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Transcript of Dr John Hewson, MP Leader of the Opposition interview with Marie Mills 6WF (ABC), Perth - Friday, 26 July 1991

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Leader of the Opposition

26 July 1991

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Subjects: Liberal Party in WA; Paul Keating's leadership challenge? ABC funding? Japanese fishing boats? GST? republicanism? power of the unions? selling Coalition policies? Aboriginal land claims.


Good morning to you, Dr Hewson.


Morning, Marie. Delighted to be able to still talk to you.


Yes, you are making it here later this afternoon, aren't you?


Yes, we had a meeting moved to this morning, so we've had to have that over breakfast and we'll be leaving shortly and arriving in Perth in the early afternoon:;


Goodness knows, the State Liberals need some guidance from somewhere. What will you message to them be?


Well it's not really for me to tell the State Liberals how to run their show in the State, unless, of course, there's some spill over into our standing or influence on our standing federally and I'll be- making some comments about that, but I essentially leave those matters to the State individuals. And my message will concentrate on the reform agenda that we're embarking on federally and the need to really re-build

our economy from the bottom up, brick by brick by brick.

P a rlia m e n t H o u se , C a n b e rra , A.C.T. 2600 P h o n e 77 4022





I don't know what your relationship with Barry MacKinnon is, but what advice would you give him, leader to leader. I

mean, you've had to pull through some waring factions into line at the Federal level, what advice would you have for him at the State level?


It's not really for me to advise Barry. As you said

correctly, at the central level we have suffered what was

evident in Floreat, and that is disunity and disunity and in politics is death. We've put that behind us, both Tim

Fischer and I, when we formed the new Coalition after the last election, agreed that we were going to bury our past in that respect and we had to build a new team, an integrated team, a disciplined team, and to put disunity behind us. Where there are policy differences or other differences, they are debated

internally and they are not debated in the media. It was

used against us in the last election campaign - if you can't govern yourselves, you can't govern the country. I couldn't agree more. We have put that behind us, we are now governing

ourselves very effectively. And interestingly, on the

Government side, the Hawke/Keating leadership wrangle which continues demonstrating that point very clearly. They can't govern themselves and they haven't governed the country in the course of the last twelve to eighteen months.


I don't suppose you're surprised to see Paul Keating saying he'll accept nothing less than the top job?


No, Paul Keating's obviously getting veary frustrated. He's been out of the limelight and out-of-sight, out-of-mind in a sense for some time and he's trying to re-elevate his

chances of another leadership challenge and I notice he's made a couple of speeches in recent days and a couple of what have been described as "softer" television appearances to try and soften the image and build a basis on which to challenge.

But you know, I personally wish that they would just put all that behind and get on and start to solve some of our


We have some very real problems - in the deepest recession in 50 or 60 years in this country. I don't want diversions from that. I want to focus their attention back on the main game

which is really restoring the well being of average

Australians who have suffered enormously in the last few




Okay, that's your free kick for the morning. I'll turn you

over to our listeners now. Dr John HewsOn, the alternative Prime Minister, taking your queries on the program. Gerald, good morning.


Well my question is, when Dr Hewson is restored to the Lodge at the next election, I would like him to seriously look at

the proper funding for the ABC and I think that what the

Federal Government should do is look at the way the BBC is

funded by way of licences. Now I don't know how that would

be achieved, but I believe that a mixture of government

funding and licences would give the ABC a lot more money to

produce a lot more of the very excellent type of programs

which they produce.


Gerald, we'll see what Dr Hewson has to say about that.


Good morning Gerald, I heard your comments about the ABC. I'm not aware of any proposal in relation to the BBC, but our Shadow Minister, Warwick Smith, is looking at these sort of issues - the funding of the ABC is only part of his

responsibilities - but we'd be very interested to take up your suggestion and I'll pass it on to him.


Okay, Gerald, why don't you drop Warwick Smith a letter on

that one. Jean, from Manning, I thought we'd hear from you at some stage this morning. :


Yes, Marie, you were right. I couldn't catch you before but I'd like to ask Dr Hewson - Dr Hewson, I hope you get back in

next time and when Mr Hawke was over here a couple of visits

ago in his media interview he was asked the question - will he close Australia's ports - in particular Fremantle - to be used by Japanese fishing boats because they would not observe the world ban on whaling. They were continuing on down to the

Antarctic to catch their 300 whales plus. If you've seen any footage of what's been happening on our coast in the last

couple of days - like a Japanese fishing boat - it is just

appalling, the barbarism that is going on with the catches.


if our country is in such dire straits that we have to crawl

to the Japanese and let them have the leases, through the

Commonwealth, I pose the question to you: we are not

apathetic here, our voices fall on deaf ears. i pose the

question to you, will you please close our ports to use by

Japanese fishing boats, whether it be tuna, shark, whatever, and let the barbaric practices of ....line and longline

fishing boats stop this barbaric intrusion into Australian waters?


