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 19/08/2006

Doorstop Interview

State Council, Pakenham, Victoria

Saturday, 19 August 2006
11.45 am

SUBJECTS: RBA Governor, Interest rates, Jack Thomas, War on Terror, Liberal Party, James Hardie

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer can I ask what you make you of Ian Macfarlane of the RBA variety’s comments in the Herald this morning, you have got to get that right, that your campaign in the 2004 election on interest rates was an annoyance to him because its basic premise was implausible.

TREASURER:

Anybody who has followed economic management knows that interest rates today are substantially lower than they were under the Labor Party and I think any independent observers would think to themselves that if Mark Latham were the current Prime Minister things would be much worse in Australia. Bear this in mind, if the Labour Party had won the last election Mark Latham would be Australia’s Prime Minister. Now we will never know of course because fortunately Australia was saved from that bullet but if anybody believes that Mark Latham as Prime Minister running a Government would have been economically responsible they would be in a very small minority.

JOURNALIST:

He is referring to your election pledges to keep them low and keep them at a record low, he is basically saying that the campaign was scaremongering.

TREASURER:

No interest rates today and the standard variable mortgage interest rate is 7.8 per cent, are substantially lower than when I became Treasurer at 10.5 per cent. The average has been 7.1 per cent compared to an average under Labor of 12 per cent. These facts speak for themselves.

JOURNALIST:

Did Liberal Party ads say that interest rates would be a record lows and are interest rates in Australia at record lows today?

TREASURER:

Well interest rates in Australia today are substantially lower than they were under the Labor Party and in my view substantially lower than they would have been if Labor had been elected and Mark Latham was Prime Minister, now…

JOURNALIST:

Did Liberal Party ads say that interest rates would be at record lows?

TREASURER:

…you might say that Mark Latham would have had an attack of responsibility once he became Prime Minister, I don’t think so.

JOURNALIST:

Did Liberal Party ads say that interest rates would be kept at record lows?

TREASURER:

As I recall the campaign the Liberal ads said that under the Liberal Party, interest rates would be lower than they would be under the Labor Party and I think the evidence is there that they are.

JOURNALIST:

Just on terrorism and the threat of, what is your reaction to Jack Thomas (inaudible).

TREASURER:

Look I do not want to talk about a particular case because this could well still be going back into the courts. But I will make this general point, that there are people who have done terrorist training who could be a danger to their fellow Australians and the Government wants to take all such steps as are open to protect our people against a terrorist incident. We have made it an offence to engage in terrorist training and if there are people who have engaged in terrorist training or who belong to terrorist organisations, our view is that they should be prosecuted, convicted and punished and that is the Governments policy. And through the courts, in accordance with the law, the Government will take the steps that are open to it to do that.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the laws on terrorism are strong enough?

TREASURER:

I think the laws are strong enough, yes. It is an offence to belong to a terrorist organisation, it is an offence to train with terrorists but of course we live in a system where you have got to prove an offence in the courts and sometimes the proof is difficult. But all the Government can do is collect evidence, bring it before a court, try and secure a conviction and a penalty against people who would be a danger to our society and our fellow Australians.

JOURNALIST:

You said the war on terrorism is going to go longer than fifty years, how is the war on terrorism going to end?

TREASURER:

I think the war on terrorism will end with the defeat of the terrorists and the kind of society that they want to implement - a society where people are controlled, where they do not have freedom, where they are unable to exercise religious tolerance. The defeat of them and their ideas will signal the end of the war on terrorism.

JOURNALIST:

Does that mean our troops will be overseas for fifty years?

TREASURER:

No, what it means is that we as a society will have to defend ourselves against terrorists, people who want to come into our midst and kill innocent people. The kind of people that want to blow up airlines. We as a society will have to fight that and we will have to be clear about our values. We will have to take steps to defend our citizens and when we have defeated their ideas and when we have defeated their aspirations and when we have foiled their criminal plots and when we have wound up their cells that is when terrorism will be defeated.

JOURNALIST:

Why did you choose to make terrorism a feature of today’s speech, what is it in the current situation that is concerning you and prompted you to talk about it today?

TREASURER:

Well we have just had what is it, 20 arrests in Britain of a plot which was apparently to blow up jet liners travelling between Britain and America. We have had plots in Australia to blow up buildings and I want to reassure the Australian public that the Government will do what is required to defeat terrorist and their ambitions.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think that the judiciary is out of step with how the laws on terror have been framed by the Parliament?

TREASURER:

Look the Parliament has made it an offence to be a member of a terrorist organisation and an offence to engage in terrorist training. To be convicted of that offence you are tried in a court of law and the evidence is brought before a jury. Now the Government has made these offences, the prosecution will try these cases. I want to assure the public that we will take the steps that are required to protect their safety but ultimately in our system of justice these things are decided in courts, that is our system of justice.

JOURNALIST:

Is there an argument that terrorist case should be tried in the federal system and not through the state supreme court system.

TREASURER:

Well I have a great deal of respect for both the federal and the state system.

JOURNALIST:

How do think Ted Baillieu is going with (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I think that Victorians want a change of Government and I think Victorians are entitled to a better Government and I think that Ted has the opportunity to put a plan before the Victorian people to win their trust and to provide that Government and I hope he does. And I think he is putting that plan in front of them, there is another three months to go before the next state election, the Bracks Government obviously feels confident, confident enough to announce their post election reshuffle but I think Victorians will think that is a little bit arrogant, normally you win an election before you announce your post election reshuffle. That is what you normally do and that shows the Victorian people that the Bracks Government has taken them for granted and is already working on their post election plans and Ted Baillieu has opportunity to exploit that.

JOURNALIST:

Or does it reflect the polls in the fact there is no climate for change?

TREASURER:

Well I must say I have not seen a Government announce its post election reshuffle three months out from an election before. What that tells Victorians is that the Bracks Government is taking you for granted, they are already working on their post election reshuffle and that is an enormous opportunity for Ted Baillieu to say this a Government which is taking the Victorian electorate for granted, I do not want to take them for granted I want to win their trust and their respect.

JOURNALIST:

Is it fair to say you are not impressed with Mr Baillieu leadership so far?

TREASURER:

I have been one of his strong supporters. I wish him every success and I hope that Victoria gets a new Government. But let me make this point, you can only win Government by getting the majority of votes. You have to get the respect of the voters and I think that because we are showing respect for the voters against the arrogance of a Government which is now engaging in its post election reshuffle that is a strategic factor in our favour.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think he has been a bit slow in showing Victorians who he is and what he stands for?

TREASURER:

Look I am not a political adviser.

JOURNALIST:

What are the qualities that make him a good leader?

TREASURER:

Can I say to you I am the Federal Treasurer, I run economic policy for the country I am not a political adviser.

JOURNALIST:

Just quickly another matter, Hardies directors are seeking a doubling of their fees at the next AGM, does that seem a little rich considering the money still owed to victims of their products?

TREASURER:

Here we are, we have got James Hardie which is increasing directors fees, which is paying its executives bonuses when what it should be doing is it should be settling compensation for the victims. Now we changed the tax law so that all of that compensation will be tax deductible. James Hardie, even though it tried to get out of this country, even though it tried to leave the victims in the lurch is now getting the same tax treatment as the companies that did the right thing, BHP and CSR. James Hardie apparently now has enough money to double its directors fees and pay bonuses to its executives and what I would say to James Hardie is it is about time to settle up your issues with the tax office and to give the victims justice.

JOURNALIST:

No mention of future Prime Minister in sight (inaudible)

TREASURER:

Thank you all for your time, thank you.