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Opposition Leader discusses government advertising for the GST.

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Kim Beazley - Interview with Graham Richardson Subject: GST Advertising

Transcript - Radio 2GB, Sydney - 17 May 2000

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RICHARDSON: Good morning, Kim.

BEAZLEY: Good morning, Graham. How are you?

RICHARDSON: I'm really well, but I am incensed about these ads. I can't believe how bad they are. Is there any chance at all of the High Court action that could stop them?

BEAZLEY: Well, I'm no legal manque. We've got our Shadow Attorney General, Robert McClelland, taking a look at that at the moment. That would, of course, cost us a motza to be able to do that, but nowhere near the motza the ads are currently costing the Australian taxpayer. I mean, you are dead right about the cost of these things. Just contemplate it this way: every time you see one of those ads on TV, it's three primary school teachers marching down the drain. I mean, that's the sort of exchange for it. They're almost spending as much on advertising this GST as they're spending on this new rural health package over the next four years. And in the first year they're spending an awful lot more on the advertising of the GST. So, this is just theft. That's what it amounts to.

RICHARDSON: At the end of the day, don't you even have to have a pretence at providing information?

BEAZLEY: Look, all governments, including our government when we were in office - I'm not going to walk away from that - would put out, from time to time, advertising that was borderline. It went out in small amounts and at least there used to be around it some possibility that it was related to a genuine information campaign. There is absolutely no information in these massively expensive ads. And what adds insult to injury - I'm sure you get it on your radio program, but I get it at meetings all the time - I can't go to a meeting now without at least two or three small business people standing up and saying that, because of the lack of answers they're getting from the tax office to their very direct and specific queries about how the tax impacts on their business, they're going to shut down. I spend my time actually doing John Howard's work at these meetings because I am almost invariably saying, no,. no, don't be hasty, don't be hasty. I'm sure, sooner or later, somebody will have an answer for you. And let me see how I can help you and give you a bit of advice of where you sit now'. But instead of having Kim Beazley, who actually does not know every single element and detail of this tax package, advising them, comforting them, trying to get the go on a different track, what they ought to be doing is getting some decent information from the Tax Office, and not this unbelievably expensive piece of political shysterism.

RICHARDSON: How much money are they spending all up? Is there a budget? Do we know how much it's going to cost?

BEAZLEY: We don't know exactly but, so far, in Senate Estimates Committees, we've got the total up to

$360 million.


BEAZLEY: That's the total now. We thought, about four weeks ago, that it was $80 million. That is what you could easily discern - $80 million. But after the subsequent Senate Estimates hearings, it's up to $360 million. But there are sections of the bureaucracy who can't, or won't, answer questions, so we would say the $360 million is a minimal figure.

RICHARDSON: It's a hell of a lot of money. I can't remember any campaign like this, no. I'd have, by the way, in the bastardry of which, you know, it contains, but also in the sheer scope.

BEAZLEY: Yes. I mean, the bastardry is obvious and I think is terribly offensive to many people. But the scope is just gargantuan. And, as I said, insult to injury. There are serious questions being asked by serious people, who are about to become tax collectors for the Government, about how they should do their task and how they should calculate it. And these serious questions are simply not being answered.

RICHARDSON: The Tax Office has no idea. My accountant, who represents a lot of small businesses, was telling me the other day they can't get answers and, in fact, one Tax official said to him, 'well, look, don't worry about it, mate, it'll just finish up in a court case later on'.

BEAZLEY: It will, thousands of court cases. Now, this is what's making small business nervous. They look at the penalties. The penalties are clear enough for failing to properly acquit your tax obligations. They're obvious enough and that gets the small business community very frightened when they look at those things. And now they're finding themselves in a situation where they cannot possibly understand what it is that they're obliged to do. But they do know if they guess wrong, they're going to end up in court.

RICHARDSON: It's an absolute tragedy. I really hope you can knock it off. I hope you're successful. It's one of those times, I mean, as you say, governments always get a bit of an advantage for themselves but this is so over the top, so outrageous, that it does have to be stopped.

BEAZLEY: It has to be stopped. This Government has become unbelievably arrogant and this is just the latest manifestation of that arrogance. They're way out of touch with the ordinary Aussie and they're out of touch, more particularly, with what they're doing to the ordinary Aussie - directly, not indirectly. Often governments make life hard for people by acts of omission. In this case, they're making life hard for people by an act of commission, and have an obligation to get it right - and they absolutely are not.

RICHARDSON: I know exactly what they're doing, Kim. I'm lying back and I'm thinking of England. Thanks for talking to us this morning.

BEAZLEY: Good to talk to you, Graham.


Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.