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Whyalla, SA, 19 January 2000: transcript of doorstop [aviation fuel, GST, BHP jobs, MP privacy]



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Media Release

 

John Anderson

Acting Prime Minister

Minister for Transport and Regional Services

Leader of the National Party

 

TRANSCRIPT

Acting Prime Minister John Anderson

Doorstop Interview, Whyalla, SA

19th January 2000

 

 

SUBJECTS: Aviation fuel, GST , BHP jobs, MP privacy.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Anderson, firstly regarding avgas. The results that came through last night.. .You’re disappointed with that?

 

ANDERSON:

 

I’m very pleased that Mobil has stepped up to the mark in terms of their willingness to help. But I am of course disappointed that the test has now been delayed. We respect Professor Trimm absolutely in terms of his professionalism. We don’t want to get this wrong. The consequences could be disastrous. But we’re all hoping that we will have an infield readily accessible, readily workable, viable test as soon as possible.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So CASA has made the right move to ground planes in the meantime?

 

ANDERSON:

 

I don’t think there’s any doubt that we can’t afford to run risks.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Has the Government considered a compensation package at all from its point of view?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Oh look, the fact of the matter is that we see this as having resulted from a problem at Mobil.

Mobil delivered the fuel. That’s not in dispute. Mobil stepped up to the mark and I think that is a

good thing.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Any moves to prevent further job losses or to help the industry in any way?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Well at this point in time it’s effectively been covered by consultations between Mobil and the industry, and I think that’s [inaudible]. And I welcome cash start to flow quite quickly suffering very badly affected operators and to the people that they employ and I think that will be very welcome.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Given the victim’s going to be laid low and grounded for a lot longer time than thought, should Mobil come up with more compensation to cover this new problem?

 

ANDERSON:

 

I don’t believe that Mobil has and will close the door on further negotiations. Obviously our objective is to keep the problem time scale down as much as possible. But that can only be done consistently with safety and I see no reason to believe that either Mobil would not continue to work this issue through, or on the other hand retreat from its position which is quite clear that people’s options are still open as well. They’re not affected by the negotiations [inaudible].

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Does this new setback... will mean Mobil will have to make a more generous offer over the medium term?

 

ANDERSON:

 

I can’t comment on that. I’m not in a position to do so. I just think it’s... .[inaudible] demonstrate the principle that we want to get those planes flying again as quickly as possible. Then we face the technical problems of how to clean and rectify the problems in planes that can’t be cleared. That will be in itself a difficult issue.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

You said yesterday before this came up that you didn’t need plan B any more. Is it possible that plan B might have to come into play given the new problem?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Plan B is irrelevant because it’s been superseded now. We don’t know what circumstances will evolve as a result of the likely longer down period for some planes. But we’ll continue to work cooperatively with the industry as we’ve been doing.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Anderson, there’s been some problems raised on lay-bys and the difference to the GST. Some people say they’ll have to pay twice. Others, the poor people who do lay-bys will lose. Is there any sort of examination going on into how to cope with leases and lay-bys?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Look I think the general principle needs to be stated here that we’re getting bogged down into some details and people will be very easily able to sort out. The fact is Australia has a broken tax system. Where’s Labor’s answer on this? Where are the critics coming up with solutions to the broken tax system? The first point I’d make about lay-bys is that people are fully capable of making sensible decisions about whether they want to enter into arrangements now and take delivery of something before July the 1st, or with more money in their pockets, with big tax cuts, make purchasing decisions after the 1st of July. So this really is looking for a storm in a teacup. The fact is we re confronted here with an Opposition that has no solutions, no answers, no way forward except to defend a broken tax system that they tried to tell us was all right in 1993 and which probably resulted in them cancelling most of their proposed personal tax incomes, and increasing wholesale sales tax and fuel excise, to the great detriment of country people in particular. I just ask the question — what happened to people who entered into lay-by arrangements back in the days when they got into all of this sort of.. ..without warning increases in taxation?

