Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Leadership - Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra

Doorstop Interview
Senate Courtyard
Parliament House, Canberra

Wednesday, 12 September 2007
12.50 pm

SUBJECTS: Leadership

TREASURER:

This morning I spoke to the Party Room about the things that we need to do for Australia’s future.  I want to see first-class facilities and first-class educational institutions.  That is why we are investing in the Higher Education Endowment Fund.  I want to see Australia’s water problems solved, which is why we are investing in the Murray-Darling Basin Initiative.  I want to see Australia be a country of low tax and it is important that we keep our tax burden down.  I want to see Australia as a country where everyone who wants to work can find a job and that is why we have to keep employment growing.  Now I believe that in order to build for the future and to make Australia what I want it to be, it is important that the Government is returned.  This Government is a team.  And the team is led by John Howard and me, but it has many other people – Ministers, people in the Cabinet, supporters, those who are on the backbench – and it is the team that counts and the vision for Australia’s future.  And that is the point I made in the Party Room this morning.  As you know, I said last year that I would be part of that team for the future and nothing has changed and I reaffirmed that again today.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, does it boost your morale to think that a majority of your Cabinet colleagues would prefer to see you as leader?

TREASURER:

Well can I just say Paul, John Howard has made it plain that the discussions that were going on this week were at his initiative – at his initiative.  And the reporting back was going to him.  And I wasn’t part of that.  It was something that he asked to be done and it was something that was reported back to him.  I wasn’t part of it. 

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, couldn’t you have saved the Party some damage though, if you had made this statement a week ago?

TREASURER:

Well I did.  A week ago I stood up in the Blue Room and answered these questions in exactly the same way.  And every journalist who rang my office every day from then to now, got the same answer. 

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, has John Howard listened to his Cabinet colleagues or ignored them?

TREASURER:

Look, he asked for the consultations to be done and they were done and it was reported back to him.  I wasn’t part of that, so that is really not a matter for me. 

JOURNALIST:

How much damage has been done…

TREASURER:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

How much damage has this done to your election chances?

TREASURER:

Well, all that has happened in the last week is that John Howard asked for some consultations to be done, they were done and reported back.  And as far as I am concerned, nothing changed. 

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, haven’t you just delivered the pitch that John Howard was unable to give Monday morning in his AM interview when he was asked what his vision was for the future?

TREASURER:

Well I think that they are important things for Australia’s future.  Look, the day there is nothing to be done for Australia’s future is the day to retire from politics.  And here is what I want to do: first-class facilities and first-class institutions – we have got an Endowment Fund; solving Australia’s water – we have got a Murray-Darling Basin Fund; keeping our tax low by international standards of the developed world; giving a job to everyone who wants to work.  These are the things that I fight for in politics and whilst they need to be done, I will continue to fight for them. 

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer (inaudible)…

TREASURER:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the Prime Minister has always viewed the formula of he would do what is in the best interests of the Liberal Party.  Given the majority of Cabinet Ministers don’t believe him leading is the best interests of the Liberal Party, why would you not challenge?  Or why is it not in the best interests for you to take over as the leader?

TREASURER:

Well you see, the consultations that were undertaken were undertaken at his request and reported back to him, not to me.  And I wasn’t part of the consultations so…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible).

TREASURER:

…I am not going to go into what was said, I think they are matters that you would properly ask him.

JOURNALIST:

There was a report today that you were ringing people in the last week or so, saying you were available if called.

TREASURER:

No, Michelle. 

JOURNALIST:

So that is untrue then?

TREASURER:

Let me tell you precisely what happened.  As I understand it, some time last week the Prime Minister asked for his Cabinet colleagues to be consulted, they were and it was reported back to him. 

JOURNALIST:

All expect you.

TREASURER:

It was reported back to him because he would want to get those views from the Ministers concerned. 

JOURNALIST:

What about you?

TREASURER:

Well I make my views known directly. 

JOURNALIST:

And what are they?

TREASURER:

So, he doesn’t have to ask anybody to report to him my views because I make my views known directly. 

