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Wollongong TAFE: transcript of doorstop: Cunningham by-election; public liability\ninsurance; Zimbabwe; Iraq; Medibank Private.

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Subjects: Cunningham By-election; Public Liability Insurance; Zimbabwe; Iraq; Medibank Private.

CREAN: (Tape Break) …for the area. What we have is the opportunity to send a strong, new voice to Canberra representing Cunningham. Sharon Bird is that candidate. It’s a pleasure to be down here today supporting Sharon and her candidacy. Sharon has indicated that education is going to be a key priority for her and she knows all about it. She’s taught in schools, Sharon’s taught at the TAFE. Sharon has a son at university so understands the education sector from the point of view of teaching in it, as well as the way the system is delivering for people who go through it.

Sharon’s a person who was born in the area, lived in the area, taught in the area, knows the area. She’s a strong fresh face for Cunningham and I look forward to her joining us in Parliament representing the region.

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting a voter backlash from the sudden resignation of Steven Martin?

CREAN: His resignation was sudden. I talked to Steve about it but I was convinced as to his reasons for needing to go. As you know I’ve put very strict conditions on circumstances in which members can leave. I think members once elected should serve their full term and I’ve introduced new rules for that purpose. But I was satisfied with the reason that Steve gave. They’re of a personal nature and he asked me to respect his privacy. I will. But look, the fact remains, we have an outstanding candidate to replace Steve a candidate who knows the area, who lives in the area and I’m certain that once people through the campaign get to know what she stands for better in terms of her commitment to the region, they will know that they will get the truly great representative for Cunningham.

JOURNALIST: You have a bit of a problem down here though, don’t you, the Party is a bit on the nose with the defection of George Harrison from


the Party and subsequent resignation of the Lord Mayor, you’ve got a Lord Mayoral election taking place at the same time, the possibility of confusion?

CREAN: Well there’s issues around but I think people do make the distinction between local government and state government, federal government, the differences in responsibilities. What I want them to do is to understand our commitment for the region at the national level. Our commitment to the Illawarra it’s been there over a long number of years, it remains there. Our choice of Sharon Bird to represent the area, represents the strength of that commitment. A strong fresh voice for the Illawarra.

JOURNALIST: What sort (inaudible) brought to the Labor Party for this by election?

CREAN: All elections are tests for the Labor Party. They’re the circumstances in which people do get the chance to have their say and to represent the issues that matter to them. We never take it for granted, that’s why I’m down here, day one after the Federal Parliament has got up, the first possible day after the Speaker has announced the date for the By election, campaigning with Sharon. I’ll be back during the course of the campaign, be listening, taking on board the issues that matter to the region and ensuring that we continue to represent the region in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Are you looking at reforming the Party in the Illawarra?

CREAN: I’m looking to reform the party overall. As you know I’ve made it a very strong commitment and we have the Special Rules Conference in October, to do just that. And I’m determined to modernise the Labor Party, determined to clean out the branch stacking, determined to ensure that the Labor Party is a much more inclusive Party, a much more, a Party that involves a greater participation from its membership and the broader community.

JOURNALIST: So you will be looking at branches in Illawarra?

CREAN: We’re looking at the structures that ensure that the branch stackers, wherever they are, are not rewarded and looking at rules that ensure that the membership and the community wherever they are, have a much greater say.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to name any branches?

CREAN: No. No I don’t think that you can single out individual branches, I think that what you’ve got to do is to put in place a set of rules that ensures that members have a greater say, the community has a greater say, that we are more inclusive, we are more open, we treat people as equal. That’s what the rules that I’m talking about are all about. It’s not just values for the Labor it’s how I would want to run Government. Much more open,


much more inclusive, much more representative of communities treating them as equals.

JOURNALIST: Your first election as the Leader, how important is this for you as a test of your leadership?

CREAN: They’re all important. I don’t rate them in terms of importance but what I tell you I do rate as important and that’s our commitment to the Illawarra. It’s been there in the past, I’ve made many visits to this area. I’ll continue to make them, we want the Illawarra represented effectively in the Parliament and Sharon Bird will give that representation.

JOURNALIST: From your perspective, what are the key issues facing this electorate?

CREAN: The issues are education and health, the issues of job security. They are issues that really apply through out the nation it’s just that they translate in different ways in each of the electorates that we campaign in. What this visit today is about is getting a better understanding of those issues that with Sharon now as the candidate I know with her involvement in the area, her commitment to the area, that we will have effective input, strong input, committed input. That’s what I want to see in all of our candidates, Sharon is a great example of that.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about some other issues, what’s your view, the Government has put on the table their public liability proposal to solve that crisis, what’s your view on some of those ideas?

