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Fremantle, 21 September, 1998: doorstop interview [election]



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Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business

Leader of the House of Representatives

 

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

 

 

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, FREMANTLE, 21 SEPTEMBER 1998

 

 

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………….

 

REITH

 

……will in fact decide the 1998 election or there is a strong prospect that that will be the result In those circumstances people need to think very carefully about their vote, and they do need to think very carefully that if their vote is a protest vote, it will end up as a Vote for the Labor Party and could actually put the Labor Party into office. If that is the outcome, the Labor Party will immediately scrap the work-for-the-dole scheme.

 

The work-for-the-dole scheme has been a good scheme for young people, giving them a chance for a job and some experience and it’s based on a good principle, the principle of mutual obligation. If Labor is re-elected on 3 October, in a repeat of what happened in 1993 when they lied about The reform all through the election and then, after the election, put up the existing hidden wholesale sales tax, the secret GST, we could have exactly a repeat of the 1993 experience after the 1998 election. That could also lead to much higher interest rates. One of the great achievements of this Government is to get interest rates down for an average family with an average mortgage — that’s been a saving of $320 a month, which is big money after tax, a significant benefit for Australian families. That is all at risk on 3 October if Labor is able to scrape home in front over the line on 3 October.

 

It also means for small business Labor would introduce its retrospective capital gains tax, so that as from 1 January 1999, only 80-plus days away, the small business community will have a huge new retrospective tax imposed on them, which will sap the incentive and the motivation out of the small business community, and that can only mean less jobs in the future. So it is a very tight fight and a lot is at stake. For the future of this country I think it is very important that we go ahead confident way to strengthen the Australian economy, protect jobs and create jobs. If people vote for Labor they will be voting for a return to the past of higher interest rates, higher unemployment and a whole lot of handouts to special, elite groups that the Labor Party always favour when Labor is in office.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Reith, have the last two weeks of the campaign come down to a scare campaign? Labor about the GST and you now today about higher interest rates and high unemployment and economic management?

 

REITH:

 

Well, the higher interest rates and higher unemployment are simply a reflection of what actually happened when Labor was in office. When Labor was in office Australia had the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is it a scare campaign?

 

REITH:

 

There is no doubt that Labor is in the throes of bringing to a crescendo the biggest scare campaign in the history of Australian politics, even though they themselves must know in their heart of hearts that, if Labor is re-elected, they will put up taxes, they will not provide the benefits, and unemployment will increase.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think the campaign is more negative than 1993?

 

REITH:

 

I don’t think there is any doubt that the Labor Party has taken its 1993 campaign, doubled it and tripled it, and will run it very hard in the next 13 days. And I remember vividly what happened after the 1993 election. They were opposed to a GST black and blue, and after the election they brought out their plans to increase the wholesale sales tax. They will do exactly the same thing if they are re-elected and all their denials and all their ducking and weaving should never obliterate the fact that after the 1993 election campaign the Labor Party, instead of being opposed to a GST, they had their own version of it in the bottom drawer.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

You say it is going to be a close run thing. Give the majority that the Coalition is taking into the contest, is a close win for the Coalition a loss for John Howard’s federal future?

 

REITH:

 

Let’s worry about everybody’s political future after 3 October. What is at stake on 3 October is the future direction of this country, and John Howard said it very well when he said yesterday that this is a call for the future of this country. You can either go forward or you can go back, and we are telling people honestly what needs to be done. The Labor Party, as usual, are just running a scare campaign against a proposition that leading members of the Labor Party have in the past themselves publicly supported.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

A handful of votes and a handful of seats. Is it really that close?

 

REITH:

 

I think it could easily come down to being that close. I think every vote is going to count and people who are, for example, in Western Australia thinking of voting for One Nation need to understand that a vote for One Nation will be a vote for the Labor Party, exactly as it was in the Queensland election when the One Nation and protest votes put Labor into office and federally that means scrapping of the work-for-the-dole, higher interest rates and a retrospective capital gains tax on the small community and retirees, who thought that their assets were safe but will find themselves ringing the valuers after 3 October if Labor gets back in.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

We’ve got news today that P&O Ports has cancelled agreements with the MUA. Does the Government support this or were you advocating this move prior to decision?

