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Tasmanian election, Australian economy, Keating february statement



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Leader of the Opposition L y

31 January 1992 REF: TRANSCR\0004\BQ

TRANSCRIPT OF DR JOHN HEWSON, MP DOORSTOP PRESS CONFERENCE HOBART, TASMANIA

E & 0 E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Tasmanian election, Australian economy, Keating February Statement.

Jrnlst:

Dr Hewson what would a liberal win tomorrow mean for the federal liberal party?

Hewson:

We aren't attaching any particular significance to it from a federal point of view. What I have said is that I think that as a Party we should now stand side by side and fight the labor

party be it in a by-election, a state election or the federal election. I intend to campaign, if welcome, in every opportunity between now and the next federal election. We are not reading much into it, except perhaps on the issue of unemployment which

is, I think the key federal issue in this election. In that

sense I think there will be a fairly clear message coming out of this election of concern from the people of Tasmania.

Jrnlst:

... (inaudible) ...

Hewson:

Well some people are looking at it like that. I guess they go back to the Bass by-election in 1975 and that was the beginning of the end, if you like, of the Whitlam Government. I think

there will be a number of electoral contests around Australia this year, certainly a State election in Victoria, there is one in Queensland, there may be a by-election in Wills even, who knows what Mr Hawke will do - there will be plenty of

opportunities for us to put our case. We will just use each one to focus on the issue of the time. Fightback has had some

significance as people have asked how it will solve unemployment but it is really essentially fought on State issues.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 2774022 CO Μ Μ O MW E ALT H PARLIAMENT ARY Li BRARY MiCAH

REF: TRANSCR\0004\BQ 2 .

Jrnlst:

What is your reaction to the possible resignation of Mr Hawke next month?

Hewson:

Well I have taken the view that Mr Hawke will probably do the right thing by the people of Wills and serve his full term.

Until I hear otherwise I am working on the assumption that that is what he is going to do.

Jrnlst:

... (inaudible ) ... speculation over it does seem though he is going to go?

Hewson:

Well I haven't heard that. Sure, there is some media speculation but there are two versions around as to what Bob will do. One is, of course, that he will go because he has had enough and the other is that he just might wait and try and see whether a

souffle can rise twice, to use the expression that was used against one of ours, and make a come back. The way Paul Keating is going I guess he is surely tempted to sit around and see what happens.

Jrnlst:

How do you interpret the fact that you have been in this campaign for much more than Paul Keating?

Hewson:

Paul Keating is reluctant to go anywhere these days. You notice he doesn't talk to average Australians, he stays away from just sort of walking in the street or turning up at a factory, he

tends to deal with the magnates of Collins Street or George Street or other parts of the major capital cities. He talks to the union leaders. He hasn't got out and talked to average

Australians. We have urged him to spend time down here. I

noticed he flew in and out of Launceston and spoke to a tired labor party group but he should have gone around and seen the unemployment problems first hand, seen the consequences of the bad economic management in this State. This State has got the highest debt per capita in Australia, it has had a 57% increase

in unemployment under the Field Government, it has got the lowest credit rating in Australia along with, I think, Victoria. He should face the people and discuss the reality of Labor

Government's all over Australia.

REF: TRANSCR\0004\BQ 3.

Jrnlst:

. .. (inaudible) ...

Hewson:

Well I have always consistently never put too much weight on polls. I always say that there is one poll that matters and that is the one on the election day. I would not be complacent at all about this election. I have only been here 4 days but I think

it is close, I think every vote counts, I think there is only one vote that is really going to do the job and that is vote for Ray Groom and the Liberals to give a majority government so that you can get the job done. Any vote for a minority party or a green party is a wasted vote in Tasmania.

Jrnlst:

You say Mr Keating hasn't spent enough time in other States. Has he spent too much time and emphasis on the problems in Victoria?

Hewson:

Well he is driven by his mates in Victoria, he has done deals in Victoria, we saw that I think most conspicuously when he gave Wally Curran a prominent role in organising who he would see in the union movement. To go and talk to Wally Curran, in a sense

he knows a bit about it, he has been responsible, I understand, for the loss of a significant number of jobs in the export meat works in Victoria, but he is not what you would consider to be a representative of a broad base of support in the Victorian

establishment or the Victorian economy.

Jrnlst:

What about Mr Keating's comments yesterday that the GST is inflation ... (inaudible) ...?

Hewson:

Well it is ridiculous. I could quote him back his own words from 1985. We've identified the inflationary effect of the GST as 4.4%. If he wants to have a debate about inflation right now, the real issue is what is his wages policy? Does he have a wages policy? Is he committed to an across the board wage increase this year or isn't he? He is using numbers of about 4 or 5% as

the wage increase for this year. As I understand it those budget numbers assumed an across the board wage increase. Is he backing off that? If so, he better explain it. Senator Cook this

morning has gone the other way, he seems to be re-asserting the government's support for an across the board wage increase, re­ asserting the government's support for a wage/tax deal. Mr Keating having created mass confusion in the last couple of days

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about wages policy, I think quite frankly, ought to make a

straight forward statement that we will all be able to

understand. No more of the hubs and wheels and spokes and all that sort of stuff, just a straight forward statement as to what the wages policy is. Will there be a general wage increase this year or won't there? Will there be a tax/wage trade off this year or won't there? Simple questions, simple answers.

Jrnlst:

You have called lots of time before the Government to come up with an alternative to Fightback. The Prime Minister suggests, I believe, that his statement is going to do that. Does that have you worried?

Hewson:

No, I hope he does, I seriously hope he does because what we have been about for 2 years is focussing the debate on issues, having a genuine debate so the people at the next federal election have a clear cut choice between them and their approach and their philosophy and their policy on the one hand and ours on the

other. I don't think this statement in February will be a

complete statement, I think he will play politics. It will be an industry statement, a lot of talk about value adding and accelerated depreciation, that sort of thing, from the business point of view. I think he will save the electoral goodies like a wage/tax deal and assistance to the aged and assistance to

families to the budget and then he will tempted if the economy seems to be picking up to go to an election in September or

October. If he can't do that he'll probably have another

statement early 1993 and go as late as possible. I think he is playing politics with the substance of the statement and the timing of the statement. He obviously isn't concerned about the problems because to be talking about further cuts in interest rates or wage increases or unfunded increases in government expenditure it is just going to blow this country out of the water.

Thank y o u !

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