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 23/10/06

Doorstop Interview

Malvern Valley Primary School
Malvern East, Melbourne

Monday, 23 October 2006

SUBJECTS: Malvern Valley Primary School, Pacific Leaders Forum and the Solomon Islands, Victorian State Election, the Australian Democrats, drought assistance

TREASURER:

Look it was a tragedy when the school was burnt down. It affected the community, it affected the kids and to see the school rise from the ashes, a $2.2 million project re-built right up to the state of the art with wonderful facilities, has given the community a lot of confidence, the kids a lot of confidence and it will be a very, very important educational institution out here in the Malvern Valley area.

JOURNALIST:

John Howard arrives at the Pacific Leaders Forum today. What kind of reception do you think he’ll get given the recent tensions in the Solomons?

TREASURER:

You’ve got to remember that Australia is the major aid donor to the Pacific. We run very extensive aid programmes right through the Pacific, and the Australian Government, through its aid projects, has helped with a lot of health and infrastructure and economic capacity. Now one of the things we’ve also done to assist in the Pacific is to stabilise the law and order situation in the Solomon Islands. Bear in mind that there were riots, there was arson going on, that the Government wasn’t safe until the Australian troops and the Australian police, at the invitation of the Government, went in to stabilise the situation. So Australia can be very proud of the assistance that it has lent to the people of the Solomon Islands.

JOURNALIST:

Is there a challenge though to maintain support for the peacekeeping operations in the Solomons?

TREASURER:

Well I think the people of the Solomon Islands have no doubt that the Australian troops and the Australian police have given them peace, protected their property, looked after their families and the people of the Solomon Islands appreciate everything that Australia is doing for them. I was in the Solomon Islands myself a couple of months ago and it was very clear to me that the people of the Solomon Islands respect the Australians – they want to live in peace. It is the Australian police that have brought peace and they appreciate what the people of Australia are doing for them and I think that the people of the Solomon Islands are very clear about that.

JOURNALIST:

What’s your opinion on the future of the Democrats (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I think what we’ve seen is really a unique political party which grew up in response to a particular time. Now that time has passed the political party will pass. The Democrats, started by Don Chipp, were really an offshoot of the Liberal Party. I think that as time wore on they became a bit more of a left-leaning party, and as other political parties have moved into that ground such as the Greens, the Democrats have found it harder to survive. I think that with the retirement of Senator Stott Despoja it really closes the chapter of the Australian Democrats: opened by Don Chipp, closed by Senator Stott Despoja.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

The Democrats found a role as a centre party in the 70s, the 80s but they then decided to take themselves off on to a more left wing basis and they found themselves outflanked for that one by the Greens. They were a response to a particular historical time, that time has passed and they have passed.

JOURNALIST:

How many years left do you think the party has (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well their Senators will serve out their existing terms but the great worry for those Senators is whether they will be able to get re-elected or not. The best chance is Senator Stott Despoja and she’s not going to contest so I think that makes harder for any Democrat to get back at the next election.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well they’ll finish their terms, yes, and when their terms are over unless they can get somebody re-elected and that’s looking very difficult for them, the party will be over.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

I think the important thing is to get the policies out there and I’m very pleased with the way policy is being announced. And I think there is every chance that there could be a change of Government and I hope that it is.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible).

TREASURER:

I think (inaudible) and that’s what he’s doing and we saw a new policy announcement on the weekend. I think the rate at which the policy announcements are coming shows that they are in with a very strong chance and Victoria has the opportunity to have a change of Government and I hope it does.

JOURNALIST:

What does it mean to the Federal Government to have (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well we would prefer to have better Government in the State of Victoria because that would help with the economic effort. It would certainly enable better reform where there’s Commonwealth-State overlapping responsibilities so we would support stronger Government in the State of Victoria.

JOURNALIST:

And just on the drought is the Federal Government going to revise criteria for giving handouts to farmers with the new assistance?

TREASURER:

Well the Federal Government operates income support, interest rate subsidy where an area is in exceptional circumstances. What the Government is going to look at tomorrow in Cabinet is the procedure for declaring Exceptional Circumstances, whether or not the procedures can be streamlined and whether or not the procedures can be hastened and if that’s the case then that will enable assistance to flow faster. But we also need assistance from State Governments as well, the Federal Government can’t and shouldn’t do it all itself. We can take the lead because we understand the plight of farmers but we need to look at all provision in relation to drought both State and Federal.

JOURNALIST:

Do you know what the State will be announcing (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

No I don’t I’m sorry.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well the Federal Government has now spent over $1.2 billion on drought and our programs are continuing so we will ensure that we at the Federal level continue assistance to families whilst they need it. Thank you.