Live blog: Treasurers Debate


Ray Martin hosts again. Only fifty audience members this time. Ray tells us there will be a worm to see. That’s good. Off to the Press Club now.

Press Club

Everyone welcomed. Ken Randall, President of the Press Club, is about as interesting as a cardboard box. Lists all the future debates – interested to see quite a few of them. Formalities are emphasised – especially the time limit. Over to do the toss between Peter Costello and Wayne Swan … and now they’ve lost the coin from the toss. Not a surprise with two treasurers up there.

Swan wins and elects to speak first.

Opening Statements

Wayne Swan

Neutral initial reaction from worm. Bit of an up now. Steady increase. Swan is a good speaker, but definitely no Rudd. Big increase now (30 – 40 seconds in). First mention of work choices: 12:31pm. Dip when it comes up, but rebounds with force when environment is mentioned. But falls again when interest rates get mentioned. All over the place, and it looks like there won’t be a favourite here.

Swan calls himself an economic conservative – big fall in the worm. Move back up when he talks about building the strong economy. Massive worm rise when he sys building on the past 16 year that “we’ve all enjoyed”. But a fall back when Swan says that its all founded on Labour reform during the 80’s. Somehow goes back up when Swan talks about the big ideas – the opportunity, the greatness, the booming economy.

Interest rates now. Worm right up there as Swan talks about it. Big increase when he says we need to invest in education and training. Fall back down when he reflects on the Coalition’s efforts and lack of funding.. Not a big movement when”education revolution” is mentioned for the first time – though the worm was already at time.

Swan moves onto infrastructure – increase to the top quarter. Broadband stays at the same level.

I.R. reform brings the worm plummeting – down to the mean line. Don’t know if its that he is speaking about the IR reforms and the people hate the IR reforms or if they like IR reforms and don’t want them tampered with.

Tax reform brings the worm up, but only by a rung. Now its on the move – further up. Calling the Coalition out of touch – no fall, so perhaps people agree. Swan say there should be more incentive in the tax system and says he has said this for some time. He has. Move onto his tax plan – slight rise, though there has been a steady rise to now – the worm steady in the second highest bar.

Environment and water in relation to the economy brings the worm to the highest level yet – and it stays there for some time. A fall begins before he says “ratify the Kyoto protocol” – when he does, a slight dip more.

Exit Wayne Swan. Enter Peter Costello.

Peter Costello

Worm steady at the mean. Still steady as he talks about the big themes. Slightly into the positive now. Big increase when he mentions retirement. On the rise now. Onto the top two bars and staying there while on the topics of environment and retirees. Retirees doesn’t surprise me, but environment hasn’t been the Coalition’s strong point. Up to the max the worm can go when he starts on “international community” – a theme that hasn’t been emphasised by either party. Drop when he talks about Australia’s role in this “international community”. Stays positive when he’s on about education. Increase with the hospitals and health.

He’s a better speaker than Swan, there’s no doubt – and has a better speech writer.

Talks about the significance of this election – biggest change for some time on the horizon. I assume me means if Labor get elected. The changes that have happened, and those to come, can only come about through a strong economy he says.

Short decline when he talks about the Labour economy he inherited – people probably sick of hearing about this now. But recovers and stays positive towards the end. And has stayed positive since the start. This is quite strange compared to the leaders debate.

Now its onto the mean when he talks about the things he knows are “unpopular” – reform, taxes, G.S.T., etc. And there’s the first dip into the negative – I guess they are unpopular. About the width of the worm into the red for a while there. Bobbing around now.

Big increase when he starts on his tax policy though. Starts ripping out the statistics and figures – sounds rather impressive. Probably something Swan could have included.

Mentioned John Howard: quick decline for the worm. Pretty funny that because he was talking about the technical schools they want to open.

Investment into small business to help the training of kids and young adult – pretty smart policy idea this is.

