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Treasurer answers questions from students at Cleveland State High School, Qld.



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Talkback Classroom with Madonna King

612 ABC Brisbane

Thursday, 20 July 2006

9:15 am

SUBJECTS: Classroom questions: Cleveland State High School

KING:

Today, perhaps even tougher questions from the Students of Cleveland State High School. Welcome to Talkback

Classroom, Treasurer Peter Costello.

TREASURER:

Great to be with you thank you very much Madonna.

KING:

How would you describe your last couple of weeks?

TREASURER:

Oh, the business of Government goes on. In relation to the other matters there was a lot of media scrutiny, some good,

some bad but this is something that occurs every now and then in politics and you’re in the public gaze so you can’t

escape it. I think as I said some people were saying nice things and some people were saying nasty things so you take the

good with the bad.

KING:

What do you suspect you will be questioned on this morning?

TREASURER:

Well I suspect it will be tough, I come prepared. In my experience high school students are generally more searching than

the Canberra Press Gallery.

KING:

I reckon we should now head then to the classroom at Cleveland State High School, now our first questions is from

George. Hi George.

STUDENT:

Hello.

KING:

How old are you?

STUDENT:

Thirteen.

KING:

So what class are you in, what grade?

STUDENT:

8 RLB.

KING:

All right, well the Treasurer Peter Costello is on the phone, you can ask him a question.

TREASURER:

Good morning George.

STUDENT:

Good morning, why do you want to be Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

That’s a good one George. I think that when you go into politics you want to do the best that you can for the people that

you represent and you want to do the best you can for the country and make the best contribution that you can. Over the

last ten years I have been making a contribution as Treasurer and I have always said if I get the opportunity to make a

contribution in another capacity I would like to do that too, George.

KING:

So George does that answer your question? Ok Tony you are next how are you? Now Tony are you talking into the

microphone? Ok you might need to talk a little bit louder. Who helped you write your question?

STUDENT:

I did.

KING:

You did. Ok so what is your question for the Treasurer?

STUDENT:

Why did you decide to get into politics?

TREASURER:

Well that is a good question. I decided to get into politics because I thought the country was going in the wrong direction -

this was back in 1990 - probably before you were born. There were a lot of people out of work, interest rates were very

high businesses were having a hard time trading, and I thought the country was really going in the wrong direction, so

rather than just complain about it I thought I should run for the Parliament and get elected and try and turn things around.

And I think most people would agree if you measure where Australia is today in 2006 compared to where it was say 10

years ago, more people have got jobs, the businesses are stronger and interests rates are lower and that allows families the

opportunity to get on. So I think we have made a bit of a difference over the last 10 years and what really motivated me to

get into Parliament was to try and make that difference and make better lives for Australian families and young people

growing up to have better opportunities.

KING:

It is 25 minutes past 9 here on 612 ABC Brisbane, Treasurer Peter Costello is in the hot seat. He is being questioned by

the students at Cleveland State High School, Lauren I think you are up next. Hello how are you?

STUDENT:

Hi, I’m good.

KING:

You want to talk to the Treasurer now?

TREASURER:

Good morning Lauren.

STUDENT:

Good morning. Do you think Australia is over governed?

TREASURER:

I think that there are too many governments that are overlapping in the same areas. We have the Federal Government or

the Commonwealth Government, we have state government, Queensland Government, we have local government and I

think there are some areas where the different levels of government are both engaged and sometimes it is very hard to tell

who is responsible, very hard for people to hold the right level of government accountable and I think we have

governments that get in each other’s way and I would like to streamline all of that. I would like to have clear lines of

responsibility so everybody knows what the national government is going to do and it has the power to do it, so everybody

knows what the state government is going to do and it has the power to do it; so everybody knows what the local

government is responsible for and it has the power to get on and do it and those levels of government are held

accountable. I think there is too much overlapping and too much duplication at the moment. I think we could cut the cost

of government and we could make it more accountable if we were to reform things Lauren.

KING:

Can I have a follow up there Treasurer. You have called for a re-look at Federalism and on this programme you often get

callers asking about, particularly health and education, what the Federal Government is responsible for as in the funding,

the states (inaudible) the Federal Government doesn’t have a real say on how it is delivered, the State Government doesn’t

have a real say on the funding. What portfolios would you want to start with?

TREASURER:

Well I think you have named the most important which is health. You see if a hospital fails, which level of government is

responsible for that? Now the state governments run the hospitals but you will quite often hear the states say well it is not

our fault, we need more money and Canberra doesn’t give us enough money. And you will hear Canberra say, well hang

on we have given you record amounts of money, you are supposed to be running it, you fix it.

KING:

Who should run it?

