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 10/05/01

Transcript No. 2001/054

TRANSCRIPT
of
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Press Conference
Melbourne
Thursday, 10 May 2001
1.00 pm

E&OE

SUBJECTS: Jobs, Foster’s, Hayley Eves, Federation celebrations

TREASURER:

Well, today’s labour force figures show that in the month of April, the number of jobs increased by about 40,000. The participation rate rose, that is more people came back to look for work, and so notwithstanding the increase in jobs in April, the unemployment rate edged up from 6.5 to 6.8 per cent. But the good news is, that in April, new jobs were added to the economy, there is obviously a bit more confidence with people prepared to seek work and I would think that that was pretty consistent with the consumer sentiment survey of yesterday which showed a pick-up in consumer sentiment. Having said all of that, the labour force figures do bounce around a lot from month to month, it would be unwise to draw concrete, unbreakable conclusions from one particular month’s figures, but to the degree that this month’s figures shows an increase in overall employment, particularly in the part-time area, it is actually a welcome sign.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Mr Beazley said the GST is to blame and that we will be in real trouble if the world slow down flows onto Australia, that we could see unemployment back over 7 per cent. Is that likely?

TREASURER:

Well, under a Labor Party, you’ve got to remember they never got unemployment below 8 per cent. So, it is possible if you got a Labor Government, that unemployment could go back over 8 per cent. When Mr Beazley was last Employment Minister it was 11.3. So I must say to the Australian public, having an unemployment rate down below 7 per cent is something that we’ve only managed to do in recent times. We’ve been through 11.3 per cent territory under Mr Beazley before, and one of the real risks of Labor Party Government would be rising unemployment. Yes, I would agree with Mr Beazley on that.

JOURNALIST:

What would happen to the unemployment rate if the slowdown in the world economy flows on?

TREASURER:

Oh, the slowdown in the world economy is already affecting Australia. The world economy starting slowing late last year, and the United States has dramatically revised down its growth, and one of the discussions at the recent IMF meeting was a dramatic revision down in world growth. That has already affected Australia and will continue to affect Australia. But what Australia has got going in its favour are the following: we’ve taken taxes off exports - that is what GST has done – and so our exports are booming and that is adding to growth; we’ve got a Budget which is in balance; we’ve had $12 billion of personal income tax cuts which stimulated the economy last year, and we’ve got new tax cuts to come into effect on 1 July. On 1 July we are going to cut company tax, we are going to cut Financial Institutions Duty and we are going to cut stamp duties. Now, none of that could have been done without tax reform, and the great thing about it is that the tax reform has cut income tax and is going to go on now and cut company tax which will be delivering good stimulation to the Australian economy.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, can I ask you about beer. Do you have any concerns about a Heineken takeover of Foster’s?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t know whether such an offer has been made. I certainly don’t know it. I have seen that in the press, but nobody has informed me of such an offer. Nobody has informed the Foreign Investment Review Board. So, I simply can’t comment. At the moment it is press speculation. If an offer were made, then it would require foreign investment approval. The Foreign Investment Review Board would be notified, and it would talk to the parties and it would make a recommendation to me. But, I would then consider the application on its merits, as I always do. But I can’t possibly comment when to my knowledge, no bid has actually been made.

JOURNALIST:

Kim Beazley says because the dollar is so low, Australian assets are at bargain basement prices and vulnerable to takeovers. What is your response to that?

TREASURER:

Mr Beazley says a lot of things, but I don’t think he has actually really seriously thought about the economy ever in his life. And we are still waiting for him to announce whether or not he supports the Government decision on Woodside. We are still waiting today, for an answer to this question: does the Labor Party support the Government’s decision on Woodside? You remember that Simon Crean came out and attacked the Government for making that decision, he then rang journalists later in the night and said he accepted it, and when you ask them do they support it they say, well we can’t support it, we note it. Now, note is sort of half way between supporting or opposing. It is what you say when you don’t have a policy. So, you can’t expect me to comment on his views on foreign investment. He is so confused on these things. Let me ask you this simple question, I say this seriously, does Mr Beazley support the decision I made on Woodside? Yes or no.

Well, that is right. Nobody knows.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you talk about 40,000 new jobs, but in fact those are all part-time jobs and there were 40,000 less full-time jobs. Is that a concern? And do you think that the unemployment rate will still worsen, will get to 7 per cent?

TREASURER:

Well, what happened in this month, if you look at the figures, is, that there was a net increase of 40,000 jobs, particularly in the part-time area. Notwithstanding the increase in jobs, the participation rate went up to a very high level, and because the participation rate went up, that is more people started looking for work, put themselves back into the labour market, the unemployment rate edged up. Now, as I said earlier, those three things happening all at once, point to some degree, in different ways, don’t they? More jobs but your unemployment rate edges up. I cautioned before on these labour force figures, I said I wouldn’t draw any hard and fast immutable concrete lessons out of one month’s figures. But the one thing you can say about the figures, unequivocally, is that the number of jobs went up. And that is a good thing. I think that all Australians will welcome the fact that the number of net jobs went up.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, the young Australian, Hayley Eves’ speech yesterday at the celebration of the Centenary?

TREASURER:

I thought it was an interesting contribution. She is obviously somebody with an enormous amount of confidence and she put her views with confidence. Now, you can’t expect me to say I agree with every word or disagree with every word. People are entitled to their views.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it should be (inaudible) male Prime Minister or female Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

She also said that she looked forward to the day when we had a female Head of State. And I think we have a female Head of State, don’t we? Because the Queen is our Head of State and we have had a female Head of State for the last 50 years, have we not? So…

JOURNALIST:

One born in Australia.

TREASURER:

Well, no I don’t think she would have meant one born in Australia, because, look, from what she was saying I doubt that she would be making the point that she preferred someone born in Australia. But, see, you can’t ask me to dissect every word, you know. I was going to say that the only person who I really agree with all of the time is myself, but I think that I sometimes disagree with myself as well Mr Bongiorno.

JOURNALIST:

On what issues?

TREASURER:

…sorry, sorry.

JOURNALIST:

What did you think of the celebrations yesterday?

TREASURER:

I thought they were good actually. I thought yesterday, it was the Exhibition building at its best. It is a place of real architectural grandeur. I have always admired the Tom Roberts painting. I think that is a magical painting for Australia and to go down and see the place where it was done the first time and how it was done and see it done a second time, I thought it was terrific. And I thought today in the Victorian Parliament there was a lot of atmosphere. It is a beautiful chamber, and it gave me to rather wonder why we set up Canberra actually. That’s what I spent the morning…..

JOURNALIST:

Would you like to be the Prime Minister who introduces a Republic to Australia?

TREASURER:

Oh Dennis, there is just so many hypotheticals in there you’ll have my head spinning for weeks. I’d better go. Thanks.