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 11/05/2005

Interview with Ross Stevenson & John Burns
3AW

Wednesday, 11 May 2005
8.05 am

SUBJECTS: Budget

JOURNALIST:

We are joined in Canberra by the Treasurer Peter Costello. Good morning, Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Good morning, Ross. Good morning, John.

JOURNALIST:

I guess your overwhelming feeling this morning must be well, thank goodness I don’t have to do that again.

TREASURER:

Look, it’s a lot of work and it’s a big day and today is a lot of work of course in explaining the budget. But I think as people look at it they’ll think that it’s a budget that set Australia up for some great opportunities in the decades to come.

JOURNALIST:

I suppose it’s a bit like studying for an exam and you’ve certainly had a very, very good pass on this one judging by all the critics, but how much assistance did you get from John Howard?

TREASURER:

Well the Treasurer is responsible for the budget. It’s my obligation to bring it together and to make decisions and announce it, but the Government as a whole has to sign off on the budget. It’s got to look not just for today but for the future. It’s a $200 billion budget so it’s a large sum of money and a lot of work.

JOURNALIST:

How did that relate to the question what did the Prime Minister have to do with it?

TREASURER:

I’m not sure what the question was.

JOURNALIST:

I just want to know whether or not John Howard made sure that you didn’t deliver a budget that makes you look like a very good future leader.

TREASURER:

Look, you deliver the budget which you think is right for the times and I think this is right. It cuts tax, it saves for the future and it will encourage I hope more people to get into work.

JOURNALIST:

Sequestered as we are in Melbourne, Treasurer, we don’t get to hear the bulk of the interviews that you would have no doubt already have conducted. Are they all going slightly like this?

TREASURER:

I’ve got to say, you guys are one-off.

JOURNALIST:

I want to ask a question about, a serious question about economics and the budget now if I may. Are the changes you’ve made to superannuation designed to provide wealthy 65 year old men with a greater incentive to retire?

TREASURER:

How old are you, Ross?

JOURNALIST:

47. The same age as you, I think.

TREASURER:

It’s pitched right at 47 year olds.

JOURNALIST:

It’s not pitched at blokes that have been in a job for a while, aged 65 and might sweep the pot for them in order to cash it in and retire.

TREASURER:

How old is John?

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) A bit older than that, I’m in my late 50s.

TREASURER:

Oh, we could do something for him too.

JOURNALIST:

Terry McCrann in the Herald Sun this morning and no doubt replicated in the Telegraph has said it is easily the best budget we’ve had in 30 or so years. Is that right?

TREASURER:

I’ve always thought that…

JOURNALIST:

I thought we going to start with modesty …

TREASURER:

No, no. Have you seen that program on the TV called ‘Grumpy Old Men’?

JOURNALIST:

Yes, I have.

TREASURER:

I think they could have Terry as part of the set, don’t you?

JOURNALIST:

The Australian version.

TREASURER:

A high praise from him.

JOURNALIST:

While we’re casting the Australian version of ‘Grumpy Old Men’ and we’ve got Terry McCrann in it. Anyone else leap to mind?

TREASURER:

What about your mate John there?

JOURNALIST:

Oh, cut it out. Alright, I will get grumpy. What about..

TREASURER:

You don’t have to John. I take it back.

JOURNALIST:

What about the sickness benefits business? Now what you’ve said is, that 6.5 per cent of the workforce etcetera etcetera are on sickness benefits and they’ve only, most of them have only got bad backs. And it says here, they may be capable of part-time work. Does that mean that you’re going to remove the benefits from someone who is deemed capable of part-time work but who hasn’t got it?

TREASURER:

In the future, if you want to qualify for the Disability Support Pension, the qualification will be that you can’t work. You can’t work full-time or part-time. If you’re capable of part-time work, you’ll still be entitled to unemployment benefits but you will have to be looking for work.

JOURNALIST:

Who should be the Treasurer in a Costello Government?

TREASURER:

Well, we’re not going there fellas.

JOURNALIST:

And why’s that? Who told you you can make up the rules? Hey. Who should be the Treasurer in a Costello Government?

TREASURER:

I was going to say to you, fella’s looking for part-time work on sickness benefits might be able to apply for radio host jobs.

