Transcript Of Steve Bracks-Robert Doyle Television Debate
November 8, 2002
This is the transcript of the one-hour televised debate between the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, and the Opposition Leader, Robert Doyle. The debate was broadcast on ABC television and radio. The transcript is taken from the Liberal Party's website. The debate was moderated by Ian Henderson.
Hello, I'm Ian Henderson. Welcome to the Leader's
It's a full ten years since Victorian political leaders
last agreed to a televised election debate, and we're
delighted the parties have chosen the ABC to conduct
this debate, which is being simulcast on ABC local
radio and audio will also be available oat ABC online.
SO welcome to the studio Steve Bracks, Labor Leader
and Premier of Victoria.
Thank you very much.
And also welcome to Robert Doyle, Leader of the Opposition
and Liberal Leader.
Good evening Ian.
We're also joined tonight by an expert panel who will
contribute to tonight discussion.
They are: Tim Lee, our resident expert on regional
issues from ABC Land Life; John Ferguson, state politics
reporter for the Herald Sun; Ewin Hannan, state political
editor for The Age.
And Josephine Cafagna of the ABC's Stateline program.,
Now the rules of the debate are straightforward.
After an opening question from me, the Leaders will
have three minutes each to respond.
And gentlemen, we'd ask that those responses to all
subsequent questions be kept pretty concise and to
the point, partly out of respect four our audience,
and partly so we that we can simply cover more territory
It is quite OK, though, if you want to directly question
each other from time to time.
But I ask that we all observe the rules of common
courtesy, no sledging, no undue talking over each
There is a lot to cover and so forgive me if from
time to time I move thing on a little bit.
Now, the leaders tossed a coin just
before we came on air.
Mr Bracks was the winner and he's offered to take
the first question.
But it all evens up in the end as Mr Doyle will have
the benefit of the last word at the conclusion of
So let's get on with it, Mr Bracks
first to you.
What do you say are the key challenges facing the
State of Victoria over the nest four years.
Well thank you Ian.
Continuing to improve services.
We've already made significant progress
but there's more to be done in health, in education,
in public safety, on the streets and in the workplace.
To ensure that we have one of the
safest states in Australia, a highly educated population
and we have a health system which is of world class
conduct in the future.
We have achieved a lot over the last
three years and I am very proud of what we have achieved.
We now have almost 20,000 Victorians
who are coming back to our State and finding Victoria
their home in the future.
We now have 135,000 new jobs which
have been created over the last three.
We have a very strong budget and fiscal
position the strongest in the country.
And just three years ago, we had a
situation where we had students dropping out of our
We had a health system which had been
cut and cut and cut.
And we had nurses who were sacked
and taken out of our health system.
And we had a police force in which
800 police were taken out and sacked effectively and
not replaced on the frontline and protecting Victorians.
In just three years we are seeing
significant improvements. In education, there's more
students now staying at school longer.
Their literacy and numeracy rates
are up and rising significantly.
We've got smaller class sizes.
In health for the first time in many
years we're seeing waiting lists actually reduce,
and that is a good sign.
We've got more nurses in place, 3300
more nurses and we're opening up more beds around
And n community safety we are very
proud of the fact that we have employed 800 extra
police on the frontline.
That's 800 extra police protecting
Victorians and we did it 18 months ahead of the schedule
we set for ourselves.
We now have in Victoria the safest
state in Australia. Our crime rate is 20% below the
average crime rate in the country.
And the regions.
The regions which were described by
the previous Premier as the toenails of the state,
with the heart pumping in the centre of the city,
now get a fair share under our Government.
And the regions are going much better.
We now have situation where unemployment
in regional Victoria is the lowest it's been for almost
ten years and we are seeing growth with links and
communication systems going to our regions in the
And I believe, in answering your question
as well Ian, one of the biggest challenges facing
us in the future is going to be to have a sustainable
An environment in which we protect
An environment in which our water
resources are conserved and protected and expanded
in the future.
I was very pleased today for example
to be at the Eildon Reservoir and to announce $50
million which will assist and support in expanding
our water resource in piping the channels which are
now leaking and evaporating and ensuring we have a
sustainable resource in the future.
I was also proud to have a ban on
logging in the Otways.
So services, growing the whole State,
a better environment, these are the challenges I believe
for the next four years.
Mr Doyle, your turn.
How do you see those challenges?
What are the main challenges facing
Well Ian, Victoria is a great State.
It is a great place to live.
By nature, I am an optimist.
And I think a great future is possible
And there are so many problems and
so many projects that I want to tackle.
Water projects for country Victoria.
Projects for the next generations
in education and in health, projects that include
big things for the environment.
But what really concerns me is that
over the last three years, Victoria has had no direction.
We have been drifting.
I still believe that these are uncertain
And they are times when our safety
and security, regrettably, can no longer be guaranteed.
In times like these we need active
leadership and we need strong decision making.
Now, I've had a careful look at this
and sadly over the last three years this has not been
Over the last three years Labor has
set up over 800 different reviews and committees.
That's one for every working day that
Labor has been in office.
Now that is no way to run the State
and it is no way to run an economy.
I want to do more to protect our financial
I believe we can't go on living beyond
In the last three years Victoria's
income has gone up by 20% but Labor's spending has
gone up by 30%.
Now think of the future consequences
of spending more than we earn.
Just three years ago Labor inherited
a $1.8 billion surplus.
In the last three years they have
not commenced and completed one major project.
And yet that huge surplus is all but
That's why last week the Auditor General
warned that out economy is vulnerable and has weaknesses
Now I want to protect our financial
base to pay for our future and you have to do that
by not spending more than you earn.
I believe we are at a cross roads.
This election is about the future.
The Liberal Party has practical plans
for the next four years and they are fully costed.
