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Transcript of door-stop press conference: Sydney: 14 December 1994: SR/CC



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Leader of the Opposition

ALEXANDER DOWNER

TRANSCRIPT DOOR-STOP PRESS CONFERENCE SYDNEY : 14.12.94 : 2.30pm SR/CC

E & OE......................................................

TOPICS: Interest rates - Keating's cruel Christmas present

AD: This increase in interest rates is Keating's Christmas present to the Australian people. For Australians who have an average mortgage this is going to he another $80 a month and that is going to reduce the living standards of many, many Australian families. Keating thinks he can get away with this - increasing interest rates just before

Christmas, ensuring that there isn't proper scrutiny of decisions by the Parliament because the Parliament's adjourned for the year. But the fact is that this increase in interest rates is going to do very real damage to many, many Australian families at Christinas time. They're going to see their living standards decline at a time when

normally they would be looking forward to celebrating over Christmas. This is a very cruel Christmas present to the families of Australia.

Jnlst: (inaudible) use corporate tax rises instead of interest rates hikes?

AD: Well, I think tax rises will also be a cruel penalty to impose on Australian families. The way that a Federal Government should manage the economy is by not spending too much money. They're spending far too much money. They're paying the price, we're all paying the price, of the Federal Government spending too much money. They're running

too big a budget deficit. The losers are Australian families. The Federal Government should take our advice and they should take the advice of the business community and that is: start the process of reducing spending.

Jnlst: ...(inaudible) Mr Downer, that you should either put up or shut up in terms of saying what government services you would actually cut.

AD: Well, can I just make this point: next year, next financial year the Federal Government proposes to increase spending by $7,000m. Now what are they going to spend another $7,000m on next, year? On top of the $114b or so they're spending this year? Why is it necessary for the Federal Government to increase its spending next year

by $7b having increased spending by around $6b this year, and then turn around and say it can't even restrain its increase in spending next year? 1 have to say it proves a point we've made over and over again: state and federal, Labor can never manage money.

Jnlst: So what government services would you...

AD: Well look, no, we're the Opposition, the question is a question for the Government. What are they spending another $7bon next year? What are they spending another $7b on next year? They say unemployment is coming down. They say they don't need such

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a big social security bill next year. But they're increasing spending by another $7b next year. Money's being directed towards arts grants and so on, another $250m there. There are proposals for big family packages and the like, next year. Where's the money coming from? The fact is that over the years they have continually increased spending and never

worried about the consequences. The losers from their economic policy are Australian families. -

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Jnlst: Do you think there is too much emphasis on interest rates in the form of economic management?

AD: Well, the Government is doing two things. It's increasing interest rates and proposing to increase taxes. Both of those things are going to damage Australian families. What the Government should be doing is getting off the interest rate treadmill that it's back on and it should be getting away from this passion for higher taxes and

getting back on to better management of its own affairs, in other words, reducing government expenditure and next year reducing the increases in expenditure that it's proposing - doing something about waste and extravagance. Now, that should of course be the Government's priority and good economic management tells you that.

Jnlsi: Mr Willis has said today that by not naming the cuts that you would make, that you lack credibility. What's your response to that?

AD: Well, we'll produce our fiscal package when the next election comes. The day Mr Keating announces the election is the day we will give the Labor Party as well as the rest of the Australian community all the details of our policies. But in the meantime Mr Willis and Mr Keating are accountable for the management of the Australian economy. They are the Government. Now, we said at the time of the 1993 Budget that the Federal

Government shouldn't be running as big a Budget deficit as it did. Wc said at the time of the 1994 Budget the same thing. Now we say it again. We were right in 1993. Wc were right in 1994. Mr Willis dismissed what we said then. So did some other people. Well, they were all wrong and we've been proven to be right. And families, now, are

going to pay the price of us being ignored. One last question and then I must go.

Jnlst: Martin Ferguson said that (inaudible) makes Bernie Fraser looks like Scrooge at Christmas time. Would you agree?

AD: Well, 1 think that when it comes to Scrooge, Keating is the Scrooge at Christmas time because what Keating is doing is increasing costs to Australian families with mortgages, Of around $80 a month, and he thinks that he is going to get away with it because Christmas is upon us. 1 think it's a very cynical and a very cruel thing to do to

the Australian people at this time.

ends