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

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript No. 2001/010

Hon. Peter Costello MP
Treasurer

Interview with Kerri-Anne Kennerly, 2GB
Tuesday, 13 February 2001
12.05pm

SUBJECTS: BAS, petrol, staffers, One Nation, St Valentine’s Day

KENNERLEY:

And talk about talent that I’ve found in my studio today. Coming up right after this the Treasurer Mr Peter Costello.

And we welcome to Kerri-Anne live at midday on 2GB Mr Peter Costello. Welcome.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Kerri-Anne. Great to be with you.

KENNERLEY:

Terrific to have to you on the program. I almost caught you singing Zippidee-do-da then.

TREASURER:

I was doing that off air. You were doing it on air.

KENNERLEY:

Yeah, I know. I didn’t mean to get caught.

TREASURER:

My voice is broken.

KENNERLEY:

Oh really. But it’s a good catchy song isn’t it.

TREASURER:

It is a good song isn’t it. I hadn’t heard that version before. Is that a special one...

KENNERLEY:

No, not for me. Patty Austin did it and we liked it and we use it as the theme.

TREASURER:

The theme music. Yeah that’s great.

KENNERLEY:

Yeah it’s a bit up and... have you had a Zippidee-do-da sort of day?

TREASURER:

Not too bad. It started very early. I’ve been up since the crack of dawn. And you know we’ve got a few more things to do before we finish the day.

KENNERLEY:

Indeed you have. Well okay let’s look at the newspapers all over, it does seem that the BAS, you are going to simplify it somewhat. Can you give us any hints as to how you’re going to do that?

TREASURER:

Well we’ve got to make sure that certain people, who are coping very well with this system and have got their accounts to conform with the system, we’ve got to make sure that those people continue to have certainty. There’s another group of people that have found that the record keeping has been too great and they want simplification. We’ve put together a number of proposals for simplification. We’re going to run them past business organisations and the representatives...

KENNERLEY:

May I ask why you didn’t run the original system past the business organisations? Why did it take so long to react to obvious, to problems that people have experienced and why wasn’t it run past business organisations before?

TREASURER:

It actually was run. It was run through what they call focus groups. And they had a look at them...

KENNERLEY:

Gee, well that tells you a lot about focus groups doesn’t it.

TREASURER:

Well, it does. You know, look, you can run it through this group or that group and you’ll get all sorts of different answers, but the good thing is, now having had two returns, you have so much more experience to work off.

KENNERLEY:

So basically the focus groups were wrong?

TREASURER:

Well, you run these things past the focus groups and they say yep that’s fine or that’s straightforward, it might be straight forward to them, but when you’re talking about two million businesses, you’re always going to get different views aren’t you. The good this is we now have the returns in, from all of those businesses so we can use that experience to improve things.

KENNERLEY:

But do you believe you took a little bit too long to react to people buried in a paper war?

TREASURER:

Look when you move to a new taxation system, this is the biggest reform in Australian history. Nothing has ever been done like this in relation to tax before. You always...

KENNERLEY:

My question was reacting to, I know it’s tough...

TREASURER:

...you’re always going to have teething problems.

KENNERLEY:

Yeah.

TREASURER:

And the best way to deal with the issues is once you get the experience of the teething problems to take that experience, to analyse it and to move on which is what we intend to do.

KENNERLEY:

People are pretty angry about a lot of things but, beer and fuel. Once you start to attack beer prices, every day they will probably go and have a beer and think about you. And every week they’ll go and fill up the car and get even angrier.

TREASURER:

Well I think they’re different issues. In relation to beer. I think that the price of beer, particularly packaged beer has not moved up much at all. And, as part of tax reform we gave people income tax cuts so they’d have more money to spend if they wanted to buy beer. I think fuel, petrol is a bigger issue, if I can come to that. People are rightly concerned about the high price of petrol. I am concerned about the high price. I...

KENNERLEY:

How much does it cost you to fill up your car?

TREASURER:

Well it depends how empty it is. But...

KENNERLEY:

What do you drive...

TREASURER:

...it costs $40 or $50.

KENNERLEY:

What do you drive.

TREASURER:

I actually drive, I’ve got a 10 year old Mazda 626. I know this is humiliating to say, but my private car is something I bought 10 years ago and it’s a Mazda 626.

KENNERLEY:

Why are you embarrassed about that?

TREASURER:

Oh, because people will say what a daggy car. He’s still driving something that he bought 10 years ago.

