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 01/11/2007

Doorstop Interview
Cazaly's Stadium, Cairns

Thursday, 1 November 2007

10.45 am (Queensland time)

 

SUBJECTS: Peter Lindsay, election, tax, economy, Reserve Bank, wages, Labor's advertising, oil, skills

TREASURER:

…in Townsville today with my good friend, Peter Lindsay who of course has been the Member here and has served this area so well.He is an outstanding Member of Parliament and he has made a major contribution on behalf of the people of Herbert in Federal Parliament.It is great to be here with him, we have big plans for infrastructure which we have announced in relation to the Bruce Highway, which we have announced in relation to port access, and we have been discussing with the local business community some of the important things that will be important to economic development here in the future.

This is an election which is going to decide whether Australia continues to grow its economy and we build it stronger, whether we go on to create more jobs.One the first day of this campaign I announced a tax plan which will make the Australian taxation system more competitive and after five days the Labor Party copied 91.5 per cent of it.But I would make this point: the Coalition has a record of delivering on tax reform.Labor doesn't.The last time Labor was in office, it made tax promises before the election and broke them afterwards.

We also announced a plan for a utilities allowance for $500 for pensioners and self-funded retirees.In the second week of this campaign, today Mr Rudd has copied that plan.And this election campaign I think, is demonstrating that far from having new ideas Mr Rudd is taking all of his lead from the Coalition, copying the policies, policies that he is not committed to and policies he couldn't deliver on.That is why I say this election is going to be about experience, about policy and about economic management.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, in the last 11 years, how many times have you visited Townsville?

TREASURER:

I have been here on numbers of occasions, several occasions.

JOURNALIST:

So you don't agree with Mr Swan's comments this morning that you are neglecting regional Australia and North Queensland.

TREASURER:

Of course I don't agree with Mr Swan.Mr Swan is one of those political cyborgs who runs a line over and over again in the hope that journalists will pick it up.But he is not substantive.I don't think he is a substantive politician.

JOURNALIST:

If the Howard Government is re-elected, will you increase your visits to North Queensland?

TREASURER:

Well of course.I will keep coming to North Queensland and talking about the issues that are important.Of course I will continue.

JOURNALIST:

How did you go with your meeting with business leaders at lunch?

TREASURER:

I thought it was a very good meeting and we discussed things like infrastructure, port access, the damage that Labor would do to the economy.I think there is a great concern in the business community about Labor's economic policy and how it will cost jobs.People should know this, that unemployment is now the lowest it has been in 33 years.It didn't happen by accident, it wasn't a fluke and if you get bad economic management in Australia it can go backwards very quickly.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) the Labor Party has mirrored almost all of your economic policies, is there any difference, with the business community?

TREASURER:

Well you see, the Labor Party says it agrees with Coalition policy but you couldn't trust it to implement Coalition policy.Kevin Rudd says he agrees with my tax policy.But has Kevin Rudd ever administered a tax system?No.Did the Labor Party cut tax when it was in office?No.Kevin Rudd says he agrees with my policy on (inaudible).Did he (inaudible) the policy?No.Does he have the capacity to deliver the policy?No.You have got to look at this guy's record which is really quite a shameful record.If you want to see whether he is serious and whether he has the capacity (inaudible).

JOURNALIST:

One of the concerns for business leaders up here is the distance away from the major centres.Are there likely to be any more tax concessions for people in remote areas?

TREASURER:

We have got a tax plan which is to cut tax for every Australian.Every Australian.And what it will do is it will mean that for low income earners you won't pay tax until you earn above $20,000.For people who are working part-time, 45 per cent of Australians, you won't pay a higher marginal rate than 15 per cent.For 85 per cent of Australians you won't pay a higher rate than 30 per cent.This is a tax plan for Australia's future and it will dramatically reduce the tax burden in this country.

JOURNALIST:

But nothing for remote areas?

TREASURER:

Well this is for all Australians and measures that we have put in place in relation to superannuation, company tax, capital gains tax, fuel excise, measures which weren't supported by the Labor Party or thought up by the Labor Party, are for all Australians and especially of advantage for people in regional centres.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, Glenn Stevens told a gathering at the AGSM last night that he had no objection in principle to publication of the board minutes provided this does not crimp (inaudible) discussion.Do you support greater transparency in the Reserve Bank operations?

TREASURER:

Well of course I have encouraged greater transparency in the Bank's operations with the semi-annual appearance by the Governor before a Parliamentary Committee, with the quarterly bulletins, with the statements that it makes in relation to monetary policy.These are reforms which we have put in place and the Bank has always had the ability to make statements through the Governor and making speeches at any time it wants.So, transparency has been absolutely vital under our government.

