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Transcript of the Prime Minister, the Hon P J Keating MP doorstop Melbourne 25 March 1992



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P R IM E M IN IS T E R

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING MP DOORSTOP, MELBOURNE ' 25 MARCH 1992

E & OE PROOF COPY

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J : What is your opinion of the walk out by English cricketers last night?

PM: These things happen. I'm not real dead-shook on impersonator's either. But you know, you have got to take all of these into stride. I had the air-heads on A Current Affair putting me on trial, so what's Botham got to complain about?

J : Do you think their walk out was a little bit over the top?

PM: Well it's up to them, no.

J: Is it a boost for republicanism?

PM: No, I don't think Terry Connolly is a boost for republicanism.

J: Do you think stretching your relationship will hurt the British?

PM: Oh no. There must be, how many...? Look I'm not shook on impersonators, but there must be a lot of them, both in the UK and Australia.

J: Do you believe that your remarks about republicanism and the Queen have upset Britain, and this has been shown by the walk out last night?

PM: Well, it didn't upset the broad sheets. They were very measured and sensible about it. I'm sure it didn't upset, what I had to say, it didn't upset the Queen. It was only the tabloids. But who takes notice of British tabloids?

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J: On your visit here today, why did you come here, when this is 8 kilometres out of the electorate?

PM: Well, it is an important part of the industrial component of this area of Melbourne. Obviously a lot of the people here live in the electorate of Wills, and it is important for Bill Kardamitsis and me just to

look at the electorate. We went down to Pascoe Vale Road and we saw the huge truck flow running through that street, an enormous number of trucks coming from Sydney which will all be taken off by the ring road which the Federal Government, under the 'One Nation' package, is building. And we just made the point that

those huge semis running through Pascoe Vale Road with all the noise and thunder that goes with them, and pollution, won't be removed by taxing your Weet-Bix. It won't be removed by the GST. It won't be removed by

Dr Hewson. Those trucks will not be removed, going through those areas, will not be removed by Dr Hewson taxing Weet-Bix and shoes and clothing and everything else. It will only be done by Government expenditure and the western ring-road, that element of it which will be built by the 'One Nation', package will take

trucks now from the Hume Highway right around to the Calder Highway out to Geelong, not cutting the electorate of Wills to pieces. And it is a difference about Government spending in the right places. But that spending, that ring-road, Dr Hewson says was

irresponsible spending, irresponsible he called it. So we were down there to have a look at that this morning and then to have a look at the plant here. And this is the plant, I've just been through, a state of the art, world ranking plant and it can compete. But car tyres have a tariff of 15 per cent under us, under the

Liberals - zero. So this plant will be knocked out, probably knocked out by Dr Hewson's zero tariff policy, zero tariff for car tyres which will go down to 15 and truck tyres to 5, he says zero for the lot. So under

the Liberals this plant will deluged by imported tyres. The people in this factory, jobs will be put at risk by the Liberal's policy.

J: Why is Mr Dawkins putting up his plan for a simplified sales tax now?

PM: Look, let's not go around the world for sport, I'm not here to go through 300,000 parts of the Budget, I'll simply make a couple of points. We're here to look at two things this morning - the huge flow of trucks through the electorate of Wills, and a modern state of the art, high-tech plant playing to Australia's competitive strengths and which a high proportion of which is going to export. This plant which we're

standing in is absolutely typical of the kind of industrial development Australia needs and wants. It's just over a year old and it is out there shipping 1/3 of its produce to exports. Now that's what we need,

and that's why Bill and I were here this morning to

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look at these elements of the electorate and to see what's happening here. And now that the company is considering further investments, I had the chance to talk to the Australian Chief Executive Officer and the President of the Goodyear Tyre company today, just about our depreciation rates, the new depreciation rates in the 'One Nation' package and how it will

impact favourably upon further investment of this kind - further jobs in Wills, further job security, more product, better merchandise trade surplus. They're the things that matter.

J: Have you been prodded into looking at the sales tax by the GST?

PM: No, look. The sales tax is something we have had on the agenda now when I was Treasurer. Sales tax simplification I put on the agenda in the 1989 Budget.

J: On that topic of jobs in Wills, Thycon Systems were mentioned in Parliament yesterday who make a computer component, have lost some 300 workers or something similar to that, and because French and German components coming in of equivalent value, what do you

say about that?

