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 16/08/01

TRANSCRIPT
of
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview
Thursday, 16 August 2001
12.30 pm

SUBJECTS: Volunteerism, Rollback, Russell Mark, wages, Ray Regan

TREASURER:

Well, yesterday the Labor Party announced that Rollback had become a secondary issue, and that they were going to concentrate on increased resources for health and education. But today they've changed their position again, and now Rollback again is a priority. Now, let me make this point, that the GST funds the health and education services, and, if you roll back the GST, you have less money for health and education, not more. You can't spend more on health and education and roll back the GST. So, yesterday, the policy which they put forward was at least plausible - no Rollback and more for health and education. Today's policy is completely implausible - more money for health and education, and Rollback. This just illustrates that they don't know where they're going, the policy varies from day to day. They've had three and a half years, now, to try and think up policy. It is clear that they haven't. But if they want to focus on health and education, they'd better give away Rollback. And if they want Rollback, then they had better come clean on how that means less money for health and education. But you can't have both. You can't have mutually inconsistent policies.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be committing your Government to more money on health and education?

TREASURER:

We committed our Government to a broad based indirect tax which grows as the economy grows. And what it does, is, it funds health and education, and it grows. If you keep it on a broad base, it grows as the economy grows, providing increasing resources for health and education. But if you narrow the base, then it doesn't grow as the economy grows. You have less money for health and education. You can't Rollback and have more money for health and education. You can have more money for health and education on the current base, or you can have Rollback and less money for health and education. But you can't have, as Labor claim today, both.

JOURNALIST:

But haven't the Opposition only been talking about relatively small amounts of money for Rollback - $20 million here or there?

TREASURER:

Well, no they haven't, because this was never an argument about whether or not the GST should be rolled back by $20 million. They opposed the whole thing. They opposed the whole GST base. Kim Beazley said he would roll it back as far as he possibly could. This has been the argument for the last three and a half years. It hasn't been an argument about $20 million. That's not even 1 per cent. If you were to Rollback by 50 per cent, that's $12 billion. Now you can't tell me the Labor Party, which has been opposing tax reform tooth and claw, never even wanted to roll back 50 per cent. But, you know, we could end all of this argument. They could actually release their policy and then we'd know. And I'd be happy to look at it for them and I'll tell them ...

JOURNALIST:

Would you help them do it by releasing the Charter of Budget Honest figures early?

TREASURER:

We have released the Budget. The Budget position is out there. It is out there. It is as brought down, I think was it less than three months ago. It is absolutely out there. Don't fall for this: "Oh we don't know what the situation of the Budget is." The Budget was published three months ago and it is out there. Now, what they can do is, they can name their Rollback and I'll tell you how much they'll have to cut health and education. They can name their Rollback and I'll tell you how much they'll have to put up income tax. Or they can give away Rollback, which they did two days ago. Two days ago they gave away Rollback, and now it's back again. This is the magically disappearing and re-appearing Rollback.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, talking about committing money. Will your Government commit more money to support Australia's volunteer organisations or was last night just a nice sounding piece of rhetoric?

TREASURER:

I think the point I was making last night, is, that we have millions of volunteers in Australia who are unsung heroes and we need to celebrate them ...

JOURNALIST:

Do you volunteer?

TREASURER:

I do. And the point I was making last night, was, that if everyone looks to government, then that's kind of missed the point. The thing about volunteers, is, they do it themselves. They choose. And that's what makes their commitment to Australia so much more great.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]?

TREASURER:

Well volunteers generally don't get paid. That is why they are volunteers. They choose to be involved. And I want to say that those people are the unsung heroes of Australia. All of us have jobs for which we're paid, but volunteers do work for which they're not paid and that makes them unsung heroes. And I think we should celebrate them. As I said last night, we had a tickertape parade for the Sydney Olympic volunteers. We should have a few more tickertape parades.

JOURNALIST:

I guess I'm talking about funding for their organisations - like more money for the volunteer bush fire brigades, for the volunteer, whatever.

