Beazley Acknowledges Long Road Ahead

Kim Beazley has conceded he has “got a bit of work to do” to re-establish his leadership credentials and the fortunes of the ALP.

In his first major television interview since regaining the leadership last Friday, Beazley said he would aim to “sharpen the differences” with the government and to hold it accountable.

Beazley criticised the government over its relationship with the United States, arguing that Australia needed to be the ally America needed, not the ally it wanted.

The reborn Opposition Leader – Beazley held the position between 1996-2001 – appeared comfortable and confident. It has been announced that he will live in Sydney for much of the time, reducing the need for long and frequent travel from Western Australia.

In the coming week, Beazley will meet with the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, as well as other state premiers. Yesterday, he campaigned in Mark Latham’s former electorate of Werriwa.

  • Listen to Beazley’s interview on Sunrise.

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This is the transcript of the interview with the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, on Channel 7’s Sunday Sunrise. The interviewer was Mark Riley.

RILEY: Mr Beazley, welcome to the program.

BEAZLEY: Yeah, I’ve clearly got a bit of work to do, haven’t I?

RILEY: A little bit of work to do, a mixed response but “a nice bloke, I won’t vote for him” is a bit of a worry.

BEAZLEY: Well, look, I think what we have to prove over the course of the next three years is that we’re ready for government and that change is necessary. So as I said in my opening remarks after the ballot for Labor Party leadership we’re going to have to sharpen the differences in a few areas, in areas where I think people want a sharpened difference, you’ll see that.

RILEY: Yes, but that’s what Labor’s got to do but you as the leader, there’s a bit of baggage there. You lost in 1998, you lost in 2001, Simon Crean defeated you in the first leadership ballot, you were beaten by Mark Latham – how do you win in 2007?

BEAZLEY: I guess my answer to that is John Howard. Look at the example he set with the Liberal Party. It’s been done before in Australian politics, it can be done again.

RILEY: It’s been done, yes, but John Howard had Paul Keating, didn’t he? There’s a bit of a debate about whether John Howard won on his own or Paul Keating lost that election in ’96. Is Howard going to do that for you?

BEAZLEY: All the discussion has been about us, hasn’t it, over the course of the last couple of months because of Mark’s unfortunate situation. Like to take a bet with me what the discussion will be about 18 months from now – don’t think it will be about Kim Beazley, it will be about leadership tensions in the Liberal Party and the National Party. As sure as night follows day that is going to occur during the course of this term. That’s going to be a problem for the Liberals. There’ll be issues for them to confront. What we’ll be doing is steadily building alternative policies and holding the government accountable as a classic opposition should do and win the next election.

RILEY: I’m sure you’d enjoy seeing leadership tensions on the other side of parliament but do you expect John Howard to lead to the next election or do you expect Peter Costello to knock him off?

BEAZLEY: I expect him to lead to the next election and I expect that to create issues in the Liberal Party.

RILEY: Do you expect Peter Costello will have a go at him?

BEAZLEY: I don’t know but I don’t think he wants John Howard to be there at the next election.

RILEY: How about…well, John Howard’s got a 27-seat majority. Take the Independents into account, you’d have to win 16 seats – that is a heck of a challenge.

BEAZLEY: Let me determine, we won that many of course in 1998. There were circumstances then which aided that. I do think that the Australian people are ready for a change. They have to be able to trust the people they want to change to. We’ve got a pretty risk-adverse electorate but it’s an electorate which, on the one hand, likes to see a bit of bold thinking of those of us in political life but on the other hand, when we look at the sort of administration we’d provide, they like to see us to be pretty risk free. So you’ve got to balance those two things. That’s our challenge. I think we can succeed in doing that.

RILEY: You say they’re ready for a change, were they ready for a change in October last year?

BEAZLEY: I felt that. You know, I came back on the front bench to give Mark Latham a hand during the course of the election campaign and I think I went through something like 27 shopping centres, along with our various candidates, right around the country, and so many people came up and said, “Look, we’re really giving you some serious consideration. We really think that this show’s been in power long enough, that it’s coasting and we’d like to change to Labor.” But then when it came to the last week the risk factors came in in their minds and they said, “No, let’s not go down that road.” But 48 per cent of them did and what we’ve got to do is get that 48 per cent up to 51 per cent.

RILEY: Yeah, but you’ve got the lowest primary vote in almost a century, it’s not enough.

