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 05/10/2001

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON. PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Interview with Kerri-Anne Kennerley
2GB

Friday, 5 October 2001
12.20pm

 

SUBJECTS: Grand Final, election, interest rates, Jackie Kelly, economy, leadership

KENNERLEY:

Well, I had already planned to speak to my next guest today, the Treasurer of our country, Peter Costello. Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

TREASURER:

Great pleasure to be with you Kerri-Anne.

KENNERLEY:

Well good to talk to you. Haven't seen you since Grand Final day.

TREASURER:

It wasn't a good day for me.

KENNERLEY:

Now, your team didn't win, did it?

TREASURER:

No, my team didn't win. It was a bit of a disappointment. The game was going pretty well for the first half, and it fell apart after that, Kerri-Anne. But, still, we get over these things.

KENNERLEY:

We do indeed. Now, as I mentioned, John Howard has left Parliament House. Is there anything you'd like to tell me?

TREASURER:

Well, I think people are aware that the calling of an election is pretty imminent. And the procedure, as you know, is that the Prime Minister goes and sees the Governor-General and asks for a dissolution. And if it is granted he would announce the date. So, that is a matter that you will have to wait for Mr Howard to make an announcement on.

KENNERLEY:

So it could just be moments away. Does, what are you doing on November the 10th?

TREASURER:

Well. . .

KENNERLEY:

You have got a barbie planned, or anything?

TREASURER:

Well, if I haven't got anything else on, I probably will have a barbie on November the 10th. We've got a barbecue in the back yard. I love having time with my wife and children, but, if I have got other things on, well, we'll be doing other things.

KENNERLEY:

Okay, I guess you're not going to tell me.

TREASURER:

You want to come around?

KENNERLEY:

I'd love to come around. Is that an invitation?

TREASURER:

Well, only if we're not doing other things.


KENNERLEY:

No also, on that morning, the AFL breakfast in Melbourne, is a fabulous morning. A thousand people cram themselves into the Crown. And everybody, the VIP's are ushered into the room with a song. And in fact, the songs you were played in with was not only 'The Taxman', and they segued in with 'When you're smiling'.

TREASURER:

It was nice actually.

KENNERLEY:

It was lovely.

TREASURER:

But I think the main reason why we were all invited, is so that people can poke fun at us. And, as you know, some of the people get terrible songs.

KENNERLEY:

Oh, it is cruel.

TREASURER:

Oh it's cruel, in front of a thousand people. So, you hold your breath when you're about to walk in, and I held my breath and I thought, what is coming here? And, it was actually quite nice, and (inaudible). . .

KENNERLEY:

Well, when you're smiling, I guess, I guess the, you know, well, you're smiling cause you're doing pretty well at the moment?

TREASURER:

Well, things have, look, it has been a tough year, I must say. It has been an incredibly tough year. And the economy has been hard, and we have had that terrible terrorist incident. But, I think it is good that we can get things back to normal, as far as possible, that the footy goes on, people get some normalcy back in their life. I hope they go on buying, and they don't put off consumer decisions that would be. . .

KENNERLEY:

Well, I mean, you have been talking about that. And in previous discussions we have had, Mr Costello, you have talked about, talked about how easy it is to talk ourselves into a recession, talk ourselves down. So, in economic terms we really have to be positive. But it is not always that easy.

TREASURER:

Oh, that is right. Look, it is very difficult in the world. It was going to be difficult anyway. And then you had those terrible terrorist incidents and that has obviously shaken the United States. And it is a difficult period. I have said to people, from an Australian point of view, there is no reason to put off buying decisions. It is a good time to buy. Interest rates are as low as you are going to get. These are the thirty year lows in. . .

KENNERLEY:

Well, I loved your line, the lowest since man walked on the moon.

TREASURER:

You and I were probably about the same age Kerri-Anne. I was in. . .

KENNERLEY:

How old are you? I, mine is still a secret. How old are you, I'll be whatever age you are?

TREASURER:

I watched man walk on the moon from my primary school classroom.

KENNERLEY:

Well, how old are you?

TREASURER:

I am fourty-four.

KENNERLEY:

Forty-four, I'm likin' that. Can I be forty-four too?

TREASURER:

Yeah.

KENNERLEY:

Oh good.

TREASURER:

I was in Grade 6 and you were in?

KENNERLEY:

Grade 6. I'm taking it. If you've offered it to me, you're the Treasurer, you can. Now, you really put the boot into the NAB for being slow on interest rates. Why can't you do the same and put the boot in about all the banks not lowering credit card interest rates quicker?

TREASURER:

I think it is a good point. But, one of the ways in which we have managed to get benefits out to people is by encouraging competition between the banks. And I deliberately go out and I do encourage the banks to compete against each other so that consumers can get the best deal. And I think we have to keep encouraging more competition on these credit cards too. I. . .

