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Transcript of Dr John Hewson MP doorstop press conference

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Leader of the Opposition

23 August 1991

i‘ - ‘·




SUBJECTS $ Billboard campaign, Coalition policy, Soviet Union Budget, Social Security, Unemployment


...a very large number of people every week who see these billboards. Five or six million people, I think is the estimate that will see the billboards over time. We've started a campaign now, starting with yesterday's response to

the Budget, and then the billboards today, and ultimately the delivery of our tax package before Christmas - building people's awareness of the issue, the problem, and delivering the solutions which this country needs.


You've criticised the Government's economic policies, but their response is that you haven't produced any of your own.

Hewson: .

Look, we have more policy detail on the record than they do, in a whole host of areas. Our industrial relations and wages policy is in absolute detail. It's available in draft legislation. They don't have a wages policy. They've just brought down a Budget which doesn't address the basic problem

in this country, which is jobs ~ a million people being unemployed,

We've talked about the broad principles of our tax system - the basic structures known. The only thing that's not known is the rate, and that'll be brought down, as I say, between now and Christmas. But we're picking our time. Now, they are the issue. Their Budget is the issue. The failure of that Budget is the issue, so we are building the expectation of course, for the delivery of our package down the track.


Do you think. Mr. Hawke is trying to win points on the Soviet situation?

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 277 4022 . COMMONWEALTH PA R L IA M EN TA R Y LIBRARY M IC A H



Look, I think Mr Hawke is genuinely concerned about the Soviet Union, as we all have been. We've expressed similar concerns about what happened - the events of this week - and similar relief with the outcome, and are delighted really, that as I said yesterday, when people get a sense of democracy and

freedom, it's unstoppable, and I was very pleased to see that that was the case in the Soviet Union,

There's no doubt however, that Mr Hawke has spent a lot more time talking about the Soviet Union than he has on the Budget, and we of course, over the coming weeks and months, will try to ensure that he comes back to the main game here at home, which is, of course, economic management, and the fact that he

has created the circumstances in which one million Australians - he and Paul Keating have created the circumstances in which one million Australians are going to be out of work this year. That stands as a monument to his time as Prime Minister in the centenary year of the ALP - a party that came to power on the promise of jobs, and claims to represent the interests of

average Australians. It clearly demonstrates that he's got no sense of reality anymore.


But Dr Hewson, the Government commissioned the same economic model that you used after the Budget - the Murphy model - and the application of that by the Parliamentary Library showed that that would cost 1% of GDP, bring it back to .6 growth ahd would cost 46,000 jobs.


Which? The superannuation package?


No. If you were to balance the Budget.


I didn't advocate balancing the Budget. What I said is that, to set it in its context, you need to understand that they could have balanced the Budget, and that would have had a significantly more favourable effect on interest rates and

investment than in fact this Budget is going to have. And indeed, if you run that model through and look at the detail of the impact of the superannuation decision alone on unemployment, you find that unemployment goes up by about

100,000 people; that it has an inflationary impact of about 2-5%. Now, that's not dealing with the problems as we see them, and the overridingly important problem today is jobs.



Do you deny if you try to balance the Budget it would cost more jobs?


Look, what I deny is that you would just do that. We would be obviously trying to move the public sector towards

contributing to national savings, which is trying to get back towards balance or surplus, but not on its own - as part of a package of measures that creates a lot of other opportunities and jobs.

If you go in and deregulate the labour market and create proper wage negotiation processes; if you tackle the inefficiencies on the waterfront and in land transport and remove those cost disadvantages; if you genuinely privatise

for efficiency reasons? if you move on a broad based agenda like that, including cuts in Government expenditure and tax reform, then you will significantly boost economic activity in this country, and you'll create a lot of jobs.

The estimates are there - the Business Council, the Industry Commission have estimated you get - from our sort of reform agenda - all up you get about a 12-15% boost in national product, and that brings a lot of jobs, and that is the only way to go in Australia at the present time. The Government

knows it. The Prime Minister just hasn't got the guts to carry it out, ·


Where does this billboard campaign go from here. This is a very effective message, but do you have any more?


Yes, we are going to have a series of messages over time. And this is being backed up, of course, with a link to a poster campaign and a bumper sticker campaign. We'd like to see a situation in Australia where you couldn't go five or six hundred yards without seeing one of these posters or

billboards sending the message across the country.


How much will it cost?

Hews on: . .

Look, I don't know what the cost is.



How many are you putting up?


I think we're putting up over 200 in the course of the next few days, around Australia, and we will continue with about that sort of number. They've been strategically picked to get the message across where we can reach the most people in the most effective way.


Will they become more constructive, in that will you be providing your own solutions in the billboard campaign.


Yes. We aren't' going to foreshadow which way the message will go. But clearly part of it is getting people to face the reality of our circumstances, and one million jobs being lost is the easiest way to get them to focus on that. But in time, yes. We are very positive. We are about changing this

country, and this country reaching its potential, its true potential, which has just been squandered over the last seven or eight years.

