Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop: Perth: 2 July 2003: Shadow Ministry reshuffle; Coastguard.

Download PDFDownload PDF



2nd July 03


Perth, 12:30pm, 2 July 2003

E & OE

Subjects: Shadow Ministry Reshuffle, Coastguard

MARK LATHAM: Thanks for coming along. It’s a great honour and responsibility to be appointed as the Shadow Treasurer and I thank Simon Crean and the Labor Party for the opportunity.

My first priority will be to develop policies that give Australian taxpayers better value for money. At the moment the Howard Government is the biggest taxing government in Australia’s history and yet for all that taxation they take out of our pockets, they are also asking us to pay more to visit the local chemist, to visit the local doctor, to put people’s children through University.

So it raises the question, where’s all the money going? A high taxing government but wanting people to pay more for the fundamentals of life, visiting the local doctor, pharmaceuticals, higher education. And there’s a lot of waste and mismanagement that’s coming out of Canberra and our policy priority will be to identify the waste and mismanagement and ensure that people get better value for their taxpayer’s dollar. We’re committed to a lower taxation burden for working families, we’re committed to better services across the board.


I’m also very committed to developing policies to give Australia its second generation of economic growth. Labor when last in Government liberalised the economy, increased productivity. Well now we’ve got to invest heavily in research and development and education to ensure that we can continue economic growth in this country. So that’s going to be a big policy priority.

As will ensuring that we’ve got decent standards of corporate responsibility and corporate governance. I’ve worried for quite some time that we’ve got too many cowboys in corporate Australia and we certainly need a strong role in the federal government in ensuring that companies live up to community standards and community expectation that applies right around the country.

So they are three of our policy priorities, three of the things that I want to push as the new Shadow Treasurer. Ensuring there’s better efficiency and value for the taxpayer’s dollar, ensuring that we’ve got improved research and education investments so that the economy can continue to grow, and ensuring that corporate governance and standards are a lot higher than what we’ve seen under the Howard Government.

JOURNALIST: The Treasurer says that you’d need to be more than someone that can use their fists and be a bullyboy to be Treasurer.

LATHAM: Well the Treasurer can get into personalities, I’m interested in the impact of his policies on Australian families. He’s the highest taxing Treasurer in Australia’s history, he introduced the GST saying it would lower the tax burden, the income tax burden, on working families. That burden’s gone up. And it’s also the Treasurer who was wanting people to visit the local chemist, take the kids to the doctor, put our children through higher education. Peter Costello can get into all the personality reference that he likes, I’m interested in the impact on working families and this Treasurer has been a disaster for those families.

JOURNALIST: Will you be a Treasurer in the Keating mould?

LATHAM: Well, I’m a Shadow Treasurer, hopefully in the successful mould. I’m looking to do a good job. I bring my own priorities and policy commitments to this position and I think over time people will judge my performance on the record and hopefully it will be very strong.

JOURNALIST: What can you achieve that Mr McMullan couldn’t achieve when you are taking on Mr Costello? What can you do?

LATHAM: Well, every person in politics is different. Obviously Simon Crean just wanted to freshen up our team. We’ve all got important responsibilities to discharge, I’m not reflecting on the past, I’m here to talk about the future and the sorts of things that I think are very important. We’ve got economic news just today that the Reserve Bank hasn’t moved interest rates, obviously they’re very worried about the housing boom. I’ve just been in the position of Shadow Minister for Housing and Urban Development arguing that if we had a federal government that took an interest in housing,


we could smooth out the housing cycle, we could do something about this barrier to lower interest rates. So in terms of future prospects it’s vital for Australian families to have a government that’s interested in housing and urban development so we can take the pressure off interest rates. And if we had that government we might have actually seen an interest rate cut today. That’s the sort of thing that’s important for the future of the country.

JOURNALIST: What does today’s Reserve Bank decision mean for exports and for the Australian dollar?

LATHAM: Well, obviously the dollar has strengthened overnight because of the market expectations. What I’m worried about is that the housing boom is obviously placing upward pressure on interest rates. The housing boom is at the forefront of the Reserve Bank’s mind in not moving interest rates, in not cutting today. I’ve argued for a long, long while that if we had a federal government that was interested in housing and urban issues, they could smooth out the housing cycle, they could take that barrier to lower interest rates away and we could actually have had lower interest rates today. So I think it is time for the Federal Government to recognise that housing and urban policies out of Canberra can actually ease the mind of the Reserve Bank and produce downward pressure on interest rates which is what all Australian homebuyers and families want.

JOURNALIST: Was your promotion a reward for backing Simon Crean in the leadership challenge?

LATHAM: I hope it’s a reward for standing up and fighting for what I believe in. It’s very important in public life to fight hard for your beliefs, fight hard for convictions. I’m not someone who hides away my views and you know, others can make their judgements but I would have thought that in terms of my previous responsibilities, I’ve done OK and if Simon’s recognised that then for me it’s a great honour for which I’m thankful.

JOURNALIST: Do you hope that this will take the focus off John Howard as a popular leader and on to the man who might go on to succeed him?

LATHAM: Well, Howard and Costello are peas in a pod you see, because they’re the ones doing all the taxation, the highest taxing government in Australia’s history. So they might have had a little tiff in recent times, but I think we have to judge them on their policies, which haven’t been very good for Australian families. We can do a lot better in managing the Commonwealth Budget, we can cut out waste and mismanagement, we can reorder priorities, we can actually ease the burden on working families and do a lot better than the Howard Government. So, I’m not too interested in focussing on personalities. I want to talk about the future and what’s good for working families.