BEAZLEY: Well, we have to get more.

RILEY: So they came close but, what, they looked at Mark Latham and said “We just can’t do it”?

BEAZLEY: I think they looked at all of us and they said, “We’ve got things at stake here, that perhaps we’d like to think about a change but we won’t go that far.” Well we’ll remove any sentiment in their minds that we would constitute a risk, and at the same time we will put forward to them some attractive policies when the next election comes round. But in the meantime we’re going to hold this government accountable because there is so much around now that shows this government is coasting. I mean, look at the stuff in the papers today about massive tax avoidance under the GST. Look at the worst trade performance since World War II. Now, we are proud of the economy that we put in place when we were in government. I’m proud of the role I played in the Hawke and Keating governments. But this government has lived off the fat of that very hard work and now the price is coming in.

RILEY: I just want to examine those two areas, though, risk and a lack of experience you were talking about, in October last year. I guess you don’t expect yourself to be a risk to the electorate and you’re projecting yourself as a man of experience, which you are, would you have won that election?

BEAZLEY: Who can say? What I do say is this – and I give Mark due credit for this – if you look at our situation at the end of the year before last, we were going to be destroyed, absolutely destroyed politically. Now we weren’t destroyed so something went better during the course of that year…

RILEY: You lost a couple of limbs, though, didn’t you?

BEAZLEY: ..and I give him – and I give Mark due credit for that, and I have given Mark due credit for that. But that’s the elections past. What we confront now is elections future and elections future is going to be the territory, of course, that we fight and where we need those sharpened differences and we have issues.

RILEY: Alright, one more question about elections past, I promise. Do you now regret standing down in 2001?

BEAZLEY: No. I think it was right to give the Labor Party space to look around and not to cling on, accept responsibility for the defeat, let the Labor Party look around, and go and make a contribution. Now I’m back, I’m delighted to be back and I’ve promised the Labor Party a very hard fight and I’ve promised Mr Howard the fight of his life and it will be delivered.

RILEY: Alright, and one of those areas that you’ll be fighting him on is Iraq and overnight at the World Economic Forum in Davos, John Howard has defended America in the face of fairly strident attacks from European leaders over the invasion of Iraq. He said, “The criticism is unfair and irrational.” Is it?

BEAZLEY: I think that there’s a position that we need to take on Iraq now. I’ve got plenty of criticism of the Howard Government’s position on Iraq in the war, in the aftermath of the war. We were not the ally the United States needed. They desperately needed warning, they desperately needed counsel of patience and after the war they desperately needed sound advice on how the post-war administration should take place. None of that came from Australia and right now, right now, they need strong advice that whatever the outcome of this election, they must not get involved in a civil war in Iraq. They mustn’t, simple as that. We went into Iraq, in fact, not to restructure Iraq, we went into Iraq to deal with weapons of mass destruction and to deal with, what was argued, a connection between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism. They were unsoundly based rationales. And what it’s done is create circumstances where our opponents in the war with militant fundamentalism have had propaganda wins and continue to have propaganda wins. Those propaganda wins have got to be choked off and the United States freed to be able to deal with the issues in international politics it must deal with – the global struggle against militant fundamentalism, the struggle against weapons of mass destruction and dealing with issues like global poverty. If they’re bogged down in Iraq that won’t happen and the job of the Australian Prime Minister as a friend of the United States is to do all in his power to prevent the United States from getting bogged down in that way.

RILEY: Right, that’s the future. Is he right to defend the US on his actions so far?

BEAZLEY: I think that he needs to be a friend that the Americans need, not just the friend that they want. They appreciate him. They like the fact that he has stood in behind them during the course of this conflict. I don’t deny that, I don’t deny that they consider him a good friend. Time’s moving on. What the United States now needs is good counsel and that’s what they need from him.

RILEY: Well, he’s also rejected the notion that the US has isolated itself in Europe because of its approach on Iraq. What do you think about that?

BEAZLEY: The US has friends in Europe. Contemplate the circumstances after September 11 and ask some questions. The whole world responded to the US position, everywhere. Old enemies of the US – Russians, the Chinese – all came in behind the US – what looked like the US-led fight with fundamentalist terror. That has frayed over the course of the last two or three years. That is not in the US interest, that is not in our interests. They have good friends with some European countries, particularly those in eastern Europe who are grateful for the stand the Americans took during the Cold War and they have competitors in the French and the Germans, the critics. But the US, if it’s going to exercise world leadership, has got to be able to embrace the lot and…

RILEY: So not deny that that schism exists?

