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 19/01/2006

Doorstop Interview
Los Angeles

Thursday, 19 January 2006

SUBJECTS: Petrol prices, Australian Wheat Board, Senator Hill, energy exports

JOURNALIST:

It might be fitting to start with, just quickly, there are rumours a rife that petrol prices are going to go up yet again, will the Government look ever at easing the burden on the mums and dads who are struggling with mortgage payments, etcetera?

TREASURER:

Look petrol prices are in no ones interests they are not in the interests of the consumers, they are not in the interest of the economy, they don't produce additional revenue because the excise is fixed, but petrol prices follow world oil prices. World oil prices go up, it finds its way to the bowser. This is not something unique to Australia. It is not something that can be controlled in Australia. It is happening all over the world and I sympathise very much with consumers and with businesses that are paying them but you can't counteract a world oil price increase.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you have spoken today about Australia and what we might have to offer the market I guess in terms of our resources. The issue I wanted to raise with you is the Wheat Board scandal, is there any concern that you might have on what impact that could have on our reputation globally but also with our partners, the Americans?

TREASURER:

These matters are before a royal commission back in Australia. I don't have any comment to make, these are matters for the Commissioner of course and the responsible ministers.

JOURNALIST:

Labor are calling for you to go before the inquiry, do you think that is fair?

TREASURER:

Well, Labor calls for a lot of things. It is very hard to keep up with their latest calls, they generally come to nought.

JOURNALIST:

Would you be happy to go to the inquiry?

TREASURER:

If the Commissioner thinks I have any useful information, obviously, but why would I have any information?

JOURNALIST:

Well if you were aware that kickbacks had been paid by the AWB

TREASURER:

I am not responsible for the Australian Wheat Board nor for Australia's wheat trade.

JOURNALIST:

Were you aware of any kickbacks being paid by the AWB?

TREASURER:

Well I am not engaged in the slightest. I am afraid other than what I read in newspapers I have no knowledge of these matters.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer there is talk of Robert Hill stepping aside, have you any knowledge of that or any?

TREASURER:

It is a matter for Senator Hill, you would have to direct those questions to him.

JOURNALIST:

The Woodside announcement today in relation to the gas, we have got BHP Billiton as well with a proposal, is it a bit tough having two prime Australian companies fighting out for the one market?

TREASURER:

No look, California in particular has real energy needs, the United States has real energy needs. Australia is a major exporter of liquid natural gas. We have a product which the Americans need. I believe this could be the most fantastic two-way trade. What it requires, is it requires terminals to be set up here in the United States to receive that LNG. That is a matter for the Americans but I would recommend it to them. I think it could be done in a clean, safe way, it would deliver cheap energy and we in Australia have the energy they need. And as I said in my speech today, this could be fantastic for the people of California. It would help earn Australia export dollars, that is good too, so it is a win-win situation.

JOURNALIST:

Are you confident Mr Costello of that possibility, that California will go down this route?

TREASURER:

Well look, a terminal has got to be built here in California. That has got to be subject to environmental laws in particular. As I understand it there are legal cases going on, they will have to resolve their way through the US court system. But from my point of view I would say to the Americans LNG is a great energy source, Australia is a reliable supplier, this is efficient energy, this is a country California and America that needs energy, we in Australia stand ready to supply it.

JOURNALIST:

Have you been frustrated by how long the Americans or Californians have taken to make a decision about the BHP Billiton proposal which has been out for a number of years now?

TREASURER:

Well politics moves slowly in the United States and the court system moves even slower but you know, this is a sovereign country, it sets its own decision making process, unfortunately we don't run it.

JOURNALIST:

Have you had a chance with the politicians here though while you have been here to say, anything you guys can do to move it along?

TREASURER:

We have made a lot of representations. Thanks very much.