JOURNALIST:

I don’t think it would be sufficient hours. I was rather hoping that when I asked you who would be the Treasurer in the Costello Government, that you don’t answer hypothetical questions. Which would have in turn allowed me to say, well your budget meetings with Treasury must go very short then.

TREASURER:

Do you need me for this interview? Or could you blokes just do it between the two of you?

JOURNALIST:

You’ve got to promise that you won’t change the goal posts of super like Government’s have been doing ever since I can remember.

TREASURER:

Well, we abolished the superannuation surcharge last night.

JOURNALIST:

Why didn’t you do that before now?

TREASURER:

Well, we were trying to reduce it in the past and the Senate kept blocking the reductions and so we decided that rather than keep mucking around and trying to reduce it and being held up by the Senate we would propose its abolition. The Labor Party apparently is going to vote against it. They want to keep the surcharge but I hope that once the Labor Party’s blocking majority moves in the Senate after 1 July that we’ll be able to get that through.

JOURNALIST:

Have you got any plans to talk about your desire to be the Prime Minister of the country? I mean, some would say that it’s self evident that he owes you the job and he has the moral obligation to hand over to you in a winning position. Are you ever going to talk about that?

TREASURER:

No, because I’m focussing on the budget. The budget only came down last night fellas and we’ve got to enact it. It takes from now until 30 June to enact it. So there is still a lot of work to be done. That’s what I’m focussed on.

JOURNALIST:

There’s a photo in the paper of after you’ve delivered the budget of John Howard shaking hands and looking intensely into your face. Are you, was he in fact happy with the budget and your performance in it? And secondly, are you good mates?

TREASURER:

Yes. Yes.

JOURNALIST:

Good. Getting shorter and shorter. Will you take a couple of questions from the folks?

TREASURER:

Sure.

JOURNALIST:

Geoff, please try and make the question as quick as you can.

CALLER:

Look, I was wanting to know why you couldn’t give the tax break, reverse it around and give the low-income workers more money and the higher income, less money? Wouldn’t that give the incentive too, for the part-time workers etc?

TREASURER:

Well, in fact the percentage tax cut is greatest for the low-income workers. It doesn’t sound as large in dollar terms, but that is because low-income workers pay a lot less tax. So, when you cut their rate, although it doesn’t sound as huge in dollar terms, as a percentage it’s actually greater.

JOURNALIST:

Let’s have June ask a quick question.

CALLER:

Hi, Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Hi, June.

CALLER:

I’m a senior, retired and I’m just wondering why you never give the seniors anything, the people that have worked all their lives, paid taxes. We haven’t even got the $100 Mr Howard promised us last year. So, what’s wrong with us seniors getting something?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, June.

TREASURER:

Well, you have if you are a self-funded retiree, you are entitled to the utilities allowance. And if you are a pensioner, $100 as well. And if you haven’t received it for some reason, if you are on a pension, I’d contact Centrelink and if you are a self-funded retiree you would have received the form in the mail. I know thousands of Australians who have.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, I should say we won’t take the calls from Joyce and Sandy, but there was echo with that last call with Joyce saying why is there no rise with the pension, and Sandy saying what is happening for older people.

TREASURER:

Well there is a rise, can I say there is a rise in the pension. The pension is indexed twice a year and rising faster than consumer prices. That’s something that our Government put in place. There is a rise in the pension and she would know that twice a year it actually goes up and goes up faster than prices. It’s actually tracking, tracking wages at the moment which grow faster than prices.

JOURNALIST:

It is sixteen after eight. Here’s an interesting question posed from left field. Who will do all the volunteer work at schools if all the mothers go back to work?

TREASURER:

Well, in relation to mothers, we say that single mothers who are on the single mothers’ pension are not required to do any work until their youngest child gets to the age when they can go to school. And then we want to encourage them to do part-time work. School’s five days a week, and if the children are at school five days a week between say 9 and 3, the opportunity to do some part-time work between those hours, I think, is quite open. And we would encourage people to do it.

JOURNALIST:

A challenge by Christmas?

TREASURER:

Am I challenged by Christmas? No, I’m looking forward to Christmas very much, Ross.

JOURNALIST:

An early Santa Claus as you have been. Are you going to challenge by Christmas?

TREASURER:

We are not going into any speculation, Ross.

JOURNALIST:

Good on you. Many thanks for your time this morning.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Peter Costello.