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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop interview: Taskforce into industrial relations; GST; rollback; Cathy Freeman's comments; time on the Internet; Fiji.



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   The Hon. Peter Reith, MP       Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business       Leader of the House of Representatives       Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

18 July  2000 

Transcript of the Hon Peter Reith MP  

Doorstop interview- Parliament House

Subject: Taskforce into industrial relations; GST; rollback; Cathy Freeman’s comments; time on the Internet; Fiji.

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REITH:

[tape starts]…set up its taskforce into industrial relations. We said that it was a sham, that the whole purpose of this exercise was just to justify a policy already written by the Trades Hall Council in Victoria. We have had further evidence of that in the last 24 hours with the Victorian taskforce set up by the Victorian Government selectively leaking material which they have obtained from ACIRRT, a Sydney research group. ACIRRT is well known for its views on industrial relations. ACIRRT has produced a document which suits the committee’s purposes and it just demonstrates that the thing is…the whole approach of this taskforce is a sham just set up for a particular political purpose.

And the statement by VECCI yesterday which describes the breach of protocols within the operation of that committee is just again evidence of what we said all along would happen. I believe VECCI should reconsider their participation in this taskforce. The whole thing is just a set up by a Labor government that will do as the unions tell them to do. It’s very similar to what is happening at the federal level with workplace relations. Mr Beazley has a policy, he’s not going to talk to anybody, he’s not going to listen to anybody, he’s not going to realise the impact of this as far as small business is concerned. He is just doing as the unions tell him. And if you have a leader like Mr Beazley who doesn’t listen to what is happening in the real world then small business in particular will suffer very greatly as a consequence of Mr Beazley’s policy.

It’s not unlike, in fact, you know what’s happening in the tax area. Mr Beazley does not listen to the Australian public. He does not listen to small business. He does not understand the consequences of his own policy. And so John Della Bosca was absolutely right, it’s just that Kim Beazley doesn’t have the leadership to listen and to react sensibly to a point that’s obvious and which even Mr Beazley he should know, he should know, because it’s there on the front pages for him to read this morning.

JOURNALIST:

What are the polls saying to him this morning?

REITH:

Well, the polls are saying that his policy is wrong and rollback is a stupid policy and he ought to drop it. Rollback is his central policy and the public know it’s just a fraud, the whole thing. And Kim Beazley is in a hopeless position but he’s put himself there, he

deserves his position and John Della Bosca was right. And it will take some extraordinary leadership for Mr Beazley to admit publicly that he was wrong and to drop a policy which is just based on being negative for the sake of being negative.

It’s a trap for oppositions just to be oppositionist. And no-one has been more negative than Kim Beazley. And as we see in the paper this morning senior people within the Labor Party know that his position is a very poor one and can’t be sustained and they’re saying it privately. And the fact is Kim Beazley has to demonstrate now that he can get himself out of this whole that he has dug himself into.

JOURNALIST:

It’s not exactly a huge number of people who believe the GST should stay exactly as it is and, in fact, you have said that requirements may be needed. Do you think that there is some scope for change?

REITH:

There is no room for policy changes. The policy has been implemented. It all happened as at the 1st of July. The policy has been implemented. And, you know, people are saying, well, the thing’s gone very well, and it has gone very well. That’s not to say there aren’t issues for small business with business activity statements and the like. But Kim Beazley has just run this, you know, totally, completely obsessively negative policy and the public does not agree with him. Not even Labor voters agree with him.

JOURNALIST:

So there may be room for some minor finetuning?

REITH:

The simple point is that rollback is to change the policy. Kim Beazley doesn’t like the policy, he doesn’t like the GST, but he is going to keep it and he is going to roll it back. Now, you start making exemptions as Della said, exemptions mean more paperwork, it makes it messy and makes it unworkable. And that’s the problem with his rollback and the public knows it. A lot of Labor voters know it, but Kim Beazley is having trouble hearing the message.

 JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask you about Cathy Freeman’s comments, is this going to cause embarrassment for the Government at the Olympics?

REITH:

Well, I was sorry to hear that she was so personally affected by the controversy and the issue at the time. It is a matter of, you know, deep personal conviction and concern affecting people’s personal lives and I think that is understood within the Government. There are many Aboriginal people in Australia who are greatly disadvantaged by their circumstances and whatever might be the causes of those circumstances we all have to be committed to a better life opportunity for our most disadvantaged citizens. And to the extent that I am involved in that with employment we can do more, we are trying to do more but it is a long agenda that we have ahead of us, there’s a lot of work yet to be done. I can assure her and others that members of the Government are personally committed to ensuring that Aboriginal people have better opportunities in the future than they have had in the past.

JOURNALIST:

There is a new survey out today saying that more workers are spending time bludging on the Internet, is that a concern in lost productivity?

REITH:

Well, when you go to work you ought to be working but then again in the real world, I suppose, people look at the Internet during the day. I am not into fashion parades myself at three o’clock but it does happen. This is definitely the last because I have really got to go.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Reith, would you support economic sanctions against Fiji?

REITH:

Oh, that’s a matter for the Foreign Minister to make comment on during the day as I believe he will.

 

[ends]

 

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