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Fightback - by Paul Keating!

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John Hewson Leader of the Opposition M e d i a R e l e a s e

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It's now clear that Paul Keating's make-or-break Economic Statement is developing into The Big Steal. Lifting key proposals from the Fightback Program may save the Statement from total irrelevance but will hardly save a Government bereft of ideas of its own.

Inspired leaks have already flagged a series of direct thefts:

* Take 1 - abolition of the Coal Export Duty - has already been announced.

* Take 2 - allowing young homebuyers to borrow from super funds against their superannuation savings - was floated in The Australian on January 17.

* Take 3 - allowing Qantas and Air New Zealand to compete on domestic routes plus privatising 100 per cent of Qantas - was selectively leaked yesterday.

* Take 4 - allowing banks to offer superannuation products and rationalising the reasonable benefits rule - was selectively leaked today.

* Take 5 - easing small business' Capital Gains Tax burden - was also leaked yesterday.

Mr Keating's problem is that Fightback is an integrated package - not just a grab-bag of electoral goodies. If the Government is serious about tackling our problems, what about stealing more of Fightback? Such as:

* Cuts in Government spending.

* Fully funded tax cuts to put more dollars in peoples' pockets and give them incentives to save

* Abolishing payroll tax - the tax on jobs.

* Abolishing fuel tax - the tax on business and leisure.

* Abolishing sales tax - the Government's hidden consumption tax - and replacing it with a single rate, broad based Goods and Services Tax which does not fall on business inputs or exports.



* Full scale structural reforms in shipping, the waterfront, road and rail transport, telecommunications, power generation and especially to the labour market which is the most important and central to the others.

I am delighted every time the Government lifts some aspect of our program. That way, the country enjoys better policies while it waits for a better Government.

But why tinker about the edges? Why not implement the entire Fightback Program - especially labour market reform and structural reform - to put Australia back on the high road to prosperity and jobs.

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