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Transcript of Interview with Neil Mitchell: 3AW: 5 August 1993: early election; Government's tax bills; blocking supply; Senate



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Leader of the Opposition

5 August 1993 REF: TRANSCR\SC\DT\0019

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW JOHN HEWSON MR NEIL MITCHELL, 3AW

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: EARLY ELECTION; GOVERNMENT'S TAX BILLS; BLOCKING SUPPLY; SENATE

Mitchell:

Morning. Well first let's cut through all this ...inaudible... Several news organisations are claiming we're on the verge of another election. They're saying the Opposition will block supply because of the Keating tax rises. We'll have a 1975 crisis and an election. Some people are dancing around it. Others are perhaps putting up some little veiled warnings. The man who essentially would have to decide that course is the Opposition Leader Dr John Hewson. He's on the line now. Dr Hewson good

morning.

Hewson:

Good morning Neil.

Mitchell:

Are there any circumstances under which you would block supply?

Hewson:

Look it's not a question of blocking supply. I've said that several times in the last few· days. And what we're about is holding the Government accountable for promises they made to the people of Australia at the last election and that was not to introduce new taxes or increase taxes.

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Mitchell:

So blocking supply is not even under consideration?

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Hewson: : ‘

No it's not a question of blocking supply at all. It's a question of dealing with the tax bills.

Mitchell:

Look, I understand that. But I mean...

Hewson:

See blocking supply is where you set out basically to stop the functioning of Government. Now we're not talking about that. We're talking about holding the Government accountable for what they promised at the last election.

Mitchell:

Would you like to force another election?

Hewson:

Look I have no doubt there's a mood in the electorate today that people feel to some extent that 'Look we made a mistake. This crowd got in on false pretences'. But that's not what I'm talking about.

Mitchell:

No I understand that but this...

Hewson:

...quite clear is to simply, is to simply hold the Government accountable for what they said and that was, that they - 1 mean if you have any mandate out of the last election it's very clear and that was no increase in tax.

Mitchell:

Okay. Well what you're saying it's a fairly massive con that's gone on. Correct?

Hewson:

No not at all. Not at all.

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Mitchell:

No.

Hewson: i .

I mean I think that foreshadowing that we...

Mitchell:

No sorry a massive con by the Government is what you're saying.

Hewson:

Oh yes as far as the election campaign - absolutely. I mean they've conned the people of Australia. I mean the Prime Minister has basically admitted that he lied before, during and after the campaign.

Mitchell:

Okay if this sort of con and lies isn't reason to force an election is there anything that is? .

Hewson:

No look we've only had that circumstance once in the past in an absolutely extraordinary set of circumstances. We are not talking about that. We are talking about as I say holding them accountable for what they said at the last election - no tax increases. In fact they promised tax reductions, they put them in law as he said -

L.A.W. and I remember being mocked in the Parliament when he said 'Look you won't be able to touch this. They're going into law - L.A.W. They're there they will be delivered.' They've raised those sort of expectations, I think it's reasonable that we

hold the Government accountable.

Mitchell:

Sure. But I think the expectations are also being raised perhaps for other reasons within the community of a very tough action. Have you even at any level within the Party discussed options like supply?

Hewson:

No look what we've, what we've discussed is the budgetary session tactics.

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Mitchell:

You haven't discussed forcing that far then.

Hewson: ;

Well what we've, as I say just to be clear, it's not a question of blocking supply it's a question of dealing with the tax bills. Tax bills have been dealt with over the years in lots of different ways. I think there are precedents where very hard lined stands have been made against them. The Democrats are always trying to cut bits out of tax bills or vary bills and so on. What we're saying is depending on the way the Government does it, how they bring the bills in, what form they take, what character they have, we'll have to decide exactly how we deal with it in the Parliament but we do not rule out the option of voting against it.

Mitchell:

Okay well the Government could link their money bills, their supply bills to their tax changes. Would you still block that?

Hewson:

No let's wait and see what they do.

Mitchell:

Well yeah but that's a tactic they could apply. '

Hewson:

No there's no point in speculating. I think it's most unlikely but there's not point in speculating about what they'll do, we'll know in a couple of weeks time what the budget looks like, we'll know what taxes they are increasing and we'll know the character of the bills they've been formed and on that basis we'll be sure to make a very clear statement as to what we'll be doing.

Mitchell:

Are there any circumstances under which you could justify blocking supply?

Hewson:

Look we're not talking about blocking supply.

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Mitchell:

No I know you're not. I'm talking about the future.

Hewson: : :

There's no point talking about the hypothetical. We are not talking about blocking supply we are talking about dealing with a commitment, a promise that the Government made at the last election not to raise tax.

Mitchell:

Okay, if you block the tax bills does that make the country ungovernable?

