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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 29 August 2008: RTD tax revenue; privatisation; Peter Costello.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

29 August 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP, DOORSTOP INTERVIEW SYDNEY

Subjects: RTD tax revenue; privatisation; Peter Costello.

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………......

DR NELSON:

Well we’re opposed to Mr Rudd’s tax binge, the $3 billion to be raised by a 70 per cent increase in the excise on ready-to-drinks over the next five years. We’re opposed to the tax binge on ready-to-drinks because it will actually make alcohol abuse worse by pushing Australians and young people in particular away from a measured dose of alcohol into large full bottles of spirits and hip flasks. And what’s happened, and if Mr Rudd spent a little bit of time in Australia and got out to the pubs and the bottlos, you just ask any person selling alcohol today, and they’ll tell you, the ready-to-drinks are basically staying on the shelf and the full bottles of spirits are walking out the door, along with maybe one bottle of soft drink.

What’s important though is that we will be, and we are opposing this ready-to-drink excise increase and by the time it is opposed, if not blocked in the Senate, in the order of two to three hundred million dollars will have been collected in excise. What I will

do is have introduced into the Senate a bill which will make sure that that two to three hundred million dollars is fully placed into a fund which is independently administered to support alcohol education, prevention and treatment and other

programs. It’s very important that that money that’s already been collected actually go into addressing the problem of alcohol abuse. The education of young people and the support of rehabilitation programs around Australia.

I note that the distilled spirits and the manufactures of ready-to-drinks have said that they certainly do not want this money returned to them. It’s very important that Australians understand that we are opposed to the alcopops tax increase because it will make the problem of alcohol abuse worse by taking young people especially away from a measured dose of alcohol onto a full bottle of spirits, which is already

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happening, but importantly the money that has already been collected needs to be quarantined, it needs to be locked away from Mr Rudd and Mr Swan, and administered independently by a board which can fully fund and support alcohol education treatment and rehabilitation programs.

We will expect to introduce that bill into the Senate once it has been drafted. I have already instructed the drafters to prepare legislation along these lines and we will be very happy to negotiate with the Government and minor parties in the Senate in relation to it.

QUESTION:

What you are proposing, wasn’t it the intention of the tax [inaudible]?

DR NELSON:

Well that’s a very good point because when Mr Rudd said that there was a problem with alcohol abuse in young people and it had got worse - firstly the evidence did not support his assertion that it has got worse. The second thing is that Mr Rudd led those Australians who work in alcohol treatment and prevention to believe that the money would in fact go to them. Instead what we’ve got is $3 billion to be raised over five years in a tax binge. Not one dollar of it has been committed or is committed in any way to the support of alcohol education and treatment. And instead a couple of months ago Mr Rudd announced $53 million from general consolidated revenue. It’s very important that whilst we are opposed to this tax increase, which will be a tax binge and make the problem of alcohol abuse worse, that the money already collected should be quarantined, placed in a fund and administered by people who work in the problem areas of alcohol education and treatment to support much needed funding for programs across Australia.

Again, Mr Rudd has been seeking to mislead Australians into falsely believing that the $3 billion is going to go to alcohol treatment. It’s not.

QUESTION:

It’s interesting [inaudible] increase the drinking age to 21 or something [inaudible] young people drinking too much?

DR NELSON:

Well look, I do not support increasing the legal age for drinking from 18 to 21. The real issues that need to be addressed are cultural issues of [inaudible], the alcohol content of some of these products, also the extent to which we enforce existing laws in relation to underage drinking, and the first thing that Mr Rudd could do, for example, is that he is taking $110 million a year in taxes from underage drinkers - that $110 million a year could and should be returned and go directly to alcohol education and treatment programs that already exist. I recently convened a national forum with organisations who work in the field of alcohol education and treatment. I’m working on around 30 proposals and over the next couple of months I will announce on behalf of the Coalition what more we think can responsibly be done to

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address the problem of alcohol abuse which extends right across society. And the facts are that the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and also the King Study done by the Department of Health confirm that at-risk drinking or alcohol abuse in

young people has not increased over the last seven years. Alcohol abuse is a problem right across society and the $3 billion tax binge is only going to make the problem worse by putting young people back into the punchbowl with full bottles of spirits instead of measures doses of alcohol. And three-quarters of these products are dark rum mixes that are drunk by blokes, older blokes.

QUESTION:

Mr Nelson you’re from Sydney, you pay power bills. Would you like to have seen the generators sold off?

DR NELSON:

Well Mr Iemma’s government is in my opinion the worst government in Australia since the Whitlam Government. Barry O’Farrell has made the decision that you cannot trust Morris Iemma and the galahs that are currently governing New South Wales with the sell-off of New South Wales’s electricity assets. As Liberals as a

general principle of course we support privatisation but we do not support it in the hands of thoroughly incompetent governments. It’s a matter for Barry O’Farrell and his colleagues. They’ve made a call on this. The tragedy for people in New South

Wales is we’ve got at least another two years to wait before we can put Mr Iemma into opposition.

QUESTION:

So [inaudible] point of view that privatisation is okay so long as it’s a Liberal government that’s doing it?

DR NELSON:

Well we work on general principles and I’ve said what I’ve said. I’ve got nothing else to add.

QUESTION:

Won’t the price of power go up under privatisation [inaudible]

DR NELSON:

Well look I’m the federal leader. I’ll leave those matters specifically for Barry O’Farrell to deal with.

QUESTION:

On a federal issue [inaudible] Peter Costello is undeniably the best political asset now that Howard is gone [inaudible]

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DR NELSON:

Well look….

It’s a black hawk. [inaudible] The guys are doing a training exercise. Yeah. [inaudible] Yeah, that’s right - Morris is being evacuated from the building.

The only I have got to say is that I am attending and I will be addressing a function tonight in Melbourne in honour of the extraordinary public service to date of Peter Costello in Australia. He is a truly great Australian. We are a stronger, more prosperous and confident country as a result of Peter’s management of the economy, particularly over the last almost 12 years.

Australia was in a much better position when the Coalition government governed Australia. We are worse off under Mr Rudd than we were under the Coalition government. And Peter has made his decision that he did not seek the leadership of the party.

And, as I’ve said before, I would be very happy if he changes his mind. That’s his business.

QUESTION:

[inaudible]

DR NELSON:

Well look I’ve got nothing else to add to it.

QUESTION:

You’ve been saying for some weeks now that you expect to hear quite soon, or we expect to hear quite soon about Mr Costello’s plans. Will we expect to hear something tonight?

DR NELSON:

Well I think we’ll hear a lot of things tonight. Good things about how much better Australia was under the Coalition, under John Howard and Peter Costello, than we are under Mr Rudd. Australians today are worse off as a result of the election of Mr Rudd and Mr Swan than we were in 2007. They’re the facts and I’ll leave you with it.

Thanks very much.

[ends]

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