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 21/07/2005

Doorstop Interview
Cairns Show

Thursday, 21 July 2005
12.45 pm

SUBJECTS: Detention Centres, Trinity School, Chinese Investment, Aboriginal Issues, Cairns Show, Queensland State Politics

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, (inaudible) had in mind?

TREASURER:

Well I am not familiar with the details of those, I think it would be best to refer questions in relation to that to the relevant Minister. I am obviously up here at the Cairns Show and I am not in moment by moment contact with immigration detention centres.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think we should be increasing calls on Amanda Vanstone to go?

TREASURER:

No, Amanda Vanstone is the Minister who I think has very conscientiously applied herself to immigration matters. It is true that the immigration system failed Cornelia Rau and it is true that the immigration system failed in relation to Vivian Solon and each of those ladies is entitled to an apology. The important thing is to make sure that errors like that never occur again. And I believe that putting in place the immigration changes that we have, together with a new approach from the personnel in the department that we can put in place such a system.

JOURNALIST:

There are more than ten schools in Cairns, why did you choose the wealthiest one to visit this morning?

TREASURER:

Because they invited me. Some time ago sitting at my desk in Canberra I received a letter from the Trinity Anglican School that said if you are ever in Cairns would you please come and address our assembly. I didn’t think I would be in Cairns, but when Warren invited me to come to Cairns with the opportunity to go up to Cape York, it was about 1,000-1 chance I was passing through and I was able to take up the offer that they had made.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the Chinese national oil company has today expressed interest in buying a stake in either Woodside or possibly even Santos, given that you rejected the Shell offer there, what is your view on that at this stage?

TREASURER:

Well I don’t comment on matters that might go before the Foreign Investment Review Board because they have to be treated as commercial in confidence but if an application is made it will be considered by the Board, the Board makes a recommendation and ultimately I have the ability to either confirm or reject that application. So it is far too early for me to comment on such an application until it has been made if it is made - I don’t even know that it has been made - if it is made and until it has been assessed.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, what are you hoping to get from your visit to the Cape York?

TREASURER:

Well I think that there has been a lot of change in thinking about how best to address problems of disadvantage in Aboriginal communities. I think that what we are now beginning to realise is that permanent welfare can damage communities, that the most important thing is to give people economic opportunity to participate in mainstream economic life and what I want to look at is some of the investments that are being made to see whether they can give real business opportunities and real employment opportunities which can enfranchise people into the mainstream of Australian economic life. And I think from the public’s point of view, the public wants to know, is the money being well spent. Is it being well spent? Are there some projects that are succeeding and other projects that are failing? And I don’t know the answer to that question, I want to go and I want to have a look and I want to go back to Canberra afterwards and draw some conclusions.

JOURNALIST:

What brings you to Cairns and up to Queensland?

TREASURER:

Well, coming to Cairns is a great experience because it is a tourist centre, it is the centre for one of Australia’s greatest tourist attractions, the Great Barrier Reef, it is an agricultural centre, I think these agricultural shows are a big part of Australian life and it is great to see one thriving like this, this is apparently the biggest agricultural show outside of Brisbane. And to see the rural way of life, stepping forward and being judged on the grounds of excellence in breeding, in production is really reassuring that Australia’s agriculture is in good hands and I like to support the shows and to be frank, the characters that you meet, some of the characters that I have met on my visit here are just fabulous people. We had a guy who came out here with the US Army in the Second World War and he is 86 and he is still exhibiting at the Cairns Show and that is after about 56 or 57 years. Not bad.

JOURNALIST:

What do you say to people who suggest this is about broadening your image for a tilt at the leadership?

TREASURER:

People can say what they like. For me as Treasurer, I like to see all of Australia and regional Australia is a big part of the national identity, it is a big part of our national economy and you see great characters and I love meeting great characters. The great characters of Australian life can be found in rural shows and you don’t want to miss seeing them before they go.

JOURNALIST:

While you are in Queensland would you be interested in encouraging the State National Liberal Party to form a Coalition with the State National Party?

TREASURER:

I am not going to advise the State political parties on how to manage their affairs but I will make this point. The Liberal Party holds more seats in Federal seats in Queensland than we ever have really. And we have a very successful Federal Coalition and I want to keep it that way and we have shown that the Federal Liberal Party can work well with the Federal National Party in Queensland and be successful, that is the way I want to keep it. What happens at the State level, you will have to ask the state leaders, I have got enough problems running things at the Federal level to engage in State advice.

JOURNALIST:

There must be something wrong (inaudible) five seats out of an 89 seat Parliament?

TREASURER:

Well that is right, it is a bad result, I don’t think it is good for the people of Queensland that you have a Labor Government with such a huge majority, I don’t think it is leading to good government because in my walking around and discussion with Queenslanders, they know this Government should be held more accountable, this State Government, and they want a stronger opposition and we would all like to see it. But am I an expert on State oppositions? No, and I don’t want to become an expert of federal oppositions either.

JOURNALIST:

Would you say that the path to electability is unity, or at least some kind of…?

TREASURER:

I reckon where you work together, you generally work better.

JOURNALIST:

It has been proven that pouring great amounts of money into indigenous community isn’t the answer. Activists have even been criticised, (inaudible) the likes of Noel Pearson, pouring too much money in and babysitting the indigenous community as such, does the Liberal Government have a plan of attack?

TREASURER:

Well I would agree with that. I think if welfare becomes a way of life it can actually damage people. That there is no substitute for a real job with the satisfaction of work and a real income. It is good for your self-esteem, health standards begin to rise. Real work in real businesses with real economic opportunity. Don’t think you are doing people a favour if you put them on welfare for 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years, that doesn’t do them a favour and it doesn’t help society as a whole, and it is not too good for taxpayers either. And I think for Aboriginal people and for white people a real job in a real company rather than welfare is a much better opportunity than a process which can actually demoralise you.

JOURNALIST:

That’s what you want to happen, how do you intend to make that happen?

TREASURER:

I have got to go and see what is working and what is not and then I will draw some conclusions. Thanks, thanks very much