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Transcript of doorstop interview: Radio 4CA Studios, Cairns: 2 March 1993



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PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE IK)N P..1.KEA'L INC MP DOORSTOP, RADIO 4CA STUDIOS, CAIRNS, 2 MARCH 1993

E&OE PROOF COPY

PM: Now I take it that you have all meet Peter Dodd our candidate in Leichhardt. I will begin by just making a few comments to you. You know how John Ilewson has been avoiding questioning, he won't do press conferences, he will only do doorstops, he won't do the Press Club, he wouldn't do Four Corners.

Yesterday he had a chance to tell Australians why they need a GST and he failed, but apparently it was a fiasco today on Sydney radio. On the John Laws program he was actually exposed to a bit of questioning by .listeners about the GST and came away absolutely tied in knots, being unable to explain and

unable to convince people of the benefits of the GST. So if the author of the policy is so unaware of its ramifications and cannot explain its impacts on small to medium business, why should he expect people to vote for it?

I think what emerges from this is this simple point, and I say this to people: if you don't understand the CTST, don't vote for it_ And if you do understand it, I know you'll never vote for it

J: Mr Keating, how damaging is the Victorian loans affairs now?

PM: Not a bit, it is basically just a scam. Forget about it.

J: Should John Dawkins resign?

PM: No, it is nebbish, You heard 'AM' this morning about meeting in airport terminals, I mean it is basically a fit up by the Bronwyn Bishops of this world and Senator Coulter and others, just forget about it.

J: You are not going to stand the Treasurer down?

PM: You have got to be joking.

J: But didn't a tabor Treasurer try and actually stop that because it is an election campaign?

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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PM: Let's get on to the real issues, it is not a real issue as you know. It is basically a put up job by. There was a majority report that apparently they wouldn't publish and they reconvened when the non-I.abor group had a majority.

J: Mr Keating, how wise is it to attack well known people like Ita Buttrose and Charlie Perkins?

PM: I didn't attack them, I didn't attack them at all, no I've never attacked theist. I hold many of them personally in reasonable regard, but the fact is their name is not on the ballot paper, they shouldn't be substituting their place for Ministers. And I think it just makes the point; the point Fve made is and the only point I want to make is that the Liberal pa rty front bench s2 •' !c r^ r^Ike on surrogate Ministers to do the public policy task tna< inc i .tocru par.y Front bench is incapable of doing. Isn't that very obvious? J: But is there anything really wrong with senior po liticians keeping in touch with

the community through high profile means ...

PM: No, this is more than in touch with the community, This is not just a ... this is involvement in policy. That is, these people will basically be involved in policy making, this is a sort of quasi Cabinet role and this is because John I Iewson s front bench is so weak.

I: Do you only take advice from electorate officials?

PM: The people who pa rt icipate in Cabinet meetings and see Cabinet documents are either members of the Cabinet, the Ministry or the bureaucracy.

J: So your own staff, Don Russell?

PM: But they are on the staff, they are state people, they are not so-called community representatives filling in as Ministers. 'lliis notion, doesn't it speak volumes about the problems the Liberal party's from bench has?

J: Prime Minister, you've dismissed the Dawkins situation, but doesn't that go through the heart of Labor's economic management ability?

PM: No, it is just rubbish. Don't demean the election campaign by dealing with this sort of tripe. It is basically a put up job in the Senate. The real issues in this campaign are employment and the party policies to deal with it. The Labor Ply which has a policy of getting business going, of getting what is already a marked growth in the economy accelerating, by lowering company tax rates, providing investment allowances, seeing those exports we saw yesterday continuing to accelerate on the one hand and an ( )pposition which has a most incredible policy of imposing a huge spending tax when the economy is trying to gather its speed. It has got the most unlikely and inappropriate response, a GST which is going to be ve ry bad for business, exceptionally bad For business, an absolute poison for small business.

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1: It must be unfortunate, though, coming at this time in the campaign?

PM: Don't go doing the Democrats and the Liberal's bidding. If they want to behave like smuck let them.

J: But this issue does go to the heart of economic management?

PM: It doesn't. Listen, if you want to go to the heart of economic management ask John Howson whew he got his $20 billion estimate for Telecom. Now here you are asking me questions about some loan affair back in the middle of last year of $1 billion, borrowings and here's the liberal party running around with a

program of public funding on Tclecom which is worth half what they say it is. 'That's where the c "^; ', l Uuutut y is.

Straight through the heart of just what your Government is prepared to reveal about what it knows of the economy.

PM: No, don't go doing the National party and the Liberal's bidding.

J: On the issue itself, why should we believe future Dawkins' budgets allcr this'?

PM: The documentation was there, this was a proposal by Victoria to turn short term borrowings into medium term borrowings. That was the long and short of it. Now it was all run at the time, it had nothing in it then, it has got nothing in it now.

J: We've had the fourth poll out in 48 hours which shows you closing the lead, do you think the UST thing is now turn ing into a winner for you?

