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 28/07/01

Transcript No. 2001/106

 

 

TRANSCRIPT
of
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop
Oddfellows Hall, Corowa
Saturday, 28 July 2001
2.15 pm

 

SUBJECTS: Federation Bridge, Sussan Ley, Republic

JOURNALIST:

First of all the Federation Bridge which was promised three years ago. The $12 million from the Feds hasn't materialised yet. Where's the delay there?

TREASURER:

The Federal Government has allocated the money which is ready for spending. What we need is we need the agreement of Mr Carr and New South Wales and until they show an interest in it and they commit themselves to the funding, it won't go ahead. But the Commonwealth Government is committed the money, the Government stands ready. The Commonwealth Government demands that the New South Wales Labor Government match it. And the moment the New South Wales Government commits it, then that money will go into construction and the bridge will be built.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any chance it could be lost, the project could be lost?

TREASURER:

Well, I'd say this to Mr Carr - get on with it. Don't hang around forever. The Commonwealth Government has announced this, it has the money, it's allocated. But get on with it Mr Carr. Please commit yourself to it so the construction can start.

JOURNALIST:

Okay. You're standing in the seat of Farrer held by Mr Fischer with the Liberal candidate next to you. What do you think of the chances of the Liberals taking Farrer are?

TREASURER:

Well look, I wish Sussan Ley our candidate every success here in Farrer. She's a very skilled candidate. I've campaigned with her on a number of occasions. I did some functions with her this morning, this has been a traditional National Party seat. The National Party will mount a strong campaign, but we'll be mounting a strong campaign as well, and you don't take any seat for granted. Every seat is a new challenge and we'll be working hard to win the trust of the people of Farrer. That's the way I'd put it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello a year ago the public interest in the cause of the Republic had more or less died with the referendum result, now Mr Fischer's nailed his colours to the mast, you've got the refurbishment of this Hall, you've got the conference coming up in December, do you believe that momentum is rebuilding towards a Republic?

TREASURER:

I think Australia will become a Republic. Not because there's anything wrong with the machinery of our Government or our Constitution but because the symbols of Australia are changing. And I think at the moment there's a difference between the way we see ourselves and the way in which the Constitution continues us as a Monarchy. I don't think we think of ourselves in monarchical terms anymore. And I think it's time to review the symbols whilst keeping the machinery of Government safe and secure. That's my position. I think the proposal that was put in 1999 could have done that, but it was defeated. I said at the time, that if that referendum were defeated it would take a considerable time for it come back on the agenda. I still believe that. But I think it will come back. And it will come back when the people of Australia are ready to bring it back.

I make this point, that there is no mileage in being partisan on this. When this campaign was kicked off in a partisan way by Mr Keating in the 1993 election, I think it set it back years, if not decades. If Mr Beazley or anybody else wants to kick it off in a partisan way again, it will have the same result. This is not something if you wanted it to succeed that you would use to try and egg out votes with wedge-type politics. And I say that to Mr Beazley, if you really are concerned about this issue, don't try and play wedge politics in relation to it. Let the people have a say. Let the people make it their own. And when the people are ready I think they will bring it back onto the agenda. And you've got an opportunity later on this year, here in Corowa, for a conference that can start things moving again, let's see how that plays. But don't try and make it partisan. If you make it partisan you'll kill it.

JOURNALIST:

So it's not likely to be an election issue?

TREASURER:

Well look, anyone can try and make it an election issue. Mr Beazley might try and make it an election issue. I think if he does he will kill the issue, number one. So if he's serious about the issue I'd advise him not to. Number two, I don't think he will bring in anybody who's genuinely concerned about this because they're more than likely to say that they don't want to see it polarised and politicised.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the result of the referendum might have been different in retrospect if the Prime Minister had supported it?

TREASURER:

Look, if you go through that referendum there are so many ifs and buts, this is like one of those arguments you know, if your aunt was a man would she be your uncle? Well you know, maybe she would but there are so many ifs and buts about that, look I intervened in that debate as you know. I think I carried an argument, there were a lot of people that carried it the other way. If you actually look at the numbers, let me make this point. The thing I think that surprised everybody is that the Labor Party members didn't carry their own seats. Mr Beazley is a classic case. Mr Beazley's electorate voted two to one against the proposal, so you want to say that the Prime Minister was the decisive issue you could just as easily say Mr Beazley was the decisive issue in producing a counter reaction against his position. I just don't think there are, there are too many ifs and buts to go through.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think of Mr Fischer's intervention and ideas for a phased referendum?

TREASURER:

I think what Mr Fischer said today is a very, very significant development and he's given this matter a lot of thought. And it'll take me a while to carefully analyze his options, the green and the gold, they look to me as if they require a lot of study but I think the fact that he's raised them, I think the fact that he's made a positive contribution, that he's indicated that his thinking on this is developing, is a very significant intervention, I really do. And if you have any other questions about that you'll have to ask Mr Fischer who's standing here.