup.

JOURNALIST: So, you're saying Mr Beazley, send a message to Canberra over the submarines, vote for Labor at a state level?

BEAZLEY: Yes, I'd send it on two things. Firstly, I'd say send a message on the submarines. I also think you actually have to send a message on the Darwin to Alice Springs railway line. As I said, I welcome very much the decisions that the Governments took to put money into it. Unfortunately, on all the reckoning I have seen to that point, including that presented by the state governments themselves, a greater contribution was required to get it off the ground. Now, I'm happy enough for it to be tested, but my fear is that once the elections are over, we've already had the Northern Territory election, now we have the South Australian one, it will disappear like the snow in spring and I'm very committed to that railway line. It's a long standing personal commitment of mine and I want to see it go ahead and we need to make sure that people are kept up to the mark on that. Now, I believe if Labor has a good showing it will refocus the Federal Government's attention on South Australia and that will be very much to the benefit of all these projects.

JOURNALIST: Would you have to concede though, Mr Beazley, that if you add the rail link funding to the decision that Mr Howard took to freeze tariffs and also the pretty high level of representation that South Australia still has on the front bench with people such as Alexander Downer and so forth, that they are going in to bat for Adelaide ... that the Howard Government has contributed more money to the rail link and done more to assuage fears about tariffs than the Hawke or Keating governments did?

BEAZLEY: As I recollect it, we put up in today dollar terms, something like $400 million for the rail link and Porky Everingham turned us down. That's my recollection of the Hawke contribution. As far as that was concerned. You know what they would do with that $400 million now, what the Northern Territory Government did at the time is spend it on a monumental Parliament House, that's what they did, and they haven't really been sufficiently politically flogged for it, to my mind. So, we certainly put our money where our mouth was at that point of time, but now the case is clear, I've always maintained that the case is beyond the commercial issue, the case has to be made in defence terms as well, and if you make it in defence terms what I think is an appropriate contribution by the Commonwealth Government comes to about three quarters of the price of a frigate, and that seems to me eminently reasonable. Now, what this Government has done for South Australia, the changes they've made on textiles and on cars, who put the weights on, and is exactly the point I am making. They had a totally different attitude until we started to soccer them around, and when we started to soccer them around then they responded. It was good enough for us to get a good decision on cars and on textiles, but it hasn't been good enough yet to get the right decision on submarines. It needs a bit of heft on Saturday, to get that one through.

JOURNALIST: Just on the South Australians on the frontbench, do you have any thoughts on the demotion of Senator Vanstone and the promotion of Senator Minchin and the potential for that to unleash some of the tribalisms locally?

BEAZLEY: Well, in the case of Senator Vanstone, the demotion is not far enough so she continue with no useful role at public expense, which is pretty unacceptable. In the case of Mr Downer, the opportunity for demotion was not taken, and that's unfortunate. In the promotion of Senator Minchin I fear for democracy. So, I don't see much good news coming out of all of this despite the eminently sensible location of those Ministers.