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 18/05/2006

Interview with Keith Conlon and Tony Pilkington
5AA Adelaide

Thursday, 18 May 2006
7.07 am

SUBJECTS: Budget, pensioner benefits, petrol prices, roads

PILKINGTON:

About the only thing we won't ask him is about the leadership because he gets asked about that all of the time and he will take a couple of minutes and tell us absolutely nothing. I mean a bloke - you'd have to say at the moment, things are going pretty well for the Treasurer, I mean he's just brought down his 11th Budget and it was probably one of the most popular Budgets in years and years and years –

CONLON:

But you want to talk to him about something far more important.

PILKINGTON:

Well I mean the only thing in his life that really is not working at the moment is the fact that his football team, Essendon -

CONLON:

Treasurer, Peter Costello - good morning, what are you going to do about that?

TREASURER:

Good morning Tony, good morning Keith, please don't rub it into me…

PILKINGTON:

There he is, the soon to be appointed coach of the Essendon Football Club.

TREASURER:

(inaudible) do a worse job could I fellas?

CONLON:

Now look, just before we leave that matter, because I know it’s very painful for you, it could be … just watch out for Pratty round lunch time today, Michael Pratt, well-known Liberal figure around town, could have a bit of Crows paraphernalia up his sleeve.

TREASURER:

Oh, you're kidding.

CONLON:

You're leaving town early?

TREASURER:

It's funny, there are not many towns in Australia I can go into at the moment because the Bombers are being beaten in all of them, there's a good thing about all of this is that we are sure to get some good draft picks next year.

CONLON:

We asked callers about the Budget, and we got a couple of beauties. Patrick was pretty stroppy - he says that basically pensioners are going backwards, he reckons that with rising costs at the supermarket and petrol, he's more than $20 bucks a week worse off and we told him about the hundred bucks - $102 one-off, and he said that is like a little stick on an ocean, is there a problem here, are they not aspirational enough, the pensioners did dip out didn't they?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, in 2005, we introduced a utilities allowance, about $100 a year for pensioners, now they get concessions of course from state government on electricity and gas and registration, but we thought the concessions weren't keeping pace with rising costs, so we introduced a new annual payment of $100 and in the Budget, I announced that we would be giving an additional $100 payment, actually $102.80 cents before the 30th of June, so this year, they'll get two of those utility allowances for each pensioner household.

CONLON:

Now, Patrick will come back and say - that's two bucks a week, I'm still going backwards very, very rapidly?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't think so because another thing that we've done is we've indexed the pension to wages, and wages are rising faster than prices, so the pension is actually increased above and beyond the Consumer Price Index, really in the last ten years that I've been Treasurer, so we are increasing that pension, we increase it twice a year and we are increasing it above and beyond price increases.

PILKINGTON:

Treasurer, we always talk about petrol prices, 12 minutes past 7, no thought at all, I mean you've dismissed the idea of perhaps taking some of the taxes off petrol, you say that's not the way to go?

TREASURER:

No, it won't have a real effect, the tax on petrol hasn't moved since 2001, but the price has gone up from about 80 cents to $1.40, in some places $1.50, and that just shows you that it's nothing to do with tax or anything like that, it’s all related to the world oil price, unfortunately we import the majority of our oil in Australia and until such time that the world price comes down, there's nothing we can do to bring those petrol prices down.

CONLON:

Well of course the people who are really wearing it badly are particularly, say in the southern suburbs, where you are heading this morning, they would say - yes you can, you can drop the excise?

TREASURER:

The last time we dropped the excise, we dropped the excise six cents and price went up 60 cents, that's my point. The component of the price that's rising has got nothing to do with tax, it is all to do with world oil prices, so we decided the better thing to do was to invest in roads, and roads like the Sturt Highway got a huge injection of funds in the Budget. We have also announced another $300 million for Roads To Recovery so that people would see better roads to drive on and the Government would invest in the long-term capacity of the Australian economy.

CONLON:

Speaking of road projects, our State Treasurer today is saying that he can't rule out delays in some major projects like our north-south corridor with tunnels under Anzac Highway and so on - basically from your point of view, it's a major north-south which we badly need, there is always Federal money in that, is there a chance that the State and the Feds will have to talk about rising costs on roads?

TREASURER:

Well, the Federal Government has a programme called Auslink under which we help build national priority roads and one of the ones that had a big injection in the Budget was the Sturt Highway, the State Government does the arterial roads and then the local councils do the local roads, and we announced more assistance for local councils in the Budget, but if it is a major national highway the Commonwealth Government does help, we don't actually build these things, we fund them, but all of the construction contracts are done by state governments and they let the contracts and they're in control of the works themselves, even roads which are funded by the Commonwealth Government.

CONLON:

One of the areas that is concerning people through the Hills is that we’ve got basically the major rail highway which connects us up and connects Perth and to a certain extent, Darwin with the east, we notice that the Brisbane link has got big money in the Federal Budget - is there a chance within a Budget or two that major revamp of rail through the Adelaide Hills is on the cards?

TREASURER:

One of the reasons why we put some money in the north-south is that we have already put money into the east-west, to upgrade tracks and to improve times, and to improve safety. So, what I can say to you is we are very, very concentrated on the importance of rail particular for freight, rail is a very, very important alternative and we over time are going to continue to upgrade these rail links because that will take some of the burden of freight off our roads.

CONLON:

Peter Costello, we know you've got to move on, you are headed south today, anything particular coming up this morning down there?

TREASURER:

Well, I am down at the South Adelaide Football Club in Noarlunga, home of the Panthers -

PILKINGTON:

Gee, they're struggling too …

CONLON:

Any previews of anything happening today?

TREASURER:

Yes, I'm going to see if I can get a few recruits for the Essendon Bombers while I'm down here.

CONLON:

Oh yeah, OK - enjoy your time in Adelaide - and watch out for Pratty.

TREASURER:

It's good, thanks very much.