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					On Line Focus Howard vs Latham focus group transcript 06/04/2004 Participants: Peter1 Geoff2 NSWnotill Ann6 Marlyn8 Peter9 Catherine10 Male Male Male Female Female Male Female 61+ 41-50 61+ 51-60 51-60 51-60 51-60 2780 2500 2340 2779 4128 6148 2072

>> Thanks. Please introduce yourself to everyone in this room. The Moderators will be along shortly. (Floor Is Open To All Users) Marilyn8: Peter, have been been on these forums before? => Ann6 Has Joined The Room Peter1: 1 before => Geoff2 Has Joined The Room Marilyn8: thught i recognised the name. Hi again Peter1: You too good to speak Administrator_2: Hi everyone Administrator_2: I should actually be Moderator_2, but for some reason had a problem with it Ann6: I'm Ann, and this is my first Peter1: Hello admin Geoff2: Hello Everyone Ann6: Hi Admin => Catherine10 Has Joined The Room Catherine10: Good evening I'm Catherine => MODERATOR_1 Has Joined The Room => NSWnotill Has Joined The Room Geoff2: Hello again. This the first time I’ve used a Chat Room, so I will be feeling my way for a while! Ann6: Ditto Marilyn8: Don't worry Geoff, it's not as scary as it seems, I survived MODERATOR_1: Welcome to the room. We’ll start shortly. We are just waiting on others to join the room.

=> Peter9 Has Joined The Room Peter1: the worst is we don't have time to fix the typos Administrator_2: Sorry, everyone Administrator_2: I've been trying to help a couple of people to get in Administrator_2: So, if I appeared rude I was just distracted :-( Peter9: Hi every one MODERATOR_1: Hi, and thanks for participating in this online focus group looking at your attitudes to the Federal Labor Opposition Leader, Mark Latham, Prime Minister John Howard and the forthcoming Federal election. Peter9: I’m in but don't really know how I did it. Administrator_2: Sorry, more technical problems Ann6: Never mind, Peter9, most of us feel the same Administrator_2: Moderator 1 isn't working properly either, so I'll take over for a while Administrator_2: We have two Moderators this evening. I’m Tim Grau from the Springboard Australia. I’m Moderator 1 and I will be asking the structured questions. Graham Young, Chief Editor of On Line Opinion will be Moderator 2 and may ask supplementary questions from time to time. MODERATOR_1: What we are going to do this evening is talk about a number of issues. We want to know what you think. There are no ―right‖ or ―wrong‖ answers, so please don’t be hesitate to say exactly what you think. MODERATOR_1: Sometimes we will want to make sure that we get some feedback from each of you in turn and we will ask you to go ―around the room‖. What this means is that you should answer the question in the order of the number after your name. MODERATOR_1: At other times we will ask you to discuss a question ―freely‖. That means that anyone can lead off and anyone answer. MODERATOR_1: Any questions? (If no-one mentions anything in the next 30 seconds, I’ll assume we’re ready to go). MODERATOR_1: ok? Ann6: OK Peter1: ok NSWnotill: OK Marilyn8: ok Peter9: OK Geoff2: FIne Catherine10: OK

MODERATOR_1: Could I start by asking each of you to state your Gender, Age and Postcode? Marilyn8: female, err 54, 4128 NSWnotill: Male 65 Postcode 2340 Geoff2: Male, 44, 2500 Ann6: I'm Female, 61, 2779 Peter1: male 67 2780 Peter9: male 57 6148 Catherine10: Female, 55, 2072 MODERATOR_1: While Federal election has not yet been called, it is due to be held later this year. We’ll be discussing your attitudes to this shortly, but before we do, could I ask each of you to just write down on a piece of paper which party you would vote for if you had to vote next Saturday? MODERATOR_1: If you don’t really know, just write down who you’d be inclined to support. If you don’t have paper handy just think of who that would be and just remember it for later. MODERATOR_1: I’d also like you to write down how you would have voted if there had been an election a month ago. MODERATOR_1: OK. Now just going around the ―room‖ in turn, can each of you just tell us all what your thoughts are about Australia? Are we heading in the right direction or the wrong direction, and why do you think this? Try not to debate anyone’s point of view at this stage, just let us know what you think. MODERATOR_1: So Peter you go first. peter1: We have been heading for an Australia which I am ashamed about because of its abandonment of our traditional values NSWnotill: Generally going Ok compared to the rest of the world. The terrorist thing has the potential to upset trade and ultimately economic performance MODERATOR_1: Geoff? Geoff2: We are going in the wrong direction. There is less freedom each year, more government control and more taxes. This happens regardless of which party is in power. Ann6: Love Oz, but not quite going right, need to be more involved with the environment. Concerned about the growing nos of oldies Marilyn8: haves and have nots getting wider, less and less opportunity for the underdogs to help themselves up, Iraq has definitely increased out terrorism target potential, newly single oldies like me have no hope of saving enough Administrator_2: Peter9? Peter9: The politics of Australia are at an all time low, pollies are far to absorbed with them selves than in what is good for Australia as a whole. Both the labor and Liberals are far to worried about point scoring than actually governing correctly.

