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 31/07/2006

Press Conference
Treasury Place, Melbourne

Monday, 31 July 2006

2.35 pm

SUBJECTS: Leadership

TREASURER:

As you know, this morning John Howard wrote to all of the Members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party informing them that he intends to run at the next election.

I am glad that this issue has now been settled, it allows all of us to plan accordingly.

Over recent weeks and months, indeed years, I have been speaking with my colleagues about the Party and its future. You know my view that it is important that the Party have smooth transitions just as we have in the past. It is clear to me that most people including public and colleagues do not support a leadership transition at the current time.

I am committed to serving in the Parliament for the long haul. I am committed to the Liberal Party’s long-term and to the nations long-term.

Our Government has had significant political achievements, but there are great challenges which lie ahead. My consultation with my colleagues, and I think this is backed by public opinion, leads me to believe that they want me to continue to work as I have in the past as the Deputy Leader and Treasurer. And so I have decided that I will continue to work for the re-election of the Government as the Deputy Leader and the Treasurer, I will be working for the re-election of the Coalition Government, I will be campaigning for all of our candidates and I will be working for the re-election of John Howard as Prime Minister.

Working as Treasurer is a great privilege and it brings tremendous responsibilities. Australia is a trillion dollar economy, we are facing very difficult economic times and it is important for the future of our public and our people that we make the right decisions. Politics is about the short term and the longer-term. The short-term will be our focus on next years’ election. The longer term will be our focus for the decade and the years beyond that, to meet the great challenges that Australia must face. And I intend with all of the energy that I have and all of the commitment that I have to focus on both the short-term and the longer-term.

JOURNALIST:

Has the Prime Minister given you an indication of how long he will serve after the next election Treasurer?

TREASURER:

Well, he has made his statement and you can read that and I can read that and that is the…

JOURNALIST:

Nothing beyond what is in the statement though?

TREASURER:

Well I think the statement is pretty clear, I won’t go beyond what is in the statement.

JOURNALIST:

When did Mr Howard contact you, let you know of his decision?

TREASURER:

He rang me last night, I was out all day yesterday on electorate business and when I finally got home after my last function on Sunday, he rang me at home and he told me of his decision and he told me that he would be sending a letter out this morning.

JOURNALIST:

Did you tell him of your intentions then or did you think about it overnight?

TREASURER:

I have thought about it and I have taken various soundings with colleagues today. Many of my colleagues, and I want to thank them for it, so many of my colleagues have been on the phone, coming to see me over recent weeks, giving support and even as late as this morning so many of them who sought to ring me, but I wanted to take consultation, I think it was fair that they were able to give me the wisdom of their views before I announced this decision.

JOURNALIST:

Have you spoken to the Prime Minister before this press conference?

TREASURER:

Yes I have spoken to him before coming in to see you all, I have told him what I have just announced.

JOURNALIST:

Does his form of words now apply to you that you will serve as Deputy Leader and Treasurer for as long as the Party wishes you to and it is in the Party’s best interest for you to do so?

TREASURER:

Look, I don’t go into the form of words. I have been elected the Deputy Leader of the Party since, for 12 years, I assume that I stay as Deputy Leader until either somebody else is elected or I am elected to another office. And I will be working as Deputy Leader and as Treasurer for all of my colleagues at the next election.

JOURNALIST:

Can you be as an effective and as potent a double act as you have been in the past given that the revelations of the past month or so?

TREASURER:

Well you see, the revelations of the last month are not news to us. We have known about all of those things for 12 years and it hasn’t inhibited us working through all of those elections since, of which there have now been four.

JOURNALIST:

Do you feel a sense of disappoint today Treasurer?

TREASURER:

It doesn’t matter what I feel. That is the outcome, and that is the important thing. This has been resolved, it has been resolved so that everybody knows where they stand, we are going into an election probably within 12 months and the good thing is that we all know where we stand. And that is the best thing that we could hope for, the Party can now buckle down for the election and I certainly can get on, hopefully, in future press conferences, without having to face barrages of these questions over and over again. So I will stay here and I will answer all of your questions now and then I will be able in future to say, I have answered them all and I won’t have to go through them again.

JOURNALIST:

Have you, is your personal political standing been damaged by this? You had an agreement you thought and now the Prime Minister wants to continue, does that (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Yes but the matters that passed between us in 1994 are long over, they are long over, as I said, so yes, that is the only difference is that they were made public but they were already long over.

 JOURNALIST:

The public knows about it…

TREASURER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

…the Labor Party knows about it, all of your colleagues know about it, does that make a difference as it (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I have been through all of that, I have been through it a thousand times and people know the details, I am not going through it again, there is no point in that, you have heard enough from me on that subject.

JOURNALIST:

Did you ever think about resigning?

TREASURER:

Resigning from what? From Parliament?

JOURNALIST:

Yes. From Parliament.

TREASURER:

No. No I am here from the long haul.

JOURNALIST:

What about in the Cabinet?

TREASURER:

I have been preselected for the next election, I want to convince the electors in my seat that I am worthy of re-election that is what I will trying to persuade them of in the next 12 months. And I am here for the long haul, and is why I think about the future so much, I think it is important that we do have someone and there are many people, of which I am one, thinking about the long-term future of the Party and the country.

