Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Election - Interview with Ray Hadley, Radio 2GB

TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
TREASURER

Interview with Ray Hadley
2GB

Monday, 11 October 2004
9.30 am

SUBJECTS: Election

HADLEY:

Mr Costello good morning.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you Ray.

HADLEY:

Well you would be buoyant today wouldn’t you?

TREASURER:

Well, we are very pleased with the result on Saturday. It was a vote of confidence in the Government. It has given us the opportunity to put in place for the next three years the kind of policies that we think will help Australia and its people - a strong economy, jobs, strong businesses and people able to afford their mortgages. Today is the first day of work and we are all back at the desk again Ray.

HADLEY:

Back into it. Now many people, many commentators and journalists were saying, both on Saturday night and Sunday, that the stellar performance in Victoria was down to you. That you led the charge there. Now we’re based here in Sydney and we don’t know too much about local politics in Victoria. How did you view what happened in Victoria?

TREASURER:

Well there was a strong swing to the Liberal Party in Victoria, about three and half per cent, and that meant that we are able to win a seat, hold all the marginals and it set up a great win. We were able to keep our position in New South Wales and Queensland and with improvements in Tassie and WA it meant that the Government actually won seats from the Labor Party. It is pretty unheard of Ray, coming up to an election, Oppositions are always able to capitalise on discontent. There is always discontent somewhere if a Government has been in office for a period of time, but to actually win an election and to take seats off the Labor Party is pretty unusual, and so it is a big vote of confidence in the Government and we are conscious of that, and now it is back to work to get onto do the things people want us to do.

HADLEY:

Look, let me just say this to you, and I’ll see whether you are prepared to comment. I thought the Labor Party did a couple of very silly things. I thought that what he did in Tasmania, Mark Latham, was dreadfully silly. I thought getting into bed with Bob Brown scared many of the electorate, not just in Tasmania, but in mainland Australia. But I think the card they played in relation to you was a silly one. You are thought pretty highly of by the electorate at the moment because of our economic situation, and they kept dishing out the fact that a vote for John Howard was a vote for Peter Costello. I’ll suggest to you that, that is a bit more palatable now than it may have been three or four years ago.

TREASURER:

Well, we thought it was pretty silly too because all it did was it emphasised the team, you know Howard and Costello, it raised the question of economic management because I have been managing the economy for the last eight and half years. We were fighting the campaign on the economy, and the Labor campaign was re-enforcing that. So we thought it was pretty silly advertising for them, and actually could have been significantly aiding our vote, but we were not going to tell them that during the campaign Ray, it was not really in our interest to say to them your advertising is silly. But now that the results are in, obviously it did not work, that is clear, and it may well, as you say, have helped us so we will take the help wherever we can get it. But the important thing here is to remember that we were fighting the campaign on our economic record. The fact that more people were in work and businesses were more profitable and low interest rates were lower, and whilst the Labor party was advertising like that, they were just re-enforcing and reminding people of our credientials in that area.

HADLEY:

You said to Laurie Oakes on Channel 9 on Saturday night that you would look forward to your fire-side chat with him on that Sunday before the Budget. That is in 2005, would it be fair to say that to you probably won’t be looking forward to it in 2006?

TREASURER:

Well, I was just making the point to Laurie that every year I do a Budget, and every year he asks me how many more I am going to do, and every year my answer to Laurie is I am taking them one at a time, Laurie, in fact probably in the next two weeks I will start the process for next year’s Budget. We start it at the end of October and November. It takes six months of continuous work. There is a lot of work to be done, so we will be right back into it in the next couple of weeks, Ray, and with the exception of a couple of weeks over Christmas, we will be working flat out up until next year’s Budget in May.

HADLEY:

The Prime Minister spoke to Alan Jones this morning, my colleague here on 2GB about the make up of the Upper House. How do you see it? He is suggesting that guaranteed thirty-eight, thirty-nine would be almost impossible, and what Family First from Victoria to have that Balance of Power.

TREASURER:

It is possible that Family First can get a Senate seat in Victoria. Extraordinary. They only have about 0.1 per cent of the vote, very low vote. I should say 0.1 per cent of a quota.

HADLEY:

Yes, yes precise.