Catherine10: The economy is in reasonable shape, interest rates lowish, I am fearful that a change in direction will embroil us in overseas borrowings of the magnitude we saw after both the Whitlam and Keating governments. We do however need to be aware of our ageing population. MODERATOR_1: Now, some of you have expressed dissatisfaction with the way Australia is heading, if you could change just one thing about Australia, what would it be? NSWnotill: That's a hard one. Maybe a return to more traditional family values and ethics. Peter1: get rid of the noveau conservative And Howard. substitute economic management for humanity Ann6: Working on salinity problems Marilyn8: credibility - or lack - of pollies. what does it matter what they say if i don't beleive their spin anyway - and I think I'm astute enough to see through most of it, I'm insulted that they think I'll fall for it Peter9: Government should be by the people for the people and not looking after the buddies. Pollies too gutless to administer correctly. Party politics is a key problem Catherine10: More awareness of the environment and I mean more than paying flying visits to the Tasmanian wilderness. Geoff2: Hard to say as a lot of the problems are interrelated. MODERATOR_1: Thanks for those comments. MODERATOR_1: Now, could I ask (this time in reverse order) what are your general impressions of Federal politics and the forthcoming election at the moment? Marilyn8: Until this week Howard seem generally rattled - nit-picking pedantics, who cares when our guys come home if they shouldn't have been there in the first place - but now they are, they should finish the job - what ever that was, nobody told ME Catherine10: Parliament is a bear pit at the moment and politicians of both parties are spending far too much time scoring point. We need good government no show ponies. I think the next election will be soon after the budget so as to give Labour as little time as possible to plan. Ann6: Lib's financial management is still OK, but the lies and the way they are heading is a worry. I don't trust the other parties to be any better. I wish they'd all concentrate on problem solving and not grandstanding Peter9: This election will be a real dog fight with plenty of dirty play, especially from the libs, they are really good at there spin and lies these days that no one takes any notice. Our troops are getting close to being embroiled in an other VIETNAM type situation and they don't seem to realise it. HOWARD has lost the plot and they are scared of LATHAM. Geoff2: The usual , more spending, more programs, more legislation. Mr Howard is clearly desperate and there is nothing uglier in Australian politics than a desperate conservative. Mr Latham will promise more welfare, more spending. Six of one and half a dozen of the other! Peter1: Fed Politics is centres on self interest of the players never on the interests on the Nation

NSWnotill: It's a shame that pollies won't 'bite the bullet' on some better policies which may be better for us all, but not necessarily popular MODERATOR_1: Now I’d like to talk about Mark Latham. Going around the room again in order, can you tell me what you think of Mark Latham? Peter1: Promising but must learn to use his team and consult Geoff2: Potentially a 'Big Picture' person, which I like, but the events of the last week make it seem he was caught lying / exagerating and he refuses to admit it, so I am still suspending judgement at the moment. NSWnotill: A welcome change after the last few ALP leaders. Definitely has some good ideas and willing to think 'outside the box'. However will he be restricted by the party machine. His temperament and language scares me too. Ann6: Could react wildly and may spend too much, but promising if the maturity shines through Marilyn8: Coming across much better than i expected - more organised, less hysterical. Was making Howard look like a chook. This week's nit-picking will be forgotten soon, but he needs to be certain of what he's talking about. I still think both were telling their version of the truth. Peter9: He is tough, prepared to kick a head or two, young enough and new enough to be a bit like a new broom. does not play the traditional politics that the previous leaders have used to no avail, in other words a bit of a loose cannon, but may be that's what we need. Catherine10: He has modified the attack dog behaviour, but I don't think he's the right man for the times. I cannot see that he is strong enough to make the hard decisions, particularly pertaining to our foreign affairs MODERATOR_1: O.K. Now I want to talk about John Howard. Again, going around the room in order, can you tell me what you think of John Howard? Peter1: almost unprintable He is a self serving bag of wind NSWnotill: He has had a good run, and seems to hold the party together, but maybe time to pass the baton to another (Costello or the mad monk?) Ann6: John's taking the easy way out now, prob becos he's tired and past it. Libs need revitalising and Howard won't manage that, but I don't think there's an alternative Geoff2: My opinion of Mr Howard has plummeted over the years I think he is devious and dishonest, and no friend of freedom Marilyn8: Rattled. Getting less and less connected with the real people and more and more embroiled in saving his own skin and the party to be worried about the country Peter9: Howard has lost the plot, uses the defence forces and Veterans to make him look good but does not really give a stuff about them, in other words he is a user well past his use by date. deceitfull and dishonest . Catherine10: He is very experienced, appears to have reasonably good relationships with overseas leaders, and I do believe that this is vital for us during the next few years. I would like to see him spend more time on domestic affairs. I still have problems forgiving him for the WMD debacle and lying to the country.