JOURNALIST:

What about going to the backbench?

TREASURER:

Pardon?

 JOURNALIST:

Did you think about going to the backbench?

TREASURER:

No, I must say, in all of the phone calls and the correspondence and the discussion I had with colleagues, nobody ever suggested that. Every colleague asked me to continue as Deputy Leader, every single one of them. There might have been some that asked me to serve as something else but every one of them, even those that didn’t want me to serve as something else, said to me that they wanted me to stay on as Deputy Leader and Treasurer. Nobody but nobody suggested to the contrary.

JOURNALIST:

Did you give significant thought to a challenge?

TREASURER:

Look I do not want to go through what may or may not have run through my mind. The fact is this is the outcome.

JOURNALIST:

Is there an expectation now that there will be a smooth transition next term or is that something that?

TREASURER:

Well, you see the majority of my colleagues and I think the public’s view is this, that now is not the time for transition. When is the time? Do not ask me, all I can tell you is, it’s not now.

JOURNALIST:

Would you expect, if the Government is re-elected, for Mr Howard to serve the entirety of the next term as the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

You will have to ask him. You will really have to ask him.

JOURNALIST:

Is that what you expect?

TREASURER:

I am not going to go into my expectation, it does not matter what my expectation is, what counts is what his intention is.

JOURNALIST:

Would you support him?

 

TREASURER:

And you will have to ask him his intention. Now I think if you did, he will point you to his letter, we can all read his letter and I can not take it any further than that.

JOURNALIST:

In your conversation with the Prime Minister did he give you any indication about how much longer he might stay beyond that election?

TREASURER:

He essentially gave me the indications which are conveyed in his letter and I can not go any further than that.

JOURNALIST:

Have you come to any deal, any sort of agreement with the Prime Minister at all?

TREASURER:

I don’t think I will be entering into any more agreements.

JOURNALIST:

You have got to have had better days in your political career than today?

TREASURER:

Oh it doesn’t matter. The important thing here is that you focus on the task that you have been given. I am a very focussed person. You can’t maintain a position as a Deputy Leader of a Party for 12 years and as Treasurer for 10 years without being focussed and without enormous energy and a commitment to work. And I have enormous energy and a commitment to work and that is what I will be continuing.

JOURNALIST:

You have been the obvious successor and the nominated successor for a decade, will your claim be just as strong in three years’ time?

TREASURER:

There is no such thing as a nominated successor, no such thing at all. The Leader of the Liberal Party is the person who enjoys majority support for that position at the time. The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party is the person who enjoys majority support for that position at the time. That is the position I have. I have had it for a long time. If a vacancy arises in the future, the person that will be elected is the person that has majority support. And I have never sought any nomination from anybody – I want to make that clear – ever. I am the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party because I have been elected to that position since 1994 not because anybody nominated me. And the person who, and I have served under two Leaders, and the person who has been Leader, and the two Leaders I have served under has been the person who had majority support at the time. And in the future, any future Leader will be the person who has majority support at that time. There is no such thing as a nominated successor. And I want to say to you, I have never believed that I should have nor have I ever sought any nomination at all. I am where I am because my colleagues elected me. My colleagues want me to stay there and that is why I am staying.

JOURNALIST:

In the past election campaigns you have introduced Mr Howard at the campaign launch as the Party’s Leader and your friend. Will you introduce him as your friend next year?

TREASURER:

Well look Michael I think it is a little too early to go into what I will be announcing at the next campaign launch. I can tell you I will be there Godwilling. Godwilling. We have been probably one of the longest double acts in Australian history. I think we would probably be the longest Leader and Deputy in the history of the Liberal Party and could well be in the history of any political party actually. I haven’t checked it but I think quite possibly the longest Leader and Deputy in the history of our country. I would also go so far as to say that the last 10 years have seen enormous and significant achievements to which I pay credit to John Howard and for which I have worked hard myself. And if we can continue to produce those outcomes in the future I would be very proud to do so.

You know, all through the last decade, as you know, I have given everything I have to this job and I think we have had some significant achievements. And if you want to compare where Australia was in 1996 and where it is today I think there are some significant achievements. And I would be proud if we could keep those achievements coming.

JOURNALIST:

How do you feel about the fact that the majority of the Party wants John Howard as Leader and not you. Is that something hard for you to swallow?

TREASURER:

The majority of the Party want me as Deputy Leader and him as Leader. And I accept their verdict. They are the people that get to decide these things and so I accept their verdict and that is why I continue to serve them because they want me to do that in that capacity.

JOURNALIST:

Is your relationship with Mr Howard has changed forever hasn’t it as a result of the past month’s activities?

TREASURER:

As I said to you, there is nothing new in the past month as far as we are concerned. So the, we will continue to work together as we have throughout the 1998 election, the 2001 election, the 2004 election and we will go into the 2007 election. And as I said to you, the record is there, I think you can measure the record of achievement over the last 10 years, you can measure it against any other 10 year period of Australian political history. I think it will stand up quite well, I do. I don’t want to, it is not my task here to point you to the achievements but you are all political journalists and you can look at the achievements of the last 10 years and take any other 10 year snapshot in Australian history, and I think it will stand the test of time. Thank you all very much.