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 30/11/2001

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview
St Cecilia's School
Glen Iris
Friday, 30 November 2001
10.15am

 

SUBJECTS: school visit; GST revenue/States; media laws


JOURNALIST:

That was quite a grilling you copped. How does that compare to the Press Gallery?

TREASURER:

I think the grilling you get from Grade 5 and 6 at primary school is tougher than the Press Gallery, and they really search out on those questions, and they do a pretty good job. I think there is probably a few budding television reporters that we saw down there, today.

JOURNALIST:

You had to think long and hard about what the best thing is about being Treasurer?

TREASURER:

Yes. It is a question I have not been asked before so I had to think long and hard. But the best thing, I think, is when you can cut taxes, and cutting income taxes, and capital gains tax,

and company tax as part of the New Tax system, I think was one of things that has put the economy in much better shape than would have been the case otherwise.

JOURNALIST:

There are three State Governments who have come together this morning to announce a review of their own into the subsidies they say they provide for the other States. What is your reaction to that?

TREASURER:

Well, the States are perfectly entitled to look at the methodology. The Commonwealth view has always been that, whatever the methodology, it has to be agreed between all of the States. This is an argument of State against State, and the methodology has to be agreed between all of the States. And if they can come to an agreement on a new formula for the Grants Commission, we would follow the Grants Commission, as we always have. But let me make this point, what you are now seeing is an argument between Labor States, on who should get a larger share of GST revenue. That is what is going on here. All GST revenue goes to the States. And now the Labor States are arguing amongst themselves about who should get a larger share of GST. I have never seen a State Government yet that was interested in Rollback. What the States are actually interested in, is, getting a share of the growth revenue of the GST. And that is only fair because the GST was put in place to properly fund State services, like health and education. And the argument between the States can only be settled by unanimous agreement.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think those three States have a point?

TREASURER:

Well, I am in the position where, where I see an argument of State against State, I can only follow the independent arbiter, which is the Grants Commission. But if the States, as between themselves, want to change the methodology, and that leads to a different outcome, we will follow the decision of the arbiter. It is not the Commonwealth that decides this, it is the independent Grants Commission acting on the unanimous methodology.

JOURNALIST:

So you don't think that this review would be a waste of money at all, you think it is worthwhile?

TREASURER:

Well, it, unless you can get unanimous agreement amongst the States, it is unlikely to lead to any changes. So, if I were the State Government, I would start off by seeking agreement with the other States. You have got to get the agreement of the other States, because this methodology has to be unanimous. It is then given to the independent umpire, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the Commonwealth Government then follows that outcome. But you have to get unanimous agreement. If they have no prospect of getting unanimous agreement, if they are not seeking unanimous agreement, then it will just become another political football which will not lead anywhere.

JOURNALIST:

So you are making yourself out to be nothing more than an observer in this argument?

TREASURER:

The Commonwealth does two things. It pays all GST to the States, and it follows the decision of the independent Commonwealth Grants Commission on what shares they could get. From the Commonwealth's point of view, we make available the total GST pool and we follow the umpires decision on allocating the shares as between the States. It is up to the States themselves to come to an agreement on how they want the umpire to divvy it up, but it has to be the unanimous agreement. We will follow it, but it has to be unanimous agreement amongst the States.

JOURNALIST:

Just on another quick issue, the, are you encouraged by the Democrats indicating that they are prepared to look at media laws?

TREASURER:

I think the Government's position, is, we think Australia's media laws need to modernised and we can change them, substantially reform them, but only if the Senate passes it. Now, as you know, the Senate is under the control of the Labor Party and the Democrats. The Labor Party are against reform, then the only way that will take place, is, if the Democrats vote for it. And I welcome the fact that the Democrats seem to have an open mind. I think the Democrats are much more, are thinking much more creatively than the Labor Party. The Labor Party is just opposed to reform, as far as I can tell. And if the Democrats have an open mind then we might actually get some progress, yes.

Okay, thanks very much.