Peter Costello

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Windfall GST Revenue to the States, Labor's Schools Policy - Interview with Steve Price, Radio 2UE

TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
TREASURER

Interview with Steve Price
2UE

Friday, 17 September 2004
4.20pm

 

SUBJECTS: Windfall GST Revenue to the States, Labor's Schools Policy

PRICE:

The Treasurer Peter Costello is on the line, thank you for your time.

TREASURER:

Great to be with you Steve.

PRICE:

You have said they cry poor and that they whinge and whine, is that what you were talking about?

TREASURER:

Well you know, you just had an example there didn't you, you had Mr Egan, the New South Wales Treasurer saying that the New South Wales hospitals are not up to scratch, it has got nothing to do with him, it is all someone else's fault. Sometime you have got to say to yourself, look if you are in a Government and you have got responsibility for something, stand up and take responsibility for it. Don't try and blame everybody else for your problems, that is what I would say to Mr Egan, I mean he has only been in Government for what, about nine or ten years.

PRICE:

Are you engaging in trickery though, are you giving with one hand and taking through the back door with another?

TREASURER:

Well let me tell you in 2004-2005, listen, let me put some hard numbers on it, this is what New South Wales is going to receive in GST revenue, $9,870 million.

PRICE:

Egan has actually put $9,965 on that figure.

TREASURER:

Well it has been revised up, $9 thousand, the GST revenue, $9,870 million. Now, under the old system they used to have state taxes like bed taxes, financial institutions duty, they used to have additional gaming tax and they used to get Commonwealth Grants. If that old system was still in place now, they would be $269 million worse off in this year. In other words they have got a $269 million windfall in this year.

PRICE:

But do you think the electors get annoyed that we keep having this argument because when you talk to Egan, Egan will tell us, or try and tell us as will his Premier Bob Carr, that New South Wales is $700 million worse off, the figure that they use is $657 million. So, you are really asking us to believe you, they are asking us to believe them, in the middle you have a New South Wales hospital system where you can't get into a hospital because they are always on code red, the trains never run on time and the schools are falling down.

TREASURER:

And that is right, and then, so the New South Wales Government would have you believe that if the hospitals are no good or the schools are falling down or the trains are running on time, it has got nothing to do with the people who are actually in charge of it. I get, you know, I really do get a bit sick of this argument that says well if things are going badly in New South Wales, the only person you can't hold responsible who are the people who are actually elected to run it. Now Steve, this is a one, they are a one pony trick, that is you can't blame us for anything, it is all the fault of Canberra. Now I think people are getting a bit sick of this one pony trick, they are an elected Government, they should be held responsible. When the GST came into place they got all of the GST revenue, and I will tell you the amount again. You know, $9,870 million and they are the facts. These state governments, now that they get the GST revenue, have got a better financial deal than they have even had in the history of Federation. That is a big statement, a better financial deal than they have ever had in the history of Federation and they are a one pony trick, their record has not changed in the last nine years.

PRICE:

You have said today that the, that it will grow, the GST windfalls for the States by $2.9 billion, Simon Crean's reaction has been, well yes it will because we are all paying too much tax. Here is what he said:

CREAN:

It is almost like he is bragging about the fact that there is another $3 billion there, but I will tell you, it is not just this year that that figure is there. If you look at the forward estimates, GST receipts are set to rise over the next four years from $36 billion to $43 billion. That is all coming out of people's pockets.

PRICE:

Is that a reasonable argument, that you are happy that you have got a lot of money but it is all coming from us?

TREASURER:

Well you have got to hand it to these guys don't you, Michael Egan goes on the radio and says, oh we are poor, we haven't got the money we should have and Simon Crean goes on the radio and says they are swimming in it.

PRICE:

Well he says you are swimming in it.

TREASURER:

Well hang on, who has got the GST?

PRICE:

The States.

TREASURER:

Yes. You have got to hand it to the Labor Party, they have got the State Labor blokes out there saying, we have been short changed, we don't have any money, and the Federal Labor bloke is out there saying you know, this is bringing in more than ever before.

PRICE:

Maybe they are two trick ponies then.

TREASURER:

Well Mr Egan is his one trick pony, we don't have enough money and Mr Crean is another one trick pony that you know, you are all paying too much GST. But I will tell you, these two one trick ponies can't be one two trick pony, can they?

PRICE:

But on that $2.9 billion, it is coming from us.

TREASURER:

Absolutely, absolutely. The GST is being paid by Australians for their State government services, every last dollar is going to the State governments. Now, this was deliberately put in place so that the States would have a growth revenue, so that they would be adequately funded to run their hospitals and their schools and Mr Crean says, it is bringing in a huge amount of money and Mr Egan is saying I haven't got enough to run the hospitals and schools, they can't both be right.

PRICE:

The Prime Minister John Howard today has likened you to a, the Australian Test Cricketers Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. He said that you have got a wonderful partnership.

TREASURER:

Which one is Hayden and which one is Langer?

PRICE:

Well he is Hayden apparently and you are Langer.

TREASURER:

I am just pleased to be in the opening pair, Steve.

PRICE:

I think you would rather be Hird, you would rather be Hird and Lloyd.

TREASURER:

Oh well, we will take it wherever we can get it. Maybe the 'Oarsome Foursome' or something else. No, it has been a good partnership and you know, the Australian economy is stronger today than it was eight years ago, I think everyone would agree with that, I think even Mr Crean who perpetually whines about everything would agree with that. And it hasn't been an accident, it has taken a lot of hard work. But you don't want to think just because the economy is better today than it was eight years ago that it can't falter, of course it can falter, I mean it can get into trouble and that is why I would say that it is very important that we have good strong experienced economic management continuing.

PRICE:

Just finally, I mentioned at the beginning that education has been on the forefront of most people's discussions this week, it has set off a debate around the country that I have rarely heard, it is a very vigorous debate about public versus private education, it seems to be dividing the country. You went to a well know Melbourne private school, what do you make of what Mark Latham is doing with education dollars?

TREASURER:

I think it is a really bad policy, the first point I would make is that the amount of money that he is taking off the 67 on the hit-list is not going to make much difference…

PRICE:

Including your old school.

TREASURER:

…including my old school, yes sure. It is not going to make much difference when it is spread around something like $80 a student, right? So that is the first point. The second point is of course, it is just the thin edge of the wedge, 67 schools today, he has said that if he gets elected he can't guarantee there won't be others on the hit-list. So, don't think that just because you survived the first round of the hit-list you are never going to be touched. The third thing I would say, you know, this has just revived a whole lot of divisive debates, you know, well it is this Protestant/Catholic thing, Private/Public, Catholic, Protestant versus Jew, Jew versus Catholic, you know, were your schools quarantined, what about the other religion schools, and the kind of debate that I have been hearing in the media over you know, which religions are being preferred under which policy is kind of debate we left back in the fifties and Mark Latham has grabbed it and he has bought it right back onto centre stage and I reckon it is a really bad thing Steve.

PRICE:

Nice to talk to you, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you mate.

17 Sep 2004

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