Victorian election; tax cuts; private health insurance rebate, pensions

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December 3, 2002

Victorian election; tax cuts; private health insurance rebate, pensions


Treasury Place Gardens, Melbourne
Sunday, 1 December 2002

SUBJECTS: Victorian election; tax cuts; private health insurance rebate,



First of all let me make some remarks about the Victorian election which has

been resoundingly won by Mr Bracks, and I congratulate the Labor Government

on its re-election.

To the Liberal Members of Parliament that lost their seats, obviously this

will be a huge disappointment to them and to their friends and supporters, and

to the Party organisation. And it is very important that we sit down and we

have a `no-holds-barred’ analysis of this outcome. I will be recommending that

such an analysis be conducted by someone like Lynton Crosby, the previous Federal

Director, to look at all aspects – the Parliamentary Party, the policy and the

organisation. I have spoken to a good number of my fellow Victorian colleagues

this morning. We will next have in Victoria a Federal election in two years.

And the Federal Members want to know that the organisation is in top shape to

fight that election. And they have an interest in ensuring that the organisation

is able to mount a strong campaign and so we will be making some recommendations

as to how to improve the organisation. I think it is important that we bring

into the Party, officials, the best and talented people that are available,

and that we ensure that the Party takes from this very heavy defeat the opportunity

to renew itself. And that is what we will be recommending to the Party organisation.

I know the organisation and the Members want to see a very efficient organisation

so that we are best placed to get the Liberal Party message back on track, particularly

in the next election which will be a Federal election.


Who or what do you blame for the thorough drubbing the Liberal Party got last



I think it was a combination of factors. The first thing is I think that we

did not take the lesson of the last State election. There was a view around

that somehow it was an accidental loss, and all we had to do at the State level

was to sit around and wait for it to be reversed. And I think three years were

lost, three years that should have been spent building policy and building a

campaign message. I think that was very, very important and from that it was

important that we get a co-ordinated and concerted attack on the Bracks Government

and why Victoria needed to replace it. And that is something that you can only

do over a long Parliamentary term. You don’t fatten the pig on market day. You

work it up over a Parliamentary term, and so not making the right analysis at

the last election and not making the changes that were required over the last

three years, I think it cost the State Parliamentary Liberal Party quite dearly.


What about Robert Doyle, do you think he should hold some responsibility?


I think Robert Doyle, for somebody who became leader 10 weeks before the State

election, did everything that could have been asked of him. There is no doubt

about that. But you have got to remember this, that in 10 weeks you can’t make

up for three years, and in politics it is the whole of the Parliamentary term

where you have to criticise those weaknesses and failings and make them plain

that the incumbent Government has engaged in, and then you have got to put forward

a strong alternative.


Do you think the campaign was partly to blame because there has been some suggestion

that the campaign wasn’t very cogent, or coherent campaign?


Well, this is the point about a campaign. A campaign feeds off the weaknesses

of your opponent and your own strengths. And it is through the Parliamentary

term that you make known the weaknesses of your political opponents and you

demonstrate your own strength. If you let three years slip by without doing

that, sure you can try and make it up in the campaign, but you are starting

from a long way behind. You start for the first three years, you don’t run for

the last three weeks. That is the message. Now, let’s look at this defeat, it

is a plain, it is a very big defeat, and there is no grounds for complacency

here. And the Parliamentary Party, if it wants to re-build, has got to start

re-building right throughout the term. It has got to start re-building now.

And we have got to ensure that the Parliamentary team is focussed, the message

is concise, that the organisation is supporting it with the best people, and

then you build a campaign from that.


Has the big defeat harmed Brian Loughnane’s chances of taking a position in

Canberra as Federal Director?


The point that I make is this, that at the end of the day your campaign director

reports to the Party office bearers who set the strategy in conjunction with

the Parliamentary Party. There is no substitute for the hard work of the Parliamentary

Party in the Parliament week after week, month after month, year after year.

That sets the ground for your election campaign. Now your campaign director

can take that ground work and they can amplify the strength and they can amplify

the weaknesses. But your campaign director can not build the foundations during

a campaign if they haven’t been built during the Parliamentary term, and that

is a fact.


Can I turn to a couple of Federal issues. The Prime Minister, this morning,

has flagged tax cuts. Do you think the Budget, that that is a wise thing to

do considering the Budget pressures from the War on Terror and border protection?


Well, the situation is that if Australia is able to give the assistance to

our farmers that they deserve in this drought, if Australia is able to fund

the defence and the security pressures which we know are coming from the War

on Terror, and if the drought is to break, and if you were to restrain spending

in other areas and you had the wherewithal, of course our preference is always

to return some of the benefits from all of that to taxpayers. Now that is our

preference. But you have got to first go through all of the challenges that

we are currently facing, as the Prime Minister made – the drought, war, terror

– before we get to that particular state.


So maybe he has jumped the gun a bit?


I don’t think he has jumped the gun. He made all those points that after we

have provided assistance to the farmers, and after the drought has broken and

after we have met the defence pressures and the War on Terror, and if our economy

is still growing strongly, and if you had the opportunity what would you like

to do with it? Well, we like to give people the benefits on the tax side, that

is what we like to do. But the Labor Party obviously does not and that is why

Mr Crean, this morning, is threatening to take away the private heath insurance

rebate. Now that is a tax cut, the private health insurance rebate, it is a

tax cut to give people 30 per cent back on their private health insurance. Mr

Crean is obviously softening up the electorate to take it away. Now, imagine

how your private health insurance premium will rise if the Labor Party takes

away the 30 per cent rebate. The premiums could be rising seven, eight hundred



And on another issue, is the Federal Government considering lifting the retirement

age to 70?


This apparently was some article by somebody who was temporarily employed in

the Finance Department, and I don’t know who it was and it certainly hasn’t

reached my eyes or my ears, or that of the Finance Minister, so that has no

official status.


Well, it would lift pressure on superannuation schemes, wouldn’t it?


Well, it has no official status.


Is it something you would consider?


No. It is not something we are considering, it has no official status.

Okay, thanks.