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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop interview, 8 March 2001: Labor's agenda, GST, Government's lack of agenda, International Women's Day.



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Kim Beazley - Doorstop Interview Subjects: Labor's Agenda, GST, Government's Lack Of Agenda, International Women's Day

Transcript - Parliament House, Canberra - 8 March 2001

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E & OE - PROOF ONLY

BEAZLEY: [The Government] wants to ask me the question what do I stand for. Well, I'll tell you what I stand for. I stand for this: firstly, building better public hospitals and a better public health system in this country and preventing its Americanisation. A quality education for all, and not just the rich. Better living standards for all, wherever you live. And building a Knowledge Nation for our country's future. That's what I stand for. What does my political opponent stand for? He stands for three things - G S T. That and nothing else. I notice over the weekend there was a question asked of Mr Howard as to what his vision was for a third term. The question was: 'Have you got a vision for the next term?' And, basically, what the Prime Minister said in reply to that was, 'I'll get back to you'. Now, the truth is he has no vision for the third term. He is fresh out of ideas. He is out of ideas. He has completed his agenda and he intends retirement. And he's going to go to the people at the next election making it up as he goes along -no real vision for the future of this nation, concerned only to cling to power. He started off by saying that he'd govern for all of us. And what his Government has been reduced to is simply governing for himself.

JOURNALIST: Is it a reasonable call for the Government to say to you to pledge to remove the GST by so criticising it over the last six months?

BEAZLEY: This government is very defensive on the GST. The people of Australia understand that we intend to roll it back. And they're getting more of an understanding of that as every suggestion we make on rollback gets picked up by the Government. It was us who said that they had to simplify the tax system by changing the BAS procedures. Though they didn't go down the road we wanted them to go down on that. It was us who said that they had to start to implement their promise in relation to the GST's impact on the price of petrol by removing the petrol spike from the excise change. That's rollback. And that is what we put forward and that is what they're being forced to adopt. And we have said that we'll make it fairer. And we've put down two things already that we think ought to be change. And that is, firstly, to treat the 170,000 Australians who live in caravan parks, to treat them equally with the rest of their fellow Australians by removing the GST from their rent. And we've said that we ought to take the GST, because it's health issue engaged here, off women's sanitary products. Now, we have said those things. To say more than that, we need to know what the shape of the Budget is. And I've got to tell you, people who start in the Government criticising the Labor Party now, after they've made a complete mess of the Budget - a complete mess of their economic management. To start to demand now that we put dollars and cents, when they don't know what their Budget position is - Howard is talking about a surplus, Costello is talking about a Budget in balance, others are talking about a Budget in deficit. In that set of circumstances, this Government has got no right to demand of us anything. But the Australian people have a right to know what we stand for. And I've said what we stand for.

JOURNALIST: How can you afford that if we're going into recession as some...

BEAZLEY: We know we can afford those things - the things that I've announced can be afforded under any set of circumstances. But to go beyond that really requires us to take a careful look at what the Budget is. The people know this: we were not responsible for this GST. We resisted it to the very end. We resisted it. We also know this: having hauled small business, and business generally through a wringer in one direction by massive tax changes, to simply say you're going to haul them back through the same wringer is not the answer. What we need is a sensibly calibrated response - and that's what you're getting from us. And the proof of the pudding is in their response. We announce a couple of rollback issues and what do they do? They pick them up. That is a pretty fair indication that we are right -when your political opponents pick it up, it shows that you're right.

JOURNALIST: Is it feasible to remove the GST completely? To abolish it?

BEAZLEY: That's the point I make about the wringer. You pulled them through the wringer once. They won't thank you, having spent thousands of dollars on being put through that wringer to pull them through again. So, what you've got to do is to sensibly calibrate your rollback -make it simpler, make it fairer, reduce the burdens on business, reduce the burdens on families. That's what we're doing.

JOURNALIST: What do you think about the Prime Minister telling us about the Reserve Bank...