We've released 20 positive policies
for Victoria including capping council rates, minimum
fixed sentences for violent criminals, removing Zone
3 fares to help working families and putting 1050
extra police on our streets for community safety.
So my message tonight is, a vibrant
economy is the foundation of our future, there are
real concerns about the finances of this State and
the Liberal Party has the plan to protect jobs, to
protect investment and to protect businesses in Victoria.
Well gentlemen, let's get down to
Commentators have noted that this
is the first Victorian election for 20 years in which
Jeff Kennett hasn't played a part.
But I think he still casts a long
Mr Bracks, your detractors say that
all you've really done is roll back some of the more
unpopular features of the Kennett years.
That you've struggled to find a vision
of your own and that you're a do-nothing government.
What's your response?
Well I think if you were a family
who wanted to get your child a good education in Victoria
you would think that things have improved over the
last three years because you have got smaller class
sizes and you've got students staying at school longer.
If you want to be safer on the street,
with more police on the street, you would see that
crime is down to the lowest it's been for some time
and it was down last year again.
If you want to get a hospital bed
in Victoria it's much easier now than it was with
waiting lists coming down for the first time.
And no longer are regions and suburbs
seen as second class citizens as they were under the
So my answer is this Ian, my answer
is that those things that really matter to Victorians
are the things that have changed the things that are
better and the things that have improved.
Safety on the street, good health
system and ensuring that regions & suburbs grow
in the future - that's what Victorians wanted and
what they voted for at the last election and that's
what Victorian's are getting currently under this
Mr Doyle you say you are different to Jeff Kennett
but you haven't really explained to us how you're
different and with a front bench that has a number
of memberswho were in the Kennett ministries why we
should believe you are going to be any different.
How do you respond?
I would just like to pick up one point that Steve
made if I could Ian before I certainly come to that
and that is that he mentioned that crime was down.
Well the facts show that violent crime,
that is crimes against the person are actually up
Could I just make this comment I wonder if the opposition
leader could comment is overall crime down this year
and last year?
Could I suggest gentlemen, we'll be able to tackle
that when we get onto law and order later but I'd
like to deal with leadership and vision thing if you
like, I mean people really want to know Robert Doyle
how are you different from Jeff Kennett?
Well I don't think its any
secret that Jeff Kennett and I didn't always get on.
Ah, I don't think that's news to anybody,
I'm a different bloke from Jeff Kennett and I can
tell you over the last 3 years this is a different
Opposition is a hard lesson.
We've had to go out and listen to
people and to learn from what they have said to us
and we have done that, we have done the hard yards.
The people that are there now are
a very fresh team, I have people on my front bench
who only entered the Parliament in the 1999 election,
and very talented people they are.
So we are a different team, a re-focused
team we understand mistakes of the past but we are
firmly committed to a practical plan for the next
Gentlemen a key issue in this campaign is going to
be financial management.
To start off our questioning on that
important subject, John Ferguson.
Mr Bracks, the last budget the surplus was cut by
$500 million isn't it a fact that politics are engaged
in a vote buying auction, which potentially is unsustainable.
Well, all our costings John will be checked and examined,
in our case by PricewaterhouseCoopers, we've announced
that already and all of them are within the framework
of substantial budget surpluses in the future.
And those budget surpluses and don't
believe me as a Premier, have been checked and examined
by the independent separate ratings agencies, Standard
and Poors who are charged and Moody Investor Services
who are charged with the responsibility of looking
forward on the estimates period and saying is this
a strong fiscal and financial position, and they've
They've rated it AAA, now all our
costings are based on the forward estimates, all our
costings are their ensuring we have a surplus in the
I think its an incumbent on a party
in a political campaign or an election to announce
how they are checking and examining their costings.
We have done that.
We did that earlier in the campaign.
We said it would be PricewaterhouseCoopers,
and everything we do will be examined and checked
The real challenge is whether the
Liberal Party will have their books examined and checked
by an independent organization as well, you know they
might be announcing this today, or the next day, but
they should have announced this at the very very start
of the campaign.
And clearly Mr Doyle that same question applies to
Thank you John, I thank Steve for his advice on what
we should do in our campaign, I am pleased to say
that Professor Neville Norman the eminent Professor
of Economics at Melbourne University has agreed to
independently check our costings so ours too will
be independently costed as appropriate.
Look it is a very important question,
but I think a couple of facts remain.
You know the Labor government inherited
a budget surplus of $1.8 billion, in just three years
that's nearly gone, you know just a couple of months
ago the treasurer of this State told us that we had
lost $515 million dollars from our surplus in just
That is the first downward revision
of the state surplus since Joan Kirner's time.
The Auditor General, last week, the
Auditor General sent out a warning siren to Victorians
about our economy.
So we believe there are real problems
there and we believe those underlying problems are
one of the reasons that we find ourselves first at
a very early election and secondly debating before
we really know the true state of Victoria's finances.
If I could just add Ian, briefly if you look at the
State financial position the state of the budget here
in Victoria, we are the standout state.
You know you look at other states
and they are in deficit or close to deficit.
You look at the Commonwealth, the
Liberal/National government of the commonwealth have
a deficit of more than $1 billion dollars, we accounted
for a downturn in the stock market internationally
by having a large buffer and still producing $250
million surplus this year and we are anticipating
even bigger surpluses in the future.
So we are budgeting to be in the
black and stay in the black and that is contrary to
what is happening federally and contrary to most other
jurisdictions around the world
So you reject the assertion from Mr Doyle that that's
why you've gone early to the election.
