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 16/03/2006

TRANSCRIPT

Of

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

and

THE HON RENE HIDDING

Doorstop Interview
Brighton, Tasmania

Thursday, 16 March 2006
11:30 am

 

SUBJECTS: Tasmanian Election, Economy, Republic, ABC

HIDDING:

Well we are very pleased to be here today. It is one of Tasmania’s small to medium enterprises. This is one of the success stories in Tasmania that has thrived under great Federal Coalition policies and we are very pleased to be hosted here today by Jim Miller and Statewide Refrigerated Transport. Also delighted to have with us here in Tasmania today the Treasurer of the Australian Government Peter Costello who has noted very much that the State Liberals have a plan to completely abolish land tax in Tasmania that has certainly grabbed his attention early in the piece and he kind of likes that idea as do 45,000 other Tasmanians who actually pay that insidious land tax.

So I know you have got many questions for the Treasurer, I will hand him over to you and answer some questions in the end.

Thanks for being here Peter. Good on you.

TREASURER:

Thanks Rene. Well thanks Rene. It is great to be here in Tasmania today to support Rene Hidding and the Liberal team because it is such an important election on Saturday. And to have had the opportunity to speak to Rene about some of the issues that are important in this State election. As Rene said, the promise to abolish land tax I think is a very major step forward and I want to congratulate you on that. When the GST was introduced it was not introduced to add to existing taxes but to be introduced so that existing taxes could be reduced and abolished. And to see Rene taking the lead on that is I think something that ought to stand as a lesson to governments around Australia and I hope you get very strong endorsement for that on Saturday.

I want to also compliment Jim Miller and Statewide Refrigerated Transport. This is an example of a business which has prospered since 1998 I think Jim told me, and is, as you can see now, quite a major business.

The task of economic management is critical to the lives of Australians and Tasmanians. And it is important that we continue to deliver good economic results for all Australians and that in State elections such as you are going to see here on Saturday, people consider the issues very carefully. Because I think the imaginative policies of Rene Hidding and his team could really do something for Tasmania, could really set the State alight and could really add to the economic future of all Tasmanians and so it is a pleasure to be with you and to support your activity here today Rene.

HIDDING:

Thanks Peter.

JOURNALIST:

The Liberals aren’t fairing very well around the country. Why do you think they will do well in Tasmania?

TREASURER:

Well this is going to be a close election. Let’s make no bones about that. Every poll will tell you it is a close election here in Tasmania. You have a government that has been in office for eight years, it has had its go and you have got an energetic opposition led by Rene Hidding supported by a strong Liberal team. So they have got a good chance in this election. But you never know the outcome until polling day and I know that Rene will be fighting down every hour between now and Saturday.

JOURNALIST:

The polls don’t actually show that it is close between Labor and Liberal. The latest poll released on the weekend put the Liberals at 28 per cent which would seem to indicate that a majority is totally out of the question. What gives you optimism they can win a majority?

TREASURER:

I am optimistic because I think the policies, the imaginative policies that have been put forward by Rene and his team will work. The work that they have put into their policy development I think gives them a very good story to tell to the Tasmanian people. Now the election is on Saturday. We will know on Saturday what the outcome is and I believe it will be a very close outcome.

JOURNALIST:

Tasmania has the fastest growth of any State. Are you seriously suggesting Labor has mismanaged the economy?

TREASURER:

Well I am not sure that it is quite right to say Tasmania has the fastest growth of any State.

JOURNALIST:

Well that is actually what (inaudible) this financial year.

TREASURER:

Well if you look at the last couple of quarters, including the last December quarter that is not quite right. States like the Northern Territory and Western Australia admittedly they are mining States, showed much stronger growth in the December quarter. Having said all that, Tasmania is doing better today than it was say in the early 90s and the whole of Australia is doing better than it was in the early 90s. You have got to remember in the early 90s we were suffering under a Labor Federal Government and we thankfully have not had to do that for quite some time. And Tasmania like the rest of Australia has enjoyed low interest rates, low inflation, it has enjoyed strong consumer confidence and many of these things of course are due to important economic settings that have been put in place at the national level over the last 10 years.

JOURNALIST:

So how much credit can the State Government take?

TREASURER:

Well look, Australia has, as a country, had a very strong record over the last 10 years or so. The big decisions have been monetary policy, Federal Budgetary policy, inflation targeting, the introduction of the GST which has actually delivered a huge benefit to Tasmania. And so Tasmania has enjoyed the proceeds of those and I welcome the fact that Tasmania is doing much better today than it was 10 years ago. The whole of Australia is doing much better today than it was 10 years ago.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, have you come down here because the Prime Minister couldn’t make it?

TREASURER:

I have come down here because I enjoy coming to Tasmania number one, and number two to show my support to Rene and the team, to visit some local businesses and to talk to some of the business community of Tasmania. That is why I am here. I am having a good time of it too.

JOURNALIST:

How much impact do you think having a Federal Member of Parliament coming here to support the State Candidates, how much impact do you think that has on campaigning?

TREASURER:

Oh look I think at the end of the day when Tasmanians vote they will vote on Tasmanian issues and the Tasmanian candidates. There is no doubt about that. But I am willing to lend my support. I have got a little bit of experience in economic matters these days, I do know something about the economy, I have learned a little bit in recent years. Let me put it like that.

JOURNALIST:

Is it significant that John Howard didn’t make it?

