Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"That Peter Costello, he wasn't all bad" - Treasurer Wayne Swan

Swan's feeling confident enough to be generous

Australia's Treasurer  abandoned politics last night to pay tribute to his Coalition predecessor Peter Costello.

Speaking to central bankers from around the world gathered at the Sheraton on the Park to commemorate the Reserve Bank's 50th birthday Wayne Swan said both Peter Costello and his Prime Minister John Howard had carried on the economic reforms of Labor's Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, reforms he said actually began earlier when John Howard was Treasurer in Malcolm Fraser's Coalition government of the early1980s.

His words contrast with those of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who last year described the Howard decade as ""indolent, perhaps not always opposing the great transformation reforms engineered by Labor during its 13 years in office but barely adding to that reform agenda."

In contrast Swan last night credited the Coalition with helping create a "most remarkable run in economic success"...

"For those of our overseas guests who may not know, who have somehow escaped being told several times already, we are now in the nineteenth year of uninterrupted economic expansion in Australia, later this year we will begin the twentieth year," Mr Swan told an audience including Bob Hawke, John Howard, Paul Keating and Peter Costello. "This long run of prosperity continues to astonish and humble us."

"It follows more than a quarter century of economic difficulty for Australians – years in which we experienced high unemployment and high inflation, and five recessions - two of them very serious."

"The expansion of the world economy has played a part, particularly the strength of Asia and the transformation of China into the world’s second biggest economy."

"Decisions made in Canberra played a role too."

"I think of financial market deregulation, some of which began when John Howard was Treasurer, but which accelerated when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and Paul Keating was Treasurer."

"We think of the big tariff cuts of 1988 and 1991 which helped increase our competitiveness – again decisions made by Bob and Paul and the Hawke cabinet as a whole. Decisions which would have been more difficult if they had not been supported by the then Opposition."

"We think of the historic switch from wage arbitration to enterprise bargaining in 1993, as well."

"We honour Bob and Paul tonight for these great contributions to the foundations of our current prosperity."

"We think of the continuation of financial sector reforms carried out by Peter Costello and John Howard when they were in office."

In particular, the prudential regulation that safeguarded our banking system during this most severe global financial crisis."

We honour John and Peter for that substantial contribution.

Mr Swan said Howard and Costello along with Keating and Hawke should be seen as "economic policy patriots" for fighting battles on behalf of prosperity.

"The real change was the float of 1983 and the removal of capital controls. We let the exchange rate go, and that meant of course we could use interest rate changes to control the growth of demand."

"In Canberra the float was a big achievement of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. I cannot say it was an achievement of their Treasury advisers also,because Treasury was split on it."

"It was also an achievement of the Reserve Bank which had long sought a float and which succeeded at last through the patient and relentless intellectual force."

"Australia’s long run of patriots - from institutions the envy of the world, from the regulators and from both sides of politics – has contributed a great deal to our success. "

"Together we’ve built two decades of expansion and a robust, dynamic economy. Resilient enough to defy global economic gravity these past 18 months, strong enough to face the future with confidence, and worthy enough of a big celebration like this tonight."

Earlier in parliament away from the gaze of international visitors Mr Swan mocked the coalition as unqualified.

"We have the Leader of the Opposition who does not understand economics and regards it as boring. He has not got the faintest idea what is going on."

"We have the shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey who appeared on television wearing a crown, waving a magic wand and wrapping himself in a tutu like a giant Tinkerbell."

"And, of course, we have got Senator Joyce. This is the least qualified economic team from any political party in this House for well over 30 years."

Published in today's SMH  and Age 

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