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 04/10/2005

Interview with John Laws
2UE

Tuesday, 4 October 2005
9.20 am

SUBJECTS: Fuel prices, terrorism

LAWS:

Treasurer good morning and welcome.

TREASURER:

Good morning John, good to be with you.

LAWS:

It is good to talk to you Peter. How are you after the trip?

TREASURER:

Well, I was in the United States last week and it was just on the tail end of the Hurricane, Hurricane Rita and of course Washington was very much focussed on that and the security situation. I had useful talks with key members of the Bush Administration, we discussed some of the economic developments coming out of the Hurricane and it was a very valuable opportunity actually.

LAWS:

Okay, you are not going to act on the Family First request that you cut excise on fuel, are you?

TREASURER:

No, John, nobody likes high fuel prices

LAWS:

No.

TREASURER:

not me, not the Government, not motorists, not consumers, it doesn't do any good for the economy. But fuel prices are high in America and Britain and Japan and Europe because the world oil price is high. That is what has pushed these prices up and until such time as the world oil price declines prices are going to be high. This is a huge issue in the United States, as I said I was there last week, their petrol prices are higher than they have ever been before and in fact in some parts of America there was no petrol, they were queuing, they had run out of petrol because of the Hurricane's restricting supply and whilst you have got supply restricted the price is going to be high and that is unfortunately terribly painful at the bowser.

LAWS:

Okay, in Australia what about persuading the States to cut the GST windfalls that they have had from higher fuel prices, any chance of that?

TREASURER:

Well this is a matter for State Governments, States get GST which is 10 per cent of the price so it is fair to say that if the price of petrol is higher then out of petrol you might get more GST. In Queensland they do have a subsidy system where they use some of their GST to subsidise some fuel but they don't do it in other States. This is a matter for State Governments as to how they spend their GST, there is one State that operates a subsidy, I think it is around seven cents, seven or eight cents a litre

LAWS:

Not bad.

TREASURER:

in Queensland but none of the other States do.

LAWS:

Okay, you have got this $4.4 billion excess, what are you going to do with it, mental health maybe?

TREASURER:

Well, a lot of the increased spending which the Government is looking at at the moment is going to be in the terror and security area John. We have spent billions of dollars increasing readiness for terrorist events, we announced last week that the Commonwealth Government would increase policing at airports, we are getting ready tactical response groups that can handle emergencies on both the east and the west coast of Australia and the biggest build up actually of expenditures at the Commonwealth level over recent years has been in the security area.

LAWS:

How many billions do you think you need to stop suicide bombers in Australia or can't you stop them?

TREASURER:

Well, what you try and do is intelligence is the first line of defence. You try and get intelligence on the people who would organise terrorist attacks and you try and disrupt their networks so that it never gets to the stage of arming suicide bombers. And if you can break up those networks, if you can have those people under surveillance, if you find that they might be planning something and you can arrest them it doesn't get to that stage. The difficulty is once it gets to the stage a willing suicide bomber with a rucksack on their back boarding a train then it is really too late. The important thing is to try and disrupt it before it occurs and of course to enlist the support of moderate elements in the community to unequivocally make it clear to young people who might be subjected to pressure to become suicide bombers that this is a perversion, this is not acceptable and that whatever somebody tells them it is not part of any respectable religion.

LAWS:

Yes but you can't say, you can't convince these people of that and surely we have got extremists in our community but surely those who aren't extreme are aware of the extremists and should be telling the authorities but they are not doing it.

TREASURER:

Should be speaking out publicly, number one, and saying this is not part of any respectable religion

LAWS:

We haven't been hearing much of that speaking out.

TREASURER:

secondly, don't be sucked in by these terrorists, it is not being done in the name of religion it is being done in the name of killing and

LAWS:

Hate.

TREASURER:

maiming and hate and of course thirdly as you say if they are aware of anybody that is spreading this kind of material to alert the authorities.

LAWS:

And if they don't alert the authorities they should be thrown out of the country.

TREASURER:

Well, they have got a duty as Australians to defend this country. Any person who is an Australian living in Australia has their primary duty to this country, it is not to anything else, it is to this country and if your primary duty and your primary loyalty isn't to this country well, it might be another country that might

LAWS:

It would like you.

TREASURER:

(inaudible).

LAWS:

And we would be very happy to let you go and pay your fare I imagine.

TREASURER:

If you have a primary loyalty to some other country other than Australia then maybe you would be much happier living in that country.

LAWS:

Very well said, Treasurer. What do we do then, do we tell these people as I suggested earlier this morning, it is up to them to find the terrorists, to find their network, to shut them down.

TREASURER:

Well to assist. Look, we have got law enforcement authorities, we have got intelligence agencies, these agencies are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But it is up to any person who has relevant information to give it to the authorities. Nobody is saying that they have got to (inaudible) themselves

LAWS:

No, no, no, no.

TREASURER:

but you know, we have got these hotlines, if you know that somebody is preaching Jihad, armed struggle and terror and you have some relevant information, please pass it across to the intelligence agencies.

LAWS:

Okay and if it is discovered that a cleric or a particular mosque has been developing this kind of warped thinking and doesn't pass the information on to the authorities should not that mosque be closed down?

TREASURER:

Well look, I would say that it is your duty under Australian law and out of loyalty to Australia to assist with inquiries and I would appeal to anybody who has relevant information to do that whether you are in a mosque or even if you are just a member of the public you can sometimes become aware of people in the neighbourhood who are acting suspiciously, if you are aware it is your duty to pass that information on.

LAWS:

And if you don't pass it on you should be punished.

TREASURER:

Well I am not entirely clear of the law in this area, sometimes if you know something and you don't pass it on you are deemed to be an accessory

LAWS:

Yes well that is sedition.

TREASURER:

so you ought to be aware of that. But I would just put it in the positive and say you have got a duty to pass this on, people's lives could depend on this you know, if you have some information that would identify a potential terrorist act, people's lives could depend on you passing this information on and I would appeal to you to do so.

LAWS:

Okay, it is good to talk to you, I am glad you are back safe and sound.

TREASURER:

Good to speak with you too John and all the best to the listeners.

LAWS:

Thank you very much Peter.