Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Budget 2007-08 - Interview with Charles Wooley

Interview with Charles Wooley

Wednesday, 9 May 2007
7.20 am

SUBJECTS: Budget 2007-08

WOOLEY:

And now the man himself Peter Costello, good morning Peter.

TREASURER:

Good morning Charles.

WOOLEY:

Ted Rogers had Wayne Swan on and I ran down the front page of our papers and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, eight of the major categories of the Budget and we have one, two, three, four, five, six, six ticks, one cross and one question mark, that is not bad.

TREASURER:

That was pretty good.

WOOLEY:

I think the worst thing that Wayne could say about it was that it was politic and cunning.

TREASURER:

Well, six out of eight is not bad and Wayne is of course not he most unbiased person when it comes to looking at what the Government is doing so we will take that as good news. I am sure he will be able to find some problems by tonight.

WOOLEY:

But there is a lot of stuff to flick through and when I see the Budget papers it reminds of just the enormous amount of time that you have put into this - 12 times for goodness sake! Even David Hicks only got five and a half years!

TREASURER:

Well, it is a big Budget. The Budget is $240 billion and I know these figures just roll off the tongue…

WOOLEY:

Well they do, they do.

TREASURER:

$240 billion…

WOOLEY:

It is a staggering sum, one can’t even work it out.

TREASURER:

The Australian economy has now grown to an annual output of $1 trillion – a thousand billion.

WOOLEY:

Do you take my friend from the Rural Doctors seriously when he makes the point that there are two Australias, that regional health really is a mess. If you live in regional Australia you have – well I get sick of hearing myself say this – but you have per capita the highest cancer rate, heart disease rate, longest hospital queues, least satisfactory outcomes and fewer doctors and allied ancillary medical services per person in the Commonwealth. And I don’t know even if you were prepared to throw money if that is going to be enough.

TREASURER:

Look, with these sorts of issues Charles, if you sat down and said ‘oh, well I will send a cheque to someone to fix it’…

WOOLEY:

Yes.

TREASURER:

…how would that fix it? Who will I send the cheque to?

WOOLEY:

Well we tried that with the Aboriginal community didn’t we?

TREASURER:

That is right.

WOOLEY:

$1 billion a year and it did not ever get to the people who needed it.

TREASURER:

Absolutely. And what you have got to do is you have got to work on targeted measures, now we for example are trying to encourage doctors to go out to rural areas. So, what we do is we offer scholarships – if you say you will go out to rural areas you will get a scholarship in the medical school which will pay some or all of your fees. That’s the first thing. The second thing we said was, ‘Well, the most likely people to go back and be doctors in rural communities are people who come from rural communities’. So, we will reserve places in medical schools for students from rural backgrounds. And we have had a big push on to do that. And then we have said we will make some funding available for practice nurses in rural searches. And so we did that. Now, these are all practical measures, but the thing about training new doctors is, of course, that it takes six, seven years.

WOOLEY:

Yes that’s right. So, and for the dental shortage (inaudible)

TREASURER:

See that’s right. You don’t just flick a switch and say ‘there is a doctor’ - although some rural communities do try and do that by bringing in a doctor from overseas.

WOOLEY:

It does that suggest that we should have done something about it seven years ago, though.

TREASURER:

Well that’s right. So we have got a lot of these things in the pipeline. A lot of them are starting to move out there. I mean one of the things for really isolated people that I think we have done pretty well in recent times is the funding of the Royal Flying Doctor Service which has been a terrific service. I went out and launched a new plane for them in Broken Hill not so long ago. So, I am very conscious of it.

WOOLEY:

The strategy of training dentists and doctors and ancillary staff in the regions so that they socialise as young people in the region…

TREASURER:

That is right…

WOOLEY:

…marry in the regions and they partner or whatever and have their kids there – they come to love regional Australia and want to live there rather than the Eastern suburbs of Sydney is a very good one, I have to say.

