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 22/11/2007

Interview with Mark Colvin
ABC PM Programme

Thursday, 22 November 2007
6. 20 pm

SUBJECTS: Election material, economic management

TREASURER:

Well the Prime Minister has made it clear that this is not authorised by the Liberal Party. It isn’t authorised by the Liberal Party. The people who did it have been disciplined and dealt with. The voters of Lindsay will make their decision. And in fact, for the rest of Australia, I think there are much bigger issues at stake.

COLVIN:

Well, you may say that but for the very least the news headlines, the TV news, the newspapers have been hijacked for another day, maybe two days by something that you really didn’t want to see on the front pages.

TREASURER:

Well I do say that because I think for most people the most important thing is their mortgage, their job, their business, their taxes, their education. These are the things I think will be in people’s minds, particularly with uncertainty in the international economic climate. I think if you live in the seat of Lindsay, this may be an issue that you’ll take into account, but I don’t think…

COLVIN:

What if you live in the State of New South Wales? What does this say about the New South Wales Branch?

TREASURER:

Well, I think if you lived in the electorate of Wentworth, for example, you would be very concerned about the statements that were made by the Labor candidate’s campaign manager, you could take that into account. If you lived in the seat of Lindsay, you might take this into account. But I think if you’re looking at this…

COLVIN:

Mr Costello, this involves somebody who was on the State Executive of the Liberal Party.

TREASURER:

Well, if you live in the rest of Australia, and I know my constituents will be thinking to themselves – who are they going to trust with their mortgage and their business and their job? That’s what they’ll be thinking.

COLVIN:

Indeed. But your branch of the Liberal Party, the Victorian Liberal Party, is not tipped by the pollsters to lose a lot of seats. New South Wales is possibly, it’s the one, it is one of the ones that could be really crucial. It matters.

TREASURER:

Well, I think it will be taken into account by the people of Lindsay but I think if you were living in Eden-Monaro or if you were living in a seat like Macquarie, what you’ll be voting on is what party is best placed to help you keep your job and your business and your mortgage.

COLVIN:

Are you really saying that…

TREASURER:

That’s precisely what I’m really saying. No, no let me say…

COLVIN:

Are you really saying that the State New South Wales Liberal Party can somehow quarantine itself from something that happened to a former Minister in your Government, or rather perhaps the retiring member for the seat, and involving her husband, and the husband of the current candidate and a member of the State Executive of that Party?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, that’s what I’m saying. I think most people will be thinking to themselves, well, what policies are going to keep my children in work, help me with their education expenses, help me keep my mortgage, my business and my job. I think absolutely that’s what they’ll be saying. They’ll be saying that in Eden-Monaro and Macquarie. They’ll be saying it all throughout Victoria and Queensland. Now…

COLVIN:

You hammered Ralph Willis back in 1996 over the forged letter. Labor was saying it was just as irrelevant as to the overall campaign then, isn’t it, doesn’t the same argument apply?

TREASURER:

Well the Labor Treasurer of the country produced forged letters to try and discredit the then Opposition. Now what we find in this case is that some people associated with the Liberal Party – not Ministers, not the Treasurer – have engaged in behaviour for which they have apologised and been disciplined. People can take that into account. But can I tell you this: I think when most people are voting on Saturday, what they’ll be thinking about is their mortgage, their business and their job. They won’t be thinking to themselves, look, I’ll risk my mortgage, I’ll risk my home, I’ll risk my job and I’ll risk my business because in the seat of Lindsay, where most of them don’t live, there was an unauthorised pamphlet. This was a bad, unauthorised pamphlet. People can take that into account in Lindsay. But I think people around in Australia will take a lot more into account than what’s happened in a seat where they don’t live and where they’re not voting.

COLVIN:

But isn’t this the culmination of a campaign which has been marked by blunders, from Tony Abbott’s blunders to the revelations from inside Cabinet about what Malcolm Turnbull wanted to do about Kyoto. Just in the last week, the Auditor-General’s report on the rorts scandal and so on. Quite a long list and they seem to be every week, that your campaign is being derailed by one thing or another.

TREASURER:

Well if I may say so, you seem to be very selective about your blunders. Yes, Tony Abbott turned up late to a debate on a health matter. Julia Gillard failed to front in a debate against me yesterday. She came in halfway through. You seem to be very interested in our policy on Kyoto. Peter Garrett was rapped over the knuckles by Kevin Rudd because he suggested that Labor would be signing an agreement without developing economies in it. I must say, in a campaign – I’ve been through a few of them now – there are various episodes that occur in a campaign. But I’ve always found at the end of the day, that people will vote on the things that are important to them – their business, their mortgage, their job, their kids’ future, the education of their kids, the opportunity that they’ll have to get ahead in an economy which will be either managed well or not. To me, these are the crucial issues and these are the things that will influence their voting intention on Saturday.

COLVIN:

So looking back and comparing it to 1998, 2001, 2004, are you telling me this has been a good campaign?

TREASURER:

Well, I’ve been through a lot of campaigns and I’ve seen a lot of things that make headlines for a particular day. Do you know what I’ve always found? I’ve found that at the end of the day, the Australian public are interested in their jobs, their mortgages, their businesses. They are interested in who is going to manage a $1. 1 trillion economy. They want to know whether there is going to be a future in their country, for their education, for their retirement and for their aged care. And that can only come from a strong economy.

COLVIN:

Peter Costello, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

TREASURER:

Thank you.