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Transcript of Peter Reith MP

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Deputy Leader of the Opposition



Q First of all, Mr Reith, the lowest results since 1988 - a good figure?

A Well, it's certainly much better than the shocker we had in November. The reason, of course, is because the recession is so deep and Australians dont have the cash to be buying imports. But a turnaround obviously is in the right direction. The fact of the matter is, though, that we are in a very deep recession and we still

have a lot of structural reforms needed to the Australian economy to permanently address our current account deficit problems. ............................

Q But surely with imports so low, that does mean that concerns that the Government's spending package could re-ignite that current account problem - those concerns arent justified?

A No, I dont think so. I think the truth of the matter is that Mr Keating is looking towards a major fiscal stimulus which will fritter away the gains from the considerable pain resulting from his scorched earth policy and only simply store up more problems for the future. I think his proposal for a real wage gain is just

madness at a time when so many are unemployed. And that suggests the bankruptcy of his economic policy. He has no room to manoeuvre in terms of a large fiscal stimulatory package. The only course of action available to Mr Keating is some major structural reforms as identified in the Coalition's Fightback project.

Q But with imports down 16%, surely pump priming is not the problem that it was?

A But we are in the worst recession for 60 years. If you didnt have a massive dropĀ­ off in imports there'd be something even more wrong than what's wrong now with the Australian economy. And it's very short-sighted to take one month's figures - a month which is an aberration against the trend and the ABS, in fact, say that the

provisional trend estimate for December is 1% worse than November. So let's not seek out gains and an improvement in our fortunes when they're obviously not there.

Q Are you looking forward to a by-election in Wills? ................

A We're always happy to take on the Government. But Mr Hawke's obligation at this stage is to serve the people of Wills. It'd be better if he'd lived in Wills. That'd be a pleasant change for both them and for Mr Hawke. But let's cross our bridges when we get to them.

Q Do you think you'd win that seat?

A We'd give it a good shake but I think it's too early to start predicting the outcome of an election that's yet to be called.


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



Q Any other case where the seat holder lives in another State?

A Billy Hughes. But you've really got to go back to the last depression for many comparisons between today and then. But not to my knowledge, no. Although you've probably got some members who spend more time in Canberra than they spend in their electorates. Mr Keating's a prize example of that.

Q (inaudible)?

A They certainly ought to be undertaking the major structural reforms that would give Australian manufacturers a much more competitive position than the one which they have now. The abolition of payroll tax would be a major boost to the investment returns for the Nissan plant. That is in our Fightback project. The

abolition of wholesale sales tax would also be a major boost to the domestic manufacturers of motor vehicles in Australia - seeing a very considerable price reduction for the cost of new vehicles purchased by business. That is part of the Coalition's package. That would be a very big plus. As would be the abolition of fuel excise. There is obviously no quick answer and I don't know that the

Government is contemplating another package as they contemplated for the Kodak factory. The short-term quick fixes are obviously not the answer. But there are structural reforms that would greatly improve the competitive position of Australian manufacturing and it is negligence in the extreme for this Government to be sitting back on its hands when Australian manufacturing is closing its doors

and more people are being thrown onto the unemployment queues.

Q Mr Reith, the Committee for Melbourne's asking the Federal Government to contribute $500 million to a transport infrastructure overhaul for Melbourne. What do you think of that report?

A The Victorian urban railway system already loses hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars a year because of the strong political position of the railway unions. And if the Victorian Government wanted to save some money in terms of transport infrastructure and running costs, all they've got to do is take on John Halfpenny rather than expecting other taxpayers around Australia to pour more dollars into an empty pit.

Q (inaudible)?

A Whoever the request is from, the fact is that there are very considerable savings in transport in Victoria which would obviate the necessity for other taxpayers to help overcome the problems of the Victorian Government and the Victorian taxpayer.

Q You wouldnt want (inaudible)?

A I dont think there are quick fixes for Victoria. I think we need a change in Government. This Labor Government is one of the worst that Victoria has ever had in its long history and there are savings to be had at the Victorian Government level and a much more efficient public transport system if you take on the unions. And the unions in Victoria have been running amok for years - as we saw with the scratch ticket scheme and some of the other fiascos of recent times.

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