Peter Costello

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Queensland Election, GST, FOI, Roads - Doorstop Interview, Nundah

TRANSCRIPT
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview

Toombal Shopping Centre,
Nundah

Thursday, 22 January 2004
11.15 am (Queensland Time)

 

SUBJECTS: Queensland Election, GST, FOI, Roads

TREASURER:

Well, it is great to be here in the seat of Clayfield today to support the Liberal candidate Sally Hannah and Bob Quinn, our Liberal Party State Leader, in the forthcoming State election and one of the things that we are highlighting is the question of economic management.

In the 2003-2004 year, that is this financial year, the Queensland Government will receive a GST windfall of $334 million. That is $334 million over and above what they would have received from the old tax system, and that is now entirely funding the balance on the Queensland budget. If it were not for the GST windfall the Queensland budget would be in a cash deficit for the third year in a row.

Now what worries us obviously is that the State has not been financially managed in a proper way, that it is relying on that windfall to balance its budget, but even more so, at a time when the Queensland Government is getting that record windfall, $334 million, far from using it to reduce taxes, Mr Beattie has been introducing new taxes and sitting on escalating taxes. Escalating taxes like stamp duty on homes, which has increased by something like 74 per cent over the last 3 years, and introducing new taxes like levies on electricity bills to try and make ends meet.

The GST windfall is now closing the budget for the Queensland Government, it should have been used to reduce taxes, but the Beattie Government’s mismanagement has meant that taxes are increasing notwithstanding that Commonwealth windfall, and we think it is time to even up the balance here in Queensland to restore the balance, to hold the Government accountable, and to make sure that Queenslanders do get the full benefits that they should be getting from those tax reforms.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the Queensland Government’s argued that the reason that GST monies keep rising is that they are so unpredictable and that the Commonwealth can’t get a grip on how much it is actually taking from the GST, is that a fair buck passing?

TREASURER:

No. Absolutely weak. A weak defence. If I was trying to think up excuses, I would think of a better one than that. A GST is 10 per cent on the sale of goods and services in an economy, it is absolutely predictable, the only thing that you can’t predict of course, is that you can’t predict consumer spending, and consumer spending can rise and consumer spending can fall, but so can every other variable. When you are predicting an income tax, employment can rise and fall, wages can rise and fall, work related deductions can rise and fall. When you are predicting capital gains, stocks can go up, stocks can go down. The bottom line is this: Queensland gets $334 million over and above what they would have got if the tax system hadn’t have been reformed. If it wasn’t for that windfall from GST, their budget would be in deficit again, and far from using that money to reduce taxes, they have sat on increased taxes and introduced new ones.

JOURNALIST:

Under the GST Agreement from memory, the States have an obligation to review some taxes, I think by 2005. Do you believe that Queensland should drop some of those taxes that are up for review?

TREASURER:

Sure. Under the Agreement the States were obliged to abolish bed taxes and financial institutions duty, and the next one they are obliged to abolish is bank accounts debits tax - the BAD tax - which we are holding them to, and then after that stamp duties on all sorts of commercial instruments. We will be holding these Governments to that. But my point is this, for one year, this financial year, the Queensland Government will be getting something like $6,300 million out of GST revenue, that is $300 million over and above the old taxation system, what have they done with it? Where are the commensurate tax reductions that should have been introduced? It is time to restore the balance to make sure that Queenslanders get a better go out of that GST and the Parliament is more balanced to hold the Beattie Government accountable.

JOURNALIST:

Still on the issue of government accountability, if the AAT recommends that you revoke the two conclusive certificates you issued in regards to the first homebuyers and bracket creep FOI, will you accept the decision of the independent umpire?

TREASURER:

Sure, we will abide by the outcome of the legal process.

JOURNALIST:

So if the AAT recommends that that you revoke those certificates, you will release the documents?

TREASURER:

No, no, if the courts say that under the Act documents are releasable, of course they will be released and subject to all legal doctrines and all appeals or whatever that people want to take, of course we will abide by the decision of the courts.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, do you take some responsibility for the State Liberals poor showing in the recent Newspoll? Their rating is down 3 per cent in Queensland.

TREASURER:

Well look, we have got an election to fight here in Queensland, Bob Quinn, I think is showing great leadership, he is supported by terrific candidates such as Sally Hannah, and they are going to restore the balance in the State election, and from now until polling day, they will be fighting to make sure that the Queensland Government is held accountable. The problem in Queensland at the moment, everybody knows it, is with this thumping big majority, and Beattie thinks he is swimming to another thumping big majority, that he hasn’t been as accountable as he should have been. And I say to the people of Queensland this is your chance to hold the Government accountable. If you miss it in this State election, if Mr Beattie gets another thumping big majority, there won’t be too much accountability coming out of the Government. And if you want to protest about the way in which the GST revenues of $334 million are being spent, or mis-spent, the State election is your chance to do it.

JOURNALIST:

So what is your prediction for the election?

TREASURER:

Well, Mr Beattie thinks he is an absolute front runner, he knows that, he is expecting to have a very large victory, and the only people that can jolt the Government out of complacency are the Queensland electors. I hope they do, but you would have to say that the Labor Government considers itself a great favourite.

JOURNALIST:

What do you hope to see for the Liberal Party, I mean you are standing next to the only Liberal MP recontesting, do you hope that, is it do or die for the Liberal Party to boost their places…?

TREASURER:

Of course it is important for the Liberal Party to be able to reflect the issues that Queenslanders are worried about, and Bob is doing that, and he is coming from a small Party position. It is a tough road when you haven’t got that many colleagues to help you, but I am just hoping that after the next State election, I am hoping that there will be many more, I am hoping that one of them will be Sally.

JOURNALIST:

Can the Federal Liberals take any responsibility for the poor show of the State Liberals?

TREASURER:

I think different Governments, different issues. We will have, we at the federal level, will have our own election this year, and that is the chance for people to pass the verdict on us. But, let’s make no mistake, what this State election is all about is restoring the balance in Queensland, in the Queensland Parliament with people like Bob and Sally. Thanks.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, just one more question on the federal level, can I ask you about the roads funding proposal that John Anderson has announced. How are you going to fund this without taking money off bush patrons, bush voters?

TREASURER:

Roads to Recovery is a program which the Government introduced 3 years ago as a 4 year program, and we have decided to continue it because it has been so successful in sending money directly to local councils, bypassing all of the bureaucracy of the State Governments to enable those local councils to build roads for people at the local level, and today we have announced that we are going to continue that for another 4 years.

JOURNALIST:

But are they going to pay more for petrol?

TREASURER:

No, there is a very large package of infrastructure that is coming and the Roads to Recovery is a big part of that infrastructure. Thank you.

22 Jan 2004

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