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 22/08/01

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON. PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW
Wednesday, 22 August 2001
8.45am

 

SUBJECTS: Health, interest rates, couriers, MCG re-development

MITCHELL:

The Federal Treausurer, Peter Costello, is in our Canberra studio. Just before we get to interest rates though, given I was just talking to John Thwaites, I thought I would raise this with the Treasurer.

Mr Costello, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Neil.

MITCHELL:

Well, health is the issue. Kim Beazley's daughter allegedly turned away from a hospital when she had appendicitis and here we have Michael Wooldridge saying Labor will kill people?

TREASURER:

Well, it is interesting what you say about Mr Beazley, because yesterday he did say his daughter had been turned away from a hospital. The hospital has issued a statement overnight saying that wasn't the case. They said that she was seen in a timely manner, and decided to leave of her own accord. So I think Mr Beazley has been caught out.

MITCHELL:

Caught out doing what?

TREASURER:

Well, caught out not being accurate with the facts. He said yesterday...

MITCHELL:

You don't think he'd use his own daughter's health for a political point?

TREASURER:

Leave aside his daughter, he said yesterday that she had been turned away and the hospital has issued a statement overnight saying that wasn't the case.

MITCHELL:

Do you think he invented it?

TREASURER:

Well, I think you had better ask him what he was talking about, but the hospital says she was seen and she was treated in a timely manner. So, I am not sure what Mr Beazley was going on about yesterday, but according to the hospital it was not the facts.

MITCHELL:

That is a pretty nasty thing. I mean, if he is using his own daughter to score political points and exaggerating the situation, is that what you are accusing him of?

TREASURER:

Well, you better ask him...

MITCHELL:

No, but what are you accusing him of?

TREASURER:

...because he was asked about this this morning on ABC Radio, and he couldn't give an explanation. What I am saying is, the hospital has said that his daughter wasn't turned away. The hospital...

MITCHELL:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

...well it says she was treated in a timely manner, that she was seen, that she was treated in a timely manner. She decided to go off to a private hospital, apparently, not because she was refused treatment, she was given treatment, so I don't know what he is going on about.

MITCHELL:

Do you agree with Doctor Wooldridge that Labor's policies could kill people?

TREASURER:

What Doctor Wooldridge said yesterday in the Parliament, was that the Labor policy, I think he called it a two and sixpence a patient, was not sufficient to stop people who needed treatment from being affected by it. He was saying that it was a policy that wouldn't work, that it wouldn't save lives. That is what he was saying...

MITCHELL:

Well, he said that it would kill, that people would die who need not die.

TREASURER:

...that a particular policy would not work and people who could be saved by proper treatment would not be saved. I thought it was a perfectly legitimate point. I think Doctor Wooldridge, I heard what Mr Thwaites said, I think Doctor Wooldridge has been one of the best Health Ministers that Australia has ever had.

MITCHELL:

Ummm.

TREASURER:

He has presided over the resuscitation of the Private Health Insurance system. He has negotiated new health care agreements. There was money in the Budget for treatment in relation to diabetes. I think Doctor Wooldridge is doing a fine job.

MITCHELL:

Okay, by coincidence, we are going to talk about something else, could I ask about the economy as well. The US decision, what, the seventh cut to interest rates this year and some analysts are talking about the US headed into recession. Japan and Europe staggering, but are we headed into the, possibly heading into a world recession?

TREASURER:

Neil, the international situation is very, very, uncertain, and probably outside of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the worst we have seen in well over a decade. The US economy has practically slowed. It could, and the Federal Reserve said overnight that it is still slowing. The Federal Reserve in the United States has now cut interest rates seven times by three full percentage points and their interest rates are at 3.5 per cent. Japan is in near recession. It has been bumping along in near recession now for years, and Europe is slowing very considerably. So, the whole world economy at the moment is very weak. Australia is stronger than the United States, and stronger than Europe and stronger than Japan.

MITCHELL:

We must be affected though by that...

TREASURER:

But we will be affected, yes of course, we have been affected. We are not now growing at the kind of rate we were growing in 1997, 1998, 1999, but we are still growing and we are growing faster than the United States, and faster than Japan, and faster than Europe, because...

MITCHELL:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

...the slow-down there is taking growth off Australia.

MITCHELL:

But where is this headed? I mean what sort of, are we headed into tough times regardless.

TREASURER:

Well, what the weakening of the world economy has meant, is, that we are no longer having the extremely buoyant conditions that we, in growth terms, that we had. And you have seen the rate of new job creation, come off, and you have seen the unemployment rate which had been going down for 4 or 5 years stabilise, and it is stabilising at around about 7 per cent. That is what the affect in Australia has been, but the affect in countries like Japan, and in the United States is going to be that much greater. The United States economy is very weak at the moment, Neil.

MITCHELL:

Yes, but what is ahead for us, what do you see is ahead for Australia as a result of the US being weak, Japan being weak, and Europe looking weak?

TREASURER:

What is ahead for us, is, that we will grow a little slower than we did at the end of the late 1990's, but we will continue to grow and as it turns out we will grow faster than Europe, and Japan, and America. The Australian economy is very competitive at the moment and...

MITCHELL:

Are you saying we are fire proof?

TREASURER:

The best thing that you could have done for a weakening world environment to keep your export growth up, is take taxes off exports, and the New Tax System which took taxes off exports on 1 July last year, turned out to have been one of the most judicious decisions that we could have made.

