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 21/05/2004

TRANSCRIPT
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview

ABC Learning Centre, Albany Creek

Friday, 21 May 2004
10.50 am

SUBJECTS: Family Tax Benefit, Labor Party Tax Policy

TREASURER:

One of the important things in this Budget was to provide more assistance for families, the Government has announced an increase in the Family Tax Benefit of $600 per child per annum. And that is to assist parents with the costs of bringing up children and also to particularly assist mothers that might be returning to part-time work because so many families now are juggling work and family responsibilities and we think it is important to help them. And one of the benefits of economic management over recent years has been the ability to help families and to give some relief to families that are juggling work, paying the bills and raising Australia’s future, the children of Australia and Australian families.

JOURNALIST:

You looked very comfortable in the sandpit.

TREASURER:

I have built a few sandpits over my life, as we moved house it was always my duty to build a new sandpit and I quite enjoyed it actually, and that experience comes in handy.

JOURNALIST:

And you were talking to that little girl who was very good at sharing her toys, John Howard is not very good at sharing his toys is he?

TREASURER:

Well, I have raised three children and I have found that sharing toys is not something that comes naturally to children so…

JOURNALIST:

What about politicians? Prime Ministers?

TREASURER:

…well, they don’t play in sandpits, but if you can find a young daughter that shares toys with her little sister, she is a national treasurer.

JOURNALIST:

Has John Howard indicated to you what the milestones he is talking about, that he wants to pass?

TREASURER:

Obviously we are running down to the next election and we are determined to win it and we think for the sake of Australia it is important that we do win it and that is what the Government is focused on at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

Well, the election is one milestone, he said milestones, what is the other one after that?

TREASURER:

Well, let’s, we don’t take anything for granted, we don’t start working on the election after the next one until the Australian public have decided the next election, and that is all we are focused on at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

Based on last night, it looks like Mr Howard is not leaving the Lodge any time soon, does that mean you will be having that discussion with your family at Christmas time as to how long you stay in the job?

TREASURER:

Well as I said, we are absolutely focused on the next election, we don’t take anything for granted, the future of the Government, the future of me, the future of John Howard is in the hands of the Australian people, nobody else.

JOURNALIST:

Does it bug you that you may never be Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

As I said, I am focusing on the next election and we are not speculating about anything other than winning the trust of the Australian people at the next election.

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned the child payments there. There seems to be a bit of a wrangle in the ALP about whether those payments can be quarantined if the Latham Government wins power. What is your response to that?

TREASURER:

Well, there is now utter confusion in the Labor Party on policy. We have a situation where Bob McMullan, the Finance Minister, told the press that the Labor Party reserves the right to take back family assistance after the next election, and he has reiterated that. Mark Latham says: “Oh, he didn’t really mean it,” that we don’t intend to take back family benefits after the next election. Earlier in the week we had David Cox, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer saying that Labor reserved the right to take back tax cuts, and then we had Mr Latham coming out and saying he had “no plans” to do so. Now, clearly there is utter confusion on the Labor side as to policy, and until such time as Mr Latham announces his tax rates, his tax thresholds, the amount of money that he wants to spend and where it is coming from, you can’t believe anything that he says. If he can’t tell you the detail of what he is proposing, how can you possibly believe what he is proposing? And it is time for this charade to finish, we have had enough waffle from the Labor Party, enough confusion, now is the time for them to announce a policy. And we will be going back to Canberra next week. Mr Latham has got to announce a policy because until such time as he does, all you get is contradictory statements and utter confusion from the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST:

The $3000 payment, is it fair that someone like a high paid backbencher like Mr Dutton here is going to get that when his wife gives birth after July?

TREASURER:

It is a universal payment because everybody incurs the cost of child rearing and having children. Now you can set up a new department that can administer income tests and asset tests and require more forms to be filled in, but I will warrant to you at the end of the day the administrative costs of administering such a system will outweigh any savings, so we think it is better to have a universal payment. It is simple, it doesn’t involve the same kind of bureaucratic costs and it recognises the fact that all families incur costs when they have children.

JOURNALIST:

But do you think most other Australian’s would say look, someone like Mr Dutton gets paid enough, he doesn’t need that kind of thing?

TREASURER:

No, I think most Australian’s would say it is a wonderful thing to introduce a new maternity payment, why hasn’t somebody done it before, I think that is what they would be saying.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it is going to be enough to get more people having babies?

TREASURER:

Look, it we didn’t introduce it to convince people who wouldn’t otherwise have children to have children, I don’t think anybody in their right mind would say, I will have a baby for $3000. A baby is with you for a very long period and, believe me, it costs a lot more than that on an annual basis as I know…

JOURNALIST:

What about a confused teenage girl?

TREASURER:

…so I don’t think anybody would in their right mind would do that and that wasn’t why it was introduced. It was introduced to cover some of the costs of having a baby. You have a baby you have to buy the nappies and the bottle and the bouncinette and the capsule for the back of the car and the cot and you have got to have a room to put the baby in, you need the formulas and all those things. It is a very expensive business.

JOURNALIST:

And is $3000 enough?

TREASURER:

Well, that is another way of looking at it, I am not saying that it is going to cover all of your costs by any means, it will go some way to helping with the costs, but as we all know that children are with you for life and they are a wonderful thing to be with you for life.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just say that there has been some genuine concern expressed that this $3000 could send the wrong message to confused teenagers, particularly in those sort of outer suburbs with battling families. I have actually heard some grandparents and mothers saying, do politicians have any idea what goes through a young girls mind, $3000? They have had grandkids say to them, “Nanna, we get $3000 if we have a kid.” There is some genuine concern out there about this policy direction.

TREASURER:

I don’t think anybody is going to have a child, anybody in their right mind is going to have a child just to get the maternity payment…

JOURNALIST:

Even a disturbed teenager?

TREASURER:

…well, bear this in mind, a maternity payment already exists. All we have done is we have brought together the amount and increased them, so if that is the case it must have been the case before. But having said that…

JOURNALIST:

You are paying it in a lump sum aren’t you?

TREASURER:

…having said that, we have also said that where there are mothers at risk, where a lump sum would not be appropriate, we would put in place other arrangements. There might be mothers at risk, mothers who are not well, for example, but they will be a minority of cases. You can always look for the hard cases, but I think the more important thing is to acknowledge the overwhelming majority of cases which is parents are doing it tough. They are struggling with a lot of costs and if the Government can help them, then they should. Last question.

JOURNALIST:

You said that children are always with their parents for life, what about Natasha Stott Despoja and her mother who is reportedly has been travelling at the taxpayers expense under the travel payments?

TREASURER:

Well, it is, Natasha’s mum still has Natasha with her I suppose. But look, at the end of the day you have guidelines, the guidelines say as I understand it, you can nominate somebody to travel with you within Australia, I believe there are different rules within Australia and outside of Australia and as I understand it Natasha wasn’t married at the time and so she nominated her mother, as I understand it that is within the rules…

JOURNALIST:

Do those rules need to be changed?

TREASURER:

…and if you want to know about those rules, you had better speak to Senator Abetz, the Special Minister of State. Thank you very much.