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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 30 May 2006: Treasury; Revenue forecasts; Budget; National Party.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer


SUBJECTS: Treasury, Revenue Forecasts, Budget, National Party

SWAN: We’ve got the Treasury up in estimates today, and we’ve got some serious questions to ask them about why their revenue estimates have been so out in recent times, completely wide of the mark.

We have got to get them more accurate, if we are going to plan prudently for the future. And in particular we don’t want Peter Costello running around playing Santa Clause because suddenly all this money has materialised in the end.

I mean surely prudent planning for the future means we have more accurate estimates if we are going to plan for the future and make those investments that the Australian people want. Particularly when it comes to the skills of our people, putting incentive in the tax system, and doing something about national infrastructure.

JOURNALIST: Surely for responsible government spending isn’t it better that you’ve got a conservative Treasury?

SWAN: I think it’s important that we have a prudent Treasury. I think it also very important that we have an accurate Treasury. We have starved investment in the future in this country in recent times.

If you look at that way the budget has sunk like a stone. The Australian people want some investment in our future. They want some investment in our national infrastructure. They want some planning to address the skills crisis. We are not getting this out of the Government at all.

What we are getting is this circus, we’ve got boat burnings, we’ve got the Treasurer running around in funny hats. What we really need is some planning for the future that recognises the challenges that are ahead.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t think there should be some buffer in terms of spending?

SWAN: Look I am happy to have a buffer, but you have to realise that in the time between MYEFO and when the Treasurer bought the budget on budget night future revenues increased by $51 billion.

Now this Treasurer can’t continue to run an organisation that doesn’t accurately predict the source of revenues so we can plan more prudently for the future.

JOURNALIST: The Treasurer says that these changes in estimates are quite small in percentage terms when we are talking about a very large budget. Is that a fair comment?

SWAN: I think it is very important that we plan more prudently for the future. We’ve constantly had these revisions upwards, and nothing could be more spectacular then that $50 billion increase between MYEFO at the end of last year and the Budget in may this year.

So we want to talk to the Treasury about this because I think it’s important that all Australians have confidence that revenue is being accurately predicted.

JOURNALIST: So you are bagging the bureaucrats? It’s hardly Peter Costello’s fault.

SWAN: This is a very important public policy question. It’s not just the Labor party that’s been raising it. Business organisations have raised it, and of course the Treasurer, in his usual way, has got stuck in to them when they have.

JOURNALIST: The Newspoll out today looks quite interesting. The Coalition at a six months low with their primary vote, but support for Beazley has gone down again, or the satisfaction rate with the leader has gone down again. Does that mean people don’t mind Labor but don’t particularly like Kim Beazley?

SWAN: How many polls do you want which have Labor in front, particularly following a budget that had the Treasurer running around spending $60 billion over the forward estimates, with Labor in front in both the opinion polls that have been conducted since then?

The AC Nielsen Poll, the Newspoll. Labor’s in front, we don’t necessarily think one poll means you will win the election, they come and go. But I think you’ve got a pretty good indication that Labor’s travelling pretty well given what the Government’s been doing in recent times.

JOURNALIST: You might even be further ahead if you had someone who people liked as your leader.

SWAN: Well I reckon Beazley must be doing something right if Labor is ahead in the polls. We’ve been ahead in the polls a bit more then fifty percent of the time since Kim Beazley became leader a bit over a year ago.

JOURNALIST: Your primary vote is still in the thirties though, is that a worry?

SWAN: Well our primary vote I think this morning is thirty nine, in the AC Nielsen Poll it was in the low forties, these things will jump around, but the last time I looked you won elections when you had more then fifty percent of the two party preferred vote, which Labor has been receiving more then fifty percent of the time in all of the opinion polls.

But look in the end it’s not the opinion polls that will count. We’ve got a way to go till the election. We’ve got to put forward alternative policies; we’ve got to be out there holding government accountable for it’s extreme industrial relations legislation, for the cost of living pressures that are hitting middle Australia.

I think the thing that jumps out of this opinion poll is that middle Australia, out there doesn’t think the Howard Government is really in touch with their concerns.

Sure they were happy to get a bit of a tax cut, but it has been eaten up by the triple whammy of rising petrol prices, rising interest rates, and of course the Government’s extreme industrial relations legislation.

JOURNALIST: Do you have an explanation though? I mean it is an interesting poll, the satisfaction for Kim has gone down but the support for Labor is quite good. Do you have an explanation for that, why the opposition leader is not polling perhaps as well as the party is itself?

SWAN: Well I have looked at opinion polls a lot over the years and I

remember when John Howard was the Leader of the Opposition and Paul Keating was the Prime Minister, and John Howard had terrible ratings. And he became a very successful Prime Minister of this country. After ten long years that is running out.

But he didn’t rank up there in the opinion polls. If I were you I would go and have a chat to Peter Beattie, and I would go and have a chat to Mike Rann, all the other opposition leaders in the country that had low opinion poll ratings and became successful Premiers.

I think you will realise that the important point is that when you are opposition leader you run the ball up everyday. And when you do you have few knocks, but you keep going, you get up the next day and run the ball up again. That’s what opposition leaders do.

When they do it scraps a bit of paint of them, but at the end of the day if the scores on the board and your in front, then you’ll take it.

JOURNALIST: It’s still fairly volatile in East Timor at the moment. How would you describe the Government’s performance to date?

SWAN: I’ll leave that for Kevin Rudd to talk about. He is much more knowledgeable about that then I am.

JOURNALIST: It looks like the mole skin and white loafer brigade are going to amalgamate. Do you think Peter Beattie would be nervous in Queensland today?

SWAN: I don’t think so. I mean Poor old Mark Vaile has had his party hijacked and he is running around trying to find out how to get it back.

I don’t think it will work because you see the National Party in the end has sold out rural and regional Australia. That’s obvious, there losing their base rapidly so they are getting desperate, so they have to find a new name.

The New Liberals? Well I think they’re the same old conservatives, Libs and Nats tied together, white loafer brigade, moleskins and all the rest of them.

ENDS Tues 30 may 06

Contact :Lachlan Harris 0417 592 338