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 24/02/2006

Interview with Ross Stevenson & John Burns
3AW

Friday, 24 February 2006
7.40 am

SUBJECTS: Citizenship

JOURNALIST:

Good morning Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Good morning Ross. Good to be with you.

JOURNALIST:

Does it reflect badly on me as an individual that I read something more into all of this, that I perhaps see Peter Costello subtly repositioning himself?

TREASURER:

Oh no. These are views that I hold very strongly and I have been talking about them for some time. My point is this, that Australia is a wonderful country for migrants. We welcome people from all over the world but we have to have an agreement on the rules which will protect the rights and freedoms of everybody and the rules that I laid down are loyalty to Australia; tolerance for other views; respect for the rights and liberties of others and a belief in democracy. Now if you have agreement on those rules then everybody will be free to express their differences of opinion. But if there are people that don’t accept those rules, that is a big problem for all of us.

JOURNALIST:

But what does it mean, I mean this is pretty much motherhood and apple pie though, what does it mean in practical terms if you get someone who comes out and says, who has taken Australian citizenship after having given the pledge of allegiance and says something that in your view is not consistent with it, what do you practically do about it?

TREASURER:

Well I gave an example in my speech last night of one of the radical clerics who said that he didn’t accept Australian law, he believed that there were two laws in Australia – Australian law and sharia law – and I said that if somebody like that is a dual citizen then we ought to invite them to exercise their other citizenship not their Australian citizenship.

JOURNALIST:

What does that mean practically? Does that mean boot him out?

TREASURER:

Well what is means is, if they don’t accept the pledge to be an Australian citizen then they would forfeit Australian citizenship, they would still have citizenship in another country where they would be free to practise that view.

JOURNALIST:

But sorry, just paraphrase that for me, put it as simply as you can – does that mean boot him out?

TREASURER:

What it means is that person would no longer be a citizen of Australia but would continue to be a citizen of the country from where they had come.

JOURNALIST:

But could stay in Australia?

TREASURER:

Well you can for a temporary period but you couldn’t long term.

JOURNALIST:

Righto. What if that cleric has got children who are born in the country?

TREASURER:

Well this is a more difficult situation where you have somebody who only has Australian citizenship then of course they have got nowhere else to go.

JOURNALIST:

Righto. So you boot their father out and leave the kids here?

TREASURER:

What I would say in relation to those kids is that they are Australian citizens, this is their country, they don’t have any other country but we would have to make an effort to explain the importance of these core Australian values and we would have to make it clear what they are and ask them to respect them. They are Australian citizens.

JOURNALIST:

Let’s talk about multiculturalism, Treasurer. Do you accept as a good principle, that is, that we have all been told multiculturalism is ipso facto good? Do you accept that? And secondly what do you call this “mushy misguided multiculturalism”?

TREASURER:

Well what I called “mushy misguided multiculturalism” was the kind of multiculturalism that says there is nothing important about being an Australian, it doesn’t really mean much, the important thing in Australia is to retain your love of other countries and to retain your love of their culture.

JOURNALIST:

But lots of Italians do that, lots of Irish do that don’t they?

TREASURER:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I wan to say there is nothing wrong with love of your country of origin, there is nothing wrong with your culture but when you become an Australian citizen something actually happens – you pledge loyalty to Australia. This is the country to which you pledge allegiance and my point is that means something. If you don’t want to be loyal to Australia, you don’t want to pledge allegiance; then there is no point in trying to become an Australian citizen. If what you want to do is to be loyal to another country, well stay a citizen of that country.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer you know that when you make a speech like this last night and when you make it in Sydney that unfortunate persons such as myself are going to suggest to you that this is all part of a game plan – you are then going to say to me, oh no these, as you already have, I have had these views for a long time. Can you pinpoint me to the last time you expressed these views prior to last night?

TREASURER:

Well I think on A Current Affair last year in about October or November - a very widely publicised interview, I made precisely this point. And they in fact had a phone-in of public response. I made these comments in response really the first time to an interview which the radical cleric who I name in this speech gave on The 7.30 Report which was in about August of last year.

JOURNALIST:

Is this a problem specific to Muslims as far as you are concerned?

TREASURER:

Well it could apply to anybody. Anybody who believes that they can come to Australia and retain allegiance to another system of law, a system of law other than Australian law, this is a problem.

JOURNALIST:

Does that go for aboriginal communities?

TREASURER:

Well aboriginal communities are already in Australia obviously and regional communities like anybody else are governed by Australian law. One of the things we ask citizens, and this is an important thing, when you become a citizen you pledge to respect Australia and its laws. This is a point I am making…

JOURNALIST:

I understand the point you are making, it is not exactly, it is a no-brainer for you though isn’t it. I mean you are not exactly going out on a limb here.

TREASURER:

The thing that interests me actually, I do think it is quite obvious and I do think you know it shouldn’t be a matter of controversy but the very fact that I am on your programme and you are asking the questions you are does indicate there is some controversy about it doesn’t it?

JOURNALIST:

I am more, I think it is a totally uncontroversial point of view to hold given that you know that you will have 98 per cent of the meeting firmly behind you, I am just wondering whether…

TREASURER:

(inaudible) controversial view to hold because it is right and that is why it ought to be stated. And there are people Ross, and you must understand this point, that will criticise this view, have already because there are people that do believe that when you become an Australian citizen you are entitled in some way or another to retain loyalty to some other system of law.

JOURNALIST:

There are three people Treasurer quoted in The Age report who are critical of you this morning – they are as follows - Ikebal Patel, Keysar Trad and the President of the Islamic Council of Victoria.

TREASURER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

You know, once again not exactly out there on a limb and I guess you may well have the people who are critical of you, but just reassure me that it is not part of a repackaging of Peter Costello to make him a little bit more Sydney friendly.

TREASURER:

Oh no. As it turned out I was invited to give a speech to the Sydney Institute and I thought things that needed to be said and I said them. And Ross as you know, as a proud Victorian, if I get the chance to give a speech to a Melbourne Institute I will do precisely the same thing.

JOURNALIST:

And you have a function tonight in which drinks with umbrellas in them will be served?

TREASURER:

Well…

JOURNALIST:

I hope.

TREASURER:

…as always we enjoy the company of good friends in Melbourne.

JOURNALIST:

What is it all about tonight? I mean I am going, John’s going, we have been invited. Andrew Bolt is going.

JOURNALIST:

I will be there – how is the catering?

TREASURER:

Very good, I told them that you were coming and they have pulled in a few extra kegs John.

JOURNALIST:

What is it all about tonight?

TREASURER:

Well it is all about honouring you guys and getting together some friends and just saying thank you and getting ready for the Commonwealth Games basically. I think it is going to be a great period for Melbourne and we have got to get people in the swing.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Great to be with you. Thanks Ross, thanks John.