KENNERLEY:

So how much does it cost to fill it up?

TREASURER:

Well I don’t know, in all fairness I should say I only really drive it on weekends because I’m in Canberra from Monday to Friday, and when I fill it up it’s about 40 or 50 bucks. And look it’s a very high price. And nobody likes high petrol prices. Let me...

KENNERLEY:

And we know you’re not trying to do it to be personally mean to the Australian public but at the end of the day the public’s going hang on, this is costing me a lot of money. It is hurting me and my family. They have got all this money. This financial bonanza from the GST. Are you being greedy. Because I do a show called Greed and some people might say you’re the Captain you have the power, do you want to keep all that money and share it with your mates or do you want to go on and feel the need for greed. They think you’re being greedy.

TREASURER:

Well the principle reason why the petrol price has gone up is not because of anything that has happened in Australia but because of the world oil price.

KENNERLEY:

But you know, on balance you’re getting a lot of other money from other areas. Couldn’t you just ease the burden. Wouldn’t that be fair?

TREASURER:

Well, I’ll go through that in a moment. But can I make this point, the high petrol prices, not just the high petrol price in Australia, but if you’ve seen the TV news, it ‘s in Europe where they’re having riots and Britain and France and Germany and the United States and New Zealand and Canada. And the reason why petrol has gone up all around the world, including Australia, is that the world oil price has gone up.

KENNERLEY:

But you are reaping a lot of other rewards from other areas. Couldn’t you share it ‘round?

TREASURER:

No, well...

KENNERLEY:

Are you being greedy?

TREASURER:

No. Can I say that actually what we’ve found in relation to petrol, was, as the price of petrol went up, and people cut back their consumption, revenue fell. It didn’t rise. This idea that it somehow rose - it actually fell. The petrol excise revenues actually fell. Now having said all that, it gives me no pleasure to have a high petrol prices.

KENNERLEY:

So we still go to the bowser and still pay a lot more, but people just want a break.

TREASURER:

Well of course they want a break.

KENNERLEY:

Will you give it to them?

TREASURER:

Well the thing that will give them a break, which we will leave no stone unturned in doing what we can, is getting the world oil price down. It came down, the world oil price came down in January, you might have noticed that petrol prices came down. It’s gone up again, the good news is, I think, that as we come out of the northern hemisphere winter, that the oil price will come down again and that should be reflected...

KENNERLEY:

But that’s an international concern.

TREASURER:

But that is the thing that governs the price.

KENNERLEY:

I understand...

TREASURER:

...that is the thing that moves it...

KENNERLEY:

But you’re also getting all this money from other areas. Won’t you take a little bit out of there to ease the burden in another sector.

TREASURER:

When you say in the other areas you are not getting any more out of petrol excise. We’ve introduced GST and we’ve cut income tax. And we thought that the best thing to do was to cut income taxes to give families more money to spend. And I think it’s been a good thing for families.

KENNERLEY:

Certainly in many ways. Listen there’s a story out of Canberra today that the Howard Government has reportedly sacked two staff members because one is married to a Labor candidate and the other is in a relationship with the Opposition Press Secretary. Do you know anything about the story?

TREASURER:

No, I don’t know who they are. No, I don’t. I don’t know if they’re married. I don’t know if they are having an affair.

KENNERLEY:

No, one is married to, well anyway, you’ve got two people with the Opposition and apparently they have been sacked. How do you feel about that? Whether you know them individually or personally?

TREASURER:

I don’t know who they are...

KENNERLEY:

But what is your view just generally? Would you let any of your staff date or marry someone in the Opposition?

TREASURER:

I would let my staff do whatever they wanted to do and the last thing I would want to know is what they were doing.

KENNERLEY:

So it wouldn’t bother you if your staff were sleeping with the enemy?

TREASURER:

I have no interest in knowing who my staff are sleeping with. I would never dare to ask them. I am sure if I asked any of them they’d take my head off. I mean, you know, it’s enough of a problem for me to make sure that I’m sleeping with my wife, the right person, which I am, you know.

KENNERLEY:

Okay we’re down...

TREASURER:

I try and look after myself Kerri-Anne. I don’t try and look after other people when it comes to this.

KENNERLEY:

Well it’s just that apparently if they were sacked I guess it opens up a lot of questions as to where private life and professional life starts.

TREASURER:

Look I don’t know who or ...

KENNERLEY:

Did you ever date, before you got married did you ever date anybody who had Labor Party politics?