Jean thanks for your question. Dr Hewson, have you seen the pictures of the longline shark fishing off Jurien? Pictures of the Japanese longline fishing off our coast that have been

on national television last night and are big in our local

papers today?


No, I haven't, but they've been described to me. They were

pretty horrific, I must say.


Well what Jean wants to know is, as Prime Minister will you

close the ports to Japanese fishing boats - particiilarly Fremantle?


Look I couldn't make a judgement like that on the run. I'm

not aware of the problem - the detail of the problem. I know

some of the broad features of the issue and I'd rather be

briefed before I commented. I don't think necessarily,

however, it's a question of closing ports as much as it might be having a better regulation of that industry and there are international agreements and so on that relate to it. So a

lot of dimensions.

All I can say is that at this stage I would be very concerned

about it and I would look into what could be done about it. I can understand the concern and emotion that's been evident in the last couple of days in West Australia. Given what's

been described to me, having appeared in those photographs.


Bob, your question to the alternative Prime Minister.



Dr Hews o n , good morning. I'm a lawnmowing contractor. I'm fairly concerned about application of a value added tax on my business. At the moment I pay tax - about the lowest rate of

tax, I'm on a single income. My understanding is that if you impose a consumption tax or value added tax on my business, I'll have to add 15% of the door onto the cost, which is

actually my rise that I provide for to counter for inflation. Now, under your proposal I'd be paying the lowest rate of tax that I pay now - I'm paying $6,000 in income tax plus another $7,000 in a value added tax and I'd be out of business and

become a pensioner or on the dole.


Yes, I'd like to make a couple of general comments about that. I don't know that nature of his business, but in general,

small businesses like yours are significantly better off under a goods and services tax because all the tax that's payable in your business is rebateable to you.

One of the main reasons for introducing a broad-based goods and services tax is to eliminate the tax on business inputs. Presently, nearly half or about half of a wholesale sales tax is collected from business - $5 - $6 billion dollars. And

that's one of the main reasons why the change has been

advocated and obviously one of the main reasons why the small business community and the large business community support the operation of a goods and services tax. You will be

significantly better off. As an individual earning income from this business and paying the lower rate of income tax, there would be an attempt to compensate here for an impact of a goods and services tax on your expenditure. Now that may

be done, in your case, by simply lowering the tax rate or

raising the tax-free threshold - the amount of income that you can earn that is free of tax - and they are the sorts of

decisions we have in mind in designing the new system. You

can't do it by individual, of course, but with the data we've got of different groups of people on different incomes, it is possible to design a compensation system through the tax

system or through increases in certain items of government expenditure which will negate the impact of the goods and

services tax for you as an individual.

So just to summarise: for your business, it would be

significantly better off, your personal situation would be such where you'd be compensated for the impact of a goods and services tax as a result of its impact on your expenditure.



My question just was along the same lines. Good morning, Dr Hewson, it's delightful to speak to you. I also want to

speak about the tax. I don't think people are taking it in

that we are already paying enormous tax on all goods that are in the supermarkets, etc. I believe that we pay at least 33% tax on even a can of dog food or cat food and the tax on other

things. The majority of the ordinary people that don't take very much interest in politics I don't think are fully aware of the tax we are paying and therefore I think perhaps it

would be a good idea to stress more that 10% tax is much

better than 20%, 25% or 33% or more than we are paying on

everything practically that comes across our counters and I just thought that this could be pointed out a bit more clearly to most people, as I really don't think talking to them that they take this in very much.


Dr Hewson, I don't think we've had a Labor voter yet?


One of the things that we have to do is to educate people on

how much tax they already pay and under the wholesales sales tax system people are paying nearly $11 billion at rates of mostly 20% and 30% on a whole range of household items. And

you've mentioned some, but things like toilet paper,

toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, shampoo, all household appliances, furniture, etc., and so on, are all levied at

rates of 20% and 30%.

And we are trying to draw people's attention to that fact,

because when we introduce the broad-based goods and services tax, we will abolish that sales tax system and the prices of many of those items will actually fall and people will need to focus on the fact - and this is what we are now mounting as a

national campaign* to explain to people - just how much tax they pay and how the prices on some of those items will

change. So that overall, while there may be tax applied to

items that are presently untaxed, the prices of a lot of

things that people consume on a daily basis and that they buy in the supermarket could well fall. So it is right, we've

come up with lots of different ways of getting that message across.

I'm afraid it's just a long, hard slog to slowly educate

people to the fact that the Government has raised nearly $10 or $11 billion worth from the sales tax that they've got - the consumption tax that they've got - but they've done it by

stealth, they hide it, nobody knows how much tax they pay and that is part of the education process that's before us.



Brian, your question for Dr Hewson.