Hewson:

Look I think the Government has got a difficult situation in relation to the Senate that goes way beyond this particular circumstance. They now have a couple of Green Senators, they have the Democrats to contend with, they have an Independent to contend with. The Senate will, I have no doubt, play a much larger part in the processes of government in the course of the next couple of years than it has in the past and this will be difficult for the Government. But look if they govern on the basis of solving problems, if they address the issues that are there in an objective and honest way and they are visibly governing in the best interests of the people of Australia, you w ont have any problem with the Senate. But if they go along as they

have done in the past neglecting the major problems, breaking promises here there and everywhere, basically conning as you said the people of Australia, well of course the Senate has a part to play. And we will, we will use the Senate as a process as I say keeping the Government honest. I know there's been a lot of attention in recent

days about the idea that we would require the bills to be introduced into the Parliament by October the 1 st. The idea here is to make sure that Government is sensible and rational not what we had in the past where they've come along with a whole pile of legislation at the last minute, jammed it through the Lower House, guillotined,...left minimum if almost no time for debate and let legislation back. And we're trying to improve the process of Government.

Mitchell:

Given that atmosphere you talk about though, given that atmosphere in the electorate that you are talking about is there any way or is there any chance of you forcing somehow an early election?

Hewson:

Look we're not talking about that.

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Mitchell:

Well we're not talking about it but is it possible?

Hewson: :

No look it's not, Neil there's no point in sort of speculating about the hypothetical.

Mitchell:

I think there is because it's running around the community and people are looking for an answer - is it on or isn't it?

Hewson:

Well we have an immediate focus in holding the Government accountable for the con, for the lies they told and the promises they made and that will be the focus.

Mitchell:

Well do you think the Government will run its full term?

Hewson:

Well there's a lot of speculation I see in the media that they won't. That they will find it difficult to govern. You know, for a whole lot of reasons he may go early. I see one journalist is predicting as early as May next year. I don't know about any of that. As far as I'm concerned we're just keeping our head down and concentrating on the

Government and holding them accountable. They are the issue. They are the ones that got there by deceit and deception and we are going to hold them accountable.

Mitchell:

Would it be fair to say there are some in the Party, some in the Coalition perhaps who are pushing for a very hard line on this and some of them who can perhaps smell the blood of 1975 again?

Hewson:

No look it hasn't taken that form at all.

Mitchell:

Really. No discussion at all?

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Hewson:

Our discussions have been along the lines of how we deal with this tax situation and given that tax was the focus of the last election, given it was the centrepiece, given that the Government said that they could deliver these tax cuts without a GST, without tax increases, without new taxes and indeed without cuts in expenditure and they

could do all that and bring the deficit down as well, I mean, that's the, they set their own parameters, they've set their own highjump bar for this budget and that's the basis on which they'll be measured.

Mitchell:

Haven't you been talking to...

Hewson:

That's as far as we've taken it.

Mitchell:

Have you been talking to any of the Senators? The Greens or the Democrats? Or Mr Harradine?

Hewson:

I haven't personally but our colleagues do all the time.

Mitchell:

See I mean we're looking at...

Hewson:

Maintain contact with their Senatorial colleagues not only within our Party but of course in the minority parties.

Mitchell:

So we're certainly looking at a situation of a hostile Senate which is not necessarily a bad thing but it does make life pretty tough for a Government which usually reduces its term?

Hewson:

I think that the Senate is a genuine house of review. It is the State's house. It does have a role to play. I know the Prime Minister doesn't agree with that and he's

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referred to them in the past as 'unrepresentative swill' but they are an important part of our democratic process. And what you're seeing is the Senate is starting to take on more of that role and I think that's a good thing. We've had circumstances in the

past where you would have thought that the Democrats were the size of the vote they had, would kept the bastards honest as they say they do but you know they all to easily sell out. But I think in the current Parliamentary session and beyond you'll see the Senate playing a more substantive and constructive role and that's we're about. We're about being a constructive element of government, not a destructive element

of government but equally the Government hasn't got a mandate to do anything apart from not raise tax. They've got major problems there that they haven't dealt with.

Mitchell:

Dr Hewson where were you in 1975? University?

Hewson:

No I was in Sydney. I was working in the Reserve Bank.

Mitchell:

Did you support...

Hewson:

When it broke I was overseas with the Governor and we came back.

Mitchell:

Did you support the blocking of supply then?

Hewson:

Well it wasn't a question of whether I supported it or didn't support it.

Mitchell:

No but it is now.

Hewson:

Then what was done and I wasn't involved in it, didn't know the detail. But look on face value I thought there was no alternative.

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Mitchell:

Okay so maybe in the future there could be a position where there's no alternative?

Hewson: > .

Well look we're not talking about that.

Mitchell:

We are really. Okay. Thank you for your time.

Hewson:

Bye bye.