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 30/05/01

Transcript No. 2001/080

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop
Como House and Historic Garden, South Yarra
Wednesday, 30 May 2001
3.35pm

E&OE

SUBJECTS: Rollback, retail trade figures, Ansett

TREASURER:

Well today we have seen an absolute debacle from the Labor Party. First of all they said they were against GST, now they say they are going to keep it. Then they said they were going to roll it back and now they can't tell you which taxes they're going to increase to pay for it. And then today they say they are going to set up a committee to look at rollback after the election. So, in other words, they want to announce their policies after the next election rather than before it. They've been going on about this rollback now for 4 years and now they say they can't actually tell you what it is, you've got to wait to have the election and then figure it out afterwards. That is treating the Australian people with absolute contempt. They've been going on about this now for 4 years. They should tell the Australian people what they intend to do before the election, not after the election. They should announce it now and in particular, tell the public about the taxes they intend to raise to pay for it. Now, Mr Crean was asked a pretty direct question today - does the Labor Party want to bring back indexation of petrol excise? And he can't rule that out. It confirmed what I said earlier in the week. The Labor Party intends to put up fuel taxes if it's elected. It's trying to hide its policy. It has now got this bizarre view that it can put its policy out after the election rather than before, and they are treating the Australian public with contempt and the Australian public shouldn't have a bar of it, they should not have a bar of it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, could you comment on the retail sales figures today?

TREASURER:

The retail sales figures today were quite strong for April. They come off the back of strong figures for the March quarter and it shows that there is quite, quite a degree of strength in consumer spending in the economy, which I think is a good thing, and it should map in well to economic growth in the quarters which are ahead.

JOURNALIST:

Has the danger of a recession now gone?

TREASURER:

Look, in the December quarter you had a one-off factor of residential construction which had boomed in the lead-up to the New Tax System and correspondingly fell away afterwards and that was the biggest influence on the December quarter. I expect residential construction will pick up particularly in the June quarter and coming into the September quarter, but we'll get the March quarter figures pretty shortly. What we can say about it is retail spending had been pretty strong, exports have been good, the company profits data that we had released yesterday showed that company profits were holding up and that's consistent with an economy which continues to grow as we forecast.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, the Shadow Treasurer has also said that the Government has a secret agenda to raise the GST amid claims, well comments, by the Prime Minister, that he may pass on income tax, tax cuts?

TREASURER:

I don't think Mr Crean's got a clue what he is saying. Today he said at the National Press Club, "hardly anyone thinks they are worse off under the New Tax System". And I don't know whether he meant it or not but that's what he said. I don't think he's got a clue what he is saying. He has been going on for four years about rollback and today, he says, we've got to appoint a committee and announce it after the election, that's what he said, after the election. What has he been doing for the last four years? The last time the Labor Party announced its tax policy after an election was when it won in 1993, and the tax policy was higher income taxes, higher petrol excise, higher company tax and higher wholesale sales tax. So, don't let them get away with this idea that they will announce their tax policy after the election. They have been going on about rollback now for four years. Tell the Australian public, be honest with the Australian public, about the tax rises that that would entail and let the Australian public make an informed decision.

JOURNALIST:

So are income tax cuts likely?

TREASURER:

We cut income taxes on 1 July, and they're still flowing through the system. People haven't even had a year of income taxes cut yet. We are in May now, and it is about 11 months of income tax cuts. They were the largest income tax cuts in Australian history and this Government delivered them. We've been about lower income taxes, that is one of the reasons why we reformed the tax system. But let me make this point, if you are going to rollback GST, which used to be the Labor Party's policy - we assume it still is - they are going to have to put up some other tax. Now, it could be income taxes. I think it will also be petrol excise because they were asked today whether they wanted to bring back the indexation of petrol excise and he avoided the question. He avoided the question because the Labor Party introduced the indexation of petrol, they like higher petrol taxes and they want to keep their options open to increase it.

JOURNALIST:

What is your opinion of the committee?

TREASURER:

This committee is an absolute joke. For the last four years the Labor Party has been saying they want to rollback the GST. We are now within sight of the election and they say, "We've got to set up a committee and decide what to do after the election." What have they been doing for the last four years? I ask you. Kim Beazley and Simon Crean have been getting up and going to work, going to the office for the last four years, telling us every day they are in favour of rollback of GST. And now they say, well we've got to set up a committee and we can't decide what to do until after the election. It makes you wonder why they've been getting up every day between now and the last four years. For four years they've been going on about rollback. For four years. We get within sight of the election and they say, we've got to set up a committee and we can't tell you anything about it until after the election. You cannot let them get away with that. The Australian public do not deserve to be treated with that kind of contempt.

JOURNALIST:

Are there any national interest concerns over the possible takeover of Ansett, or the sale of Ansett?

TREASURER:

In relation to foreign ownership we operate a practice that if anybody makes an application to the Foreign Investment Review Board then we treat it on its merits, we treat it commercially in confidence, we don't speculate publicly on that unless an application is made and we will treat any application, if it were made, on its merits.

Thanks.