Good morning Dr Hewson. Australia is a republic. What's

your's and the Liberal's views on this? What timeframe would you consider and what do you think of Gough Whitlam's latest suggestion that a secret ballot be held for a presidency.


There lots of questions there. Our position on the republic is that we have long, for a long time, supported the system of constitutional monarchy that we have. Its worked very well for Australia and served us well and 'if it ain't broken, it doesn't need fixing', as a matter of urgency. First point.

Second point, we believe that the most important thing to do now is to get on and fix our economy and to rebuild that

economy, and that can only be done, that can be done under the existing constitution, you don't need to be a republic to do that, you do not need to change the constitution to do that

and so I don't want the debate about republicanism being a

diversion or distraction from the job that is very urgent and that must be done.

Thirdly, I don't believe while there are pressures obviously and trends in our country towards a republic, the more

multicultural we become, for example, the more those pressures grow, I don't however believe its inevitable. And I don't

believe people will necessarily want it. And a good example by which we could compare ourselves would be to take Canada, where twenty-odd years ago I can remember, when I lived

there, people saying it was inevitable that Canada would

become a republic, particularly given some of the pressures with Quebec and so on ...(inaudible)... the system has

continued on and so I am happy to have a debate about it,

sure, but let's get the economy back in shape first, let's do what can be done under the existing constitution and then

let's have a full-blown public debate. But our position at this stage is very strongly in support of a constitutional monarchy.


OK, Neville.



Good morning Marie, good morning Dr Hewson. My question is, when you get into power, Dr Hewson, what can we do to slow the demands of the unions down for escalating wage increases, ie, I read in the West Australian on 24 April that a wage of

$65,000 for 27 hours per week worked by the wharfies, that

shocked me.


Well, thank you Neville. A number, of comments I'd make.

We've seen many examples by the way of genuine privilege in Australia and I think a waterside worker in many cases is one of them. We saw one example in the Sydney press of him

earning $107,000 a year for 27 hours' work per week. But the key issue is the one you emphasise, and that's the power and influence of unions.

They haven't worked in the best interests of the worker, the wages of workers after you allow for inflation have fallen by about 11 per cent over the life of the Hawke Government.

Secondly, Bill Kelty has a very powerful position under this government - he's a de facto Cabinet Minister and he blocks an enormous amount of reform. He blocks tax reform, he's blocked waterfront reform, he's blocked telecommunications reform. These are all major cost disadvantages to average Australians.

The key point is that it's not an anti-union strategy, but to get unions to do what they ought to do, which is represent the interests of workers at the workplace level. That is why we

will change the legislation to allow for enterprise unions, first. Secondly, we will abolish, outlaw, if you like,

compulsory unionism and closed shops. And, thirdly, wage determination should take place at -the workplace level, between employees represented by their union if they wish, and employers, to set all the terms and conditions of employment. That is the only way that you will get a better opportunity

for workers. They will be able to better themselves, earn

more, as they increase their productivity, as they increase the quality of their output, they will earn more.

Our whole approach is to not only change the industrial

relations system as I have described it, but also back that up with changes in the tax system so that if people do work, say, longer hours, take on an extra shift, work Saturdays, take a

promotion, raise the quality of their output or whatever, they can earn more and keep more as a result of the combination of the industrial relations system and the changes to the tax system.



Garry, what's your question for John Hewson.


My question to John Hewson is when is the Opposition going to come out of its shell, sell themselves to the Australian

public which desperately needs a new government, and explain its policies to it effectively.


That's a common criticism we get on talk-back radio here

often, Dr Hewson.


Well, Garry, I understand you concern but let's look at it

objectively. The period to the next election is still 18

months to 2 years away. We have a lot of reform proposals to

sell to the Australian people and a lot of detailed work has been done on that. And I put it to you quite frankly, there's no point going off half-cocked. We've been working to an

agenda whereby we will announce the details of our policies according to our timetable.

Now, on industrial relations, you've known our policy for four years, it's only now being understood.

On tax, we've been working to the view that we would release the details of the tax package after the Budget this year and before Christmas, somewhere in that timescale. It's always

been our aim. We've tried to stimulate the issue of tax

debate, tax reform, I should say, in the meantime, to have a rational debate on that. We are working to an agenda whereby over the three-year period we will have put out all the

details that people will need to make a judgement.

I put it to you already, we have put out more detail than any

Opposition in the history of this country has put out detail. We may not have explained it as well as you might have liked, or as often as you might have liked, and we are upgrading

that. We spent the best part of the first twelve months in

the detailed policy reform and review process, we're spending the rest of the time out there marketing and explaining it. Our aim with the tax system, for example, is not only to do a

lot of media to explain it, but to actually deliver an

explanatory document to every household in Australia.



Dr Hewson, it's not just as much as Garry would have liked, but if talkback callers to this program are any indication, it is as much as they need to change their vote.


