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Transcript of doorstop interview: Kalgoolie, WA: 30 April 1991: Visit to the gold fields; gold tax; Government announcement on AWC



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Leader of the Opposition

TRANSCRIPT OF DR JOHN HEWSON, MP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, KALGOORLIE TUESDAY 30 APRIL, 1991

E & EO PROOF COPY ONLY

Subjects: visit to the gold fields; gold tax; Government announcement on A W C .

JOURNALIST:

Dr Hewson what's the reason for the visit to the Gold Fields?

Well, ever since I became Leader I've been going around Australia seeing as many issues or areas first hand as I can. Mining is a big income earner in Australia and I've progressively been

going to a number of mining sites, going down mines, talking to miners, talking to workers, getting first hand knowledge of the problems and the issues. This is my fist time to Kalgoorlie in any meaningful sense.

JOURNALIST:

What are some of the issues you've recognised just from your visit today?

Well I focused a bit on exploration because I think one of the big things for the mining industry in the future is ensuring that there is an effective process of exploration and the nature of the market for a lot of minerals has changed dramatically in

recent years and I wanted to see whether there was a sufficient incentive for exploration, how the technology had changed, what processes are being perused. So that's been a principle focus, although just getting a first hand experience on mining in

Kalgoorlie and the way the nature of gold mining in this area has changed has been very important too.

JOURNALIST:

What of that gold tax? Many of the people in the area are saying that that's been the biggest crusher for exploration in the area.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022

HEWSON:

HEWSON:

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HEWSON:

I don't think there is any doubt that we should have a gold tax. I think it was a long standing anomaly in the tax law that there was an exemption for the gold mining industry. But what you've had is a period of adjustment. I think that’s what people are

feeling. You can’t necessarily conclude that the industry doesn't have a bright future. And certainly looking at the nature of the investments that are being made and the work that' s being done the companies that I spoke to seem pretty enthusiastic

in the medium term, even though there has been a short term

problem from their point of view. I think most of them,

realistically, accept the fact that there ought to be a gold tax.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think could be put in place to maybe give that

incentive for exploration?

HEWSON:

Well I don't think we have to do anything particularly for the industry. I think a lot of the industries problems are

associated really with the same problems that bedevil the rest of the economy. Waterfront has been inefficient, transportation costs, the exchange rate has been held above its long run

uncompetitive level, that's been a major disadvantage to an industry like this one. Those sorts of factors, labour market relations, opportunity to move to an enterprise based industrial relations system - they're the key changes that've got to be made. They are the same for this industry or for any other

industry in Australia at the present time.

JOURNALIST:

Now,, what of today, the announcement about the AWC by the

Government. How has the Opposition met with that?

HEWSON:

Well, I haven't read the detail of it yet. We put down a very

detailed wool policy a few weeks ago and I gather that some of the elements in what the Government has done is similar, although they seem to be favouring a higher levy on woolgrowers than we though*would need to apply. We put some specific proposals in place to reduce that levy, including a slaughter scheme,

including some run down of reserves, the sale of assets of the Wool Corporation and we're optimistic that the market would improve for wool and that those sets of factors together would

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see a situation where the levy could be quite a lot lower than the Government has in mind. I accept the important role that has got to be played by the Industry, itself, to ensure that debt is repaid and that's the part of the Government's proposal that we need to scrutinise. Yet, I gather they have a set schedule of debt repayment over a seven year period and I will be interested

to see how they intend to achieve that.

JOURNALIST:

What of that 15% levy that they have set, will that crush many farmers?

HEWSON:

Well the vines Committee report, I think as I recall it,

suggested that a 12% levy would send about 25% of growers broke. I haven't had a chance to see the nature of the Government's 15% levy. Clearly the judgement has to be made about the levy of a fair sharing of burden, if you like, between the industry and the rest of Australia and you want to make sure that the industry accepts the problem that it has substantially created and puts in place policies to deal with it. Now we thought that was

possible with a lower levy. The Government doesn't seem to agree with that, so we need to look at the precise difference between ourselves and them. But as far as I am concerned it is principly an industry problem. We only monitor the levy from the point of view of ensuring that it doesn't get to a level which becomes untenable looking at the future of the industry. Now, I don't

know, standing here, whether it is 12 or 15 or where it is and we need to look at that. As far as the detail goes, we have got to wait to we see the Government's legislation to see precisely what they have in mind. We will put a detailed response to that

legislation as soon as we see it.

JOURNALIST:

Dr Hewson, thank you very much.

HEWSON:

Thank yo u .