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 18/11/2005

Doorstop Interview

Cabrini Children's Centre
Malvern

Friday, 18 November 2005
11.30 am

SUBJECTS: Cabrini Children's Centre, Van Nguyen, Calder, Telstra, RU486

JOURNALIST:

What do you think about the children's ward?

TREASURER:

This is a great thing for Melbourne and for Victoria. The opening of a new children's ward at the Cabrini Hospital. It will give a lot of parents a high standard of care. It will give new and additional services here in Malvern and Victoria, and I think over generations lots of kids and lots of parents will find the kind of medical treatment, reassurance and care that they want. It is a wonderful facility, state-of-the-art facility, and it shows you how medical care is improving all the time.

JOURNALIST:

If we can move along to the issue of Mr Van Nguyen, do you think Singapore's and Australia's relations will be irrevocably damaged should the execution go ahead?

 

 

TREASURER:

Look, the Australia Government has put pleas for Mr Van Nguyen's life. Australia does not support the death penalty, and we have made our position quite clear to the Singaporean Government. Now, the Singaporean Government is a sovereign Government. It decides the way in which it administers its own laws, but even now, we would plead to the Singaporean Government to take into account his record, his youth, prospects for rehabilitation, and to consider his life. Nobody is condoning for a moment drug trafficking, let me make that clear. We do not condone drug trafficking. Anybody who tries to traffic drugs is stupid, and they deserve severe punishment, but the Australian Government's position is that we do not support capital punishment, and we have made a case to the Singaporean Government why the death sentence could be commuted in this case.

JOURNALIST:

Do you personally hold out any hope that his life will be spared?

TREASURER:

Well look, it is getting very late, and after many, many submissions, there has not been any progress. We repeat again, there are grounds to commute the death penalty. We do not condone drug trafficking. Not for a minute, but if you commuted the death penalty in this case, there are chances that after serving a very, very severe punishment, somebody as young as this has hopes of rehabilitation, and that is the point we would put to the Singaporean Government.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think more pressure should be applied to the Singaporean Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Well, all of the representations that can be made, have been made. I do not believe there are any more representations that can be made. They have been made personally, they have been made in writing, they have been made at different levels of the Government, and everything that can be done has been done.

JOURNALIST:

But how about the letter? That was not disclosed to the Prime Minister at the time of the meeting.

TREASURER:

Well this is a letter of course to the parents with a timetable. And it was even subsequent to that letter that the Prime Minister was still pushing representations, so that it illustrates that all that can be done, has been done.

JOURNALIST:

But how would you view that? The fact that he wasn't told about the letter.

 

 

TREASURER:

Well the Prime Minister made it clear that he was disappointed - that he wished he had of been given notice. But, leaving that aside he still pressed representations. Everything that could be done was done.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, can you outline details of the funding announcement made today for the Calder freeway?

TREASURER:

This is great news for the people of Melbourne, and the people of Bendigo. The Commonwealth Government has brought forward funding to complete dual carriageway of the Calder Freeway all the way to Bendigo. The last section. This is going to be funded 50/50 by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government. We have brought forward $82 million to ensure that the work can begin immediately. If the State Government matches the money, the contracts can be let, and work can begin. So this is great news for the people of Bendigo and the Calder. The Commonwealth Government is pulling forward money to get on with finishing a dual lane carriageway between Melbourne and Bendigo, which will make it a state-of-the-art road.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of a difference will it make to travelling times to Bendigo?

TREASURER:

Well it will make it a lot quicker. I can not give you precise minutes. But where you have a dual lane carriageway, all the way, that means that once you get out of Melbourne you can by-pass all of the towns on the way to Bendigo. You will not be caught up in traffic. You will have a dual lane carriageway. If you live in Bendigo, it will be faster, safer. You will get a better journey. If you live in Melbourne, it will be a great tourist opportunity. The Commonwealth Government is bringing forward its money. Let us get those contracts rolling, and let us get the road built.

JOURNALIST:

The Brack's Government have complained about the length of time it has taken for the Federal Government to come on board with its funding, what was the hold up?

TREASURER:

Well I call on the Brack's Government to match it. We are still waiting for the Victorian Government to match this funding announcement. It is a $214 million road. The Commonwealth Government has set aside $107 million. It is ready to go, so we call on the Brack's Government to match it and let the contracts.

JOURNALIST:

So the Federal Government's money is on the table now?

TREASURER:

It is not on the table, it is in the cheque book.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well you have got to know who to make the cheque payable to before you can sign it. It is in the cheque book. It is waiting to be written out.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, on another issue, why did you take Telstra to task recently over its complaints about regulation policies?

TREASURER:

Well look there are a lot of Australians who have shares in Telstra who expect the management of Telstra to be working on maintaining value, and increasing value. And a lot of those Australians would be saying to themselves, I read in the paper all the time that Telstra is engaging in political lobbying trying to change the rules. Wouldn't it be nicer if it got on, accepted the rules, and increased value. I think a lot of Australians would feel like that, and I would say to Telstra, if you spend all of your time lobbying, engaging in the business of Government, you are not spending nearly enough time on building shareholder value. That is the message I would send to the Telstra management:- build shareholder value. The Government will write the rules, the competitive rules, and Telstra will compete under them, and I would urge the management to get back to administering the company in a way that builds value.

JOURNALIST:

Have you seen today's full page newspaper ads by other telcos?

TREASURER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

Your thoughts on them?

TREASURER:

Well they are entitled to advertise. I do not get into arguments between telecommunications companies. What I say is this the Government sets the rules so there can be competition. The various companies have to compete under those rules, including Telstra. If Telstra spends all of its time lobbying the Government about the rules, it will not be spending the time it should be on increasing shareholder value. And I think a lot of the shareholders in Australia, Telstra shareholders in Australia, will feel like that. Okay.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, just one last

 

TREASURER:

Last question.

JOURNALIST :

The abortion pill. Would you welcome a conscience vote on that? That the Prime Minister has signalled that he leaves open that option?

TREASURER :

Look this is an issue which involves on the one hand, careful medical assessment, and on the other hand careful moral judgements. I think the medical assessments have to be done by the medical experts. We need a clear statement from the medical experts as to whether or not this is safe. If it is, then a moral judgement arises as to whether it should be available. The moral judgement in my view is a matter of conscience, and should be the subject of a conscience vote. The medical issue is a question of science and medical treatment, and that is a matter for the experts, and the relevant authorities. So, it depends on the way in which the question comes up. On the moral issue, a conscience vote. On the therapeutic issue, I think scientific evidence and careful assessment by the health authorities.

JOURNALIST :

And how would you be voting?

TREASURER :

Well, I am going to inform myself on the medical issues before I make a statement on the other issues.

Thank you.