Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

National Australia Bank; Newspoll; Budget; Telstra

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON. PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop
Carlton Crest Hotel, Brisbane
Tuesday, 21 May 2002
12.45pm

 

SUBJECTS: National Australia Bank; Newspoll; Budget; Telstra

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer firstly, the NAB move on Frequent Flyer points, you asked that the ACCC have a look, why?

TREASURER:

We have asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to have a look at this to make sure that the NAB has been properly informing its clients as to the terms and conditions, that it has not engaged in any misrepresentation, and we have been in contact with Professor Fels this morning, he will be looking at that, particularly looking at the question as to whether or not this, is a retrospective move. The proper thing to do in a situation like this, is to have the corporate watchdog to investigate, to get all of the facts, and I will be looking forward to receiving his report.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it is a sneaky business move?

TREASURER:

Well, I would make this point, if people feel that the National Australia Bank has got their custom by promising a generous scheme which is less generous now, then one of the things they can do to make their voice felt is to go to another bank. And I notice that other banks have indicated that they will not be following suit. And I keep saying to customers and consumers, you have got customer power. If you feel your bank has let you down, go to another one and banks soon get the message. That is the way in which you make them fight for your custom and get better deals.

JOURNALIST:

You'd be encouraging disenchanted customers to that?

TREASURER:

I would say to people that look at this situation and want a better deal, shop around, there are better deals available. If you make your consumer power known, then that is a pretty strong message to go back to the banks concerned.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, what about the Newspoll out today saying this is the worst Budget in years?

TREASURER:

What the Newspoll today said, that a majority of Australians believe this is a good Budget for the economy, and I think they are right. A majority of Australians say this will be good for the Australian economy, and interestingly enough, by two to one, say that the Government did better than the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST:

And most of them think that they will be worse off under your Budget.

TREASURER:

Well, this was not a Budget which was designed to give additional spending. This was a Budget designed to support our troops in Afghanistan, secure our borders, strengthen our defence forces. It was not an easy Budget to do, but we make no bones about it…

JOURNALIST:

So the Newspoll got it wrong (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

…no, we make no bones about it. Supporting Australia's troops, strengthening the country against the terrorist threat, increasing security and securing our borders, were our priorities.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)…that's not the feeling you're getting out and about?

TREASURER:

Oh well, I think as the poll showed you a majority of Australians overwhelmingly support us in supporting our troops, strengthening our defence force and increasing our security, I don't think there is any doubt about that. And Australians know it is a difficult time. We have troops in the field in Afghanistan, we have land, air and sea forces. We have not had a military commitment of this dimension for quite some time. We have troops also in East Timor and the Government believes that our priorities are to support them and the majority of Australians clearly back us on that.

JOURNALIST:

When you were drawing it up did you expect this sort of reaction…(inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Oh well, I said that the priority for Australia would be defence, security domestically, and secure borders. That is the Budget we brought down and if you look at opinion polls that is very strongly supported. And I would expect that, because I think the Australian public knows, that, you know, if we had another alternative we would all be happier, but when you see the most powerful country in the world attacked in the way that it was, we have all got to take steps to strengthen our societies. And I think the Australian public understands that and I think they believe that that is important. That is why it was our priority.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any room for a compromise with the Democrats?

TREASURER:

Well, my first message would be this, to the Democrats. The Democrats, are a more responsible political party than Labor, and I think they have the opportunity in this Budget round to demonstrate that, and to say that the Government has been elected - we were elected, what, six months ago - Governments are entitled to put in place their financial strategy, that the Government should be able to secure our social services, and that they will support us in those worthy objectives. And I think the Democrats, hopefully, will think about the long-term. The long-term here is ensuring we have decent social services for twenty and thirty and forty years. And I would ask them to think about that. We do not expect much from the Labor Party. They have been completely opportunist the last 5 years and they lost two elections. Mr Crean said he would turn over a new leaf and he comes down to the Budget and it is the same old opportunist Crean who opposes everything, opposes everything. It did not work for him over the last 5 years, I don't think it will work for him over the next three.

JOURNALIST:

On the issue of Telstra do you think that Telstra should be sold during the current term of the Government?

TREASURER:

The Government's policy is to offer Australians the opportunity to take shares in Telstra, and we have put that in place. We also believe that Telstra's services, in relation to regional Australia in particular, need to be improved. But we are working hard with Telstra to improve those services, so that we can offer additional shares to the Australian public. I will make this point, it is not sustainable in the long-term to have the Government owning 50.1 per cent and the private sector owning 49.9. If you believe in a nationalised telecommunications company you should have 100 per cent ownership. If you believe that the private sector can deliver telecommunications services then it should be in private hands. But as it is, it is half pregnant - it is neither one nor it's the other - and in the interests of the shareholders I think we have to resolve that situation. Let me make this point, the other western countries of the world believe that telecommunications services can be provided by the private sector. That is the way the United States does it, and Britain does it, and New Zealand does it, and Canada does. We can do it too, but if you really believe that Government provides better services than the private sector, go for nationalisation. But do not have Telstra stuck in this halfway position.

Thanks very much.

 

21 May 2002

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