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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop interview, 7 February 2001: BAS, petrol, Mal Brough, Bob Katter private member's bill, interest rates, Israel election.

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Kim Beazley - Doorstop Interview Subjects: BAS, Petrol, Mal Brough, Bob Katter Private Member's Bill, Interest Rates, Israel Election

Transcript - Parliament House, Canberra - 7 February 2001

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BEAZLEY: When is John Howard going to stand up to Peter Costello and when are we going to hear from him on the BAS statement? He was out there on the day of his Party meeting saying, 'fellas, we're going fix it up'. And then Mr Costello cut loose yesterday, hosing down expectations from the Prime Minister's position.

Now, the Labor Party has put forward a constructive suggestion - an easy to implement suggestion.

But Mr Costello could not even bring himself to endorse that as a basis for further consideration yesterday - could not even bring himself to do that. It is almost as though on this matter of rolling back the GST in the simplification area, taking that step back, this fellow has to be effectively potty trained at gunpoint. And that's what his backbench seems to be trying to do to him.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, isn't it better, though, doesn't Mr Costello have a point that it's better, rather than rushing in, to actually wait and get the change done right?

BEAZLEY: This is a change that you can foreshadow immediately. There's no big problem with it at all as has been amply indicated by the small business organisations who've commented on it so far. It is a change, it's a big change, but it's a simple change. It's one that, as I said, is definitely within the category of the simplification element of rollback. And it can be done. And what we have said is: do it - announce that you will do it. And we have also said there are other things, obviously, that you can do, but let's get a decent consultation process in place for that, which we have - the Labor Party has put up a committee to do precisely that.

JOURNALIST: So, you're confident there would be no concerns about opening up to perhaps rorting of the system? Are you confident that every single element has been looked at before you can announce it.

BEAZLEY: Absolutely. Because, at the end of the day, there is one statement annually that goes full-blown to an assessment of the obligation of the particular business that is submitting the BAS. It's not a problem from that point of view. And at that point, if there has been any under or over payment in the course of the previous three submissions, it gets rationalised. So, it's not a problem, it is something that can be done. And with Costello to say it now it would give hope to those poor people who are organising those businesses who once every three months have their lives turned into hell, are having to experience four times the cost of their accountancy processes that they've been experiencing before this GST came in. There's an absolute obligation on Costello. Everything about the GST has been proved to be a lie - "it wouldn't affect petrol prices" - for a start, it wouldn't "never, ever" of course, but then it "wouldn't affect petrol prices". "It would be easy and simple for business". There would be "growth in

the economy" as a result of it. I mean, everything has been a lie.

We've now seen that these are mess artists when it comes to economic management. But it's time their mess got fixed up. The Labor Party has put forward a constructive rollback suggestion - they should just get on with it.

JOURNALIST: Is that the extent of Labor's plan to simplify the BAS?

BEAZLEY: No. As we made amply clear yesterday, this is a big step, it's a big proposition to move from four reports to, effectively, one. But that's not the end of it. What we want to do is to consult now with small business on other changes that can be made to the way in which this tax system operates. So, we put in place a committee that follows on from our highly successful petrol price committee and we would anticipate from them a number of suggestions emerging. But this is a big suggestion, as amply demonstrated by the response of the various organisations. And it's something the Government can get on with.

JOURNALIST: When do you expect to announce the other changes that you might…BAS?

BEAZLEY: The committee will start its work and its consultation immediately and we look on it as very much an ongoing process, just as the petrol committee has produced one interim report, one set of suggestions which we're now pursuing - with some degree of success in the Parliament, I might say, with some degree of success on petrol. But it is also, if you like continuing in place and that will be the case of the small business committee. We'll keep coming out with constructive suggestions.

JOURNALIST: In Parliament yesterday it didn't seem like any of those nine members were going to support your Private Member's Bill.

BEAZLEY: It was a good start. A successful ambush in holding this Government to account on its promises in petrol. And what appeared to be a number of abstentions plus the carriage of a good resolution in the Senate. This is not a bad start in the process of holding those Members who've said they want agree with the Labor Party on freezing this last petrol increase, a good start on getting it in place.

JOURNALIST: New allegations have been made against Mal Brough. Do you know that those allegations involve?

BEAZLEY: Yes, I do. But they are matters of a police investigation at the moment. And I see Senator Faulkner, who referred the matter to the police, has declined to comment on it, and that should be my position as well.

JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed that Jackie Kelly hasn't also been called…

BEAZLEY: I'm surprised. Others have been invited to appear. But I would have thought, after the contradictory evidence given by her staffer to what she had had to say in Parliament, there'd have been enthusiasm on the part of the committee to hear from Jackie Kelly. But understand something about this committee, this is operating in very kangaroo court fashion. This fellow Pyne, who is running this committee, has overthrown all its bipartisan characteristics in which it's operated in examining the Electoral Act up to this point. It's become a partisan witch-hunt. And every now and then they're forced back by the underlying evidence to grudgingly the majority of that committee, grudgingly to try and come to some sort of fairness in relation to it. But, I've got to tell you, we don't set great store by it.

JOURNALIST: Are the weight of these new allegations serious enough to prevent Mr Brough taking up a position in the Ministry.

BEAZLEY: We shall just have to see.

JOURNALIST: Do you think these new allegations reflect that the Liberal Party may have a similar problem in Queensland that the Labor Party has just resolved?

BEAZLEY: Not these particular allegations. The totality of the rorting of the Liberal Party in Queensland has been out there singing and dancing for everyone to see in the Ryan preselection. And that is not dealt with inside the Liberal Party. What these allegations do suggest is that the question of altering the electoral role, or falsely enrolling is a problem that the Liberal Party has engaged in - and it's not just this particular situation in Mr Brough's office, it was also the situation with Ms Kelly's office. And what was a historical problem for the Labor Party, if you take a look at the Shepherdson inquiry, it deals with events in the mid-90s, is a contemporary problem in the Liberal Party. That allegations in relation to Ms Kelly's office and Mr Brough's office relate to the last election.

JOURNALIST: We're just over an hour away from hearing results from the Reserve Bank's position on interest rates. What do you think should be done…

BEAZLEY: I anticipate a substantial lowering of interest rates. And while that is to be welcomed, I don't think it will be, as it has been in the past, necessarily unalloyed joy. Because what it will reflect is the consequence of this Government's economic mismanagement. What it will reflect is the fact that the Reserve Bank had to raise interest rates quite substantially last year to over come what it anticipated would be the price effect, or the inflationary effect of the GST - a home grown problem that had to be dealt with, in their minds, aside from the underpinning realities of the Australian economy. So, that's the first thing. And the second thing is, it reflects further now the Reserve Bank's estimate of what's happening with growth in the Australian economy, again, directly a product of the collapse of business and consumer confidence in the face of a GST on anything that's happening externally.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Bob Katter's Private Member's Bill…to stop the automatic rise in petrol excise….any rises in petrol excise has to go into rural and regional infrastructure.

BEAZLEY: Bob Katter has got a real opportunity to stop this rise. And we'll provide him with ample opportunity to express his views on that.

JOURNALIST: Just to international affairs, do you have any concerns over early results from Israel showing Areil Sharon might be the likely leader?

BEAZLEY: It does seem Mr Barak has lost the election from the early reporting. And what I'd say about that is that, as a co-Labor Party leader, I'm deeply sorry if that's occurred. Mr Barak is a man of peace. And whatever tactical errors, and there are some that are alleged in regard to his seeking peace, any tactical errors he's made, there is no doubt that what he was trying to do was a good thing, a good thing for the area and a good thing for the world. And I am politically and personally sorry at his demise.


Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.