Tasmanian Election, Economy, Republic, ABC – Doorstop Interview, Brighton, Tasmania

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Tasmanian Election, Economy, Republic, ABC – Doorstop Interview, Brighton, Tasmania







Doorstop Interview
Brighton, Tasmania

Thursday, 16 March 2006

11:30 am


SUBJECTS: Tasmanian Election, Economy, Republic, ABC


Well we are very pleased to be here today. It is one of Tasmania’s small

to medium enterprises. This is one of the success stories in Tasmania that has

thrived under great Federal Coalition policies and we are very pleased to be

hosted here today by Jim Miller and Statewide Refrigerated Transport. Also delighted

to have with us here in Tasmania today the Treasurer of the Australian Government

Peter Costello who has noted very much that the State Liberals have a plan to

completely abolish land tax in Tasmania that has certainly grabbed his attention

early in the piece and he kind of likes that idea as do 45,000 other Tasmanians

who actually pay that insidious land tax.

So I know you have got many questions for the Treasurer, I will hand him over

to you and answer some questions in the end.

Thanks for being here Peter. Good on you.


Thanks Rene. Well thanks Rene. It is great to be here in Tasmania today to

support Rene Hidding and the Liberal team because it is such an important election

on Saturday. And to have had the opportunity to speak to Rene about some of

the issues that are important in this State election. As Rene said, the promise

to abolish land tax I think is a very major step forward and I want to congratulate

you on that. When the GST was introduced it was not introduced to add to existing

taxes but to be introduced so that existing taxes could be reduced and abolished.

And to see Rene taking the lead on that is I think something that ought to stand

as a lesson to governments around Australia and I hope you get very strong endorsement

for that on Saturday.

I want to also compliment Jim Miller and Statewide Refrigerated Transport.

This is an example of a business which has prospered since 1998 I think Jim

told me, and is, as you can see now, quite a major business.

The task of economic management is critical to the lives of Australians and

Tasmanians. And it is important that we continue to deliver good economic results

for all Australians and that in State elections such as you are going to see

here on Saturday, people consider the issues very carefully. Because I think

the imaginative policies of Rene Hidding and his team could really do something

for Tasmania, could really set the State alight and could really add to the

economic future of all Tasmanians and so it is a pleasure to be with you and

to support your activity here today Rene.


Thanks Peter.


The Liberals aren’t fairing very well around the country. Why do you

think they will do well in Tasmania?


Well this is going to be a close election. Let’s make no bones about

that. Every poll will tell you it is a close election here in Tasmania. You

have a government that has been in office for eight years, it has had its go

and you have got an energetic opposition led by Rene Hidding supported by a

strong Liberal team. So they have got a good chance in this election. But you

never know the outcome until polling day and I know that Rene will be fighting

down every hour between now and Saturday.


The polls don’t actually show that it is close between Labor and Liberal.

The latest poll released on the weekend put the Liberals at 28 per cent which

would seem to indicate that a majority is totally out of the question. What

gives you optimism they can win a majority?


I am optimistic because I think the policies, the imaginative policies that

have been put forward by Rene and his team will work. The work that they have

put into their policy development I think gives them a very good story to tell

to the Tasmanian people. Now the election is on Saturday. We will know on Saturday

what the outcome is and I believe it will be a very close outcome.


Tasmania has the fastest growth of any State. Are you seriously suggesting

Labor has mismanaged the economy?


Well I am not sure that it is quite right to say Tasmania has the fastest growth

of any State.


Well that is actually what (inaudible) this financial year.


Well if you look at the last couple of quarters, including the last December

quarter that is not quite right. States like the Northern Territory and Western

Australia admittedly they are mining States, showed much stronger growth in

the December quarter. Having said all that, Tasmania is doing better today than

it was say in the early 90s and the whole of Australia is doing better than

it was in the early 90s. You have got to remember in the early 90s we were suffering

under a Labor Federal Government and we thankfully have not had to do that for

quite some time. And Tasmania like the rest of Australia has enjoyed low interest

rates, low inflation, it has enjoyed strong consumer confidence and many of

these things of course are due to important economic settings that have been

put in place at the national level over the last 10 years.


So how much credit can the State Government take?


Well look, Australia has, as a country, had a very strong record over the last

10 years or so. The big decisions have been monetary policy, Federal Budgetary

policy, inflation targeting, the introduction of the GST which has actually

delivered a huge benefit to Tasmania. And so Tasmania has enjoyed the proceeds

of those and I welcome the fact that Tasmania is doing much better today than

it was 10 years ago. The whole of Australia is doing much better today than

it was 10 years ago.


Treasurer, have you come down here because the Prime Minister couldn’t

make it?


I have come down here because I enjoy coming to Tasmania number one, and number

two to show my support to Rene and the team, to visit some local businesses

and to talk to some of the business community of Tasmania. That is why I am

here. I am having a good time of it too.


How much impact do you think having a Federal Member of Parliament coming here

to support the State Candidates, how much impact do you think that has on campaigning?


Oh look I think at the end of the day when Tasmanians vote they will vote on

Tasmanian issues and the Tasmanian candidates. There is no doubt about that.

But I am willing to lend my support. I have got a little bit of experience in

economic matters these days, I do know something about the economy, I have learned

a little bit in recent years. Let me put it like that.


Is it significant that John Howard didn’t make it?


