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Wollongong Police Station: transcript of joint doorstop: Community Safety Zones; Peter Wilson; US docks lockout; Iraq and party reform.

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Subjects: Community Safety Zones; Peter Wilson; US Docks lockout; Iraq and Party Reform.

CARR: We’re happy to come here today. I’m happy to make a modest announcement, and it highlights the opportunities we’ve got for solving problems and achieving safer communities, working in cooperation with the Federal Government.

We want to announce that we’re developing a new crime-prevention plan for north Illawarra so that suburbs like Corrimal, Port Kembla, Warilla and others will benefit from a plan tailored to its needs.

In other parts of New South Wales where we’ve introduced crime-prevention plans, we’ve had programs to solve the problems of domestic violence. We’ve had assistance to youth programs, like Police Citizens Youth Clubs. We’ve had peer education and mentoring programs, drug-free dance parties. It is practical crime prevention, and we’ll be developing a package of such measures here as well.

But it would be a wonderful boost to have a Federal Government that cooperated with us on community safety.

CREAN: Thanks, Bob. Well, I might invite Sharon to speak first, because I think this issue has arisen in discussions she’s been having. So I’ll invite Sharon to speak and then I’ll speak after that.

BIRD: Thanks, Simon. I’ve spent up to six weeks now talking to the electors in Cunningham. Can I say that one of the issues that they’re raising, particularly in the last few weeks as we’ve been doorknocking Wollongong itself, is their concerns about improving safety on the streets. And what impressed me was a lot of the community members had ideas and proposals and positive thoughts to


put forward. And this seemed to match very closely to what Mark Latham and Simon Crean were talking about.

So I’m very pleased to have them here today, and I thank Simon and I thank Mark for their efforts. And we’ve got a lot to offer in Wollongong, and I’m happy to hand over to Simon to talk about how we might participate in that process.

CREAN: Last June, I announced a commitment by the Federal Labor Party to involve itself in improving community safety, making community streets safer.

I announced a commitment by the Federal Labor Party to support Community Safety Zones, working with State, Federal and local governments to address issues identified by the community of concern to them, a community-driven agenda that’s responded to by the three tiers of government working together.

When I had the reshuffle in my Shadow Ministry, I also made Mark Latham responsible as part of the broader economic ownership portfolio for community safety and community security.

Community Safety Zones are an important part of that. So too is a purpose-built Coastguard to stop the gun-runners and the drug-runners - quite apart from the issues associated with other issues of border protection.

In essence, the Community Safety Zones are a security solution for communities. They recognise that the problem is a national one, even though primary responsibility is through State Government. But we know the police resources are stretched. We know that communities are calling out for more innovative, more creative solutions.

Labor will support the development of those solutions. And we have identified Wollongong as an area for the development of a Community Safety Zone. We will be continuing to talk to the community about practical solutions.

JOURNALIST: How’ve you managed to identify Wollongong, given that for assault, robbery and sexual assault, it doesn’t even rate in the top 25 in New South Wales?

CREAN: Wollongong has identified it itself, as Sharon has indicated from the discussions that she’s been having. People are concerned about their safety, about being able to walk the streets, particularly at trouble spots. Friday, Saturday nights when the pubs …

JOURNALIST: The statistics don’t bear that out, where it doesn’t even rank in the top 25 in New South Wales for assault and robbery.

CREAN: That’s a very interesting issue, this thing of statistics. I’ve heard it argued that the GST didn’t put the price of groceries up, but no pensioner


believed that. And if what you’ve got to deal with is community concerns and community perceptions, that’s something that should be responded to in a positive way.

I believe that politics has to be more effectively about representing communities. We need a local champion representing them in the Parliament, but we need to respond to their needs, their concerns. This has come up in the discussions that we’ve been having. The policy framework announced in June provided the basis for developing it, and I’m more than happy to further pursue it.

JOURNALIST: If there’s such a community concern, why doesn’t your candidate mention it in her list of concerns after doorknocking 10,000 houses?

CREAN: Well, I think that you can direct that question to Sharon as well. But the point that she’s indicated to me is that, apart from the survey, she’s been doing a lot of telephoning. And this is an issue, when people are being talked through the other concerns, they come around to. They say they’re not feeling safe, and they want something done.