Yes, sure, but we are building a constituency for change as well, if you like. I mean, I'm not, I obviously want to win

the next election, but we are also trying to specify a mandate for change in Australia and that does require some education. People have to accept the need for change. They have to

accept that there are going to be some tough decisions that have to be taken by anybody who is in government to turn our

country around. Some of those decisions are going to be

unpopular. Some of those are going to take time to explain, but as a package they will overwhelmingly improve the

opportunities and the returns to average Australians.

Now, that process does take time. It's not simply trying to buy their votes. We are not going to go to the next election

trying to buy votes. We are going to go to the elections

seeking a mandate to make change which we'll all have to

participate in.

We all have to lift Our game, we all have to change our

behaviour. Obviously it hasn't worked the way it's been

going, our country has slipped in relative economic terms, it's slipped in terms of its international standing, it's slipped in terms of its international credit rating. The

things we've been doing have been wrong. The policies we've been pursuing have been wrong. We have to make changes and we all have to be part of that process. Now, that is a very big

and very detailed reform agenda that we're taking to the next election.

It's not a question of buying votes, there're are no Magic Puddings, any politician that promises you something these days for nothing should not be believed. We have to change

our behaviour, we have to lift our game, and from our point of view we're going to build a system where people can do that

and benefit from it.


Garry, thank's very much for your question. Tony, your's.



Oh! good morning. I'd like to ask if Mr Hewson, if in

government, will he move to create a one-nation, in other

words # prevent the divisive organisations that we've

established with our Aboriginal organisations that are

available, such as Aboriginal legal aid, other things,

whatever his jurisdiction might be in the federal sphere, and also encourage the States in their actions and also, would Dr Hewson take a strong stand against Aboriginal claims

preventing any mineral developments and other developments that are being held up by them at the moment.


Well, thanks Tony. There's a lot in that question. Let me

begin by simply saying that I believe we're all Australians first and we all ought to have equality of opportunity. Now dealing with the Aboriginal community is a difficult issue, I know, I don't doubt that. But my concern there is to ensure

that our policies raise the well-being of the Aboriginal

people to the same as everybody else. That is to ensure that they don't suffer disadvantages in housing, or in health, or in education, or in literacy. That should be the principle focus of anything we do in relation to the Aboriginal


If we broaden the issue to migrants, for example, we have in our view a desire to ensure that migrants make a commitment to Australia, that they are Australians first, and a

multicultural society second. They shouldn't come here

expecting to pick up the dole, or to pick up other benefits, they should come here expecting to make a contribution to this country and so our policies have reflected that as well.

As far as mining projects go, well, the most recent example that I could use as a specific case has been Coronation Kill. The Government was totally wrong to block the mining of

Coronation Hill on what were very spurious Aboriginal heritage grounds. The best way to prove my point on that would have

been for the Government to step back and say that the Jawoyn people ought to be allowed to negotiate with the joint

venturers to see whether mining can take place at Coronation Hill. The Jawoyn community is divided right down the middle about mining, but I believe they would have approved mining, they approved the exploration and the exploratory drilling for

mining at Coronation Hill in the middle 1980s, I just think the Prime Minister opted out and has done irreparable damage to our international arid domestic reputation as a result of that. .


Now, I'm not saying you push ahead mining at all costs, far

from it. We have reasonable Aboriginal heritage processes and assessment processes which can be adhered to, and leave that choice up to the people who all over the Northern Territory and Western Australia, many Aboriginal communities are very keen for mining to go ahead and the Prime Minister is being

unbelievably selection in the approach that he's taken. Equally, I'm concerned about environmental considerations, but once you've set the standards, for that and Aboriginal

heritage, if the project can still go ahead, it ought to go


I came to Western Australia recently and I travelled all over some of the mining projects, particularly, let's take the example of the Hamersley iron ore development. In 18 months they opened the mine, built 300-odd kilometres of railway, opened a port and started shipping the iron ore. That could not happen today, and in a country like Australia we

desperately need to get development projects up and running, we need to boost our exports, it's the only way the country is going to survive. To that sense you've got to work back to

make sure that while you take a qlear-cut, give genuine

recognition to the concerns about the environment and

Aboriginal heritage, that you streamline the process so that projects can go ahead if they meet those reasonable standards.


Thanks very much for your question, Tony. And I'm afraid

that's where we'll have to leave it, though the boards still well alight with calls. Dr Hewson, obviously keen interest in the alternative Prime Minister and the alternative policies which may be available in a couple of years time. Have a safe

trip to Perth.


Thanks very much, I look forward to meeting you.


Dr John Hewson, the Federal Opposition Leader, coming to

Perth, giving the opening address at the State Liberal Party Conference and he's here just for 24 hours or so but

thankfully he's been able to take your calls this morning on WF.