TREASURER:

No, I don’t think so. Look we are in the middle of the Commonwealth Games; we have got the Queen in Australia. We have got Condoleezza Rice also in Australia; it is an extremely busy time. So this is what happens when you have an international guest in particular. So if you will bear with me I’m here and enjoying it very much.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Saul Eslake is a (inaudible) economist because he says the economic prosperity here is largely due to the State Government?

TREASURER:

Look, why is it that Australia as a whole is growing strongly at the moment? The Tasmanian Premier? I don’t think so. The Tasmanian State is enjoying what the whole of Australia is enjoying. A period of sustained prosperity on low interest rates, low inflation, good consumer demand, balanced budgets, the repayment of debt. The Commonwealth this year will eliminate all debt. That is a ninety six billion dollar debt elimination programme and Tasmania shares in that.

Now I don’t want to say that nobody has any influence on economic policy because obviously there are influences on economic policy at the State level, obviously there are, but the major economic decisions that affect Australias in any state of Australia are taken at the national level - the major ones. Now I’m not saying that a State Government doesn’t have any influence because if a State government had no influence state elections would not matter, they do matter, but the big economic decisions that brought Australia from where it was ten years ago to where it is today have been taken at the national level and the evidence of that is that you have seen the same movement in every state.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello concerns have been raised about similarities between material put out by the Liberal Party and that by a reclusive religious group called the Exclusive Brethren. The State Director here says he did meet them before the campaign and they assisted your Federal, the Federal Party in and around Sydney during the 2004 campaign, what are the links between the Liberal Party and the Exclusive Brethren?

TREASURER:

There are no formal links but if they are Australians then the links are that like all other Australians we would want to appeal to them - just as we want to appeal to Catholics and the Uniting Church and Baptists…

JOURNALIST:

Have you met them?

TREASURER:

Oh on many occasions - absolutely. I have been in politics now for fifteen years and I have met probably every church and other religion in Australia and I pride myself on having an open door policy to everybody.

JOURNALIST:

Are they financially supporting the Federal Party at the moment?

TREASURER:

I wouldn’t know. I doubt that they would be because we are not in the middle of an election. But there is nothing wrong with a person who has a religious belief exercising there democratic right, there is nothing wrong with that at all. Every Australian is entitled to do that whether you belong to a church or a mosque or a temple or whatever, that is the kind of country we are.

JOURNALIST:

Do you support the Exclusive Brethren campaign against the Greens in Tasmania? Do you agree with that have to say?

TREASURER:

Well look I don’t know what their campaign is and I don’t run it and I don’t take responsibility for it, but I’m asked the question have I meet people from the Exclusive Brethren – yes of course I have. Just as I meet people from the Catholic Church, the Uniting Church the Baptist Church and the Temple, the Hindu Temple and the Mosque. Let me let you in on a secret, I also meet atheists from time to time.

JOURNALIST:

Do you agree with the group campaigning anonymously against the Greens?

TREASURER:

Oh look, you ask them about their campaign, I don’t run their campaigns.

JOURNALIST:

Do you agree that a minority government would be an economic disaster for Tasmania?

TREASURER:

I always think that majority governments are good governments - are better. But here is my point – some majority governments can be bad governments. I would rather have a good majority government than a bad majority government. Last question.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) Labor then to get a majority?

TREASURER:

This may surprise you but I am not urging people to vote Labor I’m actually urging people to vote for Rene Hidding and his Liberal team. Yes last question.

JOURNALIST:

Some network questions Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Sure.

JOURNALIST:

Thanks. You are a noted Republican, what is your response to the Prime Minister’s comments about the future or otherwise with the Monarchy?

TREASURER:

I think that the Queens trip has been a great success. She has been warmly received, she did a wonderful job at the (inaudible) of functions, I was at several of them and also the Commonwealth Games last night which I was also at and the thing about the constitutional monarchy is that the Australians preserved it in the referendum of 1999 and it is part of our Constitiution and it is the office that is maintained under the constitution. Not the person in it, it is the office – they don’t pick and choose monarchs. You have the office of monarchy and the person who occupied that office from time to time is the constitutional monarchy.

JOURNALIST:

Is it time to look at the issue again, it has been a long time since the last referendum?

TREASURER:

Well you all know my view, I stated my view very carefully in 1999. I think it was when the referendum was held. The referendum was defeated Australians decided to continue with constitutional monarchy. We should respect their view and it doesn’t vary according to the person in the job, it is the office that is being preserved and that extends to whoever is the Monarch from time to time

JOURNALIST:

Do you hope that the debate would be reignited now?

TREASURER:

Australians will return to this debate if they want to and when they are ready. I don’t think you should try and push Australian’s debate, because in my experience the more you try and push them the more they resent it. They are very independently minded people the Australians. They make up their own mind.

JOURNALIST:

On the ABC, what is your position regarding the advertising on the national broadcaster?

TREASURER:

I wouldn’t rule out looking at it, each time it has been looked at in the past it hasn’t been done, but because it has been raised again it is worth looking at.

JOURNALIST:

Is this…

TREASURER:

I better make this the very, very last one.

JOURNALIST:

Does this whole episode mean that the ABC’s bid for more funding is dead in the water before it?

TREASURER:

The ABC by the way is a very well funded organisation. The ABC is funded around about eight hundred million dollars per annum. Just think about this. It is one media outlet in competition with several others which receives from tax payers nearly $800 million per annum. Now $800 million is a large sum of money and the reason I make this point is because you do get people from time to time saying the ABC is not well funded, mostly you hear that being said by the way on the ABC, but $800 million is a lot of money.

JOURNALIST:

Should Donald McDonald have another term on the board?

TREASURER:

Thank you very much.