2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998
13 May, Budget
May 13, 1998
18 May, Budget, tax reform
May 18, 1998
13 May, Budget
May 13, 1998
18 May, Budget, tax reform
May 18, 1998

15 May, Budget

Transcript No. 23

Hon Peter Costello MP

Address Football Club Lunch
Savoy Ballroom, Grand Hyatt, Melbourne

Friday 15 May 1998

Well, thank you so much Alan, for your fair, balanced, impartial introduction and you know why we all love journalists so much.


As you know, I’m a bit of a gambling man, a bit of a punter, and I’m willing to wager that you’ve probably already seen enough of me for this week. And if it hasn’t escaped your attention, on Tuesday I got the great honour of delivering the third budget of the Howard Government which put Australia into a surplus of $2.7 billion, back in the black and back on track. A nice little turn of phrase, but when we were workshopping it before the budget speech, we were going over and over the lines, and here were some of the ones I thought of: “We’re back in the black, we’re back on track, we’re out of the red and into the black, we’re into the red and into the black, red and black – back to back!”


Actually, the first preference for the budget speech John Howard wouldn’t let me deliver. It was: ” See the surplus fly up, up, see the surplus fly up!”


Now, as good as the surplus was, some of my Labor friends don’t want to believe it, which reminded me of a story about how a policeman picked up this driver who was driving incredibly erratically, and he said to the driver: “Wind down the window” and the driver wound down the window, and there was these fumes of alcohol coming from the driver. And the policeman said: “Have you been drinking, sir?” And the driver said: “Well, I started off with a couple of ales, and then I went to my girlfriend’s place and I said some white wine, and then I had some red and then some champers, and just as I was about to leave she gave me some fire water and it burned my throat, and I had a few more ales and I could swear that I’m on fire.” And the policeman said: “Well, sir, I’ll have to ask you to blow in this bag. Would you mind that?” And the man looked at the policeman and said: “

Why, don’t you believe me?” That’s what it’s like being a politician, you spend your whole life telling the truth and no one believes you. Especially when you’ve got good news.


That’s why we introduced the Charter of Budget Honesty, it’s kind of like a breathalyser on the budget figures. You know where they’re going, but a Charter of Budget Honesty will actually show you what the figures are.


Now there’s a lot of people that think that once the budget gets into shape, as Alan Kohler said, it’s time to turn our attention to reforming Australia’s taxation system. The Australian taxation system – this is a big statement, I want you to listen to this – the Australian taxation system is so inconsistent you would think it was under the control of the AFL Tribunal. You’ve got no idea what the tax is and what the penalty will be from one week to the next. Labor raised a tax on knives, forks, toilet paper, children’s toys, toothpaste, but left caviar, fine art, and private jets free. That meant that under the Labor tax system you can buy a Lear jet, whizz to Paris, buy a Van Gough, come back celebrating the purchase eating caviar and it’s all tax free. But if Mum goes to the supermarket for toothpaste, it’s a 22 per cent sales tax slug.


If you apply this kind of tax thinking to football, you’d have a Hawthorn goal worth four points, and a Carlton goal worth seven. You’d have a push in the back penalised for the Bulldogs, and a push in the back worth a play on for Collingwood. In other words, our tax system is a bit like the umpires are umpiring this year. And that is the reason why Essendon is now third from the bottom.


What this country needs is a fairer tax system, comparable with other developed and developing countries. We have a wholesale sales tax system which is similar to the following other countries: Botswana, Ghana, Jordan, Pakistan, Solomon Islands and Swaziland.


Now Labor will run a great scare campaign against tax reform and that means you’re going to see lots of pictures of Gareth Evans. But what we want to do is we want to make the Australian taxation system fairer for the average Mum, working person, home buyer, and putting-kids- through-school Mum and Dads. Once people start to realise the benefits of a fairer, more open tax system, I’m sure they’ll come on board. So I’m going to ask the Essendon Football Club for a little support. When Essendon kicks goals from now on, Mr President, we could start off chanting: “Essendon, Essendon, fairer tax, fairer tax. You, of course, retain the right not to join in if you don’t want to. But remember this, the Tax Commissioner retains the right to audit your last five years’ tax returns. Thank you for your pledge of assistance.


Now I want to have a few words to say about the handling of the waterfront dispute. As much as I admire the courage of Chris Corrigan, I found his handling of the dispute very puzzling. When I first heard about the affair and, according to my diary that was – yesterday – I was so angry I phone him up. Now I don’t usually make a habit of revealing private conversations. I adhere to the MUA maxim, what gets to the docks stays on the dock. But on this occasion I’m going to tell you what I said, so I phoned up Mr Corrigan, and before he could say: “Nice to talk to you, Mr Treasurer, what a wonderful budget”, I said to him: “Mr Corrigan, don’t you ever sack wharfies on the eve of an Dockers versus Essendon game. If you’re going to fire up Dockers, do it before they play Carlton.


And that brought me to the next issue, and I’ve got something to say to the President on this. The move by the Essendon Football Club down to the Docklands. As you know I’m a big supporter of big games at the MCG, and I have to warn you if you move to a new oval down at the docks that has a fence made of pickets around it, Graeme McMahon, you’ll be in more trouble since when your Dad took your Mum to the White House and she wore a slit dress!


On the other hand, if the move to the Docklands is all about good financial management, I’m all for it. Red and black, back to back, back on track, I’m all right Jack, let’s get down to the Docklands. But if it helps secure Essendon’s future, I don’t care how many games you play at the Docklands, just as long as we’re playing the ‘G’ on the last Saturday in September. And all we have to do to get to the ‘G’ on the last Saturday in September is to start winning a few games.


So I’ve asked the Commonwealth Statistician to do a bit of research for me on the Essendon Football Club. Now wait for it. In the two years that Essendon won premierships, Kevin Sheedy averaged 35 moves an hour. This year he’s down to 27 moves an hour, and in one match he only moved 21 players for the whole game. Well that is pathetic. And I want to tell you this, if he doesn’t improve his handling and movement rate, the Federal Government will have Peter Reith down there to give the Essendon Football Club back to world’s best practice.


You know, he’s a Prahran boy, Sheeds, and I’m not sure how he votes. But I’ve started to have my doubts ever since he wanted to expand the interchange bench. First he wanted three men to do the work that two used to do, and then he wanted four, and now he wants six. Six men to do the work that two used to do, and the Club wants to move to the Docklands. It’s been interesting to watch the MUA during this dispute. They’ve been a bit like the Collingwood supporters at half time in the 1970 Grand Final – a little too early to start singing: Good old MUA for ever, Because waterfront reform has just started, and Australia can now look forward to a highly competitive, reliable and efficient waterfront. So I’m going to award the votes for the MUA versus Patricks game – three to Peter Reith, who never took his eye off the board and played like Ronnie Andrews, two to John Howard, a general in the mid field who conducted the heavy traffic, one to Kim Beazley, failed to kick any goals, shirked the hard ball and managed to stay hidden behind Hazel Hawke. And for Kim Beazley, that’s quite an achievement. That will be the most remarkable thing you’ll see all season, Bombers on the ‘G’, end of September – I’d like to see that!


Thanks very much.