BEAZLEY: The schism exists, all right.

RILEY: Okay. So it’s got to work with Europe to bring that relationship back?

BEAZLEY: And after the presidential election George Bush made noises like that was what he wanted to do, and I hope he does.

RILEY: Mr Beazley, you’ve been calling on the Government to move the Australian Embassy in Baghdad into the Green Zone. We found out overnight there’s been a rocket attack on the US Embassy which is in the Green Zone. Nowhere is safe there, is it?

BEAZLEY: Nowhere is safe in Iraq, that is true. There’s no question of that. But there are places that are safer than others. The Green Zone is safer than just about anywhere else in the area where there is intense insurgency and that includes Baghdad.

RILEY: You’ve talked about what the Americans should do if Iraq looks like dissolving into civil war, should we pull our diplomats out in that circumstance, if it looks like going that way?

BEAZLEY: There is an issue with our diplomats – is whether or not they can do their job because it’s extraordinarily difficult for them to move around. But whilst ever the diplomats are there they need to be properly protected and I would say at this moment that the issue…the things that they’re dealing with, the fact they are there, is pretty important. So I would leave the diplomats there but it’s time they were in the Green Zone.

RILEY: You would leave them there even if that circumstance arises – you were talking about – where it looks like becoming a protracted civil war, we would still have to have a diplomatic presence.

BEAZLEY: If they could not do their job then you wouldn’t. But at the moment, all the advice seems to be that they can at least do some useful things.

RILEY: John Howard in Davos overnight has also had a go at the UN again, saying it doesn’t work and that Bosnia and Kosovo proved that. He said that if you rely entirely on the international institutions, it won’t work.

BEAZLEY: Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. It worked very well in Timor and we made a very substantial contribution to their effort. Their aid programs around the globe work extremely well. They are an important forum for the development of international opinion particularly in a humanitarian direction. It is not a catch-all. You don’t abandon the foreign policy because you have the UN in place. I think the US and we ought to be proud of the UN. We played a major role in its creation. It was one of the institutions of, if you like, liberal democracy that was put in place after World War II when we were struggling. There were two alternatives. There was the liberal democratic alternative of the Bretton Woods agreement, the UN, all those international activities which respected people’s sovereignty and their democracies, and on the other hand was revolutionary socialism. And in the end, the institutions of liberal democracy won. Why spurn them now? Why humiliate them? Why not just make them better?

RILEY: I guess…. Indeed, I think there is consensus on that. But what he was saying in essence is that it was ineffective in Iraq and that’s why the US had to act

BEAZLEY: We don’t know what might have been achieved by that that…the last forceful set of inspections. If we had known…

RILEY: I think we do, don’t we? Saddam Hussein would still be there.

BEAZLEY: If we had known that there were not weapons of mass destruction there, that there was not a connection between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism, we might have thought long and hard. Do you remember what John Howard said at the time about whether or not going in after Saddam Hussein was a sufficient war aim? He said it was not – it was not – a sufficient war aim. Neither it was. The other war aims were flawed. And so was the planning for the occupation afterwards. As a result of that, the US interest around the globe, not to mention US forces in place, have been seriously damaged. I’ve always considered myself a friend of the US but I’ve never considered myself as an Australian national leader in circumstances where I deny the Australian national interest or where I do not believe that I have an obligation to my ally to be frank and fully frank with them about areas of disagreement. You don’t do them any favours by getting them into a mess.

RILEY: Were you planning a trip to the US to tell them this?

BEAZLEY: I would obviously at some point of time over the next three years go to the US. I was in the US last year. And no, I don’t go around telling people things in the US. I go around having a conversation with them. I’ve had conversations with them about these issues. Because I spent the war in Israel, or part of the war in Israel, and I got a very different perspective on what was happening to them and a very different perspective on what their future would be. And so I sought conversations with them about that.

RILEY: Alright, another war, not quite as bloody as internal Labor politics – you’ve called for unity from all in your party. But don’t you see the profound paradox, if not irony, of that? For 18 months under Simon Crean’s leadership, people who support you ran him to the ground so you could challenge twice, unsuccessfully, for the leadership, and now you expect loyalty and unity from these people?

