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 24/11/99

Transcript No. 99/90

TRANSCRIPT OF

The Hon Peter Costello MP

TREASURER

Doorstop Interview

Wednesday, 24 November 1999

7.30 am

SUBJECT: Business Tax

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello what’s been agreed to with the Labor Party tonight and how did that happen?

TREASURER:

Well the Labor Party, as I understand it, has agreed to pass the Government’s business tax reform in its entirety. That means that company tax cuts, trade-offs in relation to depreciation, capital gains tax, and changes in relation to indexation, there’ll be changes in relation to integrity measures, the Labor Party has indicated that it is going to support the Government’s legislation. That means the legislation should go through the Senate, the first tranche of the legislation should go through the Senate, I hope as early as next week.

JOURNALIST:

Would you have preferred to do a deal with the Democrats on this?

TREASURER:

Well, the Government wants to reform the business taxation system and we believe that we can do that if the legislation passes through the Parliament and if the Labor Party wants to vote for the legislation that’s a good thing. We just want to get a better taxation system and a better taxation system in this country can only be accomplished if the Senate passes legislation, the Government’s legislation. Now, who passes it, is a subsidiary question. The important thing is whether or not it’s passed.

JOURNALIST:

Were you negotiating with the Democrats at all on this?

TREASURER:

I’ve been negotiating very constructively with the Democrats throughout the course of the week and we continued our discussions tonight. At the same time the Labor Party today indicated that on three conditions it would pass the Government’s legislation intact. We met all of those conditions. And given that the Labor Party, as I understand it, is in the position now where it’s obliged by the terms of its own offer to pass the Government’s business taxation reform in its entirety. Look, business taxation reform is something that’s eluded this country for 50 years. The Government sat down in a very measured way to reform the business tax system. We appointed an inquiry. The inquiry consulted. The inquiry came up with recommendations. The Government accepted them. The Government’s turned them into legislation. The Government’s putting them into the Parliament. And this is just one of these issues where it’s in the national interest for business taxation reform to be accomplished and who votes for it is not the question. The question is whether it’s accomplished.

JOURNALIST:

Do those changes improve the package?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t believe that the Labor Party is insisting on any changes.

JOURNALIST:

How do you feel about the result? Did you imagine you’d get such an easy ride?

TREASURER:

Oh, look, I wouldn’t call this an easy ride. This has been long, complicated, difficult. But if the legislation passes, and I have every reason to believe it will, it will be a great thing for Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer you can’t say at the same time you’ve given no ground and it’s not been an easy ride.

TREASURER:

Well as I understand it the Labor Party is now indicating it will pass the Government’s legislation in toto. We welcome that.

JOURNALIST:

Did you expect that though in the beginning? Could you have imagined …

TREASURER:

Well I thought that if the Labor Party was genuinely interested in real reform it would. Yes. Yes, of course I did. We wouldn’t have put this legislation up if it wasn’t good legislation to reform the business taxation system.

JOURNALIST:

So is this the end of the Coalition/Democrats honeymoon in terms of doing deals on Government legislation?

TREASURER:

No, no, no, this is a very durable marriage. These things don’t end at the end of the honeymoon.

JOURNALIST:

Is this bigamy Mr Costello then?

TREASURER:

No, no, no we’re just friends with as many people as we possibly can.

JOURNALIST:

Adultery?

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

TREASURER:

Look, let me tell you how the Government approaches things. The Government sits down and it tries to work on big reforms for Australia and it puts legislation into the Parliament and it asks the Parliament to enact them. And if the Parliament enacts them that’s good for Australia. And it will be a good business taxation system. We don’t sit down and say it will only be good reform if this one or this one or the other one go through. The Government seeks to legislate through the Parliament what is in the national interest. And if the Senate says that it’s going to accept that and legislate, we welcome it. We welcome it. Now what’s the good thing about this: we can reduce company taxes, change depreciation arrangements, reduce capital gains taxes, simplify capital gains treatment, we can make Australia a competitive base for this region, we can create more jobs, we can have a higher standard of living as a consequence of all of that, and that’s a good thing for the Senate.

JOURNALIST:

Is it a better deal for business given that the Democrats were calling on you to slash the capital gains tax cuts?

TREASURER:

I think the Democrats were negotiating constructively and I mean they might still vote for the package in the Senate. I hope they do. I’d like to see this go through the Parliament unanimously. What a great day for Australia, wouldn’t it be, you know after …

JOURNALIST:

Did you meet with the Democrats this evening?

TREASURER:

Yes, I met with the Democrats this evening.

JOURNALIST:

So, did you meet them at six and then found out afterwards that Labor had agreed that a deal had been done?

TREASURER:

Labor put an offer to me at 12 o’clock today which I accepted. I accepted it. Labor then had to consider whether or not it would accept its own offer. And since there was a lot of doubt in their minds as to whether they would accept their own offer, the Democrats wanted to go ahead with the meeting so I could negotiate with them.

JOURNALIST:

So when did Labor get back to you to let you know that they’d accepted that?

TREASURER:

I think they’re on the phone at the moment.

Ends