PM: Well, under Dr Hewson's policy it's zero tariffs, It's no protection to these people I mean nothing, nothing. Remember this, it was Labor that had to take the high tariff policy of Australia and gradually phase it down common sense where Australians got cheaper products and we became competitive. But in the sort of, again, the cold, calculating, computer-driven models of the

Liberal Party, it is zero tariff. The people that built the tariff wall and left it until we ended up with an industrial museum are now taking our work, our

gradual, sensible, phased reductions to a competitive society, that's not good enough they say, down to zero. Out go all these plants. So when you hear Dr Hewson talking about jobs and tariffs, they are crocodile

tears. Ask him why, as it says today in 'The Australian', people in the Liberal Party are now saying that Mr McLachlan and Dr Hewson, you explain to us your

tariff policy. You tell us how zero tariffs are good for us. Tell us how you are going to knock Australians out of work while crying crocodile tears on the street corners of Wills.

J : Is the Government moving towards zero tariffs as well as in the Garnaut Report?

PM: No we're not, we are not. Look, the Garnaut Report has no relevance whatsoever to the Government's tariff policy. None, absolutely none. John Button and I introduced in the 1988 May Statement, the big tariff changes and they were followed up in the March

Statement of 1990. They have no reference to Garnaut and as well will not be going to zero. We're taking

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them to 5 per cent by 1997. But the plan areas, including cars, and car tyres, go to 15 and don't go below that. It's Dr Hewson that wants to take them to zero.

J: Are you going to look at the Thycon problem?

PM: I'm not going to repair, it's not my job to make a business work properly. It is the manager's job to make the business work properly. And if it is like this company, it has got off its tail and exports out there, and that's what some of these high-tech companies have got to do.

J: What about welfare services, like the ONE STOP welfare centre in Wills which is losing federal funding at a time of record unemployment?

PM: That was set up in the '70s before the Federal Government invested in the Wills area a proper Social Security office. These things are now delivered by a full Commonwealth office. But the interesting thing is that Dr Hewson wants to turn people on unemployment benefits out into the streets after 9 months. No U.B., he says after 9 months. So where will the people go, down to the St Vincent De Paul, the Smith Family. And then he is out crying crocodile tears about a welfare centre which was set up before the Government expanded the infrastructure of the Social Security Department which handles these things.

J: Nevertheless, the people who run that organisation say that the Social Security Department is in fact referring cases to them and they say they are dealing with 200 cases a week, yet they are still having their

funding cut off?

PM: Well, I don't know that is right. The fact is the Social Security department carries the burden on the administration of the Social Security system. Dr Hewson told us a year ago that the Social Security

system should be administered by the major accountancy firms, that pensioners should go to the major accountancy firms to get their pension cheques. They'd

contract out, he said, social security benefit deliveries. So instead of finding someone in a Social Security office, and mind you, Dr Hewson also said he wanted to cut the ribbons of the CES, that's in the

'Fightback' proposals, in the GST proposition, the CES offices are cut to ribbons by cuts in Government expenditure under Dr Hewson and he's got the gall to talk about a private welfare office set up in the mid

1970s before the sophisticated development of the social security system, while he is saying he will actually cut the CES back. I mean, they have more front than Mark Foyes, these guys.

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J: Mr Keating, getting back for a second to the English cricketers walk-out, Wilson Tuckey was on radio this morning saying that the recent bad manners of the Prime Minister and his wife contributed to the walk-out. Have you got any reaction to that?

PM: Well, the thing is you see, standing up for Australia, being proud to be Australians is not bad manners. But the Liberals, it doesn't surprise me Mr Tuckey said this, the Liberals have been tugging the forelock to Britain for 50 years and they can't work out who they are. Whether they are whole-heartedly Australians or half-heartedly Australians. But the fact of the matter is, I don't like impersonators probably any more than the English cricketers do, but I mean that's there problem and mine.

J: A Current Affair trial Mr Keating, what's your response?

PM: I think the media said it all. I mean, Jana Wendt was put on trial by the Daily Telegraph and they found her guilty.

J: But in the phone-in after the jury acquitted you,...

PM: We know what that was, yes. That was the Liberals hitting the automatic telephone buttons with the redials. You just hit them and they just keep redialing.

J: But doesn't it concern you that 67 per cent ...?

PM: No, no because in a genuine poll which was held in The Telegraph, where there was no organised phone-in, the compere of Current Affair went down in flames. Not gracious, not gloriously either.

J: Why have you gone soft on Kerry Packer? Shouldn't he be fronting the enquiry again?

PM: So Kerry Packer is a mate, apparently, this is what you are putting to me, but A Current Affair can go and put me on trial on the Kerry Packer program.

J : Shouldn't he be fronting the enquiry again?

PM: I don't know and I don't care.

J: Aren't you concerned about the Media Enquiry?

PM: I haven't seen the results.

ENDS