Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of Dr John Hewson MP interview



Download PDFDownload PDF

Leader of the Opposition

6 December 1991 REF; TRANSCR\NM\S0041

TRANSCRIPT OF DR JOHN HEWSON MP INTERVIEW ON "COUNTRY HOUR", WITH DAVID GEE, RADIO 2FC FROM ORANGE, NSW

E & 0 E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS* John Kerin, interest rates, Paul Keating, National Farmers' Federation, Fuel Excise, ABC

Gee;

Meanwhile, the Coalition's Fightback roadshow has been left to roam the countryside, largely impervious to Government attack. John Hewson's trip has come to rest at Orange in Central New South Wales today, and from there the Opposition Leader joins us on the line.

Dr Hewson, good afternoon.

Hewson;

Good afternoon David, how are you.

Gee;

Not too bad. First, have you any better information on what might be happening in Canberra? Are you expecting a new Treasurer, perhaps, later today?

Hewson:

Well, we won't. There's been a lot of speculation of course today, that maybe John Kerin will resign or be pushed. But at this stage we have no firm information. It's sort of passing the poison chalice, isn't it? Keating's recession was passed to Kerin and who's next? Simon Crean or somebody .like that, I

suppose, if they do make a change.

But I'm much more interested to see them change policy and get on and solve some of these problems.

Gee;

Well, let's go to policy. The farmers want a cut. in interest rates. So does business, and the money markets seem to be taking it as read. Would you be cutting interest rates now?

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 277 4022 C O M M Ο N W E A lT H PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MIC AH

REF: TRANSCR\NM\S0041 2 .

Hewson:

Well, we've refrained from putting a specific view. We don't tell the authorities what to do, but we have expected another cut. We said a month or so ago we'd see a couple of cuts by Christinas or early in the new year. We thought that was in the system and I think yesterday's numbers have confirmed that.

But just getting interest rates down isn't going to be enough. You want to be able to ensure that they stay down and create the circumstances for a more competitive exchange rate, and you'll only do that if you put other policies in place. As was just said, cutting interest rates isn't a panacea in

itself.

Gee:

And lower interest rates won't make it rain.

The Canberra press gallery has John Kerin well and truly on the skids in this morning's papers. The Prime Minister may be not far behind. Your colleague John Howard, last week made an attack on Paul Keating. He said he was taking out insurance.

Do you think, from what we're seeing, it may be time the Opposition took out a bit more insurance?

Hewson:

We don't particularly care if Keating gets up. If he gets up he'll make my life a hell of a lot easier. He's much easier to beat than Hawke. As I've said many times, you couldn't give Paul Keating away in a chook raffle. We think he may make a run, but quite frankly, it shows the extent of the

desperation of the Labor Party that they would think of turning to Keating - the architect of the demise. it's staggering that you could be in such bad shape that you go to the bloke who caused the problem.

Gee:

There is a perception though, isn't there, that it may take a package to beat your Fightback package, and that Paul Keating may be in a better position as a new leader to come up with a whole package.

Hewson;

Well quite frankly, on the basis of his record as Treasurer, he'd have to support most of what we've got in the package. He's indeed on record as supporting a lot of the things that are in the package.

REF: TRANSCR\NM\S0Q41 3.

X do accept the point though, that the best thing that the Government can do as a whole now is to put a viable

alternative and get on and have a full-blown national debate about some of these major issues. Carping and whingeing and lying about numbers and so on is not going to help. The

electorate is not interested in that. They want to see major debate on major issues.

Gee:

Dr Hewson, the National Farmers' Federation were one of the first to stand up and applaud your GST reforms. Did you go out of your way to stitch up the farmers' support?

