Peter Costello


Address at the Coalition Campaign Launch, Brisbane




Prime Minister and Mrs Howard, to Mark and Wendy Vaile, to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, to the wonderful people of Queensland and my fellow Australians.

As this election draws closer, people are thinking more carefully about the choice that they will make on the 24th of November. Millions of Australians lives will depend upon that choice: the millions of Australians who go about their daily lives investing and working and creating the goods and services that make up our national economy and who in turn rely upon our national economy for the chance of a job, the opportunity to build a business, to service a mortgage, who rely on our national economy to fund our health system to care for the sick, and to invest in our education system to educate the young. Millions of Australians will be affected by the outcome of this election.

And this economy, the Australian economy, is a trillion dollar economy. In fact, since our government was first elected, in real terms, it has increased nearly 50 per cent. Think of that. Think of the 200 years of building Australia and where it brought our economy. And think to yourself that under our government, over the last period of a little more than a decade, we have managed to increase it by nearly half again. By half again, and put more Australians in work than ever before, and give more young people a stake in the future of this country.

But ladies and gentlemen we have plans to make this country stronger. We have plans to make our tax system more competitive, to bring more people into the workforce, to have 45 per cent of Australians paying a top marginal tax rate no higher than 15 cents in the dollar. To cut top tax rates so that people get to keep more of the proceeds of their work. We have plans to make this economy stronger with 100 technical schools and world class skills and technical training. We have plans to have the biggest investment in road and rail in Australian history with Auslink. And our Future Fund is provisioning for that great demographic change which is coming upon us over the next 30 and 40 years. We have plans for investment in higher education with our Endowment Fund and medical infrastructure with our Medical Infrastructure Fund. We have big plans for a big country under a Coalition Government and a Coalition future.

If the experience of the last 11 years has taught me anything, it has taught me that there is no clear sailing in economic management. Just when you think you have passed a difficult period or a new challenge, there is another one waiting around the corner. The eddies and the winds buffet the economy. And that is why we must always plan for the unexpected. In 1997 it was the Asian Economic Crisis that took down the nations of our region. And then we had the mining downturn, the tech boom, the tech wreck, and the US recession of 2000. We have weathered challenges from SARS and terrorism.

Today we have further challenges:- all-time world record oil prices; a one in 100 year drought that lingers on and on and on. The collapse of the sub-prime US lending market which is now having reverberations around the world. And all of these things will buffet global inflation, they will buffet our economy, they will buffet exchange rates, they will affect growth and job opportunities. They will require careful management on the Budget, on tax, on structural policy, on industrial relations, on competitiveness, on investment. And on the 24th of November the Australian public will have the choice of the experienced economic Howard, Vaile, Costello management team or a roll of the dice on Rudd, Gillard and Swan.

My charge against the Rudd, Gillard and Swan collection is not just that they don’t have the experience but because they haven’t had the experience they haven’t thought through the policy. They haven’t thought through what really is required to manage this economy, this trillion dollar economy in the years ahead. They haven’t been part of the big decisions which have shaped us in the past and they won’t know what are the decisions to take us into the future. And that is why all through this election they have been declaring one after the other, that secretly all along they are just economic conservatives. Like the bulls of Pamplona, they are stampeding to declare themselves economic conservatives. They may never have balanced a budget or paid off a dollar of debt, they may never have reformed the waterfront, they may never have supported small business, they may never have promoted free enterprise. But they have really secretly been economic conservatives. Let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s suppose you were a person of deep economic conservative conviction who believed in balanced budgets and repaying debt. What would you do to demonstrate it? Go down to the local branch of the Labor Party and sign up? Join the Socialist Forum? They would have you believe there were never reds under the beds, just economic conservatives:- poor misunderstood economic conservatives, yearning to be free.

It is absurd. We know it is absurd. It is a pretence. It is a pretence to get through to election day, until such time as the real agenda becomes apparent: the Government with the most narrow base that we have seen in any Australian government with 70 per cent of its Ministers former trade union officials. And you have got to love him because he told the truth, Peter Garrett, these words should haunt every elector: ‘once we get in, we’ll change it all’.

They are not running around the ALP branches saying: ‘vote us in to be economic conservatives’. They are not running around the environmental movement saying: ‘vote us into continue Coalition policy’.

You don’t win economic credibility with a glib slogan from an advertising agency. You have got to believe in a few things, you have got to do a few things. You have got to be tough and disciplined and clear sighted. Sometimes you have to take unpopular decisions but you do it in the long-term interests of the Australian people and the Australian public.

Labor would have you believe anybody can do this. Anybody can manage a trillion dollar economy, we can take it for granted and not even Labor can muck it up. To which I say, do not underestimate them.

We are going through our longest period of economic growth. It is not an accident, it is not a fluke. It is not that Australia of all of the nations in the world has the luckiest prospects. It is because I have been proud to be part of a government led by John Howard which balanced our Budgets, which repaid $96 billion of debt, which cleaned up the waterfront, which improved industrial relations, which reformed the tax system, which abolished superannuation on payouts for over 60s from 1 July of this year, which cut capital gains tax.

And I have got to say to you, when the work was going on I never saw Rudd, nor Swan, nor Gillard taking part in the work. Sure they will turn up after the results are in and claim their share of the credit but what counts is where you were when the work was being done. The real economic conservatives were building this economic future. And it was the reforms of yesterday that got us to where we are today and it is the reforms of today which will take us where we want to be tomorrow.

Fellow Australians, the choice is important. Your vote will have consequences. It does matter. We will go for growth, go on with reform, go on with careful and disciplined economic management or we will take a turn. The turn which will lead us away from that path, the turn which is untested, untried and unknown. The turn which will lead to a government with a narrow base dominated by sectional interest. This is not why we set out on this journey. We set out on this journey to give jobs for all Australians who want to work. We set out on this journey to make this country economically strong so that we could fund education systems and health systems which will give the sick and our young opportunity in life. We set out on this journey to make this country a better place. We set out on this journey perhaps not even realising what we could achieve by 2007 but as we have progressed in the journey, our ambitions have become larger and our ambitions for our country are greater than ever before. Our country under good government has opportunity that it never had before and that good government is a Coalition Government. I ask you to support that government on the 24th of November.

12 Nov 2007

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