JOURNALIST: Will Parliament become more exciting though with you as Shadow Treasurer?


LATHAM: Well I hope it’s not boring. You know, I don’t want people to disengage from national politics and think that it’s a bland affair. I think it’s good to have people who are willing to stand up, communicate directly, be straight-talkers, straight-shooters, stand up for what they believe in. That’s my style and I won’t be changing that one little bit.

JOURNALIST: Can you turn Labor’s fortunes around? They’ve taken a bit of a battering of late. Can you help turn them around a bit?

LATHAM: Our fortunes of course will stand and fall on the quality of our policies and I’m obviously hoping to add to our policy development, particularly when it comes to better budget priorities, cutting out waste and mismanagement and the other things I mentioned earlier on. So it’s all about policy. I mean at the end of the day, the media, the insiders get interested in personalities, but quite frankly, the Australian people are more worried about losing bulk-billing when they go to the local doctor, they’re worried about these increased costs of going to the chemist, they’re worried about talk of $150,000 university degrees just to get their children through a higher education and that’s where we need to keep the focus. And as Labor does that, we’re very competitive and a very good chance of winning the next Federal election.

JOURNALIST: So how worried should Peter Costello be?

LATHAM: Well I think the thing about Costello, I’m not concerned about his worries, I’m worried about the impact of his policies on Australian families and he’s been a Treasurer who’s promised a lot in easing the taxation burden and actually gone in the opposite direction. All those promises about the GST lowering income tax never happened, he’s the Treasurer who’s doubled the taxation base in Australia. We’ve now got a big indirect tax base as well as a personal income tax base. He’s the Treasurer who collects almost $200 billion a year out of the pockets of Australian taxpayers and quite frankly he’s not giving them very good value for money. That’s the thing that worries me.

JOURNALIST: Can you understand how a Vietnamese fishing boat got within one to three kilometres of Port Hedland?

LATHAM: I think it’s a big concern. I think the Government’s asking the Navy for too much. They’ve asked the Navy to have a commitment in Iraq, the Navy to have a commitment in the region as well as the Navy performing the function of a Coastguard. I think the fact that this boat got so close to the Western Australian coastline demonstrates that we need a dedicated Coastguard instead of relying on the Navy to do everything, we need a Coastguard that’s out there patrolling the Australian coastline 24 hours a day, seven days a week and doing it as a dedicated service to ensure that these boats are identified early. I think if we had a Coastguard this boat would not have gotten so close and this was almost a major breach in government policy and standards and just demonstrates the need for an Australian Coastguard.


JOURNALIST: What about Ruddock moving the people off to Christmas Island to try and process them outside the Migration Act?

LATHAM: You’ll have to ask our Immigration spokesperson about that. I think the new list is about to be released in Canberra. But we’ve identified the Pacific solution as a failure. Labor’s policy is to make better and more effective use of Christmas Island and also to ensure that there are no children in detention as much as that is possible. So we’ve got a very clear policy out there and I’m sure our incoming spokesperson on immigration will be talking about that and the person who takes over community security will be talking about Coastguard in the future.

JOURNALIST: … inaudible …

LATHAM: Well there’s no chance in the world. I mean you won’t find the Labor Party slugging disability pensioners, you won’t find the Labor Party slugging people when they go to visit the local chemist. These policies are wrong. Peter Costello never promised them in the context of the last election. There’s no way in the world Labor’s going to be hurting disadvantaged people, working families in our community. We’re going to stand behind the decisions we’ve made in the Senate and if Costello wants to get his policies through, the first thing he ought to do is be honest about it and actually try to promise them at election time instead of trying to sneak them through after the election.

JOURNALIST: The trade union thuggery in Sydney this morning, have you got a view on that?

LATHAM: No, well I’ve been enjoying Perth, the improved weather here and the happy announcement for me. I know nothing of the issue that you’ve raised in Sydney today.

JOURNALIST: Costello also brought up the now infamous taxi driver incident, are you sort of sick of hearing about this? Do you hear more about that now in Parliament now that you are on the front bench?

LATHAM: Well that’s true. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard about the taxi driver. But I’ve got to say, when I talk to taxi drivers these days, what do they say? They complain about the GST burden and all the paperwork, they complain about paying all the taxes to Mr Costello. If Mr Costello got out of his big white car and actually spoke to the taxi drivers around the country, he might find that they are more concerned about him than they have been about me.

JOURNALIST: … [partially inaudible] … is a Coastguard likely to happen?

LATHAM: Yes, it’s Labor policy. We’ve fully costed this and it will be fully funded for the next election campaign. I mean, you just can’t turn a blind eye



to the problem. The incident overnight demonstrates that the problem is still there. This boat has gotten way too close to the Australian coastline. I mean we are the world’s largest island continent - we’ve got a vast coastline - and no nation of our size so exposed to territorial waters would be without a Coastguard. So I just see it as an essential investment in Australia’s national security and the infrastructure we need to keep the Coastline safe from all manner of problems, not just the one overnight, but drug runners and illegal gun importation, there’s lots of problems for a coastline as vast as ours, that’s why we need a Coastguard.

JOURNALIST: How many boats would you envisage and where would you put them?

LATHAM: We’ve announced a new fleet that would be stationed out of Broome, out of Darwin and also out of Cairns. We’ve also got a policy that upgrades the role of the Coastguard volunteers, upgrades the role of radar and intelligence and upgrades the role of personnel cooperating very closely with the Navy to make sure that we’ve got an integrated, dedicated service there that gets the job done.

Ok, thanks everyone, I’ll head off and talk about urban affairs for the last time.

Contact: Michael Cooney 0411 591 120 mob