The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

17 April 2008

Interview with Madonna King
and Students from Sandgate State High School

ABC Radio 612

Brisbane

17 April 2008

SUBJECTS: Student Press Call

KING:

If you could question the Treasurer of Australia, Wayne Swan, what would you ask? How you might fare in the Budget? Whether he paid any attention in maths at school? Why he let his daughter play in a rock band? Student Press Call with Treasurer, Wayne Swan, our guest this morning. Treasurer, good morning and welcome to 612 ABC Brisbane.

TREASURER:

Good morning, Madonna. It's great to be here. It's good to be back.

KING:

Last time I heard on the news, you were overseas. When did you fly home?

TREASURER:

I was. I came back from Washington on Tuesday morning. I was there for the World Bank and IMF meetings.

KING:

How often do you get to see your family, now you're Treasurer?

TREASURER:

Not often. I haven't seen the family for over a week. But you know, it's tough at the moment in terms of family time but these are really important times for the Government and I've got to apply myself internationally and nationally.

KING:

Well, you're drawing up the Budget, your first.

TREASURER:

That's right.

KING:

Is it much harder to do, now you're in the Treasury benches, than it looked from Opposition?

TREASURER:

I always thought it was a really big job and we're really working on it day and night – and have been doing that for a long period of time. It's an incredible privilege to be involved in the process but it's certainly a lot of hard work.

KING:

Well, good morning to your inquisitors this morning. Tyler Atkins, good morning.

TYLER:

Good morning.

KING:

You're in Grade 8?

TYLER:

Yes.

KING:

And we'll then take Glenn and Norah and Reanna in just a moment. But what's your first question, Tyler?

TYLER:

What good advice do your children give you to help run the country?

TREASURER:

Lots of critical advice from my children. My eldest daughter's 23, my next daughter is 18 and I've got a son who's 13. Mattie is probably at home listening. During the election campaign he rang me up with some advice. He said, 'you're not getting your lines right, Dad. What you should say is this'. So, I get plenty of advice not only from my children, but also from my wife, who has her two bobs worth from time to time. That really keeps you anchored and particularly when you travel a lot. When I ring home, as I did earlier, and spoke to Kim, she told me what had been going on on ABC Radio this morning and what the themes had been and what the big debates were about: bullying and so on. So, my family are fundamental in keeping me anchored in the local community when I'm away a lot.

KING:

What's your next question?

TYLER:

What things do you do to have fun?

TREASURER:

Well, politics has been my passion and at the moment there's not much time for anything else. But what I really enjoy doing away from work is actually getting home, bowling a few balls to Matt on the practice wicket. Personally, what I really enjoy is I really enjoy the beach; I really enjoy surfing; and I really enjoy a good curry.

KING:

Oh, there you are. He doesn't look like a surfer, does he? You wouldn't have picked that?

TYLER:

Probably not.

KING:

No, me either. What else? What's your next question?

TYLER:

What advice would you give me, as a potential future Treasurer of Australia?

TREASURER:

You want to be a Treasurer, too? Study hard, do the economics, do that maths. But the most important advice I think I can give anybody is to follow your passion and to work hard. The most important thing in life – and my job is such a privilege – is I'm getting to do what I want to do. And a lot of people in life don't necessarily have that choice. So, what you need to do is to maximise your choices by getting a good education. It doesn't necessarily have to be the formal education with the degree. Life is a learning experience for everybody. So, it's learning through life, through both study and participation in the workforce, giving yourself the opportunity to do what you want to do and earn the rewards that you deserve.

KING:

Maths; was it a strong subject of yours?

TREASURER:

I got a credit in senior for maths, or a five in those days. I actually got a seven for economics.

KING:

What about you? What's your favourite subject?

TYLER:

Oh, probably drama.

KING:

Probably drama? You could certainly be a politician, couldn't you?

TREASURER:

Yeah, there's a lot of drama queens in politics.

KING:

But what about (inaudible)?

