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 29/06/2005

Doorstop Interview

Wynyard Ex Servicemen’s & Citizen’s Club
9 Goldie Street, Wynyard

Wednesday, 29 June 2005
12.15 pm

SUBJECTS: Vegetable Grower Concerns, Industrial Relations, Leadership, Mark Latham

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, first question, do country of origin food labelling laws need to be strengthened?

TREASURER:

We have to make sure that we have the best laws which give the best information to consumers and also help Australian producers when they are selling their produce appeal to Australian consumers and we are looking at those laws at the moment to make sure that we have the best laws that are available.

JOURNALIST:

Inside you spoke about communities creating government. Just last week we had a major community rally here from the farmers perspective, really quite worried about their futures, what is the Government going to be doing to help them?

TREASURER:

We will be meeting today with vegetable growers and we know the concerns that they have, particularly with big companies like McDonalds maybe moving sources of their product, I will discussing that with them. The Federal Government has already made $200,000 available to do a strategic review of the industry, it will be represented at their day of action. Senator Colbeck has been very, very active on this, as has Mark Baker. And I will be speaking with them today to discuss with them any other matters where they think the Federal Government can assist. But I really want to say this, that the vegetable growers are very productive, they are very commercial, they have great produce and we want to make sure that they get a fair go.

JOURNALIST:

The State Government is saying that it has to be a Federal Government move to combat you know, cheap imports from overseas, what are you going to do about that?

TREASURER:

Well, the Federal Government of course will do its bit in areas where it has responsibility, but I wouldn’t like to see State Governments walk away from this either. State Governments have got a lot of powers and they have to make sure that they produce commercial enterprise and a competitive environment. State Governments ought to be doing that in the areas like tax and infrastructure, other areas where they can actually be of some assistance in relation to enforcement. So, I wouldn’t say that the State Governments shouldn’t do anything, it ought to be active, it ought to be as active as the Federal Government intends to be in this area.

JOURNALIST:

North-west farmers are being crippled by increased production costs. Is there room for Federal Government subsidies for Australian farmers?

TREASURER:

I think the important thing is to keep costs as low as possible, that is what we focus on doing. Low interest rates, interest rates are a huge cost to farmers, the fact that we have brought interest rates down, the fact that we have brought company taxes down, the fact that we have brought capital gains taxes down, the fact that we have better industrial relations, where we can get cheaper transport costs, these are the ways to help people become competitive and you give them every opportunity to produce good product at the best prices.

JOURNALIST:

Do the supermarket chains have too much power over our farmers?

TREASURER:

Well, I think it is important that there be opportunity for equality of bargaining in relation to supermarkets or anybody else and we have actually put in place some measures to help in those situations where there is a disparity of bargaining power to help. We have got some procedures actually under way which could be of assistance.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) rallies around the country, thousands of people against industrial relations reform, what are you expecting to come from that?

TREASURER:

Well, people are entitled to put their views and if they want to have a rally and they want to express their views, Australia is a free country but they are not entitled to disrupt other businesses. They are not entitled to engage in stoppages which will affect essential services. What we need as a country is we need the best industrial relations system that we can possibly get because that is the way you get more jobs and higher wages. I want to make this point - our policy is designed for more jobs and higher wages and the most efficient industrial relations system is the one that produces more jobs and higher wages and that is what we are on about.

JOURNALIST:

People out there are very concerned though about changes to the Industrial Relations Commission and they are in fact saying that they are going to possibly lose jobs rather than create jobs. Is there a mis-information campaign out there?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t think they properly understand our policy. Our policy is a policy which is to free up the workplace, help businesses become more competitive, that will create more jobs and higher wages. That is what we are on about, that is why we are trying to do all of this. Now, others will have different cases that they want to argue and certainly the ACTU will want to argue its case. But that is why we are going through this, we are doing this for a better industrial relations system and a stronger economy.

JOURNALIST:

I suppose what a lot of the small people out there are saying though, is if someone like me who is employed with less than a hundred people in the business could lose my job just like that, is that the case?

TREASURER:

No it is not the case, it is not the case. In relation to employment, the best way of keeping your job is to have a profitable employer. If the employer goes down, everybody loses their job, if the employer is profitable everybody has the chance to share in wages and jobs. That is what this is about.

JOURNALIST:

You said this morning though you have created 1.6 million extra jobs, surely that is an indication that the current system works?

TREASURER:

Well, the current system is better than it was when our government was elected in 1996 because we have been able to reform it, but if we reform it further we will do better. That is the truth of the matter. Sure, there has been good job creation here in Australia, but we want more. We would like to have a situation where everyone who is looking for work can find a job, that has got to be the expectation here.

JOURNALIST:

Okay, Mr Costello do you appreciate Tony Abbott’s backing for a smooth transition for the Party leadership?

TREASURER:

Well, Tony and I are close colleagues and we have worked together and we have the best interests of the Liberal Party at heart, he and I will always work together for the best interests of the Liberal Party I can assure you of that.

JOURNALIST:

And you have seen The Bulletin magazine’s comments or what was published this morning, you have read the article, what would you do if you had a similar high ranking Liberal Party member saying the same things about the Liberal Party?

TREASURER:

Well, I think the point about Mark Latham’s revelations is he was the Labor Leader as recently as January this year, not even six months ago. He knew the Labor Party inside out. When he says that the Labor Party doesn’t stand for anything and it’s dysfunctional, he knows. Now, just because they have papered over this with Mr Kim Beazley instead of Mr Mark Latham doesn’t mean that they have addressed their fundamental weaknesses. They are a Party in search of a policy, in search of a reason for existence. They are a Party that has lost any semblance of governing for the national interest, Mr Latham knows that. He makes another point too, he makes a point that in the Labor Party, now it is more or less a jobs racket where jobs are handed out to friends of union chiefdoms and state based organisational heavies rather than on the basis of merit. And you had Harry Quick, one of the Labor backbenchers go on radio today to make that point. Labor doesn’t choose people on the basis of ability, you have got a centralised clique of roosters that now decide who gets the jobs and what the policy is and those roosters aren’t there because of their ability, those roosters are there because they owe their allegiances to factional chiefs and union heavies and this is a big problem for the Labor Party. Okay, thanks.