BEAZLEY: Ah, do you think unity is a bad thing for the Labor Party?

RILEY: No, I don’t. I just don’t actually think you’re going to get it.

BEAZLEY: You think we should have a…

RILEY: And your supporters did not demonstrate it…

BEAZLEY: I think…

RILEY: ..at the time when Simon Crean was leader.

BEAZLEY: I think…

RILEY: Nor at the end of Mark Latham’s leadership.

BEAZLEY: I think what you get, the unity you get, from one set of circumstances only, and that is striving for a common purpose. We’ll get unity in the Labor Party when we are all convinced that we have an obligation to win the next election and to hold the government accountable. It’s going to be interesting these next three years because, for the first time in living memory, this government is going to have absolute legislative power. And the main game is going to switch out of this or that fiddle in the Senate into how effective the Labor Party is in proposing alternatives. And we have got issues. We’ve got issues with tax, we’ve got issues with exports, we’ve got issues with health, we’ve got issues with education. We are going to stop talking about each other and we are going to start talking about the Australian people.

RILEY: But are you sure that can happen because there’s a lot to talk about, and there’s a lot to talk about in the way your supporters dealt with the last two leaders?

BEAZLEY: We are all professionals and what is our obligation – to each other or to the Australian people? Well, our obligation to each other is to deal with the problems of the Australian people. We’re also adult and we also know that disunity is death. And we know that we have moral obligations both to the history of our party and the ordinary Australians whom the Labor Party seeks to represent. And even in our worst of times, somehow or other about half the Australian people continue to support us. That’s a challenge.

RILEY: It must have been the worst of times in October last year – 48. A couple of policy questions. Medicare Gold – dead under Beazley?

BEAZLEY: I think that our policies at the last election were fully costed and we never got the credit for that and we should have. But what the Caucus did – and I’m not talking about any actions on my part – what the Caucus did very sensibly after the last election, reviewed policy, took all the big-ticket items off and put them in…put them to one side because the Caucus is absolutely determined that whatever we put to the Australian people next time, we will be able to afford it. So the…out went not just the policies related to that, but the tax policies, everything else, but the principles were sustained. And what were the principles there? There should be one funding authority in relation to public health. There shouldn’t be waste in relations between the States and the Commonwealth.

RILEY: Free hospital care for over 75s?

BEAZLEY: There should be Commonwealth responsibility for the frail aged so they’re taken out of the acute care system. These are the principles. The actual programs that you are mentioning, all of them, not just Medicare Gold, all of them were put to one side for reconsideration at the time the next election comes around. This is just sensible. I mean, I know people try to get out there and make a big deal about that but it’s just simply commonsense.

RILEY: It was a big deal at the time. This was going to deliver Labor from the wilderness into government.

BEAZLEY: We’ve had many promises that we’ve put to the Australian people at election time, which, when the election is concluded, we have said it was a good argument about that. We didn’t win it, we go back to the drawing board. We’ve still got our principles. Those principles are important and they’ll underpin the next set of policies we put to the Australian people.

RILEY: Okay, those principles in mind – okay, alright, the big deal though is that if you’ve got the money, do you go ahead with it?

BEAZLEY: If you’ve got the money, you’ve got many things to think about. You’ve got to think about the burden that is being carried by Australians in the taxation system. This is a major issue.

RILEY: You’ve got the money for that. The Government’s spent $6 billion in a day in the last election.

BEAZLEY: This is the…. Indeed. The government was quite extraordinary at the last election. They criticise us for fiscal irresponsibility. They have punched, in the last election and in the previous Budget, a $66-billion hole in the Government’s fiscal stance. That’s an extraordinary thing. An extraordinary payout to the electorate to try and get themselves re-elected. But have they paid it out in the right direction? Now, I think my challenge, or one of my challenges, is not simply to say how we would spend notionally whatever amount of money is there, it’s to start to hold the government accountable for that $66 billion and how it’s operating and what it’s doing with the taxation system, what it’s doing with managing the economy. And it’s not just my responsibility, by the way – the media bears a considerable responsibility for that, as well.

RILEY: We’ll do…

BEAZLEY: You’re the fourth estate, get into them.

RILEY: Mr Beazley, thank you very much for your time this morning.

BEAZLEY: Good to be with you.


