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 23/02/2005

Interview with Bert Newton
Good Morning Australia
Channel 10

Wednesday, 23 February 2005
9.00 am

 

SUBJECTS: Budget, Latham

BERT NEWTON:

The Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello. Hi Peter.

TREASURER:

Good to see you.

BERT NEWTON:

Nice to see you. I was just thinking as you walked in, I think a lot of people believe you to be shorter than you really are and I am an old Collingwood six-footer and you are taller than me, aren’t you?

TREASURER:

Yes, people often say, ‘you are taller in real life than you look on the television,’ and I say, ‘you must have your television low in your living room.’

BERT NEWTON:

Do they say that you are more handsome off television or whatever?

TREASURER:

Some of them said you look younger in real life, I suppose they say that to you too do they Bert?

BERT NEWTON:

No unfortunately, but you have said it for me so that is terrific. Peter, the late Federal Treasurer in the Labor Party, Jim Cairns told me once, and he held more than one portfolio as you know, he said, being Treasurer is the hardest job in Parliament and also the loneliest. Do you see it that way?

TREASURER:

Well the trouble is you know in Government, most of your colleagues want to spend money and your job is…

BERT NEWTON:

(inaudible).

TREASURER:

…so you are quite often in that difficult relationship with your colleagues and the other thing is when you are doing Budgets - and I have done a few of them now - you…

BERT NEWTON:

How many?

TREASURER:

…I have done nine I think.

BERT NEWTON:

Oh well you hold the record don’t you?

TREASURER:

Just about, just about. But you are caught up there in Parliament House for the months all through March and April and May…

BERT NEWTON:

Is that when it is lonely?

TREASURER:

…and that is when it is lonely because the Parliament is not sitting then, everybody else is back in their electorates and you are trying to add up the sums.

BERT NEWTON:

Does that work against you in your electorate? I know you hold a safe seat but I know also you are the sort of politician that likes to do the local thing.

TREASURER:

Oh absolutely, yes it is hard when you are away so often so in the second half of the year I get to spend much more time at home and in the electorate.

BERT NEWTON:

What would make you resign as Treasurer and would you like me to answer that question for you?

TREASURER:

Yes, what is the answer?

BERT NEWTON:

Well is the baton still (inaudible), so to say?

TREASURER:

Look, you know, if you get opportunities in politics you take them, but I am very happy doing what I am doing as you said, it is probably the second hardest job in politics and it is quite an influential one and we are gearing up for the big time of the year.

BERT NEWTON:

Can it be harder than being the PM?

TREASURER:

It is probably different in a sense that the PM is the final authority in a Government, that is probably the toughest job, but in the sense that you have got to take a lot of the unpopular decisions, the Treasurer is a tough job too.

BERT NEWTON:

Yes well of course the boss himself has been through that in the Fraser Government hasn’t he?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, yes, a lot of Prime Ministers do go through it, that is their penance they go through before they…

BERT NEWTON:

Did he drive you in this morning or..?

TREASURER:

John?

BERT NEWTON:

Well I think he is in Melbourne isn’t he, or he is going to be in Melbourne?

TREASURER:

No, I think he is in Perth today.

BERT NEWTON:

Oh is he really?

TREASURER:

Yes, yes…

BERT NEWTON:

(inaudible) I mean he is there in Perth? So how long do you reckon it is going to take?

TREASURER:

What, to get back from Perth? Generally it takes about 3 hours…

BERT NEWTON:

Thank you very much… touch, touch.

TREASURER:

...yes, yes, yes.

BERT NEWTON:

…I feel quite unusual talking to you because usually it is the other Costello who is sitting there, Tim is a regular on the show. As you know I lived in Blackburn for a long time, your home suburb, and I was told by so many people in later years - and then we see Tim of course in the magnificent job he did with his group from World Vision in the recent tragedy - and the people in Blackburn used to say in hindsight, the place they would love to have been was around the dinner table or the breakfast table at the Costello’s because it was open for grabs then, politics the whole box and dice.

TREASURER:

Oh we had a lot of fun yes, but in our house we always used to say the place we would like to be was Bert’s place.

BERT NEWTON:

Is that a fact? Did you know where I lived?

TREASURER:

I think you were around the corner, weren’t you, near Central Road, the crescent that went up to Central Road.

BERT NEWTON:

You know the huge grey or something that is on about nine acres with…

TREASURER:

Yes.

BERT NEWTON:

…you see the old (inaudible), we lived opposite that.

TREASURER:

Is that right?

BERT NEWTON:

Oh yes.

TREASURER:

Oh we thought you were in the…

BERT NEWTON:

Oh no.