No, I don’t think so. Look we are in the middle of the Commonwealth Games;

we have got the Queen in Australia. We have got Condoleezza Rice also in Australia;

it is an extremely busy time. So this is what happens when you have an international

guest in particular. So if you will bear with me I’m here and enjoying

it very much.


Do you think Saul Eslake is a (inaudible) economist because he says the economic

prosperity here is largely due to the State Government?


Look, why is it that Australia as a whole is growing strongly at the moment?

The Tasmanian Premier? I don’t think so. The Tasmanian State is enjoying

what the whole of Australia is enjoying. A period of sustained prosperity on

low interest rates, low inflation, good consumer demand, balanced budgets, the

repayment of debt. The Commonwealth this year will eliminate all debt. That

is a ninety six billion dollar debt elimination programme and Tasmania shares

in that.

Now I don’t want to say that nobody has any influence on economic policy

because obviously there are influences on economic policy at the State level,

obviously there are, but the major economic decisions that affect Australias

in any state of Australia are taken at the national level – the major ones.

Now I’m not saying that a State Government doesn’t have any influence

because if a State government had no influence state elections would not matter,

they do matter, but the big economic decisions that brought Australia from where

it was ten years ago to where it is today have been taken at the national level

and the evidence of that is that you have seen the same movement in every state.


Mr Costello concerns have been raised about similarities between material put

out by the Liberal Party and that by a reclusive religious group called the

Exclusive Brethren. The State Director here says he did meet them before the

campaign and they assisted your Federal, the Federal Party in and around Sydney

during the 2004 campaign, what are the links between the Liberal Party and the

Exclusive Brethren?


There are no formal links but if they are Australians then the links are that

like all other Australians we would want to appeal to them – just as we want

to appeal to Catholics and the Uniting Church and Baptists…


Have you met them?


Oh on many occasions – absolutely. I have been in politics now for fifteen

years and I have met probably every church and other religion in Australia and

I pride myself on having an open door policy to everybody.


Are they financially supporting the Federal Party at the moment?


I wouldn’t know. I doubt that they would be because we are not in the

middle of an election. But there is nothing wrong with a person who has a religious

belief exercising there democratic right, there is nothing wrong with that at

all. Every Australian is entitled to do that whether you belong to a church

or a mosque or a temple or whatever, that is the kind of country we are.


Do you support the Exclusive Brethren campaign against the Greens in Tasmania?

Do you agree with that have to say?


Well look I don’t know what their campaign is and I don’t run it

and I don’t take responsibility for it, but I’m asked the question

have I meet people from the Exclusive Brethren – yes of course I have.

Just as I meet people from the Catholic Church, the Uniting Church the Baptist

Church and the Temple, the Hindu Temple and the Mosque. Let me let you in on

a secret, I also meet atheists from time to time.


Do you agree with the group campaigning anonymously against the Greens?


Oh look, you ask them about their campaign, I don’t run their campaigns.


Do you agree that a minority government would be an economic disaster for Tasmania?


I always think that majority governments are good governments – are better.

But here is my point – some majority governments can be bad governments.

I would rather have a good majority government than a bad majority government.

Last question.


(inaudible) Labor then to get a majority?


This may surprise you but I am not urging people to vote Labor I’m actually

urging people to vote for Rene Hidding and his Liberal team. Yes last question.


Some network questions Mr Costello.




Thanks. You are a noted Republican, what is your response to the Prime Minister’s

comments about the future or otherwise with the Monarchy?


I think that the Queens trip has been a great success. She has been warmly

received, she did a wonderful job at the (inaudible) of functions, I was at

several of them and also the Commonwealth Games last night which I was also

at and the thing about the constitutional monarchy is that the Australians preserved

it in the referendum of 1999 and it is part of our Constitiution and it is the

office that is maintained under the constitution. Not the person in it, it is

the office – they don’t pick and choose monarchs. You have the office

of monarchy and the person who occupied that office from time to time is the

constitutional monarchy.


Is it time to look at the issue again, it has been a long time since the last



Well you all know my view, I stated my view very carefully in 1999. I think

it was when the referendum was held. The referendum was defeated Australians

decided to continue with constitutional monarchy. We should respect their view

and it doesn’t vary according to the person in the job, it is the office

that is being preserved and that extends to whoever is the Monarch from time

to time


Do you hope that the debate would be reignited now?


Australians will return to this debate if they want to and when they are ready.

I don’t think you should try and push Australian’s debate, because

in my experience the more you try and push them the more they resent it. They

are very independently minded people the Australians. They make up their own



On the ABC, what is your position regarding the advertising on the national



I wouldn’t rule out looking at it, each time it has been looked at in

the past it hasn’t been done, but because it has been raised again it

is worth looking at.


Is this…


I better make this the very, very last one.


Does this whole episode mean that the ABC’s bid for more funding is dead

in the water before it?


The ABC by the way is a very well funded organisation. The ABC is funded around

about eight hundred million dollars per annum. Just think about this. It is

one media outlet in competition with several others which receives from tax

payers nearly $800 million per annum. Now $800 million is a large sum of money

and the reason I make this point is because you do get people from time to time

saying the ABC is not well funded, mostly you hear that being said by the way

on the ABC, but $800 million is a lot of money.


Should Donald McDonald have another term on the board?


Thank you very much.