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 24/07/2006

Interview with Ross Stevenson & John Burns
3AW

Monday, 24 July 2006
7.35 am

SUBJECTS: Fertility and population, poker machines

JOURNALIST:

Good morning Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Good morning, Ross – not the personal credit, I must say.

JOURNALIST:

Well, I was thinking that you may actually in fact, given you are now responsible for instructing people to go out and have children, you have a new name, we will have to call you Pope Peter.

TREASURER:

Well I did coin the phrase, ‘one for Mum, one for Dad and one for the country,’ and…

JOURNALIST:

What were you talking about?

TREASURER:

I was talking about pro-creating John, so it looks as if some people have taken up my advice.

JOURNALIST:

Now, you are bribing people to have children, aren’t you, and you are swinging them now four grand to have a baby. Is that actually sending the right message in the sense that aren’t you appealing to people who might not be the right sort of people to have children, that is people who need the money.

TREASURER:

Well I don’t look at it as a bribe because anybody would know that raising a child costs you a lot more than $4,000 but when you have a child you have got a lot of expenses – a pram and a highchair and you have got medical expenses and nappies and the whole thing. And so the Baby Bonus which amounts to $4,000 helps you with some of those expenses but you wouldn’t do it to make a profit John, you are still a long way behind having and raising kids.

JOURNALIST:

But what they are suggesting is that people are going to have babies who otherwise wouldn’t have had them because of your four grand. You are saying it is the other way around, they have already got the kid, the four grand will come in handy.

TREASURER:

I think that is right. I don’t think anybody would say, ‘well I wasn’t going to have any kids, but for $4,000 I will do it, because there have been various estimates over the life of raising a child, probably a conservative estimate would be you would probably spend two or three hundred thousand, so you wouldn’t do it for $4,000 but it is just a little bit of a help at a time when Mum goes out of the workforce, and anyone who has had a child knows it, Mum goes out of the work so you lose that income but at the same time you get all these bills. So it is a little bit of a help at the time the baby is born.

JOURNALIST:

When you speak with your counterparts say in the EU, is this a common feature that you all when you get round the water cooler at the end of the day or round the cocktail bar and have a (inaudible) that you are having to provide incentives for people to have children?

TREASURER:

Oh yes, this is a major issue at international Finance Ministers meetings, we are bringing the Group of 20 to Melbourne in November which is the biggest meeting of Finance Ministers and central bankers in the world, or the most important anyway, and we have put this on the topic that we call demographic trends. It is something that is really a big problem in Europe, it is going to develop into a huge problem in China by the way because they have had the one child policy and so by about the 2040-2050, China is going to have the biggest demographic intake you have ever seen in world history. And we sit around, we do discuss these things and Australia is one of the few countries that have had a bit of success.

JOURNALIST:

And including the efforts by Pope Peter, does that mean that we are at replacement level?

TREASURER:

No we are not. Our, the fertility rate bottomed at 1.73 about 2002-03. In the last financial year that we have got figures for it rose to 1.8. Now, the significance of that is that we are one of the few countries in the developed world that has bottomed and increased the fertility rate. So we are only at 1.8 and replacement level is 2.1 so we have still got quite a way to go just to get to replacement level.

JOURNALIST:

Can we fix this up with…?

[TAPE BREAK]

TREASURER:

…we can’t because (inaudible), you only can if the migrants you brought in had significantly higher fertility rates than other Australians and that is not necessarily the case. If you bring in migrants all they do is they more or less stop the same fertility rates over the longer term, it doesn’t affect things. You need to actually raise your fertility rate of the domestic population.

JOURNALIST:

Right-o, there is no way that you can sort of give incentives for women who are prepared to have ten children just to you know, really dig the oar in on behalf of the country, they give them sort of exponential rewards.

TREASURER:

I am thinking about having an incentive for old fellas like you guys.

JOURNALIST:

Well I will do my best, yes. And I believe you got to see the nil-all draw on the weekend, did you?

TREASURER:

It was a good game for Essendon, you know, we turned a 14 game losing streak around with a draw, so, that is something.

JOURNALIST:

And you are launching the Census today?

TREASURER:

I am launching the Census today in Canberra and I am going to have a bit to say about fertility because one of the big things they will be doing in the Census is asking people about the number of live births they have had throughout their lives, trying to get a better fix on fertility as the population generally and where it is going.

JOURNALIST:

Ted Baillieu said he wants to slash 5,500 poker machines out of Victoria, does he have your support?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, I was always opposed to the introduction of the poker machines, I thought that they would destroy local communities and local pubs, I thought it was one of the worst things that ever happened in Victoria.

JOURNALIST:

And any recent discussions with the Prime Minister one on one?

TREASURER:

Well not that you don’t know about, fellas.

JOURNALIST:

It is his birthday today, are you celebrating it with him?

TREASURER:

No, I will be in Canberra today, I think he is in Sydney so we will be in different cities.

JOURNALIST:

I thought the Prime Minister…

TREASURER:

I wish him all the best and a very, very happy birthday and I am sure he will be spending it with his family.

JOURNALIST:

I thought the Prime Minister lived in Canberra, no?

TREASURER:

Well, they are dual residents.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thank very much, Ross, thanks John.