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 09/05/2007

Interview with Peter Dick & Ross Davie
4BC

Wednesday, 9 May 2007
8.22 am

SUBJECTS: Budget 2007-08

JOURNALIST:

Good morning, good to be with you.  They tell me that you have to go to a plastic surgeon to get the smile off your face!

TREASURER:

Well, I think people, when they read the Budget, will think that it is a good investment in Australia’s future and it locks in the progress that we have over recent years and we want to make our country stronger, and this is a big part of our plan to do so.

JOURNALIST:

It is a very, very generous Budget in an election year, including a $500 one-off payment to pensioners – cynics would call that simply a bribe.

TREASURER:

Well I think, as you look at the economy over the last ten years, we have had two million more people get jobs and for those in the workforce, taxes have been cut, of course.  So, we thought that it was a time to also try and help pensioners, who are outside the workforce of course, and to actually show that you could share the benefits of a strong economy with those that are not in the workforce, and the pensioners are not in the workforce, so we sat down and we thought to ourselves ‘well, what can we do for the pensioners’, and a $500 bonus to a pensioner is quite a lot of money actually.

JOURNALIST:

No, it is great.

TREASURER:

Yes, pensioners are on low incomes and $500 will be quite significant.  And of course if you are a pensioner couple it is $500 each.

JOURNALIST:

Oh, that is good.  We have had quite a few calls on the disability pension.  Do you have anything allocated for them?

TREASURER:

Yes, in relation to the carers, the carers who look after people with a disability…

JOURNALIST:

But only the carers?

TREASURER:

…will also be entitled to the bonus…

JOURNALIST:

Right.

TREASURER:

And that bonus has been paid in previous years, it is $1,000 for those on Carer Payments, $600 on the Carer Allowance.  So, they will get a benefit as well.

JOURNALIST:

So no other benefits for disability pensioners?

TREASURER:

Well there are a lot of benefits for disability pensioners in other parts of the system, but these were targets which were directed towards the carers.  All right, that answered that question.

JOURNALIST:

Quite a bit of money allocated at long last to roads in this state, a certain amount going to the Goodna Bypass - a couple of questions, when will we actually start to see something happen on that bypass and where does the rest of the money go?

TREASURER:

Well, the Goodna Bypass, I think is $2.3 billion, I think it is the biggest road project that we have ever done – that is a huge sum of money.  Of course, what has to happen in relation to getting that up and running is you have to get the engineering plans, and you have to get the permit approvals and all of that kind of thing, and all that takes a bit of time.  But the money has been authorised, there is no dispute about it, it is going to go ahead, I do not anticipate that there will be any problems with local council approval – they can muck you around if there is – but the money is there, it is part of a bigger thing and there will be other big road projects that the Commonwealth will build in Queensland, particularly South-East Queensland.  The Commonwealth builds the national network, the national highway as you know, and Goodna is part of the national highway and we build roads of economic performance.  We do not build the arterial roads, arterial road of course are built by State Government, but we do give local councils money to build local roads and that is a programme called Roads to Recovery and I announced $1.9 billion in funding of that in last night’s Budget.

JOURNALIST:

Do you realise that it is a very contentious issue, the Goodna Bypass, and it may indeed cost the Liberal Party a couple of seats out there?

TREASURER:

Well, I know that there are some people that do not want to build the Bypass, that they want to expand the motorway instead.  But all of the evidence that is coming to us is if you expanded the motorway it would be full by the time you actually finished construction.  And it has been a few years expanding and by the time you opened it it would be as busy as it currently is now so that the Goodna Bypass is a way of building something that can have additional capacity right into the future.

JOURNALIST:

A glaring hole in the Budget I think is broadband.  The broadband service, and some money to upgrade our internet speed in this country, it is fairly ordinary, and Kevin Rudd has made a very large deal of the fact that a Labor Government will do something about that…

TREASURER:

Yes, but what Kevin Rudd has said is he is going to raid the Future Fund.  Kevin Rudd is going to raid the fund that we have set up to deal with future liabilities – it is a fund he never set up, he never put any money into, he is going to put his little paws on it, and if he if he gets his little paws on that Future Fund then he will rob future Australians of their entitlement.  So that is a cheap political trick that…

JOURNALIST:

But having said that it is very important to upgrade broadband surely?

TREASURER:

Yes well, there are two proposals at the moment to build new fibre to the node, new broadband systems.  One is from Telstra and one is from what they call the G9 which has got Optus and all the other companies.  Each of them are offering actually to build it themselves.  They do not need taxpayers money to build it themselves.  So, why the taxpayers would spend their money on something that the private sector wants to build I do not know.  The only argument that is going on at the moment between the two companies is what the price will be when they build it.  So they are arguing about the price that they will charge each other when they build it.  But each of them is quite capable and wants to build from the private sector, from their own funds and increase fibre to node.  So there is no need for any little bear to get his paws on the Future Fund and bring taxpayers money into this.

JOURNALIST:

Okay now, tax cuts today, and for the average family about $14 – we have had about four tax cuts in a row – why not just, when it comes to tax reform, why not just one big tax cut instead of these increments of just $14 or $12 or whatever it might be?

TREASURER:

Well of course we did a really, really big one in 2000 when we changed everything with the GST arrangements and most people thought ‘oh, well that is it’, but as the economy has picked up and more people have got in work we have been able to go further and that is what I think we should do – if you can go further you should.  What is happening is we have two million more people in work today than we did under the previous Labor Government.  There is two million new jobs.  Now, when somebody joins the workforce, A you get a saving because you are no longer paying unemployment benefits, and B when you join the workforce they start paying tax themselves.  So, as you get more and more people into the workforce your economic position strengthens and our policy is as the economic position strengthens to share that strength by giving tax cuts, or in this case, benefits to pensioners.  And if you can get more and more people to join the workforce, and some say in fact we have got labour shortages at the moment, a shortage or workers, but if you can get more and more people to join the workforce then the benefit is there for everybody and the benefit for those in the workforce is tax cuts, the benefit for pensioners is a bonus as you have seen in this most recent Budget. 

JOURNALIST:

All right Mr Costello, there are a million other question we wanted to ask you but we have very, very limited amount of time unfortunately so we must move on.  Thank you very, very much.

TREASURER:

It is a great pleasure to be with you.  Thank you very much.