TREASURER:

Very low. And as you know you need a full quota so they are only about a tenth of the way there, but the way the system works, and it is a very complicated system, is all the other parties are giving them preferences, so that if nobody else can get to that full quota, then they could pick up everybody else’s and actually get over the line, so it would be a most extraordinary result if they did that. But, if they did do that, they would be taking a Senate seat off the Labor Party, and that would mean that the Independents would hold the Balance of Power in the Senate.

HADLEY:

A tenth of the quota and they can still get home. It is a convoluted system isn’t it?

TREASURER:

A tenth of the quota. But if you get everybody else’s tenth, you can get there, and that is the way that it works in the Senate. In the Senate you can actually get elected on a very small proportion of the votes, and of course this is not new, this has been going on for a long time. If you want to be a Senator in Tasmania, you only need about a tenth of the votes that you need to be a Senator in New South Wales. That is the way the Upper House works in Australia, it balances States rights, so as you know, so you can actually get there on a very small percentage. But if the minor parties held the Balance of Power in the Senate, and they have for a while, that means there is still going have to be a lot of negotiation to get laws through the Senate.

HADLEY:

Are you proud of the way that yourself and the Prime Minister have handled this, you know, the battle that was portrayed, a vote for Howard is a vote for Costello. Because, you know, you are an ambitious person, and you are in politics for the top job, and you will probably get it eventually, the way things are shaping up at the moment, particularly in light of this emphatic win by the Coalition, but you’ve been pretty civilised both you and the Prime Minister about this, given you know, the obvious differences. You want the job that he has got?

TREASURER:

Well, I think strong Governments, are Governments that have strong and balanced teams. And I think if you look back through the successful Governments that have lasted a long time; you go back to even Menzies, a strong team, particularly strong relationships between Prime Ministers and Treasurers make for strong Governments. And, if we had not have been able to work together in the way that we have, we would not have won this additional term. We probably would not have won the second and third terms, so it has been a combination over the last eight and half years, and if we can continue that combination, we will continue to deliver good Government. I think the proof is actually in the record Ray, because if you go back to when we were elected in 1996, mortgage interest rates were in double figures, unemployment was much higher, businesses were much sicker, the Budget was in deep deficit; after eight and half years interest rates are down in single figures – 1.3 million new jobs have been created; we have had seven surplus Budgets; we have repaid $73 billion of the Labor’s debt, and how can you do that? You can only do that if you have got a strong economic team which is working towards one purpose, and I think the record shows that.

HADLEY:

Okay, allowing for the perceived flaws in the Latham campaign, are you still surprised by the magnitude of the win?

TREASURER:

Yes, I did not think that we would take seats from the Labor Party. I thought that we would probably win, but as I said earlier, everybody has a gripe of some kind, and you normally expect Governments to start losing seats. The fact that we actually won seats, that Labor came out of the election losing seats, has been a pretty big surprise and I think they will have to think very carefully about why they did that. It is quite clear in the last 48 hours the undecideds were making up their minds against Mr Latham.

HADLEY:

And would you also agree that the face of campaigning has to change, not just now but in the future because, I have had this view for the last few years, since I have been doing this programme on a full-time basis, that the Australian electorate is much better informed. I don’t know whether it is the internet, or people are just becoming aware of things around them, and they are much, much more able to actually investigate what is told to them by a whole range of people, including yourself, the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader.

TREASURER:

I agree. I think the electorate is exceptionally well informed, and those people who say the electorate do not understand these issues, they are quite wrong, and that is a big mistake. I think it is exceptionally well informed, and I will say another thing Ray, I have looked at elections in other countries, in America and Britain, and I reckon the Australian voter is much better informed than the average American voter or British voter. I am always surprised to go overseas and, when you are looking at elections, I think it is a lot less sophicated than it is in Australia. And the other thing I will say is that our leaders and our politicians are much more accessible in Australia. We as you know, we do talk back, we take calls from the public, this is very unusual overseas. You do not see an American President, for example, going into a talkback studio, and taking calls on a regular basis. They might do these debates from time to time, but daily accessibility of the political leaders in Australia I think has made for a very well informed public, and with talkback shows such as yours, and people ringing in airing their opinions and political leaders being grilled by you guys, I think means that the electorate is very, very sophicated.

HADLEY:

On that basis, good luck with your last Budget.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Ray, it is good to be with you.

11 Oct 2004

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