Oh absolutely, look lets talk about the election campaign
Not only do we not have a majority
in the upper house we do not have a majority in the
lower house either, we are a minority government now
I think we've done that well and effectively and with
stability but in the opportunity available to us as
the constitution allows in the last year we have every
right to seek a mandate and that's exactly what we
Robert Doyle I have to let you have a go here I think
I would say Ian that Steve
talks about a surplus in Victoria. But what would
the Labor Government do for instance without speeding
I mean they were $99 million just
3 years ago.
The Auditor General said in his recent
report that next year they will be $426 million -
I don't believe you can build surpluses on things
like windfall gains from speeding fines.
Mr Bracks do you concede that you have broken your
promise and Labor Party policy to reduce your government's
reliance on the gambling dollar and will you re-commit
to that tonight?
Well not at all, and indeed
we will commit over time reducing the reliance on
There's a couple of things I should
say here Josephine, I think you are probably aware
One, we taxed Tabcrop and Tattersalls
with windfall profit. They were making profits because
they were a duopoly in the system, only two operators
in it - so we increased the tax take and put that
into the health system.
So therefore of course, there's going
to be more taxation taken out.
Secondly, if you look at the figures,
the growth in gaming revenue is still there but it's
been reducing over time.
It's not at the growth rates that
were there in the last government.
And even the recent measures we've
taken, for example to ban smoking in gaming venues.
I think you know, I think the public
knows, that has had a significant effect, downward
effect on revenue for those gaming venues.
So my view is yes we recommit, yes
we've made a difference, yes there is more to be done
and I think we're right direction.
Are you saying you have reduced your reliance on the
The rate of growth of gambling has reduced.
It's not growing at a greater rate.
And over time, you might even seem
That's the trend which seems to be
there in some of the smoking bans which have been
in place and of course we've had two lots of legislation
in place to bring in measures which the previous government
wouldn't bring in, hard hit advertising, warning and
bans on some advertising and also making sure that
we have facilities which give people a break.
Mr Doyle will you promise to reduce a Liberal Government's
reliance on the gaming dollar.
Thank you Josephine.
First I couldn't quite believe what
I was hearing then.
I talked before about the surplus
being propped up by winfall games in speeding fines
but one of the other areas that's propped up Victoria's
economy has been revenue from gaming.
I think that has clearly shown that
that has just increased out of control.
Now I'm not anti gambling, I guess
like many Victorians I had a bet a small bet this
week earlier in the week it wasn't as successful as
I would have liked but things like electronic gaming
machines don't have much appeal for me I must say.
And I've got some real concerns about
people who I think get addicted and are problem gamblers.
I don't think we understand enough
about the addictions and I don't think enough is being
done to identify those people early and make sure
they don't get themselves and their families into
Now they are the focus we need to
look at I think.
Would you commit to reducing Victoria's reliance on
tax revenue from gambling.
I would not be fussed one iota if our revenue from
gaming fell because I do think it's an area where
most of our community think is very concerned about
governments being reliant on it.
I think it's time to move on to law
& order if we may.
Jeff Kennett in 1992 promised to employ 1000 more
The numbers fell during your time
in Government by 800.
Why should voters believe your promise
now of 1000 more police?
Well as I've said I'm a different
bloke from Jeff Kennett and we are a different Party.
That figure wasn't arrived at by accident.
What we looked at was what we wanted
in our community.
And as I've said, at times like these,
I think that people want a sense of safety, and security
And regrettably, we used to take that
for granted and we can no longer.
What I want is proactive policing,
almost old fashioned policing.
Putting police back on the streets,
back on public transport, in shopping centres, protecting
We arrived at that figure by looking
at the number of police that we would need, that is
1050, and we will commit to that absolutely without
They can be delivered and they will
be delivered for the benefit of community safety.
Can I just add here that this is a re-run of the past,
the figures are almost the same as the Kennett Government
They committed 1000 extra and they
set about cutting 800.
Now it's almost as if they'll take
a plank out of the Kennett Government and repeat it
as a promise at this election.
The runs are on the board in our case.
We only delivered what we promised.
We said we would have 800 extra police
on the streets and we actually delivered it 18 months
ahead of the schedule.
And I think, you know, the public
wants to know what you're delivering, not just what
Mr Bracks, between when you came to power in 1999
and June this year, rates of homicide, rape, assaults
and aggravated burglary have actually increased over
that three year period.
What do you say to the Liberal claim
that you're soft on crime?
Well you've got to look
at crime overall though, Ewin and you know, some areas
are going up, some are going down.
But overall it's all going down.
The total crime rate in Victoria went
down this year on last year on the figures.
We have crime rates much lower than
almost every state in Australia and 20% below the
Our police are doing a fantastic job,
they're doing a great job in ensuring that we bring
the crime rate down.
When we came to office, the morale
amongst the police was the lowest I think its' ever
been in Victoria.
You had an attrition rate, you had
police walking out and leaving and not being replaced.
You go into a police station now and
see the morale that's been lifted, you see the community
policing that's going on now on the streets, and it's
much more effective than it has been in the past.
I've got nothing but regard for our
service police officers in this state.
They are doing a fantastic job and
we're committed to making sure that we, we have a
sufficient police force in the future to keep the
crime rate the lowest in Australia.
But wasn't it true that those rates have gone up over
that three year period.
Well, some have gone up but the majority has gone
And overall, the total crime rate
is going down.
And if you look at, you know, car
theft or break-in, they're areas that are going down
And overall, you know, I'm the first
to admit that we want to do even better.
But you look at the performance over
the last three years and any objective commentator
would say, you know, we have the safest state in Australia.
Just one quick one, there was an interesting
rating which occurred in the Economist Magazine rating
cities around the world and Melbourne came out as
the most livable city in the world again.
One of the key things which distinguished
us from other cities in Australia was that we had
a safe state with crime rates down.
It meant that we got that rating over
Sydney and other states as well.
