The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 18/08/99

Transcript No. 99/58

TRANSCRIPT

of

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP

Treasurer

Doorstop Interview

Presentation College,
Melbourne

Wednesday, 18 August 1999

3.15 pm

 

SUBJECTS: Republic, Bill Kelty, ACTU, economic growth

JOURNALIST:

What do you think of Bill Hayden actually joining the ‘no case’ today and saying, that the system that’s been proposed is a half-baked constitutional mess?

 

TREASURER:

Well the proposal that’s been put to the Australian people came out of a Constitutional Convention, where half of it was elected, the other half of it was appointed. And we had legitimate arguments at the Convention on the model. I had my own arguments. But this is what captured the support of the Convention. I’m satisfied that it preserves the best of our current Constitutional arrangements whilst renewing the symbolism. And from that point of view I think it’s a step forward whilst preserving the important Constitutional achievements of the past.

 

JOURNALIST:

You’re saying it’s a step forward, but you’ve got your reservations about it. He’s saying that it’s best just to get it right. Given that you do have reservations, could he be right?

 

TREASURER:

Look, you’ll never get 19 million people agreeing on every last dot in the Constitution. If we’d of taken this view in 1901 - vote ‘no’ to Federation until you get every clause that you agree with, we’d probably still be polling now. There are many parts of the current Constitution that I don’t personally support. But do I think people were right to Federate and to vote ‘yes’ to that Constitution? Yes I do. And this idea, that until 19 million people all get every last line they should vote ‘no’ is really a recipe for never achieving Constitutional reform.

 

JOURNALIST:

What do you think then of high profile Republicans who are planning to take the ‘no case’ in this way?

 

TREASURER:

Well look, if the referendum is defeated in November, in my view, it is a vote for Australia to be a Constitutional Monarchy and that ought to be accepted. If people are asked the question, do you want Australia to become a Republic with a President, and they say ‘no’, they are legitimately voting for Australia to continue as a Monarchy - a Constitutional Monarchy with the Queen as the Head of State. I don’t think you can interpret a ‘no’ vote differently myself.

 

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Bill Hayden’s views will be influential on this?

 

TREASURER:

Oh, I think Bill’s got interesting and good views on practically everything. It doesn’t mean I agree with all of them but I’m always interested to hear them.

 

JOURNALIST:

You made a call for the group to engage in the debate. Are you concerned at all that there isn’t enough public engagement in the debate yet?

 

TREASURER:

I think public engagement is just beginning. I think, until you’ve settled the question, until it was clear that the question was going to actually go to the vote, people were standing back and I think now they’re beginning to engage. And I would expect interest will develop over the next couple of months, and I hope it does. One way or the other, look, under our Constitution, the framers of the Constitution recognised the need for changes. They didn’t see the Constitution as a once-for-all document. They put a clause in there to facilitate change. And it can only be changed with the engagement of the Australian people, which is perfectly right and proper. And so I would hope that the Australian people start engaging, all the Australian people.

 

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned Sir William Deane, would he make a good first President?

 

TREASURER:

Well, I’m not entering into who can or can’t be President, Governor-General or anything else. If you don’t get a ‘yes’ vote you won’t have any President.

 

JOURNALIST:

On another topic, can you say what your legacy . . . the legacy Bill Kelty has been to the union movement.

 

TREASURER:

Mr Kelty, I think, tried to modernise unionism but he was unsuccessful because unionism itself, I think, was misdirected. Instead of playing a prominent role in developing the economy, I think there was far too much focus on union power. And union power is something, I think, a misuse of union power, is something that’s killed unionism. It’s not a recipe for it to survive.

 

JOURNALIST:

So what should Mr Combet be doing differently?

 

TREASURER:

Oh well, he doesn’t take his advice from me.

 

JOURNALIST:

How will the Government deal with Mr Combet?

 

TREASURER:

Well, we’ll wait to see what he’s interested in and we’ll deal appropriately. Thanks.

 

JOURNALIST:

Reserve Bank (inaudible) does that give you any surprise there?

 

TREASURER:

Well look, the Australian economy is currently growing between 4 and 5 per cent. It’s probably the fastest growth of any of the developed economies of the world. We think it’ll slow off 4 to 5. In fact, I think it will slow down to 3, so that is a slow down. But the rest of the world would look at 3 and consider that extraordinarily fast growth. Europe would look at it enviously, the Americans would look at it as confirmation of the success of their economy. A slowdown to 3 per cent is hardly even a landing. People talk about soft landing, it’s hardly even a landing. And if we can talk in Australia of slowdowns at 3 per cent, well that’s really good news for the Australian economy. You know, I was just talking earlier today, 25 years ago we were growing at 1 per cent on a 17 per cent inflation rate, so things have changed for the better I think.