Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Doorstop interview with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, Frankston, Victoria

TRANSCRIPT OF

THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP

AND TREASURER, THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, FRANKSTON, VIC 

9 September 2004

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you've heard the policy announcement – any questions about this or anything else?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, is there going to be more funding for programs such as the one we've just heard about today, so people who want to take advantage of the top cap…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think it's fair to say that as the election campaign unfolds there will be announcements made in a number of areas. I don't want to be more specific than that.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what sort of principle will you adopt to ensure that any further spending measures don't have an inflationary effect?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the overall economic settings determine whether individual initiatives have an inflationary effect and the extent to which they contribute. But look, the best evidence I can give on that is our record. We have the lowest inflation for years. For the first time since 1968 we have the golden double of inflation below 3% and unemployment below 6% - the latter confirmed 40 minutes ago. The unemployment rate stays at 5.7% - what, 13 months now of unemployment below 6%. I mean, you've got to look at the track record. This idea that you can be a born-again-believer in budget surpluses in the space of an election campaign but when you last had your hand on the tiller, you left the place broke, is a little bit rich.

JOURNALIST:

But [inaudible] golden trifecta…surplus of billions of dollars, doesn't it create a whole new challenge?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think it's a wonderful challenge. I mean, isn't success a terrible burden – that is essentially what you're saying. I'll tell you what, only a Coalition government, only a Howard-Costello team could have delivered that surplus and I find it hypocritical, almost politically obscene, that we should be getting lectures from Mr Latham and Senator…well, Mr McMullan, I'm sorry, about fiscal rectitude. When they last had a go they violated every principle of fiscal rectitude.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello [inaudible]…

TREASURER:

You look pretty good.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, you scrub up quite well.

TREASURER:

Yeah, I wouldn't feel bad about it.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] clarity…remember your [inaudible] a couple of years ago and you made the point, we all had to tighten ourselves…[inaudible]…what's that doing for our future?

TREASURER:

Well, I made the point that we had to address those areas of Commonwealth expenditure which were going to expand the fastest. We started with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Which I see the Labor Party after rejecting our measures for two years, have now agreed to. I made the point that we had to encourage participation for people from working age and who were not in the workforce. And we still have our Australians 'Working Together' package and I've been making the point, increasingly so, with the paper I released earlier this year, that we have to encourage other cohorts that are not engaging in the workforce to lift their engagement, and one of those is mature age workers. When you benchmark Australia against the OECD, one of the areas where our participation rates are low by comparison, is with people over 55, particularly men over 55. And that's why this announcement today is an absolutely targeted measure for an area where Australia has been underperforming to do something which will confront the participation and which will deal with the ageing of the population.

PRIME MINISTER:

Could I just make a small, respectfully, make a correction. You talked about this measure as though it were a spending measure. It's a tax cut. And you seem to have, in the last little while, we seem to have this interchange ability of terms. I hear the Labor Party talking about savings to fund certain things and those savings are tax increases. And my elementary understanding of these things is that when you give a tax break that is not expenditure, it's in fact reducing tax. And I always thought it was a good virtue to try and reduce tax expenditures where we could, and particularly in a targeted fashion that gave people both rewards and incentives.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, are there any mature age workers you'd like to see out of the workforce?

TREASURER:

No, I am the person that has encouraged mature age workers to stay in the workforce and, in fact, did I not announce earlier this year a proposal to do that and we want to give people additional choices because their engagement in the workforce will grow the economy. All ages, all ages.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

Well, we announced a measure, did we not, which said that people could work part-time and draw down on their superannuation.

PRIME MINISTER:

You don't want to be out too late, Annabelle.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

Yes, yes. Unemployment, I believe, is probably at the lower end of the cycle, that is the cyclical factors with the growth that we've had in the Australian economy, this is probably almost as low as it can get but we can punch through this if we have structural change. If we were to reform industrial relations in this country, if we were to get our Australian Working Together packages through, if we were to get welfare reform, which we have stalled in the Senate, we could improve, we could improve.

PRIME MINISTER:

And if we had got those unfair dismissal laws through, those changes that would further reduce unemployment but if we have a new industrial relations system that gives power back to the unions, unemployment will rise.

JOURNALIST:

How low can we go?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have never tried to put an exact figure on it. I think that is very, very difficult to do. But I know, given the strength of the economy, if we could remove some of the remaining structural barriers to further reductions in unemployment, particularly in the small business area, we could go lower but I'm not going to put a figure on it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, [inaudible] new Prime Minister that Australia is not at greater risk or Australians are at a lot greater risk because of our involvement in Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER:

I hold to the views I've expressed before.

