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Shadow Treasurer discusses Aston by-election; and petrol.

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Simon Crean - Radio 3AW, Melbourne - Aston By-Election, Petrol Thursday, 05 July 2001

Simon Crean - Shadow Treasurer

Interview with Steve Price

Subjects: Aston By-Election, Petrol

Transcript - Radio 3AW, Melbourne - 4 July 2001


PRICE:Simon Crean joins us. Thanks for your time.

CREAN: Good Steve. How are you?

PRICE: Bump into Mr Howard?

CREAN: No. He seemed to be out there this morning and gone pretty early I think.

PRICE: How do you read the by-election?

CREAN: It's not as if there's a lot of momentum attaching to it. It's not like Ryan in that sense.

PRICE: It doesn't seem to have captured the media's attention for some reason.

CREAN: The weekend did with the GST anniversary. That combination and I think a bit with the petrol issue because that's been fairly dominant down in Aston. But you're right it's not got the same media focus, as did Ryan. But as I said before it's a different demographic of a seat. It's hard for us to win but we're giving it our best shot because it's another opportunity to send a message to John Howard.

PRICE: Do you think it's because Ryan was almost like the Toorak of Brisbane and for the Coalition to loose that it was much more a shock than if Aston was to go one way or the other, it might not mean as much?

CREAN: No I think it's because Ryan came off the back of the Western Australia and Queensland defeats for the Coalition if you like in the states. There was the sense of a swing on in Ryan because Labor had a lower base vote; therefore a sizable swing was needed. But the feeling was that they could get reasonably close off the back of what happened in the state election in Queensland. And also because there was a lot of disaffection with John Moore's resignation. The fact that he had caused a by-election

when it was not necessary. That's not the case in Aston. Peter Nugent was well regarded as a local member. His untimely death was tragic, that was the circumstance that caused the by-election. And I think it's a much harder seat for Labor to win and they don't in a sense expect much change, but we're hoping that we can …

PRICE: Isn't it about you downplaying this result?

CREAN: No, I think the other side's tried to play the underdog in this. No I think it's just a genuine, a genuine assessment that the demographic is different than Ryan. Victoria's different than Queensland. And that's it's a much harder margin to pick up in the circumstances in which the by-election's been called.

PRICE: On fuel. A caller wanted me to ask you what your policy is in regard to the diesel fuel rebate? What will you do about that if you win the election?

CREAN: We've got no intention of changing that. The inquiry doesn't go to those issues. We would expect those to continue on. The interesting question is what will the Government do about it, because its inquiry - which they still haven't announced the terms of reference to Steve - its inquiry said it wants to look at the question of the taxation arrangements, but in a revenue neutral way. In other words, it doesn't cost the Government any more money. What they've done is to rule out changes to the Petroleum Resource Rent tax, so any relief that they're proposing to give in one area, has to come off another. And that's why people who use diesel for business are very worried that the government has an agenda to get rid of the diesel fuel grants initiative.

PRICE: On petrol itself, you went to the independent today, where there was a second protest following last week's protest. Your very presence there, does that mean that we will see cheaper petrol under a Labor government?

CREAN: Well I think that what you'll see is Labor looking to initiatives that whereby the regulatory environment means that independents stay in the game.

PRICE: Is the Howard Government trying to get rid of independents?

CREAN: Well I think the easing up on the regulatory environment could end up with that result. You know, it's very interesting this Government scrapped the maximum wholesale price. It's very hard to see prices falling, when you take the ceiling off. And of course what we've seen since the scrapping of the maximum wholesale price and the fact that the ACCC - the prices watchdog - hasn't got a monitoring role, the independents are feeling much more under pressure. Now it's our view that just for the purposes of genuine competition you need the independents in the game. The only time that you get the lower prices is when you've got aggressive independents in the market place.

PRICE: Well the interesting thing today, you would have seen it when you were driving around. Some parts of Melbourne, the big boys are down to 77 cents and 79 cents.

CREAN: Yes, because of this initiative. Because the pressures on with the Aston by-election. Because the independents have taken the decision that even if it costs some of them money in the short term they're going to drive the point home and of course it proves the very point if the independents are going down and announcing in advance they're going to drop it below the 70 cent mark, the majors will be in there keeping prices down to try and keep people away from the independents. That's the way the market

works. But it's only happening in response to what the independents are running as a campaign and that's why we see it terribly important to keep the independents in the game. And that's why in our meeting with them today, we've undertaken with them to not only air their views today, but give them the opportunity to present their options. We think a number of them make sense. We want to give them proper consideration. But we've committed to come forward with initiatives prior to the election.

PRICE: Thanks for your time.

CREAN: Thanks Steve.

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

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