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 19/11/2007

Interview with Chris Uhlmann
ABC AM Programme

Monday, 19 November 2007
8. 10 am

SUBJECTS: Election, risk of Rudd Labor

UHLMANN:

Peter Costello, good morning.

TREASURER:

Thank you, Chris.

UHLMANN:

John Howard is going to go. Did the Coalition’s problems begin in this election last year when John Howard refused to step down as Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Chris, we’ve got six days or five days until the next election and the important thing I think is that Australians know the choices that are between the two parties and the choices that are before them. The choice is very much, I think, whether or not we go ahead as a strong economy. Whether or not we continue to create jobs and maintain businesses or whether we take a lurch into the unknown. And over the next few days I want Australians to focus on that choice very carefully because by Saturday night the trillion dollar Australian economy will either be managed by the Coalition Government, which is a known quantity, or you’ll have Swan-Gillard and Rudd in the driver’s seat. And I was pretty shocked, to be frank, to see Mr Rudd put down his five-point plan yesterday, which involved nothing about interest rates, nothing about mortgages, nothing about costs, nothing about jobs and I thought that was a really big insight into his thinking.

UHLMANN:

We’ll come to that in just a moment. But isn’t this, isn’t it true what Kevin Rudd said, isn’t this election a referendum on the future and they’re offering a new leader and you aren’t?

TREASURER:

I don’t think they’re offering a plan. They’re offering a change to an untried person who has no economic experience, that’s true. But what is their economic plan? As I’ve gone through this campaign, we laid down the tax plan, we laid down the pension plan, we laid down the technical skills school plan. Some of those Labor copied and some they didn’t. But I’ve been listening very, very carefully and there is no economic plan from Kevin Rudd. It is just vague clichés and whenever you actually get him under questioning in detail, he’s pretty shallow.

UHLMANN:

He’s talking about business deregulation, he’s talking about education, which is framed as an economic policy, he’s talking about climate change, which you aren’t very much and clearly something has to be done about that.

TREASURER:

Well this Government has designed an emission trading system. We’ve instituted a Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund. We’ve got an international programme in relation to re-forestation. The Government has actually invested more in climate change measures than any other Government in Australian history. But I would say this: you can only invest more in climate change if you have a strong economy. And if you don’t have a strong economy, the rest is just academic. You won’t have the resources to build health or education or worry about climate change or re-forestation. Now…

UHLMANN:

…people don’t see Labor as posing a threat to the economy?

TREASURER:

Well, you see, there’s a lot of people who would just say, ‘well, the Australian economy has been strong, it just runs itself - not even Mr Rudd would muck it up’. And to them, my message is, this is not an accident. It doesn’t happen by chance. It has taken a lot of work. And if you weren’t part of the big economic decisions of the last 10 years, as Mr Rudd wasn’t, you won’t understand what had to be done and where we have to go to.

UHLMANN:

One of the arguments you keep running against the Labor Party is if they get voted in, then there will be wall-to-wall Labor governments across the country. Isn’t the weakness in that argument that people actually keep voting Labor? Clearly, Australians want Labor.

TREASURER:

Well, think about New South Wales, the health system…

UHLMANN:

There was an election there last year and they won.

TREASURER:

Sure. Think about Victoria with the police problems and today the increases in all State charges.

UHLMANN:

(inaudible) not so long ago and Labor won, and the Coalition lost.

TREASURER:

Sure, sure. If you think Labor’s good at managing and you think Morris Iemma’s doing a good job and you think the Victorian Government is doing a good job, you’ll want wall-to-wall Labor. A lot of people don’t think they are doing a very good job, Chris, and they would be very, very afraid, they’d be very, very afraid to have one political party control every level of government in Australia. You’ve got to think about this:one political party controlling every government. Now, where are the checks and balances going to be in that system?

UHLMANN:

But if Australians make that decision, that will be the right decision, won’t it?

TREASURER:

Sure, you know, if Australians want one party to govern every government in Australia, and they vote that way on Saturday, that’s what will happen. Yes. You’re absolutely right, Chris. But my point is, think about it before you vote that way. If you think it’s important for accountability, to have different levels of government with different political persuasions so that at least they’re a check on each other, you won’t be voting for Kevin Rudd on Saturday. If you want wall-to-wall Labor, if you want one political party to control every level of government, if you want to make sure that there’s no accountability between levels of government, you will be voting for Kevin Rudd.

UHLMANN:

All right. Finally and briefly, you keep talking about the fact that Kevin Rudd is talking down the mining boom, saying that we need to consider what happens after it. Haven’t you considered that yourself?

TREASURER:

Well, I just thought the comment that he made on the weekend that Perth has got to get ready for the end of the mining boom and one of the industries that they can get into is taking Chinese savings and investing it in Latin American real estate, I just, I found it unbelievable. Why anyone would want to invest in Latin American real estate…As Treasurer I’ve been involved in two IMF rescues of Latin American economies, where the IMF had to be called in to pull these economies out. Why you would want to put anybody’s money into Latin American real estate? As The Australian said today in its editorial, it is more the kind of thing you would read in an email from Lagos than from a statement that you’d get from a responsible political leader.


UHLMANN:

Treasurer, thank you.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Chris.