TREASURER:

You know the best way of getting a doctor in a regional community is for the doctor to marry someone in a regional community. That is what keeps them there. And we have also got a programme that sends some of these young medical students out for clinical experience as part of their degree. We hope that they meet young…

WOOLEY:

We have got to encourage young girls out there to snap up a doctor.

TREASURER:

All these young farmers, more importantly, male young farmers, to marry female medical students.

WOOLEY:

What a great idea because it always used to be said that a definition of a safe and effective and viable farmer was a bloke who was married to a nurse.

TREASURER:

Absolutely.

WOOLEY:

That is right – gotten off farming. Peter Costello, we’ve worked out some sort outback problem.

TREASURER:

That makes the two of us Charles.

WOOLEY:

We can do amazing things. Don’t forget me when you are Prime Minister. But, Jeanette and a few other callers have been asking about carers and about people on the Disability Pension and not being able to see that you have done a lot for them, though it was noted that you have given $62 million over four years, that’s what those with high support needs.

TREASURER:

Yes. And in fact…

WOOLEY:

It didn’t get a headline in the papers so they might not be aware.

TREASURER:

No, look there is so much that you do in these things that not everything actually gets reported. One of the things that I did announce last night was an additional payment to carers. This is a payment for those who are looking after somebody else, a payment of $1,000 if you are on the Carer Payment and a payment of $600 if you are on the Carer Allowance. And that was designed to thank those people for the wonderful work that they do.

WOOLEY:

Yes which they do without any thanks really, I feel.

TREASURER:

It is a big part of keeping people in their own homes actually, because if you have got a carer and you can stay in your own home then it is better for you…

WOOLEY:

Yes.

TREASURER:

…than going into an institution or a nursing home or something. And it is also better incidentally for society as a whole because there is a lot of pressure on the aged care system, as you know.

WOOLEY:

Peter Costello, this has been your 12th Budget – can I say, it has to be your last, you will be either Prime Minister next year or I would suspect back in private practice as a legal eagle?

TREASURER:

What I am focussed on at the moment is doing the right thing and bringing this Budget down.

WOOLEY:

What does this Budget say about the kind of Government that Prime Minister Costello would run?

TREASURER:

Well, I think the Budget is pitched very squarely at economic management and the reason why I do that is – if you have got a strong economy and you have got people in work then you can afford these other things. You can afford to assist farmers with drought assistance, you can afford to make investments in health and aged care, but if you have a weak economy it does not matter how good your intentions are, you will never be able to deliver on it. And you look around the world, there is a lot of countries with poor economies, a lot poorer than us, and they invariably have worse health systems and worse education systems because they do not have the economic capacity and so what I am on about is building the economic capacity of this country so that we can afford good aged care and good health care and all of the other things that we want to have.

WOOLEY:

Would you look forward to not having to count the pennies – I mean, one of the good things about being Prime Minister is you get to spend the money, you get to invade a foreign country, you get to divert rivers and make them flow inland, you can do what you want. Whereas it is pretty tawdry old work by comparison being the Treasurer, isn’t it?

TREASURER:

Well look, it is important work. That is the point.

WOOLEY:

It is important. But not as much fun.

TREASURER:

Well it is a lot of behind the scenes work, it is hard work but it is important work and if you get that work right the other things flow. It is like that household budget – if you get the budget right you can pay your bills, that’s good. If you can’t you are in deep trouble.

WOOLEY:

Are you optimistic for the future, Peter Costello?

TREASURER:

Yes, I am. I am very optimistic for the future. I think our country is as well placed now as it has been for a generation and I know there are going to be troubles – there are going to be troubles on the international scene, there are going to be troubles in the region, I know there are big environmental challenges, but I reckon we are in a stronger place to meeting them than we have been for a generation.

WOOLEY:

Okay Peter Costello, thank you very much for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks Charles.

WOOLEY:

I hope we can talk again soon, we will sort out a whole lot of other problems.

TREASURER:

Thank you.

9 May 2007

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