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Industry statement: the Victorian Premier is optimistic about the Federal Government's economic reform despite large tariff reductions in the car and clothing industries

PAUL MURPHY: It's in the already financially embattled states of South Australia, where we just were, and Victoria, where the greatest impact will be felt as a result of today's announced tariff cuts in both the clothing and the motor vehicle manufacturing areas. In recent weeks, the Victorian Premier, Joan Kirner, has beaten a well worn path to Canberra. Mrs Kirner tried to persuade the Industry Minister, John Button, to slow the pace of tariff reduction but, as we now know, tariffs on cars are to be reduced to 15 per cent by the year 2000 and in other areas to 5 per cent, in five years time. Well, it was an optimistic Premier Kirner who spoke to Peter Jepperson a few moments ago.

JOAN KIRNER: I think it will enable Victoria's industry and the Government, and the unions to run with a new package of reform; it gives us certainty in terms of the tariffs. It's a vast improvement on the original Industry Commission's report and it also gives us a package in export facilitation, tax incentives, training, that will enable us to move towards the kind of future we want for the manufacturing industry. It is much tougher, I think, for the textile industry to win through on this one than probably the automotive industry, but we believe that the parameters have been set for getting the investments that Victoria needs in manufacturing industry.

PETER JEPPERSON: Looking quickly to the car industry, tariffs are still to be what, halved within the next 10 years; would it be fair to say you failed, that your message wasn't heeded in Canberra?

JOAN KIRNER: Well, our message was heeded, because the Industries Commission original report, of course, was to bring it down to 5 per cent and to do that by 1996. And in fact, we got an extension of four years to 2000, the year 2000, coming down to 15 per cent, so we won round one. In the second round, we said quite clearly that what we wanted was a balance of tariff reform and the other measures, particularly encouragement of the component industry. And the thing I'm perhaps most pleased about, in this report, is that it does say to the component industry: we will give you export support, we will give you training programs, and I think that's a real potential plus for a place like Geelong.

PETER JEPPERSON: Are you saying that this statement of the Prime Minister's today has actually helped you politically, you haven't been forsaken in the interests of national reconstruction?

JOAN KIRNER: We were leading the argument and we will continue to lead the argument for manufacturing industry being part of national reconstruction. We put up many of the ideas that I've just elaborated, and we're pleased to see them reflected in the report.

PETER JEPPERSON: You're claiming victory?

JOAN KIRNER: No, I don't want to claim victory, but I do want to claim progress. I do believe that there's enough in this to get the kind of investment we're looking for from Toyota - $600 million. I do believe there's enough in it for us to move on the development, the extension of the Maryvale Mill, and I must say Peter, that since 1985, as the Minister of Conservation, I've been saying that we ought to clarify the resource issue, we ought not to have export woodchips, we ought to have value added industry, and I'm delighted to see that in the report.

PAUL MURPHY: The Victorian Premier, Joan Kirner, with Peter Jepperson.