$500 for retirees – increase with the worm when they hear that they will get something, the decline when they hear the figure. Also funny. Obviously not enough for them. And a steady decline from there. Stays positive when he moves onto AusLink and Future Fund – big of an increase for the Future Fund.

“This is about our generation stepping up to the plate” – which generation? Howard’s generation, Costello’s generation, or my generation?

Apparently a strong economy will save us from every problem Australia will face. It will certainly help, but why are you any different to Wayne Swan?There’s been policy substance, but no points of difference.

Winds up with the worm half way between mean and top. Pretty impressive from him.

Questions from the press

Steve Lewis, News Ltd. – No mention of future for manufacturing: Can Australia continue with the automotive industry in competition against China and the like?

Costello: Yes, there is a future for Australian manufacturing. No change in the worm, stays on mean. Then plummets when he talks about what his government has done! Slow increase, then bobs around the half-way negative. Back to mean when he starts talking about mining – though there are more people employed in manufacturing. Exchange rates are definitely not helping trading.

Swan: Hopes there’s a future for manufacturing. Massive increase! Right up to the top two bars! There should be world class training systems send the worm right to the top. Broadband (or lack thereof) send the worm off the chart! Good tactic to ring in the strong points of Labor here – exactly what Rudd did. Stays right up there for the whole answer.

Paul Bongiorno, Ten News – Swan: Will you mount a challenge to Rudd in the first 18 months? Costello: will you challenge Howard in the first 18 months? B.S. question and exactly what I would expect from 7, 9, or 10 network reporter at a treasurers debate!

Swan: Says that for at least 10 years he will be treasurer. Bang right up to the top. Quick and short.

Costello: Stuffs around with the question. Worm plummets. Back to mean when he talks about running in this election as just treasurer. “Judge us by our record”. Says he will serve Howard into the next term, and that they will work together for a long period of time.

Laura Tingle, Financial Review – Economic targets. 6th interest rate rise. Stabilisers aren’t working at this surplus level. Also, if unemployment is set at 3%, do you need to change the inflation targets, as this level will put pressure on the inflation rate.

Swan: Swan actually sounds smart at the moment, talking actual goals. Worm in the positive. Enhance labour force participation because we have labour shortages and an ageing population. Must enhance labour supply to get the low inflationary targets in the future. Skills and infrastructure as important, and thus their investment. The government has failed. Labor will not.

Costello: Ten surplus budgets, lower interest rates today and halved unemployment compared to the Labor government and pressure on inflation rates is minimal, when it could be otherwise. Worm is dead on mean. Gives credit to the previous Labor government for deregulation and cutting tariffs – can Swan give Coalition credit for their achievements over the past 11 years? When Costello was talking about the achievements of the current government, the worm was off the charts. Calls on Swan to give credit to the government now.

Swan: Gives some credit but the Coalition is squandering the surplus and aren’t spending it wisely with wrong priorities. Labor has supported a lot of the government’s fiscal policies over the last 11 years.

Costello: No, Swan can’t give credit (Swan’s answer did sort of beat around the bush). And Labor hasn’t supported much over the years.

Colin Bengston (?) – Trade Unions. Union on the Reserve Bank gives a seat to the workers. Last Labor government had Union official on the board. Costello: Have you considered appointing a trade union member? Swan: How about you?

Costello: I haven’t in the past, but I appoint on merit. Worm not interested. Unions only cover 15% – the case for Unions not as strong. Worm looks like it has fallen asleep. Poke at the amount of union members on the Labour bench.

Swan: Shot at the government, but then back to question. Worm all over the positive area, then finds its place right up the top. Decline when he talks about a transparent process for some reason. Increase when he agrees with Costello on appointing on merit. Then climbs right to the top when he continues to talk about appointing the best person.

David Denyer (?), The Australian – Removal of I.R. and WorkChoices sees the re-balancing of powers, and a shift to employees. When the economy is fully employed, there is great pressure on inflation because of wage increases. What result do you expect in the power shifting to employees?

