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 09/10/2007

Doorstop Interview
Stuart Henry, Liberal Member for Hasluck campaign office
Kenwick, Western Australia

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

SUBJECTS: Stuart Henry, federal election, state election, infrastructure, royalties, Richard Pratt, death penalty

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, how does it feel to be in WA?

TREASURER:

Well it is great to be here and to support Stuart Henry and to launch his campaign for Hasluck.  Hasluck is going to be a very tight contest but I think Stuart has really done a great job on behalf of the electorate and the constituents over the last three years.  He has got a record of achievement with two technical schools in the electorate and he is working hard to gain the trust of the public for re-election and I thoroughly support him and I wish him well. 

JOURNALIST:

It is three years to the day since the last election, when is it going to be called?

TREASURER:

Well, this is a matter for the Prime Minister of course.  He has said that the election will be held some time between now and Christmas so that is October, November, the first part of the December.  It is a very narrow timeframe and when he is in a position to call the election, no doubt he will make an announcement. 

JOURNALIST:

Has the Prime Minister made a decision on the election date?

TREASURER:

Well, I think he assesses these things and when he is ready to announce the decision he will do it.  But I certainly won’t be pre-empting it. 

JOURNALIST:

How much would it cost to have Parliament re-called on Monday? 

TREASURER:

Well of course there will be fares for people to go back to Parliament but look, there are always fares to get people to Parliament.  If you were worried about the airfares and the like for holding Parliament, you wouldn’t have Parliament in Canberra.  But we do and it is just one of the costs of democracy. 

JOURNALIST:

Stephen Smith has said that your visit to WA is extremely rare and you have spent more time overseas than you have in the booming state.  

TREASURER:

Well you would expect the Labor Party to try and do their best in relation to me.  I don’t think they have got much to do if they go through travel records.  I would think that they might be more usefully deployed doing things on behalf of constituents. 

JOURNALIST:

But you have also come back today to criticism from the Liberal Party (inaudible) Mr Barnett. How do you feel about (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I really don’t have any comment to make on it.  I am focussed on the future, I am focussed on doing things for the Australian public.  I want to build a strong economy so people can find jobs, I want to keep our tax system competitive, I want to look after our environment and I am squarely focussed on the future. 

JOURNALIST:

Just back to the election timing.  How soon do WA MPs need to know whether they should or shouldn’t be going back to Canberra?

TREASURER:

Well of course they will be ready to go back for the Parliamentary sitting which I think is due on Monday unless something else happens.  But I am certainly factoring in that I have to be ready to represent my constituents and I am sure all of us are very happy to do that.

JOURNALIST:

So you are saying Parliament will be going back?

TREASURER:

No, I am not saying it will go back.  It is not a decision for me. 

JOURNALIST:

Has the Government dropped the ball on infrastructure funding for WA?  We are seeing you know, Mr Rudd commit some money and also you know, even Mr Barnett has criticised the fact that the Liberals haven’t taken the lead on it in WA.

TREASURER:

Well our Auslink Programme – which is a $15 billion national programme for road and rail – will be delivering $1.7 billion into road and rail in Western Australia.  That is a 70 per cent increase on the comparable spending prior to the Auslink plan being put in place.  When you add to that water grants, when you add to that the initiatives that we are putting in place in relation to environmental measures, this is the largest infrastructure spend that the Australian Government – any Australian Government – has ever engaged in.  And I have also budgeted under our second Auslink Programme for a substantial increase on that.  So the Commonwealth Government will be spending record amounts on infrastructure in Western Australia over future years. 

JOURNALIST:

What do you think about Kevin Rudd’s plan to re-invest (inaudible) back into, specifically into WA?  Does it make the (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I think it is a con.  The Gorgon field is expected if everything went according to plan to produce I think, in 2013, and the royalty payments wouldn’t start until substantially after that.  So it wouldn’t even get a royalty payment out of (inaudible) for over 10 years.  So, I wouldn’t hang out my tongue for $100 million in 10 years time.  Let me tell you what the Australian Government is doing.  We are putting $1.7 billion in under our Auslink Programme and that will increase over the next five years and the GST windfall to the State of Western Australia is $500 million a year every year over the forward estimates.  So that is real money.  That is not talking about something that may or may not happen in 10 years time after the next three federal elections. 

