Late night news &
abc.net.au > Lateline > Archives
dragged into election campaign
tragedy off Indonesia’s coast has generated a heated political row on the
campaign trail. The Prime Minster, John Howard, accused Opposition leader
Kim Beazley of contemptible behaviour for blaming the deaths on "a failure
of government policy". But Mr Beazley says that's twisting his words. But
the brawl came on a day when two opinion polls put Labor just a nose
behind the Government, and another has it a whisker in
Compere: Tony Jones
JONES: The drowning tragedy has generated a heated political row on the
The PM accused the Opposition leader of
contemptible behaviour for blaming the deaths on "a failure of government
Mr Beazley says that's twisting his words.
brawl came on a day when two opinion polls put Labor just a nose behind
the Government, and another has it a whisker in front Gillian Bradford
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Hundreds of people die in an overcrowded
boat, probably heading for Australia.
So, how does this event take
centre stage in a federal election campaign?
OPPOSITION LEADER: And that is a very sad thing indeed.
points to is the failure of policy.
We have not got the agreement
we need with Indonesia in order to be able to ensure that those who put
themselves in such danger are not encouraged to do so.
PRIME MINISTER: He implied that that happened because of a failure of
policy on our part.
I think that is contemptible.
BEAZLEY: He twisted our words and our position on the Tampa legislation
and he's twisting our words again.
JOHN HOWARD: He should never
have dragged this immense human tragedy into the political arena and I
think it was a contemptible thing to do.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: But Mr
Howard's own Immigration Minister was doing some finger pointing of his
PHILIP RUDDOCK, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: If there is a linkage,
it is in the failure to be able to get reforms through which would have
addressed this perception of Australia being an easy touch in relation to
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Not pretty stuff from either side
and indicative of how the tone of the campaign will tend to get a bit
nastier as the contest looks tighter.
And, today, the two leaders,
their parties and the polls are saying the same thing. The Coalition
doesn't have an unassailable lead and the election will come down to just
a handful of marginal seats, seats like Gladstone in Queensland which the
National Party holds by just 0.3 of 1 per cent.
KIM BEAZLEY: Apart
from getting our propaganda points across, we're doing a national
infrastructure launch today.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Mr Beazley's
propaganda - thanks for being so honest - was announcing $750 million,
which will flow to the government from the Snowy River hydro scheme
corporatisation, will be used to fund new infrastructure instead of
retiring government debt.
Mr Howard's policy launch ended up
becoming entwined with the issue of the day.
He announced $175
million of new money to protect Australia's borders, which includes
increasing flight surveillance time, expanding the radar network and
additional container X-ray machines for Australia's largest
JOHN HOWARD: We have a plan for the future in relation to
further strengthening coastwatch.
The Labor Party offers a new
bureaucracy and, in the process, do great damage to the Royal Australian
KIM BEAZLEY: We actually need a straightforward coastguard
and the weak, wishy-washy alternative to it that John Howard is putting
out today is merely a concession that we are right on that subject and he
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Both leaders will continue campaigning
in marginal seats tomorrow.