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Treasurer says the Government stands firm on native title legislation; One Nation's policies could lead to social division and economic disaster; One Nation and Labor are promoting populist views in relation to tax reform.



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Press Release

TREASURER

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

of

 

HON PETER COSTELLO MP

Treasurer

 

AM with Matt Peacock

 

Tuesday, 23 June 1998

 

8.00 am

 

E&OE

 

SUBJECTS: Double dissolution, Senator Harradine, One Nation, tax

 

PRESENTER:

 

This is AM, I’m Peter Cave, good morning. Today the bruised, battered and nervous Coalition back benchers meet in Canberra for what may be one of the last joint party meetings before the next Federal election. An election that many of them want to put off until they’ve had time to deal with the challenge posed by the surging One Nation party. Overnight National Party politicians held their own post mortem of the Queensland election. More of that in just a moment. First though, we’ve been joined in Canberra by the Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, one of those on whom the Prime Minister will be relying to calm the nervous nellies on the Government backbench. He’s speaking to our chief political correspondent Matt Peacock.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Mr Costello there are a lot of spooked backbenchers in the party room, do they have a reason to fear a double dissolution at this time do you think’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well look, people are always worried about the political situation and it’s always been thus while I’ve been in Parliament and today will be an opportunity to air concerns, but it’s part of the on going process of politics. Obviously the Prime Minister and I and others will be listening very carefully. But you asked me about the double dissolution. The Government has made it clear that if the only way it can bring certainty to land title in this country by enacting its native title amendments, is through a double dissolution, it will proceed to do so. Now, Senator Brian Harradine is the person that controls this, unless by the way Labor or the Democrats reconsider their position, and I know that Senator Brian Harradine has indicated that he may be changing his position. If he can see his way clear to supporting the amendments which will bring certainty to native title then that legislation can pass.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

But the blink doesn’t seem to have been enough so far.

 

TREASURER:

 

Well as I understand it, and I haven’t been part of the discussions, Senator Harradine hasn’t changed his position on what is really the most important amendment in relation to the right to negotiate. Now I understand that discussions will continue.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

But if you did have a double dissolution, I mean would One Nation senators from your point of view be easier to deal with than the Democrats and the Greens, the sort of troglodytes from the well, rather than the fairies at the bottom of the garden?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well they’d both be damaging wouldn’t they, One Nation’s economic policy is disaster. Last week their policy was to print money. This week their policy is to give out 2 per cent loans out of either tax payers funds or out of some funny money banking scheme. The Democrats have not been all that economically reasonable over the past, they like giving out money they don’t have by hocking the Government into debt. Neither of them has an economic answer but unfortunately in Australia as an elected Government with the responsibility of running the economy we have to deal with Democrats on their economic policies and we would have to deal with whoever was in the Senate.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

You’d presumably have more in common in terms of a broad range of policies with One Nation, would you’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Oh, I don’t know, I don’t have anything in common with a party that wants to print money. Their national spokesman said that their policy is to print money to pay for their election promises. That would destroy the savings of every Australian. That means hyper inflation. You’re talking about Germany of the 20s and Latin America of the 70s, now that is their economic policy.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Well they had backed away from that.

 

TREASURER:

 

Well have they, you see whenever they take a position which is exposed they usually say it is not their position. And then we find out that they take a position, which I’ve pointed out, the League of Rights position of nationalised banks handing out 2 per cent loans to selected friends, that’s the latest position. That kind of policy - that would make Brian Burke and W A Inc. look like a saints meeting.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Even the polls seem to miss this realignment, but I’ve spoken to members of your own party with 17 per cent, even 20 per cent margins, who are seriously worried, I mean is it that bad’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well look I think that we have to engage to policies of One Nation. We have to point out to people why they would be dangerous. I think there is a large element of people who said we’ll vote a protest vote in the Queensland election to give everybody a bit of a kick in the pants. But at the end of the day what I would say to those people, the last thing you’d ever want is for One Nation to be in a position to influence policy - social division, economic disaster, a position where our futures would be directly threatened. A kick in the pants is one thing, but giving them influence would be a dreadful mistake.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

In retrospect how much damage was done by that preference decision putting One Nation over Labor given that presumably Labor would have had a comfortable majority if it hadn’t happened’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well I think that even the Queensland branch is now assessing it. My view has always been, as you know, that the damage that One Nation can do to the social and economic fabric of Australia means that it should go last. That is the position of most, if not all, of the state divisions of the Liberal Party, I think even the Queensland division. And I think it could have been a little different in Queensland if they’d made that decision previously.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Now on top of all of this the GST train appears to have started leaving the station with the business advertisements running yesterday, how are you going to possibly sell a package like that against the combined forces of the Labor party and One Nation from the other side’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well that’s right, it’s a new element isn’t it. You’ve got Labor and One Nation that oppose tax reform but for the some reason, this is the important point, the same reason - it’s just outright populism. Neither of them would have a clue how to run a tax system, so what they’re saying in populist views is, oh just oppose all taxes. If Labor got re-elected the outcome would be precisely the same as the last time they took this view, that is, they will increase wholesale sales tax rates and they will increase income tax rates. People have got to remember this - in 1993 when Mr Keating and Labor, and let’s not forget Mr Beazley and Mr Evans and Mr Crean, all said they were opposed to GST, as soon as they got elected they increased every single rate of wholesale sales tax, and income tax cuts which were supposed to come in, where abolished.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

But with respect Treasurer isn’t there a touch of arrogance here, I mean we have a majority of voters if you take One Nation and the Labor party representing them, are against this idea.

 

TREASURER:

 

But a majority of voters aren’t in favour of what will be the alternative. A majority of voters don’t want higher income taxes and they don’t want wholesale sales tax increases. Now the only way the majority of voters are going to get decent income tax reductions for average earners, are going to get a straight forward indirect tax system and a tax base which can fund social services is with tax reform. That’s the only way you’re going to get it. You’re not going to get it with funny money schemes, you’re not going to get it with these funny banking schemes and you’re not going to get it on Labor wholesale sale tax populism.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Is it ready yet’?

 

TREASURER:

 

I’m working on it pretty hard and we haven’t finished it but we’re making good progress.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

But presumably you could fit in whatever timetable the Prime Minister decides in his negotiations with Brian Harradine’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Sure, I’ve said that this is the Prime Minister prerogative to call the election I’ll be ready whenever he wants me ready.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Presumably given the Asian situation you’d want to have this election before the National Accounts in September’?

 

TREASURER:

 

I don’t know that that’s a necessary indicative deadline because....

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

But when the world bank is talking depression, the D word in Asia and even the world, I mean how serious is this economic train from Asia’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Oh it’s very serious. The situation in Japan is very serious today. We had our officials in Tokyo on the weekend, we were one of the nations that put together a meeting between the Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, the G7, they looked at the Japanese situation. If the Japanese can’t fix their financial system that is a serious threat to world growth.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

And there’s discouraging news again today out of Japan, isn’t there’?

 

TREASURER:

 

Well the Japanese government has announced that it wants to deal with the problem and has set aside money to do it. What really is required now is the political will to come in and take the tough decisions. But I must say it is very much in Australia’s interests, in the region’s interest, and in the world’s interest for decisive action in relation to the Japanese financial system.

 

INTERVIEWER:

 

Treasurer thanks for joining us.

 

TREASURER:

 

Thanks very much Matt.