JOURNALIST:

Do you support greater transparency for the (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, what further moves can you have?If you put a Governor up for Parliamentary examination, you have a quarterly bulletin, you have regular speeches, you have statements that are put out.This is a very high level of transparency and it is something that I have put in place.

JOURNALIST:

Wayne Swan said this morning you were in favour of lower minimum wages in regional areas like Townsville.Is that right?

TREASURER:

No I am in favour of higher wages and here is the proof.Under my period as Treasurer, wages have increased in real terms 20 per cent.And you should ask Wayne Swan what happened to wages when his government was in office.Wages fell by 1.8 per cent.Wayne Swan and Labor were the king of wage falls.We have presided over a system where wages have increased by 20 per cent and that is what we are about.Jobs, higher real wages.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) out of the paper from eight years ago saying you thought it was appropriate (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

My position has been absolutely consistent over the last eight years.More jobs and higher wages.You have got to look at the outcomes.There has been a 20 per cent increase in real wages whilst I have been Treasurer.And I support higher wages.Ask Wayne Swan this: what was the increase in wages when his Party was in government.Do you know that over 13 years they declined?Labor and Wayne Swan boasted about depressing wages over 13 years.These are unassailable facts.And over the period that I have been in office, wages have increased by 20 per cent.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, the retail sales jumped 2 per cent in the September quarter with an (inaudible) September.Do you think the economy is growing too fast?

TREASURER:

Well the economy is growing strongly.We are now in our period of the longest expansion in Australian history.There are more people in work than ever before, unemployment is now at 33 year lows, unemployment is falling around the country and the important thing is to keep economic growth going in Australia.You would have noticed that the American economy is at risk of turning down, that the American authorities are now taking steps to try and resuscitate their economy.Their economy is not growing as strongly as Australia.But we are in a stronger position because we have a better budget than the United States.Ours is balanced.We have cleared Labor's debt.We have put in place economic reforms.And the task ahead is to make sure we continue to do that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello…

TREASURER:

Sorry.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, tonight Labor's latest election ad campaign hits the airwaves, it claims that once or if the Coalition is re-elected and once you take over leadership from John Howard, that you will adopt a more hardline approach to the WorkChoices legislation.Is this the case?

TREASURER:

Well if Labor is saying that, of course it is absolutely false and it shows you the desperation of Kevin Rudd.Now Kevin Rudd (inaudible) walk away from false advertising, he knows that it is false.He ought to put his hand up, he ought to direct Tim Gartrell to get it off the air.

JOURNALIST:

Can you give us a number of how many times you have claimed to visit regions like Townsville (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I am always visiting, all around Australia and believe me, it is a great pleasure to come here and I love coming here and I will continue to do so.Thanks.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) much time talking about issues like carbon emissions and not about things that people really care about like rising petrol prices (inaudible).

TREASURER:

Look, I think people ought to be concerned about rising prices, of course I am aware.Prices of petrol which are related to rising oil prices will go up as the world oil price goes up.It has hit near record levels.Prices of food will rise because of the drought and a lack of water means that our crops won't be as large as they otherwise would be and that will put pressure on prices.You can't do much about world oil prices.You can't do much about the drought.But I believe what you can do is you can put money back into people's pockets and that is why I announced on the first day of this election campaign, a plan to cut taxes for every Australian.And after five days Mr Rudd endorsed it.I make this point: what would Mr Rudd have done for a tax policy if I hadn't have announced ours?He wouldn't have had anything to copy.So we welcome that he copied that policy but we make the point that politics is about leadership and doing the right thing and that is what the Coalition (inaudible) that is what Mr Rudd is not doing.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, one of the…

TREASURER:

Make this the last question.

JOURNALIST:

One of the things we have heard a lot about in Townsville has been acute skills shortages, competition for workers from the mining industry and that is one of the things small business keeps saying.Do you acknowledge that the Government could have done more in terms of trades training and these sorts of things over the past three or four years?

TREASURER:

Well there are 415,000 Australian apprentices at the moment, triple the number there were when our government was elected.So we have triple the number of Australian apprentices.Now, we can also do more.This was the government that announced Australian Technical Colleges.Today at lunch one of the people I met was the chairman of the Technical College here in Townsville.He told me it was the largest Technical College in Australia.That 300 people are in it.The largest Technical College in Australia, in Townsville with 300 people.And he also told me about the plans they have to expand that college.These colleges didn't exist before our government announced the policy of building them.This has been an extremely successful one here in Townsville.Can more be done?Yes.We want to build more Technical Colleges around Australia.We want to have 100 of them but the important thing is that those that are in this area and are successful (inaudible).Thank you