PM: I think people know understand the CIST is basically a nonsense policy. The GST is a tax slug, it is not a plan, if it was "ever a plan its the wrong plan. As I said a moment ago if people don't unders-tand the GST the is a ver y

simple

response - don't vote for it. If you don't understand it, don't vote for it.

J: Mr Keating, nobody elected Bill Kelty to any senior government positions. Surely Ita Buttrose and Dick Smith could not possibly be as influential in a Hewson government as Bill Kelty has been in yours'!

PM: We' ve never lifted Bill Kelty to the exalted position of permanent adviser to the Government. IIe is an Accord partner representing the workforce of this country. That's where he has his status. He's status comes from being a player, an Accord partner in a partnership between the Commonwealth government and the organised workforce. This is an entirely different concept of recruiting a group of people to be Ministers, quasi Ministers.

Why?

PM:: It is pretty obvious to me. These people are going to be in there across the board advising on po licy.

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J: This is hardly unique in Western democracies having people within the community advising ...

PM: No, it happens in America but they have a different constitution to us. Ministers are not drawn from the legislature, President Clinton can choose who he likes to be Ministers, but this is Australia not the United States. 'Ibis is not our convention. Ministers have to be good enough to cut the mustard and if the

Liberal party, if John Hewson is telling us his Ministers arc not good enough to cut the mustard, let them go back into opposition with all the pleasures and comforts that provides.

J: Do you think that these people will have more influence on the government than Bill Kelty has?

PM; John Hewson is designing a roll for them that, no, I don't think, self respecting parliamentary party would ever entertain.

J: You wouldn't be uncomfortable with Charlie Perkins having influence over a Liberal government?

PM: The Cabinet should take responsibility for policy, not Charlie Perkins or anybody else.

J: But don't you think it is quite possible that this is just a show case thing for the public, that they are not really going to have that much influence afte r all and

John Hewson is running his own show?

PM: Well in that case why are they front page lead in the Courier Mail? Why have they got their little pictures all around the country? Why has John I Icw-son made such a major issue of it?

J: ... there have been a lot of claims of factional infighting between you and John Gayler. Why is this your first visit to Cairns?

PM: That is just totally untrue. I think I've been in this city probably four times in the last twelve months. I come here a lot and I have a genuine interest in the area. I had a large roll in preserving the Daintree, Fm very interested in the city, I'm interested in its tourism potential and a lot of the achievements that we do have are ones which the Government put together with John Gaylcr. The

Labor party has represented this city and this constituency very well and I'm quite sure that Peter Dodd will be able to carry on that tradition and work closely with the Cabinet and do things for Far North Queensland.

You haven't got to have a long memory to know what it was like before the Labor government. There was no growth like this. There was no tourism industry like this. This was provided by a national Labor government and if there's one city or one constituency in the whole of the Commonwealth of

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Australia that's been a direct and principle beneficiary of Government policy it has been Cairns and the community of Liechhardt.

J: How damaging will it be but not to have John Gaylcr's personal vote?

PM: John has been in there a lair time and members change, it is an onerous job being an MP particularl y in a constituency which has a city and a large rural community as well and John has chosen to call it quits and let another person

represent this constituency and all I say to the people of Leichhardt - pay on results. I mean its this Government which provided this kind of activity and this sort of growth in Cairns and Far North Queensland, it is only this Government that will do it.

A GST in this city - in this area of Queensland you get cyclone warnings. Well

there should be a GIST warning because a UST will hit the tourism industry so hard it will make inbound tourism more expensive and it will be cheaper for Australians to go to Bali or to go to Honolulu than it will to come to Cairns. So it will be a very heavy tax on airfares, hotels, accommodation, meals,

amusements, transport, the whole gambit of tourism services are going to be hit in the leg by 15 per cent GST. Now you have got to ask yourself the question: how will that create one job? Won't it make for fewer visitors? Won't it make for fewer holiday makers? Won't that make for a contraction in business

activity and won't that make for a contraction in employment, higher unemployment? The answer is, of course, it will. It won't create one extra job.

J: But to balance that the city also has a very serious unemployment problem, why should Leichhardt voters think that that situation will improve if the Government is returned?

PM: Because I think generally Queensland has been growing faster than the rest of Australia, in part, because of the Government's policy. But there is a very large shift of population to Queensland, it is not just a matter of taking up the natural growth in the Queensland Labor market it is taking up the growth of people

who have come to Queensland. So, do people want to sort of throw up this sort of growth for a policy based on a GST?

J: So you don't think these claims of factional infighting are damaging?

PM: No, no, we've all got to put up with the nonsense of politics I suppose, that is part of it.

J: Mr Keating, on the loans affairs, do you think John Coulter has been motivated by other things besides wanting ...

PM: John Coulter is only motivated by basically trying to get the 1 democrats noticed. He is currently taking the Democrat's to oblivion. It won't be long before his name is a footnote on the history of the 1993 election campaign.

ends