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 22/10/2007

Doorstop Interview with

The Hon Fran Bailey MP
Minister for Small Business & Tourism

South Morang, Victoria

Monday, 22 October 2007

1pm

 

SUBJECTS: Road overpasses announcement in South Morang, Labor's tax policy

TREASURER:

Today I am announcing that the Federal Government will commit $80 million to build two overpasses at McDonalds Road - here - and at Plenty Road to enable the extension of the rail line from Epping to South Morang and Mernda.

The extension of this rail line has long been promised by the State Government as far back as 1999. And as you can see this is an area of Melbourne where suburbs are almost appearing overnight. It has been too long for the rail line extension already but the Federal Government has decided to do something positive. What we have decided to do is to commit $80 million to build the two overpasses on the two main roads which will enable the extension of the rail line to go ahead without having to incur the additional cost of those two overpasses.

Now, this is a project which Fran Bailey the Member for McEwen has nominated as the most important project for the people of this area. She has lobbied for it very, very vigorously, she has lobbied for with both me and the Prime Minister and the Minister for Roads and it has been successful lobbying. And I pay tribute to you, Fran, for the lobbying work that you have done. The $80 million stands ready to be committed as soon as the go-ahead is given by the State Government for the extension of the rail line. We are ready to commit those funds for the building of the overpass. The building of the overpass will make it easier for the State Government to extend the rail network, something they have long promised and that will give much better commuting times into the city of Melbourne for those that live in Mernda and South Morang out in these growing areas.

So I want to pay tribute to Fran Bailey for the work that she has done, it is a great pleasure to make the announcement and Fran, you might like to say a few words too.

MINISTER BAILEY:

Thank you very much, Peter. It is a great announcement, isn't it? Thank you very much Treasurer. The first thing I would like to do also is to acknowledge that here this morning we have got a number of people from the South Morang Rail Alliance including some people who for years and years have been fighting the State Government to get this access to public transport. Just over the hills over there we have got new houses with thousands and thousands of new residents. For example there are only two roads that get in and out of that Mill Park Lakes Estate. Plenty Road is choked with traffic every morning and every afternoon. The access is appalling. There is no access to public transport. So Peter, today we say to Mr Brumby, your time is up. There are no more excuses now. There are no excuses why the State Government cannot now get on and honour the commitment it has been making going right back to 1999 and every one of us here are going to make sure that we make the Brumby Government now get on with the job.

TREASURER:

Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

You are saying that the $80 million will get the project started but you are basically saying it won't be finished unless you get agreement from the State Government. I mean, won't…

TREASURER:

No, let me make it clear. This is a State suburban rail network. Only the State Government controls that and only it can build it. The Federal Government can't build a suburban rail network but it has long been promised that it will be built out here since 1999. We look forward to the State Government honouring that and in order to make it easier for the State Government to honour that promise, the Federal Government will commit $80 million to build the two major road overpasses - McDonalds Road here and Plenty Road - so that the work can go ahead.

JOURNALIST:

This has been an issue for a long time. Why is it only, now that the money is coming in in the shadows of a Federal Election?

TREASURER:

Well of course this has been an issue since 1999. The residents have been waiting for their rail link to be extended. Fran Bailey has taken the issue up and she has gone to the Federal Government and asked the Federal Government to step in. Now, these are both State roads, these are not federal roads. The Federal Government doesn't control them and it has no obligation to maintain them but through Fran's lobbying, $80 million is going to be provided out of our AusLink Programme so that these roads can be built and that takes one less barrier away from extending the suburban rail network.

JOURNALIST:

So you can offer no pledge of when this would be built or whether it would be built in the next term of the Howard Government?

TREASURER:

Oh no, we can pledge the building of the roads as soon as the rail track is ready to go ahead.

JOURNALIST:

Are you giving the State Government a timeline at all?

TREASURER:

Well tomorrow. If they want to start turning sods tomorrow we are ready to go.

JOURNALIST:

Are there any conditions with the funding if they don't do it in a few years time, it won't go ahead or…?

