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 02/09/2005

Doorstop Interview
Australian Embassy, Jakarta

Monday, 5 September 2005
12.15pm (Indonesian time)

SUBJECTS: Australian Embassy in Indonesia, Telstra, oil prices

TREASURER:

On Friday we have the anniversary of the bombing of the Australian Embassy here in Jakarta, tragically where some people lost their lives. But as you can see the Embassy is being re-built and re-secured. This is a programme the Government has in place to secure Australian missions overseas, a very expensive body of work as you can see and together with other Embassies and other strategic assets around Australia we have made an announcement to secure them and to ensure that Australian staff are not put at risk. We welcome the steps that have been taken by the Indonesian Government to bring justice to people associated with that bombing and Australia will stand very strongly in the fight against terrorism together with our Indonesian partners. This is something that is not just important for Australians but important as well for Indonesia and Indonesians. Our two countries can assist each other in the fight against terrorism - and we will and we have - and we will continue to cooperate in those areas.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be talking about cooperation in these areas during your meetings this week?

TREASURER:

Well I hope so. I hope during the week we will be talking about cooperation on the economic front in relation to aid and particularly Australia’s $1 billion programme for aid to Indonesia, principally Aceh - but not totally in relation to Aceh - and we will be talking about economic developments which are going on here in Indonesia at the moment, share experiences and some of the common problems and approaches that we can take in relation to them.

JOURNALIST:

On a domestic matter Mr Costello, the suggestions are that the new profit outlook for Telstra are much lower and a possibility of going below $3, any comment on that?

TREASURER:

Well, the only thing I would say is this, Telstra is a good company which has been very profitable over the years, it has paid substantial dividends and the directors have an obligation to preserve an increased value. The Government has an obligation to ensure there is a properly considered (inaudible) regime and provided people focus on their areas of responsibility I think that Telstra will continue to have a good future.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) assessed as (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well I am not going to go into the ins and outs of the management of Telstra except to say this. A director’s obligation is to their shareholders, a director’s obligation is to preserve and maximise value to shareholders and I am sure that directors will be focussing on that in the months to come.

JOURNALIST:

Is it also director’s obligation to tell the truth in the way they see it?

TREASURER:

Well, a director has the obligation of course to keep the market informed. That is the director’s duty to keep the market informed but to make decisions and to put down a strategy which will give a return to shareholders. At the end of the day, directors are appointed by shareholders to act in the interests of shareholders, that is the point, and the interest of shareholders consist of preserving an increasing value.

JOURNALIST:

Do you agree with Helen Coonan that they can’t legitimately blame regulation for their problems?

TREASURER:

Look, anybody can make more money if they run a monopoly, that is the easiest way to make money. But in a competitive society, real skill lies in beating competitors and increasing value and that is what we have in Australia, we have a competitive economy.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, (inaudible) talking to the Indonesians about oil, what measures do you have for the Indonesians as a major oil exporter or producer (inaudible) oil prices following Hurricane Katrina?

TREASURER:

Well, surging oil prices are in no one’s interests. They are not in the interests of consumers, they are not in the interest of our economy because they will dampen consumer spending in other areas of the economy and ultimately I don’t believe they are in the interests of oil producing nations because huge fluctuations in prices will not be good for long term stability in the oil industry. My view would be for oil producing nations - all oil producing nations – to increase their supply now which would reduce prices and stabilise the market and stabilise the economies which rely on oil and petrol would be in their interests as much as it would be in the interests of oil importing nations like Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, what do you hope to see when you get to Aceh and can we expect some announcement (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well, what we want to see in Aceh is, the Australian people and their government have put together an enormous package of assistance for the people of Aceh. But not just government money but individual Australians opened their hearts and their wallets and what we want to see is that the money is now getting through into practical projects - re-building schools, re-building hospitals - and to see whether there are some other areas where we can support projects and get assistance directly out to the people who have suffered so much.

JOURNALIST:

Does this mean more money or doing things differently?

TREASURER:

Well, it means that we the Government have allocated a very large sum of money, not all of which has yet been committed to specific projects and so out of that pool I hope that we can find additional projects which will help the people in need in Aceh.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Labor says you should have made this leg of your tour out of session, that you are avoiding accountability.

TREASURER:

Labor can say what they like, usually they are wrong and on this occasion it is no different. Okay, thanks.