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Transcript of interview with Fran Kelly: ABC 'AM': 5 October 1993: Budget; Republic



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Leader o f the Opposition

5 October 1993 REF: TRANSCR\WH\KK\057

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW JOHN HEWSON MP WTTH FRAN KELLY, FOR 'AM'

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Budget, Republic

Now to our key political story. The Budget is expected to reach the Senate today and the Prime Minister has warned the Opposition to give them smooth passage or face the same tactics at a future time when the Coalition forms a Government. Paul

Keating has accused John Hewson of taking to the Parliamentary conventions with a pickaxe and says no Labor leader in the future could guarantee the passage of a conservative government's money bills. The Prime Minister says he's not prepared to compromise any further and has once again maintained the Government's commitment to linking the promised tax cuts to the successful passage of the

Budget's tax increases. To get his response to the Prime Minister's comments this morning Fran Kelly spoke to the Opposition leader John Hewson.

Dr Hewson are you threatening the certainty of government in this country by refusing to pass the budget?

Absolutely not, I mean if you listen to the Prime Minister you'd think that the whole constitutional house of cards was about to collapse around his ears simply because we're opposing four individual tax measures. I mean this is not the first time that an opposition has done this, and it's absolutely hypocritical on the part of the Prime

Minister to argue that. When they had this situation in 1981, they voted against certain tax increases, there are dozens of examples.

Kelly:

Hewson:

Kelly:

So are you saying that government from now on is a tit for tat thing?

Parliament House. Canberra. A.C.T. 2600 Phone 277 4022

REF: TRANSCR\WH\057 2.

Hewson:

No not at all, I mean my points are fairly simple. Firstly the Prime Minister has absolutely no mandate for the tax increases that he's introduced. He promised people tax cuts, L-A-W in law, tax cuts which were not to be financed by tax increases or new taxes. Secondly our position has been absolutely consistent right from the beginning, we're opposed to four tax increases, the sales tax increase, the wine tax, the petrol tax and the retrospective tax on accrued leave. And thirdly, I mean we are not alone in this and we have Democrat and or Green support for some of these, some of the

opposition of some of these taxes. We probably have the support of at least half of his caucus and in the last survey 74% of the Australian people wanted the Government to go back and do the Budget again.

Kelly:

But the Democrats and the Greens at least particularly the Democrats, have at least come to some arrangement some deal with the Government, they're prepared to get some amendments through. You're not even prepared to talk.

Hewson:

Well that's right, because it's an open and shut case. The Government has no mandate for the tax increases. We've said consistently that that is the case. We've said consistently that we would oppose them. I mean what you're seeing now is the Prime Minister has basically got himself boxed in on four sides. I mean he's got the budget coming in on him from one side, he's got Mabo coming in on him from another, he's got the republic coming in on him from another side, and he's got the industrial relations blow-up with the ACTU coming in on him on the fourth side. He's boxed in, and all he's doing is lashing out and he's lashing out at anybody and right now I'm the target of the week, that's all.

Kelly:

But doesn't there come a point Dr Hewson, when the elected government should be able to introduce revenue raising measures to fund its overall economic strategy?

Hewson:

Well the answer's yes, if he'd only gone through the last election saying that. He didn't go through the last election telling people he was going to put up petrol tax. He didn't go through the la s t...

Kelly:

But not every tax measure is flagged in an election campaign I mean isn't the point that the people elected this government, they chose their priorities, they chose their

REF: TRANSCR\WH\057 3.

policies over yours, the government should now be able to enact them?

Hewson:

No the government had no, only took one policy to the last election, that is that they could provide tax cuts to the people of Australia without tax increases or new taxes. And it's absolutely responsible on our part to stand up on behalf of the people of Australia, to give voice to their anger and to their sense of betrayal about a government that blatantly lied, knowingly lied its way back into government and all we're doing is holding them accountable for the promises that they made.

Kelly:

But shouldn't the people be able to hold them accountable, I mean surely that's for the people to decide at the next election?

Hewson:

That's why 74% of the people in the last survey say that they want the budget re-done. They know they've been lied to and they don't want... I mean the whole campaign was fought over tax and the Government spent the entire time lying to people about what it intended to do and in fact it continued to lie to them after the election all the way through to the budget. And since the budget, I mean we've had another pack of lies about you know how they were going to get it through, and how they wouldn't change and negotiate, and they've been all over the shop. The fact is the Prime

Minister's in trouble, he knows he's in trouble and he's attempting, always when he's in trouble he always lashes out at somebody else, tries to pin the problem on somebody else, and here we have a very strong position by the Opposition. He's trying to turn it into a weakness, well it's not, it's simply voicing the concern and the anger of the people of Australia.

Kelly:

Well Paul Keating also made the point that it's the Greens have been credited or blamed with blocking the Budget. They've been blamed by all sorts of commentators for creating economic uncertainty, destabilising the dollar, yet you with 36 votes in the Senate are at least as much to blame. That's true isn't it?

Hewson:

Well there's no doubt that the stand we've taken has opened the opportunity for the Democrats and the Greens to take a position. But I mean we're taking the stand on behalf of the people of Australia, we're not creating uncertainty. I mean he has no sense of direction, he's just brought down, the Prime Minister's just brought down a budget that openly admits that it does nothing for the balance of payments, that's going to get worse, debt is going to get worse, unemployment will at best stay the

REF: TRANSCR\WH\057 4.

same - probably get worse, inflation will get worse. The budget is not an economic document, it's not a serious attempt to deal with our problems. It's a political document trying to get the problem out of the ... the Prime Minister out of the political hole that he got himself in by lying at the time of the last election. And in those circumstances, I mean all his hand over the heart stuff about how genuine and serious he is and the consequences we're having is nonsense, errant nonsense.

Kelly:

On another matter Dr Hewson. The Government received the report from the Republican Advisory Committee today which recommends that the powers of any head of state in a republic should be codified and enshrined in the Constitution. What's your response to that recommendation?

Hewson:

Well look we'll look, we'll look at the report when it comes out. I mean we're not going to pre-judge it. I haven't supported the committee from the beginning because I think the fundamental question is yet to be answered and that is what is the case for the constitutional change today. Why should we change to, change the head of state or

make other changes to the constitution in current circumstances. We'll be looking to see whether the report addresses that. As far as the powers go, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister has a hidden agenda, he wants to reverse the 1975 situation such

that, so you can't have a repeat of a situation where a bad government could be removed by the head of state. I've no doubt that's his hidden agenda. I have no idea what the committee will say on that subject.

Kelly:

You wouldn't support that hidden agenda?

Hewson:

Well I certainly don't support his hidden agenda across the board, not only in terms of some of the changes he wants to make to the power of the head of state but he's also pretty hell bent on changing the flag and reducing the power of the Senate, reducing the power of states. I mean I think that is Paul Keating's genuine hidden agenda. It's why the Republic issue is one side of that box I described is going to close in on him, because the people of Australia won't stand for a Prime Minister that's

on a power kick, more power to himself at the expense of everyone else.

Kelly:

Dr Hewson thankyou.