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 19/04/2006

Doorstop Interview

Odyssey House Richmond

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

SUBJECTS: Alcohol and drug rehabilitation grants, Stonington, Jeff Kennett, oil prices, Solomon Islands

TREASURER:

The Commonwealth Government is announcing infrastructure grants to seventeen drug treatment non-government organisations throughout Australia, $50,000 infrastructure grants one of which will be given to Odyssey House, a superb non-government drug rehabilitation treatment centre here in Victoria which has a wonderful facility out at Lower Plenty. This will help, with infrastructure improving some of the facilities and it is a sign of Commonwealth Government support for

non-government treatment as part of the war on drugs.

JOURNALIST:

Why is this important for the future of the nation?

TREASURER:

For young people who get mixed up in drugs it destroys their lives. But it needn’t be the end of their lives if they can get treatment, if they can overcome the reasons that took them into drugs in the first place and if they can build drug and alcohol free lives they can go to become valued members of our community. That is what we want to see come out of drug rehabilitation. Of course drug rehabilitation also has other benefits, it cuts the crime rate. It means that society as a whole can be safer if we can get on top of the scourge of drugs and if we can beat drugs in Australia then the nation will be stronger, certainly there will be less crime and we will have people living happy and useful lives.

JOURNALIST:

Apart from the social aspects is it a worthwhile investment if drug and alcohol addicts can be turned into taxpayers?

TREASURER:

If we can get young people off drugs where they are prone to crime, where they are destroying themselves and their families and get them drug and alcohol free where they will be useful members of society then society will be richer and they will be richer, they will making a contribution rather than destroying themselves and destroying their families.

JOURNALIST:

You mention that in Victoria a lot of people make a lot of money out of the illicit sale of drugs, is enough being done to recoup that money and identify (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Victoria has lived through a crime wave of murder and it has been led by people fighting over the right to distribute drugs to our children. This trade is so profitable that criminals are prepared to kill to control it. And we have had murders going on in public places in Victoria between people who want to destroy our children’s lives and it is not a glamorous thing, it is not something to be laughed at, it is something that has got to be stopped and the people who are doing it have got to be brought to justice.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) going to do that?

TREASURER:

Well look, I wish the police every success in their attempts to investigate. We at the Commonwealth level, if we can assist we will. One of the ways we can assist is through confiscating the proceeds of crime and taxing it. But that is not the answer, the answer is putting them up on trial for murder and drug running and putting them away for a long time.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned there hasn’t been enough success in that endeavour in Melbourne, Victoria?

TREASURER:

Well look, there has been a lot of murders here in Victoria. I think there has been a tendency to think that it is not important but it is important.

JOURNALIST:

On whose part?

TREASURER:

I think on the part of the community, sometimes they think it is just criminals killing each other. But let me make this point. It is criminals killing each other for the right to control a drug trade to destroy children’s lives. That tells you how profitable it is and why it has to be stopped. It is not a question as to whether gang A or gang B controls the drug trade it is a question of abolishing the drug trade, that is what we ought to be doing here.

JOURNALIST:

And we are not close enough to that?

TREASURER:

I wish every well-meaning law enforcement agency success and the Commonwealth stands ready to help and assist.

JOURNALIST:

So you think Tax Office (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, the first thing is to stop them running drugs, but if they are running drugs then the drug money ought to be confiscated and they ought to be taxed. Now I don’t say that taxing these people is a way to stop them drug running it is just a way of making their lives more miserable. But the best way of making a drug dealers life miserable is by locking them up and stopping their trade.

JOURNALIST:

So tax laws need strengthening to make their lives more miserable?

TREASURER:

Tax laws are pretty strong, believe me.

JOURNALIST:

Just on tax, the PM indicated yesterday that tax reform for low to middle income, would you like to comment on that, expand on that?

TREASURER:

Well, the Government over the last three years has been continually cutting income tax and if we can balance our budget, if we can fund much needed services including defence and our response to terrorism and lower the tax burden that is what we are going to try and do. We have done it the last three years, we will see if we can do it again.

