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Transcript of doorstop interview: Eden-Monaro: 14 May 2004: tax cuts; government agencies; youth unemployment; bulk billing rates; federal election; tax credits.



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PRIME MINISTER

14 May 2004

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, EDEN-MONARO

Subjects: Tax cuts; government agencies; youth unemployment; bulk billing rates; federal election; tax credits.

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………..

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, apparently Mr Latham this morning said that he can’t guarantee tax cuts for everyone. Is that a backflip?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s worse than that. There is total confusion between Mr Latham and Mr Crean. Mr Crean said they’re going to give tax cuts to everybody who didn’t get one on Tuesday night, and Mr Latham says the opposite. I mean they can’t even agree between themselves. How could the pair of them be trusted to run the Australian economy? I mean they… he didn’t know whether he was getting a tax cut. Now he’s disagreeing with his Shadow Treasurer. I mean they are confused and befuddled. I think the Australian people deserve better. And if they can’t agree amongst themselves, they have no hope of running the Australian economy.

JOURNALIST:

So generally has his Budget response been weak?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it was non-existent rather than weak. Weak too, but the distinguishing feature is that he hasn’t offered an alternative, and Budget replies particularly in an election year are meant to contain alternatives. I thought we were going to have from him some alternative - not every last dollar, but some broad outline of some alternative. I mean it’s not good enough to say well we’ll give tax cuts to everybody and then the next morning say well it may not be everybody, it may be everybody minus 10, and his Shadow Treasurer says oh it will be everybody. I mean for heaven’s sake, that’s just total confusion.

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JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) cut to bureaucracy from Latham, seven agencies he says. Is that too strong or…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know what agencies he’s talking about. When they were in Government, they didn’t cut bureaucracy, they increased it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, apparently Mr Latham has also said that all the money in the youth guarantee, not all of it is new monies again.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I believe that is the case. I heard that this morning, and that wasn’t the impression he conveyed last night. If you were listening, if you were an ordinary citizen listening last night, you would have thought there was $750 million new dollars. Now if in fact it’s not all new money, well he has misled the Australian public.

JOURNALIST:

But the youth guarantee is still a good idea though, do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there are elements of it that are good, of course. But the other point I’m making is that youth unemployment is lower now, much lower, than what it was in 1996. And whilst I would like to see youth unemployment disappear altogether, it is less of a problem now than it was eight years ago. And one of the best ways to get rid of youth unemployment is to get rid of the unfair dismissal laws to make it easier for small business to take on young employees. That would do more to cut youth unemployment than any of these programmes that he’s talking about.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, your reaction to the bulk billing rates that are out today.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m very pleased. They indicate that the MedicarePlus package has already begun to work. They only include two months out of the three where MedicarePlus was in operation and they don’t include any of the effects of the $7.50 increase in the rebate for the regional and country areas and Tasmania. So when that kicks in and you have a full three months in the next quarter, there could be a further rise. Now this is encouraging. It shows that our policy is working and it demonstrates the Government’s very strong commitment to Medicare.

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JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on election timing, can you rule out putting an election on August 7 which would clash with the Bledisloe Cup decider?

PRIME MINISTER:

What are you working through all of my sporting passions, are you?

JOURNALIST:

I am.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ray Hadley started with the rugby league and now you’re on to the Bledisloe Cup. Look, I don’t think I should rule anything in or out at this stage, except to repeat my promise to Mr Latham that he can go to America and there won’t be an election in June.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) system of tax credits. What is your position on tax credits?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well our position on tax was outlined on Tuesday night.

JOURNALIST:

And tax credits in particular?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what was in our tax policy on Tuesday night was what we believe. And I mean we’ve explained ourselves. We’ve said what we’re going to do with the tax rates. We had tax reform in 2000 and we had tax cuts last year, and this year we’ve done something about those marginal rates that should not apply to people earning relatively modest incomes of just over $50,000 a year. Now that’s our position. The Australian public know where I stand on tax. They have no idea where Labor stands on tax. They’ve got two versions of tax. They’ve got the Crean version and the Latham version. Neither of them is very explicit, but they’re not the same and they’re very confused. Thank you.

[ends]