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Transcript of doorstop interview:4 October 2007: Cranfield University; air warfare destroyers; campaigning in South Australia.

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Inquiries: (02) 6277 7500 1



DATE: Thursday, 4 October 2007

TITLE: Doorstop - Cranfield University, air warfare destroyers, campaigning in South Australia.

MR DOWNER: I just want to say how delighted I am to see Cranfield University setting up here in South Australia. I think we’re making real progress now with South Australia not just as a defence state with the Federal Government putting so many defence assets and defence projects into South Australia and we’re doing that with the support of course of the state government. It’s one of the real contributions the Federal Government is able to make to South Australia. But it has been very important to get the education sector leveraging off that and I think to have Cranfield University here working in with our defence establishment is a great step forward.

Cranfield comes on top of the Carnegie Mellon University so if Adelaide keeps working at it, it can really become something of the Boston of Australia, with a real education focus, particularly become a real centre of universities, including international universities. That’s a long way off but we’re making progress step by step which is exciting.

JOURNALIST: Looking at federal contributions to the state and talking of defence, the official signing today of the air warfare destroyer (inaudible), is there any prospect in terms of, as you understand it, the fourth air warfare destroyer?

MR DOWNER: We’ll obviously have to make our mind up as time goes on on the basis of defence requirements. These are decisions that are not made - of course they are very expensive decisions - they are not just made on the back of some political consideration. It’s got to be decisions that are based on real defence needs and the opportunity costs of building a fourth air warfare destroyer against what you might otherwise use the money for in the defence portfolio. So we’ll just have to wait and see but certainly it is just a wonderful thing for South Australia to have the three ships being built here.

I met with the Spanish Foreign Minister last week and the Spanish Government is tremendously excited about this project as well so it is great to see it going ahead.

JOURNALIST: Is there any prospect that the contract will be signed before the election is called?

MR DOWNER: For a fourth airwarfare destroyer?

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MR DOWNER: Well there’s been no decision made on the fourth airwarfare destroyer so we’ll have to see how things go. We don’t know when the election is going to be although we know it is going to be before Christmas.

JOURNALIST: Care to speculate?

MR DOWNER: Before Christmas for sure.

JOURNALIST: I gather you’re campaigning today, or this week, in Barry Wakelin’s electorate?

MR DOWNER: Today. Yes, I’m going, this afternoon, I’m going up, just this afternoon and this evening I’m going up to do a few things up there in Port Pirie.

JOURNALIST: It’s a bit unusual, isn’t it, for someone of your seniority to be pressing the flesh in what used to be a safe Liberal seat? Is that a sign that things aren’t as confident as the Liberal Party is making out?

MR DOWNER: Well, I don’t think there’s an issue - I think you’re making an issue now…

JOURNALIST: In terms of that seat…

MR DOWNER: Yes, (inaudible) that seat…

JOURNALIST: There were reports last week that it was in danger and that was denied but then you’re standing up to do some campaigning this week.

MR DOWNER: Well I went there before the last election campaign and I was in the electorate of Gray with Barry Wakelin in November - I remember it was in November - in Whyalla so I go there from time to time. I’m the senior South Australian Federal Liberal MP so I feel that it’s important I visit the different electorates, whether they are sort of statistically safe or not. To tell you the honest truth, I just don’t take any seats for granted. I don’t really like this notion of ‘safe seats. I think the Labor Party think that it can take for granted Port Adelaide, though I think that is a mistake. They thought at the last election they could take for granted the northern suburbs of Adelaide which are now in the electorate of Wakefield and they woke up on the Sunday morning and found out that they’d paid the price. So I don’t take any seats for granted. I think they are all difficult to win. I think the electors of Gray deserve proper respect, attention and consideration, just as they do in every other seat in South Australia.

JOURNALIST: You’re sitting up there next to Mike Rann - is that a sign of things to come?

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MR DOWNER: What sitting next to Mike Rann, that he’ll join the Liberal Party? Or more to the point, I think this is what you are getting at - will Mike Rann go federal? I don’t think so, no. I think he wouldn’t want to give up his present position until the electors of South Australia made him give it up.

JOURNALIST: As for your position?

MR DOWNER: Well I enjoy, I can tell you, enormously being the Foreign Minister of Australia and I’ll do my best to hold my seat and for the Government to win the election when it comes and be able to continue in that job. That’s what I’m focussed on.

JOURNALIST: Would you be happy sticking it out as the Shadow Foreign Minister?

MR DOWNER: I’m not contemplating defeat at all. I’m contemplating winning the election but I know it is going to be hard and I know that I’ve got to put a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of energy. But we are a very experienced Government, I think we’ve delivered great things for Australia. I don’t think Australia has ever been stronger or more confident as a country and the proposition that it should be taken over by an inexperienced leader with a front bench made up of 70 per cent of the front bench made up of trade union officials, is one that fills me with horror.

JOURNALIST: Are you going to guarantee here and now that win or lose you’ll be in the Federal Parliament for the full duration…

MR DOWNER: If I lose my seat I won’t be. I can’t give you a guarantee I’ll win my seat.

JOURNALIST: If you win your seat…

MR DOWNER: If I win my seat, I’ll be standing for three years and for a three year term and I’ll be serving out my three years.