And that was a good indication objectively
Mr Doyle you released your law and order policy yesterday.
You say you are tough on crime but
it seems you're soft on speeding motorists.
If the road toll rises under a Liberal
Government will you change that policy?
Jospehine, first could I just answer some of the things
that Steve said then because I don't think that question
was earlier answered.
Those serious crimes against people,
those serious things like homicide and home invasion
are up over the last three years by 24.7%.
Those crimes are up.
And I must say, looking at our society,
when you look at the aftermath of the September 11th
riots, and people say to themselves well hang on,
there's one protestor convicted and three police officers
Haven't we, sort of, got that the
wrong way around? I mean, is that what we would expect
in our community, to support our police?
We've got a Royal Commission going
on right now, the Cole Royal Commission into the building
and construction industry, with evidence of crime
And Steve has been completely silent
on that coincidentally since the day I was elected
So, I think there are some real questions
about the Labor Party being soft on crime.
Let me make this point about the road
I think that's what happened over
the last three years is that the focus has moved away
from road safety and towards revenue collection which
has ramped up over the last three years.
Now I will trade revenue any day for
real road safety initiatives. And I think we should
be thinking about road safety.
Now regrettably, the road toll seems
to have stuck at about 400 after some great inroads,
it seems to have stopped at about 400 and we need
to look at some imaginative and creative ways of making
sure that road toll comes down.
Mr Bracks, hasn't Mr Doyle got a point there?
I mean, are people doing 64 in a 60
zone really the dangerous drivers who attract a fine?
It does look a bit like naked revenue
Look I think this is a very important matter and a
very important choice that Victorians have to make.
In a sense this is probably one of
the issues that probably transcends party political
The road toll has always been a bi-partisan
issue which has always enjoyed support from both sides
We have a situation now where the
road toll from the measures we've taken has gone down
on last year significantly.
And we now have in metropolitan Melbourne
the lowest road toll ever in the history of Victoria,
in the history of metropolitan Melbourne, the lowest
So the measures we've undertaken
are working. I'm very concerned about any leader of
any political organisation or any body in Victoria
who effectively by their actions encourages people
Now let me give you an example of
The example is this, we have 110 on
some of our roads in Victoria.
If you were to have the arrangements
that the Opposition Leader's proposing you would effectively
allow people to travel up to more than 120 without
being booked. More than 120 on those roads.
Yeah, well there's no doubt that speed kills.
There's no doubt about that.
We will do everything to bring down
the road toll and I am very concerned about any message
from any political leader effectively saying, it's
not too bad to speed a little bit.
I think that's that the wrong message
Come on Steve, I mean really.
A speedo needle is thicker than the
amount required for 3km an hour.
You know that.
You know that 3km an hour is not about
road safety, it's about collecting revenue.
And I think it's a little unfair to
suggest that in some way we are soft on the road toll
or we're not interested in road safety.
What we're not interested in is mere
Well can I reiterate, the road toll in Melbourne is
the lowest it's ever been in the history of collection
of road tolls.
The measures are actually working.
My fear is if you start to relax and
say to people as legislators that it's not too bad
I think, I think
If that tolerance is there though Ian.
If I can finish on this.
That will effectively give permission
to people to speed and that means loss of lives.
I think we've got both your points there.
Let's move on a little now a change
As in 1999 this election may well
be decided on regional and rural issues which is precicely
why we've got Tim Lee here to talk to you.
Jobs and services are clearly what matter in rural
and regional Victoria.
Firstly Mr Bracks, you promised fast
rail to the regions, won't this simply mean bringing
more people to work in Melbourne.
No, well thank you very much for your question Tim
and I am very proud of the fact that we're spending
some $550 million to bring fast rail to Bendigo, Ballarat,
Geelong and the Latrobe Valley.
And all the examinations and visibility
studies show that that will mean that people in Melbourne
can choose on whether they want to work in some of
those regional areas and bring with them their incomes
and their spending.
And it's much more about population
growth, it's much more about regional economies than
it is about just simply having a fast rail root between
those the capital cities and the provinces.
And it fits in also with our vision
ah for Victoria itself. We see Victoria as having
a vibrant and great international city in Melbourne,
and vibrant and great regions.
With inter-links and close links in
transport and communications and so you can have up
those corridors growth and population and you can
have job generated incomes ah for people working in
Melbourne, if you like, and working in those regional
It's an important part of our vision
for Victoria. I am very proud of it, and I am very
proud the projects have started on those four lines.
It will make an enormous difference
in the future to Victoria.
Mr Doyle do you support that given that under previous
Kennett Government there was an abandonment of a great
of country services.
Well Tim, first I am interested that Steve talks about
these projects as if they have been delivered, they
have not been.
And you know, and in some cases there
hasn't been a sleeper laid or a spike driven.
I mean, they've been promised, but
as you said, they've been started.
Well what's been happening for the
last three years.
If these were the major projects which
were promised by Labor before the last election, what
have they been doing for three years that only now
they can say, well we've started them.
And then you have to think them through.
What are you going do with that train
from Ballarat when it hits Sunshine?
When it actually hits the metropolitan
And it isn't a fast train anymore,
it's quite a slow train really because it's into the
same network as the metropolitan trains.
I think there are some real problems
with simply promising rather than delivering.
Well the projects have started, the contracts have
been signed and the work has been undertaken.
I think the question we should be
dwelling on is do you support them?
If you happen to be in government
in the future would you sign on and complete them?
We would honour all contracts unlike this previous
Government who, for instance, at Seal Rock abandoned
a contract at what might be cost of who knows how
many hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxapayer.
No, we will honour all contracts.
Well I think it's pleasing to note that the Liberal
Party have discovered rail again.
Just on another issue the worsening drought has also
put up the threat of serious fire.