MITCHELL:

But are we fire proof then, from all the world on fire, are we fire proof?

TREASURER:

Look Neil, nobody would ever say that any country is totally fire proof from the world environment. But I can tell you this, that Australia survived the Asian financial crisis in 1997 - 1998, and Australia is performing strongly compared to the United States and Europe, which is now weakening considerably, and although we won't be growing at the rates we were growing at, our growth will be very significant and it will lead the world, it will lead the world in 2002.

MITCHELL:

Australia will lead the world next year? The world economy?

TREASURER:

According to the International Consensus growth forecasts Australia will lead the world. It will lead Japan, it will lead Europe, and it will lead the United States in 2002.

MITCHELL:

Okay, just a couple of other things if I may, the tax and personal services income, another change on couriers. When will the legislation go through on this. And we are talking about something here that affects people for the last financial year and they still haven't got what laws they have to follow.

TREASURER:

Well, just to clarify, the point has always been independent contractors are not covered by this legislation. The Tax Office has made that point over, and over again. It made that point back in July in relation to couriers. A group of couriers from New South Wales came to Canberra a day or two ago with a different contract, they worked under a different contract.

The Tax Office had a look at it and said yes, you are independent contractors, so really, it was confirming the previous advice.

MITCHELL:

Okay, when will the legislation go through?

TREASURER:

It is through.

MITCHELL:

There are changes going through though aren't there?

TREASURER:

No, no, no, no, what is happening is that the Tax Office is issuing rulings for anybody who wants their situation clarified, but that is not a change in the legislation. Those rulings have been out for discussion, final rulings will be issued shortly, but what we did in relation to this, we said anybody that wants to get a ruling can get one and these New South Wales couriers had one yesterday, or they had meetings I think on Monday and a statement yesterday.

MITCHELL:

You must agree it has been a messy implementation, or implemented, it has been very messy?

TREASURER:

Well look, you know, this is a complicated area of the law and I think the best thing is to get these rulings up and running and if people need clarification I would encourage them to do that.

MITCHELL:

But you would agree the rulings are different and have a different impact to the rulings that were originally brought down?

TREASURER:

Everybody works...

MITCHELL:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

...you will find in this area everybody works under different contracts and you look at an industry standard, you can give a ruling and then, as has happened with couriers and this applied only in New South Wales, they said we have a different contract and they brought that forward and the Tax Office clarified that position yesterday. So, you have got to know what the facts are before you can clarify the situation.

MITCHELL:

So you deny that the rule, the rulings contradict earlier rulings?

TREASURER:

No, the ruling yesterday was on a different contract. The Tax Office has previously given a ruling on what it thought was standard contract, and apparently is the standard contract everywhere except New South Wales, and this was a different kind of determination that governs work in New South Wales.

MITCHELL:

Okay, the thing I did want to talk to you about was the re-development of the MCG, and I was talking about this earlier in the week. The Federal Government is putting in $90 million, is that correct?

TREASURER:

Well, can I go back a stage?

MITCHELL:

Yeah.

TREASURER:

What the Federal Government is doing, the Federal Government was asked to assist in the staging of the Commonwealth Games.

MITCHELL:

Yeah.

TREASURER:

And the organisers of the Commonwealth Games came and said this is a nation-wide event, will you contribute? And the Federal Government said yes, we will contribute $90 million for facilities for the Commonwealth Games, and it was agreed that this was to be done to re-develop the arena, because I am told you can't get a 400 metre track on the MCG any more once the Ponsford Stand was built.

MITCHELL:

Yep.

TREASURER:

Because it has apparently encroached, the ground is no longer big enough.

MITCHELL:

That's right.

TREASURER:

So they said, well we have to pull down the Ponsford Stand to put an athletics track in there, and so the Federal Government said, we will contribute to the Commonwealth Games by re-building the Ponsford Stand in a way that you can get a 400 metre track in.

MITCHELL:

So is the deal that you get naming rights for that?

TREASURER:

Well, that, and this was what was put forward with the Games organisers.

MITCHELL:

Yep.

TREASURER:

You would have an Olympic Stand, right, which was a testament to the fact that the MCG had had the Olympics, and a Commonwealth Stand which was testament to the fact that you had the Commonwealth Games.

MITCHELL:

So there will be a Commonwealth Stand?

TREASURER:

Well, that was what was discussed with the Games organisers and that was in the correspondence, and I thought that's what had been agreed. What then happened is a week or so ago, when the newspapers came out, Mr Bracks announced that he was going to apparently re-develop the MCG.

MITCHELL:

Yep.

TREASURER:

But he forgot to invite the Commonwealth Government Sports Minister to his announcement and he apparently forgot to announce that the Victorian Labor Government was not paying any money and the Commonwealth was paying $90 million to re-develop it for the Commonwealth Games. He apparently forgot to mention that.

MITCHELL:

So no naming rights, no $90 million?

TREASURER:

Well, that's the condition, well the correspondence shows, and I have confirmed this with the Sports Minister, that it was agreed at the time that the $90 million would build this Commonwealth Stand...

MITCHELL:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

That's all in the correspondence, I don't know, I actually thought when I saw the announcement from Mr Bracks he must have been doing another deal, he must have been deciding the Victorian Government was going to re-build it, but no, apparently he just forgot to invite the Commonwealth Minister, and you know, forgot to make that point at his press conference.

MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Neil.