Swan: Says that they are still going to repeal I.R. reforms. Slight increase in the worm to the positive. Answer is pretty ho-hum – as was the question. And worm reactions.

Costello: “IR laws have struck the right balance.” Doesn’t want a change. The worm doesn’t care because its all negative, and really negative. Says they shouldn’t be repealed because wages and inflationary pressure will break out. Slight decrease there, though still in the mid-negatives. Climb back to mean when he quotes Ian McFarlane, the stays there with an explanation of why inflationary pressure will come about.

Karen Middleton, SBS TV – An Eden Monaro poll about tax cuts vs. spending in other areas by the government showed that 80% of those polled want money spent by the government, not tax cuts. Would you reconsider stopping tax cuts and spending the $34 billion/$31 billion?

Swan: Definitely not, and their tax plan is better. Says his plan is tax reform as well as investment, unlike the Coalition who have just cut taxes. Education revolution again. Commitment to students, mothers, and any other demographic I’ve missed. Ending the blame game between state and federal governments. All positive on the worm.

Costello: Yes, they will deliver the tax cuts because its important to Australia’s economy and the future. Decline … decline … negative. And still falling. Talks about previous tax cuts. Back to mean. Talks about the 1993 election where Keating took away tax cuts, so don’t trust Labor. Stays at mean surprisingly.

Tim Colebatch, The Age – Foreign debt. Should we worry about it, or is it actually beneficial because we’re getting more investment. Costello: Will you try and get it down. Swan: Is it a concern to you?

Costello: Negative worm straight away. No part of foreign debt is part of the Commonwealth government. Main part is private banks, and a lesser extent the state. Stays negative for some reason – it’s not an area the government really has control over, so why is it negative? Worm realises this and heads to just below mean. “Investment surge for Australia” – we don’t have enough savings, we need it, so we look off shore. We need to maintain these levels of investment, so we need to look offshore. Dead mean. Here’s where the government should take part: government shouldn’t run up debt. Slight increase. The government (state and federal) should stand back and leave it all alone. No reaction from worm.

Swan: Yes, it is a concern. Increase. Crazy ass worm! Goes straight to positives. Our export performance relatively flat – and hasn’t increased. Our Current Account Deficit is very high. Brings it back to productivity. We need to lift it, and export performance should be higher. Worm has descended to first few bars of positive and goes up to half, then slightly below for the rest. Savings are important – superannuation. Worm on the rise. Funding that (superannuation) and national savings very important.

Sue Dunlevy, Daily Telegraph – If Howard steps aside, and you (Costello) take charge, what are the 3 main diffs between a Howard and Costello government. If there are no differences, should there even be a change?

Costello: Negative worm. Then says with no differences between Rudd and Howard, why change that. Very smart tactic. Still negative. A reflective moment on the Howard and Costello team. Goes really negative. Reform is the key word here. Superannuation, docks, industrial. Still negative. Says there’s been good investment over the years. The fact that the two have worked together is really emphasised. Back to the mean. “Have we always agreed on 100% of things? No.” Something I’ve wanted to hear for some time. Says that they’ve worked towards a common goal for the past 11 years, and he want to continue this. Doesn’t want to emphasise the differences, wants to emphasise the similarities. Starts up the Rudd-bashing rhetoric. Don’t believe Rudd when he says he will continue the successful things that make Australia so good. Too much of a risk.

Swan: Says that Costello would make WorkChoices more extreme. Big positive. Begins to make Costello out to be a economy-Nazi. Stays positive. Starts to critique the lack of investment.

Phil Currie, S.M.H. – The federal government has lots of revenue, while the states are going poor. Is it time to shake-up the revenue distribution system?

Swan: They’re not changing the G.S.T. rate or the distribution method, so no. But this government has starved the states. Quick increase in the worm. Lack of investment by the government is a problem. Worm stays steady up there. “The blame game needs to end” gets a reaction.