TREASURER:

…oh really?

BERT NEWTON:

No, no, we lived opposite, it was very, I love weatherboard and it was (inaudible).

TREASURER:

It would have been better if your house had a roof on it…

BERT NEWTON:

Well exactly.

TREASURER:

…I think at the time Bert.

BERT NEWTON:

Exactly.

TREASURER:

(inaudible).

BERT NEWTON:

Can I ask you, with Tim and yourself, a close family I know, but do you literally get the chance of being together very often?

TREASURER:

Well he tends to travel probably more than me, he spends a lot of time overseas because World Vision is an international organisation, they have their aid projects so he spends a lot of time overseas. I tend to travel mostly in Australia, he travels internationally, so we are both very busy but we catch up quite a bit through the year.

BERT NEWTON:

We know the result now, but at this time last year what did you make of the Latham move and could you have forecast in your mind that the ending was going to be as it turned out?

TREASURER:

Look, he burst onto the scene, he did very well for a period but you always wondered whether he was going to be a long distance player and I was actually surprised that he burst onto the scene in the way that he did. I didn’t expect that he would leave politics but I wasn’t surprised that you know, he would make a big statement…

BERT NEWTON:

You probably (inaudible) would be reasonably short.

TREASURER:

…yes, yes. He had been around for a long time of course in the Parliament then came up to prominence in most unexpected circumstances and that doesn’t normally happen in politics. He is a bit like John Hewson, I always thought he was a bit like John Hewson.

BERT NEWTON:

Did you feel that way about John Hewson at the time?

TREASURER:

Yes, I think John was another guy that came into politics, you know, and had a meteoric rise and probably left a lot earlier than people thought. The thing about politics is it is more a middle distance or a long distance run than a sprint I think.

BERT NEWTON:

Yes, well especially now on the Government benches because you have been there a fair while and there is a fair bit of experience now and you even find your people such as Alexander Downer who went through a bleak period when he was Leader for such a short time, and actually you were his Deputy.

TREASURER:

I was, yes, yes.

BERT NEWTON:

But he is held in high regard.

TREASURER:

Oh I think he has done a great job, you see and when you start off at a young age you have got a lot to learn as you know and you can make mistakes. And the thing about mistakes is they get amplified. If you make a mistake on national television in front of the whole audience of Australia, that is what people…

BERT NEWTON:

Don’t look at me when you say that.

TREASURER:

…you would never have had this experience, but if you do make a mistake it just gets amplified as you know, and it is very hard to get away from it.

BERT NEWTON:

What was that worth Peter, that shaking of the hands and the clutching of John Howard just outside the radio studio? Did you think it had the significance that a lot of people put into it?

TREASURER:

I don’t think it looked good. The funny thing is, you know how they have this big grand final breakfast the last Saturday in September…

BERT NEWTON:

Yes.

TREASURER:

…I had been waiting outside and they call you all in and they play music as you come in, I had been waiting outside with Mark Latham and he walked across to me and he did the same thing to me, sort of pull you in close and sort of lean over you…

BERT NEWTON:

It is sort of like a bully’s thing at school isn’t it?

TREASURER:

…well unfortunately for him, I was a little bit taller than him, so he sort of went to lean over but he sort of ended up looking up. So I wasn’t surprised to see it, I had seen it…

BERT NEWTON:

That was before the election, wasn’t it?

TREASURER:

…yes, I had seen him do it before and it was, it is not really what you expect when…

BERT NEWTON:

Did you not appreciate it?

TREASURER:

…I was surprised by it actually. When you shake hands you normally shake hands, you don’t sort of pull people into the clutches, I was surprised by that so when I saw him do it again I knew what was coming.

BERT NEWTON:

You mentioned football, I know you are a dyed in the wool, you are the Number One ticket holder at Essendon. Mark (inaudible), would you like to come across and meet Mr Costello because he is also a mad Essendon fan.

GUEST:

Nice to meet you.

TREASURER:

Nice to see you. How are we going to go this year?

GUEST:

Very well.

TREASURER:

I hope so.

GUEST:

We will see what happens after last weeks performance.

TREASURER:

Yes, it wasn’t what we had hoped.

GUEST:

No, well we had a lot of big guns out.

BERT NEWTON:

Anyway, how did you vote last election Mark? Great thanks very much.

TREASURER:

Lovely to meet you.

GUEST:

Thank you.

BERT NEWTON:

He was late at the party, he (inaudible) down the whole thing. I would love now as I shake hands with you to pull you close but I won’t do that.

TREASURER:

Good to see you.