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Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne, 30 July 1998: transcript of doorstop interview [GST]



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THE HON PETER REITH MP

MINISTER FOR WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND SMALL BUSINESS

LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

 

30 July, 1998

 

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON PETER REITH MP

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW - HYATT HOTEL, MELBOURNE

 

e&oe

 

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Reith, the Government, has it lost the welfare lobby support on the GST so far?

 

REITH:

 

I don’t know what they’re saying but certainly the package will be taking into account the needs of low income and disadvantaged people. I think it’s one of the problems of the system that we inherited from Labor — is that low income people have been disadvantaged for years. Labor’s tax system has become increasingly regressive. Low income people have been disadvantaged. Many low income people have not been able to get a job because of Labor’s tax system and so it’s very important that we have a complete reform of Australia’s tax system, and this will mean jobs. More jobs means a better deal for low income people. The best thing you can do for somebody who’s on low incomes or who is disadvantaged is to make sure they’ve got a job or to help them keep their job.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Their support would be crucial, though, to sell the package, wouldn’t it?

 

REITH:

 

Well, I don’t think it’s as simple as that, to say that there is a necessarily single voice amongst the welfare groups. The Brotherhood of St Laurence a few years ago put out a package of proposed reforms including, I think, it was a 7 per cent value added tax, for example. So the welfare lobbies have had different views over the years on different subjects.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

How do you think the low income to middle income earners will react when they see reports and examples in the papers today of a typical single income family on $697 a week, they’re needing 8 per cent tax cut to break even after a GST. They’re going to be $24.12 worse off. How do you see it when people read this — they’re going to respond? You said it was going to be a difficult fight, this one.

 

REITH:

 

I think most people are sensible enough to know that they should await the Government’s release of the package before they come to any conclusions about what’s in it. Arthur Andersen’s apparently have done some work but they have not been working for the Government, they’re not releasing the Government’s tax policy. As far as people on low incomes or middle incomes are concerned, obviously it is important that we address the fact that they are paying very high income tax rates. But, more generally, I think people need to be a bit sceptical about some of the things they read in the papers. I picked up The Age this morning and it told me that there would be a 10 per cent tax on the cost of my shower and that I’d be 10 per cent worse off. Well, you’re already paying tax built into the cost of hot water today. That is a misrepresentation in the sense that it doesn’t tell the full story, that if you have a proper tax package taxes will be abolished and that will lower the price of things. And taxes which are currently imposed on goods indirectly will see the lowering of the price of those goods.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Because of these paper reports and media reports on the way the GST is going to be, how it will affect low income earners, people are already quite frightened, talking in the street about it .

 

REITH:

 

I don’t think so. I spoke to somebody who said that it was good news that retirees were going to be a lot better off and that it was going to be a fantastic system for older Australians, which was the headline in The Age. My advice is, believe the good news.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

You said in your speech earlier on that you’re going to learn the lessons from the past. How are you doing it differently this time?

 

REITH:

 

Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you?

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is there a two-pronged (tape break).

 

REITH:

 

Back in 1993 the Labor Party opposed tax reform when they were themselves a few years earlier in favour of it, and after the election they cheated people. They lied through 1993 and they cheated the Australian public after the election, and they would do exactly the same thing again. I think most people should now perhaps appreciate and give us credit for the fact that we’ve been straight up and down, and told people what the problems are and we’re going to be telling them what the answers are. And that puts us in a much stronger position compared to the Labor Party.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Just finally, were you surprised to see union reps at the breakfast this morning?

 

REITH:

 

I appreciated the opportunity to speak with the President of the Trades Hall Council this morning. Mr Kingham is a senior official in the CFMEU and we are very keen to see improvements in productivity in the building industry, and the CFMEU is a significant player in achieving that. I have said to the industry, including the unions, that the Government is prepared to hold sensible discussions and consultations with them about the reform process. We do need reform in the building industry. We’ve nominated the building industry as one of the priority industries in the Government’s workplace relations approach. I welcome the fact that the unions were prepared to come along and listen to me speak this morning.

 

 

 

ENDS

 

 

 

LK