The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 12/05/2003

TRANSCRIPT
THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop Interview
Ministerial entrance
Parliament House, Canberra

Monday, 12 May 2003
9.00 am

SUBJECTS: Budget; higher education; CSIRO; economy; Governor-General

TREASURER:

Tomorrow night's Budget is designed to keep Australia strong. It will have new measures in relation to defence and security, measures which will secure our borders, and measures which will give us a stronger arm with which to fight the threat of terror. Tomorrow night's Budget will also announce measures to help our farmers who have been struggling through the most extensive drought recorded in Australia. And we will be trying to bring together help for people in rural areas, defence and security, together with a programme which will keep the Australian economy growing. It has been a difficult period and many of the comparable countries around the world are facing rising unemployment. But we want to keep Australia's economy growing so that people can stay in jobs. And that is very much what economic security is about.

JOURNALIST:

Will tomorrow night's Budget be delivering tax cuts?

TREASURER:

Look, we are facing up to all of the challenges that the global economy is throwing at us. An international down-turn, the worst drought we have ever had, the war in Iraq, additional security matters...

JOURNALIST:

So is that a no?

TREASURER:

...and we are going to make sure that we do all of that whilst keeping the Australian economy strong.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Access Economics has forecast a larger than expected surplus. Are we going to have a surprise out of the Budget bag?

TREASURER:

No, as we forecast in last year's Budget we forecast a narrow surplus and I think we are on track to meeting that, notwithstanding several things that have moved against us. And in this Budget we have to take into account the several things that have moved against us. The world is not as strong as it was and you have got to bear in mind this, that most of the developed economies of the world are now in deep deficit, the United States, Britain, Europe, and being able to balance a Budget in today's international climate puts Australia in front of the league.

JOURNALIST:

In higher education will you be re-packaging the money or can we expect a big funding boost for the sector?

TREASURER:

Well, I think the most important thing about higher education is firstly it will be a big structural reform, big changes in terms of the way in which universities will operate. More flexibility, more focus on students so that students will be able to choose and in addition to that, in order to fund those reforms we will be allocating new money, yes we will. But we will be asking the universities to reform themselves quite considerably in order to achieve those objectives.

JOURNALIST:

Will they be taking on any of the research roles of the CSIRO as part of that review?

TREASURER:

No, the CSIRO is the Government's premier scientific research organisation which this Government has increased the funding of over successive budgets, has increased funding over successive budgets, a point that people ought to look very carefully. We have made the CSIRO a real priority.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you have already forecast a downward vision for the economic growth forecast for

2002 - 2004. Are you concerned about the economy looking forward?

TREASURER:

Look the challenges that come to the Australian economy are a weak world economy, the effect that international events like SARS will have, domestically the most extensive drought we have ever had recorded. Now, if you can keep your economy growing in spite of all of that then you will be one of the countries which is leading the world, and that is what we are aiming to do.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello do you think the Prime Minister should have acted when he first learned of the rape allegations in December, in relation to the Governor-General?

TREASURER:

Well, allegations can be made against anybody. The fact that an allegation is made does not mean it is true and in a court of law where people are able to be examined and cross-examined you have the opportunity to either establish your allegation or for the accused person to defend themselves. I think that is the proper place for this to go. I do not think that anyone should assume for a moment just because an allegation has been made it is true. It needs to be tested and Dr Hollingworth has that right. He vehemently denies these allegations. He has the right in a court of law to prove himself or to put it the other way he has the right to be treated as innocent until somebody in the court of law proves him to be guilty. He has that right, every Australian has that right, and just because he is the Governor-General does not mean that he should be assumed to have done the wrong thing. In fact he like anybody else should be assumed to have been innocent unless there is credible evidence tested on oath that proof to the contrary

JOURNALIST:

Did you also know of the allegations last December?

TREASURER:

No, I did not.

JOURNALIST:

When did you know about them?

TREASURER:

I knew that when you published them.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you said a couple of years ago...

TREASURER:

I became aware of them, when the press published them I became aware of the allegations. I said earlier that I was aware that there was civil litigation that could be taken against the Governor- General. I did not know, nor should I have known, because it was a subject of a suppression order up until the courts released it.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer you said a couple of years ago you only had one or two budgets left in you. Will this be your last budget or have you got a few more left still?

TREASURER:

Well, I have got one to do on Tuesday night and I can promise you I will be there and I hope you are all there too. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Where were we at? Oh, just about whether there are moral grounds for him to stand down?

TREASURER:

Look, in the discharge of his duty as Governor General, nobody has any grounds for concern. He has entirely properly discharged that duty. But in his prior occupation as Archbishop of Brisbane, obviously he now looks back and says he should have handled things better. He made an error, an error of judgment, but his response to that is entirely a matter for him. He has not done anything in the office of Governor General which means that he can no longer adequately discharge those duties. In fact, in the office of Governor General he has properly discharged those duties.

JOURNALIST:

But this lack of support from senior Government Ministers, should this be reason enough for him to stand down?

TREASURER:

No, I think senior Government Ministers are taking the view, as do many Australians, that in the conduct of his office as Archbishop of Brisbane he should have taken a firmer line against priests who had molested children. Senior Ministers, and I am one, think he should have taken a stronger line. It is very hard to justify continuing a priest in the office of a priest when that priest is known to have molested children. And I think even the Governor General, as he looks back on that, would take the same view. But I continue to stress that was not a decision he took whilst he was Governor General, it was in a previous occupation.

JOURNALIST:

Do you personally regret the appointment?

TREASURER:

Look, I have made it entirely clear that like many Australians I believe a very firm line has to be taken against people in authority who molest children, whether they are priests, or whether they are school teachers, or whoever they may be. And I am sure that looking back on it, the Governor General had the same view.

Thanks.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask one more question...

TREASURER:

About what?

JOURNALIST:

...you're Acting Prime Minister but if you become Prime Minister would you be comfortable with the Governor General remaining.

TREASURER:

I have said all I have to say on that subject. Thank you very much.