Costello: The government has ensured that every dollar of G.S.T. goes to states. Worm begins to fall to mean and stays there. Starts to say that Labor will change the G.S.T. level. Not much worm reaction. Makes the Labor party out to be a cloak-and-dagger G.S.T. merchants. Worm flat. Increase when he starts ripping on the States mis-governing of everything. Says that the states are to blame. “If your not satisfied with state Labor governments, then why would you want a Labor federal?” Mean worm for that.

Shane Wright, Western Australia A Reserve Bank governor said that tax cuts put upward pressure on interest rates. Fiscal policies are contributing to inflationary pressure. Turns out this was in New Zealand. Who gives a crap? Turns it into: Will your two tax cuts put inflationary pressure on inflation here?

Costello: New Zealand don’t account the same way as here. This is common knowledge, and Shane should be slapped for it. Mean worm after initial fall. This is a fluff question, a chance for Costello to say all the great things about a Coalition-led economy. A need to generate skilled and unskilled worker (Excuse me? Unskilled?). Mean worm. Their tax plan is here to do this with incentives and encouragement. Worm into the positive once he’s explained that in a way John Citizen can understand. Middle positive. Mention of surplus budget brings the worm down to just about mean!? Crazy worm.

Swan: Tax cuts are staged, and measures to enhance labour market numbers are critical. Wow, the worm right off the chart. Talks about the Baby-Boomers keeps it up. Worm drops when he talks about the people who missed out on previous tax cuts. Wants people to work more, harder and get better rewards. Keeps the worm rather positive. Big increase at the end and Swan said nothing.

Rachel Pennant – R.B.A. Board appointments. How do you make them transparent?

Swan: Create an open process that anyone can see carried out – boards, committees, list of names, etc. Big positive. I guess people are actually interested in R.B.A. appointees?

Costello: If Swan doesn’t want campaign fund-raisers on the board (which was something he said) then no Labor members.

???: Do either of you believe the polls about people wanting government spending and not tax cuts?

Swan: People want both. Big positive. The journalist tries to quip Swan. This journalist is an ass. Probably a Greens spy; definitely a Greens voter. Talks a lot, trying to explain why people would want both, but can’t get past the initial response because the journalist interrupts regularly.

Costello: The people want tax relief, and the poll isn’t as reflective as people really are. Says he believes the best way to help people is to cut taxes. Prices going up, people need money. Good positive worm here. Purchasing power is an important factor here. Journalist quips in again about his question. This guy is a real bastard.

Clinton Porteous, The Courier-Mail – Swan: People prefer Costello for treasurer. Costello: Your government has broken promises about I.R. Why should we trust either of you?

Swan: Asks if it’s an issue of experience, how can you get it? He has experience, and will have had more if he gets the treasurer’s spot than when Costello got it. Lists his experience. Big positive here. That’s a surprise with the worm, I would have thought mean or negative. Doesn’t care about opinion polls all that much.

Costello: No, it’s not just about experience, but it does factor in. Back to mean, then into negative. Talks about how experience helps with unforeseen events that come upon you. Asian financial crisis. US recession. 9/11. 101 year drought. World oil prices. Experience helps you preempt these events and navigate them. All of this was pretty negative to the worm. It’s also an issue about policy – doesn’t think the policies that Labor brings to the table are good for the economy (Coalition haven’t said that before …). The worm at negative to mean. Experience shows them what policies would work and what wouldn’t.

Andrew Green, Seven – Costello: Has treasury told you that Australian families have never been better off, and do you believe this statement? Swan: How will families be better off under a Labor government?

Costello: Treasury gives advice to statistics, not “colourful conclusions” like that. Mean to negative. More people are in work, wages have increased by a real 20%, household wealth has tripled. Worm still mean to negative. Accepts that some people have been left behind, and talks about payments to pensioners. Should be looking after the people left behind. Into positive here. There must be a senior cohort in the audience here.