Now, right across Victoria there's
an enormous concern about the lack burning off during
the cooler months.
How confident are you that coming
Summer, Mr Bracks, that we prepared for an emergency.
This is potentially one of the worse seasons, potentially
one of the worst seasons ever in Victoria for fire
to occur right around the State.
Obviously with the drought conditions
areas of the state will be tinderbox dry.
We are therefore putting on significant
extra fire personnel, both in the CFA and the MFB
to cope with that.
We've got more resources in place
in equipment and helicopters and other equipment to
support our fire service workers in the future.
There is no doubt that we are well
prepared but there is also no doubt that it's going
to be a very very difficult season and I think everyone
anticipates and expects that of course with the severe
drought conditions we've seen around Victoria.
Mr Doyle, what will your Government do?
I might first say that it gave me great concern that
while the Labor Government was spending tens of millions
of dollars on government advertising we had a drought
throughout country Victoria that simply wasn't being
recognised by this government and I think that was
very hurtful to many farming communities and farming
And when finally they were able to
say the word "drought" what they really
did was too little and too late.
The aftermath of the drought of course
is very severe fire conditions.
One thing that you can rely on us to do is to support
volunteers, particularly those in the CFA who've been
the absolute backbone of firefighting in country Victoria.
Now that's something that a Labor
Government has difficulty with particularly because
of their relationship with the unions.
We on the other hand would greatly
support our volunteers.
I think Victoria's got a large problem
to face here and that is that after Ash Wednesday
when a lot of new plant was bought, a lot of new trucks
were bought for the CFA.
Many of those are now reaching the
end of their life and we will need a positive plan
to make sure that that stock is replaced.
Mr Doyle can I take you up on another issue that I
know is a vital concern to country Victoria and that
I mean I think that what the Government's
done on environmental flows in the Snowy is well-known.
How do you strike the balance between
what's needed to keep environmental flows going and
the legitimate needs of irrigators?
We fully support environmental flows to the Snowy.
We think it was a political stunt
however that flows were put down the Snowy at a time
when country Victoria was in drought.
Now country people understand that.
They would understand that it was
not the time to return water to the Snowy when water
was missing from the rest of Victoria.
So we were very concerned about that
as a political stunt. But water as a priority?
I think it is going to be the major
question facing us particularly in infrastructure
over the next ten and 20 years in country Victoria.
Just if I could on the Snowy, um so that I think we
can have some more information about that question
the Snowy arrangement to have more flows down
the Snowy was a joint Government arrangement.
It was initiated by the Victorian
Government but with the support of the New South Wales
Government the South Australian Government and the
Commonwealth Government as well.
All signed on to the arrangements
to increase the flow of the Snowy to 28 per cent over
a period of years.
All signed on to that.
So the Commonwealth Government, the
New South Wales Government, the South Australian Government
and the Victorian Government are all part of it.
We will do that by water savings.
That is by ensuring that water which
is lost now through evaporation and seepage through
bad management on tributaries going in that we save
that water and put it down.
We have heard that from you earlier today and I'm
going to stop you there simply because I'm being told
that you're well ahead on time tonight and we're going
to give Mr Doyle a little bit more oxygen.
Can I answer that first?
No one disagrees with those flows
down the Snowy.
But it was a question of timing.
I mean surely when a lot of country
Victoria is in drought.
I mean country people support each
other and they know we're committed to those flows.
But they would also understand that
at that time a better use of that water would have
been for farming families and farming communities.
And I think that a lot of them saw
that as a slight on country Victoria.
Could I also say that we
Just on that misinformation if I could for a sec,
there is no feasible technical way that that water
could've been used for anything than what it's used.
So I think the facts might be useful
in this case.
Ok gentlemen, we'd like to try something a little
bit different now at this stage of the debate.
To take your political pulse, so to
speak, and cover a few more issues.
I've a series of questions first for
you Mr Bracks and then for you Mr Doyle, to which
we would like a one-word answer, or at the very least
a one-sentence answer so brevity here is the very
soul of wit. So, as time's on the wing let's go Mr
Will you revisit the idea of heroin
injecting rooms if you win government again?
No we won't.
Do you support a closed shop on building sites?
That's up to the workplace themselves to decide democratically.
If all else fails would you buy the defence land at
Point Nepean to ensure it remains a national park?
We're actually very prepared and ready to do that
very thing but we want the owner to clean it up properly,
you know the explosives and the
I know I'm
going a bit long
I know the issue, if they don't?
Um, the answer is, yes we would proceed we have the
legislative capacity to do that for our green wedge
legislation that if the Commonwealth ever try and
dispose of this, we will make sure by legislation
it stays in public hands and part of a national park.
Would you categorically rule out putting any more
tolls on new or existing roads?
Yes I will.
Will you reduce stamp duty for homebuyers?
No we don't plan to reduce stamp duty, we believe
that is an important revenue base for the future,
it is cyclical, it will go up and down, depending
on the economy and depending on the building activity
at the time.
Mr Doyle it's now your turn.
Do I get a prize for one word answers if I'm very
I think he's established the ground rules here
Oh no I'll try to the original rules
in one word.
Question number one is will you retain Christine Nixon
as Police Commissioner if you win government?
Question two: will you renegotiate the MCG contract
to get Federal money even if that means trouble with
I believe in the rule of law on our
building sites the same as everywhere else.
Will you match Labor's commitment to stop logging
in the Otways and woodchipping in the Wombat State
I believe we have a contract, something I was asked
about before, an RFA.
We have a sustainable study done just
one year ago by this Government which said logging
in the Otways is sustainable.
I'll go with scientific evidence.
That's a no?
That's a no.
Would you categorically rule out putting any more
tolls on new or existing roads?
