Transcript of Fran Kelly speaking with Terry Lane
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22 December 2002

TERRY LANE: Let's start with you Fran. What has been the political event of the past twelve months which has given you the most satisfying sense of schadenfreude?

FRAN KELLY: The most satisfying... Well, I don't know that you call it satisfying, but I think the story that we started the year with, which came up unexpectedly because we didn't expect it to be the day one story was the kids overboard story, children overboard. A very important story I think, a story that ran for a long time, ran almost through the year really, and unveiled a lot and unleashed a lot and in the end, like most stories this year got absolutely swamped and the dimesions of it lost in the overall hue of security and terror and everything. But I think there will be fallout from this story and there will be ripples from it and I think overall it was one of the key, but perhaps beyond Bali of course and beyond the whole counter terrorist thrust of this year I think the most significant political story of the year.

TERRY LANE: I suppose the lesson to be learned from it is that if you have a big enough majority and you have the public on side you can brazen anything out.

FRAN KELLY: Well I do think that is true. I think there is a bit of that. There is no doubt that this has been John Howard's year, he hasn't had a year like this and not many Prime Ministers have. But there is a bigger global issue that has towered over everything for the last year or so and that's going to do that to any story. It's not just about brazenness but there was a lot of that in it and the government of course knew the mood of the public on issues like border protection. At the last election it was well tested and they did well from it. And they knew that no matter almost whatever was unleashed or unveiled from the children overboard inquiry it was unlikely to dent their popularity because overall by and large the public didn't care that much about it.

It wasn't so much the issue itself that I think is important but the issues within our public administration that it goes to. And I think that they will have ongoing affects.

TERRY LANE: I was talking to Senator John Faulkner last week about the fact that he's still not satisfied with the explanations that have been given about the sinking of SIEVX and he's still raising this sinister possiblity that the Australian disruption program involves sabotage.

FRAN KELLY: He's still not satisfied, a lot of people still are not satisfied and that's because the answers when they've sought them have been like getting blood out of a stone and then they have been corrected and corrected again, so obviously there's some things there, it's not straightforward.

I'm not sure that Senator Faulkner is locked on holus bolus to the conspiracy theory, but he is asking questions about the disruption program and not getting answers and I think it's an important issue. We should know, the country should know and the government should be saying quite clearly what are the sort of disruption activities they engage in and we certainly shouldn't be doing anything underhand, illegal or allowing the Indonesian police in our name to be doing anything illegal. And if, God help us, there was something like that, some kind of sabotage with some kind of link back to our policies that led to the sinking of that ship and the killing of 353 people, that would be shocking and let's hope it wasn't that. But even if it wasn't that perhaps it is time we knew more about what kind of disruption activities we do engage in.

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