TYLER:

Oh, it's interesting.

KING:

You said what advice could you give me as a future Treasurer of Australia, are you interested in politics? Or when you finish school, what are you thinking of doing?

TYLER:

I like thinking about the living world and astronomy and stuff like that. But government would be a very interesting career choice.

KING:

Yeah, it would be good if you were in government. In Opposition, it's not so good, is it?

TYLER:

Yeah.

TREASURER:

But surely, the most important thing, Tyler, is to get involved. You can't make a difference unless you get involved. And at the end of the day, we're all in this together. I mean, Sandgate's a great community. It's got some fantastic community organisations. I mean, my advice would be to get involved. It doesn't matter what it is – a service organisation or even an organisation you may want to create yourself. But we all become stronger if more people get involved.

KING:

I think you've got a final question, I think, Tyler?

TYLER:

What's your favourite computer game if you get time?

TREASURER:

I don't get time but Mattie's favourite game is Age of Empire.

KING:

Do you know that one?

TYLER:

I love it.

TREASURER:

Yeah, no, it's fantastic. You can build the civilisation from the ground up, and that really brings me back to actually education because, in days of old, you defended civilisation with armies and you still do that, to some extent. But really, the most important defence for civilisation is a good education, good values. And Age of Empire probably helps in trying to figure a few of those things out.

KING:

And you've played it?

TREASURER:

I've played it with Mattie…

KING:

Who won?

TREASURER:

I couldn't possibly beat him at any of this stuff involving technology, I don't think. I mean, that's the great thing these days; kids are just so switched on to technology and it gives me a lot of faith about where the country's going.

KING:

Do you guys do all your assignments on computers now? Do you do much in long hand?

TYLER:

Yeah, it's definitely much more easier to type it up on the laptop than writing it out with a pencil and a pen.

KING:

And you input photos and do all that tricky stuff?

TYLER:

Yes. It took a while to learn but now it's much easier to use.

KING:

Now, your name's Glenn, Glenn Donaldson? What year are you in, Glenn?

GLENN:

I'm in Grade 11.

KING:

You're a little bit older than Tyler. Thank you for your questions, Tyler, they were great, weren't they, Wayne?

TREASURER:

Yes, they were.

KING:

What do you want to do when you finish Grade 12?

GLENN:

It's been a bit…choosing over the past few years but lately I've been interested in being a chiropractor.

KING:

Yes, what makes you interested in that?

GLENN:

Just the natural medicine side of all the things.

KING:

Yes, I'm certainly sure that it's going to grow. Now, who did you work out your questions today for the Treasurer?

GLENN:

I based them on the type of school and work and maybe a few personal ones there.

KING:

Put your hands up, did anyone Google him?

KING:

Yes, okay. I would've, too. Alright, what's your first question?

GLENN:

What jobs did you have, and did you perhaps gain any experience from them?

TREASURER:

Well, I had lots of jobs. I've worked my way, basically, through school so I had part time jobs when I was at school and in high school. I had holiday jobs and, of course, I went off to university and I was fortunate enough to have a scholarship. But I certainly had to earn additional money so in those years I worked as a sewerage maintenance man on the Brisbane City Council. I worked on a chook farm, basically shovelling chook manure. I've worked as a builder's labourer so that was getting through uni. And I was fortunate enough when I graduated to get a job as a lecturer. So, I taught for a dozen or so years and then I worked in politics for the Labor Party in Queensland and then, of course, entered Parliament. So, that's my background. And I think it's really important that people in my position not only have that sort of breadth of past experience but stay in touch with people are having it that they represent.

KING:

When you were Glenn's age, 15?

GLENN:

Ah, 16.

KING:

16 and going to school, did you have that Thursday night, Saturday morning job that most of us did?

TREASURER:

No, I didn't do the part time one. I basically did the holiday jobs full time.

KING:

And what were you doing then, what kind of work?