Now I don’t believe that’s an issue that we could, that we should buck-pass. It could have been easy for us to say, this is something we don’t get involved in because it’s a State Government responsibility. People want a solution, they don’t want the issue buck-passed. And I’m prepared to be part of that solution, cooperatively working with the State and local governments.

It’s about time someone in Canberra stood up for the victims of crime. It’s about time that someone in Canberra said they were committed to making our communities and our streets safer, and I’m prepared to do that and develop this policy accordingly.

JOURNALIST: Wouldn’t it be more responsible to correct the perception if it’s not in line with the actual statistics?

CREAN: No, I think that we’ve got to accept that if people don’t feel safe walking on the streets, we’ve got to come up with some practical solutions to address it. That’s what this is about. It’s about preventative steps, but it’s about addressing community concerns in a practical way.

JOURNALIST: Police Commissioner Ken Moroney says he’s not comfortable with the police being used to advance political causes. Are you comfortable being here, using the Wollongong Police Station to advance your political cause?

CREAN: This is a community cause. This has been identified by the community. This is something that’s calling out for a solution, and we’re prepared …


JOURNALIST: But the Police Commissioner said he doesn’t like the police being used in political events like this. Should the Commissioner’s wishes be respected in terms of politicians leaving the police alone?

CREAN: Well, of course the Commissioner’s wishes should be respected, but let’s understand what we’re doing here. This is responding to an issue identified by the community. This is responding in a practical way. This is working cooperatively. And I think the vast majority of people want to see governments working together, working together to solve their problems, not just passing the solution off to someone else. In the end, we’re going to be judged by coming up with the solution. And that’s what we’re about today.

JOURNALIST: Why did you come to the police station to do that?

CREAN: Well, because the issue of community safety relates to a whole range of things, not least the role of the police. And it means communities working better with the police. Here, as in every other State, there is much greater cooperation these days between the police forces working with communities addressing the problems. I applaud that. It is the direction that needs to be pursued, but we can help them better. We can help them by assisting them with the resources and the solutions and the coordinations. They are political issues. That’s what politicians should be doing.

JOURNALIST: Is it appropriate that the impartiality of the police be used to support your by-election candidate as you’re doing here today, which the Commissioner has expressed grave reservations about and says he doesn’t like it?

CREAN: The solution that we’re proposing today is about meeting the community’s needs, the community’s concerns.

JOURNALIST: But why are the police involved in your announcements?

CREAN: Well, they’re not involved.

JOURNALIST: Well, we’re standing out the front of a police station.

CREAN: Well, of course we are, because it’s to do with community safety - just as if we were making an announcement about health we’d probably be standing outside a hospital; if we were making one about education, we’d probably be standing outside of a school. I hardly find that strange.

JOURNALIST: What sort of Commonwealth dollars are you talking about, Mr Crean?

CREAN: Well, until we’ve identified what the practical needs are and the solutions, you can’t talk the dollars. And that’s why that - hang on, let me finish.


And that’s why we’ll be continuing to talk with the community about the issues that are of concern to them.

But, interestingly, the Government now has passed legislation - which we urged them to do a couple of years ago - legislation to toughen up on confiscating the proceeds of crime from people who have been involved in criminal activities.

This is legislation now that will yield something like $450 million a year. My point is, if the Commonwealth is invoking legislation to retrieve money such as that, some of that money should go back into the community to address the problem, to solve the problem, to take the ill-gotten gains and the proceeds, to face up to community safety and do something about it.

JOURNALIST: In the November election campaign, in the lead-up to it, Labor promised $93 million over four years. Would you be looking at similar funding?

CREAN: Well, again, all the funding mechanisms need to be reviewed in the proper context, and the amounts that are available and the other priorities. I’m not putting a figure on it today. I’m simply making the point that the ability to source funding exists. It exists because of an initiative we proposed last year that they’ve now picked up. We welcome the bipartisan support for that legislation. What we’ve now got to do is to identify the practical needs that we need to address, and implement them.

JOURNALIST: Last year you promised that Federal Police officers would be involved in these crime hot-spots. Are you still considering that option?

CREAN: Yes we are. I think that what we’ve got to get is, obviously working with the law-enforcement authorities, as to the best way of addressing these solutions.

