The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

3 June 2013

Doorstop Interview

Canberra

SUBJECTS: An Australian Republic; Asbestos Incidents

TREASURER:

I've only got a couple of minutes and I'm happy to take questions. I just wanted to talk about the book launch today. I'm passionate about an Australian republic, that every Australian should be able to aspire to be the Head of State. Children going to school today ought to be able to aspire to grow up and have a shot at being the Head of State. I don't believe in inherited privilege at all. An Australian republic is something that we as a country should aspire to and I think we should do it sooner rather than later, although like Malcolm Turnbull, I acknowledge that this is a debate that we will have for some time. It won't be easily achieved and it won't happen in the near future, but it's certainly something that we should talk about more, we should engage more on because it goes to the core of who we are and what we are.

JOURNALIST:

Couple of black fellas in there obviously. What kind of conversations are happening with our mob considering that I think a lot of Aboriginal Australians would say that they have never acquiesced the sovereignty to the Crown. You're looking to become a republic and under  Lord Halton's laws of England, he says the United Kingdom Parliament cannot assert the sovereignty of the tribes and the tribes cannot assert the sovereignty of the Crown. What do you say to that?

TREASURER:

There are a whole host of legal issues. I did constitutional law a long time ago and the colonial laws and validity act would also impact on all of that. My purpose here today is not to put a template out there, it is to begin a conversation. All of the issues you just raised are a legitimate part of that conversation.

JOURNALIST:

Are the Gonski reforms in trouble with that letter from Campbell Newman?

TREASURER:

It's very, very disappointing that Campbell Newman wants to play a wrecking role when it comes to the school improvement program recommended by Mr Gonski. The Queensland education system is falling behind. There will be new money under these Gonski reforms to provide additional resources which are so badly needed in Queensland schools. It's unfortunate that he's decided to put the political interests of Tony Abbott ahead of the interests of the children and the parents of Queensland by not coming to the table and agreeing to a deal which has been agreed to by the Premier of New South Wales – the largest state in the country. His Education Minister, a National, said it was a deal that was too good to refuse.

There is only one reason that Campbell Newman isn't coming to the table, it's because he is putting the politics of Tony Abbott and the Liberal National Party ahead of the education of millions of young Queenslanders and it's deeply disappointing to see him do that. Because at the moment he's taking the axe to funding health and education right across the state of Queensland and frontline services are suffering. He's moving too far, too fast, hitting front line services. Unemployment in Queensland has gone up because of the actions of this Newman Government, his impact on employment in Queensland has seen very, very bad results in Queensland when it comes to employment and many other outcomes over recent times.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

We're the Labor Party. Asbestos is a fundamental threat to the health of workers. We'll do everything we possibly can to make sure that this is dealt with correctly in the interests of the workforce and their families. We are the party that took on James Hardie. The trade union movement and many others have always regarded workplace health and safety as absolutely fundamental to the security of families. We take these issues very seriously and we've got meetings today chaired by Minister Shorten and we'll deal with it as we should.

JOURNALIST:

Does Labor have questions to answer about how many pits there are? asbestos pits in Western Sydney?

TREASURER:

These are matters which we have to work our way through with Telstra, which in the first instance has responsibility here, and there is a cut-off point where responsibilities are handed over the NBN. Asbestos is a dreadful thing and it's impacting on the lives of tens and thousands of Australians over a long period of time. It's not necessarily predictable as to where it is found, now we've had these episodes we have to take a step back and analyse what's gone on, look at all our procedures, deal with it seriously. That's what we're here to do responsibly.