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 17/05/2006

Doorstop Interview with The Hon Julie Bishop, Minister for Education, Science & Training and The Very Reverend John Shepherd, Dean of Perth
St George’s Cathedral, Perth

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

SUBJECTS: St George’s Cathedral, economy, fuel, pharmaceuticals

TREASURER:

Well it is a great pleasure to be here today with the Dean of St George’s Cathedral, John Shepherd, with my good friend Julie Bishop who is the local member for the division of Curtin and it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Australian Government will be adding to the appeal for the renovation and the reconstruction of St George’s Cathedral, an additional $1 million, which will bring our total contribution to $4 million to help with the restoration of this wonderful cathedral.

The Dean has been good enough to show me around some of the works that have been taking place here, works that are desperately needed to preserve one of Perth’s great historic buildings. Not just the historic building of course but a place of worship for many people in the city of Perth and of course a centre throughout Western Australia.

I want to acknowledge the work that Julie has done in bringing to us the needs of the Cathedral. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the Dean back in 2004 when the Australian Government made a pledge of $3 million to this Cathedral and today I announce an additional $1 million to be paid before the 30th of June as our contribution to the restoration of this wonderful church and we hope it will be an inspiration to the people of Perth for many, many years to come. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Ms Bishop would make a good Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Costello?

TREASURER:

Well, I said at lunchtime, somebody asked about…

BISHOP:

Very cheekily.

TREASURER:

…Ms Bishop’s career, and as I said at lunchtime, I only hope she can find a position for me in her Cabinet when she ascends to glory. So, remember me, Julie and remember me when you ascend.

BISHOP:

I can never forget you, Peter.

DEAN:

(Inaudible).

TREASURER:

Thank you Dean, I knew it was there somewhere.

BISHOP:

Well with a Bishop it had to be biblical, didn’t it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, there is an Australian Business Survey that basically said that they don’t trust the Budget and that two-thirds of the respondents in this National Australia Bank survey said that they think that interest rates are going to go up by another quarter of a per cent as a result of your Budget. What are your thoughts on that?

TREASURER:

Well I saw that business survey which was overwhelmingly position and supportive of the Budget In fact it said that it thought that business conditions were the highest I think since 1998 with the investment that we have made, with the cuts in taxation, with the reform to superannuation, business conditions are as good as they have been in quite some time in Australia. And I welcome that fact, I think it is good that business is confident because strong businesses create jobs.

JOURNALIST:

Yes but they are predicting quarter of a per cent interest hikes as a result of the Budget, can you say that won’t happen?

TREASURER:

Well I never comment on future movements of monetary policy, I put the arrangements in place 10 years ago, together with the Reserve Bank Governor I have set the inflation target, the target is 2 to 3 per cent over the course of the cycle and our forecasts are that we will remain within that. So as long as we keep inflation low in Australia we will keep a growing economy and we will keep affordable interest rates.

JOURNALIST:

But there is a lot of pressure on inflation though, isn’t there with petrol, groceries? I mean WA is on about 5.2 I think at the moment.

TREASURER:

Well the forecast for Australia and we set monetary policy for the country as a whole is 2 ¾ per cent. Now petrol of course increases costs of households, I know that and it is extremely painful. But that is an influence that relates to world oil prices and when we are looking at inflationary pressures in the society generally we generally abstract that because we are looking for an underlying measure, that is the policy that we have agreed to target by an agreement between the Reserve Bank Governor and myself, that is the policy that governs monetary policy in this country.

JOURNALIST:

George Bush said overnight that John Howard was no oil painting but he is a good leader, what are your thought on that?

TREASURER:

Well I think I would be more complimentary of the Prime Minister. You know, he is not a supermodel but nor am I. He is someone who is very passable in the fashion stakes and I am certainly not going to throw off at him because I am no more passable.

JOURNALIST:

Have you got him covered though?

TREASURER:

Covered for what? For the fashion stakes?

JOURNALIST:

For the oil painting, have you got him covered?

TREASURER:

Well look, I have learned in life that people in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones so am I going to throw off on anybodies looks? Not on your life.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer just in regards to the reforms in PBS, is there any concern there that pharmacists couls lose out if they are being forced to sell generic drugs as opposed to brand name drugs under the PBS?

TREASURER:

Well you have got to remember this, that Australia’s pharmaceutical benefit scheme is funded by taxpayers. And because the taxpayer is paying for it we want to get the best pharmaceuticals at the most economic price. And where a generic drug has the same therapeutic value as a brand name, that is it does the same thing but it costs the taxpayer less, we ought to encourage it and that is what we will do. If it has the same effect and a lower price, why wouldn’t you do it? People do that in their household budgets, Government’s ought to do it in their national budgets.

JOURNALIST:

So would it have to come out of the, I mean the pockets of pharmacists who say they might not be making as much money as they are selling generic drugs? I mean, is there a need for subsidies there or anything?

TREASURER:

The Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme is run for the benefit of patients in Australia, it is not run for the benefit of pharmacists, it is run for the benefit of patients. And if you can get a drug which has the same effect at a cheaper price, if you can save the taxpayer money and you can treat somebody as well, why wouldn’t you do that? And that is what we will do, that is what we have been doing over many, many years. Okay, thank you.