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Treasury Place Gardens, Melbourne: transcript of doorstop: Victorian election; tax cuts; private health insurance rebate, pensions.



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TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP Treasurer

Doorstop

Treasury Place Gardens, Melbourne Sunday, 1 December 2002 2.00pm

SUBJECTS: Victorian election; tax cuts; private health insurance rebate, pensions

TREASURER:

First of all let me make some remarks about the Victorian election which has been resoundingly won by Mr Bracks, and I congratulate the Labor Government on its re-election.

To the Liberal Members of Parliament that lost their seats, obviously this will be a huge disappointment to them and to their friends and supporters, and to the Party organisation. And it is very important that we sit down and we have a `no-holds-barred' analysis of this outcome. I will be recommending that such an analysis be conducted by someone like Lynton Crosby, the previous Federal Director, to look at all aspects - the Parliamentary Party, the policy and the organisation. I have spoken to a good number of my fellow Victorian colleagues this morning. We will next have in Victoria a Federal election in two years. And the Federal Members want to know that the organisation is in top shape to fight that election. And they have an interest in ensuring that the organisation is able to mount a strong campaign and so we will be making some recommendations as to how to improve the organisation. I think it is important that we bring into the Party, officials, the best and talented people that are available, and that we ensure that the Party takes from this very heavy defeat the opportunity to renew itself. And that is what we will be recommending to the Party organisation.

I know the organisation and the Members want to see a very efficient organisation so that we are best placed to get the Liberal Party message back on track, particularly in the next election which will be a Federal election.

JOURNALIST:

Who or what do you blame for the thorough drubbing the Liberal Party got last night?

TREASURER:

I think it was a combination of factors. The first thing is I think that we did not take the lesson of the last State election. There was a view around that somehow it was an accidental loss, and all we had to do at the State level was to sit around and wait for it to be reversed. And I think three years were lost, three years that should have been spent building policy and building a campaign message. I think that was very, very important and from that it was important that we get a co-ordinated and concerted attack on the Bracks Government and why Victoria needed to replace it. And that is something that you can only do over a long Parliamentary term. You don't fatten the pig on market day. You work it up over a Parliamentary term, and so not making the right analysis at the last election and not making the changes that were required over the last three years, I think it cost the State Parliamentary Liberal Party quite dearly.

JOURNALIST:

What about Robert Doyle, do you think he should hold some responsibility?

TREASURER:

I think Robert Doyle, for somebody who became leader 10 weeks before the State election, did everything that could have been asked of him. There is no doubt about that. But you have got to remember this, that in 10 weeks you can't make up for three years, and in politics it is the whole of the Parliamentary term where you have to criticise those weaknesses and failings and make them plain that the incumbent Government has engaged in, and then you have got to put forward a strong alternative.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the campaign was partly to blame because there has been some suggestion that the campaign wasn't very cogent, or coherent campaign?

TREASURER:

Well, this is the point about a campaign. A campaign feeds off the weaknesses of your opponent and your own strengths. And it is through the Parliamentary term that you make known the weaknesses of your political opponents and you demonstrate your own strength. If you let three years slip by without doing that, sure you can try and make it up in the campaign, but you are starting from a long way behind. You start for the first three years, you don't run for the last three weeks. That is the message. Now, let's look at this defeat, it is a plain, it is a very big defeat, and there is no grounds for complacency here. And the Parliamentary Party, if it wants to re-build, has got to start re-building right throughout the term. It has got to start re-building now. And we have got to ensure that the Parliamentary team is focussed, the message is concise, that the organisation is supporting it with the best people, and then you build a campaign from that.

JOURNALIST:

Has the big defeat harmed Brian Loughnane's chances of taking a position in Canberra as Federal Director?

TREASURER:

The point that I make is this, that at the end of the day your campaign director reports to the Party office bearers who set the strategy in conjunction with the Parliamentary Party. There is no substitute for the hard work of the Parliamentary Party in the Parliament week after week, month after month, year after year. That sets the ground for your election campaign. Now your campaign director can take that ground work and they can amplify the strength and they can amplify the weaknesses. But your campaign director can not build the foundations during a campaign if they haven't been built during the Parliamentary term, and that is a fact.

JOURNALIST:

Can I turn to a couple of Federal issues. The Prime Minister, this morning, has flagged tax cuts. Do you think the Budget, that that is a wise thing to do considering the Budget pressures from the War on Terror and border protection?

TREASURER:

Well, the situation is that if Australia is able to give the assistance to our farmers that they deserve in this drought, if Australia is able to fund the defence and the security pressures which we know are coming from the War on Terror, and if the drought is to break, and if you were to restrain spending in other areas and you had the wherewithal, of course our preference is always to return some of the benefits from all of that to taxpayers. Now that is our preference. But you have got to first go through all of the challenges that we are currently facing, as the Prime Minister made - the drought, war, terror - before we get to that particular state.

JOURNALIST:

So maybe he has jumped the gun a bit?

TREASURER:

I don't think he has jumped the gun. He made all those points that after we have provided assistance to the farmers,

and after the drought has broken and after we have met the defence pressures and the War on Terror, and if our economy is still growing strongly, and if you had the opportunity what would you like to do with it? Well, we like to give people the benefits on the tax side, that is what we like to do. But the Labor Party obviously does not and that is why Mr Crean, this morning, is threatening to take away the private heath insurance rebate. Now that is a tax cut, the private health insurance rebate, it is a tax cut to give people 30 per cent back on their private health insurance. Mr Crean is obviously softening up the electorate to take it away. Now, imagine how your private health insurance premium will rise if the Labor Party takes away the 30 per cent rebate. The premiums could be rising seven, eight hundred dollars.

JOURNALIST:

And on another issue, is the Federal Government considering lifting the retirement age to 70?

TREASURER:

This apparently was some article by somebody who was temporarily employed in the Finance Department, and I don't know who it was and it certainly hasn't reached my eyes or my ears, or that of the Finance Minister, so that has no official status.

JOURNALIST:

Well, it would lift pressure on superannuation schemes, wouldn't it?

TREASURER:

Well, it has no official status.

JOURNALIST:

Is it something you would consider?

TREASURER:

No. It is not something we are considering, it has no official status.

Okay, thanks.

 

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