TREASURER:

Well, there was the builder's labouring through that period, because there's always casual work in that sort of area. Pouring petrol was another one, in those years at my uncle's garage – Swan's Garage in Howard St, Nambour – was another one that I did from time to time.

KING:

Because you know way back then, they'd actually have an attendant pouring the petrol. You don't see that much now, do you?

GLENN:

We have to do it ourselves.

TREASURER:

That's right.

KING:

What's your next question?

GLENN:

Could you perhaps tell me something funny that happened while you were at school?

TREASURER:

Yes, I guess I can. I had long hair when I was in Year 12 – that was the fashion – and, of course, it was out of fashion with the school and the headmaster. And it was coming up to speech night and the headmaster called me into his office and said, 'you are not going to get your economics prize unless you get your hair cut'.

KING:

And so what happened?

TREASURER:

I didn't get my haircut. I did get the prize. So, there was a bit of a stand-off there. But you know what it's like.

KING:

Their hair's all short and tied back. How long was it?

TREASURER:

Well, it was very fashionable. It got longer when I went to university, of course.

KING:

So, how long was it…?

TREASURER:

It wouldn't have been that long. You know, it certainly wasn't shoulder length but in those years, I mean, it was straight, back and sides.

KING:

It was.

TREASURER:

That was the rule and they didn't like… a lot of the guys were like me. I mean, we were knocking around the beach, surfing and that sort of stuff.

KING:

You see pictures of your mum and dad and, you know, the fashions have changed, haven't they? Did anyone's dad have that kind of hippy…?

TREASURER:

And it's really embarrassing, isn't it, when your children are saying, 'you look like a hippy, I can't stand that'.

GLENN:

Do you perhaps have a favourite song that you know what it says about you?

TREASURER:

Well, I've got a number. I'm really sort of interested in both contemporary music and some of the classic rock and roll. So, in those years it was anything from Led Zeppelin through to sort of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and the one that really I still take in a lot is Bruce Springsteen. And there's sort of an anthem in there for me, it's a song called Born to Run, and sometimes I'm known to, when I'm in my Ministerial office in Canberra early in the morning, to put it on really loud to rev myself up for the day.

But now, I mean, Erinn and Libby, my two daughters are very much involved with the rock music scene, and Erinn's got a band called Nina May. Contemporary music, I like a lot of it. I mean, The Veronica's who you know are from the north side, are doing very well. So, I've got a broad range of interests in music. So, I take in the contemporary music because it sort of says something about what's going on.

KING:

I was just looking at our system and we had Born to Run but no, we don't.

TREASURER:

I'm sure you must have. I mean, what's happened to the ABC?

KING:

Who knows, we're looking for Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. And you said your daughters are heavily into music. One's actually in a rock band. Is that right?

TREASURER:

Yes, Erinn's the lead singer of a band called Nina May, who are doing gigs around the place.

KING:

How did she get into that, and do you remember the conversation where she said, 'Dad, I want to join a rock band'?

TREASURER:

Well, it started a lot earlier than that. I mean, Kim has been very much involved with the kids over the years and it really started with ballet and dance and both girls spent a long time in ballet and it moved onto performance and in the case of both girls, they're talented singers as well. And they've been following their passion, and that's a great thing, and it's been encouraged. I, myself, have no musical talent. They've got it all from their mother and their grandmother.

KING:

Well, in that case we can't him to sing either.

TREASURER:

No, no, you certainly won't be getting that.

KING:

Glenn, what's your question?

GLENN:

Would you possibly do anything different if you had your life over again?

TREASURER:

My Dad was always very antsy with me when I went to university because he thought that I should've studied law. In those years it was hard to get into uni. I mean, it wasn't an easy thing to do. And I scored a scholarship and I insisted that I wanted to do Arts and do things that I thought were interesting, rather than the things that would necessarily be a guaranteed meal ticket, if you like. And in a sense, I think now that I've put on a few years that he was probably right and maybe I would have been better off doing law. But in the end I was pretty lucky. And even though I did all of the things I wanted to do, I did get a very good job out of it. Other people aren't always that lucky.

