Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

A Current Affair - Interview with Mike Munro

Transcript No. 2001/076

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON. PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

A Current Affair - Interview with Mike Munro
Wednesday, 23 May 2001
7.10pm

E&OE

SUBJECTS: Budget

MUNRO:

Mr Costello, thanks for your time. Are you with this Budget finally admitting that the GST did hurt us, all of us, more than you thought it would?

TREASURER:

No, what we are doing with this Budget is we are sharing the rewards of good economic management. We had a year last year where the Budget was stronger than expected and out of that we are paying a bonus to pensioners, $300 dollars to pensioners and part-pensioners, and ongoing we are cutting tax rates for the self-funded retirees and pensioners with additional income. So, it's part of the benefit of good economic management that we can pay this dividend. It will be good for the economy and most of all they deserve it.

MUNRO:

But not part of bribing us?

TREASURER:

No, because we increased the pension back in 1 July of last year and we are keeping it 2 per cent above the cost of living.

MUNRO:

But pensioners weren't happy with that either, were they?

TREASURER:

Well, look, for as long as I have been in politics there has always been arguments about how high the pension should go, but it went up 2 per cent in advance of the cost of living. The economy could do with some stimulation, the Budget could afford it and pensioners deserve the $300 payment and I hope it will be paid next month.

MUNRO:

Do you think they deserve it, or do they desperately need it?

TREASURER:

Well, Mike, some part-pensioners got a little bit more money than full pensioners, and there'll be a whole range of people there but, whichever way you look at it I hope that it is welcomed by pensioners. I hope that they are able to buy something that couldn't have bought otherwise and if they do that it will be good for the economy.

MUNRO:

But you did do backflips on petrol, beer, housing grants, the BAS statements, weren't they all admissions that the GST was hurting? That something had to be done?

TREASURER:

Well, you know, take housing for example, we always had a grant for housing and to stimulate the housing industry more we've doubled it. I think that's good policy. That will be good for the housing industry, it's good. I don't know about you Mike, but when I was buying my first house I didn't get a $14,000 grant. I would have liked one.

MUNRO:

It's fantastic.

TREASURER:

And it's great for young home buyers and I hope they go out and I hope they do buy a home.

MUNRO:

But weren't all those things, petrol and beer as well, admissions that the GST was cutting too deep?

TREASURER:

No, as circumstances change a Government which is finely attuned, should always be finely tuning its policies. Take housing, circumstances changed and we needed to give a bigger boost to the housing industry so we did it. It's not going back in relation to tax reform, it's going forward in relation to stimulating housing industry.

MUNRO:

So do you think the $300 one-off payment for pensioners will help you win the election, buy back their votes?

TREASURER:

There will be some people that will say $300 is nice, there'll be some people will say we'd like more, but at the end of the day it is $300 for 2.2 million Australians who are pensioners or part-pensioners, and I hope that they are able to use it wisely.

MUNRO:

Would there be another $300 in the pipeline for pensioners if needed?

TREASURER:

Well look, we got to produce a Budget that's balanced at the end of the day and this Budget is balanced. We have managed to pay off some more of Labor's debt. We have now paid off three quarters of Labor's debt and that keeps interest rates low and this is a dividend for policy.

MUNRO:

So you're fairly confident you'll go to the polls still with a $1.5 billion surplus?

TREASURER:

I think on current estimations that should be the outcome.

MUNRO:

It is a Budget to try and win you the election. Do you think you will? Or is it too late?

TREASURER:

Mike, look, no point us speculating on the election. I'll tell you this, I'll be trying as hard as I can. I want to convince the Australian public that we've got more things to do. And it's up to them, we will be arguing our case I can assure you of that.

MUNRO:

No chance of politicians putting aside their $200 a week pay increase come July 1?

TREASURER:

Well, I'm not in charge of politician's salaries. But can I say we will be arguing our case before the electorate, our case is good economic management, balanced budgets, low interest rates, tax cuts for older Australians. And it is up to the Australian people what they decide.

MUNRO:

Are you in charge of politician's superannuation?

TREASURER:

Well, it's mostly run by the Minister for Finance, but if you want to ask me a question I will try and answer it?

MUNRO:

Any chance that you pollies could treat yourselves the same as us when it comes to superannuation?

TREASURER:

That is a very complicated question that. There are some people that say that they are treated the same....

MUNRO:

Not the public.

TREASURER:

....that when you actually look at lump sums and finance, but you will have to ask that to a person who has got more technical expertise.

MUNRO:

Yes, ok, ok. Treasurer, are you relieved that this is your last Budget?

TREASURER:

Oh well, I don't know that yet. I said it was the sixth. I said it was the last of a six-pack, Mike, whether we start another six-pack depends how long the nights going to go.

MUNRO:

Because maybe by this time next year you could be Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition.

TREASURER:

Oh well, let's worry about next year when we get to it, Mike.

MUNRO:

Ok. Now as Treasurer you've been moonlighting for $3 an hour, we hear, delivering pizza leaflets. Is that right?

TREASURER:

Well, this is a story that came to light because my son has one of these delivery rounds, and he was out like, he is a fourteen-year-old boy, and he was out like a lot of kids all weekend and he hadn't done his rounds, so I thought I'd better do it for him. I donned a hat and a big overcoat and went around the early hours of the morning delivering leaflets for the local pizza joint. He gets paid $3 an hour, but I want you to know Mike he didn't share any of it with me. I did it for no dollars an hour.

MUNRO:

And in disguise by the sound of things?

TREASURER:

In disguise, but the one thing I admire about him is he's obviously a businessman because he had someone working for him for free - me.

MUNRO:

And no complaints about his small business?

TREASURER:

He's doing quite well.

MUNRO:

Treasurer, thank you very much for your time.

TREASURER:

Thank you.

23 May 2001

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