JOURNALIST: How damaging are the preference deals that are being sorted out between the Greens and the union-backed independent?

CREAN: Look, Labor preferences as a matter of fact don’t get distributed. And the simple reality is that the issues that matter to the people of Wollongong is not the preference arrangements in terms of the how-to-vote ticket. But it’s the issues that go to the further sale of Telstra; the issues of health and education and job security; the issues of community safety. These are the issues on which we’re campaigning, and that’s what the people of Wollongong will vote on.

JOURNALIST: Simon, somebody just called you a right-wing liberal just a second ago. I mean, how do you think the voters are going to respond to that type of preference deal?

CREAN: I’ve been called all sorts of things in my time. I’m not too concerned about that. In the end, people will vote on the issues and the proposals that we’re putting forward. This is an initiative that responds to concerns raised


here, and I’m delighted that what we have is the cooperation between State and Federal Government. You see, this is another one of those examples as to where Labor, elected at the Federal level in Parliament, can do so much more by working with State Governments to address issues of common concern. This is something John Howard sees as a threat, Labor Governments all over the country. I see it as an opportunity, and this is one example as to where that opportunity can be developed.

JOURNALIST: But aren’t you just blurring the lines between State and Federal issues to cash in on the popularity of the Premier?

CREAN: What I’m doing - well, he is a very popular Premier, that I am convinced of, and I’m delighted to be associated with him. But he and I have been friends over many years, and he and I have often spoken about the importance of forging the partnership between State and Federal.

You see, I think the tone of that question just indicates the problem that, the frustration that peoples in the electorate have. They don’t want to know whose responsibility it is, they want to know the problem’s going to be fixed. And if, in fact, there’s overlap as there is with education, as there is with health, as there is with aged care, they want governments to get together and sort it out.

What I’m suggesting is that here is another opportunity to work with the State Government more effectively. Support it, bolster its resources, work with it in a practical way to improve community safety. People want solutions, they don’t want the buck-passing. And so, as popular as the Premier is, he also understands the importance of this approach. And here is a great opportunity to develop cooperative government across the country.

JOURNALIST: How much of a threat is Peter Wilson? Do you think he has a real chance of winning this seat?

CREAN: I say this about people who are contemplating voting for the Independents in this campaign: think very seriously about what message that’s going to send. It’s not going to be a message to the Labor Party. It’s going to be a message of comfort to John Howard, because he hasn’t even had the courage to stand a candidate in this seat. He’s taken …

JOURNALIST: Why is that?

CREAN: Because he’s taken the seat, he’s taken the area of Illawarra for granted. He’s hardly visited the area in the time that he’s been the Prime Minister, and he’s now treating it with the ultimate contempt - not even putting a candidate forward so that his policies can be tested. Well, the policies …

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Labor’s been taking it for granted.


CREAN: Let me finish, let me finish. The policies that we are saying are of concern to the people of Illawarra are the further sale of Telstra. John Howard stands for the further sale; Labor is opposed to any further sale. The Greens have flirted with the further sale; so have the Democrats. The message that has to be sent is: no further sale of Telstra.

And can you think of anything that John Howard hasn’t cut? He’s cut education. He’s cut hospitals. We’ve seen the decline in bulk-billing. This is why he won’t face the people of the Illawarra. It’s not just a question of taking them for granted, it’s treating them with contempt.

And so the important message to send is a vote for Labor, to show that people aren’t prepared to tolerate that contempt. If people vote for the independents and not for the Labor Party, it will simply be a message of comfort to John Howard.

JOURNALIST: How can this potential swing away from Labor in a safe Labor seat be seen as comfort for John Howard, given the fact that the candidate, which is running, Wilson, has come out clearly and said he is running as a result of Labor Party preselection policy?

CREAN: Well, if your point is, how does John Howard take it as comfort for him, the answer is that, if people are voting for independents and not for the Labor Party, John Howard will take it as comfort that he can persist with his program of selling Telstra, increasing pharmaceutical charges, cutting hospital services, cutting education services.

What really has to happen here is a strong vote for a candidate that can make the difference on those issues. And the candidate that can make the difference on those issues is Sharon Bird, because it’s the Labor Party that is the only party that can form the alternative government. John Howard shouldn’t be given comfort in this election. A vote for Sharon Bird is continued strong representation for the seat of Cunningham, and that’s the message that has to be sent.

