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 14/08/2007

Interview with Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic,
Today Show

Tuesday, 14 August 2007
7.09 am

SUBJECTS: Birthday, economic management, housing rentals

WILKINSON:

Treasurer, good morning and happy 50th birthday to you.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much Lisa.  I am all shook up just for the occasion. 

STEFANOVIC:

Tell me you don’t want to sing it.

WILKINSON:

No, go right ahead.

TREASURER:

I would love to do the gyrations if I could.

STEFANOVIC:

Come on, off you go.

WILKINSON:

It is your birthday and you can sing and dance if you want to.

TREASURER:

I will save that for Question Time. 

WILKINSON:

Treasurer, this is question time.  So, we will start with, if you had to star in a Danielle Steel book, your birthday counterpart, which part would you play?  Perhaps the jilted lover?

TREASURER:

Oh no, I think I would play the romantic hero – tall, dark and handsome – coming in and scooping the girl at the end of the book. 

STEFANOVIC:

This is a fiction.  

TREASURER:

Oh that is your role, Karl, sorry.

STEFANOVIC:

I couldn’t possibly live up to all up to those expectations.  Treasurer, you have handed down 12 Budgets, 10 surpluses, 2 deficits, correct me if I am wrong.  After 11 years as Treasurer, interest rates have gone up 15 times, they have fallen 19 times, how do you rates your performances as an economic manager?

TREASURER:

Well that will be up for the historians to have a look at but I think the thing that, as I look back, that has been the most significant over the last 10 years is 2.1 million Australians have been able to find work.  That is, there are now 2.1 million more jobs in the country and unemployment is at a 33 year low and just think of all of those houses that now have an income earner and families that now have a parent in work that were unemployed before.  And I think is has made a pretty big difference to our country. 

WILKINSON:

Mr Costello, it may be your birthday but of course the leadership question hangs around like a bit of a bad smell.  Recently the Bulletin quoted you as saying to supporters in 2005, ‘Howard can’t win, I can.  We can, but he can’t.’  Is that quote correct…?

TREASURER:

No.

WILKINSON:

And do you believe that?

TREASURER:

No, I don’t know where the Bulletin got that from, certainly not from me.  You find actually over the years that you get attributed with a lot of things you didn’t do and you don’t get afforded a lot of things you did do.  And I must say when I read some of these things I wonder where the journalists get them from.  They generally speak to somebody who has spoken to somebody who was down the back of a pub who heard the barman say, and that gradually finds its way into magazines or articles.  But no, that is not the case. 

STEFANOVIC:

You are only 50.  I thought you might have been from experience a little but older, but you are only a spring chicken.  You could probably wait another eight years as the Treasurer. 

TREASURER:

Well they say, what is it?  50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 30, and after that we are as young as you, Karl.

STEFANOVIC:

All right, the warning from the Reserve Bank couldn’t be clearer.  I am looking at the newspaper and the quotes emanating from them yesterday afternoon.  Cut spending is the warning to all of us or there will be another rise by the end of the year.  Do you agree with that?

TREASURER:

Well that is the interpretation that some papers have put on a statement that was issued by the Reserve Bank yesterday.  If you read it carefully, what the statement is saying is the economy is strong, there is no doubt about that, unemployment is at 33 year lows, that there is a sign that the drought might be breaking although it hasn’t broken yet.  And they are making the point that when you have a very strong economy with a lot of people in work you have to be careful that prices don’t rise too much.  And we are very careful about that.  Prices are now rising at about 2 to 3 per cent a year – that is the level that we want, but we have to be careful it doesn’t get out of that.  Now, I don’t see it getting out of that at the moment when you look at it over a medium term, but we will be vigilant, we have to be vigilant. 

WILKINSON:

And do you still believe that the next one will be down rather than up?

TREASURER:

Well I don’t call the next rises because I don’t want to influence markets.  I have put in place a framework which shoots for an inflation target and the Bank is charged with moving interest rates from month to month to achieve that target.  So I am focussing on getting the target right, which is 2 to 3 per cent inflation. 

STEFANOVIC:

All right, you came out very strongly yesterday against Kevin Rudd’s housing affordability proposal.  Why do you think it was that the PM didn’t come out as strongly?

TREASURER:

Well he was asked about it I think at 8 o’clock in the morning before it had been released and he said perfectly properly…

STEFANOVIC:

It was well flagged in the papers though. 

TREASURER:

Well you know, I am not even sure it is well flagged yet.  He said, let me have a look at it.  Now, what came out later in the day was a bit more detail, enough to actually make an assessment.  But I still don’t think it is well flagged.  You see, Kevin Rudd yesterday visited somebody in a house and said their rent would be lower under his policy.  That was false.  That person’s rent won’t be lower because his policy only applies to new houses which are yet to be built.  That is, that doesn’t apply to anybody who is currently in a rental.  So he made a false promise yesterday to a lady in a rental.  And it is only when you actually get out and look at the detail of his policy you realise that that was the case.  And it was only after an assessment of the policy that I was in a position to give a response. 

WILKINSON:

Okay Treasurer, well we will have to leave it there but before we let you go, you have got to go off and obviously celebrate your 50th birthday today, we thought you would like to know what is going to happen in the future so we have got your stars here from the latest issue of Woman’s Day, I know you like to read what the magazines have to say.

TREASURER:

Yes I do.  Yes, I read Woman’s Day every month.

STEFANOVIC:

Every day.

WILKINSON:

Every week, Treasurer.  Every week.

TREASURER:

Oh, every week, oh, I read every four copies.

WILKINSON:

The Woman’s Weekly is monthly, and the Woman’s Day is weekly, okay?  (Inaudible).  Now, it is Madonna’s birthday today so you are sharing your birthday week with her.  You are a Leo and it says if you share a birthday week with Madonna, buckle up, Neptune is about to send you on a magic carpet ride.  Keeping your feet on the ground won’t be easy this year so let friends and loved ones be your voice of reason.  Money-wise, play it safe and get the best advice possible.  A search for meaning or the answer to health issues may lead you down a mystical path this year.  Indulge your body, heighten sensitivities with music, massage and meditation and here is the good bit: take extra care around drugs and alcohol.  Bon voyage. 

TREASURER:

And happy birthday to Madonna too. 

STEFANOVIC:

She gets nothing like this.

WILKINSON:

It is also Laurie Oakes’ birthday today, Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Laurie, yes it is Laurie Oakes’ birthday.  I want to say happy birthday to Laurie.  He has been a great veteran of the Nine Network and he is just pipping me at 51 today. 

STEFANOVIC:

You will have to share that cake.  I don’t think he will eat it at the moment but you can eat it all by yourself.  Take it into Parliament with you.  Good on you Treasurer.  Happy birthday.

TREASURER:

Thanks.

WILKINSON:

Happy birthday.