JOURNALIST:

So is WA getting its fair share of the you know, the bounty that is created as a result of the booming economy?

TREASURER:

We make sure that both the GST and Specific Purpose Payments are allocated on a fair basis and the allocation to Western Australia is higher than the average per capita.  That is, if it was just averaged per capita spending it would be less than the amount that the Australian Government is now allocating in relation to Western Australia. 

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the Richard Pratt case – his admissions of guilt yesterday – you promised to introduce tougher cartel laws as long ago as February 2005 but as yet, no legislation on that.  What is the status of that?

TREASURER:

Well let me say in relation to this case, this is the most significant cartel case that has ever been brought in Australia and certainly the most successful.  By their very nature, cartel cases are hard to establish and I congratulate the ACCC on the investigation that it has done.  I think that the way in which this has been handled has been a success.  I don’t want to say anymore because I don’t want to comment on things which are outstanding.  But I do want to note that this is probably the most successful investigation into a cartel ever in Australian history and that ought to be noted.  Now, the fines and the penalties that can run from that are that you can be liable for million dollar fines or you can liable for a multiple of the amount of money that you have made out of the cartel.  These are matters for the courts, the courts will be imposing those fines.  I don’t want to prejudice that one way or the other except to note that we have recently increased the penalties in relation to those matters. 

In relation to other matters, whether there are some aspects that can be the subject of criminal proceedings, this has never been the case in Australia.  The Government has been consulting very carefully but we have to be careful here to make sure that when conduct passes from civil to criminal the lines of demarcation are quite clear.  And it is quite technical and it is very, very important to get the consultation right and to draw the statute accordingly. 

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Richard Pratt should be stripped of his Australian medal honours for these sorts of things? 

TREASURER:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

Should he be stripped of his Australian honours?  He has got quite a number of them.

TREASURER:

Oh look, I am not going to comment on that.

JOURNALIST:

Well what do you think about it?  Is there any prospect of legislation perhaps after the election?  Is that what you are saying?

TREASURER:

Well, my view and the Governments view is that there should be a criminal offence in relation to serious cartel behaviour.  This was the recommendation that was given to us by Sir Daryl Dawson when he did the inquiry.  Unfortunately, he was not able to recommend what would constitute that behaviour.  He said it was a very difficult area that he was not able to recommend it, that a great deal of consultation should be engaged in.  And when you do engage in this consultation and I have, it is a very difficult area but we are continuing to do that, we have put forward proposals which are under discussion.  If those proposals do meet the required delineation, then we would expect to move ahead with that legislation. 

JOURNALIST:

What do you think about Richard Pratt though?  I mean, obviously he is a very high profile person in Australia and in Melbourne, I mean, what do you think about his admissions?

TREASURER:

Well, no one should engage in cartel conduct.  Cartel conduct is where competitors agree on a price and the consumer suffers.  No one should do it.  It is against the law.  If you do do it, you run the risk, of very, very substantial penalties and the ACCC is better (inaudible) ever before in Australian history to investigate these matters.  You have seen a very successful investigation occur in relation to this case and it should act as a warning to anybody else. 

JOURNALIST:

What was your reaction to Labor’s comments about abolishing the death penalty should they become government?

TREASURER:

I think it was a very strange time for the Labor Party to come out in support of the Bali bombers.  Let’s not forget the Bali bombers killed 88 of our fellow Australians.  Let’s have some sympathy for the 88 dead and their families rather than sympathy for those people who cruelly and cold-bloodedly decided to kill them for no reason other than that they were Australians.  Let’s also have some sympathy for the families of Australian diggers who are serving in Afghanistan, particularly the family of that digger who has lost his life.  These are people on our behalf, fighting to make us safe.  They are fighting to close down the Taliban which gave safe haven to terrorist training camps.  Let’s remember them at this time.  Let’s not be diverted from supporting our soldiers and our fellow Australians who have been the victims of terrorism.  Thank you.