 

JOURNALIST:

 

There have been problems with rounding up though haven’t there? Has the ACCC failed in providing proper guidelines for rounding up?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Look, we’ve made it plain that they will now get on with the job of ensuring that their guidelines are consistent with our policy objectives. But again, let me just say I... you know, it’s time that the critics recognise they’ve got a fundamental problem here. They’re nit-picking away at issues that can be relatively easily resolved and overlooking the fundamental issue for Australia. Our prosperity, our future employment prospects, our export performance which has now been conceded by Labor will all be enhanced. We will be better off under a better tax system and it’s about time some of the two-bob critics around the place who want to run around the place being politically and otherwise opportunistic on all of this, face the reality. It’s time we got to the 21 st century with a tax system that is going to work for this and future generations.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So has the ACCC been told to redo those guidelines? Have they failed?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Have they have not failed but they are ensuring that the guidelines when they’re issued will achieve the Government’s policy objectives.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you still working on guidelines for lay-by and leases because you know, it’s fair enough to say make a decision but I guess one of the transitional problems is people don’t know what the rules are so they can make their decision?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Look, all I’ve got to say about that is there are some technical issues that are being worked through and I’m not commenting on those in Whyalla, as I’m out in the field dealing with some real issues. We’re talking here about jobs that will be enhanced by improved taxation. And as far as I’m concerned it’s about time we started acknowledging the need to fix the system and just stop straining at gnats in a way that is serving the ends of the politically opportunistic that want to make trouble.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Joe Hockey made a mistake yesterday on the price of a bottle coke post GST. Is there any thinking in the Government about getting a disciplined sort of almost war footing strategy to get the GST message about very clearly and without confusion?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Oh look, you’ll see very clear messages from us over the remaining months prior to the introduction of the GST. And I tell you what, we’ll be clearly focusing on explaining the advantages of a new tax system, and we will be challenging the two-bob critics around the place who do nothing but strain at gnats, look for trouble, and present no alternatives for fixing our broken taxation system. That’s what it is. That’s what we’ve inherited from Labor. They want to go on defending a wholesale sales tax mess that no other country in the world that is serious about its future continues to maintain.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So you’ve completed a tour of the BHP at Whyalla today. Did the industrial unrest that BHP is going through come up at all?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Oh look, we mentioned it briefly. But the prime purpose here was to look at this installation and what it means for the people of Whyalla. It’s a very important regional centre. I’ve been here before but I haven’t seen the steel operation. It’s been very interesting. And I must say from a personal point of view it’s just fascinating to see how some of this stuff’s done and to see the raw stage material processing that leads to, you know, further down the line with the goods that we all enjoy and use everyday.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

And the steelworks is being divested and some residents are concerned particularly with the industrial unrest happening, that their jobs could be under threat. Was that discussed as well?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Look all I want to do is state a general principle here. None of us enjoy it when we end up at loggerheads in our community. But the benefits of a more flexible, more productive workforce are there to be seen. Prosperity levels in Australia are rising after a long period of decline, a long period of decline. Over the last couple of years they started to rise. Real wage levels are on the way up and I believe that it is important that... and we always hope it can be done constructively. No one enjoys it when talks break down. But it is very important that we do continue to move, in the interests of employers and employees, towards a more flexible industrial relations workplace environment.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So no comment on the heated clashes last night where police had to use batons to remove some of the protestors at Pilbara?

 

ANDERSON:

 

Not over and above what I’ve already said, no.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Just quickly, on the fall out from your comment today regarding the personal lives of MPs. Do you still stand my those comments [inaudible]

 

ANDERSON:

 

Look, could I just make it absolutely plain that this whole story seems to be based around the idea that I’m offering some warning to my fellow Nation al Party MPs and members. I’ve not done so, I see no need to do so. I’m not about to. But I do make this point that I think it’s important as I apply it to me, for me to try and set appropriate standards. We’re all human. When we stumble it’s important that we pick ourselves up and make a clean breast of it and move on. I think the Australian people do feel quite strongly that that’s important.

 

 

dd  2000-01-21  10:45