And will you reduce stamp duty for homebuyers.
Finally to both of you, and a slightly longer answer
is acceptable here, Steve Bracks is there anything
positive you can say about your opponent tonight?
Well yes of course there is, I think um anyone who
heads up a major political party as the Labor Party
or the Liberal Party is, um obviously, is someone
who's got courage and determination to be accountable
and to be a leader and I think you know it's a very
difficult task and I think I said to the Opposition
Leader at some stage in the Parliament you carry with
you a lot of responsibility for your team, for the
people that are MPs for the people who are candidates
and I respect people who are accountable, who are
prepared to stand up and I would say to my opponent
I understand the onerous nature of the job he's doing
and I understand therefore the qualities he's undertaken
to take that job.
Robert Doyle, is there anything positive you can say
about your opponent here?
I think he's a nice bloke. I'm just very concerned
that not enough is getting done.
Ok gentlemen if the polls are to be believed, the
issues at the top of the minds of voters in Victoria
at the moment are health and education.
John would you like to get us rolling here?
Sure, Mr Bracks, um, your government's had some significant
gains in health over the past three years but there
are two core areas where you seem to be having a little
bit of trouble.
One is ambulance bypass rates and
the other is the number of people waiting on trolleys.
Well in terms of ambulance bypass rates, they are
coming down, they are the lowest they've been for
In relation to trolleys, we are opening
up more beds, we've had 800 more beds open up round
the state, we've got more nurses in place, about 3,300
more nurses and of course that will make an enormous
difference in meeting the health needs in the future.
But there is more still to be done
and of course we'll be laying that out over the course
of this campaign.
Currently, we are treating about 35,000
patients extra each year.
There are about a million patients
who are treated each year in our health system in
So we're treating more patients, we've
got an ageing population of more people seeking health
care, more people coming in.
And despite that, for the first time
in many years, we're actually getting waiting lists
down and reducing.
And despite that increase, the number
of people seeking treatment, we're also opening up
more beds and having more patients treated.
Mr Doyle, the twin problems of bypass rates and number
of patients waiting on trolleys.
I mean, can you fix it and how will
you fix it if you can?
It can be fixed. You need to understand how emergency
departments work and you need to understand how the
whole system works.
Unfortunately that has not been the
case with the Labor Government.
They have not understood the hospital
It's one thing to say we've put lots
more money in, but why in that case on every key indicator,
that is objective and reported quarterly, is the hospital
system now worse than it was three years ago.
And that is true.
On every key indicator it is worse
than it was three years ago.
You need to understand how to balance
the whole system and in particular you need to understand
That's work that I was doing before
we left government last time, particularly in looking
at trauma throughout the State.
Can you explain exactly how your approach would be
different and you would make those efficiencies?
There's one areas that's a real problem for us and
that is you need to make sure that people who need
interim care are moved out of those emergency departments
quite quickly, you need to have rapid country hospitals.
The health system, and again Steve
made a virtue before of the health system treating
30,000 more patients this year, it does every year!
That's the amount of growth in our
health system every single year.
The really big increase came in 95/96,
when we went from about 600,000 people to over 900,000
people being treated.
So yes there are pressures in the
But if you understand the whole system
and if you understand how it works, then you can deliver
real benefits to Victoria.
The key question I think, Ian, you raised and I don't
think the Opposition Leader has yet addressed it is
what part did he play in the closure of those hospitals
and the sacking of those nurses that happened under
his previous Government of which he was a Parliamentary
Secretary for Health? What part did he play?
Well, I'm actually proud of the way that the health
If Steve's Government is doing such
a fantastic job and has put on so many extra nurses
and we have so many more hospitals, why is it on all
of the key indicators, the health system has actually
I think we're there, Ewin, if you would like to move
it on please.
Mr Doyle, you've complained about sweetheart deals
between Labor and the unions, can you guarantee that
teacher numbers won't be cut and secondly, will we
see a return to self-governing schools under the Liberals?
I can guarantee that teacher numbers will not be cut.
You will see autonomy in schools,
You will see schools properly supported.
The one area, and it's the reason
I am in politics rather than still in education because
I was a teacher, I was very proud of that.
I was proud of putting thousands of
young people on a strong path in life.
But the one thing that got me into
politics is because Labor doesn't understand quality
They don't like excellence.
They think one size fits all.
That's why we are the only state that
doesn't test our year seven students.
We are the only state that doesn't
benchmark our year three and our year five students
against national benchmarks, as indeed was agreed
by all states in the Commonwealth.
Because Labor doesn't understand and
doesn't trust quality in schools.
That will be my drive, it's the one
thing I wish to return to the education system.
Well you have to ask the question, why were literacy
and numeracy standards reducing and going down under
the Liberal Government?
Why was retention rates which when
they came to office they were 80% plus, they went
below 80%, more students were dropping out of school.
Why was it that we inherited in 1999
the lowest spending per student of any state in Australia?
We've had to lift that profile to
make it the second highest spending per student of
any state in Australia.
We're now seeing, under our Government,
literacy and numeracy levels going above the national
average and we're now seeing under our Government
also that students are staying at school longer and
retention rates are going up again.
I think outcomes are important. Outcomes
are happening under our Government.
Those cuts were deep and profound
and reduced outcomes.
Mr Doyle, one more stab at this.
Absolutely, if you don't mind.
I mean, I find that remarkable.
I think Steve has again confused spending
with outcomes. Promises with delivery.
He talks about increased literacy
and numeracy, there isn't a numeracy program to help
young people at the moment in the early years of primary
We have promised that today.
There should be to match the one that
we put in in literacy.
If this is the case that we're above
national benchmarks, why has this Government refused
to put in the Budget papers as was promised, national
benchmarks for our year three and year five students.