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible). 

TREASURER:

And no, in the last week, I did not have any discussions with him because my views hadn’t changed.  I am sorry to disappoint you all, but you see, my position was absolutely the same on Tuesday of last week as it is today. 

JOURNALIST:

But you told him to walk twice, have you (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

No, I am sorry.  As the whole of Australia knows, last year we had a conversation about this and last year, I gave this pledge: that we would go to the election as a team.  And that has been my position since last year.  You were all in the Blue Room last Tuesday, that was my position last Tuesday and it is my position today.  And whatever happened in the last week, it wasn’t concerning me.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Sorry?

 JOURNALIST:

Are you the future of the Liberal Party?  Are you going to be front and centre in the election campaign as the future of the Liberal Party?

TREASURER:

Well of course I am part of the future of the Liberal Party.  I am the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.  Together with Jon Howard we are the team that leads the Liberal Party.  I am also responsible for Australia’s economic policy and the things that I want to see us accomplish – in education, in water, in tax, in employment – are the things that the Liberal Party stands for. 

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, what were you thinking on Monday when Peter Beattie quit?

TREASURER:

Monday.

JOURNALIST:

When you saw the big smile and the resignation (inaudible) what were you thinking?

TREASURER:

I was probably wondering whether Collingwood or Geelong would get the AFL Premiership.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, did you make it known to your colleagues in the last week that you were prepared to take over should Mr Howard have been tapped on the shoulder?

TREASURER:

No, because it wasn’t a matter for me.  He…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible).

TREASURER:

Hang on, let me just repeat again, let me repeat again: John Howard, you know, asked for his Cabinet colleagues to be canvassed and for their views to be reported to him – which happened.  The meetings didn’t involved me…

JOURNALIST:

Did you know about them?

 TREASURER:

…and I didn’t know they were taking place, to be frank, Michelle.  Like all of you I heard about them after the event but as far as I was concerned, my position was settled last year, I made that entirely clear to all of you and nothing changed in the interim. 

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, should John Howard make clear during the election campaign whether he intends to serve three years?

TREASURER:

Look, any statement by the Prime Minister in relation to these matters should be made by him, not by me. 

JOURNALIST:

I am asking you…

TREASURER:

Well that is my answer. 

JOURNALIST:

Why should people vote for the Coalition knowing that the leader doesn’t have the full support of his Ministry?

TREASURER:

Well I am not going into what happened in these consultations because I wasn’t part of them…

JOURNALIST:

But isn’t that an insult to you?

TREASURER:

No, no, I am sorry, I am sorry, but you would have to ask what was actually asked of them and what was reported back and I wasn’t party to it all so I can’t answer your questions.  You should ask the people who actually did it. 

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, when there is a leadership challenge, isn’t the rule book thrown out?  There are accusations flying around that you lack courage.  What is your response to that?

TREASURER:

Well I would say it took courage to balance Australia’s budget.  It took courage to pay off $96 billion of debt.  It took courage to do what no other Australian Treasurer has been able to do – abolish Wholesale Sales Tax and introduce the GST.  That was part of Australia’s greatest tax reform.  And it was important to stare down the Asian Financial Crisis.  It is going to be important too, to manage the Australian economy through more global instability.  And I will make this point: I thought Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, made it well yesterday.  There are some people who think these things just run themselves.  You know, that you have just got a $1 trillion dollar economy that runs itself and a $250 billion Budget that runs itself and a tax system that runs itself.  Kevin Rudd is in that camp.  Kevin Rudd doesn’t understand anything about the modern Australian economy.  And as Stephen Harper said, we got where we did through hard work and those people who are complacent about it, like Kevin Rudd, never understood it and never will.

JOURNALIST:

Can John Howard win this election?

TREASURER:

I think the team can win this election. 

JOURNALIST:

Can John Howard win the election?

TREASURER:

And the team is John Howard, Peter Costello, the Cabinet, the Liberal candidates.  The team and the programme is the key to winning this election.  Thank you.

12 Sep 2007

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