MODERATOR_1: What I’d like to do now is talk about the qualities of our leaders. Going around the room in reverse order i.e. backwards from Catherine 10, can you tell me what you think is Mark Latham’s best quality and why? Catherine10: At this point in time his ability to put the Prime Minister on the back foot. Marilyn8: Not really sure I've seen enough of him yet. SO FAR he seems to have avoided getting into factional brawls. So far he seems to be acting with enough dignity to eventually become a statesman, not there yet, but I'm waiting Ann6: Prepared to stand up and confront situations but I'm still waiting Geoff2: He seems well read and erudite, and thinks in terms of the whole system of Government, this is good. By contrast Mr Howard is just a fiddler and tinkerer. Peter9: His Strength, belief he can stand up to his party machine, match it in debate with Howard and I beleive he is sincere, that is as far as a poly can be. Peter1: Latham is an intellectual. He has the capacity to construct another Australia from the wreckage of the past 7 years. I do not find him to be a liar. NSWnotill: Ability to think independently and not along traditional ALP lines. MODERATOR_1: What about Mark Latham’s worst quality. What is it and why do you think this? No particular order this time. Peter1: impulsive and impetuous requires discipline Ann6: The problems of a loose cannon, and possibly his language NSWnotill: Bad mouthing and language- he will have to watch it if he goes further. Peter9: Can not comment on this as I do not have a veiw Geoff2: I am unsure about his self control, he seems somewhat impulsive e.g 'bring the troops home by Xmas' Catherine10: His bully boy history. He is trying to quell this, but I still have the feeling that he could explode if the situation became too tense. Marilyn8: Probably his past reputation for speaking like a real person - while I appreciated it as back-bencher (most of the time) he needs to make sure that he still expresses those same opinions, but uses more dignified language MODERATOR_1: Alright, now I want you to focus on John Howard. What is his best quality, and why? Reverse order please. Peter1: he is a liar and manipulator Marilyn8: Tenacity?? NSWnotill: Cool head and experience Ann6: He used to be truthful, but now, maybe, perseverance Geoff2: He does things in a measured way, and he perseveres Peter9: With the lies and inaction that I have seen of him over the last few years, does he have any,

Catherine10: His experience at a time that we need leadership and direction, rather than loose rhetoric. MODERATOR_1: And his worst quality, and why? Any order. NSWnotill: Devious and some half truths in the recent past Geoff2: Dishonest, small minded and devious Ann6: Believing what his people tell him without using his brain to check up, eg children overboard Peter1: Already answered. for worst. But I thnk his best qualities are his mastership of deceit and half truths Marilyn8: He's so far up Bush's rear end he needs a candle. maybe if Georgie had grits for breakfast it might save us from both of them!! Is he really naive enough to think GW will help us if they don't won't to? Or that they won’t, whether we want them too or not? lack of credibility. Peter9: He ignores people he does not like and will do any thing to make sure that they do not get any thing from government, very petty and deceitfull and does not keep his promises. Catherine10: That he appears to have been caught out lying to the electorate re WMD. MODERATOR_1: Now, I’m going to put some quotes in front of you. What I would like you to do is tell me how you feel about each quote and the person who said them. I’ll do one quote at a time, but answer when you want to. It’s O.K. if you want to debate someone else’s point of view. MODERATOR_1: Some of the quotes are quite long so wait until I ask the question at the end of each before making a comment MODERATOR_1: John Howard recently said: MODERATOR_1: When I become Prime Minister, I essentially set myself three goals for this country. I wanted it to be secure nationally, in other words to have strong defences and strong alliances and strong friends. MODERATOR_1: I wanted it to recover its economic strength. And most importantly, I wanted Australia to be a socially stable and socially cohesive country because all the good economic policies in the world are of little account unless they deliver a human dividend, unless they give people more choices and opportunities, unless they give them a greater sense of hope and greater sense of stability and security MODERATOR_1: How do you feel about that? Peter1: The best idea is not to make enemies ! Ann6: He let the defences weaken too much, may not pick good ' NSWnotill: Fine in theory and maybe we will have to leave it to history to judge whether his goals were achieved Ann6: No they weren't, except financially - we are better off Geoff2: Defence: We should emulate Switzerland, with a strong militia system and isolationist,, i.e. No alliances and no overseas involvements of any kind.

Ann6: Don't agree, Geoff, we have too much coastline to not have some allies NSWnotill: We could all have Swiss bank accounts then! Peter9: Big words of wisdom, luck has gone his way in some areas. defence no. Geoff2: Domestic: In general I agree but there is no mention of 'freedom', which is supposedly what the Liberal Party believes in Marilyn8: Point 1 - what's the point of being best friend to a bully, if all the rest of your friends are pointing a gun at him. 2 - we seem to have made that, but only for the top end of the market and what happens when the boomers sell their investment properties to fund their retirement? 3 well that's been a disaster hasn't it! Catherine10: Under a Howard government we certainly have recovered economically. We still do not have the type of social cohesion he is talking about. It is hard to generalise but many people have more choices and therefore a sense of stability. The problem with Australia's security stems from years of running down the Armed Forces Peter9: Well some of our ex pollies have the swiss accounts Ann6: I agree with Marilyn re single oldies - I have no choices and no money MODERATOR_1: Ok. Next quote coming up. Mark Latham recently said: MODERATOR_1: I believe in an upwardly mobile society where people can climb the rungs of opportunity to a better life for themselves and their family. I believe in hard work and reward for effort. I believe in a Government that is there to help people who are doing the right thing – the people who are getting stuck in, doing things the fair dinkum Australian way. Geoff2: Anne6, it hasn't been tried, so how do we know. A militia several million strong backed by hi-tech weapons would be a powerful deterrent. Our US ally is running amock at the moment, and dragging us along MODERATOR_1: My plan is simple enough: I want Australians climbing the ladder of opportunity. I want a government that adds value for the benefit of the Australian people, putting all rungs in the ladder of opportunity—not taking them out in health care, not taking them out in education, not taking them out in all the basic services and opportunities that a decent society relies upon. Marilyn8: I have an 80K mortgage and a 20k income - and I'm much better off than a lot of the people i work with. They and their kids have no hope of getting out of the poverty trap MODERATOR_1: What do you think about that statement? Peter9: Howard is certainly doing his best to completely alienate the Armed forces by not looking after the Veterans who have come before them Marilyn8: Sounds good - not happening at present! Peter1: Welfare cannot fix poverty. Opportunity can plus education and a fair NSWnotill: Sounds a bit motherhood to me. Fine in theory but each individual has to make his own decisions and be responsible for them. Ann6: The problem with Latham's quote is that its all promises and no explanation of funding, sounds good but no way of achieving

