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 02/11/2007

Interview with David Speers
Sky News Agenda

Friday, 2 November 2007

4.20 pm

SUBJECTS: Garrett's revealing comments, republic, election

SPEERS:

Treasurer, thanks for you time. What is your reaction to this?

TREASURER:

Well I think this is the key that unlocks what has been going on in this election campaign. Every time the Coalition has announced a policy, like our policy to cut tax, Kevin Rudd said: ‘me too.' When we announced our policy in relation to giving benefits to pensioners, Kevin Rudd said ‘me too.' When we said we wouldn't sign a post-Kyoto agreement unless developing countries came into it, Kevin Rudd said: ‘me too.' Now everybody knew these weren't Labor policies. Everybody knew that Labor wasn't interested in tax cuts or helping the pensioners and it certainly was a big reversal on their position for Kyoto. So why was Labor saying ‘me too, me too, me too'? Well Peter Garrett has just told you why. Labor has no intention of actually implementing these things. As Peter Garrett said: ‘once we get in, we will just change it all.' In other words, Labor is saying one thing but it intends to do a very different thing if it gets elected. And that is why an admission like this from Peter Garrett at this critical juncture of the election campaign suddenly explains it all. The Kevin Rudd ‘me too' policy is a pretence. It is just a pretence because he intends - if he gets in - to change it all.

SPEERS:

But Treasurer, these comments, if they are accurate, could be interpreted at Peter Garrett saying, once we get in we will change it all - change the ‘me too' approach because they will be setting the agenda. But it doesn't necessarily mean they will drop the promises they have made in this campaign.

TREASURER:

Well that is exactly what it means, David: ‘once we get in, we will stop the me-too'. Because that is not what Labor really believes in, they don't really believe in this tax plan. It was my tax plan. And they don't really believe in the pension announcement, it was our announcement.

SPEERS:

But it doesn't necessarily mean they won't implement those policies.

TREASURER:

Well what else, how else can you understand what Peter Garrett has said? And these were the words, let me read them to you: ‘once we get in we will just change it all.' Now, I think this really takes on its true explanation when you remember what was going on earlier this week. Earlier this week, Peter Garrett said, you'll recall, that Labor was prepared to go into a post-Kyoto agreement even if developing economies didn't come in. That was long established Labor policy. When Peter Garret said that, he wasn't making it up. That is what the Labor Party has been arguing for a long period of time. And you will recall that the Labor Party had a crisis meeting and Peter Garrett was forced to put out a statement backtracking from that position, saying that they would demand that developing countries come in. Now, Peter Garrett is telling you he hasn't changed his view. When he backtracked, he had an undertaking, I reckon, from Kevin Rudd: ‘once we get in, we will just change it all'. So Pete, you say it now, but mate, if we ever get there don't worry, this won't be what we are implementing. And I think Peter Garrett, in a moment of candour and truth, has really exploded Kevin Rudd's pretence. These are the words that are going to haunt this campaign from now on: ‘once we get in, we will just change it all'.

SPEERS:

So we can expect some Coalition advertising to be rolled out fairly quickly, I would imagine, along those lines?

TREASURER:

Well David, how else can you understand this? ‘Once we get in, we will just change it all'. Now look, Peter Garrett didn't go into Parliament to implement Coalition policy and nor did Kevin Rudd and nor did Wayne Swan. But if you are listening to them throughout this campaign you would have thought you know, these are really disguised Liberals. They are people who have been economic conservatives who just want to implement our policy. But let me tell you what they are saying to their supporters: ‘once we get in, we will change it all'. Let me tell you what they are saying to the unions: ‘once we get in, we will change it all'. Here you have Kevin Reynolds and Joe McDonald saying we will be back and Kevin has been saying: ‘oh, no, no, no. They won't be back.' Once they get in, they will change it all. And Kevin will be back and Joe McDonald will be back and the 70 per cent of the union officials that would make up a Rudd Government will be back big time.

SPEERS:

Well Treasurer, why is the Government so frustrated by this ‘me too' approach from Labor on tax and on the pensioner cash hand outs? If it is good policy, surely you should welcome the fact that the other side is giving it a tick.

TREASURER:

Sure. If it is good policy we would welcome people adopting it. But you see, we know they don't, we know they have no intention of putting it into place. That is the point. And of course, if they fool the electorate between now and election day, it is going to be too late after that because they will be in. They will then change it all. And this is just an elaborate pretence that is going on. Kevin Rudd didn't believe in our tax plan. He reckoned he had his own tax plan. Doesn't it strike you as strange? We brought down a tax plan on the first day of the election, five days later Kevin Rudd says his plan is 91 ½ per cent the same. Doesn't that strike you as strange that lo and behold, what a big fluke, it turned out to be the same tax plan? Well nobody believes that he actually wrote a tax plan. He just copied it. It was a political tactic. It is a tactic that he wants to get through to election day and once he gets in, he will just change it all. That is the whole point.