TREASURER:

Well look, you know, they have been promising it since 1999 - I can't imagine that they won't do it - because as you can see the suburbs are springing up here. It has been too long but we have just made it $80 million easier for them to go ahead and to do it.

JOURNALIST:

How much in dollar terms is the actual project from the State Government's point of view?

TREASURER:

Well they would have to put a cost on the suburban rail network but I have seen estimates back in 1999 which weren't large at all, actually. I think back in those days it was something like $12 million they were talking about. Now of course, costs would have escalated since then - I accept that - but with a contribution of $80 million it just got 80 million steps closer.

JOURNALIST:

On tax Treasurer, Labor are continuing to deny there is any flaw with their tax plan. Is that not the case?

TREASURER:

Well I am not sure they are continuing to deny it…

JOURNALIST:

Well Wayne Swan has just come out and said that your criticism is bogus and you can't prove that families will be worse off.

TREASURER:

When Wayne Swan was challenged this morning whether he would match our thresholds, he said no. And I think when he was asked a question whether people would be worse off under the ALP policy, he said that they could be. Now, when you get an admission like that from a political apparatchik like Mr Swan, that is close as an admission as you will ever get.

JOURNALIST:

Can you prove that (inaudible), have you got the figures to back up your (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Yes, yes, I have issued the full distributional table yesterday and I issued it again today. And what it shows is that if you don't move the threshold for the 15 cent tax rate,as Labor won't do, 45 per cent of Australian taxpayers will be worse off - most of them worse off by $600 a year. And these are the people earning between $37,000 and $102,000. What it shows is Mr Rudd made a fatal error in his tax plan. The error in his tax plan leaves 45 per cent of Australian taxpayers worse off.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, those thresholds you published yesterday and again today, are they Treasury figures?

TREASURER:

Well they are our policy and they have been checked by Treasury, yes.

JOURNALIST:

But doesn't Treasury generally only put estimates out on those sort of things for three years, not five?

TREASURER:

No, I think again that is probably something you heard from Mr Swan. This distributional analysis is done all the time.

JOURNALIST:

So those five year thresholds, that work was done by Treasury?

TREASURER:

Yes, it has been checked by Treasury, absolutely.

JOURNALIST:

It has been checked by Treasury…

TREASURER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

…or done by Treasury?

TREASURER:

Well - the same thing.

JOURNALIST:

So, it is your estimate of the threshold that has been checked by Treasury?

TREASURER:

It has been approved by Treasury and it is based on the Treasury modelling.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, talks are underway between the Government and media organisations over Freedom of Information laws, do you see scope for the liberalising of those laws?

TREASURER:

Well look, this is a matter for the relevant Minister. I know he has got talks underway and I will leave that to him.

JOURNALIST:

In the material you published yesterday, you described those thresholds at ‘estimated tax scales'. So, are they locked in, the $210,000, the $90,000? Are they locked in or…?

TREASURER:

Yes, that is what is required in order to get to 45 per cent of people paying 15 cents or less and 85 per cent of people paying 30 cents or less.

JOURNALIST:

But it is a bit difficult to predict that now, I mean you might have to change that at the time to meet those targets.

TREASURER:

That is what the indications are but I can tell you this, Sam. If you don't move that $37,000 threshold - and Mr Rudd was asked yesterday whether he would and he said no he wouldn't - you then kick a whole lot of people off the 15 cent rate on to the 30 cent rate. Now, there is no getting away from it. And the moment you kick them off a 15 cent rate onto a 30 cent rate, you make them worse off. There is no getting away from it. Now, Mr Rudd could have fixed this yesterday, he had the opportunity, he was asked: ‘will you move those thresholds as the Treasurer says to $41,000?' He said: ‘no I won't.' And the moment he said ‘no I won't', is the moment he said 45 per cent of income taxpayers in Australia will be worse off under the Labor Party. Now, if he wants to correct his error he has got to come out today and say, I was wrong on Sunday, I will move the threshold. But every day he leaves it is a day when you know that 45 per cent of Australians will be worse off. Okay, thank you.