I'm going to have to move things on now.
And look, you've been on the receiving
end of questions from us for the debate so, I'd like
to shift gear again and hand it over to you gentlemen.
Mr Bracks, 17,000 more.
Yes, but you used the statistic that had university
lecturers in it.
Is that correct?
Did you or not?
It is the ABS who said this.
Not me, the Australian Bureau of
We don't employ university lecturers.
All I am saying to you Steve is that they are Victorian
public servants, that Australian Bureau of Statistics
said that, not me.
I think most people who would have read the newspapers
over recent days would realise you're arguing over
a semantic point here which is probably a debate to
have some other time but I don't want to get bogged
down in it tonight.
Robert Doyle, your turn to ask a question
of Mr Bracks.
Steve, can you guarantee us that you'll be able to
take on the unions?
Are you going to be soft on them?
Why have you made no response to the
Cole Royal Commission?
Why won't you allow the Office of
the Employment Advocate onto the MCG site?
Why did you knock back $90 million
of federal funding and tip in $77 million of Victorian
taxpayers' money when that money was on the table
from the Commonwealth?
Well I'm very pleased to have that question and explain
exactly what happened with the MCG funding.
Will the Employment Advocate be able
to go on the site of the MCG?
The answer is, yes.
Will the Workplace Relations Act apply
on the MCG site, the answer is yes.
Why did we tip in $77 million?
Because we had an agreement under
the tender arrangements where the Federal Government
said they would put in $90 million, they knew exactly
what was happening under the tender, the tenders were
concluded, at the last minute a different minister,
the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Mr Abbott,
intervened and wanted to change the whole tender arrangements
and have additional matters over and above the Workplace
Now I have a wider responsibility
to get the MCG completed by the Commonwealth Games
target of 206 [sic].
And it wouldn't have been done if
we had to re-tender it and that was what was sought
by the Workplace Relations Minister.
That wider responsibility is why we
took that action.
Well I very rarely agree with Paul Keating, but he
said, never stand between a state premier and a bag
I'd have to say, I have never seen
a state premier turn down $90 million of Commonwealth
money and then tip in $77 million, and that seems
like a very torturous explanation to me.
I think he's just caved into the CFMEU.
Well, you know, we have to complete this project.
If it went to re-tender the timelines
would not have been there for it to be completed by
206. It was a very simple matter.
The Federal Government knew what was
happening, a different minister intervened, sought
to change the tender arrangements, it was not appropriate.
The workplace relations act will apply
the employment Advocate will apply, the federal laws
will apply on the MCG site as they should.
Mr Bracks, how much are the TV and print ads of the
past few months, pre-election being called, cost the
Well the ads you're referring to were not just in
the last few months but have been over a period of
For example we said we wanted more
nurses in the system it's a very competitive market
place, there's a shortage of nurses Australia and
internationally so we advertised for more nurses,
we advertised for more police officers we advertised
for more teachers, we advertised to promote our manufacturing
These are important policy areas objectives
I couldn't image the last government
in Victoria advertising for more teachers, nurses
and police office because they were actually sacking
But those ads have increased of late.
How much have they cost?
Oh well those individual amounts and costs are in
I don't have a total cost.
They were all about ensuring we had
more tachers, more nurses and that was importantly
a policy objective of our government.
One we were elected on, by the way, in 1999.
Steve you know that's not right, you know that that
is not right.
These advertisements have been running,
long after you have claimed your recruitment targets
for nurses, teachers and police officers they are
self congratulation, self promotion, they are political
and that's why they had to be authorized.
Quite unlike any of the similar sorts of messages
that we were used to seeing under the Kennett government,
I mean I recall similar
Well I can make you an absolute iron clad guarantee,
we will not be using tens of millions of tax payers
dollars in any government that I lead to advertise
Will you legislate on that?
Will you legislate to ban those sorts of ads?
I think that would be a reasonable step to take.
I mentioned this previously, do you accept that there
is a bit of a public sentiment out there that the
level of advertising was a bit over the top and would
you accept limits in future governments?
When you are a government that is committed to improving
education, health and public safety and a government
that needs to compete in the marketplace to get people
to Victoria to take up those jobs or get them back
in the workforce, they use to be there for refresher
courses back in the ___ its important that we do that
properly and appropriately.
And I don't make no apologies I think
its important for a government that's expanding education,
health and public safety.
For a government that's recruiting
we want recruitment ads out there.
Not dissimilar of course to the recruitment
ads we see all the time for our defence forces which
are appropriate to try and entice people to serve
in our defence force.
But these are not recruitment ads, these are not recruitment
ads, I mean they are on radio, they are on television,
they are on every billboard you go past.
I mean they are tens of millions of
tax payers dollars used to promote a Labor government.
Well they worked.
So they've promoted a Labor Government
We have got more teachers employed,
we have more nurses employed, we have got more police
Can we leave this now, Tim Lee I believe you have
a question for Mr Doyle on coalitions.
Mr Doyle can you put on the public record, should
you need to form government after the election will
you call on the Nationals to form a coalition?
We will stand a candidate in every single seat Tim.
And that is upper and lower house and I will be fighting
hard for every single Liberal candidate to win every
Don't the public have a right to know whether there
will be a coalition government? If you don't get the
But ah, I must say over the last governments whether
it was Hamer or even back to Bolte or the first two
Kennett governments we didn't need to be in coalition
and I'll be looking to win in our own right.
And if you don't?
Well I be looking, we have I mean the history of Liberal
parties have been, I mean both Kennett Governments
won in their own right, as did Hamer as did Bolte.
We'll be looking to win in our own
Well I must admit I'm surprised I thought it was a
simple question and I'm surprised by the answer.
I would have thought it was obvious
that if the chance was there they would go into coalition
with the National Party.
