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 19/06/2007

interview with Kieran Gilbert
Sky News

Tuesday, 19 June 2007
9.05 am

SUBJECTS: Broadband, Rudd’s lack of knowledge on productivity, polls

GILBERT:

Mr Costello, thanks for your time this morning.

TREASURER:

Thanks Kieran.

GILBERT:

The Government identified, the Communication Minister’s Office identified 40 electorates, priority electorates, for information kits of this new broadband plan.  They all just happen to be Coalition held.

TREASURER:

The thing is Kieran, the plan goes to 150 electorates.  It goes to every electorate in Australia.  And every electorate in Australia is going to get coverage – 99 per cent coverage of the whole of Australia, either through fibre to the node or through WiMAX and this is an exciting rollout which will ensure that there is provision for virtually everybody in the country.

GILBERT:

But doesn’t it show that the Government has one eye at least on the politics of all of this, why not admit it?

TREASURER:

It doesn’t show that at all because the proposal was not to roll out to 40 electorates, the proposal was to roll out to 150.  To roll out to every electorate, every country town, nearly every person, 99 per cent of the Australian population.  So that is what the plan is, that is what it will deliver – in relation to fibre to the node, at no cost to the taxpayer, this will be paid for by a tender process with the private sector delivering that.  No raid on the Future Fund and the provision of service to 99 per cent of Australians. 

GILBERT:

It was a bit embarrassing though wasn’t it, to have this government email out there and the 40 electorates are all Coalition held marginals?

TREASURER:

No, it doesn’t mean a thing.  You could have done an information pack for 10, for 20, for 30, for 40, for 100 or 150 – it is all the same…

GILBERT:

But they are all Coalition. 

TREASURER:

…everybody gets it.  But hang on, no, you have got to be very careful here.  Every Labor electorate gets broadband coverage.  There is no difference in the coverage.  People might think from some of the stuff that they have read in the paper that this is only going to 40 electorates.  No, this is going to 150 electorates.  Every single electorate, because it is going to 99 per cent of Australians. 

GILBERT:

On the issue of productivity…

TREASURER:

Yes.

GILBERT:

…the Labor Party has been attacking the Government on this matter for some time.  It is true that overall productivity levels do, are still on their way down in the longer term, you are citing recent figures – the recent National Accounts figures – doesn’t Labor’s position still stand up?

TREASURER:

You are right – Labor has been attacking the Government over productivity.  This has been the central argument of Kevin Rudd over the last six months.  This morning we received an explosive document written to Kevin Rudd by his economic advisers showing that Kevin Rudd didn’t know what he was talking about.  They have now produced a ten page document trying to explain to Kevin Rudd why he didn’t know and how he should try and dig himself out of the hole.  And what this document shows is that the claim Kevin Rudd has been making has been false.  Kevin Rudd has been making the claim that there is zero productivity in the Australian economy at the moment and that is false.  And his own advisers in this explosive document explained to him why it is false, and then they try and give him a line as to how he might continue to perpetuate this falsehood for political reasons. 

GILBERT:

Isn’t it true though that the year-to-year and quarterly-to-quarterly figures are volatile and that Labor is looking at the broader, longer terms trends.  Isn’t that a more viable approach to looking at productivity over that longer term?

TREASURER:

No, because here is what the explosive document reveals:  it says ‘you have been claiming that productivity growth will be zero in 2006-07.’  It goes on to say, ‘the outcome will be higher that that,’ – in fact it has really grown about 2 per cent in the last six months, and – ‘nevertheless, you should continue to cite Budget estimates because they have not yet been updated by the Treasury.’  In other words – you were wrong, you have been caught out, we think you can keep on getting away with it but you should know Mr Rudd, it is a false claim.  Now, here is the point about this, Kieran.  This is the central claim he has been making and it is false, as revealed by this explosive document from his own advisers.  And I ask you this question, if he is wrong about the central claim he has been making on the economy in the last six months, how are you going to be able to trust him on all of the intricacies of economic management?

GILBERT:

But he is using your Budget Papers.  Is your Department wrong?

TREASURER:

No, I said to you when I did an interview last week saying he was wrong, that the growth had been greater than the Budget.  I said that to you.  Growth has been 3.8 per cent through the year.  Anyone who saw those figures knew that there had been a pick up in productivity.  Except for one person, Kevin Rudd, because he didn’t understand it.  Now, his advisers have written a 10 page memo trying to tutor him and explain to him why he is wrong, but the conclusion is still even though you are wrong, try and maintain the claim on the basis of outdated figures.  Now, the reason this is important Kieran, is this is a man who wants to be Prime Minister.  His central economic argument is false and now he has been alerted that it is false and rather than come out and apologise and withdraw it, he is going to try and skate through by covering it up.

GILBERT:

Just finally, the, some analysis of the Newspoll shows that about 52 per cent of people are convinced that they are going to vote one way or the other, is that a concern for you as the Coalition as you look to try and regain some ground on Mr Rudd?

TREASURER:

Well look, I know that is the finding of the poll.  It doesn’t gel with my experience.  In my experience people do make up their minds during an election or a large proportion of people make up their minds during an election campaign some as late as the day before, some even as late as the day itself.  That is my experience and I know what the poll says but I think there is still a lot of life left in political debate in Australia.

GILBERT:

Mr Costello, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks Kieran.