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 22/03/07

Interview with Kieran Gilbert
Sky News

Thursday, 22 March 2007
10 am

SUBJECTS: Broadband, Labor’s economically irresponsible proposal to raid the Future Fund

TREASURER:

Well of course if it would generate revenue the private sector will do it.  There is nothing wrong with the private sector investing in something which they will derive revenue.  But why would you put taxpayers’ money into something that the private sector could fund and make a return on?  Why would you do it?  Why would you take people’s hard earned taxes and give these commercial companies something for doing what, if it is profitable, they will do anyway.  So that is the first point.  The second point of course is, this is a smash and grab raid on the Future Fund.  Look, we started off with $96 billion worth of Labor debt, we have now repaid it.  We have got $100 billion of unfunded superannuation.  I have established a fund which by 2020 will enable us to meet that liability just at a time when the population is ageing and we are going to need, more than ever, a provision for the ageing of the population.  Along comes Mr Rudd in 2007, doesn’t understand the ageing of the population, wants to raise this sum of money and rob for the future.  Now we are still going to have that liability in 2020, but if Kevin Rudd gets his way, Australia won’t be able to meet it. 

GILBERT:

But Treasurer, you say why would a government do it, experts in the communications field are saying you would actually save money through communication efficiencies, even in areas like health, so there is one reason you would do it. 

TREASURER:

Well Telstra has a plan to improve access regimes and it has a plan to invest more in fibre.  Optus has a plan with an access regime to invest more in fibre.  If they can make money out of doing it, they will do it.  So why would you rob the savings of future Australians in order to give these companies a commercial leg up?  Why would you do it?  Now – this is the other point of course – this is just the first robbing of the Future Fund.  Mr Tanner was quite clear yesterday, if Labor gets away with robbing the Future Fund for this election promise they are going to be doing more and more.  Why not rob the Future Fund for spending on health or education?  They see a honey pot, they have got election promises that they can’t fund and they are robbing the honey pot.

GILBERT:

Is broadband a bad investment for a government to look at?

TREASURER:

Our Government actually has a communications fund to help rural and regional Australia where it wouldn’t necessarily be commercial.  They are going to abolish that too.  They are going to abolish the communications fund for rural and regional Australia, they are going to smash and grab from the future savings of Australians and then they are going to put it sometimes into big capital cities where you have already got two commercial players that have plans to invest anyway.  What is this really about?  Let me tell you what this is about.  This is a try-on to see if they can get away with robbing the Future Fund because if they get away with robbing the Future Fund over this, then they will keep robbing it for other election promises that they can’t pay for.

GILBERT:

But your Government’s approach has been criticised as being random, hodge-podge, in terms of broadband, is there a need for a more coordinated approach to this crucial investment for the future?

TREASURER:

Well Telstra has a plan, Optus has a plan, in fact one of the risks at the moment is that both of them will do it and along comes Mr Rudd, he has got to be the greatest patsy of all time, and says, well Optus has got its roll-out and Telstra has got its roll-out, why not rob future savings as well and put some money into it from the taxpayer?  He has got to be one of the great patsies of all time here.  And where is he going to get this money from?  He is going to smash and grab money from the Future Fund which he never had the wit to set up and he is going to ensure that that fund runs down capital so that this plan we had to protect Australia against its greatest economic challenge – the ageing of the population – will be undermined.  Why?  So he can pay for his election promises.

GILBERT:

But you talk about the Future Fund, but doesn’t investment in broadband enable Labor to argue that it is the party for the future, it is the party investing in this technology?

TREASURER:

You see this demonstrates Labor is not the party for the future.  The greatest economic challenge of Australia and the western world, as reported by the IMF and the OECD, Australia has the best response in the western world – the Future Fund.  But Mr Kevin Rudd doesn’t understand the future.  To him it is more important to grab money for his own election promises now.  And what he wants to do is to spend now and make generations pay.  He doesn’t care because he thinks he won’t be around in 2020 but it is future generations of Australians, they are going to be let down if Mr Rudd ever gets his way.

GILBERT:

Treasurer, thanks for your time. 

TREASURER:

Thank you.