Swan: There’s been five interest rate rises since last election. Labor will seriously fight against inflation. Big positive. Says Costello doesn’t think there is a housing affordability crisis. There is, and the federal government needs to work with the state and the community to fix it. General prices for petrol and groceries have gone up – the government needs to be on their toes in regards to this. Petrol commissioner! A.C.C.C. monitor grocery prices. Investigation is needed says Swan.

Michelle Branton – Costello: Continuity of policy between Howard and Costello government. Isn’t it unrealistic to expect all of the Howard policies to keep going under you?

Costello: He will keep policies going and continue with Coalition commitments. Their five year tax plan will definitely come about. He has no mis-intentions. Can they deliver it? Yes. Mean worm, slight negative. Responsible choices have been made, and they will deliver on them all – those from the past and from the campaign. Slight positive for the worm, slight rise again, then back to mean. “Benefits through reform bring benefits.”

Swan: Costello couldn’t keep interest rates at record lows. Why believe them ever again?

Closing statements

Peter Costello

Slight negative worm straight away. Can’t take anything for granted – not the mining boom or anything. Positive worm. Labor hasn’t thought carefully enough about what reforms need to be made to take us further. Not just about reviews and inquiries – you need to take action now and then. Balancing budget, investing, building this that and the other all sets us up for the future. A plan to build Australia’s future. Talks about education investment (the technical schools only). Small business vouchers essential for the furnace of Australian economy. Positive for all this, nothing too high, but in the first bar. The economy the thing that allows us to do everything – a means to an end. Rise in the positive here. Run a strong economy to give a better standard of living to Australians. Committed to this. Large ambitions for a better economy. Large ambitions for a better Australia.

Wayne Swan

We do need to build a stronger economy for our kids – we haven’t been doing it. Big positive! We need to build, we need to build, we need to build. Steady decline to Costello levels, but a bit better. The current government is out of touch and out of control. Newfound commitment to education – doesn’t wash away the past 11 years. Steady at the Costello levels now. No surprise here. I think this debate has put the audience members either fully behind Costello or fully behind Swan, and there’s no middle people to swing this worm. It climbs up when he talks about being there for the families and working class. Wants taxes as low as possible and better rewards for the people. Won’t rest on laurels. Is here for all working families.

Wow, that was an hour and a half!? That flew.


Ray Martin is back. Audience found it interesting apparently. I thought it was great. Very even handed, substantial policy and minimal personal attacks. Swan didn’t had Rudd-mania to help him, and Costello didn’t suffer from the anti-Costello sentiments that came up during the leaders debate.

Postscript after editting:

Well, I would say that it was pretty even and pretty good. The results for the ‘winner’ will be shown on A Current Affair. I predict both to be within 10% of 50% it was that close, if not an absolute draw. Costello didn’t suffer from anti-Costello sentiments with the worm rating, and Swan didn’t come off as inept. I would think that Costello will come out of this the winner by whatever the margin as he was, well, Costello – an apt treasurer with a good voice. But don’t sell Swan short – he knew what he was talking about and had all his bases covered. If he comes out the winner, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I would think that that is the favourable feelings that people seem to be having for Labor at the moment. It certainly wouldn’t be because Costello did anything wrong.

I think that if this debate showed us anything it’s that out of the four (Rudd, Howard, Swan, and Costello) that Howard, of all people, is the odd one out. I actually found myself coming around (very slightly) to Costello. Rudd is still my main man, and that means Swan. But Howard actually seems more ‘old and out of touch’ to me now than ever before. As soon as he is out of the political picture, Australian politics can finally move on.



2 thoughts on “Live blog: Treasurers Debate

  1. Thank-you. I have the convenience of having a television in the same room as the computer. It was a heck of a lot longer than what I had anticipated, but didn’t feel that long to write. Nor did that hour and a half seem that long. Whereas the leaders debate did seem like the full length of time.

    The President said that there is a health, environment, deputy and industrial relations debate coming over the next week as well. If they are televised, I’ll certainly be covering those too.

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