Beazley Responds To Election Announcement: We Need A Qualified PM For The Long Haul

3.05pm

Responding to John Howard’s election announcement, the Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley took issue with the Prime Minister’s assertion that the government offered stability.

  • Listen to Beazley (29m)

BeazleyHow can you offer stability, Beazley asked, when the Defence Minister, Health Minister and Finance Minister are all leaving Parliament at this election. He also referred to Howard’s refusal to commit to serving a full 3-year term.

Beazley took issue with Howard’s assertion that he had backflipped on issues and cited decisions taken earlier this year in relation to issues such as the GST and petrol prices.

Beazley said the core issues of the campaign would be the GST, Health and Education. He said he was prepared for government through the announcement of policies such as the Medicare Alliance with the States.

Beazley said he had never felt better prepared for anything in his life than at present.

He referred to his experience as a Defence Minister during the 1980s and his long-term membership of the Cabinet’s Security Committee, experience that he said made him better qualified than the Prime Minister, a man who has shown little interest in foreign affairs until recently.

Only the Labor Party has a definited vision for the future, Beazley said. He said he had been campaigning all year since Howard performed a series of backflips that would have “qualified him for an honoured position with the Moscow Circus”.

Asked about the state of the Australian economy, Beazley referred to reports in today’s Financial Review which he said cast doubt on the government’s economic management. He said economic growth was 4% when Howard took office but that it has been “turned backwards” because of the introduction of the GST.

Beazley said there had been inaction on the jobs front, particularly in relation to the Ansett crisis. He said “you need a government that is there for the long haul” to deal with this.

Beazley said both sides were in agreement on what the appropriate response is to the international situation following the terrorist attacks on the United States, that there might be points of disagreement on domestic actions, but not on the principles behind the response.

Building relations in the region, such as with Indonesia, was vital, Beazley said, claiming the Howard government had let these relationships go. He said it was time that Australia developed better relationships with “moderate Muslim powers”, along the lines suggested by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Beazley claimed he would not be daunted by falling Budget surpluses in coming years.

Asked about Howard’s visit to Shanghai for the APEC conference, he said that the 5 weeks of public accountability both leaders faced dictated that the Prime Minister should remain in the country. He said Howard had even made a “positive virtue” of discounting the involvement in APEC developed by Hawke and Keating, stressing bilateral relationships instead.

Beazley said Howard should send a representatives to the APEC meeting and that he would send Laurie Brereton.

Asked about whether he wanted to see the evidence shown to Howard of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the terrorist attacks, Beazley said he was satisfied with what he had seen so far. He reiterated his support for Bush and Blair and stressed how impressed he had been with both men.

Asked about the GST rollback, Beazley said he would give more details during the campaign, including costings, although he gave no details.

On whether he should have been “bolder” in putting forward policies over the past couple of years, Beazley said there were detailed policies for a “decade of government” already in the public domain, such as in health, education and aged care. He said the election campaign would be about putting a “three-year cut” on those policies.

A journalist asked Beazley about reconciliation and Beazley said it was one of the unfinished tasks of government. He said it wouldn’t be a fundamental issue, but “political parties need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time” and he would deal with reconciliation upon gaining government.

“I have looked forward to this moment for five years”, Beazley said. He said Labor people stick around and don’t run away when there are tough issues to be confronted. “We stand and fight”, he said.

Beazley said people would have a chance to vote a government that would be on their side, not for a government “full of hubris”.

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