Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Budget, Telstra, leadership - Doorstop Interview, Ministerial Entrance, Parliament House

TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview
Ministerial Entrance, Parliament House

Monday, 10 May 2004
9.00 am

SUBJECTS: Budget, Telstra, leadership

TREASURER:

Well, we are just putting the finishing touches to tomorrow night’s Budget. The Budget which will come down tomorrow night will have families front, centre and square and we will be laying down a plan, a plan to help relieve some of the pressures that families feel today and a plan which will help families balance their obligations in relation to work, family and child rearing obligations. It is a plan that we have put together and it has different elements but it is a coherent whole and it is going to be very important that the Senate enacts it as a whole so that families can get the help that they deserve.

JOURNALIST:

But the Budget will (inaudible) surplus?

TREASURER:

Well, we drove the Budget into surplus and we paid back a very large proportion of Labor’s debt and we want to keep the Budget in surplus and we want to continue to make re-payments on Labor’s debt which will strengthen our economy.

JOURNALIST:

Do you need $20 million Treasurer, to sell the Budget?

TREASURER:

The measures that help people are only of help if they know how to apply for them and the Government advertises benefits so that people can apply for it everyday. Now, I am not confirming…

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)?

TREASURER:

…no, no I am not confirming any figures, no, not in the slightest, but I am just saying that if you are going to pay pensions to people you have got to advertise how to get a pension, if you are going to pay unemployment benefits, you have got to advertise how to go about applying for them, you have got to have the forms, there is no point in having benefits for people if they don’t know how to apply for them. So, this is the normal business of government, advertising benefits so that people can apply.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer is the Government looking at re-packaging the Telstra sale in the lead-up to the Budget? Sorry, the election?

TREASURER:

I think no is, I am not quite sure what the question was, but…

JOURNALIST:

Well, The Financial Review reported this morning that some Government Ministers are talking about re-packaging the sale of Telstra ahead of the election.

TREASURER:

Well you had better ask The Financial Review. It doesn’t mean anything to me.

JOURNALIST:

Would you consider using the proceeds for anything other than paying off debt?

TREASURER:

Well look, the point about Telstra is this, it is an asset which the Government owns. If you sell off an asset and just spend the money on your day to day bills, at the end of the year, your bills will still keep coming in and you will have lost your asset, that is what Labor did with the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas. So, I have always said, if we sell off an asset then we have got to have either an equivalent asset or an equivalent capital debt reduction, and that is what we have done in relation to those two sales.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, why won’t you commit to being, to remaining in the position beyond Christmas?

TREASURER:

Well, I don’t agree with the way you have characterised the question, but let me say this, that, we are doing a Budget on Tuesday night, and all of my focus is on that, and every year I get asked these questions, these trick questions and you try and get tricky answers and run your…

JOURNALIST:

Do you want to…

TREASURER:

…run your stories, which people have done, so we have all had our fun, which we have every year, and now we can get on with the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) message to your supporters though, your supporters in (inaudible) leadership speculation?

TREASURER:

No, as I said, you ask these tricky questions and you keep asking them so you can get tricky news leads, but the answer I give is the answer that I always give, I am focused on this Budget as I have been in the last ones, and the important thing is not me, the important thing is what we are going to do for Australian families.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, no that is what we should be concentrating on I think, what is going to happen on Tuesday night for Australian families, that is the real story.

JOURNALIST:

But why don’t you give less equivocal answers?

TREASURER:

I give the same answers always, and…

JOURNALIST:

But they get you into trouble always.

TREASURER:

…and you keep asking tricky questions Michelle, so you can write tricky stories, but frankly I think we can all look to the important things, this is not the important thing, the important thing is the Budget and let’s just focus on the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) tricky question…

TREASURER:

I think it is a very tricky question.

JOURNALIST:

…(inaudible).

TREASURER:

Well hang on, if that is your question…

JOURNALIST:

That is my question.

TREASURER:

…it has been answered on so many occasions, that it barely needs repeating, but let me repeat it for about the hundredth time, I am in for the long haul, absolutely. I said that yesterday, I said it the week before, I said it the month before, it has been said so many occasions, that it hardly needs repeating.

JOURNALIST:

So you wouldn’t consider retiring from politics then?

TREASURER:

Listen, let me say again, I am in for the long haul.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, when you said yesterday…

TREASURER:

And you can’t be any clearer than that, can you?

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, your own backbenchers today had nothing to talk about the Budget, they were all talking about the leadership speculation, criticising Senator Brandis and Mason for raising the issue and one of them described them as the two political geniuses that should not have created this diversion.

TREASURER:

Well I am talking about the Budget. I think your criticism is that we should be talking about the Budget, so let’s talk about the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you said there is choppy waters ahead for the Australian economy, does that signal that there could be some downward revisions in the Government’s forecast tomorrow night?

TREASURER:

I am not going to forecast for tomorrow night.

JOURNALIST:

Will you rule out a leadership challenge if the Coalition wins the next election?

TREASURER:

I think we have had all of these questions ad nauseum, as I said, I have answered them all, they are tricky questions so you can run diversionary stories.

JOURNALIST:

Do you…

TREASURER:

But there is no diversionary story, we are talking about the Budget and what is going to happen in the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Telstra should be put up a third time despite the fact that the Senate has said no twice already?

TREASURER:

Well the position of Telstra has to be resolved, you can’t have a corporation which is half-owned by the Government and half-owned by the private sector. We have a situation now, where Telstra is investing in software companies, where Telstra is investing in cable television, where Telstra is investing in Asian ventures, Telstra is not a basic phone company, Telstra is now a highly entrepreneurial media conglomerate, and with the Government owning it, the Government is now investing, on behalf of taxpayers, in some highly speculative investments. And it is not right that the Government should have a shareholding in a company which is engaging in these kinds of matters, so its position has got to be resolved. Now, it can be resolved two ways, it can be a private sector company as nearly all other telcos in the world are, or you can re-nationalise it and maybe the Labor Party will offer to re-nationalise its but you have got to resolve it one way or another. Thank you.

10 May 2004

View more media transcripts …

Latest News

Paris Diary

Peter Costello Paris Diary

Read more …

PPI - Rising Role of Sovereign Wealth Funds

Peter Costello Rising Role of Sovereign Funds Speech

Read more …

The Hole Truth

Peter Costello in the Daily Telegraph

Read more …

Videos

Video Screenshot

Watch videos …