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Transcript of press conference: Parliament House, Canberra: 4 December 2006: Final press conference.

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Subjects: Final Press Conference

BEAZLEY: Well, thank you very much for being here today. This is my last press conference as the Leader of the Labor Party, I suppose. My commission has been terminated and Caucus, as you know, decided to change leadership to Kevin Rudd.

I said to the Caucus today that the Labor Party needed to get in behind Kevin Rudd and give him the best chance he possibly can of becoming the next Prime Minister of this country. Kevin is a very able man, a very intelligent man with a very wide base of knowledge and an absolute determination to do the right thing for the Australian people. He’ll be a very good Leader of the Australian Labor Party. He will take us to victory at the next election. I wanted to stay and finish

the job but that was not to be. We will win the next election. The public mood has changed. The public has come to understand that John Howard is no longer on their side. There is major product differentiation now in policy between the

Australian Labor Party and our political opponents. I take some pride in that.

In my many years too long in Opposition there has never been such a clear-cut position between the parties and it’s never been so clear that the Australian Labor Party is on the side of middle Australia. Central to that, of course, is the

industrial relations issue. Since John Howard and his Government passed those industrial relations laws the Labor Party has been consistently ahead in the polls.

Frequently you’ve heard me say I’m not a poll analyst. I am now a poll analyst. John Howard has been consistently behind for the bulk of the period of time since he introduced those industrial relations laws and he is behind because ordinary Australians understand absolutely how unfair these laws are for them and this will, in the end, finish this Government.

But we in the Labor Party will need to be solidly behind Kevin because John Howard is the most formidable conservative politician of his generation. The most formidable conservative politician I have served in Parliament with. He is not going to be an easy man to beat. He’ll not be beaten by a rabble. He will only be beaten by an absolutely united team. So, it is critical that out of these

changes which will occur over the course of the next few days on the front bench, that Labor emerges strongly united behind their new leadership.

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved for this country and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved for the Party. I want to be remembered as a man obsessed with nation building. I want to be proud to be the man who made Labor competitive again after a bad loss.

I want to thank in particular my colleagues in the union movement with whom we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder since the last election. I thank, in particular, those many leaders in the union movement who’ve come out in the last few days and said kindly things about me. They are the salt of the earth. They do things for members without regard to their own prosperity and with an absolute determination to see that a fair go, the notion of a fair go, which used to so encapsulate Australian values, still has some resonance left in the Australian workplace.

I want to thank, in particular, my staff. I’ve been in politics a long time. I’ve never had a better staff. It’s the staff totally focussed on getting in place the plans, the blueprints, the policies that this nation needed for nation building. And that solid base is still there. That solid base is there for Kevin to work on as Party Leader

in the remaining seven or eight months of this Parliament.

I want to thank, too, my Caucus colleagues. I’ve been in the Caucus a long time and I’ve always enjoyed the company of my Caucus friends. They are a very good bunch and they deserve the opportunities that Government will bring them.

I want to thank the Party organisation, too. They are an effective Party organisation as evidenced by the fact that we govern in every State.

Finally, I thank Susie and my family. Family is everything. Over to you for questions.

JOURNALIST: What about your own political future, Mr Beazley?

BEAZLEY: Well, for me to do anything further in the Australian Labor Party, I would say would be Lazarus with a quadruple bypass. And so the time has come for me to move on. But when that gets properly formalised, I’ll let you know.

JOURNALIST: Would you be seeking a role on the front bench?

BEAZLEY: No. No, I think the time has come for the Labor Party, having made a decisive decision to turn to a new generation, to turn to a new generation and I have no part in that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, do you have any regrets at all?

BEAZLEY: Regrets, after 25 years in politics? I’d go for 25 years in politics without a single regret? Only about 4,332 of them.

JOURNALIST: When you say new generation, Mr Beazley, does that mean a total revamp of the front bench to reflect that?

BEAZLEY: Look, the opportunity is there for Caucus colleagues now to sit down and look at what we need to do to get in place the right team for the next eight months. But I wouldn’t presume to advise them on what the personnel of that should be and what the structure should be. That’s a matter for the Kevin and my colleagues. I won’t be on it.

BEAZLEY: Are you suggesting that you’re likely to retire from your seat before the next election?

BEAZLEY: I haven’t given any of these things thought, Karen. I’ll think about those issues over the course of the next days and months.

JOURNALIST: What do you see as Labor’s biggest challenge now?

BEAZLEY: Winning the election. Look we actually have, I think, a set of plans that reflect that product differentiation I talked about. We’ve got the policies now on issues related to industrial relations; on global warming; on skills; on infrastructure; on alternative fuels; on broadband, on childcare. All of these policies are exactly what this country wants. It’s why I believe we’re ahead in the polls now and we’ll stay there. There’ll be an awful of difficulty, of course, in the political interchange that occurs between us and our political opponents, they’re not going to lie down and die for us. But the effect of these policies, put in the right hands, will see victory for us. And Kevin has got a lot to work on and he’s

got a lot of ability himself in order to be able to deliver on it.

JOURNALIST: Jenny Macklin (inaudible)?

BEAZLEY: I want to say about Jenny, you could not want a more loyal deputy. She is just terrific. You could not want a better policy head than Jenny’s. I commend to you that magnificent White Paper that she wrote on higher education, she wrote that White Paper. And that also is a very good basis for policy to be developed in that area. Jenny has served as Deputy to three Leaders. She has been an absolute tower of strength to me, very small tower, but nevertheless, a very solid tower of strength for me. And I’m sorry she felt constrained to go but I understand completely why she did.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, I’m told you got some bad news this morning?

BEAZLEY: Let’s leave that, if you don’t mind.