KING:

I'm interested to know why law would have been better. Would it help you in your job now?

TREASURER:

Well, I didn't know at that stage that I was going to end up being in politics or working in it for a long period of time and law is more of a meal ticket than an Honours Degree in Arts, which is what I graduated with and then moved on to do a higher degree, which I never finished because I got involved elsewhere

KING:

So, life is funny in a way, the corners you turn. If you had done law, you might be practising law right now, not Treasurer of Australia. Is there a chance of that, or would you have still gone into…?

TREASURER:

There's no doubt, in my case in terms of being able to follow my passion, it has really worked for me personally. But I was pretty headstrong then and if you're headstrong and you do feel passionate about it, well follow your passion. Just be a bit sensible about what the realities of life are, I guess.

KING:

You're listening to the Federal Treasurer of Australia, Wayne Swan, and he's being questioned this morning by the students from Sandgate State High School. Glenn, did he answer your question adequately do you think?

GLENN:

Yeah, he did. I definitely gained an insight as to a bit more of his life.

KING:

So, Norah, you're next, aren't you?

NORAH:

Yes.

KING:

And it's Norah Tunufai, what year are you, in Norah?

NORAH:

I'm in Grade 11.

KING:

How did you work out what you were going to ask?

NORAH:

Well, we had to discuss it yesterday during lunchtime.

KING:

You gave up your lunchtime to research it? Alright, so what's your first question?

NORAH:

Okay, my first question is, what do you think is the most important issue affecting young people today and what are you going to do about it?

TREASURER:

Well, you know we had our 2020 Summit locally a few weeks ago and there were some representatives of students from Sandgate High who came to that and one of the most immediate issues that they were raising was the cost of housing and the cost of rent. I think that's a really daunting prospect for a lot of young Australians, the capacity, when they get into the workforce to necessarily participate in the dream of home ownership or just the practical reality of wanting to rent a house when you move out from home. That's really difficult at the moment. So, that, I think, is one of the most immediate ones. But more generally, I think, young people worry about the future of the country, our location in the world and how they're going make our way there. And an issue associated with all of that is climate change and certainly the students at the 2020 Summit were talking about how we can green our local community, but also how we can be better international citizens when it comes to the reduction of our carbon emissions, the role we play individually in doing that as well as the role we play collectively in solving that problem.

NORAH:

Okay, my second question is, have you ever experienced self-doubt, and how did you overcome this feeling?

TREASURER:

Yeah, I have. I think all people in life go through that and the most important thing is to be honest about it. If you are experiencing self-doubt it means that you are aware of vulnerabilities and sometimes I think that might be a bit better than people who just assume confidence in everything they do, full steam ahead. So, if you have some self-doubt, take time to reflect on it, talk to people about what's going on in your life, seek advice. I mean, one of the things that I've found is talking to people and with them about issues and putting them out in the open is the way to solve many problems, not just individual issues.

NORAH:

And as Treasurer of Australia, what pressures do you find yourself under?

TREASURER:

Well, there's pretty intense scrutiny, but you guys are pretty good. This is, it's a bit like the Parliament. But time pressure is the principal one at the moment. Not enough hours in every day. Not just because the Budget's coming up but because we're a new Government so we are trying to put in place not just a program for one year, but a program for the three, and doing it in the environment where it's being moulded by the practices of the past government. So, that just takes a lot of time and while you're doing that, getting out and about and meeting people formally and right across the country. It's a very big country. It takes a long time to get around it, and as Treasurer, I do have an obligation to meet with very significant numbers of people who are central to our economy who are dispersed right across the country.

KING:

And there's a risk there, too, isn't it, that you can't forget the constituents who are your bosses? John Howard lost the seat of Bennelong when he was the Prime Minister of the country.

TREASURER:

You should never forget who put you into Parliament and why you are in Parliament. And I'm very committed to my local community and I'm committed to staying in touch through as much possible activity as I can, consistent with my national obligations.

