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 13/09/2007

Interview with Kieran Gilbert
Sky News

Thursday, 13 September 2007
4.15 pm

SUBJECTS: Campaign team, leadership

GILBERT:

I spoke to Peter Costello just a short time ago.  I began by suggesting to him that this commitment has been a long time coming. 

TREASURER:

Well the most important thing of course, is the election.  The election will decide who governs Australia for the next term.  I will be campaigning in this election as part of a team as I have in the last six or seven elections.  I will be campaigning for good policies and a future plan that I believe will set Australia up for generations and I will be a big part of the Government in the future as I have been in this term. 

GILBERT:

You said this morning you wanted to play a more upfront role than Treasurers normally do.  What so you mean by that?

TREASURER:

Well I think it is important that we have the opportunity to put a plan to the Australian people.  A plan in education, in water, in the environment, in tax, in jobs.  Normally you hear the Treasurer on the last couple of issues – tax and jobs – but because my vision, because the plan that we have for Australia is good, I want to be involved in some of these other issues as well.  Issues like climate, like education, like water. 

GILBERT:

You have said the team can win.  How important is it that you do campaign alongside the Prime Minister to show that the Coalition has got that renewal…

TREASURER:

Yes.

GILBERT:

…to show that you got the future plan?  Because that is where Rudd has been doing you in. 

TREASURER:

Well it is important that we have our team and Labor has its team.  You have got to remember in the Westminster system of government, government is by Cabinet.  This is not a presidential system.  And inside a Cabinet you are going to have a Prime Minister, a Treasurer, an Industrial Relations Minister and so on.  Our team is Howard, Costello, Hockey, Downer.  Labor’s team is Rudd, McClelland, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan.  And I think when you look at the experience of our team, when you look at its capabilities and you contrast it with Labor’s team, I think that the public would be much safer and they would see themselves as being much safer with the team that we have.  And that is why we have got to play as a team. 

GILBERT:

But Kevin Rudd has stolen the march a bit on the Government in terms of that fresh alternative, selling it.  You accuse him of PR but in terms of the message, it seems to have got through.  How important is it for you personally, as the Treasurer and the heir-apparent, to work alongside the Prime Minister and show that you do have a plan for renewal?

TREASURER:

It is very important and that is what I will be doing.  And we have a plan, you know when we talk about education, we have got an Endowment Fund which is going to grow and build first-class facilities and world-class institutions.  When we talk about water we have got a Murray-Darling Basin Initiative.  When we talk about climate change, we had an initiative today to give tax deductibility for the planting of trees.  Now, Mr Rudd specialises in the advertising agency, PR firm announcements, we specialise in policy and delivery.  And I want to make it clear to the Australian people that our plan is actually to do something not to talk about something but to do it. 

GILBERT:

Without expecting a scoop this afternoon on Sky News, will you give us a snapshot of the campaign?  Will you be alongside the Prime Minister at the campaign launch and that sort of thing?

TREASURER:

As often as possible but…

GILBERT:

Will you be photographed with him at all of these major events?

TREASURER:

As often as possible but bear this in mind.  I have my own programme in a campaign, I have to visit my own 20 or 30 seats.  And a campaign goes for 33 days and the Prime Minister will have his programme, I will have mine and that will be a seat a day for 20 or 30 days.  But during the campaign, yes, on key occasions we will be campaigning together.  We will be demonstrating the team because it is our team and we want to contrast with the Labor team.  We won’t be hiding people away.  You will notice that Labor has been hiding Wayne Swan away, that they don’t want him out there.  We are not hiding people away, in fact we want to bring people out. 

GILBERT:

So your planned like the Blair-Brown sort of (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well it will be the Howard-Costello plan.  It will be our own plan but it will be a plan which we will work together on. 

GILBERT:

In recent months we have seen Peter Beattie retire on top, Steve Bracks retire on top, people know that you are a loyal deputy and a long-serving Treasurer and people are wondering and ask, is it disenchanting to see these guys leave on top and yet your leader hangs on?

TREASURER:

Well, if you look at what has actually happened in State Governments, I think of the six States, at least four of them now have Premiers who were appointed as the result of the resignation or retirement of their predecessor – Carpenter in Western Australia, Brumby in Victoria, Iemma in New South Wales and now Bligh in Queensland.  Each of those Labor Premiers who are re-elected and some of them went very, very shortly after their re-election – Bracks is a classic example, I think he went within the year – campaigned on the basis that they were going to stay the full term.  It wasn’t true, it didn’t happen.  And I think you can contrast that with the announcement that John Howard has made.  I think he has been very upfront about his intentions.  Labor demanded that he be very upfront, he has been upfront, and it stands in contrast…

GILBERT:

…did it a bit earlier.

TREASURER:

…it stands in contrast to those Labor Premiers. 

GILBERT:

Okay.  Was there a deal done that you would sit tight beyond the election if he gave you that commitment?

TREASURER:

No.  We had a discussion about all of this last year as you know, I said then that I would go to the election as Deputy Leader and Treasurer, that has been my position ever since.  He has made his announcement this week which he decided to make and bear in mind, people had been asking him over and over and over to do it, so you can hardly complain when he does and I think that opens the way for a good joint campaign. 

GILBERT:

Were you surprised that he asked Alexander Downer to canvass the views of your Cabinet colleagues and then ignored them? 

TREASURER:

Well I wasn’t part of that.  I wasn’t part of that…

GILBERT:

Yes but why did he ask and then ignore their views?

TREASURER:

I wasn’t part of the meeting, I wasn’t there when the meeting was convened or Alexander was deputised so no point asking me that. 

GILBERT:

A few of your colleagues are disappointed though, they are suggesting that the PM is not listening to his colleagues, he is listening to his family on his future as opposed to the colleagues who…

TREASURER:

Well look, in political life as you know, you listen to all sorts of people.  You listen to your electors, you listen to your campaign workers, you listen to your colleagues, you listen to your Cabinet, you listen to your family – everybody does that – and you listen to the electors.  If you had your way, we would also listen to the press.  So, we listen to a lot of people and you make your decisions accordingly. 

GILBERT:

It was pretty clear that a number of Cabinet Ministers, a majority wanted you to take over.  Why didn’t you just walk in last week on the weekend when you found out that that was the view, and say to the PM, look, your time is up?

TREASURER:

Well I wasn’t part of that whole process and didn’t even know it had happened until afterwards so it really didn’t concern me. 

GILBERT:

So we can rule out, can you rule out any change of the leadership now before the election?

TREASURER:

Look my position is as I announced it would be last year, that we will go to the election as a team.  That is what I said last week, that is what I have said this week.  Now, we are a good team.  We have a, if you want to know what this team is like, compare what unemployment is today, before we came to office.  What interest rates are today compared to when we came to office.  What the Budget position is compared to…this is a team that can be assessed on its results and I would invite people to do it.  But more than that, a team which I want to be part of to take a future plan to Australia. 

GILBERT:

Some of my colleagues in the Press Gallery are walking around saying that the leadership issue is not done and dusted before the campaign, before the election.  So you rule out any change of the leadership?

TREASURER:

I say again, I announced last year what I would do, that I would go to the election as part of the team.  It has been my position every day this year and there is no point in saying it over and over and over again, that is the position. 

GILBERT:

Thanks for saying it at least a couple of times again. 

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Kieran.