TREASURER:

Well, I'm trying to make a bigger point than that. I'm trying to make this point: that one of the things that makes volunteers special, is that they freely choose to do their work, and they are the people that have realised that community is much more than government. If you try and reduce everything to government control or government organisation, I think you miss something. And the point I'm trying to make, is, that there are things outside government and more important and richer and more varied, and it's voluntary, and there are thousands of Australians that do it, and they are unsung heroes. And I just want to say to them: thank you. And I think we should have a few more tickertape parades for them.

JOURNALIST:

Is part of the problem with volunteering these days that volunteers actually need training and some skills and that makes it harder for people who are just well meaning to turn up and make a significant contribution?

TREASURER:

Look, there are different areas to volunteer. If you are the person that wants to chat over a fence with a neighbour, you don't need training to do that. If you are the kind of person that wants to take an interest in a neighbourhood kid and give them a bit of mentoring, you don't need training to do that. These things were going long before training was invented. You know, if you want to get down to the local cricket club and be the scorer, you might need to know what's a ball and what's out. But, you know, most of us don't need training for that kind of thing. And there are more sophisticated things that you do need training for. But let's not reduce this to a question of training, certificates and government programmes. I think my whole point is, there is a lot of important things that happen in our society that's beyond government. And, you know, when I hear people say, "Oh, the Government should come in and the Government should do this or this or this," I'm just trying to remind people that there is a whole area of voluntary activity out there - down at the sporting club or across the neighbourhood fence or in the local church - where you don't need training. You're just involved. And that's a good thing to be, to be involved.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, how often and where do you do your volunteering?

TREASURER:

I'm involved in a number of local organisations which my family and I are involved in. But this is not a question of people going out and sort of boasting about what they do here or there. I am just saying if people are involved in their community, I think the community will be richer and I think they'll be richer. And it is up to each individual. If you don't think you'll be enriched by being involved in the community, well, that's up to you. Nobody's talking about forcing anybody to do anything. I'm just saying if you can do it, generally people find that it enriches their lives, and it enriches the community's life. But it is voluntary. And that's the whole point about this, it is voluntary. And I think the thousands of volunteers that are involved are unsung heroes. We ought to celebrate them.

JOURNALIST:

Should the Liberal Party have been a bit more involved in the campaign in Ballarat to stop Russell Mark leaving? He feels like he wasn't really looked after and wasn't communicated with.

TREASURER:

I really don't know. I haven't spoken to Russell. I really don't know what the situation is. Russell has my respect, I think he is a great guy, he is a great Australian. And I think he would be a good Member of Parliament. Whether or not he wants to run, that is up to him.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, you saw a larger than expected rise in average weekly earnings today. What are the implications of this?

TREASURER:

I don't think that the recent figures, the wage cost index, indicate that inflation expectations are running away. I don't think they do. I think what they show is, that inflation is still subdued in the economy and that is a good thing. I would say to people bear in mind, in your wage claims, that if we want to keep inflation low, we have to have wage claims which are responsible and trade it off with productivity. And keeping inflation low is consistent with low interest rates. And, as you know, we target inflation and we want to make sure we keep it low, so we can keep our interest rates low.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, are you considering a roll back for caravan park fees in the GST?

TREASURER:

No, we have now put in place a broad based indirect tax and the most important thing, I think, is to keep it certain, so that it doesn't change. I think one of the things that people can be legitimately concerned about is if it all changes. People have now had 12 months, there were teething problems and I pay tribute to the small businesses of Australia which coped magnificently with the changes. But I feel I want to say to them the best thing we can do for you now, is keep things certain. Because if you go and change it all, if you're going to Rollbackwards, then they are going to have to cope with a whole new system again.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, Ray Regan is apparently suing one of your staff members, David Alexander, for defamation. Will the Federal Government be volunteering to pay Mr Alexander's legal bills?

TREASURER:

I don't know. There are guidelines on this and, if they apply, then in accordance with the procedures, they will be activated. But, you know, I think Mr Regan's given a few over the years. He's been very voluble in debate and I'd say to him, sometimes people are going to disagree with you. You've got to take that in political life, the give and take of political life, and he's given a bit and, in my experience, you're much better to roll with the punches. That's my advice to him.