KING:

Student Press Call with Treasurer, Wayne Swan. Norah, what's your final question?

NORAH:

What do you like most about the way Kevin Rudd is performing his duties as Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Well, you know, what he's doing at the moment really makes me proud to be an Australian.

KING:

What? Not sleeping?

TREASURER:

Well, very few of us are sleeping. But, for example, I mean, when we went to Bali in early December shortly after we were elected, to be there, to be part of bringing Australia into the Kyoto Protocol and to see the reaction of the rest of the world – and I don't mean to be partisan here, there were conservative parties there as well as parties of the centre and the centre left – to see the reception that our new Government received there, and indeed the reception that Kevin received overseas recently in all of those capitals, I think the new direction of the Government is one that is absolutely essential for the future of the country, given the global challenges we face, but also projecting what I think is a more contemporary face of Australia.

NORAH:

And finally, was there anything you dislike about the way he's running the country?

KING:

This should be good.

TREASURER:

Absolutely not.

KING:

Absolutely not?

TREASURER:

Well, perhaps an hour or two more sleep.

KING:

Thank you very much, Norah. Did he answer your questions sufficiently?

NORAH:

Yes.

KING:

Alright. Now, Reanna Fogarty, did I get that right?

REANNA:

You certainly did.

KING:

What year are you in, Reanna?

REANNA:

Grade 10 at the moment.

KING:

And what are you thinking of doing when it's finished?

REANNA:

There's a lot of pressure at 15, trying to decide the rest of your life, but I'm definitely thinking of medicine.

KING:

Okay, alright. So, what's your first question?

REANNA:

You said earlier that you have a passion for politics. Why did you want to be a politician?

TREASURER:

I was always, from the early years, just interested in what you'd call current affairs, and it's just some particular orientation. I didn't grow up in a house where there was political involvement. My Mum and Dad weren't members of political parties. My Dad was certainly a strong Labor supporter, but there was, I think, an ethic in our house of community service. Mum was very much involved in local church activities, charity work, helping out. That sense of community is something that inspires me and certainly inspired me to join the Labor Party. The notion that wherever people are born or wherever they come from, they should have the opportunity to achieve in their life is sort of what's driven me.

REANNA:

Is there a motto that you live your life by?

TREASURER:

Yeah, be fair to all those people you run into and hopefully they'll reciprocate.

REANNA:

So, you lost your seat in the 1996 election. Do you think that experience made you rethink whether you wanted to be in politics?

TREASURER:

It certainly did. It did make me rethink it and it also, I think, made me a better politician. I think we all need a reality check from time to time. I mean, I wasn't surprised in the circumstances we were in to have lost my seat, but I think I learnt a lot from that experience. In fact, I remember being in the main street of Sandgate and this lady walked up to me and she tapped me on the shoulder and she said, 'this will make you a better person'.

KING:

And you think it did?

TREASURER:

Yeah, I do, yeah.

REANNA:

Okay, as Treasurer and Member for Lilley, do you think you're still able to represent the interests of the people of Lilley as well as you used to be able to?

TREASURER:

Yes I do, but as we've identified, there's a time constraint in it all. I've got a Budget to get to bed, if you like, at the moment, but when that's over I'll be not as busy as I've been. But I've got an office in the electorate and I'm still getting out to community functions in Lilley quite a bit despite the travel that I'm going through at the moment.

REANNA:

And does the power go to your head at all?

TREASURER:

Well, if it did, I tell you what, those three kids of mine and my wife would take to me with a big stick.

KING:

Surprised by their questions? Expected? What do you think? How did they go?

TREASURER:

I think they went really well.

KING:

What about if we pick them up and put them in the Canberra Press Gallery?

TREASURER:

Bring them down.

KING:

How was that, guys?

REANNA:

It was great, thank you.

KING:

Alright, very much appreciated. Wayne Swan, I appreciate very much your time today.

TREASURER:

It's been a pleasure.