JOURNALIST: On another matter, the Prime Minister has called on you today to do something about the Martime Union’s taking pickets over to the US. Are you going to do anything about that?

CREAN: The Maritime Union is not taking pickets to the US, and John Howard is starting to talk like Alexander Downer, it would seem. The situation in the US is a lock-out, not a strike. And what John Howard should be doing, if he’s concerned about the threat to Australian produce, John Howard, instead of waiting for a call from George Bush, should be making one to him. He should be ringing George Bush and saying: what can we do to get this lock-out fixed? What can you do to ensure that the employers let the workers back in to do their job. And what I’m saying to John Howard is that he should be picking up the phone to George Bush and urging him to use his authority to help Australia out. That’s what John Howard should be doing.


JOURNALIST: On the issue of the MUA, Mr Crean, do you support their involvement, full stop?

CREAN: My understanding is that their involvement, so-called, is to send a delegation over there to establish the facts. The facts are that there’s been a lock-out, not a strike. The ABC has already had to apologise this morning for calling it a strike. John Howard and Warren Truss, in particular, should do likewise, because Warren Truss has called it a strike. It isn’t. And in circumstances in which it’s a lock-out, it’s in the hands of the employers or the Government. John Howard should be picking up the phone to George Bush and, instead of being the lap dog, he should be calling off the dogs. He should be getting the US to act in Australia’s interests.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean, what do you make of the jostling which appears to be going on to succeed Mr Howard in Bennelong?

CREAN: Well, I watch it with interest.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean, do you have any comment on the address to the nation by George Bush allegedly linking al Qaeda even closer to Iraq? Do you think it’s changed the situation as far as you’re concerned about whether we should be there?

CREAN: Well, I must say the report I’ve had on President Bush’s address - and I haven’t seen it - but the report I’ve had didn’t mention that particular link. We’ve always said if the evidence exists linking al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein, then we would be prepared to support appropriate action in the war against terror. No such link’s been made, and every time that question has been asked, the evidence is the same. No such link has been established.

But what I do understand from the President’s address today is that he is talking in more sober terms. He is talking in terms of war not being inevitable, but that a threat exists and that that threat needs to be addressed through the United Nations. That’s what Labor has been calling for ever since April, and so I welcome the President’s commitment to solve this problem through the United Nations framework.

JOURNALIST: Have you met with any of the left-wing unions that are backing Peter Wilson’s campaign?

CREAN: No, I haven’t.

JOURNALIST: You promised a week ago at the university that you would try to do that.

CREAN: No, I said that I was prepared to, I said that I was prepared to meet with them. Of course I am prepared to meet with them. I’m always prepared


to meet with various groups in the community. I just haven’t had the time. I’ve had a bit of a conference on in Canberra over the weekend.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

CREAN: Well, we’ll wait and see, wait and see.

JOURNALIST: Given your relationship with the Left, wouldn’t you be better placed to have a meeting with them now?

CREAN: Well, as I say, I’m happy to meet with people at appropriate stages, and will do so.

JOURNALIST: Simon, given your success at the conference this weekend, it’s widely viewed in this region that your first test of the anti-branch-stacking moves will be the seat of Wollongong where Colin Markham, who’s here today. Would you see that as a fair call?

CREAN: I think that the concern that’s been expressed by people here about branch-stacking ought to take considerable heart from what we achieved at the conference on the weekend. We now have strong rules to stamp out the branch-stackers. We now have rules that party members who feel aggrieved can take appropriate action. We now have rules that say you can’t vote in a preselection unless you’re on the electoral roll. John Howard hasn’t got those rules. John Howard has still got preselections whereby people living overseas can determine candidates for the Liberal Party.

We have rules now that will stamp out the mass enrolments and rules that will require individuals renewing their party ticket to sign off. These are significant changes to the rules to stamp out branch-stacking, and those that are here, as elsewhere in the community, concerned about it should take considerable heart from it.

JOURNALIST: In Wollongong, would you see as a failure the removal of Col Markham and the imposition of a candidate under an N40?

CREAN: The rules of the party have to be adhered to. The procedures by which the party preselects its candidates have now been put in place to ensure much cleaner, much safer, much strong anti-branch-stacking techniques.