And as far as I'm concerned, we have a big task, sure, to explain that to the people of Australia, but I think the people of Australia want to listen. I think they are tired of this Government, They know what they've been doing hasn't worked. They're getting very worried about the influence that

this Government has over their lives, and we're now to the ridiculous extent where everything's being increasingly centralised.

Your wage decisions are made for you by Bill Kelty and

somebody from the Government. Your superannuation is going to be decided by the Government. John Dawkins is in a position where he can start determining what books your children read. Brian Howe's going to design your cities for you. He's also

going to determine when you see the doctor and what sort of medical service you get. If that's the sort of world people want, sure, they'll continue to support the Labor Party. But I don't believe they do want that, and they are prepared to wear fundamental change, and we are saying dramatic change,

not tinkering - substantial change across the board is the only way to go.



John Kerin this morning indicated that he'd like to see decentralisation of the social security department. Would you support that?


Well, we raised that issue, and 1 remember we got bucketed quite dramatically by the Government for it. My own view is that things like pensions and income support payments are most effectively provided by the Commonwealth, but there are other aspects of community services and assistance that are more effectively provided at other levels of Government, or indeed by some of the community organisations. And I use the example of say, crisis family relief, and the capacity that

institutions like the Sydney City Mission or St Vincent de Paul or Brotherhood of St Laurence have to meet that sort of need much more effectively than a bureaucrat in Canberra. But there's no doubt that things like pensions and major income

support payments are better issued and controlled from Canberra in the most cost effective way.

Other community services to be assessed on the basis of which is the most efficient point from which to deliver them. That's the sort of rational debate we ought to be able to have in Australia - is to determine who ought to be providing what

service, firstly - be it Commonwealth, State or Local, or other organisation, and then secondly determining what's the most cost effective way of providing that service. You use the money to its best extent. You target it most effectively

and you ensure that you can save money which can actually increase some of those benefits.

The genuinely needy in Australia - one of the great tragedies of this Government that claims a monopoly on compassion - one of the great tragedies is that the genuinely needy don't get enough. And it's very hard to live in Sydney or Melbourne as

a pensioner today on $300 a fortnight, with one or two bits of add-ons to that. It's very hard. The approach of the

Government has been really to put out bushfires. We see the "new poor" that has been identified - Brian Howe's concern for the "new poor" - this Budget addressing that - raising thresholds for Family Allowance Supplements and so on. They're a very sad commentary - putting more and more people onto the welfare roll, locking them more and more into poverty

traps and not solving the problems. And I put it to you, the most effective thing you can do for somebody, the thing that most Australians would rather have is a weekly pay-packet than a weekly welfare cheque. They don't seem to understand that.



Dr Hewson, if you took office tomorrow, how long would it be before we saw a fall in unemployment figures?


Well, we haven't done that sum, and we wouldn't be promising instantaneous improvement. We would be moving as a matter of urgency to put the policies in place that could start to create jobs. Now, if attitudes shift and the business community sees it as a green light, and they get on and start to invest, it can happen reasonably quickly. If attitudes are resistant, if it takes time to get that message across, then

it will take that much longer.

But really, it's not just the Government. It's everybody that has got to pitch in. There's got to be an attitude that we want to change this place. There's got to be an attitude that we are really prepared, and on our part, we'll put the

policies in place, but other people's attitudes have to shift. They have to want to make a contribution. Individuals are going to have to be happy to work harder; ought to be more productive; ought to raise the quality of their work; to save more. Businesses are going to have to take a completely

different attitude - get on and then start to invest and be positive.

You know, it's that change of attitude across the board which is as important as any of the policies we talk about. And that change of attitude will come, f think in part, from very strong leadership on the part of government. Right now, why would you do anything? The Government is sort of sitting

there, paralysed, fighting and scrapping amongst themselves, providing no hope, no opportunity, no vision. That Budget was completely devoid of any sense of strategic direction for Australia. They had no concept of where they'd like to take

this country in the future, and no concept of how they'd get there. So, as far as I'm concerned, we need to have a

national process whereby we get a national sense of purpose and determination and dedication; that we all recognise that we've all got to do our part to turn this country around. We'll certainly do our part. We're prepared to run to the next election on what we're told are politically unpopular policies, but which just about everybody, including the Government in the past, has conceded are fundamental to turning the country around.

Jrnlst: "

What's reasonably quickly? What do you mean by reasonably quickly?



Well, we say a period of years to do the job properly. We're not going to falsely raise expectations. If we get very quick responses and people change attitudes and move quickly, it can happen really quite quickly. But we don't want to raise false hopes. It won't happen unless we actually all get in there and put our shoulders to the grindstone and make it happen.

Jrnlst: _ .

Doctor, on a humorous note, have you found out who the Dalecks are yet?


Yes, it's been explained to me. Anyway, I haven't found too many around me of that type, apart from perhaps the media on occasions.