Howard Talks Of Trade, Plays Down Chances In Werriwa

John Howard has played down the Liberal Party’s chances of winning the forthcoming Werriwa by-election.

Speaking in Davos at the World Economic Forum, the Prime Minister sought to lower expectations that footballer Paul Langmack can win the traditionally Labor seat. Werriwa, held by Gough Whitlam (1952-78), is vacant because of Mark Latham’s resignation last week.

Howard also spoke of a number of bilateral meetings he has conducted with a range of Asian and European leaders.

This is the transcript of the press conference held by the Prime Minister, John Howard, in Davos, Switzerland.

JOURNALIST:

Well what happened today?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what happened today was I’ve had some bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Pakistan which was a very good meeting and also the Minister for Reunification from Korea and we talked about North Korea and also of course about possible further sales of LNG from Australia to Korea and there’s another decision, another big contract coming up and we have four or five competitors so we’re hopeful, but we can’t put it any more strongly than that at this stage. I thought the meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan was very valuable and we have agreed to endeavour to achieve a strengthening of that relationship, it has a lot of natural complimentarities but I think it could benefit from a bit of additional effort on both sides and we were both very much of that view.

I attended two of the sessions, one on the world economic outlook and also one on China’s economic outlook which is very important not only to the world but it’s particularly important to Australia. And at lunchtime I attended a session dealing with the issue of terrorism which was chaired by ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA and involved Senator McCain and the former Irish President Mary Robinson, the Secretary General of the Arab League, and the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, the Polish President, the Norwegian Prime Minister, and quite a wide range of people and it was a very interesting meeting, I did take the opportunity of stressing the significance of the transition to democracy that taking place, or has taken place in Indonesia and how very important it was for the long term fight against terrorism that the manifestation of moderate mainstream Islam was seen to be successful and how very important it was for the world to support Indonesia.

JOURNALIST:

In what way could the world do that do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think there are different ways, I mean we’re obviously doing it in the wake of the tsunami tragedy but what the world can do about further investment in Indonesia, obviously there have to be changes in that country to provide appropriate levels of assurance in relation to investment. But I made the broad point that Indonesia being the largest Islamic country in the world that what happens there is crucial to the I guess view the world has of, and of the interaction between moderate Islam and Islamic fanaticism because if moderate mainstream Islam succeeds and democracy remains strong, as it appears to be in Indonesia, well that is a huge rebuff to the terrorists because the terrorists do not want a stable, successful Indonesia. I made the point at this meeting that a modern successful country in Indonesia is anathema to the terrorists’ objectives.

JOURNALIST:

Was there much criticism about the United States in that debate? And also the discussion you attended for the BBC World seemed that there was a lot of so-called “Bush bashing” going on and you did step in to defend the United States, do you think that the US has come under attack here at this forum?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think some of the criticism by some of the Europeans is unfair and irrational and I have said so.

JOURNALIST:

Do you fear that that’s the way the world appears to be heading?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no that is not because that is the view in some parts of Europe, it’s not the view in Eastern Europe for example, you talk to somebody like the President of Latvia who took part in that meeting, you talk to the representative of Afghanistan, that is not their view, one of the other people who attended the session at lunchtime was of course the national security adviser from Iraq. Now sure, he’s part of an interim government, we’re having an election there on Sunday and it’s starting the process. I think what happens on Sunday in Iraq is very important and I hope there’s a good turn out, I don’t know what it’s likely to be, I don’t think anybody does, but I hope it’s a good turn out.

JOURNALIST:

There was a session on terrorism earlier today and they were talking about the issue of Iraq and what’s happened there in relation to the wider war on terror and one of the guys from the Rand Corporation was arguing that in fact the US presence there has almost made the situation worse because it’s created a whole new group of insurgents who…

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s not a new argument, there’s nothing particularly novel about that argument. I don’t share that view, I made the point today and I’ve made it before on numerous occasions that whatever view you may have had about the action in Iraq, everybody knows my view, leaving that aside there’s no doubt that the terrorists have adopted Iraq as a battleground and if a democracy takes root in Iraq then that is a setback for terrorism, and they’re throwing everything they’ve got at the task of stopping the elections being effective.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Kim Beazley has been campaigning in the seat of Werriwa, where is the selection process at for a Liberal candidate for the by-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is a matter for the organisation. But the party, my understanding, the organisation is considering that issue and they’ll be making an announcement about it in the next week or so.

