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Costello 'Arthur' and 'Martha" on Telstra Fund.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer

9 August 2005


Last Monday Peter Costello warned that a Telstra slush fund to appease the National Party would be inflationary and could push up interest rates.

Barely one week later, the Treasurer has decided that the fund proposed by the Nationals was “certainly worth considering”.

Peter Costello has been Arthur and Martha on the question of whether or not providing the Nationals with their 30 pieces of silver to sell out the bush has inflationary implications.

If Peter Costello thought a Telstra fund was inflationary last Monday, why isn’t it inflationary now?

If a fund was a threat to interest rates last Monday, why doesn’t it threaten interest rates now?

This is another embarrassing back down from the Treasurer, and follows prime ministerial rebukes of Costello comments on penalty rates, unfair dismissal and public holidays.

It’s true that economic ill-discipline forces interest rates up - that’s what happened when the Treasurer shovelled $66 billion out the door before last year’s election without investing in infrastructure and skills, a factor that pushed rates up in March.

But Peter Costello’s claims about the economic irresponsibility of a Telstra fund have been exposed as just another politically motivated claim.

Last week’s comments from the Treasurer were only ever about internal Coalition politics and open warfare with the National Party, not about a realistic threat to rates.

Selling Telstra will have a net negative impact on the Budget; if Peter Costello was really interested in economic responsibility he’d keep it in public hands.

Tuesday 9 August 2005 Contact Jim Chalmers 0417 141 676