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 08/11/2005

Interview with Catherine McGrath
ABC AM Programme

Tuesday, 8 November 2005
8.10 am

SUBJECTS: Terrorism

MCGRATH:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning.

MCGRATH:

Now obviously you are limited in what you can say but we have heard there from the New South Wales Police Commissioner that they believe they have stopped a significantly large terrorist action.

TREASURER:

Well you have heard from the New South Wales Commissioner of Police and I think also from the Victorian Commissioner of Police and I think both of them said that they believe that the arrests overnight have prevented a large scale terrorist event. I heard the Victorian Commissioner say that she also believes that the changes to the legislation which the Parliament made last week were of assistance in relation to that. Let’s hope that we have prevented a large scale terrorist event. And one has to bear in mind now that various charges will be laid and the law will follow its course. But this does really illustrate that the threat of terrorism is real, that we cannot be complacent about it, it is no consolation to wait until after an event and then try and pick up the suspects.

MCGRATH:

So have you had information about a London style bombing about to take place here on a smaller scale, larger scale, what sort of information have you been given?

TREASURER:

Well I think as the Prime Minister said last week, certain intelligence matters were brought to the attention of the Government and acting on the basis of that advice the Government proposed some amendment to the law and that went through the Parliament last week. Now of course you see that some arrests have been made and you don’t want to comment too much on any operational matters but you did hear the New South Wales Commissioner and the Victorian Commissioner make their own observations about what those arrests had prevented.

MCGRATH:

They are talking about a group of just fewer than ten in Melbourne and a reasonably sized group in Sydney. How big do you think some of these networks might be in Australia?

TREASURER:

Well I am not going to make estimations but it is a matter for the police where they have enough intelligence or evidence to make arrests and they are the arrests that they have made. Let me make this very, very clear here that it is New South Wales and Victoria Police acting under State and Federal legislation with cooperation from other agencies obviously. But they make the arrests when they believe there is evidence to make those arrests and as you have seen the arrests are quite substantial.

MCGRATH:

Treasurer what about the timing though? I mean it is a fact that these arrests have happened but it is also a fact that industrial relations legislation is being discussed in Parliament. Ever since the Prime Minister had that press conference last week there has been very little public attention being able to be put on that. I mean what about the timing, what can you say about the timing?

TREASURER:

Well I think there has been a lot of attention on industrial relations. There has been a huge advertising campaigns. Any suggestion…

MCGRATH:

There is no diversion campaign on (inaudible)…

TREASURER:

…not in the slightest and why would the Government want to divert attention from industrial relations? This is one of the Government’s great reforms. This is something that the Government is very happy to debate in the Parliament. Not for a moment should anyone think that the Government would try and distract attention from that. Let’s put it the other way Catherine. Let’s suppose you or any of your listeners became apprised of information that lead you to believe that an event could take place which could claim Australian lives. What would you say?

MCGRATH:

But Treasurer what I am wondering...

TREASURER:

Sit back and wait for the House of Representatives to have a few more weeks of debate and hope that nobody is injured in the meantime or say to the police, do your job and protect Australian’s lives?

MCGRATH:

Treasurer, you are the one who mentioned Australian’s lives so I am wondering because given what we have heard from the two police Commissioners about a large scale terrorist activity, you are talking about Australian’s lives, well why wasn’t ever the threat level increased over the last week?

TREASURER:

Well threat levels are in relation to general matters. These are in relation to quite specific matters where arrests can be made and you have heard both the Commissioner in New South Wales and the Commissioner in Victoria. These are not Federal officers by the way, State Police Commissioners, each of them said that they believe these arrests could well have prevented a large scale terrorist event. Now, the suggestion that they should have sat back and done nothing about this or the Federal Government should have sat back and done nothing about this, imagine if we had have sat back and done nothing about this and imagine if somebody’s safety had been compromised. Every journalist in Australia would have, and would have been entitled to say to the Government, why didn’t you do something?

MCGRATH:

Alright Treasurer…

TREASURER:

Now I don’t think it would have been much, of a defence to say, ‘oh well, there was an industrial relations debate going on in the Parliament,’ I don’t think that would have been much of a defence.

MCGRATH:

…will you keep the country fully informed?

TREASURER:

Well obviously the relevant Ministers and agencies don’t want to compromise any of the investigations, but to the degree that they can keep the public informed they will do so, yes of course.

MCGRATH:

Treasurer Costello, thanks for joining the AM Programme this morning.

TREASURER:

Thank you Catherine.