Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Employment figures; petrol prices; State gambling revenues; State GST revenues; SARS; Free Trade Agreement; James Hird - Doorstop Interview, Melbourne

TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview
Treasury Place, Melbourne

Thursday, 15 January 2004
12.00 noon

 

SUBJECTS: Employment figures; petrol prices; State gambling revenues; State GST revenues; SARS; Free Trade Agreement; James Hird

TREASURER:

Well the employment figures which were released for December of last year show that another 29,600 jobs were created for that month and 16,000 of them were full-time jobs. And this means that Australia’s unemployment rate has now been below 6 per cent for 5 months, and it seems to have shifted down. Employment growth was particularly strong at the end of 2003, in the last 3 months over 100,000 new jobs were created Australia wide. But the confirmation of December’s figures today, strong jobs growth, 29,600 new jobs, is welcome news, it means unemployment is as low as it has been in Australia now for 22 years, and that’s good job opportunities for younger people and for those who have been out of work, if the Government’s economic program could be fully implemented we could get even additional job opportunities. But we welcome the jobs dividend which is now coming from the strong Australian economy.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well, I have said on numbers of occasions that the unemployment figures tend to bounce around. When they first went below 6 per cent I said that they could bounce around the 6 per cent mark, but the fact that they have been now below 6 per cent for 5 months indicates that we do seem to have shifted down a little bit for unemployment, or to put it the other way shifted up a bit in terms of employment, and that is a good sign. It is a sign of an economy which is quite strong.

JOURNALIST:

Could it reach 5 per cent, do you think?

TREASURER:

I think if you wanted to take the unemployment rate in Australia down more significantly, you would have to get the Government’s measures through the Senate. The Senate is now the biggest block on getting unemployment lower, the Senate’s block on industrial relations reform, the Senate’s block on welfare reform, are blocks to taking significant inroads further. But if we could get our legislative program through, if the Senate opposition was removed, then I think we could do even better.

JOURNALIST:

The independent doctors that were preparing to go to Nauru say the Australian Government had a hand in …. ending that, is that true?

TREASURER:

I don’t know what they said.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, are you happy with the petrol prices (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, we would like to see petrol prices as low as they can possibly be and petrol prices are now lower than they were, say, in 2000-2001, partly that is because the Australian dollar is stronger, but the world oil price is still high, and the biggest determinant of petrol prices is the world oil price. In Australia what we have to do is we have to make sure we have got a competitive market, as competitive as can possibly be. And that is why we are always encouraging new deals for consumers, you have seen a few in recent times, we need a competitive market to keep those deals there for consumers.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible).

TREASURER:

Well, if anyone has any evidence of any profiteering (inaudible), any un-competitive practice, any collusion, any of those things can be investigated.

JOURNALIST:

Are you happy to see Mr Latham’s comments on gambling (inaudible) State Government’s reliance on gambling revenues (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, I welcome Mr Latham’s interest in gambling, this is something that I raised 4 years ago when I called the Productivity Commission inquiry and we had the most extensive inquiry, and I made the point 4 years ago, that State Government’s were becoming addicted to gambling revenues. As you know, those 8 State and Territory Governments are all Labor Governments, so now that Mr Latham at the federal Labor level agrees with us, I suggest that he put pressure on his state colleagues to start acting. Now, the Queensland Government this year, will have $330 million in additional revenue from the GST over and above what they would have got under the old tax system. So you are now getting a huge dividend from the GST, starting off with Queensland, and these State Governments have got to be held accountable for those additional revenues and they should not be addicted to gambling revenues.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think that the (inaudible) issue may…

TREASURER:

The what issue?

JOURNALIST:

The SARS issue. Do you think that that may have a negative impact on the economy?

TREASURER:

Well, yes, the SARS epidemic, in the course of 2003 affected Australia’s tourism trade, and it dramatically affected the economies of South-East Asia some of whom went into recession. (inaudible) I can pledge this, that Australia’s public health authorities won’t be reticent about this in the slightest, and I can assure tourists that want to visit Australia that Australia’s public health system is very, very strong and Australia is a great tourist destination.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) Free Trade Agreement?

TREASURER:

(inaudible) A good outcome in the negotiations for Australia would be that it got us access to the US market which is the largest economy in the world. (inaudible)

JOURNALIST:

Have you heard about James Hird’s broken nose?

TREASURER:

Well, I wish him a full recovery. It is a bit of a set-back for the Essendon Football Club, but we will be there and we will be, I can assure you, very competitive this year, and I wish him all the best. Thanks.

15 Jan 2004

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