Flit about in all directions, do these parrots… 

Bird watching this year has been boring. The kinder, gentler
Parrot is dull and many of his listeners on 2GB must be dying of
boredom.

The squawks are the same over subjects like sugar.
He predictably pecks at the Premier over train services. Last week he
was a redneck over Redfern – but what else would he be.

The
best fun we’ve had since the Parrot return was more due to one of his
guests – the Prime Minister. It was hilarious – predictable, but
hilarious – that John Howard decided to explain his backflip over
politicians superannuation on the Parrot’s show.

The PM, no doubt, thought he’d get a good hearing from our feathered friend – and it wasn’t bad.

So, after another lousy week in Parliament, Howard obviously thought it was worth stepping into the cage again on Friday.

Foolish man. Did he forget all the basics of avian antics – how the Parrot likes to flit from one topic to another?

If he was seeking solace, talking to the Parrot was the last thing he should have done. Gloria flew rings around him.

They started on the sequel to super – and then the most interesting bit of bird watching we’ve seen all year began.

It
may have been a short hop from subject to subject – as the bird flies –
but John Howard seemed breathless as he sought to follow the Parrot.
Read on.

JONES: Okay PM. The national competition policy
website says that national competition policy is about delivering
benefits to the Australian community and the reforms are designed it
says to enable and encourage competition. It mentions the need for
reform in big monopoly areas like gas, electricity, water and road
transport. Where then is the public interest in say the dairy industry
where because of national competition and deregulation 3,000 farmers
are knocked out of business, the price for milk in capital cities now
is 27 cents a litre higher than it was at deregulation. Farmers have
been driven out of their jobs, the farm gate price now is 34 cents a
litre, before deregulation it was 53 cents. And $1.8 billion of
taxpayer money has been spent, allegedly compensating farmers but their
losses are greater than the compensation. How the hell can that pass as
public policy?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Alan I’m not sure
that the competition, I’m sorry the compensation outcome is quite as
you’ve described, I would have to check those figures, because I do
know that a lot of people have been paid or helped to leave the
industry…

JONES: Who’s benefiting, who’s benefiting, the people listening to you are paying 27 cents a litre more for their milk.

PRIME
MINISTER: Yes I understand that but the industry did need some major
change, there did need to be a process whereby people were allowed to
help to leave the industry. We have…

JONES: Why do we want people leaving the industry?

PRIME MINISTER: Well because many of them were going broke.

JONES: Well that’s their business if they want to go broke, if I want to go broke opening a jeweller shop I’d go broke.

PRIME
MINISTER: Yes but Alan it’s quite hard as you know in many of these
isolated rural communities for people to find if they’ve been involved
in something like a dairy farm all of their lives, if they have to
leave that because they can’t make a go of it, some kind of assistance
into another industry or another activity will reduce the impact and
the loss of that, not only…

JONES: And the government’s picking winners, the government’s picking winners.

PRIME
MINISTER: No I don’t think we’re picking winners, I think we’re
recognising that in many of these isolated rural communities as a big
industry goes it has an effect beyond the closure. I mean in the
metropolitan area if a corner store closes it doesn’t have an impact on
the suburb, in a rural community if a whole industry goes it has an
enormous…

JONES: But see all this is done here, all that
they’ve done here is that the consumer listening to you is pretty dirty
that he’s paying 27 cents a litre more for his milk and the farmer
who’s left behind, the poor coot that says I’ll hang in there and make
a fist of it, is getting 34 cents a litre when he was getting 53 and as
a result of government policy someone in the middle is making a hell of
a rip off.

PRIME MINISTER: Well I don’t know that
somebody in the middle is making a hell of a rip off, I think, and if
you’re talking about competition policy you have to talk about the
whole range of it, I mean …

JONES: Well let’s talk about the range of it.

PRIME MINISTER: … it’s had a very beneficial effect on …

JONES:
I know that, was it meant to apply to grog? Was it meant to apply to
grog? We’ve got 4,500 outlets in New South Wales selling grog, now
under competition policy we’ve got to be – allow it to be sold at milk
bars and cafes.

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, no that is not
correct because under the competition policy rules there is absolutely
no reason why state governments can’t prohibit places where it is sold.

JONES: Haven’t we got enough outlets when we’ve got 4,500 and Canberra is saying you have to have more.

