Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Parliament House, 19 September 1996: transcript of doorstop [Senator Harradine, Senator Herron, industrial relations]



JOURNALIST: First of all, Mr Costello said in the House yesterday that the Government really isn't interested in the idea of redeemable preference shares, which would indicate that they're not interested in Senator Harradine's proposal. What do you think is going to happen from now?

BEAZLEY: Well, I think, obviously, Senator Harradine feels he's been treated discourteously. I think that Mr Costello's response was a piece of his general attitude - he's right and everybody else is wrong, and he charges on ahead. And in this case, I think he's been a bit silly.

JOURNALIST: What impact do you think it might have then on the vote in the long term?

BEAZLEY: For that, you'll have to ask Senator Harradine. Our position is quite clear cut. We're going to oppose this legislation.

JOURNALIST: And Senator Herron's in trouble again, it seems.

BEAZLEY: Yes. Senator Herron basically has the Midas touch of failure when it comes to policy in his portfolio area. He cannot get anything right, which is why we're always very suspicious when Senator Herron stands up and says he's going to have an initiative on this or that. We know from experience now, of six months experience, that most likely it's a mess.

JOURNALIST: Well, what do you think that Senator Herron should do now? There have been some calls for him to resign - from the Democrats?

BEAZLEY: Well, I did call once for Senator Herron's resignation. It didn't have much effect at that point of time. I think that one of the things that we've done very usefully since we've been in Opposition, has been, via Daryl Melham, our very good spokesman in the area, to get issues up which eventually, at the end of the day, Senator Herron and others in the Government see the common sense of. And I guess we'll just keep doing that.

JOURNALIST: So you're not calling for his resignation?

BEAZLEY: No, as I've said, I've already done that once before. The Liberal Party stick to their failures like glue. So calling for his resignation, in that sense, is, I suppose, to a degree, superfluous. We simply say that we will do our level best to ensure there's always a corrective to him in the process somewhere along the line.

JOURNALIST: Well, what does he do then now on ATSIC funding, after the Federal Court ruling?

BEAZLEY: Well, he will obviously have to leave them alone. I mean, that is the first thing that is obvious from that. The second is that they're obviously, where they have internal problems, quite capable of dealing with them themselves. Identifying them and dealing with them. And they're getting on with that process now.

JOURNALIST: So, Senator Herron then should heed the advice of the Federal Court, do you think, or do you think he should ...

BEAZLEY: I don't think he's got much choice.

JOURNALIST: He's looking at possibly, you know, legal action though, legal changes to the decision.

BEAZLEY: Well, he may well be doing it, but I doubt he'll succeed.

JOURNALIST: So, what's on the issue of industrial relations? John Howard is, as we know, over in Japan and he's going to be talking up micro-economic reform. But it's understood that Japanese business is concerned about the amount of industrial disputes in this country. Peter Reith has tried to deflect that this morning. Do you think Japanese business has a cause to be concerned?

BEAZLEY: Look, two things. John Howard's spending his time in Asia conducting an Australian political debate. He has not taken Australia's needs for engagement in the region in order to improve our economic prospects in the region. And that translates back into jobs here. He's not pursued the role traditionally of Liberal and Labor Prime Ministers over the years, of advancing Australian interests in the area. He's been talking purely, as far as any of us can see, about Australian domestic politics. This visit is a tremendous failure. Now, insofar as we managed, over the years, to get Japanese business to set aside their concerns about Australian industrial relations, they have, in the course of these six months, wrecked an awful lot of our good work. They have been provocative in industrial relations and, as a result of their provocativeness, those bad figures that we thought we'd left behind ten years ago on industrial disputation, are beginning to come back again. Now, there is one bunch at fault for this and one bunch only. And that is the Government.

JOURNALIST: What about him talking with Japan about possibly opening up areas of trade with the US at APEC?

BEAZLEY: Well, there is a task always to be done at APEC. The task that we took upon ourselves at APEC was to ensure that our own initiatives in opening up the Australian economy to competition in making us a more effective, competitive country in the region around us, was honoured by reciprocal activities from other members of APEC. Now, insofar as John Howard is able to be successful, it will be by building along those sorts of initiatives. And that's what we've got to be driving at now in APEC over the next few years, driving and seeing our commitment on it by other people taking similar bilateral or unilateral steps themselves.

JOURNALIST: What do you think about the latest reports on health insurance funds? They're going down to ...

BEAZLEY: The latest reports on ...

JOURNALIST: There seems to be some reports that with insurance rates, some companies are putting up higher insurance rates, others will drop theirs and that there's going to be an even bigger difference.

BEAZLEY: I think that there is an intention on the part of this Government over time to walk back from community rating, as far as private health insurance is concerned. One of the reasons why they've been so sloppy about allowing the insurance companies to, very quickly, start claiming the bulk of this rebate, is that they are more concerned about the funds than they are about the people who use them. And they hope that, via this process, they're going to be able to get health insurance funds to offer lower premiums to younger and non-family people. The impact of that, of course, will be to keep up, over time, insurance rates and perhaps even to increase insurance premium rates for those who are elderly and those in families. Not a terribly good outcome.