Marilyn8: Agree totally with Peter1, at a $1,000 per subject, I had to give up my studies doesn't matter when I have to pay it back, it's still a debt Catherine10: This is the problem with Mark Latham. Now we know what he wants, but how does he intend to provide it. Build more ladders? To create jobs we need investments, R&D. Peter9: Both liberal and labor are good at making promises that they never ever intend to keep. Marilyn8: Agree with Peter 9 as well NSWnotill: I Agree with Catherine - investment and R & D. Geoff2: Opportunity is important, rather than more government programs Mr Latham should get out of the way , remove obstacles to capital formation and business, and it will all happen Ann6: Yes, the destruction of research and creative development over the last 20 years is devastating Marilyn8: But who for Geoff? If you don't have anything to start with, how can you invest? MODERATOR_1: Ok now some quotes on the economy coming. Ann6: I worked hard all my life and have nothing left to show for it Marilyn8: i agree everyone needs to get out of the way of small business though MODERATOR_1: John Howard says: NSWnotill: Tax breaks required for corporate investment, and no gutting of bodies like CSIRO MODERATOR_1: In the area of economic strength, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Australian economy is now in better condition that it’s been at any time since World War II. MODERATOR_1: We are competing globally and when you think that for the first time since 1968 we have a combination of inflation below 3 percent and unemployment below 6 percent. We are running a budget surplus. On every economic measure this country’s economic performance over recent years has been amongst the best if not the best of the developed world. MODERATOR_1: How do you respond to that statement? Peter9: People have become too greedy and they just live for the moment, business people are not prepared to do R& D and invest in them selves. Ann6: Forced to agree with the statement. Compare now with 1978! NSWnotill: In my opinion, probably right. It's just that those at the bottom of the pile have missed out. Ann6: History says those at the bottom always miss out Geoff2: On the whole I think it is right, surpluses mean taxes are too high but overall the standard of living and opportunities have increased. Marilyn8: Someone once said what's the point of paying off your house in 5 years if your kids starve to death while you're doing it? And at present i don't think they're counting the right basket of goodies for the cost of living - mine's up way more than 2$ Peter1: It is true. But I am quite sure that the conditions were created by previous de-regulations from Keating ! Especially floating currency and low tariffs

Geoff2: Tend to agree with Peter1. Most of the big reform in the last 20 years was done by Labour Catherine10: Our global competitivness is a mixture of our exchange and interest rates against those of our markets. This may well change though. Marilyn8: Much of this has more to do with the US being in recession than up doing well Catherine10: I suppose that Geoff2 was talking about the massive overseas debts that the Keating government ran up Ann6: Don't agree with labour and its reforms, and low tariffs suit some but certainly not R&D Geoff2: The Keating deficit was bad, but he did some good things too Catherine10: such as? Peter9: What ????????????????????????? Geoff2: Float the dollar, free up financial / bankig sector Ann6: Go, Catherine, I'd like to know too Ann6: Oh yes, the banking deregulation has been real good, NOT NSWnotill: Keating ran a good piggery for a while Catherine10: OK I'm with you re the dollar MODERATOR_1: OK. Thanks for those comments. Now Mark Latham recently said: MODERATOR_1: Today’s disappointing National Accounts figures show that the Howard Government is losing control of Australia’s economic management. The economy is now riddled with disappointing figures, structural imbalances and policy failures. MODERATOR_1: Low growth, low productivity, a record Current Account Deficit, record foreign debt, record household debt, record taxes, low national savings and upward pressure on interest rates: the true nature of the Government’s economic legacy is becoming clearer day by day. Peter9: Quite frankly, I do not know if that was good or bad MODERATOR_1: How do you respond to that statement? Ann6: A bit over the top but unfortunately the trend is that way Peter1: Political jousting not a very well considered critique NSWnotill: The long term debt concerns me - not only of Oz but also USA. If Uncle Sam can't pay his debts, then who will bail him out? Peter9: I do not think that the government has much control over our economic situation Geoff2: Low national savings and a record household debt are a probable, the question is, what will Mr Latham do about it? Catherine10: He was talking about one set of figures, but I agree there is some evidence of a trend.

