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The ALP's opinion pollster has identified interest rates, the economy and the environment as the major issues of concern to Australian voters

PAUL MURPHY: Interest rates and the hip pocket, the economy and the environment are the top three issues for the electorate, according to the ALP's pollster, ANOP's Rod Cameron. But despite the possibility of a deferral of the Coronation Hill mine in Kakadu - seen by some as a sop by the Government to the green vote, and now today's decision to cap interest rates - Mr Cameron is playing down the possibility of an early election. Matt Peacock asked him first what impact the pilots' dispute was having on the Government's electoral stocks.

ROD CAMERON: The pilots have never really penetrated into the middle ground. They're aware of what's going on and they have some interest in the tos and fros, but it's not a real issue to the bulk of the electorate. They don't fly and they're unaffected by the pilots' dispute, so they look on it as an issue - with interest but with no real passion or feeling or personal involvement. It doesn't affect them.

MATT PEACOCK: And no damage to Mr Hawke's image in terms of what have been described as intemperate outbursts?

ROD CAMERON: The bulk of the population just observe what's going on, take an interest in it, but there's no damage or indeed no advantage, no pluses or minuses to the Government out of this.

MATT PEACOCK: Well, how much of a negative then are interest rates? The conventional wisdom was that you could never have an election until they go down. Is that still the case?

ROD CAMERON: There certainly has been some easing in the community's outlook on interest rates. It's certainly still the number one concern. But it is the number one concern now to a slightly lesser degree of passion and vehemence compared to a few months ago.

The fact that interest rates haven't gone up for a while, and on today's news won't be going up in the immediate future, has caused some lesser degree of community vehemence with the issue, although it's not to say it's still not number one.

MATT PEACOCK: But in other words there might be a window, even with interest rates at 17 per cent?

ROD CAMERON: I don't know what you mean by `window'.

MATT PEACOCK: A window of opportunity - I think it's your words for an election.

ROD CAMERON: Well, I wouldn't certainly see it as such. My view is that it's still a very big issue but becoming less intense in the middle ground.

MATT PEACOCK: The point is, do they have to come down before an election for Labor?

ROD CAMERON: I think it depends on the circumstances at the time.

MATT PEACOCK: So they don't.

ROD CAMERON: The electorate is becoming much more educated and to a much greater extent than before will understand the precedence for bringing down interest rates. In other words, they will understand some of the signs that accompany future falls in interest rates. So it's not just the fall that's important, but it's the understood state of the economic indicators which might precede a fall in interest rates.

MATT PEACOCK: And the capping today at 17 per cent?

ROD CAMERON: Oh, I think it will be well received in the community.

MATT PEACOCK: It's pretty desperate stuff though, isn't it?

ROD CAMERON: Well, I guess it's not easy for stretched, middle income and lower income earners to pay the 17 per cent, but any non-increase in interest rates must be good news for them, I would have thought.

MATT PEACOCK: What if they'd gone higher?

ROD CAMERON: It would not have been welcomed.

MATT PEACOCK: An electoral impossibility for Labor, would it you describe it?

ROD CAMERON: Elections are just not on the agenda as far as I'm concerned. But the electorate would not have welcomed an increase in interest rates.

PAUL MURPHY: Labor's pollster and ANOP boss, Rod Cameron, talking there with Matt Peacock.