 

REITH:

 

Well, it’s entirely a matter for them what they…….

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Where do you think it’s heading?

 

REITH:

 

Obviously what we want to see is higher productivity within the P&O operations. The preliminary reports from last week at Patricks were that, with nearly half the workers, productivity was up 30 or 40 per cent. But look, the real issue today is Labor’s retrospective capital gains tax, scrapping the work-for-the-dole and, just for good measure, the clear statements and signals coming from Simon Crean that, if Labor is re-elected, he will contest the Deputy Leadership of the Labor Party. They are running a silent, secret leadership campaign, even during this election, which is again evidence of the real problems within the Labor camp.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

All Labor positions are spilled anyway after an election, isn’t that the case?

 

REITH:

 

Well, formality is one thing but running a campaign against Gareth Evans is another. And the fact is that Kim Beazley’s seat is in contest and the credibility of Gareth Evans as Treasurer is obviously a major worry within the Labor Party, and I think many Australians would be asking what sort of Treasurer would Gareth Evans be if Labor is elected on 3 October, with their policies of higher interest rates and retrospective capital gains tax. I don’t think he’d be a good Treasurer.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Why do you think it’s so close, Mr Reith?

 

REITH:

 

Well, because there are a lot of issues and because scare campaigns have got a history in this country of picking up some support. There will be some people who believe the scare campaign. That is absolutely the case.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

You’ve got your own, haven’t you?

 

REITH:

 

I don’t think it’s a scare campaign to say people will be adversely affected by a capital gains tax which is retrospectively imposed on pre-1985 assets. The Labor Party itself has said that, whilst they won’t give you a calculation as to the revenue, they will say and the document specifically cites the fact - that billions of dollars of assets will be brought into the capital gains tax net. I think it’s a very adverse prospect for the small business community but I don’t put that statement in the same class as the statements the Labor Party has been making about GST. They would have you believe that everything is going to go up by 10 percent. Now that is simply not true. That is a scare campaign because it doesn’t tell people honestly what the Coalition’s proposals are. Under us a lot of things are actually going to come down in price. You’ve never heard Kim Beazley say that and he won’t say that because he wants to run a scare campaign based on fabrications, misinformation and the idea of scaring the living daylights out of people. That is his alternative. The country is desperate for a plan and his plan is to run a scare campaign.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But the Democrats don’t want a GST on food. They obviously see problems. Is that a scare campaign as well?

 

REITH:

 

I think the Democrats, in fairness to them - they have a point of view but they’ve been pretty straight up and down about that. We obviously don’t agree with them and we think that it’s an odd democratic principle for them to contest the mandate that a Government will achieve in an election by saying you know, we reserve the right to tear up your mandate. It’s not their mandate, it’s the people’s mandate, and in a democracy a duly elected Government is entitled to implement its policies. The whole idea of the Democrats originally was that, whatever your policies were at the election, they’d keep the bastards honest. Now what they’re saying is, we don’t care what you promise, we will tear up your promises if it suits our political interests. And I don’t think that’s a good principle.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Mr Reith, is the GST going to cost you the election? Is that what you’re concerned about today?

 

REITH:

 

What I’m saying is that this is going to be a tight run thing and there could be, on Saturday night, 3 October, there might be a few votes in it in a handful of seats. And in those circumstances every vote counts and people need to think carefully that the re-election of a Government, a Labor Government, means a retrospective capital gains tax on small business and retirees, higher interest rates, pandering to special interest groups which the Labor Party did when they were in office. They would probably loosen up in the administration of social security, where we've done a good job in clamping down on fraud, and they’d scrap the work-for-the-dole scheme. And people need to focus on that.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What does it say about the first term in Government when the Coalition had what most analysts saw as an eight-year majority and it’s been whittled down to a handful of votes?

 

REITH:

 

You have a greater opinion of analysts than I do.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What about the MUA outside. What’s your reaction to their protest?

 

REITH:

 

Good Morning.

 

 

For further information contact Ian Hanke: 0419 484 095

Telephone:    (02) 6277 7320    Fax    (02) 6273 4115

 

 

 

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