CREAN: It’s about time, about time the Government got itself involved in this issue because it is reaching crisis proportions. Whether it’s for the medical industry, the medical profession or whether it’s for communities who can’t get public risk liability. We have called, the Labor Party has called for the Government to take a national role, to get behind the sorts of initiatives that Bob Carr has been pushing for. To look at the question of tort actions, of damages claims, of ensuring, for example, people who volunteer their services and their actions don’t lead to unnecessary litigation. We’ve also called very strongly for the introduction for structured settlements so that people who do deserve the entitlement receive those benefits during the course of their lifetime. But one thing also is terribly important and that is if these reforms are to be implemented we have to ensure that the benefits are passed on to the consumers. That means giving the ACCC, the consumer watchdog, new powers to ensure that the changes are reflected in lower insurance premiums.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) … the TAFE today, there’s suggestions from the Federal Government that they are going to start imposing something like HECS fees on the TAFE tertiary sector, what’s your view?


CREAN: Look, the Government really has a serious problem in this total education area. It thinks that the only solution to educational opportunities is to charge students more. Well that’s not the correct approach. That prices people out of education and their opportunities. We have to face up to the fact that people through their life are going to go through increasing changes and needs in their educational requirements. TAFE has a critical role to play in that regard and it should not be priced out of people’s reach.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you about a few foreign policy issues, there’s been some talk that the Government will, may move to institute sanctions, so called smart sanctions against Zimbabwe. What’s your view on that and do you think they should’ve acted before now?

CREAN: They should and they should’ve done it back when we were calling for it, back in February, back when CHOGM, the Commonwealth Heads of Government, were meeting here in Australia. The Prime Minister should’ve taken the initiative then and even if other countries weren’t prepared to impose sanctions we should have imposed targeted sanctions ourselves. It now appears that the Government thinks that that might be worthwhile, well they should act, not just talk about it.

JOURNALIST: …another issue (inaudible) Kevin Rudd came out yesterday very strongly saying that Labor wouldn’t necessarily support…


CREAN: … let’s see it. On the question of his capacity in terms of chemical and biological weapons, make the case through insisting upon the UN weapons inspectors getting back in. Those that advocate the action against Iraq have got to make the case. And they’ve got to be prepared to take the Australian public with them. What’s wrong with having a debate about these circumstances in the National Parliament. I’ve called for that; the Prime Minister has been reluctant to engage it.

JOURNALIST: What about moves to privatise Medibank Private? What do you see that as? I mean, what’s your take on that?

CREAN: Well, there they are again at it. I mean, the Treasurer lost $5 billion on foreign-currency swaps and now Medibank Private has lost, as I understand it, $100 million on the stock market. Now, if this can happen in circumstances in which it’s government-owned, just imagine what it would be doing if it’s privately owned.

What I want to know from the Government is when they knew about these losses. Did they know about the Medibank Private losses when they agreed earlier this year to allow private health-insurance schemes to increase their


rates by between 9 and 16 per cent. These are businesses that have lost huge money and they want the Australian public to pay for it. The Government should tell us when it knew of these losses, and why it hasn’t come clean on them sooner.

JOURNALIST: One last one on Cunningham - what sort of big-ticket items can you offer the voters in Cunningham to make them want to vote for the Labor Party?

CREAN: Our biggest commitment to the Cunningham electorate is to represent it honestly, effectively and strongly. The opportunity to do that through Sharon Bird is what we’re talking about today. The purpose of my visit is to not only support her, but to indicate that I’m serious about the issues that she brings forward to represent the Illawarra to the best of our ability but reflective of what the community is saying it needs.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept the by-election is a referendum on your leadership?

CREAN: This is a by-election that will determine the next effective representation for Cunningham. The area deserves strong, effective representation. It will get it through Sharon Bird.

JOURNALIST: So what’s the biggest challenge in winning this election?

CREAN: The challenge for the Illawarra is to make up its mind whether it wants continued representation, effective representation. It has the opportunity to make a fresh start in terms of that representation; it gives Labor the opportunity to renew its commitment to the region.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see the Liberal Party run a candidate?

CREAN: That’s up to the Liberal Party. But what I find surprising is that they’re not in the field. Labor is in the field; we don’t take this seat for granted. The Liberal Party thinks it can play politics with its choice as to whether or not it runs. We are serious in our commitment to the region. We will run, run hard to represent this area. We will stick up for the Illawarra. Labor will represent the Illawarra. Labor, through Sharon Bird, will have an outstanding representative in the National Parliament doing just that.

JOURNALIST: Haven’t you got off to a bad start by snubbing Labor members here by not giving them the right to elect their own candidate?

C REAN: The circumstances at the election of Sharon were brought upon us very quickly. The surprise resignation of Steve Martin caught everyone by surprise. What we have to do is to renew our commitment to the region, do it quickly, do it effectively. I indicated that my preference was to get more women into the Parliament, but they had to be women of


capability and credentials. They had to be women that were champions for their local community. The process enabled us to move very quickly to get Sharon preselected and I’m delighted with the outcome. Thanks very much.