BEAZLEY: He blames everybody for this mess but himself. He blames the Opposition, he blames the Reserve Bank, he blames business, he blames his Treasurer. He is like that bloke in the Russian proverb with a barrel of apples trying to keep the wolves at bay by flinging one apple off after another. Well, Prime Minister, it's the bottom of the barrel now and you're there. And the public are blaming you because they know that you are responsible for the mess they're in. Now, get this: the Prime Minister was out there the other day saying this: 'We've had four great years of growth and we've had a bit of a dip now and it will get a bit better after this'. No, we haven't had four great years of growth. We've had eight great years of growth - eight great years because the Labor Party started it. The Labor Party put in place low inflationary growth and they have made a mess of their inheritance. Now, when we confronted a recession in the early 90s, this was a recession that was a worldwide recession - a worldwide recession. There's no worldwide recession now, there's growth in all our major trading partners. There's growth in the world economy. And we are going backwards. This is home grown, this is all the Prime Minister's own work. And if it's shallow, it will be shallow merely because others will drag us out of us. This Prime Minister pushed us into this position with his own wretchedly hopeless economic management.

JOURNALIST: ...USA maybe in recession?

BEAZLEY: Japan has been off the boil for the best part of a decade. That's the situation we confronted, that's the situation they confronted, their situation is now different. The United States is still in growth. Europe is still in growth. Asia is massively in growth. They're all in growth. The opposite was the picture back in the early 90s. That's why Bill Clinton won on, "It's the economy, stupid". And that is why the then Thatcher Government took their first hits in terms of losing seats -back in the early 90s it was a recession there worldwide. There's no worldwide recession now. There is simply a problem in the Australian economy induced by the fiscal mismanagement, the economic mismanagement of this government.

JOURNALIST: ...Murphy says that the Government should...tax cuts...and should...abolishment of the...stamp duty. What do you think of that idea as a short-term measure?

BEAZLEY: I actually think the main problem in this country is the direction for our nation's future. We have to be a Knowledge Nation. We have major problems with investment now in public education, major problems with investment in universities, major problems with investment in research and development and major problems with business innovation as they've had their tax concessions effectively removed. I mean, these are the problem areas. This is where you generate jobs - jobs for the future. And I think it's about time we all started to focus on these things. These are the things I stand for. I stand for a Knowledge Nation. I stand for better education for all - and not just the rich. I stand for better public provision as far as our hospitals are concerned. The time has come for us to focus on the inadequacies, if you like, in our public policy. And those are inadequacies big time.

JOURNALIST: But what income tax cuts help to stimulate the economy?

BEAZLEY: The Government claims it's got all the tax cuts out there - tax cuts by the bushel. That's what they said accompanied their goods and services tax in their total tax package. They say they've got a huge amount array of tax changes out there for business. This downturn is being induced by the decisions that the Government has taken which have scarified confidence in business. What you have to do is to return some confidence to business. If you actually look as though you've got a government that's got a bit of direction, knows where it's going, then you've got the chances of pulling through from the situation in which we find ourselves.

I just have to quote you John Howard's answer to Glenn Milne, because it's just a ripper. He says, this is the question: "I believe, by one MP asked that the government needs a vision for the next term. Have you got a vision for the next term?" - Glenn Milne.

John Howard answer: "Well, I've got a number of things I want to say about my third term agenda, but this isn't quite the right time to do it." You know, six months from an election, he can't say it. "We're in the middle of a by-election." He can't afford to share with the people in a by-election what his vision is for the next term. "We're in the process of responding to concerns from small business and the public in relation to the Business Activity Statement, trusts and petrol." In other words, "We are bogged down in the complete mess of our own creation". "And that's not the time to be talking about the third term agenda" In other words, "I don't have a single blinking idea. I am making this up as I go along".

The only thing we know for certain about John Howard's third term agenda is he's going to disappear in the middle of it.

JOURNALIST: ...(inaudible)...

BEAZLEY: This is International Women's Day and this is a moment when folk of my gender ought to express appreciation for the women of Australia and the things that they do for the society as a whole and for us in particular. We do note on this day that the contribution of women to our society is enormous, both in the nurturing role and in our processes of production. I must say this: most women thought, back in the 1970s they had great victories on gender equality and wages. And they certainly won the point legislatively in the Industrial Commission. And during the 80s, the gaps between men's and women's wages gradually began to close. Since this Government has been in office, things have got harder for women. The gap in wages has started to open up again. It's harder for women to arrange their time flexibly. They have less and less capacity to negotiate with their employers for things they need to be able to sustain decent family life, at the same time as they're pursuing their right to a career in the workforce. These things must change. And what we must do, and we must dedicate ourselves in the

political process on this International Women's Day, is to ensure that the legislation that we put in place does not exacerbate the difficulties that women experience in gaining true gender equality in the workforce and, in fact, enhancing that situation.

Ends

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.