SPEERS:

Treasurer, I have just been handed a note from Peter Garrett's office, a statement. I will read it out. He doesn't deny the quote, he says that on radio today Steve Price related a short jocular conversation which occurred at Melbourne Airport this morning. Notwithstanding what was said, there is no doubt things would change under a Labor Government. We would launch an education revolution, get rid of WorkChoices, deliver high speed broadband and end the blame game on the hospital. Nothing remarkable about that, he says. End of statement. So, he is not denying the quote...

TREASURER:

No.

SPEERS:

...but he is saying what he is talking about is that we will change WorkChoices, education, health, broadband, etcetera, that is what he was focussing on he says.

TREASURER:

‘Once we get in we will just change it all'. Now, Hawker-Britton will have written that statement for Peter and they would have said: ‘get this down there Peter, because you have just cracked open the whole pretence. You better get this down there and try and deflect it.' And dutifully Peter has sent it down. But you see, even that statement doesn't mean anything because once they get in they will change it all. That statement is just more of the elaborate pretence. You have got Kevin Rudd running around the country pretending to be an economic conservative, but once he gets in he will change it all. And I will tell you something. You know who'll make him change it all? All of those ex-union officials who will be a big part of his Government, they'll make him change it, all right.

SPEERS:

Treasurer, while we've got you there, just quickly, I wanted to ask you about the republic. It hasn't really been on the agenda in this campaign but we know you are a supporter of the republic, and we know if the Coalition wins, you will become Prime Minister in the next term. So what are you going to do about getting the republic back on the agenda when you become Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Well, I think one day Australia will become a republic, and I think the important thing is at that point we make sure we preserve the best of our parliamentary systems. That is going to be the important thing, that we don't throw the baby out with the bath water, but that could be quite a while. The Australian people had a vote, they voted against the last model, which I thought was a decent model, by the way. There is no point in saying you were wrong. The public is always right on these things and sometime in the future, when the public is confident and comfortable with it...

SPEERS:

A long way off?

TREASURER:

Well, we'll know when it happens. The public will make that step but they don't want to be rushed into it. Anybody who tries to pressure them into it...

SPEERS:

It's been a while though hasn't it? It's been ...

TREASURER:

Well it was 1999, I think it was 1999, wasn't it? I am pretty sure that's when it was.

SPEERS:

Eight years ago. Yeah, that's right.

TREASURER:

In 1999, I remember saying at the time, and I urged a ‘yes' vote by the way, I said if you vote this down, it could be another generation before it comes back. I remember saying that at the time. And...

SPEERS:

Which is what, 30 years?

TREASURER:

Well, what's a political generation? It's a bit less than that, David, but it is a bit more than eight years.

SPEERS:

What about the idea that Bob Hawke's put forward of inserting a sleeper cause in the Constitution that while ever the current Monarch is on the throne, we stick with that but as soon as that period ends, then we become a Republic. Are you in favour of that?

TREASURER:

Well, you see, that could become a trigger because I think there is enormous respect for the current Queen and that could become a trigger, but you have got to bear in mind that the Queen's mother lived until she was over 100, so that could still be a long way off.

SPEERS:

But the sleeper cause in the Constitution means that we could put it in there now and then wait until there is a change.

TREASURER:

No, I don't like sleeper clauses. You know, I think the public will know when it is ready. I think that there will be just a sense that it's got to be done and it can be done in a way which won't disturb our parliamentary democracy and when we are close to that, David, I think we will know and we'll do it, and I think the public will move through that and it won't really be a matter of instability or anything else, people will just know that it's something that's being done and it was done at the appropriate time.

SPEERS:

So if not the republic, what, if any, difference will you present to the leadership? Why should we have a change?

TREASURER:

Well, David, at this election I'm actually arguing that we shouldn't; that we should keep the Howard Government of which I am a very proud member of the team.

SPEERS:

I thought you were saying we should swap to you sometime during the next term.

TREASURER:

But John Howard has said at some time before the election after this one, then there would be a transition but before I am starting to talk about the election after this one, I am pretty focussed on this one actually.

SPEERS:

But a lot of people are looking at this one and saying, if we re-elect the Coalition, you will be Prime Minister, so what are you offering? If it is any different to John Howard.

TREASURER:

I think a lot of people should be looking at this one and saying, ‘hey, if we put Mr Rudd in, whatever he is saying now, once he gets elected, he's going to change it all'. We don't actually know what he's going to do, which parts is he going to change. I'll tell you, he will be changing the tax policy, I am pretty sure of that. And I am pretty sure he'll be changing the Kyoto Policy. And I think people will be looking at Peter Garrett and they'll be saying, ‘well, this is going to be a pretty strange bloke to be in the Rudd Cabinet'. And I think I would be saying to the Australian people at this particular time, don't be fooled by Kevin Rudd me-tooism, that's just a pretence. You got it from Mr Garrett's mouth. He's not denying it. He's saying that this is just being done for the purposes of votes and you don't know what you will be getting from these people if they were to be elected on the 24th of November.

SPEERS:

Treasurer Peter Costello, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks, David.