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 05/08/2005

Interview with Neil Mitchell
3AW

Friday, 5 August 2005
9.35 am

SUBJECTS: Abu Bakr, Terrorism, Violence, Free Speech

MITCHELL:

Peter Costello, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Neil.

MITCHELL:

Do you agree words can be dangerous?

TREASURER:

Words which incite people to violence are dangerous and if you incite somebody to violence you are as responsible for the violence as the person that actually does it. So, whilst in Australia we like to pride ourselves on free speech, you cross the line when you incite other people to engage in harm to the property or the life or the security or the safety of other people in the community.

MITCHELL:

Do you think that line is being crossed here?

TREASURER:

Well I think that these comments are absolutely repulsive and I think that they ought to be repudiated by all people of goodwill in our community. This idea that Osama bin Laden is a great man. Osama bin Laden is a killer who specialises in organising the death of innocent people as he did with the September the 11th bombing in New York. There is nothing admirable about Osama bin Laden and to hold him up as a role model is quite repulsive actually. The statement that there are two laws in Australia, again is very dangerous – there is only one law in Australia – there is the law made by Australian Parliaments, that is the law of Australia, there isn’t some second law to be followed and everybody who comes to Australia ought to know that. We are one country under one law, it is that simple.

MITCHELL:

It is also, I mean he is certainly preaching, he says, ‘Jihad is part of my religion, you have to understand anyone who fights for the sake of Allah when he dies the first drop of blood comes, all his sin will be forgiven.’ I mean, this surely has the potential of reaching come of the people in this community that we are concerned about.

TREASURER:

Well, if by that it is meant that somehow in engaging in terrorism you get some reward in the afterlife it is quite repulsive. And as I understand it and this is a point that has been made by people of more moderate Islamic belief, this is not accepted teaching of Islam, this is not a faithful rendition of that religion and this is where you actually need the religious teachers of Islam to come out and condemn it too because they have got to make sure that their message gets to younger people that this is not authentic, this is not the correct teaching, this is not to be followed and teachers like this particular man are actually selling them lies and violence and they shouldn’t be taking any notice of them.

MITCHELL:

Is there, look the man is a dual citizen, is the reason or is the cause here that we should be looking at laws which would allow us to revoke his citizenship and deport?

TREASURER:

Well by the way Neil, when you become an Australian citizen, you do take an oath or make and affirmation that you accept Australia, its laws and its institutions.

MITCHELL:

But what can we do if people don’t follow?

TREASURER:

Well…

MITCHELL:

Nothing.

TREASURER:

…if somebody commits a crime in Australia then they are tried under Australian law, that is the way we do things. And by the way there are crimes like inciting violence. If you really do put somebody up to going and committing a violent act, you can be responsible for that. Now, you know, these are fine legal arguments but what we do in this country Neil, is we say to people, you want to come and live in Australia, you are living under Australian law, don’t come here if you don’t accept Australian law, don’t come here if you don’t accept the Parliamentary system and democracy. If you want to look for other models of Government, go and find countries where they are practiced.

MITCHELL:

But I guess on what you are saying it would seem, and what this man has said, that he has breached his oath of citizenship. Now what do we do about that? What can we do about that? Do we need laws where we can react to that?

TREASURER:

Well I think we need to re-emphasise the importance of these laws and we need to say to people very clearly and very openly, that if you don’t like this system in Australia, don’t come here in the first place.

MITCHELL:

It is too late, people like this are here.

TREASURER:

Well Neil, we don’t want any more do we? If there are other people that don’t accept Australian law, we need to say to them quite plainly, nobody is forcing you to come to Australia, and if you don’t like Australian law then don’t come.

MITCHELL:

Should we be able to deport a person who makes statements like this?

TREASURER:

We should be able to enforce the law, there are circumstances where people who are convicted of crimes can be deported, that is the way in which our law operates and our law ought to be enforced.

MITCHELL:

Are you aware of the comments made by the, the video tape released by the Al Qaeda Number Two taking responsibility, or effectively taking responsibility for the bombing in London and saying there is more to come?

TREASURER:

Well I have seen reports of it, yes.

MITCHELL:

I mean that does seem to link the attacks directly to Iraq which is something we haven’t recognised is it not? Do we have to accept that Iraq has put us up the list a bit?

TREASURER:

Well Neil, the point is that Australia was subject to terrorist attacks before Iraq and the most obvious one is Bali. You know, Australians were bombed in Bali before Australian troops went to Iraq. Why? Because we were a terrorist target before Iraq, that is the reality. There are people who for whatever reason don’t like our way of life, don’t like our society and in their own twisted minds oppose it. There was a statement for example by Osama bin Laden that he wanted to punish Australia for what it did in East Timor when Australian troops helped with the independence of East Timor. So, I think these people can find lots of reasons why they want to attack Australia, they are not all logical by the way, you are not dealing here with logical people and to say that there is one particular cause I think is quite wrong.

MITCHELL:

Well I mean, the direct translation quote, ‘our message is clear, obvious and decisive. There is no escape for you unless you withdraw from our land, unless you stop stealing our oil and wealth and stop supporting the corrupt, brutal rulers.’ What was your reaction when you read this material?

TREASURER:

Well this is the normal poison that terrorists spread. They are not logical people. The people who want to go and kill innocent passengers on trains, you know, are not the kind of people that you can have around for a cup of tea and a logical discussion, Neil. This idea that these terrorists are sort of nice liberal people with whom we could only have a nice cup of tea everything could be solved, that is a fantasy, these people are not logical, they have twisted ideology, they want to kill, they will kill in the name of many causes, one day it might be East Timor, another it might be false religion, another it might be Iraq and all you can do as a free society is defend yourselves.

MITCHELL:

Do you sense that it is perhaps a hardening of attitude in this country that there has been, there is a degree of nervousness that is leading to a hardening of attitudes? I notice, I think some of the more radical Islamic people are speaking out but so are the more radical people on the other side.

TREASURER:

Well I think that Australians are now becoming mindful of the fact that there are terrorists that are not logical who have targeted our country and other countries and don’t care whether innocent civilians are killed in fact are aiming to kill innocent civilians and that we have a threat and it is a threat that we have to meet by securing our country in the best possible way. Now it is going to take considerable resources in monetary terms, it is going to take laws that will curtail the civil liberties of some people and it is going to take a long resolve of will from the Government and the people to meet this and I think in that sense there is a realism dawning over a lot of people that this is going to be a long haul.

MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for speaking with us today.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you Neil, thanks.