Marilyn8: My son, an economist, seems to think we are doing well. i don't agree. The ABC's graph the other day about people 'spending the equity in their houses' is a real worry. I thought I was the only one living off my equity. Ann6: Difficult to tell where it went wrong, and even harder to fix, isn't it MODERATOR_1: Ok. Now some quotes on national security. Peter9: Do not think there is much he can do about it , maybe bring in capital gains tax on the family home, that will certainly slow the housing market down and make housing more affordable. MODERATOR_1: John Howard said recently: MODERATOR_1: On the national security front, we have a compelling story to tell of a country that has played its part and punched above its weight, been faithful to its allies, but more importantly been faithful to the long-term national interests of this country. And let me say to you that I have no regrets about the Government’s decision to join the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. MODERATOR_1: I have no doubt that the world is a safer and better place as a result of that and it remains an irrefutable proposition that those who criticised our decision were in effect arguing for the retention of the Saddam Hussein regime. MODERATOR_1: So on the score of national security, this Government has responded to the challenges that Australia faced. We are investing more in defence and our defence forces have behaved magnificently in the many missions that they have had. Marilyn8: The main trouble with all these figures is that they can be massaged to mean anything. The reason my son did economics is because you can never be wrong - the past is known and there's always some reason for changes in the future to change your results MODERATOR_1: What do think about that statement? peter1: A load of codswallop. Has learned nothing of the Israel factor. If you make terrorists, then you must fight terror Geoff2: Australia should be isolationist, the war in Iraq was wrong, regardless of whether there were WMDs or not. NSWnotill: Perhaps we are not at risk as some societies due to our more homogeneous population. However I think we should at times take a more independent stand like NZ or canada Ann6: Our defence forces do a wonderful job, eg Timor, but I still worry about the reasons for going to Iraq, and the missing WMD is bad. Peter9: I think Howard thought he was maybe Winston CHurchill Catherine10: Australia can't afford to be isolationist Geoff, we have about one service person for every 18kms of coastline. I think that Howard thought that he was doing the correct thing. Geoff2: and, we are at war with a small % of militant Muslim fanatics who hate the West, we will be a terror target regardless of what we do. Ann6: Don't let us be isolationist - look at the US at the 1st and 2nd World Wars.

Marilyn8: BULLSHIT Our guys are doing great - but they should never have been there! Saddam may be gone but we never hear of the number of Iraqi's dying every day now - not killed by the coalition, but by the power struggles within the country. Bush etc had no idea of human nature, or the culture of Islam - not a criticism, Peter9: Our Forces are and have always been world first class, always have been, but that is because of the persons in it, not government. Marilyn8: Not a criticism - i lived in a muslim country for years, they just have a different set of values - and who says ours are right? Geoff2: Ann6, every US intervention in 20c/21c has made things worse, we should learn the lessons of history! MODERATOR_1: OK. Mark Latham said: Marilyn8: Ann, do you really thing the US WOULDN'T help us if it was in their interests? It was in WW 1&2 MODERATOR_1: This is a Government in disarray over national security, a government that has compromised the independence and role of the Australian Federal Police, a government that is always putting the Liberal Party’s interests ahead of our national security interests, a government defying the obvious – that, while Australia was a target at the time of September 11, MODERATOR_1: , the war in Iraq has made things worse – a government that sent young Australians to war in Iraq for a purpose that was not true. As the Defence Minister said Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. MODERATOR_1: This is a Government that has diverted effort and resources from targeting the terrorists and put them into Iraq and a Government that does not know how to get our troops out of Iraq. It was easy to race in but it is a Government that now does not know how to get out. It is a Government with no exit strategy, no way of getting the troops home for the defence of Australia. MODERATOR_1: It’s a Government that, in this regard, is in total confusion and total disarray MODERATOR_1: You cannot trust the Howard Government with Australia’s national security. It is always playing politics, instead of putting national interests first. MODERATOR_1: What do you think about that statement? Marilyn8: Agree absoutely!!!!!!!!!!! Peter1: In fully agree. Peter9: Correct, he has hit the nail right on the head Geoff2: I largely agree with the sentiments expressed here NSWnotill: some doubts Marilyn8: All those people at the demonstrations could see through the bull, why could Howard?? Ann6: A bit strong but I mostly agree. And no, I don't think US would help us unless they wanted to use us

Peter9: The US use and abuse Catherine10: I'm sorry Mark, but I just don't see the total confusion and total disarray in our defence policies. Just how is the Government putting Liberal interest above national security Ann6: Exactly, Peter 9 NSWnotill: Agree with Peter9- look at the Free Trade Agreement and sugar Ann6: Going to war (no matter who with) will bring the majority behind the government. It's been used by UK, US, and now us MODERATOR_1: OK now specifically on Iraq. Mark Latham says: MODERATOR_1: Labor’s position has always been clear and principled. We want our troops back as soon as possible after Australia has discharged its international responsibility. It is of course logical and right to use the change of sovereignty, the new Iraqi Government, as the turning point. MODERATOR_1: That’s why a Labor Government elected, say, in September will ensure – certainly has the intention of having our troops home by Christmas. That is the Labor position. Our intention is to have our troops home by Christmas if a Labor Government is elected in September. Peter9: When the government of the day plays politics with defence as it has put national security at risk MODERATOR_1: What is your response to that? Ann6: I think Latham is playing politics too NSWnotill: Probably right- but should not put a time frame on it. Peter1: By Christmas is specific but the reality is that he had performance conditions which are out of our control. Not 'by Christmas' but as soon as poss. Geoff2: They shouldn't have been there in the first place, 'staying the distance' on a wrong policy is worse the admitting error. Bring them home. Catherine10: Once they have discharged their international responsibility they should come home, but I doubt that will be by Christmas. Perhaps Mark should have more Defence briefings Peter9: I really think that Latham can see a better picture and wants our troops home before there is a disaster, let the buggers fight it out amongst them selves. Ann6: If we withdraw troops too early the problems in Iraq will escalate Marilyn8: I'm not sure about bringing the troops home. Unfortunately as all those people predicted - Iraq has already ended up another Vietnam. Either we leave thm in the lurch, or we stumble from disaster to disaster. Trouble is I don't see any clear end. Neither does Howard - at not that he's said. MODERATOR_1: And John Howard said: Geoff2: Ann6 , so what, Australian soldiers are to defend Australia. What happens in Iraq is no concern of ours

