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 24/03/2006

Doorstop Interview
Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

Friday, 24 March 2006
12.15 pm

SUBJECTS: Kokoda, industrial relations, Kooyong, Cyclone Larry

JOURNALIST:

Okay you said that this book can be seen as an addition to our war history can you explain what you meant by that, an addition to our war history?

TREASURER:

As the men and women who fought in the Second World War are increasingly passing from us it is necessary to record their stories. Their stories for their children, their grandchildren and for successive generations of Australians. And here we have a book which tells the stories of people who were on the Kokoda track, the battle that saved Port Moresby and the battle which turned the course of the war in Papua New Guinea. So this is a very important eye witness account of what happened, from people who were there in the confusion of battle for generations of Australians which I hope will come to revere and to honour what was sacrificed at Kokoda and what it meant for our country.

JOURNALIST:

Why do they deserve a special place in the eyes of Australians?

TREASURER:

They deserve a special place because this was the battle that stopped the Japanese advance. The Japanese advance on Port Moresby which would have given the Japanese a foothold against Australia and against the Navy, the US Navy, in the Pacific. And here you had a militia group which had not been properly trained, which was thrown into battle, which was against superior forces, which managed to halt the Japanese advance and turn the course of the war in Papua New Guinea. And they deserve a special place of honour amongst Australia’s soldiers.

JOURNALIST:

And Treasurer there was news today that they will be re-forming the 39th Battalion, long overdue?

TREASURER:

It is a wonderful honour to the 39th which is now going to have another part of the Australian Defence Force named in honour of it. The 39th fought at Kokoda with unbelievable bravery and this is a welcome announcement, something that has taken a long time but it is long overdue and very warmly welcomed.

JOURNALIST:

Just briefly on another matter Treasurer we are on the dawn of a new industrial relations era come Monday, some within your Department are suggesting that IR reforms won’t necessarily lead to the major productivity gains as suggested but we would be better suited investing in education and businesses in capital equipment - any thoughts on that?

TREASURER:

Well I have no doubt that a better system of industrial relations will lead to better business profitability and higher wages. Why? Because it will allow people to work in flexible patterns and to work in ways which will enhance their own productivity and the productivity of business. So I have no doubt that good industrial relations is essential for Australia’s productivity. All of the international evidence shows us those countries that have flexible labour markets tend to have lower unemployment and higher wages and I have no doubt that that will be the case in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

So you are saying essential to productivity gains, essential but only part of?

TREASURER:

There is no one answer to productivity, it is a full court press, it is IR, it is interest rates it is balanced budgets, it is good tax systems, it is important structural reform, this is a full court press on every issue that we can and that is how you get the best outcomes.

JOURNALIST:

The unions have been running a pretty big scare campaign. Will the sky fall in when it all comes into place?

TREASURER:

I think you will wake up on the day after the IR is begun and the sun will be in the sky the moon will come up the next night and the world will look pretty much the same as it does today.

JOURNALIST:

So another Y2K bug?

TREASURER:

Well I have been through these Chicken Little performances from the Labor Party before. I heard it all over the GST which they said was going to change our lives as we know it. We are here, we are prosperous, we are doing well and it will be the same with IR reform.

JOURNALIST:

In relation to Petro Georgiou…

TREASURER:

Last question before my voice gives out completely please.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer just on the Prime Minister …

TREASURER:

One and one…

JOURNALIST:

…sorry the rescue package for Innisfail. Has that required some last minute adjustments to the Budget and can you put a figure on how much it will eventually cost Australians?

TREASURER:

Well it is an addition to the amount we budgeted at the time of last year’s Budget. It will be spent principally in this financial year, the sums are up around $100 million, we can’t be sure of the final figure until everybody takes up the loans and the building is done, but yes it is new expenditures.

JOURNALIST:

Sorry just quickly, have you had any indication as to the amount of interest in those loans? Are people…

TREASURER:

I think there will be a lot of interest in those loans.

JOURNALIST:

Just in relation to Petro Georgiou, you have said that you are going to support him in his pre-selection for Kooyong. How actively will you go about that?

TREASURER:

Look I have made my views known, at the end of the day the delegates will make their own decisions, they will take into account the candidates, the issues and they will make their own mind up. But I have made my view pretty clear in relation to this and it is there to be given weight to as the delegates see fit.

JOURNALIST:

Can I have a part B? Just in relation to, over the last week, there has been a few Ministers coming out with schemes for mental health and pre – school, do you think they are going to be taxing on the surplus? Are you worried about those initiatives?

TREASURER:

Well look we have got to put together all of our expenditures and all of the necessary investment in Australia’s future and bring down a Budget in May and it is going to be a difficult task but we will do the best we can. Thank you very much.