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Transcript of doorstop interview with Peter Reith MP

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Deputy Leader of the Opposition



Q Mr Reith, have you been hand-cuffed to the GST a s Treasurer Dawkins now claims?

A Oh look, ifs been our policy for 12 months. WeVe been very open about it. Well also cut your income tax by one third, abolish seven taxes - Including petrol tax and payroll tax to create jobs - and tax the black economy. We've been very up-front about our policy. We have one policy. Mr Keating has two policies. He has the fm opposed to the G ST policy

before the election and fm in favour o f it after the election. And he's going to go to the Australian people opposed to change but support it after the election. He's going to go to the next election telling people that the GST is a horrid and nasty tax but he's going to vote for it after the election.

Q But there's a difference between supporting and not opposing?

A Well, on these things you are either for them or against them. And we've all known that Mr Keating's been in favour of a GST since 1985. In his heart of hearts he knows that this is right for the future of this country and he's going to support it after the next election. There's no half-way house. The fact is if you vote for Labor, you're voting for the GST.

Q Well, if enough people vote for Labor, you're not voting for the GST are you?

A Well, I don't think enough people will vote for Labor. I mean, my assessm ent is that this measure, his announcement yesterday, is a damaging blow to his credibility. It's another nail in his coffin, quite frankly. And it's certainly a fatal blow to the morale of his own troops who today must be still standing around, lying around, with their mouths agape, wondering what

it is that's running this country.

Q Are you still tipping an early election?

A Well, I think it's still on. I think Mr Keating's behaviour, quite frankly, is so erratic that even he himself doesnt know, which is basically what he said last night. And we will simply wait and see. He's certainly got reason to go for an early election. He doesnt want the Loan Council affair to continue and he would be, I think, worried about how unemployment will be in the new year. But that's a decision for him. We're certainly ready any moment.

Q People who dont want a GST - who should they vote for?

A Well, I think they ought to support the GST and cuts in your income tax by one third and doubling the family allowance, the abolition of seven taxes ...

Q Obviously some people wont be convinced?

A Well, that's a matter for the electorate. We are offering a clear plan and vision for the future of this country - to create jobs and to start to pay off our debts. And from Mr Keating, you dont have one plan, you've got two cynical policies - the scare campaign before the election and a support of the GST after the election.

Q Will there still be a double dissolution if Labor blocks the IR legislation?


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


A Well, we don't know what they're going to do about Industrial relations. I mean, weVe been quite clear about Industrial relations. It's clear enough for them to be «tacking it up hill and down dale and exactly what they've been doing on GST. He ought to make a clear statement that he will support that and all the basic elements of our Fightback! package. And so let's, you know, cross those bridges when we get to it. But ultimately weVe always said that we have a mandate and we intend to pursue our mandate.

Q When might an IR Bill be ...?

A Oh well, if you want to talk about IR, talk to Mr Howard.

Q When the Prime Minister made this statement yesterday in the House of Representatives, were you shocked?

A I was amazed in one sense because I w asnt expecting it but not In the other because he's always been in favour of it. I was shocked that he would not tell anybody within his own side and that he would announce it in a way that he did. But it does make it very clear to people now that a vote for Labor is a vote for the GST.

Q Mr Reith, is the Cole Committee's report going to be made public?

A Well, we have yet to receive the Cole Committee's report. They have done a lot of work and it's certainly nearing completion. We will need to sit down with the Cole Committee. There's a hell of a lot of technical material in it, so I am informed. And when we've had a chance to go over it in detail, we'll make some final decisions. But we certainly want to make it very clear what the recommendations of the Cole Committee will be so that people se e this as the second stage in the development of the GST package. Mr Keating, erf course, says that weVe already put enough detail out for him to be able to make up his mind and we welcome that statement, obviously. I would also like from the Tax Office further disclosure as to the work that they have done. They've had people overseas giving them advice on the implementation

of a GST. We know that the tax simplification measures introduced this year to register 300,000 businesses is seen by the Tax Office a s a first step towards the introdyption of a GST. That was the reason they required such a large registration in the new wholesale sales tax. I'd like a more up-front statement from the Government as to what preparation b a s been done

so that we can dovetail that with our own work. .

Q Isnt it really being used to bury opposition to the GST from people like the car manufacturers and the tourist industry.

A No, well it obviously has not been because the Cole Committee was set up to proceed with the detailed work for the implementation of the GST. It's been a quite transparent process. There have been something like 300-plus recommendations from the business community, who will obviously be the hands-on operators with the GST. Its been a very constructive

process. We've had some of the best brains in the country assisting us with that process and it's worked within the terms of reference, which is to advise us on the technical implementation of the GST.

Q 300 recommendations indicates that there are a lot of changes being recommended, or possible changes being implemented.

A Well, quite frankly I haven't read all of the 300 submissions. In fact, I've read very few of them except for some that have been sent to me by courtesy by those making submissions. No, what it shows you is that the business community wants to be in on the ground floor of the design of the GST and that's a very sensible way to proceed and it will make for a better GST. That's all it shows you.

Q It's been reported today that the Government's reached some w ages deal with the PSU. Will a Coalition government abide by that?

A I have not seen those reports. IVe been distracted by other matters today. You should ask Mr Howard.

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