MODERATOR_1: If we keep talking, or anybody in Australia in authority keeps talking about pulling out troops before the job is finished, it’s sending the wrong signal to the terrorists in Iraq, it’s sending the wrong signal to our allies and most of all, it’s sending the wrong signal to the Iraqi people. MODERATOR_1: At the moment, people should be holding firm and staying strong. MODERATOR_1: We do not have a cut and run strategy. It is not the Australian way to cut and run. It is the Australian way to sty and do the job and see it through, and that is what we intend to do. MODERATOR_1: How do you feel about that? peter1: We sent the wrong signal when we invaded that country without cause and through a lie NSWnotill: Try to get more UN involvement. They will make blunders, but that is the way to go in my view Catherine10: I agree to a certain extent, but a civil/religious war is looming in Iraq. We need to have our soldiers under Ann6: Granted that we're there, I like the statement - stay and do the job! Catherine10: Oops sorry! part of a UN force Geoff2: IF going to war in Iraq was correct then what Mr Howard says is correct. However, perhaps many in the world will interpret Mr Howard's decision as an attempt to ingratiate ourselves with the USA Peter9: howard has cut and run all his bloody life like all pollys. Australian troops have been abused by our governments ever since Australia was born. very well for him to make big meaning less statements Ann6: Agree with NSWnotill - but the UN needs more support there, they've been attacked heavily Marilyn8: I'd like to know what the JOB is. Iraq won't be stable until it has another strong leader - unfortunately that means another Saddam. People have to want democracy - Iraq has no idea what we ware talking about, they've never experienced it. You can't force it on them. One thing for sure, it's never going to happen if the Iraqi people see it as US against us MODERATOR_1: Ok. Now let's look at a couple of domestic issues. MODERATOR_1: Mark Latham said: MODERATOR_1: Families today are under unprecedented pressure - they are squeezed for time and money. MODERATOR_1: Labor believes it is simply not good enough to stand back and expect families to cope on their own - not when a happy, secure, caring family environment is so important to the life chances of future generations of Australians. MODERATOR_1: Labor will introduce a new Baby Care Payment which will provide extra income to new mothers

MODERATOR_1: Following the birth of a baby, Labor will give eligible mothers a Baby Care Payment paid in fortnightly instalments for a minimum period of 14 weeks. This payment will be $3,000 in 2005. By 2010, this payment will be $5,380. MODERATOR_1: What do you think of that statement? NSWnotill: Incentives probably needed to up the birthrate. However will it work? Geoff2: <Sigh> More welfare. More taxes! Ann6: I'm not sure that Baby Care is the problem. I think the cost of schooling is more of a worry, and the more kids the more cost Peter9: Bloody ridiculous, it will encourage more people on lower incomes to have children they can not afford to have and increase welfare even more. Marilyn8: My daughter, who never swears, said rude things about the baby bonus. I asked tonight and she thinks the Baby Care Payment might work. It won't make her have any more kids, but might help with the two she's got now. Her biggest problem is time stress. peter1: Would be most welcome by the recipients. But I think it is not a stand alone solution. Governments should create the environment for s decent standard of living. it cannot come from welfare. Catherine10: I have a real problem with the idea of a Baby Bonus, at a time we have schools and hospitals running on empty Ann6: But she won't get the Baby Care payment now. Why can't there be increased tax deductions for familes. It might encourage more work MODERATOR_1: Ok. Thanks for those comments. Now John Howard says: MODERATOR_1: People say well you’ve got to have paid maternity leave. For many people, paid maternity leave would be completely irrelevant and in any event I am totally opposed to the situation where paid maternity leave is forced upon businesses, quite unacceptable MODERATOR_1: I think maternity leave is part of the mix but the idea that you solve all the problems of work and family and you solve all the problems of a falling fertility rate by introducing 14 weeks paid maternity leave, is really quite intellectually insubstantial and really quite insulting to the commonsense experience of both men and women. MODERATOR_1: I think there are a number of areas of flexibility that you need, You need to have the most flexible workplace relations policies. MODERATOR_1: I think the second thing you need is to have taxation policies that recognise, as far as any Government can afford it, recognises that different women and men are going to make different choices about how they organise their lives. Peter9: Education, I beleive that a lot of people who have a low standard of living have brought it upon them selves, watch what a lot do when at the super market etc. booze and smokes. MODERATOR_1: We will continue to work on those things and we will continue to try to develop those things even further.