JOURNALIST:

The reason I asked that question is because there are reports that the New South Wales Police, after discussions with ASIO and the AFP, are moving certain anti-terror or emergency squads to various parts of capital cities.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I haven't seen those reports but I have not received any advice, which alters the previous views that I have expressed in relation to that issue and I would repeat what I've previously said, that this country has been in the target sights for terrorism for quite a long time and the first occasion that we got a particular mention from Bin Laden and, therefore, from Al Qaeda, was related to our involvement in East Timor. And I've said before in the Parliament that we had information that Australia was a potential terrorist target before the 11th of September 2001. This idea that Australia has only recently become a potential terrorist target is false. We are a target because of who we are, not because of what we have done.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, now that your adult children have left home…

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST:

Now that your adult children have left home…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, they never entirely leave home, can I tell you.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not giving any commitments or any indications in relation to altered living arrangements. The Australian people are interested in how I do the job and the Australian people understand full well that there are sunk costs involved in having two official residences and they vary very little according to the balance of usage of those two residences and I don't intend to give any different undertakings.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard…today there have been reports that you are planning to increase benefits for child care. Can you outline what the Government might have in mind?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I'd simply note the reports. There'll be a lot of reports. As we have announcements to make we will make those announcements but those announcements will be clear, they will not be fudged, we will not try and rig the tables, we will not say that something that people are receiving is not real.

TREASURER:

It doesn't exist.

PRIME MINISTER:

It doesn't exist. I mean, those $600 payments are being credited as we speak. They are happening right now. I mean, it's not virtual. I mean, it's real.

TREASURER:

… seem to be able to buy goods and services with those payments too, they actually have the same effect as money, surprisingly…

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Go to the Centrelink site and it has the per fortnightly and then right underneath in addition $600 per annum. Now, can I say to you – this is the weakest excuse I've ever heard from Mr Latham – oh, I rigged the table, oh I tried to pull the wool over the public's eyes, oh I was caught out but, it's not my fault. He designed tables to try and show what the Coalition package is worth and to try and show how his was better and he omitted significant amounts of the Coalition package. You try that one on, you try and rig a table, you get caught and you're embarrassed, but don't come round here and say – oh, I don't take responsibility for my own tables. I've got to say another thing, and I think it's very important that the press of Australia ask Mr Latham to give worked examples of his cameos. This is a very important point – stop him, give him the number of children, the income levels and ask him to make up the benefits which he's claiming in those tables because I don't think anybody's asked him to do that and it's very important that you start checking the full accuracies of these tables because I am unaware of anyone who can actually replicate his tables. Now, I'm going to make one other point – he said in his press conference that he would be releasing the NATSEM modelling. We have been asking NATSEM to release that modelling so that we can replicate those tables. To date, NATSEM has not released that information. Now, I call on Mark Latham today to instruct NATSEM to release that modelling so that we can look at his tables because as of now, nobody has been able to explain how they work.

PRIME MINISTER:

And could I just add to that that one of your own number, and not a member of the Government, namely Brian Toohey is writing in the Financial Review has this morning, based on his calculations, made the assertion that either the benefits as he calculates and result in a $5 loss to families or alternatively the calculations are billions of dollars out. Now, that's his assertion. I draw your attention to it and it underlines the point that the Treasurer made. He promised to make those NATSEM figures available. We need some worked examples to properly check the veracity of what he's putting forward.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

No, but I have lived longer than 20 years, Matt. Look…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, Matt, Matt, you know, you're really getting too much into the inner man in getting that… I mean, of course I have, through my life, I've had periods of self doubt, of course that's life. But I've certainly not entertaining any at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) reaction to Mark Latham yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I don't make any comment on it.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, Narda?

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, really, I mean, Mr Latham can run his campaign, I will run mine. I mean, it's the oldest stunt in the game. You're not really taking that sort of thing serious.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, what's happened is that I agreed to do that before the election was called and what I'm doing is I've brought my commitment forward for the Friday evening, I'll be speaking to a lot of people in Queensland on the Friday evening, but I'm coming back to Sydney for debate preparations.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, no, it happens all the time (inaudible) I mean, they're voting for the Federal Government or the alternative led by the Australian Labor Party, I'm not the least bit interested in that sort of static.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) on lower income (inaudible) but isn't it true that the bipartisan agreement that it is necessary for those people on welfare into work (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think there is a bipartisan agreement because the Labor Party opposed Work for the Dole, they said it was mickey mouse, they were very critical of it, they opposed our reforms to the disability support pension scheme. They still opposed those despite the fact that Mark Latham said when he was in the nether nether that he thought it was a terrific idea to do something about it. And the other thing that they opposed was that we had some extremely modest measures, requiring sole parents as their children reached the age of 16 to go for some interviews and it took us ages to reach an agreement with the Labor Party to get that through the Senate. I don't believe they are genuinely converted to the cause of getting people off welfare into work. I don't believe that at all. So I reject the proposition that there's some kind of bipartisan agreement.

9 Sep 2004

View more media transcripts …

Latest News

Paris Diary

Peter Costello Paris Diary

Read more …

To the Brink 1997-2001 Black Holes to Surplus Budgets

Peter Costello To the Brink 1997-2001 Black Holes to Surplus Budgets

Read more …

The Hole Truth

Peter Costello in the Daily Telegraph

Read more …

Videos

Video Screenshot

Watch videos …