Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Transport Industry, Auslink, Excise, House Prices, Interest Rates, Free Trade Agreement

TRANSCRIPT
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview

2004 National Livestock Transporters Annual Conference
Old Woolstore Hotel
Hobart

Saturday, 17 July 2004
9.10 am

 

SUBJECTS: Transport Industry, Auslink, Excise, House Prices, Interest Rates, Free Trade Agreement

JOURNALIST:

Now first did you want to start off by telling us a little bit about Livestock Transporters? What are some of the things the Government are doing and are you addressing their concerns about these new regulations concerning fatigue?

TREASURER:

Well, the Australian Government has made a massive investment in re-building Australia’s road infrastructure. That is our Auslink Program, it is an $11.8 billion program over five years. It will allow us to upgrade the nation’s highways, which are the arteries of trade and commerce, and it will allow us to determine national strategic priorities, particularly the interchange between road and shipping at port access. In addition to that the Australian Government has reduced diesel excise for the transport industry. It was 43 cents a litre and we have brought it down to 20 cent a litre. And we have just announced a new program to commence from July of 2006 which will abolish many of the complexities in relation to zones and the complexity in relation to claiming those credits. So, we are very, very focussed on ensuring that Australia’s transport industry is efficient and it is for this reason that if you can transport goods in Australia efficiently, you can get them to market or you can get them to retail at cheaper prices for consumers. That is what is in it for the Australian public.

JOURNALIST:

What about fatigue? What are the proposed changes there though?

TREASURER:

Well, we have said that we at the national level will work with the States and we will work with the industry to ensure that there is a proper balance between safety and efficiency. If fatigue means that drivers crash, lose their lives, their health or their cargos it is in no-ones interest. We need a safe industry. But we have to do it in a way which is efficient. And it is a question of getting a balance there and we will work with the stakeholders to ensure that there is a proper balance.

JOURNALIST:

Is the Government concerned about the Reserve Bank’s Report this week that there appears to be a softening in house prices?

TREASURER:

My view has been for eighteen months to two years that the level of increase in house prices would not continue. In fact, you would not want it to continue, it has been very strong over the last, let’s say, five or six years and we would prefer to see a plateauing in relation to house prices so that the market takes a bit of a pause and catches breath and is more sustainable over the years to come.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of effect do you see this having on interest rates?

TREASURER:

Well, we don’t target interest rates to house prices. What we do is we target interest rates at inflation. If we can keep inflation low in Australia, as we have at the moment, we have got inflation at the lower end of the band at about 2 per cent, then that is the indicator that the Bank will be targeting when it fixes interest rate policy.

JOURNALIST:

Obviously good news with the US Senate giving its tick of approval to the Free Trade Agreement. Are you confident that the Labor Government is going to give its seal of approval?

TREASURER:

Well this is a fantastic thing for Australia. We have the world’s largest economy, the United States, it has 300 million people. We are a country of 20 million people. If our exporters can get the opportunity to sell more freely to the world’s largest market that is going to be good for them and it is going to be good for our country. Now, the American Congress has now approved the Free Trade Agreement. It is up to the Australian Parliament to do it. We know that the Government supports it and it will clear the House of Representatives. I call on the Australian Labor Party to stop mucking around, stop trying to delay, come out and support what it knows is in Australia’s interest and announce that it will vote for the Free Trade Agreement in the Senate. Now, most of the State Labor Governments, I think nearly all of them, support it. Mr Latham is trying to play cheap politics in relation to that and I say to him, stop playing the cheap politics. Get on and do something that is in Australia’s national interest.

JOURNALIST:

How devastating would it be should it be blocked?

TREASURER:

Practically every country in the world is trying to get a Free Trade Agreement with the United States - 300 million people in the world’s largest economy. We are the first developed nation in the world that has got one. If we vote it down there will be 100 other nations that will line up to negotiate one and vote it through. You would be looking a gift horse in the mouth. And so I say to Mr Latham, quit the posturing, quit the cheap populist politics, get on and do something for Australia’s national interest.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer do you have a keen interest in Tasmanian affairs and if so, will you be planning a longer trip next time? And when will that be?

TREASURER:

Oh absolutely. I hope to return either during or before the next election campaign, depending on when the next election is called. It is always a wonderful opportunity to be here to support my colleagues who are running for election, and our Senate Team, and to support issues which I think are in the interests of Tasmania. And can I say, creating an economic climate where people can keep their jobs, and afford their mortgages, and don’t have their savings eaten away by inflation is a very big part of that which all Australians, including Tasmanians, benefit from. Thanks very much.

19 Jul 2004

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