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Transcript of Dr John Hewson MP Interview - Country Hour Victoria Hotel, Melbourne

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Leader of the Opposition


10 May 1991 TRANS\NM\0003


E & OE





SUBJECTS* Wool, Wool tax.


...With all those decisions that have now been taken, is that necessarily a fait accompli? Have all those decisions got support of Opposition and therefore will be passed?

Hewson *

There are a number of differences between ourselves and the Government and we are in fact wanting to scrutinise the legislation to determine the precise nature of the

Government's policy. One of the difficulties we have of course is that they can say one thing, by way of a press

release, or in the course of a press conference, and say another thing in terms of the formal structure of the

legislation. The legislation has to be scrutinised to ensure what they are really on about. But, as a matter of principle, I guess we have differences in attitude towards the handling of the stockpile. They have specified a particular level of

the levy which...I'm not sure how they've come to that. it was our view that we would be able to operate with a much lower levy - 8-10% realistically, rather than the Government's proposed 15%, simply because of a different structure. So I

don't want to foreshadow a position on legislation. We have to scrutinise the legislation to determine our final position. But as a matter of principle we are very concerned that there be effective adjustment to the wool industry; that the

stockpile be handled in a way that minimises the potential damage to the price; minimises the uncertainty that might otherwise exist. We are very strongly of the view that you still need a flock adjustment scheme. We are very strongly of the view that asset sales can be accelerated and should be

accelerated in order to contribute to the debt financing problem and we've urged that areas like promotion and research and development expenditure, and the reserves associated with

those can play an important part in the solution to the problem.

From our point of view, you can come up with a very effective wool marketing arrangement which would be to the benefit of individual of individual growers and the industry and the Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 2774022



nation, with a minimum amount of pain in the sense that the size of the levy, if you like, which is the bottom line anyway from the point of view of the growers, and a maximum

opportunity to get the most effective price for the wool. So, we work against those principles when we look at the

Government's legislation.


So does that mean there is a possibility that you may oppose some of those issues until the Government puts down a

proposition that you're happy with?


well, we don't want to give a hint either way as to whether we'll support or oppose it. The general direction is one we support, that is, structural change in the wool industry. We may seek to make change by way of amendment and we may seek to make change by way of talking with Mr Kerin to see whether in

fact those changes can't be accommodated. That has been an approach we've used in the past. We've had very constructive discussions in the past with Mr Kerin and on occasions the Democrats, in order to ensure that the outcome is a sensible outcome. So, we work with a disposition to make it work, to make the legislation work. And we certainly don't work with a

disposition to oppose. But we need to see what the

legislation is, and what changes we might want to make, and then how they might be made - be it by way of discussion, which would have the Government accept some of those changes as it did in the past - or by way of amendment in the

Parliament, perhaps with the support of the Democrats. That's where we stand at the present time.


Alright. Finally to wool tax, of 15% obviously causing concern for a lot of people in the industry. The Wool Council of Australia has voted to reject the 15% and commission a study looking at other proposals, other options. Are you in

support of that type of study?


I think the Wool Council has to come to its own position as an industry representative body. Look, I can understand the concern - don't get me wrong - in relation to a potential levy of 15%. It's why we designed our wool policy in a way that

revealed that you can operate with a much lower levy - with a flock reduction scheme and other changes, accelerated asset sales, some use of reserves, and so on - you can certainly do that and tide the industry over its difficult period. In that sense, you can only welcome their decision to have a study.

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Would you support their findings?


No, not before we've seen them. We will take all views into account when we assess the final position. But, I'm not taking a position on the levy at this stage. I'm simply saying that I welcome their study, because they've got to come to a view. They've had difficulties in the past within the Wool Council in coming to views and in capturing the views and

concerns of growers. So, in that sense, the more work they do, the more information they provide in coming to their final decision, the better to the benefit of the whole process.