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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 30 September 1993: Budget: Greens; Democrats



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Leader o f the Opposition

30 September 1993 REF: TRANSCR\WH\DT\056

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW JOHN HEWSON MP PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

E & O E - P R O O F COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: Budget, Greens, Democrats.

Jmlst:

The Government's been trying to do a deal with the wine lobby on the wine tax, what's the Opposition's view about that?

Hewson:

Well we're going to stay where we are and that is we're totally opposed to the wine tax, I think that's in the best interests of the industry, and it's a very strange concept of how to get ahead in Australia that when an industry performs as well as the wine industry has over the last ten or fifteen years, now probably our most outstanding

export success, the Government decides to tax it. We're just totally opposed to that tax and I can't imagine that the industry will deal with the Government. I'm sure that given the situation where the Democrats, the Greens and the Opposition say they will vote against the wine tax, and that's obviously in the best interests of the industry.

Jmlst:

But if you were a wine grower though, wouldn't you take the deal given Government threats to impose an excise on them anyway?

Hewson:

I would take nothing off this Government, absolutely nothing, I would never trust them, I don't think anybody should ever trust them again and in those circumstances no I wouldn't deal with them. If the Government's been threatening an excise tax, that is just a joke. If they can't get an increase in sales tax through the Parliament they could never get an excise through the Parliament on the wine industry, so I just think that's a hollow threat.

Parliament House. Canberra. A.C.l. 2600 Phone 277 4022 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY M ICAH

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Jmlst:

How confident are you the Greens will hold the line all the way on the sales tax blocking?

Hewson:

Well I think it's good to see that they've taken a position which they describe as being based on integrity and that they are going to wait to see the detail, and then vote on the day on the issue, and as far as I've seen it so far they've handled themselves very well and responsibly. They've started to judge the issues on their merits and you

know they've only taken a hardline position against a couple of things. I think the accrued annual leave, the retrospective tax on that, and of course on the wine tax, two positions we've taken but you know I defend their right to do what they're doing. This attack by the Government on the Greens, trying to belittle the Greens and intimidate the Greens and threaten the Greens or the Democrats or ourselves, is just totally misplaced. I mean they are ones who are responsible for this budget mess and they could fix it today. They could just go back and re-do the budget which is what 74% of the people of Australia want them to do.

Jmlst:

What if they don't back down?

Hewson:

What the Greens?

Jmlst:

The Government.

Hewson:

Well the Government is showing no capacity to handle the situation at all, I mean they are just drifting from one day to the next. I don't know how many statements we've had from Mr Dawkins, how many assurances we've had from the Prime Minister and Mr Dawkins that the budget will go through, it won't be changed, the bills won't be split, then we find changes, we find them trying to deal with the Democrats, we find them trying to deal with the Greens, we find them trying to deal with the wine industry,

all of that so far has come to naught because they haven't shown any clear sense of direction. The people of Australia do not want this budget. It's introducing taxes for which the Government has no mandate and it doesn't do anything to solve our economic problems. In fact in nearly all cases it makes those problems worse. In those circumstances it's the Government's problem and the Government ought to get

back and do its budget properly which is really the message we're all trying to give

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to them. We're voicing the anger and the concern and the feeling of betrayal and the feeling of disappointment of the people of Australia and the Government ought to listen and go back and do it properly.

Jmlst:

Are you confident you can force them to another backdown?

Hewson:

Well we are just, we haven't moved, I mean I announced our position in my reply to the budget that we would oppose four taxes, we are going to oppose those four taxes whichever way the Government tries to introduce them. They have no mandate, and we're going to stay there and it's for the other players in the game now to determine where they stand on some of those issues but as I say, it seems everyone is

universally opposed to the wine tax. They ought to do the right thing now and drop that, but you know the other issues will take their course in the Senate. Some of them are going to committees to be heard, I know the tourism industry is worried about the FBT, they want a hearing. I know the credit unions are worried about the tax increase there, they want a hearing. The Government's going to have to defend its position. And that's how it should be in a democratic system.

Jmlst:

Are you confident that you can force them to another backdown?

Hewson:

It's not a question of me being confident. I'm just not moving. We have clearly stated our position on behalf of the people of Australia. That's what they want us to do and as long as we stand there the Government ought to listen I think because I mean they ought to go back and re-do this budget. And they are wasting time, they are the ones who are delaying it, they are the ones who've been grossly irresponsible and any

attempt to intimidate the Greens or the Democrats or us, is just an attempt to distract attention from where the blame really lies. Keating, Dawkins have stuffed it again.

Jmlst:

Some commentators are talking about the threat of a double dissolution ... how likely do you think that is?

Hewson:

Look I can't imagine this Government will go to an election in current circumstances. I just could not imagine it. If they do I would love it.