TREASURER:

Well the public gets confused by this argument. They say well who is responsible, just tell us who is going to take

responsibility so we can hold them accountable. I actually think that state governments are the best service deliverers and

I think that state governments should be given clear responsibility for the delivery of hospital services and everybody

should know it. And I think that the national government is responsible for managing the national economy, I think it

should be given clear responsibility for the national economy and should be held accountable. So I would like to get the

federal government with full accountability and powers in relation to national economy and I would like to get the state

governments with full accountability and powers in relation to service delivery.

KING:

Which would mean education too probably?

TREASURER:

It most certainly would mean education, where they are responsible for curriculum, for standards and those areas again in

the area of service delivery. I think state governments should be responsible for service delivery and held accountable for

it. I think the national government should be responsible for the national economy and held accountable for it and they

should each have powers to do their job.

KING:

Ok Georgia I think you are our next question and it will be really relevant, you can ask it to the Premier now.

STUDENT:

Thank you, how much is given to public education each year?

TREASURER:

Well Georgia, I’m not actually the Premier…

KING:

I know you had to pick it up didn’t you? I might get out my list of questions for you.

TREASURER:

Well the principal funder of education is the State Government and the Commonwealth Government helps fund really in

two respects, it has programmes for capital in schools and it also helps raise some of the general revenue which the State

Government uses for spending on schools. Now I couldn’t tell you the precise amount that the Queensland Government

spends but it would be in the billions of dollars and some of that it would raise from its own tax base and some comes

from GST which the Commonwealth Government put in place to fund the schools but overall the education budget of the

Commonwealth is many, many billions of dollars.

KING:

Ok we will be back with the Talkback Classroom in just a moment, we’ll just go to the newsroom and find out from Gail

what is happening in the news… [break for news]

…They are questions of the Treasurer Peter Costello about whatever they like. Kyle you are up next how are you?

STUDENT:

Good morning.

KING:

Yes you are next.

STUDENT:

Good morning Sir.

TREASURER:

Good morning.

STUDENT:

What are your views on homework?

TREASURER:

Well here is my view, it is awful, it is a bit of a drudge but you have got to do it. Unfortunately that’s the way of the

world, you are never going to get anywhere unless you work hard at it and doing homework is just one of those really

necessary things. So sometimes you have to do things in life that you don’t really like because life is not all fun. So I just

encourage you to stick at it as best you possibly can Kyle.

KING:

Did he convince you Kyle?

STUDENT:

Yes.

KING:

Can I ask you, you say that and it is okay saying that from the lofty seats of the Treasurer’s office but did you always do

your homework?

TREASURER:

No. I was not as good a student as I should have been, I was probably a bit like Kyle. I was too interested in running

around and playing games and having fun but I guess by the end of school I had knuckled down a bit. I am one of those

people that finds it difficult to plan in advance so if I was given homework I wouldn’t do on the first day I would always

do it in the last hour before it was due in.

KING:

You should have been a journalist. And what about you, you have got kids now, are you there very much to actually help

them with theirs?

TREASURER:

Well not as much as I would like. I was home two nights ago and my daughter who is actually in year 7, so just what a

year behind the students there at Cleveland State School. She was trying to do her maths homework and she asked me a

question about numbers, something about intergrated numbers or something and I didn’t have a clue…

KING:

You’re the Treasurer.

TREASURER:

That’s right. Lucky I’m not doing year 7 maths again.

KING:

And your comments about leaving everything to the last minute, we had a caller who phoned in and asked do you leave

the Budget to the last minute?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, but I do that for a reason Madonna it’s because if you write it in advance it gets leaked so I only ever write it

the day before and I know it can never be leaked as a consequence.

KING:

All right, Amanda you have got a question for the Treasurer.

STUDENT:

Good morning Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Good morning Amanda.

STUDENT:

Should the Government decrease the amount of tax it takes from each litre of petrol?

TREASURER:

Each litre of petrol?

STUDENT:

Yes.

KING:

You sound a bit nervous Amanda are you?

STUDENT:

Yes a bit.

KING:

You shouldn’t be nervous, I reckon the Treasurer should be nervous with that question.

TREASURER:

I sure am, look these are very tough questions. Look petrol prices are very high at the moment and I regret that. I don’t

like it and motorists don’t like it and it is causing a lot of problems for families but it hasn’t gone up because the tax has

gone up. It has gone up because the world oil price has gone up and you have seen war in Lebanon, there has been war in

Iraq, there is uncertainly about Iran and all of this pushes up world oil prices. The Government is taking, in real terms, less

tax now than it was back in 2000 so we have not put it up. I believe that if we decreased it, it wouldn’t make much of a

difference to the petrol price but it would mean the Government would have to cut back in other areas so that is why we

haven’t reduced it but we certainly won’t be putting it up.