I'm very surprised about the answer.
Well that's perhaps that's what Steve did with the
independents, ah is he suggesting that we are no different
I mean my view is as I've said, I
will support Liberal candidates in every seat.
Mr Doyle on upper house reform do you agree that changes
Well I agree with one, we would be very happy to see
it, I agree with fixed four year terms.
And apparently so does Steve and his
party just a month ago and yet we find ourselves paradoxically
at an election that is one whole year early.
They have eight year terms.
Well they have eight year terms now.
They actually have eight year terms
now of course and I see nothing wrong with that.
I do actually, I think its unaccountable to have a
situation where in this election in 2002 half of the
legislative council members will not come up for election.
So the public won't get the opportunity
to vote for half the legislative council until three
or four years time, I think that's undemocratic frankly,
I think you want a fresh mandate not a stale mandate.
I agree with fixed four year terms
but only on the condition that both houses of parliament
and not just one.
What's wrong with that Robert Doyle?
No I think that in parliaments all round the world
upper houses traditionally have longer terms than
the lower house and I think there is a great deal
to be said about that. I mean I think
Eight years seems like an awful long time.
But its what we have now though, it is what we have
now it is the present system and I believe it serves
I think what the Labor Party want
is a blank cheque, this is not about reform, that's
a word that is thrown around easily, this about change
because you cannot democratically win the upper house,
and so what you want to do is change the rules.
Well I can tell you the rules as they
would have changed them would have completely denied
country Victoria a voice in the upper house in the
The parliament is not some play thing
of the Labor Party.
Its their to represent people and
the upper house in Victorian Parliament is elected
just as the lower house is.
I think the answer is he's happy with eight year terms
in the upper house.
Well presumably so is the Victorian Parliament because
Because the bill that Steve put up didn't get through
the lower house.
Robert the party I represent is not satisfied with
that, we want to see general reform.
We want to see a Senate style election
with proportionate representation, we want to see
fixed 4 years terms in the upper house.
I don't think the public should expect
anything less, they should be able to express at any
one election their wishes and I think that's fair.
This about capture the upper house. And you'd have
to ask yourself why?
What is behind this desire to tear
up what we do now, to tear up our system and to capture
Is it to bring back some of these
loopy left social engineering programmes?
Is it to bring back, despite what
Steve says, bring back heroin injecting rooms?
We are going to have to leave it there gentlemen,
because we are almost out of time.
So I would invite you now to sum up
in the space of no more than 90 seconds, you first
Mr Bracks, what is the key thing that differentiates
you from your rival Mr Doyle here?
Well I think the key thing is that we stand for all
of Victoria and not just part of it.
The Liberal Party has become the party
of the center of Melbourne not suburbs, not the regions
and not the country.
We are the only party that represents
all of Victoria and are committed to growing all of
We are the only party also to improving
further our education system, to improving further
our health system to making sure we maintain our rating
as safest state in Australia and we are the only party
committed to ensuring that we have sustained economic
growth by internationalizing the Victorian economy
and having us as a center for manufacturing excellence
in the region in which we operate.
We have a proud performance over the
last three years but I believe there is more to be
There's more to be done in growing
the economy, there's more to be done in ensuring we
have better services and there's more to be done in
ensuring that no matter where you live, no matter
what your postcode is that you've got a fair chance
of getting and job and good services.
And that's our commitment to Victorians.
Mr Doyle you had the same question, what differentiates
you from Mr Bracks here and as you are a little behind
on time you can be a little more expansive if you
What a wonderful invitation, thanks Ian.
Ian, I love this State, I love it,
I want to see it prosper, I want to see it flourish,
I want to see people get ahead.
I want to be confident about our future,
I want to a safer and more secure community that's
why we will put 1050 more police on our streets to
protect our homes, to make them safer.
I want to help working families, I
want to give them practical opportunities to get ahead.
That's why we will and promise to
remove zone 3 fares to help working families, that's
why we will cap council rates, I want to help country
I worry about small towns in country
Victoria like Myrtleford where I grew up I worry when
I see young people without job opportunities and I
see those towns hollowing out and you can protect
country jobs by bringing things like natural gas to
a town like ____ so that employers can create opportunities
for young people.
And you can also help them in small
ways, you can help them with their bridges, you can
help them maintain and repair those sorts of things.
I want to champion small business,
because small business is the engine room of our economy
and it is not easy to run a small business.
This election is about the future
its about the next four years and I don't believe
people want to see politicians slanging each other
off, they want to see policies, ideas, a plan.
Our policies are funded, costed, responsible
but we have drifted for three years.
There is good reason to be concerned
about our economy.
We cannot afford three more years
Now Opposition have taught us a lot.
Its taught us that you have to listen
We've done that and we've learned
I want all Victorians to share in
a future of exciting and creative projects and I make
this simple pledge to you I want to make Victoria
the best state that it can be.
Mr Doyle, Mr Bracks thank you very much for your time
here tonight and for the tenure of the debate, I might
say too, one final question, I think this has all
gone pretty well tonight, and I think debate is the
oxygen of democracies, so how about doing it again
in a fortnight's time when we have a bit more concrete
policy and even a bit more financial fact on the block
after the review comes in next week.
Mr Doyle would you be in it?
Absolutely delighted, anytime anywhere.
It's the first debate in 10 years, its been reintroduced
by our government because we want democracy to flourish
and I think its appropriate that we have it now and
I don't plan any more debates.
Well we might just have to leave that one hanging
in the air.
To both of you can I just say this,
the very best of luck for November 30th.
Thank you to panel who have acquitted themselves very
well tonight I think and to all of you at home, thanks
for your attention and may all your votes count. From
the ABC's Ripponlea studios, goodnight.