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 22/08/2005

Interview with Neil Mitchell
3AW

Monday, 22 August 2005
8.50 am

SUBJECTS: Victorian Land Tax, anti-Americanism, Telstra

MITCHELL:

On the line is the Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello. Good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Neil.

MITCHELL:

Did you read about that proposal – the $30,000 tax on a block of land?

TREASURER:

Yes, I did. I had a big chuckle when I read it because as you said it would be an enormous impost on land and I couldn’t actually believe that the State Government could seriously look at it at a time when their GST revenues were booming and their land taxes were booming and their stamp duties were booming. I couldn’t really figure out what the motivation behind it was.

MITCHELL:

Well hopefully they won’t. They just, they are not ruling it out but they are looking at it. I should ask you about blue trees. You love the MCG. Do you think we should paint the trees blue?

TREASURER:

I think we should paint the MCG red and black actually Neil.

MITCHELL:

Oh what!

TREASURER:

After yesterday’s effort.

MITCHELL:

Yeah but you got to beat Melbourne next Saturday to get through.

TREASURER:

This is the time at which you and I normally enter into a wager isn’t it?

MITCHELL:

Yeah all right. We will talk about that. I am fascinated by your comments about anti-Americanism in Australia. This is almost a form of racism isn’t it?

TREASURER:

Well it is quite strong. I referred to a poll that was done recently by one of our respected institutes which asked about various countries – do you have positive or negative feelings. And according to this poll - it’s a very reputable poll, the Lowy Institute Poll - Australia’s most positive feelings are towards New Zealand and followed by the United Kingdom and then we come down a long, long way and the United States came in behind China and just in front of Indonesia which is extraordinary when you think about it.

MITCHELL:

Why do you think that is happening?

TREASURER:

Well, there is a very strong anti-American feeling in Australia and I gave a speech on this on Saturday night and tried to analyse the reasons. I said part of it is ideological, part of it I think is this view that the United States is such a strong power that somehow it might threaten us or our interests and I said, well that is absolute nonsense because in fact the United States is a strong power which defends our interests particularly when you look at the history of the Second World War. And I thought part of it might be something to do with American culture. But at the end of the day this is the view I was putting: anti-Americanism has no solid basis in Australia, it is not in our interests to have strong anti-Americanism in Australia and we ought to remember that the cornerstone of our defence relationship since the Second World War in fact has been the American Alliance.

MITCHELL:

It is bordering on racism don’t you think?

TREASURER:

It is not related to a particular race because we know Americans comprise people of all races.

MITCHELL:

Oh yeah but if American is a race it is racist.

TREASURER:

Yes but it is a strong sentiment in sections of the Australian community and I don’t think there is any basis for it.

MITCHELL:

Do you think the teaching in schools is responsible for it? You seem to suggest you think there has been an influence by left wing teachers who are anti-American. I don’t think there is any doubt there’s a lot of anti-American views in schools.

TREASURER:

Well you see Neil we just had the 60th Anniversary of Victory in the Pacific when Australian and American troops fought alongside each other in the defence of Australia. I go to schools a lot and I talk about the Second World War and particularly in the last week or so about Victory in the Pacific. I am surprised that so few students know about the events of 1941 and as I recounted in my speech I was a bit taken aback when one of the students recently looked at me and said, you know, “What have the Americans ever done for Australia?”

MITCHELL:

Yeah.

TREASURER:

And my point was well actually they defended Australia with us in 1941 when we were, 1942, when we were practically at the mercy of an invasion. But I don’t think this history is well taught in Australian schools and I think it ought to be well taught in Australian schools. I think there would be some teachers who may not even know it themselves let alone be able to teach it. Not all teachers, of course there are many good teachers, but I am just saying that we ought to remember these things and they ought to be taught to the younger generation in Australia.

MITCHELL:

Okay well thank you for speaking to us. Just quickly, there seems to be some division between you and the Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, over what happens to the Telstra shares. Could they go into the Future Fund? All of them?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t think there is a division because the Government’s policy is to offer them for sale and to invest the proceeds. Now I think Nick was asked a question, what would happen if you couldn’t do the sale? And you know, he gave various suggestions. But we are not looking at those suggestions because our policy is to offer them for sale to the Australian public and to invest the proceeds.

MITCHELL:

Okay, Melbourne vs Essendon. How much?

TREASURER:

Essendon by 20 points.

MITCHELL:

Okay so you are giving me 20 points in. What’s the usual - $10 to a charity of the other person’s choice.

TREASURER:

Okay. Okay.

MITCHELL:

Thank you very much. And if Melbourne doesn’t win they probably won’t make the finals. Peter Costello, Federal Treasurer.