JOURNALIST:

Does Paul Langmack has what it takes to take the seat from Labor?

PRIME MINISTER:

He’s a wonderful footballer but I don’t know anything more about his intentions, I did read this morning that, some reference to him, I don’t know how accurate that is, I don’t want to assume anything that may not be the case but he’s certainly a very fine citizen and a very fine rugby league player.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think there is a chance the Liberals could take the seat?

PRIME MINISTER:

Take the seat? Oh come on, that’s a very big challenge. But we haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet, that’s a matter for the party organisation.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, beyond the issue of America bashing there is an obvious high level of anxiety here across the board about the American economy and what the outlook is and what the impact will be of the Bush budget. Do you share that anxiety and what is your view about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I certainly don’t like the fact that the US budget is so heavily in deficit, that’s a view I’ve expressed before. I don’t know that I have an anxiety, I wouldn’t express it that way about the American economy, but the American economy is still making a very big contribution to world growth, it always will, however I would like to see a lower budget deficit.

JOURNALIST:

And would you like to see the Chinese contribute to rebalancing the various aspects of the world economy, I went to that discussion today, there was a lot of views expressed by the Chinese about…

PRIME MINISTER:

I thought the Vice-Chairman of the Central Bank gave a reasoned defence of their exchange rate policy. I think China’s exchange rate policy is a matter for the Chinese.

JOURNALIST:

You having any luck on wheat, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Wheat? What aspect of wheat?

JOURNALIST:

Well you were very exercised on your…

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yes, we’ll continue to be, most of the people I’ve interacted with today are not really to blame.

JOURNALIST:

The Chinese, Prime Minister encouraged the world to invest more in the country as it developed, is that an important issue for Australia, to invest more in China?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Australia has invested quite a bit already. But these things in the end have got to be determined by individual commercial decisions, I mean we don’t direct businessmen to invest in a particular country, we encourage them to take advantage of commercial opportunities. I wrote to a large number of Australian countries encouraging them to participate in an infrastructure conference that President Yudhoyono convened in Jakarta earlier this month and I believed a lot of them responded to that invitation. The question of whether they invest depends upon their commercial assessments and we don’t seek to influence those in any kind of overt fashion.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, just on Iraq, Mohamed ElBaradei has come out pleading with the global community to be patient with Iran, that they’re co-operating, how much time should the country be given?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I would like the discussions that are occurring between the three European countries and Iran to continue. I hope those discussions can produce a satisfactory result. That’s the view I expressed yesterday when I saw the Iranian Foreign Minister and continues to be our view and I hope it can work out. I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by more or anybody else nominating times…

JOURNALIST:

Did he give you any encouragement?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he told me that Iran’s motives were positive. I think we have to wait and see.


Howard In Davos For WEF; Comments on Habib, Beazley

The Prime Minister, John Howard, is in Davos, Switzerland, for the latest meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Speaking to journalists, Howard criticised European wheat subsidies, but was otherwise non-committal on Mamdouh Habib and the ALP leadership.

According to its website, the World Economic Forum is “an independent international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation”. Its members “represent the world’s 1,000 leading companies, along with 200 smaller businesses, many from the developing world, that play a potent role in their industry or region”.

The forum aims for “a world-class corporate governance system where values are as important a basis as rules”. It argues for “entrepreneurship in the global public interest”, and believes that “economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible.”

This is the transcript of the doorstop interview given by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the Belvedere Hotel in Davos, Switzerland.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, this is your first trip to the World Economic Forum, why have you come this year?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s not my first trip to the World Economic Forum, I went to the one in New York, it’s the first one I’ve come to in Davos. I think this is an appropriate time given beginning of a new term, there are a lot of major economic issues to be discussed, I’ll take the opportunity for example of expressing my concern about the decision of the European Union to resume subsidies for the export of wheat, that’s a matter of very great concern to Australia, it seems to run completely counter to all the rhetoric we’ve had about more open trade, if this is their idea about more open trade well Australia is deeply disappointed. There’s a lot of rhetoric at the moment about helping under-developed countries, nothing would help under-developed countries more than the removal of trade subsidies and trade barriers and if the nations of Europe and North America and others that have highly protected agricultural policies wanted to really help many of the developing countries then they could do more to help them in changing their trade policies than they could through official development assistance.

