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 17/08/2005

Interview with Karl Stefanovic
Today Show

Wednesday, 17 August 2005
7.08 am

SUBJECTS: Telstra, Industrial Relations

STEFANOVIC:

A very good morning to you Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Good morning Karl, good to be with you.

STEFANOVIC:

Nice to be with you too. Can you tell us about this deal, has it been approved?

TREASURER:

Well look, I think the Government will be making a few more calls this morning, but I hope that we are very, very close to coming to an arrangement which can be put to the public and explained to the public. What it will mean is that legislation will enable the remainder of the Government’s shareholding in Telstra to be finalised and offered to the public and with that what we will also be able to do is improve telecommunications services and set Australia up for a very, very strong financial future with our Future Fund. So, if we can bring all of those strands together in the next day or so then we can finally resolve this issue.

STEFANOVIC:

So there is some tinkering to be done but you would expect a result either today or tomorrow?

TREASURER:

Well, I would hope that it can be finalised very shortly, there is some consultation to be done so we still have got to consult with obviously the Members and other people, but if we can do all of that consultation and if we can come to an arrangement which will see the legislation clear the Senate then this matter can be resolved.

STEFANOVIC:

Is Barnaby Joyce happy with the proposal?

TREASURER:

Well as I said, in order to finalise these arrangements it is necessary to legislate through both Houses of Parliament and so every Member and every Senator needs to be consulted, because every Member and every Senator is intregral to the whole arrangement.

STEFANOVIC:

So, he is the sticking point at the moment?

TREASURER:

No as I said, there are, I think there are 39 Senators, they all have to be consulted and even more Members of the House of Representatives.

STEFANOVIC:

Alright, some financial experts are saying that this deal might strip $2 billion off the company’s share market value, do you agree with that?

TREASURER:

Look, the only thing I would say about the overall value of Telstra shares is because the Government holds so many of them the rises and the falls in the share price lead to huge paper gains and losses on a daily basis. There was an announcement by the company last week which stripped $2 billion off the value to the Government, just one announcement. And this actually illustrates from a financial point of view why it is silly for a Government to hold something like 6 billion shares in the one stock. The Government’s shareholding can rise and fall on a daily basis by billions of dollars, nobody who was looking at these things from a financial perspective would have such a large amount of money invested in one single stock on the stock market.

STEFANOVIC:

Let’s move on to industrial relations, the hot bed that is industrial relations. News this morning that your Government is considering tougher laws on bosses who bully or exploit workers through the Office of Workplace Services, is that correct?

TREASURER:

Oh yes, we believe that nobody should be forced into signing an agreement against voluntary consent, if they want to agree, that is fantastic, but nobody should be forced and so any attempt to do that would be met with punishment and there will be an independent office which has the capacity to do that and to stop any breaking of the law by employers or indeed by unions in the workforce.

STEFANOVIC:

Sharan Burrow said this morning that it has been no friend to workers at all and it is history.

TREASURER:

Well Sharan Burrow was caught on camera asking the ACTU Executive to try and find somebody who had a relative injured or killed in the workplace so she could use that person for advertising for political propaganda. It is one of the most offensive things that has ever been captured out of an ACTU meeting. They obviously thought that when the cameras were rolling that it wouldn’t actually pick up this incident. Sharan Burrow ought to apologise to the ACTU and its members and the public that she is prepared to try and find relatives who have suffered bereavement or loss and use them for political propaganda. I think that Sharan Burrow owes the public a very large apology over that.

STEFANOVIC:

Just finally, still on the Office of Workplace Services though, are you acknowledging now that there is a degree of nervousness about the changes with the general public?

TREASURER:

No, I think that the public wants to know detail and I think that it is important that the Government puts the detail out there, as we will, over the next few weeks. But at the end of the day, what they want to know is how these things work and when they see more jobs and higher wages I think they will think the reforms have been worth it.

STEFANOVIC:

Alright Mr Costello, thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.

TREASURER:

Great to be with you, thanks Karl.