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 10/10/2007

Doorstop Interview
Burswood, Perth

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

12.40 pm (WST)

SUBJECTS: Gorgon gas development, infrastructure, pension age, fixed election terms

TREASURER:

Let me say at the outset that I welcome the fact that the Commonwealth Government has today given the final environmental approval for the Gorgon Gas Field. This is an approval for one of Australia’s biggest resource projects to go ahead. It is estimated that it will add something like $20 billion to the national economy and 6,000 jobs.

It has been an extensive process of consideration and conditions have been put in place which will protect the very unique environment of Barrow Island. But the final environmental approval clears the last hurdle on environmental grounds for this project to go ahead and it’s going to be a wonderful project for Western Australia and for Australia.

The Commonwealth Government will also be providing $60 million from the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund to support carbon capture and storage. This is for greenhouse reasons and this will be the largest such carbon capture and storage in the world. And it will mean that the development will also comply with requirements in relation to climate change.

So we have a win-win situation here – a very important natural resource project for Australia – the protection of the Barrow Island flora and fauna, the carbon capture and storage which will make this very, very consistent with our climate change policy and a great jobs outcome for Western Australia and Australia. And I welcome the fact that this announcement has been made today.

JOURNALIST:

What assistance will the Commonwealth provide with regard to publicly funded infrastructure?

TREASURER:

Well the Commonwealth is putting $60 million in immediately from our Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund. We have also had requests from the company in relation to other measures which we will discuss with the company, but the great thing today is the last environmental hurdle has been cleared.

JOURNALIST:

What are those other measures? What are they asking for?

TREASURER:

Well the company, as you might expect, has made a number of requests in relation to the development. The Commonwealth has committed $60 million and in relation to other matters, we will carefully consider them.

JOURNALIST:

Is the State overplaying its hand on the infrastructure issue? I mean, you are constantly asked about this, is it going too far or should it provide more itself?

TREASURER:

Well it is important that both State and Federal Governments attend to their respective areas of infrastructure. The Commonwealth Government builds road and rail infrastructure – we build national highway, we build strategic roads, we build local roads with our Roads to Recovery Programme through direct funding to councils. The State Governments are responsible for State roads. Now we have the largest road and rail building programme going on that Australia has ever had. And indeed this afternoon I am going to go and look at some strategic roads where we have requests to the Commonwealth Government for assistance. So the Commonwealth Government is determined to do its part in relation to infrastructure and of course the State Government is required to do its part.

JOURNALIST:

What are your thoughts – just on a different topic – of raising the pension age from 65 to 67?

TREASURER:

Well 65 is the pension age for men and we are raising the pension age for women from 60 to 62. The Commonwealth Government is not proposing to raise the pension age any further. We are encouraging people to stay in the workforce longer but we encourage them to do that by improving the superannuation system. We have now abolished all tax on pensions, all tax on lump sums for those over 60 who are in taxed funds. We did that to encourage people to take part of their superannuation and remain in the workforce. So we want to do this with carrots, with encouragement through the superannuation system, rather that with the stick of changing the retirement or the qualification age for the age pension.

JOURNALIST:

So you wouldn’t support that?

TREASURER:

Well the Commonwealth Government believes that the retirement age for men at 65 is the appropriate age and we are raising it for women from 60 to 62.

JOURNALIST:

So no change in the next term of government?

TREASURER:

It is not the Commonwealth Government policy to change it – no. We don’t believe that the retirement age needs changing. What we believe is it’s more important to encourage people to maintain a connection with the workforce particularly by improving superannuation.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think of Robert McClelland being side-lined by Kevin Rudd yesterday?

TREASURER:

Well you see, Mr Rudd always wants to blame someone else. He wants to blame Robert McClelland now. But the truth of the matter is he and his office knew that this speech was being made. They have discovered that public opinion is not with the Bali Bombers, that people don’t have a great deal of sympathy with the Bali Bombers, they have sympathy for the 88 Australians who were killed. And after discovering that and changing horse, Mr Rudd blames Robert McClelland. He ought to take full responsibility himself.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think of Kevin Rudd’s proposal for a fixed four year term?

TREASURER:

Well any change to the length of a Parliamentary term would require an amendment to the Australian Constitution. It has to be passed by a majority of voters and a majority of voters in a majority of States. There haven’t been too many referendums passed in Australia in the last 30 years and I can’t see Australians changing. So whatever the merits, bear in mind it would require a Constitutional change.

JOURNALIST:

You are happy with the status quo?

TREASURER:

Oh look there are arguments in favour of a four year term, I acknowledge that, and many of the States now have four year terms. The Federal Parliament is only a three year term. But if you want to go from a three year term to a four year term you have got to pass a Constitutional referendum and the history of referendums in this country is they don’t often get passed. I think it has been tried before, incidentally, in one form or another. I think it was tried in 1988 and it was defeated.

JOURNALIST:

Just back to Gorgon – can you just explain again why the Commonwealth’s plan on the royalties is better than Kevin Rudd’s plan to set aside 25 per cent for WA?

TREASURER:

ell see Kevin Rudd hasn’t got any assistance for Gorgon. We are putting $60 million of assistance up immediately. Kevin Rudd says that he may make an allocation when Gorgon starts paying PRRT which probably is 10 years away. So nothing for 10 years and then in about 2020 he would be looking at $100 million. $100 million is not going to be worth that much in 2020. I think it is much more important to have assistance for the Gorgon Field now. The Commonwealth is putting $60 million of assistance on the table now. Okay. Thanks.