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Transcript of interview Mr Peter Reith, Shadow Treasurer AM ABC radio subjects: goods and services tax

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Deputy Leader of the Opposition

5 September 1991 REF: TRANSCR\0253. tmc



SUBJECTS: Goods and Services Tax


As the date of its proposed consumption tax launch nears, the Federal Coalition is showing signs of increasing nervousness.

A report in today's Sydney Morning Herald claims that the

consumption tax will be set at a rate of 15 per cent. The story has already been met with the vituperative denials from the Opposition Leader, John Hewson. In a statement this morning, Dr Hewson says the report is a total fabrication and he is demanding an apology and retraction.

But throughout Australia, the Party faithful are nervous too. At the National Party's Federal Conference, which begins tonight, there are many requests that the details of the consumption tax be laid on the table, now.

Well joining us in Canberra now, to respond to this morning's claims, is the Shadow Treasurer, Peter Reith, and to speak to him Andrew Sholl.


Mr Reith, good morning.


Good morning.


The Opposition obviously hot under the collar. Why do you take issue with Peter Hartcher's story?

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600


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Well, because we are not prepared to sit back and let these young journalists make the news, rather than to report the news. Now, this story is just wrong from start to finish. He didn't bother to check, which he should have. Any professional approach to any issue would see a journalist checking with his sources, this story is wrong and we have said so strongly.


How do we know it is wrong until you release the consumption tax details?


Well, as one of the chief architects of our tax policy, I can assure that it is wrong. There is no basis, in fact, for Mr

Hartcher's assertions and as I say, he ought to stick to

reporting the facts and he ought to of course, stick to the

issues at a time when this country is in the worst recession for 60 years. I mean, it is absolutely wrong that young journalists ought to be playing with stories like this when major issues confront the nation.


Was 22 per cent, was the 22 per cent consumption tax rate every considered?


Andrew, from start to finish, this story is wrong. It is a

fabrication and I am not going to go through each and every fact contained within the statement - it is simply wrong.


So what is the rate, 15 per cent?


Look, we have nothing in this story, let me make it absolutely clear. Nothing in this story gives you an indication as to all of the details or any of the details of the Coalition's tax

package. There is no basis for this story. When we have

completed and when we are ready, prior to Christmas, we will announce all of the details and that will be our policy, not some policy announced for us by some young journalist.


You acknowledge though that the community won't cop more than a 15 per cent consumption tax rate?

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Well, we have made our own assessment as to what is a reasonable figure and that is all part of the policy decision making process which we are going through, which will go through our Party Room prior to the announcement.


How large was the consumption rate? What top rate was



Look, the considerations of the Coalition in preparing our tax policy have obviously been comprehensive. People would expect us to go through with a fine tooth comb, all of the possibilities for tax change. But I am not going to be canvassing everyone of

the discussions that we have had. All I am saying is this story is wrong.


Do you acknowledge though the frustration among your constituents and the National's constituents, that the tax hasn't adequately been explained yet?


Look, we made this announcement last year, we announced the principles, we have been very upfront with people, we have initiated the fact that we ourselves are going to present even further details that will be the most detail comprehensive policy

ever, issued prior to a Federal election. We have announced already more details than Oppositions have ever announced before an election. And I think the truth of the matter is, people are looking for solutions, they understand that Australia's tax

system is one of the worst in the developed world and that there is potential here to address our basic problems of high debt and rising unemployment.


Okay, but you are one of the chief architects of the consumption tax. It has been explained to the Liberals and to the Nationals out in the grass roots, that the consumption tax will be released before Christmas. And yet today or tomorrow at the National Party conference, we have the South Australian Central Council, the West Australian Central Council, the Halley Divisional Council saying we request further information or we formally request that the National Party reconsiders its support for the GST.

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Well, a request for a further information is entirely reasonable. Because we ourselves have said that as people go to the ballot box, they would have had many months to digest all the details of how the tax will effect them. I mean, that is our position

and I am happy to have their support for it.

But around Australia there is a growing momentum of support for tax reform, both within the two major political parties, the Liberal Party and the National Party, but also beyond that, community groups. We have got the National Farmers, the New South Wales farmers - in recent weeks, a lot of support building for

tax reform.


But will your constituents, will your Party members support a tax that they don't know about yet?


Well, Andrew let me give you one example. The Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party had a meeting recently, they had a vote and it was 500 to 10. Now, I consider that very substantial support and it just reflects that out there in the community,

people are looking for the substantial reductions in income tax.

The abolition of the hidden consumption tax you pay every day now and the lifting the tax on exports which is one of the things that is holding back Australia's economic performance and it is

one of the reasons that people are, day in day out, being thrown onto the unemployment scrap heap.


John Hewson is at the Press Club on the 25th of this month in

Canberra. Any idea what he is talking about?


I have not discussed with him what he will be saying in a month's time. We will simply announce the policy before Christmas, Andrew.


Well, we have a couple of seconds to go. What is the consumption rate Peter Reith?

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Look forward to Christmas and prior to Christmas we will be very happy to give you all the details. And you too personally, will see how much less tax you personally are going to be paying.


Alright Peter Reith, thank you very much and Merry Christmas.


Good morning Andrew.