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Transcript of Dr John Hewson MP Interview with Alan Jones Radio 2GB

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Leader of the Opposition

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SUBJECTS; Opinion poll; Consumption tax; Overseas trip


There's been quite a bit of publicity in recent days about the fate and political fortunes of Dr John Hewson and the Liberal Party. Yesterday a Saulwick Poll indicated that the

Opposition's lead over the Government had narrowed to its slimmest in a year, falling from 24% to 10% in two months. Now another poll this morning gives Dr Hewson his first negative approval in a Saulwick Herald Poll since he became Leader of the Opposition.

His standing fell from 18 in the previous poll held in June, to a rating of -4. Mr Hawke rated -3. Until the poll, Dr

Hewson's net rating had never fallen lower than a positive score of 9, and averaged 16 since he assumed office. Last August and September it stood at 22. And it apparently is the Liberal's stand on a consumption tax that's being blamed. As

Irving Saulwick, who carried out the poll said, the inexorable inference is that Dr Hewson has been caught by the consumption tax.

Dr Hewson's on the line. Good Morning.


Good morning Alan. How are you?

Jones; ‘

Not too badly. Well, how do you feel about all this

speculation? *


Well, we expected of course that our poll ratings would be affected through the period in which we hadn't announced the details. But, look we have to make fundamental change in

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone ,277 4022 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH


Australia, and part of that change is reforming our tax system and giving people more money back in their pocket - and part of that change is a consumption tax. We just obviously have to work harder, as we intend to, in the latter part of this year, to explain our policies and to release the details. But

I think people have to...


Are you going to have time?

Hewson: -

Yes. We're notionally still 18 months to 2 years from the next election, and I'm not prepared, Alan, to go off

half-cocked on this. It's a major change. There's a lot of work to be done in Opposition to put together a package like this, but we've done the work and we will release the details

and argue the case.

Look, I think there was a message in the last election

campaign, quite frankly, that the electorate wanted politicians to tell it the way it was, to advocate policies that are essential to turn our country around, to rebuild our country. And there's a degree of uncertainty, sure, when

those policies are advocated. But I believe that the benefits of making major change in Australia are overwhelmingly to the benefit of all Australians. We will present a very clear alternative at the next election. There'll be a populist Prime Minister and an Opposition that's advocating rebuilding our economy brick by brick by brick.


Yes, Well now, is there a message though also, in the Sydney election result in that challenges were made to Nick Greiner, which he actually refused to answer at the time - and I notice the Sydney Morning Herald saying today that perhaps the lesson

In this for Dr Hewson is that he must start campaigning as vigorously for the tax as Mr Hawke is against it. Do you think you need to be sighted more?

Hewson: "

I agree with that Alan. I've been overseas, as you know, for the best part of three weeks. I did make a number of major speeches before I left, and I intend to continue doing that. I have been out there selling it hard, but while I've been away I've had Peter Reith and another team of people crank up the issue and elevate it in the public mind. It has obviously received an enormous amount of attention on radio and television - particularly talk-back,radio. That's just what we want. We're working to a longer term agenda. We've been working to that agenda since I announced the decision last


year. We have a clear-cut view as to when we want to release the details and to go on and market. That is a big job,

obviously, to market it, and we've done a lot of work in preparing for that.


There's no point in us debating detail here and now, because that's just a futile debate, but when you say it's received an enormous amount of attention on talk-back radio, it has, but the predominant feeling about the consumption tax is one of

fear. You've got a phenomenal job, firstly neutralising the fear, and then persuading people to whatever advantage you believe the tax has.


I couldn't agree more. The Government is running a scare campaign and they are trying to frighten people, but we are going to be appealing to people to sit back and to look at the state of our economy, to look at the damage that's been done by high interest rates and policy paralysis and so on, on the

side of the Government, and to look at the alternatives. This is only part of what's got to be done.

Quite frankly, Alan, it's not the toughest decision this country's going to have to face in the next five years, but it is one of the tough decisions, and, sure, we have to sell that case against a scare campaign - that makes it tougher. But

there are overwhelming benefits - lower tax to people, an opportunity to - if you work an extra shift or you take a promotion, not to suffer under the tax system, not to pay 40 cents in the dollar as an average income earner to Mr Keating

- to Mr Kerin, sorry, now - an incentive to save....


Well of course, Bureau of Statistics figures yesterday indicated we had a black economy of about $5 billion. That wouldn't matter so much if you had a consumption tax, would it?

Hewson; "

No, that's right. Some people will actually pay tax fdr the first time. Those in the black economy, or the cash economy, those who ask for cash as their means of payment, and don't pay tax, well they'll start paying tax. Some touristy will pay tax, and that's only fair.


Could I just ask you a question of strategy, perhaps here, because that is central to policy presentation. I mean, you


mention you've been overseas for 3 weeks. I think Australians would have been amazed, dare I say - that's one word we could use - that the alternative Prime Minister in Australia was

meeting with no less a luminary than the President of the world's leading democracy, the United States, and the Secretary of State. Do you think that perhaps there could have been better communication between you and the Australian media on that tour to represent the international perspective

of Dr Hewson, and to indicate to Australians, as it was happening, just what Dr Hewson was discussing with George Bush and James Baker? „ .


Well, we did a lot of media Alan, while I was away. The major networks and newspapers had their people on the spot in each case. Certainly, Washington is well serviced by the Australian media.


There's nothing more immediate than radio.


That's true. We probably could have tried to fit in radio broadcasts back to Australia. We did try one or two, but they didn't come off. We had an extremely tight schedule. We had over 50 meetings in a short space of time. Look, it's an essential part of what I've got to do, obviously. I was very pleased, to be frank Alan, that there was so much interest in the ideas that we'd been putting, and some of the views that we've been expressing - genuine interest on the part of the

Americans.. .


But I suppose I'm saying unless you can sell that to the electorate, and they can see that Dr Hewson has this

international clout - politics is about perceptions and about persuading people to your standpoint, isn't it?

Hewson: '

I agree. We probably should have done more radio. There's no doubt about that. When the choice was there to take advantage of another meeting, or a radio interview, I'm afraid I took the extra meeting. It's the only chance I will get, as

Opposition Leader, to make those contacts. You learn an enormous amount, as well as obviously gaining the access and having the opportunity to put your views. You do learn a tremendous amount from speaking tg such a wide range of people.

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But now you're back in Australia, we're going to be hearing more from Dr Hewson?

Hewson ϊ

Yes, quite a lot more Alan.


Good to talk to you. Thank you for your time.


Thanks Alan.


Dr John Hewson. Work that one out for yourself. I must say, we've talked to him a lot of times before and you get feedback from people, but very firm, very positive, very up-front. So he obviously, there from that interview, is going to take the

battle to the Australian people. There's no equivocation there. Yes, there will be a consumption tax. Yes, he knows there'll be a scare campaign. Yes, he believes it's not the most difficult job that he'll have to do. Interesting. And

he's going to take the fight to Australians.

Tell you what, we might need a little bit of that. Fairly gutsy stuff.