TREASURER:

Can I just say that I don’t know who this is but I would be very, very surprised myself if an employer had said to somebody, you can’t have this job because of who you’re sleeping with and as far as I know that would never be done. It just wouldn’t be done.

KENNERLEY:

Okay, over.

As a politician you want to be re-elected which means you have got to appeal to 50 per cent of the electorate, which are women. What do you know about women?

TREASURER:

Well, my mother was a woman, my wife is a woman, my daughter is a woman...

KENNERLEY:

But, I mean women in general, are generally different. Do you ever think about what may appeal to women as opposed to men, or is it all policy driven, or do you see any difference to policies that may be manipulated or devoted to something of more of a nurturing foundation?

TREASURER:

I think that’s right. I think by and large, look everybody has different views, but I think by and large women tend to be more interested in issues like the state of the health system, the state of the education system, which you might call the nurturing type issues...

KENNERLEY:

But, you do acknowledge we are different, women are slightly different...

TREASURER:

Look, all women are different, all men are different, and different women have different views, but, yes, by and large, I think that’s fair. Women who, in our society, still are the primary care givers for children, tend to have, by and large, more interest in the health system and the education system. I think it’s very important that you do concentrate on those issues.

Look, one of the reasons, can I say this Kerri-Anne? I am a Treasurer, I am responsible for the economy. Why do we try and run a strong economy? Why do we try and run good tax system? I’ll tell you why - at the end of the day no one likes to pay tax, no one likes to pay tax. But if you want a decent hospital, if you want police on the beat, if you want schooling for your kids, someone, somewhere has got to collect the tax to pay for it. And at the end of the day the only thing I have said, is, if we have a strong economy we can have better services. You can have better hospitals, you can have better schools, you can have better police on the beat. We don’t do it for its own sake, we do it for the benefit of Australians.

KENNERLEY:

And I think people applaud that, and most people do recognise the unfortunate part of our society and the great leaps and bounds we have made is because of tax. But you have to be re-elected. The Hanson factor is kicking in, big time. Do you recognise it? And how and why haven’t major political parties been able to translate what she has found in the electorate, forget the rhetoric, but found and fingered exactly what she is understanding from a large part of, many people in the electorate, and being able to translate it in to your policies and your own rhetoric.

TREASURER:

Well, I think, she says, if you are angry, vote for me. And I think that’s, sort of, part of the appeal. I would say you have got to go one step further. If you are angry and you really want to change things, have a policy. And I kind of go that one step further. Let’s actually put on the table the things you can do about these problems. This is what you will never hear from Hanson and what she puts on the table, I think, has the capacity to make Australia a very, very insecure place.

KENNERLEY:

And while I understand that perhaps there isn’t a lot of substance and we haven’t seen the actual policies on the table she has struck a chord. Do you recognise the fact she has struck a chord and how can you take it, professionally and politically, and translate that?

TREASURER:

Well, I think it’s not just her. I mean she has got her current party, her old party...

KENNERLEY:

She’s been a real spoiler.

TREASURER:

Well, she’s got her current party, she’s got her old party, she’s got the Oldfield wing and there are Independents. And the basic appeal is, if you are angry, vote for me, and that’s fair enough, and I think they have tapped a chord. But, that’s not going to solve anything. What problem will that actually solve? I go a step further...

KENNERLEY:

But you do recognise she has struck a chord...

TREASURER:

I have made the point that, you know, if you want to step up and say, if you are angry vote for me, there is a lot of people who will say, okay, I am angry, but, what problem will that solve? Will it put anybody in a job? Will it lower anybody’s mortgage interest rate? Will it produce a better school for our kids? No. If you are really interested in that you have got to put a policy on the table and saying how it will help.

KENNERLEY:

You will have an election this year and she has great potential to spoil it. How are you going to fix it?

TREASURER:

Well of course she will try and spoil it.

KENNERLEY:

How will you fix it?

TREASURER:

Well, I think it’s a question of explaining this to people. At the end of the day you are going to have, you have to have a Government to run the country, and you want a Government that will have a policy. It’s not enough just to say - angry, vote for me. It’s not going to put another person in a job, it’s not going to improve the reading capacity of one child, or make one hospital bed available. And what I am going to talk about is some answers, not just dwell on all of the problems, because if you are dwelling on all of the problems you are just feeding people a false diet.

KENNERLEY:

Okay, I know you have got very important business to do today and we certainly appreciate how much time you have given us.

