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 21/11/2005

Doorstop Interview

SAS Campbell Barracks
Swanbourne, WA

Monday, 21 November 2005
11.25 am

 

SUBJECTS: SAS Barracks, RBA Board, Welfare to Work, Van Nguyen, Michelle Leslie

TREASURER:

We have just had the opportunity to tour Campbell Barracks and to meet the acting Commanding Officer and other officers of the SAS to see some of the work and the training they are undertaking on behalf of Australia to deal in theatres of war and also in anti-terrorist operations, and this is a highly professional, highly skilled, highly trained operation. All Australians I think will have a great deal of admiration for the SAS. Of course there has been a recent fatality of one of their members and it has been a matter of sadness, but the regiment is strong and the regiment is highly trained and ready to serve in many theatres. They have the full support of the Government, particularly in anti-terrorist operations where they will be Australia 's frontline in terrorist response. And for me it has been a great privilege to meet with them and to tour their facilities here today.

JOURNALIST:

Why as the Treasurer are you touring the Defence establishment?

TREASURER:

Well obviously the regiment needs financial provisions. Australia has increased spending on terrorist related matters by nearly $5 billion since 2000, it has been a very significant financial contribution that we have made and the SAS which is serving in theatres of war as we speak has been very much a part of that.

JOURNALIST:

Some would say it is all part of you are positioning yourself as the alternative Liberal leader, sort of modelling yourself, trying to present yourself as a leader of the Party.

TREASURER:

Well people can say what they like.

JOURNALIST:

It is not the case, or it is the case?

TREASURER:

Well as I said, as a member of the National Security Committee of Cabinet and as somebody who has been engaged in all of the significant decisions in relation to commitment of troops overseas and counter-terrorism matters it is important that I am fully acquainted of all of the capabilities and of course as the Treasurer who is obliged to fund these operations it is important to know what the operations are.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, has Mr McGauchie been bullying the Government?

TREASURER:

No. Can I say Mr McGauchie is a member of the Reserve Bank board, he has made a very valuable contribution to the Reserve Bank, his contribution to the Reserve Bank is measured on that position, it is not measured by reference to any other directorships that he holds and we keep these issues quite separate. When his performance as an RBA board member is assessed it is on the basis of what he does in the boardroom at the RBA not what he does as a director of other corporations and I want to make that absolutely clear. Having said that, I have previously said and I will say again, that over the course of this year there will be a lot of Australian mums and dads who have invested in Telstra who will be quite concerned about what has happened to their savings and they are looking to the management of Telstra to look after their savings. And I would urge the management of Telstra to work at increasing value and looking after the company, not work at the regulatory regime or of the governmental rules which will govern competition. The Government will set those rules, Telstra is obliged to compete under those rules with other telecommunications companies and a focus on shareholder wealth rather than lobbying over the regulatory regime may in fact be more successful.

JOURNALIST:

Don't those two things go hand-in-hand though?

TREASURER:

No of course they don't. You know, let's suppose you are in any other area of the Australian economy, you have got to compete and if you compete well you will be profitable. But if you spend all of your time trying to worry about Government regulation and trying to write the competition rules you may not be focussing on your core business which is running a good company and competing well.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the people giving submission to the Welfare to Work Committee today said the Government's legislation will create a new class of the working poor, what do you think about that?

TREASURER:

The Government's new legislation is designed to encourage people who are able, who are capable, of looking for work and getting into the workforce. You never did anybody a favour by parking them on welfare for year after year or decade after decade. Ultimately welfare undermines people's independence and if you can encourage people to look for work and to find it and to get into the workforce it is much better than parking them on welfare for indefinite periods.

JOURNALIST:

Well the Department has said that if someone is working 14 ½ hours a week they will still need to look for work for that half an hour a week to get those payments.

TREASURER:

If you are capable of working part-time the object is to encourage you to look for work, what is wrong with that? Most Australians who are capable of looking for work are looking for work, if they can't find it they get income support, if they can find it they get into work. And frankly I think it is much better for people themselves to find work, it is much better for the taxpayer if we have got more people in work and less people on welfare, and it is much better for families if they have parents that are partaking in the mainstream of economic life rather than being parked off on welfare payments for very long periods of time.

JOURNALIST:

On Mr McGauchie again, you don't think he is doing a proper job representing Telstra by attacking regulation?

TREASURER:

I have no criticism of Mr McGauchie at all, as I said earlier, his contribution to the Reserve Bank board is a valued one and we assess his contribution to the board on the basis of what he does in the boardroom of the RBA not his other directorships. I have made the point about the management of Telstra and I think mums and dads who are listening to this who have their life savings locked up in Telstra would be pretty concerned that those savings haven't gone as well as they would have liked over recent months and I think they would like to see the management get back to adding wealth.

JOURNALIST:

So if Mr McGauchie was to be taken off the Reserve Bank board it would be because of his actions on the Reserve Bank board not as Telstra Chairman?

TREASURER:

Well nobody is talking about those hypotheticals.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any hope of clemency for Van Nguyen?

TREASURER:

Look this is a very difficult situation. Let me say straight up nobody condones what Van Nguyen has done and I think this ought to be absolutely clear. If you try and run drugs you are liable to be caught and prosecuted and the penalties are great. Let us not underestimate the criminality of drug running. Having said that somebody on a first offence with the possibility of rehabilitation may be better if they were spared their life for a very heavy long jail sentence and the chance to somehow make up to society what was a stupid criminal act. And that is the case that the Government is putting to the Singaporean Government. Now it has been put at all levels by all levels of the Australian Government to all levels of the Singaporean Government.

JOURNALIST:

Has every avenue been exhausted?

TREASURER:

Every avenue has been tried, every avenue has been tried and now it is just a question really of reiterating, of making the position clear, but I am not aware of any avenue that has not been tried.

JOURNALIST:

There have been called for a boycott of Singapore, do you think that would make a difference?

TREASURER:

No I don't think it would make any difference at all and I think a boycott of Singapore, and I am not really sure what that would involve, is not an appropriate response, no I don't, I don't think that is going to cause the Singaporean Government to change its mind for a minute.

JOURNALIST:

What about taking to case to the International Court of Justice, is that an avenue that has been considered?

TREASURER:

Look, this is a sovereign country, Singapore is a sovereign country, Singapore makes its own laws and it carries them out. Australia is a sovereign country, it makes its own laws and it carries them out. At the end of the day sovereign countries decide what they are going to do. You can attempt to lobby sovereign countries but you cannot have them overturned by world bodies

JOURNALIST:

Could

TREASURER:

anymore than you could have the decision of an Australian court or the Australian Government overturned by a world body and that is the reality and I think at a time like this we ought to deal in realities. Last question.

JOURNALIST:

One other thing was in relation to Michelle Leslie, Kim Beazley didn't know anything about the issue when he was asked on radio and there has been some questions about is he fit to be the Leader of the Opposition, is he unwell?

TREASURER:

Well I am not a doctor, you would have to seek medical opinion in relation to that.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Michelle Leslie has the right to sell her story now that she is out of jail?

TREASURER:

Look I don't think people should profit from any breaking of the law. That is my view and I don't think Australians believe that you should be able to break the law and then make a profit from it. So that is my view and we will see how it all works out. Thank you.