PRIME
MINISTER: No, no what Canberra is saying, or what the competition
policy requires is that there be adequate competition so that the
consumer benefits…

JONES: Well 4,500 has got to be adequate hasn’t it?

PRIME
MINISTER: There’s nothing to stop an individual state government
placing a limit on the sort of outlets and other states have done it
and there’s absolutely no reason why, and my understanding is that the
New South Wales Government has introduced some legislation which
includes prohibitions on liquor being sold… milk bars, but requires
in relation to other sites in the interests of reasonable competition
that there be a proper assessment…

JONES: So we think alcohol is socially damaging…

PRIME MINISTER: I think abuse of alcohol is socially damaging but not it’s moderate use.

JONES:
Well you take competition policy in Queensland in the optometry
practice, we were told then more deregulation anyone could own
optometry practices, including Nelson Rockefeller, some American or
Asian, so OPSM bought up Budget Eyewear, Kay’s Optical, Precision
Eyewear, Ian Elcock Optometrists and Laubam & Pank, it’s blindly
obvious that competition has been reduced, then OPSM itself is bought
out by Luxottica, which is an Italian multi-national, so not only is
there concentrated ownership but the dough is going overseas. How the
hell, is that the kind of country we want?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Alan you’ve chosen an industry, I must confess I don’t know all the details of that…

JONES: No, I don’t expect you to.

PRIME
MINISTER: Well I don’t and I won’t try and comment, but I have to say
in defence of the policy that according to all of the economic
investigations that have been made, and looking at the whole economy
there have been a lot benefits which you acknowledge, the pricing of
water, electricity prices, the productivity commission has estimated
that Australia’s GDP is about 2.5 per cent higher than it otherwise
would have been as a consequence of competition policy. Now it stands
to reason that you have to look at something like this over the whole
economy, in some areas it won’t work as well, in other areas it will
work a lot better.

JONES: I just don’t believe we should
be telling anybody, anybody, a Nelson Rockefeller somewhere that he can
own all the dental practices.

PRIME MINISTER: Well can I
give you two bread and butter examples, one of them relates to
interests rates for housing, one of the reasons, I mean the main reason
is the good economic policies of the last few years, but one of the
other reasons why we have lower interest rates is that we have more
competition, 20 years ago you didn’t have Wizard, you didn’t have
Aussie Home Loans, you didn’t have any of these mortgage interveners
who have actually provided greater competition to the banks. Twenty
years ago the whole thing was run by the banks and that’s one of the
reasons why you have lower interest rates.

JONES: I’m
just saying though I don’t think this is where competition policy
belongs. Can I just ask you, because we’re running out of time, and a
quick one, you had comments in the Parliament yesterday about the
leader of the Australian Muslims, there’s genuine concern here when
this bloke is meeting with Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon, he’s calling
allegedly for a Jihad or a holy war, he says that Afghan Muslims were
Australia’s first non-Aboriginal settlers. Is the Government monitoring
the speeches of this fellow and is the Government prepared to act when
some of the language is so inflammatory as to represent a security risk
to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Alan like any other
citizen of this country he is obliged to obey the law and he’s also
entitled to the protection of the law and I’m going to, in an ad hoc
way, speak as if we’re singling anybody out, we’re not, I was reacting
to the reports of his statement and if those statements are true, and
I’ve said to him that if they’re not true than he should explain
exactly what was said…

JONES: So you’ve spoken to him?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no I said publicly, no that wouldn’t be appropriate.

JONES: So you said publicly.

PRIME
MINISTER: I said publicly in the Parliament that I would
unconditionally condemn those remarks if they were correctly reported,
they are unacceptable. The question of whether they breach any law I
have not sort any advice on that, obviously those…

JONES: Have you asked for a copy of his speech and had it independently translated?

PRIME
MINISTER: … seeking clarification, I’m seeking further information of
what was said but I mean it was reported and there’s no place for that
kind of stunt.

JONES: And you can get a copy of the speech and have it independently translated?

PRIME
MINISTER: Well I can’t be certain about that because the speech was
made in another country, in a language other than English. We will
endeavour to do so but I want to say, I mean I’m not out to get him,
I’m just as Prime Minister I am reacting to something which on the face
of it from somebody who is the titular leader of 300,000 people in this
country is quite unacceptable.

JONES: Okay, we’re beaten for time, as we always are, but we’ll talk again. Thank you for your time PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.

 

 

Peter Fray

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