It’s Valentines Day tomorrow, did you remember that?

TREASURER:

I did, because I have got to go and speak to the Press Gallery on Valentine’s Day and...

KENNERLEY:

Will they throw roses?

TREASURER:

Well, they have said St Valentine’s Day, come and hear the Treasurer: massacre or roses. I hope it’s roses tomorrow. You remember the St Valentine’s Day massacre?

KENNERLEY:

Oh yes, in Chicago. Was it Chicago?

TREASURER:

It was, I think. Yes, so tomorrow it’s all roses. I hope you get some Valentines too. I’m sure...

KENNERLEY:

Well, I think it would be lovely. Are you doing anything...

TREASURER:

...I am sure there will be thousands of advisers out there...

KENNERLEY:

Well, now you have advised everybody...(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Can you all send in your roses to Kerri-Anne here at 2GB.

KENNERLEY:

Tell me, are you getting anything for your wife for Valentines’ Day?

TREASURER:

That’s a good idea, and...

KENNERLEY:

Am I the first one to suggest it? You thought of it yourself this morning, didn’t you.

TREASURER:

Of course I did, thank you, yes, yes I did, it’s a very good idea.

KENNERLEY:

Do you remember when you proposed to her?

TREASURER:

More or less.

KENNERLEY:

Is it too personal to share?

TREASURER:

I wouldn’t go into the details.

KENNERLEY:

Only because I am going back, women love to know these things, the warm fuzzy...

TREASURER:

Yes, it was here in Sydney. It was here in Sydney and it was about 20 years ago.

KENNERLEY:

Was, I mean the situation...

TREASURER:

And I am still married, after all these years.

KENNERLEY:

After all these years.

TREASURER:

And very happily, if I may say so.

KENNERLEY:

But do you remember the words you spoke and where you were?

TREASURER:

Look, Kerri-Anne, it would be so corny that if they were repeated, you know, you would have people ringing in complaining.

KENNERLEY:

We have a Valentines’ Day special. We are giving away a cruise tomorrow and we have been asking people for the most romantic proposals and we have had some gorgeous ones. I was hoping that you could give us, just an insight, without being too deeply personal about where you were, and what led to it...

TREASURER:

I was in Sydney and, look, the words don’t count, it’s the intention, Kerri-Anne.

KENNERLEY:

Was it a special place?

TREASURER:

It was very special, yes it was. It was the place where I proposed to my wife and that’s what made it special.

KENNERLEY:

Geoff Harvey did it at the footy.

TREASURER:

Is that right?

KENNERLEY:

In between a try.

TREASURER:

Did he? He got so worked up by the try...

KENNERLEY:

In between...the try finished and he turned to Katrina and said, "By the way will you marry me? Ah, yes, OK, " and the game went on. So please tell me that it was more romantic than that?

TREASURER:

I was going to say, and what happened, and the child appeared nine months after Grand Final night. That’s what normally happens.

KENNERLEY:

No, it all worked beautifully.

TREASURER:

Oh, well, congratulations...

KENNERLEY:

Listen, as we wrap it up, thank you very much for your time. Now, I am asked, probably, of all the interviews I have ever done on television, about you dancing the Macarena. How did you really feel about that? Are you still upset with me?

TREASURER:

Well, the first thing to say is, I had never heard, this is in the early days of the Macarena, right? So, I had never heard of the Macarena. The Macarena became famous after you and I introduced it to Australia.

KENNERLEY:

We made it number one.

TREASURER:

It became one of the famous events on the Midday Show. Do you remember?

KENNERLEY:

I very well remember.

TREASURER:

They still show it as one of the great highlights of the Midday Show, only topped by the day, I think, Ron Casey took a swing at...(inaudible)

KENNERLEY:

That’s right, yes.

TREASURER:

Do you remember that day? They outclassed us. And I remember going back out on the street and a bloke walked up to me and he looked me up and down and he said, "Don’t give up your day job."

KENNERLEY:

Well have you practised the Macarena since then?

TREASURER:

Look, Kerri-Anne, that was my, sort of, my great highlight. I am never going to return to that again, but one of the reasons I am here, is that you always dance with the one that ‘brung ya’.

KENNERLEY:

Well, may I have this dance?

TREASURER:

Oh, please.

KENNERLEY:

Here we go. Ladies and gentlemen, as we play the Macarena, I just want to have this last dance with my Treasurer.

Go for it Treasurer!