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ANZ job figures, budget surplus/deficit, grain industry, government March 12 industry statement



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Leader of the Opposition

4 March 1991 REF: TRANSCR\0086\BQ

TRANSCRIPT OF DR HEWSON HP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

E & 0 E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: ANZ Job Figures, Budget surplus/deficit, grain industry, Government March 12 Industry Statement.

COMMONWEALTH p a r l ia m e n t a r y library m ic a h

Jrnlst:

The ANZ Job Figures, what do they say about this recession

compared to 1983?

Hewson:

They suggest that it is at least as bad and they are confirming what we have been saying for months, that Mr Keating has again been misleading the people of Australia, that the recession we are having is the worst since the Second World War, if not the

1930's.

Jrnlst:

He was talking about the Budget deficit, the possibility of a Budget deficit, but said on the weekend that the structure is right so it doesn't matter if there is a surplus or deficit. What do you say to that?

Hewson:

Everything is good news to the Treasurer. He is spending all his time rationalising incompetent economic management, it is about time he told us the truth about the Budget surplus and the Budget deficit. The fact is that he has dramatically eroded public

sector savings which a couple of years ago he told us, was the central rock on which everything was built. He changes his argument like he changes his suit.

Jrnlst:

Do you think some of the blame should be ... (inaudible) ... ?

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022

REF: TRANSCR\0086\BQ 2 .

Hewson:

It is a team effort, their forecasts were wrong and that is the principle reason why the Budget surplus has disappeared. They set out deliberately, I believe, last year in the Budget numbers to mislead people as to where the economy was going. They knew they were in the run up to an election campaign, they weren't

going to tell the people of Australia the truth and of course, the fact is, that we were headed for a recession. They put a

very optimistic set of forecasts down which haven't been

validated. The true picture has emerged and the surplus has disappeared. All this nonsense about, oh we were structurally sound going into this recession and we are structurally sound coming out of it, that is just nothing more than nonsense. It

is a very significant situation where you move from a very

substantial public sector surplus, to now the prospect of a substantial public sector deficit, maybe this year, but certainly next year, at a time where the country desperately needs national savings.

Jrnlst:

The Treasurer said yesterday that should the industry statement take away taxes on business inputs that would remove the

Opposition's case for a consumption tax. Would you agree with that?

Hewson:

He has obviously been quite shaken by the success we have had in advocating a broad based goods and services tax and he is going to try and pick up some of that in this package. We encourage him, of course, to pick up the lot. Why go half way if the case

is as sound as we claim it to be, and he knows it to be because

he said so in 1985, then he should go all the way and stop

playing games. We are in the most difficult circumstances since the Second World War, it is about time he showed some economic leadership.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson who will represent on the wheat delegation?

Hewson:

We haven't decided yet but we will be looking at that today. I must say I am very disappointed that the Prime Minister has played games with this issue, if it is as important as he says it is, and I believe it is, than he ought to be going and leading

a delegation along the lines that I have proposed to him, that is, that there be a joint mission at the highest level. If he is as close a mate of George Bush as he says is, it shouldn't be too hard to extract the sort of deal we want out of this

situation, and I suggest to him that we go and lead what is a

REF: TRANSCR\0086\BQ 3.

very important delegation. But he has delayed it, now the 11th hour, some legislation to go through the US Congress, all of a sudden says I better have a look at this, yet back on the 19th

February when I asked him the question in the Parliament he just made light of it rather than deal with it as a serious matter. It is a serious matter and we will only survive as a nation if we improve our trade and we are in a situation now where a major

element of our trade in relation to the Middle East could be at risk in the aftermath of the War, we should be making every

effort to turn that situation to our advantage and not send a downgraded mission, and late at that, to try and argue our case. We will support the mission but he should really be sending a much more senior delegation and putting the case directly to George Bush, the Administration and of course importantly, Congressional Leaders.

Jrnlst:

If the Opposition supports a delegation does it also support a $300 million rescue package for the grain industry?

Hewson:

No we have not put a position on the grain industry yet, although I have expressed a disposition against trying to help a very efficient industry by giving them a dose of inefficiency, I think it is the wrong way to go. We are, of course, very conscious of

the magnitude of the problem the grain industry is presently experiencing but I don't think you solve problems by throwing money at them and breeding inefficiency and that of course will be the central element of the March 12 statement. I think the

Government has taken the view that it can buy its way out of

difficult circumstances, when in fact, the issues are there and they are clear cut - major structural reform is the only way to go and they haven't got the intestinal fortitude to do it.

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For further information contact Tony Abbott on 06 -277 4022.