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 19/07/2007

Doorstop Interview
Ballarat Grammar, Wendouree

Thursday, 19 July 2007
9.45 am

SUBJECTS: Government’s reform record

JOURNALIST:

What is your response to John Howard’s upcoming biography and the reported contents?

TREASURER:

Well, I think as I made clear today I think the Howard Government has been one of the great performing governments of Australian history.  Certainly far better than the Hawke-Keating Governments in my view, and the previous Fraser Government, the best government since Menzies, and in many respects better.  And I think when you look at the record of the Howard Government, balancing the Budget, repaying debt, introducing GST, abolishing wholesale sales tax, reforming superannuation, cleaning the wharves of union power, improving industrial relations.  I think its record stands second to none.

JOURNALIST:

Could the biography dent the Governments re-election chances?

TREASURER:

I don’t think so.  I mean, books are published on a regular basis.  Journalists are in the business of selling books.

JOURNALIST:

Why should you expect people to re-elect your government when you have cast so much doubt on the economic credentials of the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Because the economic credentials of this government are second to none.  And this is the government that has balanced the Budget, established a Future Fund, paid off debt, cut tax, reformed superannuation, improved industrial relations.  The record of this government over the last 11 years is a record which I will stack up against any previous government in Australian history.

JOURNALIST:

Why do you think that the Prime Minister made such a bad Treasurer?

TREASURER:

No, I think that the Howard Government with John Howard as Prime Minister has been the great reforming government of Australian history…

JOURNALIST:

So what about the Fraser (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

…and that is why it should be re-elected.  Well, this has been a better government than all of its predecessors.  This has been a government that has reformed Australia in a way that we have never seen.  Now, Kevin Rudd can’t do that.  Kevin Rudd has no economic experience, he has opposed every reform and the thought of stacking his inexperience and his economic failure up against the credentials of this government is scary.

JOURNALIST:

Are you a better Treasurer than Mr Howard was?

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) Treasurer to be spending, the big spending of this government?

TREASURER:

Well, let me say that this government has now produced 10 surplus Budgets, completely repaid Commonwealth net debt and established the Future Fund.  Now, I think you can compare that record to any other government in Australian history.  I think it compares favourably.  And it has taken a lot of work.  It has taken a lot of work.  These things don’t manage themselves.  This takes a lot of work and, you know, it has been hard work over 11 years that has managed to get us where we are.

JOURNALIST:

You’re effectively saying you’re a better Treasurer?

TREASURER:

I have, as I have explained to you, made clear that the reform credentials of this government are second to none and that is a matter of great pride to John Howard, to me, to all of our colleagues.  To be able to stand and say we now have a balanced Budget, no debt, a Future Fund, that we have cut income tax five times, abolished superannuation exit tax.  People wouldn’t have thought this was possible in Australia 20 or 30 years ago and yet it has been done.

JOURNALIST:

Are the comments attributed to you in the book accurate?

TREASURER:

Well some would be and some wouldn’t be.  I haven’t even read it…

JOURNALIST:

Have you read The Age this morning?

TREASURER:

…but let me say, if this is the question, have the reform credentials of this government been established?  The answer is yes.  Are the reform credentials of this government better than previous governments?  In my view, yes.  And I would say, the greatest reform government since Menzies and in important respects, better than Menzies.  That is the point I am making.  People can disagree with me on whether there were better reforming governments than this one, but I will stack the record of this government up against any other.

JOURNALIST:

Would you like to have dinner with John and Janette at the Lodge or Kirribilli?

TREASURER:

Oh look, I am very happy to have dinner with whoever would like to come.  I will have it with you if you would like to come.

JOURNALIST:

Disappointed you haven’t?

JOURNALIST:

You are effectively saying you are a better Treasurer than Mr Howard was, would you also make a better Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

No, I am saying that this government of which I have been a part but of which John Howard has been the leader is a better government in my view, than any other government with the possible exception of the Menzies Government and I think in important respects, better.  But that is our record.  The record stands for itself.  Thank you.