KING:

Can I ask what you mean by that, you could actually reduce the taxes - I think Terry McCrann made the comment recently

- you could actually reduce the cost of petrol, but you choose not to.

TREASURER:

The federal excise is 38 cents a litre, it used to be 44, we did reduce it from 44 to 38 and we used to push it up with

inflation, we don’t push it up anymore so it is just a flat 38. But when we first cut it from 44 to 38 the price fell - I think it

fell from about $1 to 90 - cents but now it is what $1.30 - $1.40 and what that shows you is that cutting the tax is actually

not going to lower the price because the price is rising not because of tax but because of the oil price.

KING:

All right, I shouldn’t be hogging these questions it is 23 minutes to 10 here on 612 ABC Brisbane. Claire you are next and

you have a question for the Treasurer.

STUDENT:

Yes I do. Good morning Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Good morning Claire.

STUDENT:

What would you change if you were Prime Minister?

KING:

Well we are all listening to this one.

TREASURER:

I think there are a lot of things that we can do to improve Australia and we ought to keep working at doing that. I have

talked earlier about the economic things. Making sure there are jobs for people, keeping interest rates low so that parents

can afford housing, giving better opportunity to our young people. I would like to see our education system be the best

education system in the world because I think that will prepare our students for a better future. I would like to see us

conserve the environment in a way which will give you the most beautiful place in the world to live in. I would like to

streamline government as I have talked about before with more accountability and less cost.

KING:

But aren’t you doing all of those things as a Government? Your Government is saying it is doing all of those things or

most of those things. What would you do to answer Claire’s question differently as Peter Costello.

TREASURER:

Well you know I don’t want to get into criticism of what the Government is doing because as you said I think the

Government is striving with all its might in all of these areas. But if you ask me what I think will give this country its best

future:- an education system which is the best in the world, environmental measures which will preserve our environment,

I want to deal with the ageing of the population because I think that is the biggest challenge that we are facing at the

moment and I have had a lot to say about fertility. And I want to improve the accountability and the cost of government

and I want to make sure that our people live in a prosperous country, well defended, which gives us the standard of living

which we really want and to which I think Australians are entitled.

KING:

Ok I think Brad you are the lucky last.

STUDENT:

Yes.

KING:

Alright, you have got the floor.

STUDENT:

Good morning Peter Costello.

TREASURER:

Good morning Brad how are you?

STUDENT:

Good.

TREASURER:

That’s good and what is the weather like today?

STUDENT:

Oh it is beautiful.

TREASURER:

Beautiful one day and perfect the next.

STUDENT:

Yeah. What sports are you interested in and what teams to do support?

TREASURER:

Well, what’s so funny?

KING:

Nothing, go ahead. They will hold it against you unless the Broncos (inaudible).

TREASURER:

Well I have got to say in the Rugby League I support the Cronulla Sharks and they are my team, I think they are doing

pretty well at the moment. In the AFL I support Essendon and they are bottom of the ladder and they have lost 14 games

in a row so they are not going so well. I follow basketball a little bit and I have been to some of the club games, I used to

play basketball a little bit myself and I also enjoy watching swimming because I think it is a fabulous sport for Australia

and I follow the fortunes of the Australian swim team quite a bit. And the last sport that I am following at the moment is I

am learning a bit about netball because my daughter who is in grade 7 has taken up playing netball and I go down to the

local netball association on a Saturday morning. Now I can’t tell you all the rules but I know Australia is a great netball

country and I think I am learning a bit more about it.

KING:

Brad what League team do you follow?

STUDENT:

I follow AFL and the West Coast Eagles.

KING:

So would you give the Treasurer your vote after him backing another team?

STUDENT:

I might.

TREASURER:

I was going to say Brad the West Coast Eagles are a long way from Cleveland State High School.

STUDENT:

They are.

TREASURER:

Are you a West Australian?

STUDENT:

No.

TREASURER:

Anyway you are backing a good team. I think they might do quite well this year.

KING:

That’s great. Thank you for that question and you have a good day at school.

STUDENT:

I will.

KING:

And thanks to all the students, year 8 students at Cleveland State High School for preparing those questions. Treasurer,

were they what you expected?

TREASURER:

Well they were tough I must say. It was a very searching interview and I think I will go have a strong cup of coffee now.

KING:

You know you spend your day on politics and stuff like that but they are the questions being asked around the dinner

tables you know each night in the family.

TREASURER:

Absolutely. Most Australians are probably more interested in sport than they are in politics and what is happening with

someone’s knee is a topic of major conversation around the dinner table and it is good to keep a perspective on that.

KING:

You have been a good sport you have a good day too.

TREASURER:

How is your knee Madonna?

KING:

It is really good.

TREASURER:

You have a good day too.

KING:

I ask the questions on this programme. Thanks Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Madonna.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2000