JOURNALIST:

So will you be seeking some bilateral discussions with European Union officials?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I will talk to anybody I can get hold of on all manner of subjects, I’m having a lot of bilateral discussions and I’m sure the opportunity of discussing that matter will come up.

JOURNALIST:

Mamdouh Habib arrived back in Australia today, will the Government be keeping a close eye on him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look Mr Ruddock is dealing with that, let him speak for the Government on that issue.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think in general though given that the possibility of charges being pressed has now receded, if it fair enough to say that the man’s innocent?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to express a view on that, Mr Ruddock is handling it back in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think of the election of Kim Beazley as Opposition Leader?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it was inevitable wasn’t it? Let me congratulate Mr Beazley, like all other leaders of the opposition I won’t be taking anything for granted in dealing with the Labor Party under his leadership. His responsibility now, as mine has been in the almost 10 years that I’ve been leader of the Liberal Party, is to be accountable to the Australian people. The Australian people will want to know from him, as they do from me, what he stands for and what he intends to do. You are accountable in public life for what you believe in and what you do, not what you say.

JOURNALIST:

Ten years ago you took over the Liberal Coalition in a similar position, have you got any advice for Mr Beazley?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’m not giving Mr Beazley any advice. That’s a matter for him. Look, he’s been made leader, I don’t treat anybody lightly, I’ve told my party not to get complacent, we have to work very hard to retain the confidence of the Australian people, you can never take anything for granted in politics and I can assure the Australian people that I do not take them for granted, I work hard in their interests and that’s the message I send to all of my colleagues.

Thank you.


Kim Beazley Returns As ALP Leader; Elected By Acclamation

Kim Beazley was re-elected by acclamation as leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party shortly after 9.00am today. Beazley nominated himself. There were no other contenders.

Beazley held a press conference at midday. He delivered the brief statement reproduced below and then answered questions.

  • Listen to Kim Beazley’s press conference.

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This is the text of the statement from the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley.

Kim Beazley, Leader of the OppositionFirstly you will be pleased to know I intend to be brief.

I was elected unopposed as the Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party at our Caucus meeting this morning. I am proud and excited to be given the chance to lead Australia’s longest serving political party back into office.

I said at the time I nominated for party leadership that I was fired with ambition for my Party and my country — and so I am. We are going to be an Opposition that sharpens the differences between the government and ourselves. We believe you can have a modern, dynamic economy with compassion.

I was a very proud member of Labor governments, which put in place the reforms which underpinned our prosperity. And I know this: we cannot maintain this prosperity with the trade deficit we have, with the collapse of investment in innovation and infrastructure as well as industry bottlenecks due to skills shortages. We have sharp differences also with this Government on the issue of sustainable development, exemplified by this Government’s refusal to adopt the Kyoto Protocol.

Around the kitchen table, every parent knows their children’s future depends on the quality of the education and training they get. And everybody wants a first class health system. The electorate knows full well our attitudes to education and health. They know we are on their side and I want to assure you that we will continue the fight. We will also sharpen the differences on national security. That’s a debate I won’t shirk.

These are not small issues. These are really big issues. These are the issues which determine the prosperity of our country. In many ways, in the century we face, the survival of our country. They are areas which require big policy responses. Big plans, but plans that are carefully laid, and a Labor Government that acts decisively. That’s what I plan us to be.

We face three central tasks. The first is to reunite and reinvigorate our Party. I am going to do something unusual for an Opposition leader. I am going to announce my Shadow Ministry at my first press conference. Everybody stays in place.

Our second task is to hold this government accountable. The whole political world changes on July the 1 st. The government has absolute legislative power. Accountability will no longer depend on the minor parties in the Senate, but how effectively the Labor Party holds the government accountable.

Our third task is to provide an alternative government. Don’t expect a raft of new policies today. We have three years to develop this effective alternative but those policies will reflect the sharp differences to which I refer.

I promised my Party this morning three years of hard work, clear focus and absolute commitment to the task of putting the Labor Party back into government.

I am going to give John Howard the fight of his life and then win the next election.