Geoff2: Generations ago when taxation was negligable families were supported by a single income. Now high taxes are needed to pay for welfare because people can't support their families because of high taxes! Madness! MODERATOR_1: How do you feel about that statement? peter1: reluctantly I agree with Howard - but child minding is essential for mothers to be able to return to the workplace. NSWnotill: Same as previous- Govts. can assist in all these things but people are ultimately responsible for their own actions. Ann6: Maternity leave is fine if the company giving it is large, but a struggling small business is a different matter altogether Geoff2: If individual companies wish to offer paid maternity leave, well that’s their decision. I agree with Mr Howard on this. Peter9: Child care should be tax deductable if it forms part of one earning an income as it is a cost. Catherine10: Flexible workplace policies including childcare as a tax deduction and income splitting would be far more beneficial. Ann6: Agree with Peter9 Marilyn8: Unfortunately I agree. Your kids are your responsibility for 20, 30, 50 years, not just the few weeks they are cute little bundles. Part-time work and a different for of child care is needed. Neither my daughter nor son-in-law can take time off at will - nature of their jobs, so if the kids are too sick to go to day-care Granny takes the day off!! Peter9: Maternity leave is up to the individual companys and employers , not a right, if an employee is good enough, the employer will look after that person MODERATOR_1: Ok now on Medicare. Mark Latham says: MODERATOR_1: With the enactment of the Howard Government's changes to Medicare through backflips and bribery, we now have a Medicare system that is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally different to that proposed by its founders MODERATOR_1: John Deeble, one of the architects of this great system, says Medicare is dead. Marilyn8: I lived through the women's movement to get the right to work - now we need the ned the right to look after our kids MODERATOR_1: I believe that Medicare is not dead yet, but it is seriously wounded, and without rapid resuscitation – which will only come through a Labor Government – Medicare will be dead within a few short years MODERATOR_1: The Howard Government is intent on changing Medicare from universal health care into means-tested welfare. MODERATOR_1: Labor has a $1.9 billion plan to rebuild bulk billing for all Australians. We will also invest in Medicare Teams, in primary and community health teams in areas of health need

MODERATOR_1: And through our Australian Dental Care plan we will provide $120 million per year to enable Australians to get off waiting lists and into a dentist's chair. MODERATOR_1: How do you respond to that statement? peter1: OUr living standards surely can afford health care. We want our hospitals to work and be affordable, Universal bulk billing is not necessary Ann6: I think the $120 million would only just fix my teeth! I don't agree that people who are millionaires should get all their medical items free when waiting lists for all public health are so long Marilyn8: Medicare was supposed to be universal so people would get help when they needed it to PREVENT illness. Now it's user pays - and people are users because they didn't get help soon enough. It's nuts. (I work in primary health care) NSWnotill: Totally free medical treatment will not work, and medicos must be adequately recompensed for their skills. Have some sort of a safety net, but the user should pay something, otherwise he will abuse the system. Geoff2: Medicare should be abolished, there is no ―right‖ to health care. It is an indivual’s own responsibility to look after their health care. Deregulate the health sector and let people make their own arrangements. Ann6: I've just received a bill for $560 for anaesthetic for a minor operation, and I'm a full pensioner and will only get $200 of that back. Any help would be appreciated! Marilyn8: Can't remember the study but it casts the government - let alone the patient - more in rebates and higher initial charges to have many operations (an arterial stent was the example they used) done privately - forget what it costs the patient s well. Catherine10: In the best of all possible worlds it would be wonderful, but I honestly don't think that it's achievable. Bulk billing should only be available for those who cannot afford to pay the doctor. Just where is the money going to come from? It doesn't matter who is in government Medicare is a basketcase and needs to be resuscitated asap Peter9: The government has killed medicare, but they are not the only ones responsible, health experts and people in the game have used it as a milch cow for years and got nice and fat on it due to medicare being un disiplined and out of control, doctors have just used it to push up there fees MODERATOR_1: John Howard says: MODERATOR_1: MedicarePlus will ensure that we protect Medicare as one of the best health systems in the world and strengthen it for future generations. MODERATOR_1: Through MedicarePlus we have acknowledged the concerns people have expressed about our health system. Ann6: Oh, come on, Geoff. Some people can't afford their procedures, particularly when they are only just out of school. What do you suggest? Kill them off? MODERATOR_1: Under MedicarePlus the Government has responded to these concerns by investing a total of $2.4 billion from now to 2006-07 and about $1 billion more each year

thereafter. This adds some $1.5 billion to the $917 million funding commitment under A Fairer Medicare. MODERATOR_1: The three pillars of Medicare will remain: Free treatment as a public patient in a public hospital; Payment of a Medicare rebate at 85$ of the scheduled fee for a visit to a doctor outside hospital; and affordable pharmaceuticals through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. MODERATOR_1: MedicarePlus strengthens and builds on these pillars that have protected us for over 20 years. MODERATOR_1: The Government remains committed to a high level of bulk billing as a key element of the Medicare system. MODERATOR_1: How do you respond to that statement? peter1: Another of Howards lies. he has killed medicare and starved the State hospitals Geoff2: A typical Howard initiative, fiddle and tinker with a flawed system rather than undertake sweeping reforms NSWnotill: Sounds fine to me- it's just that doctors can't run a practice on the Govt. scheduled fee so have to charge extra. Ann6: Medicare rebates percentages are meaningless when there is no restriction on how much can be charged about sheduled fee Ann6: Ooops, meant above scheduled fee Catherine10: I am unsure if these are extra funds or the general health budget. If they are extra, they are not affordable, if they are not extra it's just moving the funds around. Marilyn8: Be nice if it worked! It won't. there aren't enough doctors (particularly GPs) because there aren't enough places at uni (underfunded tertiary again) and aren't enough provider numbers allocated especially now that many doctors are women who only want to wrk part-time but still use up a full providor number. Peter9: My doctor will no longer bulk bill, but still accepts the gold card EX service TPI's and War Widows. while he was bulk billing his practice was always full to over flowing and then he was getting chided for seeing to many patients and being asked to please explain. Marilyn8: Overseas doctors aren't the answer because our uni places are taken by overseas students - because they can pay MODERATOR_1: Ok. We're into the home stretch now. Just a few more questions. You've been great so far. Ann6: I don't know what reforms can make this system work for Australia - very few other countries have it right, do they. I don't think there's a shortage of doctors, except in the country areas NSWnotill: Too few docs. out of Uni. is a good point MODERATOR_1: Now, irrespective of who you actually intend to vote for, I want you to think about the possibility of casting a vote for Mark Latham and Labor. If you were thinking