Hewson:

No we didn't. We did what we thought was in the best

interests of the country. I can see why they are particularly attracted to the package - not only the broad based goods and services tax, but of course the abolition of the other taxes - sales tax, payroll tax, not so important to farmers, but it can be important to regional centres, but of course petrol excise, which I have always thought was a very strange feature

for Australian society - that we suffer the tyranny of distance and we add massive cost disadvantages to ourselves when we try and deal with that distance in terms of the

freight impact of fuel excises. Governments have been using fuel excises as a milchcow for years. I think Hawke's raised about $30 billion net that he hasn't spent on roads, out of petrol excise. Look at the cost disadvantages to farmers, to

regional centres, to the great bulk of Australia.

Gee:

Well, you raised fuel originally. Didn't you float with the NFF a petrol price that meant no change at the bowser, and weren't you told that you wouldn't get NFF support of that?

Hewson:

No, I wasn't party to any discussions about that. All I've known is that we are about abolishing as many indirect taxes as we could, and we picked the three most important - sales tax, payroll tax and fuel excise. I think, on the record, the National Farmers' Federation has basically supported the

concept of a goods and services tax backed up by the abolition of some other taxes.

But the abolition of petrol is not to buy the farm vote in any sense. Its economic significance far outweighs its

significance to the farm sector - while not denying, of course, it's very important to the farm sector.

REF; TRANSCR\NM\S0041 4 .

Gee:

Dr Hews on, can I take you back to the day you released that package though. Didn't you tell a briefing then that the powerful lobbies who were likely to be opponents of the package had been overcompensated deliberately?

Hewson $

We are mostly concerned, of course, with the retirees groups - if I said something like that - because that's the group that we really have concentrated on particularly, to make sure that pensioners and retirees were visibly over-compensated for a

4.4% inflation effect - an 8% increase in pensions plus a host of other benefits.

But we have had very long discussions with a large number of organisations over the last 12 or 14 months. Xn fact, one of the reasons we announced the decisions the way we did was so that we could have these consultations and see where they

stood on a lot of issues. In some cases, I guess, some of these groups have been satisfied. In other cases, they haven't. But we've just called it on the basis of what's in the best interests of the country, even though there may be some political barbs there or some political difficulties with particular groups.

Gee;

Finally, and quickly, Dr Hewson - Fightback says it would prune $50 million off the ABC. That was no typing error, was it?

Hewson;

No, we think everybody should share in the cuts, and what struck me was the significant increase in your middle management - I think about a 47% increase that's been

emphasised by a number of commentators on the ABC. That is obviously the area in which you can go. But maybe you can share some ideas with me off the record, as to where you think the cuts ought to go.

Gee;

On the line, Opposition Leader John Hewson. Thanks very much for speaking to Country Hour.

E n d s .

REF : TRANSCR\NM\S0041 4.

Gee:

Dr Hews on, can I take you back to the day you released that package though, Didn't you tell a briefing then that the powerful lobbies who were likely to be opponents of the package had been overcompensated deliberately?

Hewson$

We are mostly concerned, of course, with the retirees groups - if I said something like that - because that's the group that we really have concentrated on particularly, to make sure that pensioners and retirees were visibly over-compensated for a

4.4% inflation effect ~ an 8% increase in pensions plus a host of other benefits.

But we have had very long discussions with a large number of organisations over the last 12 or 14 months. In fact, one of the reasons we announced the decisions the way we did was so that we could have these consultations and see where they

stood on a lot of issues. In some cases, I guess, some of these groups have been satisfied. In other cases, they haven't. But we've just called it on the basis of what's in the best interests of the country, even though there may be

some political barbs there or some political difficulties with particular groups.

Gee:

Finally, and quickly, Dr Hewson - Fightback says it would prune $50 million off the ABC. That was no typing error, was it?

Hewson:

No, we think everybody should share in the cuts, and what struck me was the significant increase in your middle management - I think about a 47% increase that's been

emphasised by a number of commentators on the ABC. That is obviously the area in which you can go. But maybe you can share some ideas with me off the record, as to where you think the cuts ought to go.

Gee:

On the line, Opposition Leader John Hewson. Thanks very much for speaking to Country Hour.

E n d s .