KENNERLEY:

But is there anything you can do? You have got people out there, we're hooked on credit cards, the banks did that. They tell us to use them, and interest rates go everywhere from 17 per cent down to, gee, hey, a big 14 per cent. What are you going to do about it?

TREASURER:

I think we have got to heighten competition. One of the things we are looking at now is, what we have called the interchange. That the banks have a system of interchange on these credit cards. And we have had Professor Fels having a look at it, and also the Reserve Bank, and I think. . .

KENNERLEY:

So how far off can we get a result?

TREASURER:

Oh, well, I think you're right, I think we have got to encourage greater competition. I hope that we will get a bigger consumer focus and exposure on these issues over the forthcoming months.

KENNERLEY:

Well, we look forward to that. Now, tourism. Let's look at that. We have got a $70 billion export industry, basically a $70 billion tourism industry, and Jackie Kelly again today, seems as if she has shot herself in the foot. Can she last the distance?

TREASURER:

Oh, she's a great fighter, Jackie, she has got a lot of personality. . .

KENNERLEY:

Yeah, but is she up to the job?

TREASURER:

. . . great fighter, and I think she has brought a breath of fresh air to politics.

KENNERLEY:

But is she up to the job?

TREASURER:

Yes. Amongst all of those suits she is somebody who is a breath of fresh air, and she is up to the job. Yes, she is a great person, Jackie, I have got a very high opinion of her.

KENNERLEY:

I have got to say on a personal level, I think she is terrific, and just because she wears a dress half the time, is beside the point. And she is a breath of fresh air, but, I worry about her gaffes sometimes, that the Ansett collapse, and tourism, it was a little blip. Today she has hired a $60,000 executive jet to fly around the country for 3 days, when you have only got to look at a few e-mails and pick up a phone and know they are in crisis. Do you need to hire a $60,000 jet?

TREASURER:

Well, I am not sure what that jet is, to be frank, Kerri-Anne. It might be one of the Government's VIP flights, is it?

KENNERLEY:

No, she has paid $60,000 to take herself and a few bureaucrats to travel three states to look at tourism. Now, we know tourism is hurting big time. Many people, and the public in general, are seriously questioning this decision.

TREASURER:

Well, it is a tough one isn't it? Because, on the one hand, people want you to be on the scene to actually get a good understanding. And every time there is a difficulty, you quite often hear people say, look, Minister, we would like you to come up here and see it for yourself. And of course, then the moment you do, somebody else says, oh well, you shouldn't be spending money on it. I think a tourism minister has got every right to be out in the tourist industries, speaking to people on the ground, and I think if that gives them a better understanding, then the tourist industry will welcome it.

KENNERLEY:

Mmmm, well here's hoping something does come of it. But it is seriously being questioned. The confidence in this economy, you know, we were covering that aspect earlier, but, while we may be able to talk up our economy, and let's face it, it has been doing very well, America, there is so many influences that we can't do anything about. How do you judge what to do in the future?

TREASURER:

Sure. Well, you probably heard the old expression that when America sneezes, the world catches cold. It is the world's largest economy by a long shot, and when the American economy turns down, everybody who exports into the United States is affected. In our region, countries like Singapore have gone into very sharp recession, because they are big exporters to the United States.

We are also living at the difficult period where the world's second largest economy, and that is Japan - Japan is the world's second largest economy, is also in recession. So, this is making tough times internationally. So, from Australia's point of view, we will be affected by it. I have always said we'll be affected by these international developments. But we're coming into it from a stronger position. Our economy has been growing much more healthily than the United States. Our farmers are doing a fantastic job on exports. Our interest rates are low, and the housing industry is helping. So,. . .

KENNERLEY:

Well, while all those things are pretty good, as we go into an election, and the Prime Minister is arriving at Government House as we speak, the Opposition is starting to stir it up, saying a vote for Howard is a vote for Costello. How do you react to that?

TREASURER:

Well, I think John Howard and I have always been a team. The two of us have worked together now for nearly six years. And in that time we have made some tough decisions, but I think they have been fair, and I think they have been right. And we stand as a team, and he as Prime Minister, I as Treasurer, and I think when you look at the team, the team is a pretty strong team. I don't hear anybody telling me that the alternative team is a better one.

KENNERLEY:

Indeed, well listen, we'll leave it there. I certainly appreciate your time. I know it's a going to be a busy time. And if there's nothing else happening on the 10th I'll be over for the barbie.

TREASURER:

I'd love you to, could you bring around a few chops and something to drink as well?

KENNERLEY:

I, (inaudible), hello, my middle name Mr Costello, I'll bring the white wine, and the red, a few snags.

TREASURER:

It sounds like a good party this one.

KENNERLEY:

Hey listen, thanks for joining us.

TREASURER:

It was a great pleasure.

KENNERLEY:

I look forward to talking to you in the next little while. You won't forget us will you?

TREASURER:

I won't. Thanks Kerri.