Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Melbourne, Victoria: transcript of doorstop interview: Comalco loan, Budget, Econtech, ACOSS Congress.

Download PDFDownload PDF

  Australian Labor Party   National ALP   Back

Simon Crean - Doorstop - Comalco Loan, Budget, Econtech, ACOSS Congress Monday, 29 October 2001

ALP News Statements

Doorstop Interview

Simon Crean - Shadow Treasurer

Subjects: Comalco Loan, Budget, Econtech, ACOSS Congress

Transcript - Melbourne, Victoria - 26 October 2001


CREAN: Another day and more hypocrisy from Peter Costello. They have spent the last two days criticising the arrangements by which Labor is going to make loans available from the Snowy Mountains repayment to invest in our infrastructure, to invest in our regions and to invest in our jobs. He's criticised the mechanism, but today the federal government has announced a loan to help the Alumina refinery in Queensland. Now this government can't have it both ways. It can't count it one way for themselves, and another way for Labor. Try as they might they cannot be critical of Labor's costings and its verification by Access Economics. It's a government with no ideas and now its line of attack is in tatters.

JOURNALIST: Mr Costello has brought into question Access Economics and the suggestion over the $566 million saving from Telstra.

CREAN: We were just waiting for him to do this. We stand by the Access Economics figures. The Budget papers themselves show that the costs associated with selling Telstra alone - these are putting it on the market, consulting fees etc - are worth in total $436 million. That's what the Budget papers say. But the question the government now has to answer is this: if they are relying on Chris Murphy and Econtech's analysis, Chris Murphy says that his figures are based upon Telstra being sold by July 1, 2003. So I ask Mr Costello and I ask Mr Howard to come clean and say "are you committed to selling Telstra before July 1 2001?" because you've never said that before. The only assumption we make is that they are going to sell Telstra. Labor will retain it, and the Budget bottom line will be improved as a result and so will services to regional Australia.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the Budget, do you agree that before the election campaign that the Budget was already in deficit?

CREAN: We accept the figures that have been given to us and signed off by the Treasury and the

Department of Finance. The government wants to raise issues with us. I think it's got some answering of its own, answering in terms of a story in the Sydney Morning Herald that says they've fiddled these figures. Why won't Peter Costello come clean? It's about time he explained how he can claim a loan that he makes isn't counted in the Budget, but if Labor makes loans it is counted in the Budget. He's got to come clean on whether the story in the Sydney Morning Herald today is accurate, and he's got to come clean with his timetable for selling Telstra. Chris Murphy has let the cat out of the bag. They are going to sell it within 12 months. That's the only conclusion you can come to, from the Econtech analysis.

JOURNALIST: If the Budget is in deficit though, why are you willing to continue spending?

CREAN: We have made all of our proposals, all of our costings and all of our announcements on information available to us, signed off by the Treasury, as we are expected to do, under the Charter of Budget Honesty. If in fact there has been dishonesty, then the government is the one that has to answer that charge. But we are operating on the basis of the figures given to us. All of our proposals fully costed, all of them verified and all of them keep the Budget in surplus.

JOURNALIST: So what's your response then to the Prime Minister's claim that if Labor gets into power they will put the Budget into deficit and interest rates will rise?

CREAN: Labor will be keeping the Budget in surplus, Labor is committed to low inflation and low interest rates. The Prime Minister hasn't got a policy. He's got a blank sheet of paper, and all he can run is a scare campaign and it's not biting because it's not based on anything that they can produce.

JOURNALIST: How unusual would it be to tell departments not to spend money?

CREAN: That's a question that Mr Costello has to answer. He has been written to and he's avoided the question. Mr Costello has to come clean on the story in the paper today.

JOURNALIST: What if it turns out that you don't have $500 million?

CREAN: Get Mr Costello to come clean on the facts so that we know that we're talking facts, not hypotheticals.

JOURNALIST: ACOSS would like to see you go into deficit because they say this is the time to do it, to get some infrastructure going to get jobs. Why won't you go into deficit?

CREAN: I've indicated to ACOSS that all of our proposals and our commitments to them, which, if you ask them, I think were well received today, all of them were costed, all of them substantial, all of them keep the Budget in surplus. We can reorganise priorities, reorder them and do good things in terms of assisting people who need them but still keep the Budget in surplus and we will. Everything we've been putting forward has been fully costed, fully funded, verified by Access Economics and it puts the Budget in surplus.

JOURNALIST: What have your promised ACOSS today?

CREAN: We've announced the commitments to improve our health and aged care systems. Substantial investment in fixing our hospitals and our aged care facilities, substantial investment in improving educational opportunity, substantial investment in giving economic opportunity to deprived regions and building the nation's infrastructure to create jobs. A significant commitment in terms of addressing the needs of families and particularly young families, and a commitment, as sought by the sector, to a

summit on coming to office to try and address a compact and come out with a compact on how we get the better balance between social objectives and economic objectives. All of this has been announced by us today, and we look forward to working with the sector on becoming a government.

JOURNALIST: ACOSS says the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. John Howard says this is not true. Where does Labor stand on this?

CREAN: John Howard is wrong again and how out of touch is he? He even quoted figures from NATSEM that don't support his claim. This is a prime minister out of touch, a prime minister who's got no agenda, a prime minister who can only run a fear campaign, and we're not going to let him get away with it. We have committed to lifting the burden of the GST on struggling Australian families - taking the GST off gas and electricity. The government wants to deride it, but go and ask struggling Australian families who can't afford the GST component on gas and electricity bills. This is a big saving to them and so not only are we lifting the burden directly on their incomes, but we're also reinvesting to fix our schools, our hospitals, our aged care facilities and our regions to create job opportunities.

JOURNALIST: Why is it so important to keep the Budget in surplus? Is it politically dangerous not to say that?

CREAN: It's important to keep the Budget in surplus, because not to keep the Budget in surplus puts pressure on interest rates. If we are seeking to get new investment in this country we need to encourage a low inflation, low interest rate environment. But we've got to do more. The government thinks that is all you've got to do. But even with interest rates where they are, their own figures forecast negative business investment. How can you get jobs without business investment? And so what Labor is saying, we've got to do more than keep a low interest rate, low inflation rate environment. We've got to develop a partnership with the private sector, with state governments, with our regions to invest in our infrastructure. And how do we do it? We take the proceeds of the Snowy Mountains Authority repayment, a repayment from a nation's past investment reinvested in future needs. Get regions going, get job opportunities going, get investment going, because that's how we will stimulate higher economic growth and it's how we will get job opportunities and that will be good for the country. But only Labor's got that agenda, only Labor.


Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.