JOURNALIST:

Are you aware of any plans on the part of the state Liberal Party or the Federal Liberal Party to purchase a home in Melbourne for a Melbourne-based Prime Minister to live in?

TREASURER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

No plans to purchase Stonington?

TREASURER:

Certainly no plans, the Commonwealth Government has no plans to purchase any property, as far as I know the Liberal Party has no plans and knowing the finances of the Liberal Party I don’t think they would be in position to go into property acquisition.

JOURNALIST:

Do you like the Lodge?

TREASURER:

… so whoever is looking at that property unfortunately I can’t help them. It will have to be a developer to look at that property.

JOURNALIST:

You wouldn’t look at the Party potentially buying that property and the Commonwealth leasing it back to the Party?

TREASURER:

Not the Party no, the Liberal Party doesn’t have that kind of money I can assure you. Only wealthy television stations have the kind of money that will be needed to purchase Stonington.

JOURNALIST:

I didn’t know there were any of them left?

TREASURER:

Well, ask them for a pay rise.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think that Jeff Kennett would be a worthy addition to the State parliamentary party?

TREASURER:

Look, Jeff has been in State politics, he has retired from State politics, he made a great contribution when he was there but we all have our time in politics. Do the best you can while you are there because you are long time out of it and that is my advice.

JOURNALIST:

How (inaudible) crude oil prices are reaching record levels again, what impact is that going to have for consumers?

TREASURER:

That is bad. When you see world oil prices at record levels that is bad for motorist. It means that the petrol which they put in their cars, or the diesel will be higher because it is refined from that crude oil price. And the biggest determinant of petrol and diesel prices here in Victoria is the world oil price.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) protections?

TREASURER:

Well it will be a price rise which people will feel at the petrol bowsers. That will feed into the consumer price index, I believe we can contain it as long as businesses that use petrol don’t use that as an excuse to move secondary prices, because then you will get a second movement back into the consumer price index. But we are living through a very difficult time here – we are basically living through another oil shock. World oil prices are at all time records. The first two oil shocks back in the 70’s set off a wave of inflation, we have to be absolutely vigilant that this oil shock doesn’t set off a wave of inflation because if it did we would all be punished a second time. Not just punished at the bowser but punished a second time with inflation and the commensurate monetary policy response.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) the prices won’t be passed?

TREASURER:

Well, so far so good. But we need to be vigilant here, so I keep on saying these are difficult economic times. We are living through an oil shock and we have to be absolutely vigilant that we don’t let it pass through into an inflationary spiral as it did in the 1970’s.

 JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) given the underlying pressures?

TREASURER:

We do it by having sensible economic management.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think not enough people are seeing it as an oil shock, though it is just a blip, and the constant suggestion that the Government can do something about it?

TREASURER:

We hope that this would just be a very short lived thing. But as month by month goes by it continues so we hope that prices return to more historic levels in the future, but you have got to observe that today, they are at all time records and that is a problem.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well I hope they return to more historical levels, but I don’t see demand declining and so it is a supply question on the world oil markets from countries like Iraq, it is stability from countries like Iran, it is the opening of new markets in Africa, that are going to have to be the response. Now the good news is of course as the price goes up the incentive to boost supply goes up and you hope that you get back to an equilibrium situation but this has lasted longer than probably anyone expected.

JOURNALIST:

How will the Federal Government …

TREASURER:

Last question.

JOURNALIST:

… how will the Federal Government respond to the situation in the Solomon Islands?

TREASURER:

The situation in the Solomon Islands is very serious. We have seen riots, some 17 Australian police officers have been injured, 2 New Zealanders, some are being brought back to Australia for treatment. The Australian Government stands ready to stabilise the situation, we have troops that are on standby and we stabilised the situation some time ago. If there is a requirement for the Australian troops to go back and stabilise the situation obviously we will do that, but the situation is being assessed at the moment.