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 27/01/2006

Interview with Karl Stefanovic
Today Show

Friday, 27 January 2006
7.09 am

SUBJECTS: Bank fees, Coalition

STEFANOVIC:

A very good morning to you Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Good morning Karl, good to be with you.

STEFANOVIC:

Good to be with you too. Well, it was Australia Day yesterday, it is bag the bank day today I am telling you, Westpac is lifting their ATM fees from $1.50 to $2.00 per transaction, that looks like out and out profiteering, is there anything that can be done about that?

TREASURER:

Well of course if Westpac moves its fees in a way in which is uncompetitive I recommend people go to other banks. The best way of controlling bank fees and the best way of putting pressure on banks is competition. And if there is a bank that tries to increase its prices then people should exercise their consumer power and go somewhere else and that is what I would recommend to them, I think that is the way banks get messages, they see that their customers are unhappy and the market works, that is the best way of controlling prices.

STEFANOVIC:

Treasurer, does the Reserve Bank have any room at all to manoeuvre in terms of investigating?

TREASURER:

Well the Reserve Bank doesn't actually have a regulatory power in relation to this but it does actually monitor bank fees, yes it does, overall and it regularly reports in relation to that the amount of bank fees and how they have moved and give you a historical time series. So they inform the market but they don't actually control the market.

STEFANOVIC:

So should they be investigating here?

TREASURER:

Oh well they will, they will take this into account and they will report in relation to these matters when they do their regular reports. But the point I would make in relation to bank fees is there are plenty of banks out there, by the way not just big banks, there are new institutions coming on line, community banks, credit unions where you sometimes get a much better deal in relation to bank fees and I would say to the consumer, don't feel you have got to stick with one bank, if that bank is taking you for granted, if that bank is increasing prices in a way which is against your financial interests go and look at alternatives.

STEFANOVIC:

Alright, let's look at the Cabinet reshuffle today, you have a new-look front bench, do you have a problem with the National Party though or has that been resolved?

TREASURER:

Well we are in Coalition with the National Party and we have been really since the late 80s I guess, we have worked very, very well, we have been a stable Government for ten years and we need each other as partners to ensure that the Government is stable and we need each other as partners to ensure that our legislation goes through and the Liberal Party recognises the importance of the National Party, the National Party recognises the importance of the Liberal Party and together we can continue to produce good government. If we hadn't been working together over the last ten years we wouldn't have been able to accomplish what we have and we want to work together to accomplish better things for the Australian people over the years to come.

STEFANOVIC:

Treasurer, Barnaby Joyce says the Liberals can no longer be trusted, he is quoted in the paper today as saying that.

TREASURER:

Well, everybody is entitled to their views in Australia but I would say to those people who have been part of the Coalition for a long period of time, the leadership of the National Party, the overwhelming membership of the National Party, the leadership of the Liberal party, the overwhelming membership of the Liberal Party, they know that without a Coalition there wouldn't be a government. And without a Coalition we wouldn't have been able to accomplish what we have and that is the message going forward.

STEFANOVIC:

Could the relationship be better going into today?

TREASURER:

Well I think people who have had some experience in politics and have worked as part of the Coalition, as part of the Government know all those things and sure at times like this the object of media is to get various people on both sides to up the ante but I don't think that is in the interests of either party.

STEFANOVIC:

Well we are not upping the ante, we are just reporting what those various members are saying and

TREASURER:

I am not saying you Karl, I am not saying you but what often happens in these circumstances is a newspaper journalist goes to one person and says, Have you heard what they have said about you?' Oh that is terrible,' the person will say. And then they go back to the next person, Did you hear what he said today?' Oh that is terrible,' and you know, it is like tennis match, you know it's a big serve, big volley, big return, but at the end of the day the overall outcome of the Government is more important. I am not being at all critical of you, of course that has been said but I am just saying amongst the overwhelming membership of both parties, amongst the leadership of both parties and I think amongst the voters of Australia, they know that working together this Government as a Coalition has achieved marvellous things for the Australian people and they know that they have to work together to continue to do it.

STEFANOVIC:

Treasurer why would the Liberal Party want someone as disloyal as Mr McGauran?

TREASURER:

Well Julian McGauran has been in the Senate for, I think he started 20 years ago, he hasn't been continuously in the Senate, over that period of time Julian as a Coalition Senator has voted for, to my knowledge, all Government legislation and over that period of time on a Liberal-headed ticket has been re-elected to the Senate. So, Julian has worked incredibly closely with the Liberal Party both for election and in the Senate on his voting record and he believes that he can continue to do that with a Liberal hat on rather than a National Party hat, it is not that big a difference. The more important thing is that he doesn't sit as an Independent because if he sat as an Independent then that would lead to a lot of instability in the Senate. And so, he having made his decision to leave the National Party, it is very, very important that he does become part of the Liberal Party because he is no longer a Nat so the only other alternative would be an Independent.

STEFANOVIC:

And just to reiterate, just to put the issue to rest, you played absolutely no role in his defection?

TREASURER:

He was offered nothing. You know, the reality is

STEFANOVIC:

But did you play a role, you didn't offer him anything but did you play a role in his coming across?

TREASURER:

No of course I didn't, he is a grown man

STEFANOVIC:

Did you talk to him about it?

TREASURER:

he has been a Senator for over 20 years. He rang to inform me of his decision after he had told the Leader of the National Party, Mark Vaile. He was offered nothing, in fact before he made his decision he was a Whip, he is now a backbencher, he has actually gone backwards in seniority. So the idea that he could have been offered anything is nonsense and the fact demonstrated. Look if he'd have defected and become a Minister you might have been able to say that he was doing it for some personal gain. No, he was a Whip who when he changed to the Liberal Party, lost that position

STEFANOVIC:

Did you talk to him though before he made the decision?

TREASURER:

No, he told me after he told Mark Vaile, Karl, and he did the proper thing by telling Mark Vaile and then he told the Prime Minister and he told me. And as I said to you, the suggestion that he has had some inducement is demonstrably false and wrong.

STEFANOVIC:

Alright Mr Costello, we have run out of time this morning, I really did want to talk about child care which is a bugbear of many of our viewers at the moment but we will leave that for another day, another time and place.

TREASURER:

That would be great Karl, I would love to come back and talk to you about that.

STEFANOVIC:

That would be great, thanks Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Thank you.