about voting for Mark Latham, what would make you hesitate most strongly?Ann6: The promises that need funding. Peter9: The rest of the useless bunch Peter1: No hesitation just to get rid of the current regime NSWnotill: The others behind him in the ALP machine Marilyn8: Whether he could maintain self control - or go ballistic one day and shoot himself in the foot Catherine10: Inexperience, uncertainty re his behaviour, whether he would be backed p by his collegues and the ALP Peter9: All polys manage to shoot themselves in the foot every day Geoff2: Some of their policies, IR springs to mind, even Mr Howards token reforms of the IR system are too much for some obscurantists in the Labour party, if elected they will abolish AWA. Very bad. Marilyn8: oh yeah! Peter Catherine10: These are very dangerous time and we need an experienced hand on the wheel MODERATOR_1: O.K., now let’s look at it from the other direction. Irrespective of who you intend to vote for, if you were thinking about voting for John Howard, what would make you hesitate most strongly? Marilyn8: Don't think Howard’s hand on the wheel will save me from a terrorist Peter9: Catherine Are any of them really experienced full stop NSWnotill: His policy on succession Ann6: The lies that he's been telling, and slowness to fix things Marilyn8: More lack of credibility and even more self interest peter1: Sorry, can't think of an answer to this Catherine10: Experience, network of overseas leaders, his ability to handle the economy Geoff2: Despite what some of my fellow chatees think, there is little difference between Labour & Liberal, I would hesitate to vote Liberal because it will be more of the same, more programs, more taxes, less freedom. Ann6: Does that mean you will vote informal, Geoff MODERATOR_1: In case your wondering, we haven’t included the minor parties here because we are assuming that they none of them will be in a position to form a government after the next election. NSWnotill: Bring back Tim Fischer! Peter9: I have done that before, voted informal that is MODERATOR_1: If Peter Costello was to lead the Liberal Party would you be more or less inclined to vote for them?

Geoff2: Anne6 better than that, not vote at all and cop the fine, I've been fined quite a lot over the years! Marilyn8: LESS Peter1: less Ann6: I say LESS too Catherine10: Less inclined Peter9: Big less less, Abott even less NSWnotill: Same Geoff2: Depends on their policies Marilyn8: Agree with Peter 9 Abbott is even more of a liability than costello MODERATOR_1: Irrespective of who you intend to vote for, what would make you hesitate most strongly about voting for Costello and the Liberals? Geoff2: Same comments as for Mr Howard and the Liberals Marilyn8: More payouts for big business - if we love the USA so much, why can't we learn from their mistakes Peter9: Do not trust them, they lie cheat and are deceitfull Ann6: Doubts about his leadership, financial management, policies and ethics Catherine10: Whether he was their final choice. The Liberals take the prize for in-fighting over leadership contenders Peter1: Their foreign policy and their attitude to society And their inability to consider investing in our future NSWnotill: The USA Alliance Marilyn8: Feel sorry for Costello though, waiting all this time and everyone still can't stand him MODERATOR_1: OK we’re almost done now. I just want to remind you of the vote you put down at the start. Can you each tell us now what you wrote down at the start? Peter9: Think Costello is out of the normal persons loop Ann6: Independent NSWnotill: Being an ex farmer I vote national Geoff2: Not voting at next Federal election peter1: labour for lower and greens for upper Marilyn8: Greens first (they won't get in) then labour (they won't either because my seat is safe libs - damn it) Catherine10: Liberal but only to keep the status quo MODERATOR_1: Is that different from a month ago? Peter9: EVSP

NSWnotill: No Geoff2: No Peter1: no Ann6: Yes, but Greens then Catherine10: Yes Peter9: No MODERATOR_1: Finally, do you think you are likely to change your vote between now and the actual election? Marilyn8: No, but my opinion is getting firmer (I'd voted Libs all my life till a few years ago courtesy of Howard) NSWnotill: No peter1: no Geoff2: Baring a miraculous transformation in Federal politics, No! Marilyn8: No Ann6: I'm same as Marilyn, including voting Lib, but getting Greener. Catherine10: No MODERATOR_1: Ok. We're done. Thank you for your time. You can check back at for updates. Geoff2: That was fun! Catherine10: Thanks and goodnight Peter9: Depends if the liberals wake up and start looking after the ex service persons better, especially the TPI's and war widows Peter1: goodby all. Ann6: Thanks to all of you Administrator_2: Thanks everyone Administrator_2: I'll put some analysis up in the next day or so Geoff2: Goodbye everyone! <= Catherine10 Has Left The Room Administrator_2: Feel free to tell me where I'm wrong!!! Administrator_2: Night Peter9: Thanks all, interesting to meet some savy people Marilyn8: Okay, thanks for the opportunity to put my opinion. More interesting tan the state election one - but them what wasn't?

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