Howard Has Trade Talks With World Leaders In Davos

This is the transcript of the doorstop interview given by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the World Economic Forum Congress Centre in Davos, Switzerland.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well today I had bilateral meetings with Bob Zoellick, who is the new US Deputy Secretary of State, still Trade Representative, the Foreign Minister of Iran, and also the Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist. In addition to that I participated in the BBC world debate, along with sundry other people, including John McCain and Joe Biden and the Secretary General of the Arab League and a cross section of commentators and other political figures. I specifically raised in that my concern about the need for America and Europe to work together to make the Doha round a success, there was a lot of criticism from the Europeans about the Americans over a number of issues and some people were calling for areas where there could be co-operation and I suggested that I hope that one area they might co-operate was to remove some of the agricultural protections and that would work very much to the advantage of developing countries and obviously Australia has a vested interest in that, but quite separately from our interest there’s a very big developing country interest in that. That’s all I want to say, any questions?

JOURNALIST:

How did that go down, that sort of suggestion?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Europeans didn’t say much about it.

JOURNALIST:

And the Americans?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the discussion kept going on other issues, they were very focused on aspects of the interaction between Europe and the United States.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned that there hasn’t been much happening since the July breakthrough agreement on the Doha round?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I am, and I don’t think this wheat development is helpful, I think it’s very unhelpful. I said something about that to some of you earlier today and I think it’s…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we don’t want to accelerate the (inaudible). Well Bob Zoellick and I talked about that, he said (inaudible), and he’s moving out of the trade area very shortly, but he’s still very committed to bringing it about but he recognises what an enormous administrative challenge it is. It’s complicated not only by the normal barriers to movement but it’s also complicated by the fact that it’s not just the Americans and the Europeans, although they’re the major players, there are other players in it as well. I think we can continue through our role in the Cairns group to have a positive influence.

JOURNALIST:

What came out of your talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we talked about the importance of keeping a dialogue going between our two countries and I think that is important, we’ve kept a good diplomatic relationship with Iran, we have quite a good trade relationship, I encouraged Iran to work closely with the three European countries in relation to nuclear matters.

JOURNALIST:

Because of Australia’s diplomatic relationship with Iran do you see your and Australia’s role as perhaps a lead role on behalf of the international community on issues like the…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the lead role in that should be taken by the three European countries, I think what, I mean I made the point that there should be full co-operation and full compliance by Iran with the understandings that have been reached with the three European countries.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of a lifeline or lifespan does the European negotiation with Iran have do you think? I mean the country claims that it will have nuclear proficiency by next year, does that…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am hopeful that that initiative, those three countries can bring about a result that we all find acceptable.

JOURNALIST:

The key agenda for this forum is poverty, addressing these problems of poverty in the third world. What’s going to be your contribution to that debate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the biggest thing the developed world can do to alleviate poverty is to remove trade barriers. The benefits of that are infinitely greater than benefits from direct aid, direct aid works well in some cases, in many other cases because of poor governance it works very badly.

JOURNALIST:

There are (inaudible) importers though.

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST:

There are countries that are net agricultural importers who would not necessarily benefit from…

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no that’s true, there are some, that’s quite true.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the global launch against poverty today highlighted not only the trade issue you’re talking about but also the key issue of third world debt relief. I know that you’ve had some concerns in the past, particularly over the tsunami, about whether or not that debt relief actually helps people on the ground I guess. Is that your concern about where that debate’s going?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well sovereign debt relief in the short term rewards the treasuries of the indebted countries and unless there’s a guarantee that that is then channeled to poverty alleviation it can be very unproductive, but that’s not to say we’re opposed to all debt relief, we have involved ourselves in programmes helping the highly indebted developing countries. But the principle applies whether you’re dealing with a tsunami situation or not.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, there are two proposals that (tape break) tax on everything from plane tickets to secret financial transactions. Can I ask you what you think of that, and secondly that’s a proposal that’s been supported today by Gerhard Schroeder who has also supported Gordon Brown’s proposal of establishing a monetary fund to bring forward the goals of the millennium goals. Can I ask you what you think of each of those proposals?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’d like to study President Chirac’s proposal.

JOURNALIST:

That’s what Tony Blair said.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I didn’t know that, but there you go.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think that they’re interesting proposals, ones that you might favour?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not normally attracted to proposals for new taxes.

JOURNALIST:

And Gordon Brown’s proposal Prime Minister, establishing an interim financial fund to which countries would contribute as they go towards 2015 rather than just sitting…

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I don’t mean this facetiously but I would like to study that a little more carefully before I give a response.