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 Alan Jones
2GB

Friday, 24 February 2006
8.10 am

SUBJECTS: Australian citizenship, heroin needles

JONES:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Alan. It’s good to be with you.

JONES:

Thank you for your time, you too. Keysar Trad, who is a Muslim community leader, has said you are promoting division and Islamophobia.

TREASURER:

Well, obviously I disagree. Here is my point. Australia welcomes immigrants from all over the world, we are one of the most open, welcoming countries. And we ask those that come to Australia to respect Australian values – loyalty to Australia, respect for democracy, the rule of law and the rights and liberties of others – if people coming to Australia respect all those values, all of us can have our rights and our liberties protected. But there are core values that Australia stands for and they are those core values and we expect everybody, whatever their background, whatever their race, whatever their religion to subscribe to those views.

JONES:

All right, now people will say, look you are the Treasurer, now do something about it because they are very concerned, you questioned last night whether or not those values were sufficiently reinforced by the oath of citizenship. Do we need to change as they do for example in Holland, they sit a language test and a test on Danish history before they can become Danish citizens. Is our citizenship test too weak?

TREASURER:

I think our pledge is actually a good pledge and I think it covers all of the material. My point is we have got to explain it, explain what it means and ask people to abide by it. What we ask them to do is to say a pledge to pledge allegiance to Australia – look Alan, that is not a big problem – if you want to become an Australian citizen it is not a big problem to pledge allegiance to Australia. If you don’t want to pledge allegiance to Australia well, why would you want to become an Australian citizen? So I think what we need to do, is we need to explain these values, we need to explain our pledge and we need to ask people to really embrace it.

JONES:

But you see many of the problems we are having today are with people who are Australians. They are Australians whose parents had an ethnic background which wasn’t Anglo Saxon and they seem to be at odds with the Australian values system. What do you do with those who are Australians?

TREASURER:

Well, this is the point I made last night. There are people apparently who are Australian citizens but feel so alienated that they can’t embrace Australian values. To these people we need to explain Australian values, we need to make it clear that they are expected to embrace the values of loyalty, respect for law, respect for democracy, respect for the rights and liberties of others.

JONES:

And if they don’t?

TREASURER:

Well, we need to engage leadership that they respect to reinforce that and I hope that the leadership in some of these communities will embrace these values.

JONES:

But the lack of loyalty and the lack of values and the lack of respect manifests itself in ugly episodes of violence and other things. There seems to have been an inhibition on behalf of authorities and indeed politicians to either condemn that violence or to punish it. Now, shouldn’t we just say there are behavioural problems here, there is a behavioural line, step over the behavioural line and it won’t be accepted. It is a fairly simple system, isn’t it?

TREASURER:

Absolutely, here is the proposition, if you live in Australian you are bound by Australian law, if you break it you will be prosecuted. No ifs, no buts. That is what we expect of our citizens and you don’t get any special consideration, any special exemption from Australian law, there is one law in Australia and it applies to all of us.

JONES:

Now do you think therefore, I mean the reason you are speaking about this is that it is a major problem. I mean people rang me this morning and say they are sick and tired of the word Muslim, they hear it everywhere. Do you think as people are saying that we as a nation face a serious challenge from radical Islam to the core of our culture?

TREASURER:

Well there are radical clerics who have made statements which I think don’t understand the nature of Australian society. I gave an example of one in my speech last night, a radical cleric who put forward the idea that there were two laws in Australia. No there aren’t two laws in Australia, there is only one and that is the law made by the elected institutions under the Australian Constitution. And we have to make that entirely clear, the overwhelming proportion of immigrants know and understand that, but to this small radical minority we have to be very clear and unequivocal. Australia has one law, it is the law made by Parliament, by elected representatives under a democratic system and we are all under it.

JONES:

Your critics will say today the Government is in trouble over the Australian Wheat Board, Costello is now pulling out the race card.

TREASURER:

Well I am used to being accused of all sorts of thing by critics but I think these are important issues, these are issues that I have raised really through the course of last year off the back of what I thought was a very worrying statement by one of the radical clerics who made a statement last year to the effect that he believed there were two streams of law in Australia. I think we have to be very clear, very unequivocal about this, there aren’t. There is only one law and if Australians want to live together in harmony which is what we all want, we need to have respected rules. It is the respected rules that will protect all of our rights and liberties.

JONES:

And the law is sovereign.

TREASURER:

And the law is sovereign, Alan. You can only have freedom and toleration within a framework that protects us all and we need everybody to subscribe to that framework otherwise you will get a situation where some will trample on the rights of others.

JONES:

Let me put this to you, I spoke to the Vice President of Research with the Centre for Security Policy in Washington DC, I think it was on Monday this week – he said Muslims will take over Europe numerically around 2070 but they will dominate Europe quote “long before that because they will form the majority of the under 25s”. He highlighted the fact that Saudi Arabia has a fertility rate of 5.7, we have a fertility rate of 1.77. Should we be concerned about and have public debate on the composition of Australia’s population in 25 years time?

TREASURER:

Well, I actually have raised these demographic issues Alan as you know. And I made the point about the fertility rate in Australia which has been declining for a long time and you might recall the phrase I used – one for mum, one for dad and one for the country. And that stopped, well I wouldn’t say that stopped it, but we have arrested the decline in the fertility rate here in Australia. It hasn’t picked up much but…

JONES:

But if you look at the stats you see Bernard Lewis who is an eminent Islamic studies scholar said that before there is a Muslim majority in Europe in 2070 it will first arrive he said in France, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, that Muslims currently make up a quarter of the population of Marseille, 15 per cent of Paris and Brussels, 20 per cent of Sweden’s third largest city Malmo and within a decade will form the bulk of the population of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Now are politicians in this country frightened to address that issue?

TREASURER:

I think in this country what we have got to do is look after the interests of Australia and its people. My view is that we can keep this country open and tolerant, the best country in the world, as long as we subscribe to a common framework of rules. Now these rules are the rules that we lay down for Australian citizenship – loyalty to Australia, respect for democracy, respect for the rights and liberties of others and a pledge to obey the law and the rule of law. Now these are no optional considerations – these are fundamentals. They are what we ask of every Australian citizen and we ask it for a good reason, if all of our citizens agree to that framework then we can live in a framework of openness and tolerance and respect for others.

JONES:

And if they don’t?

TREASURER:

But if they don’t the law clocks in.

JONES:

Just can I ask you something else, we are putting nine people to death or in jail for life in Bali over drugs. You as the Treasurer fund more than 3,000 outlets including drug treatment centres, hospitals, health centres, chemists, vending machines to dispense clean needles to injecting drug users of something that is in fact illegal and indeed you have just increased, whether you know it or not, by one third the amount of money for the next four years by about 38.7 million dollars. This is a (inaudible) million dollars. This is a needles and syringe programme – now your Government says we are tough on drugs and there should be no weakening not like the Labor Party who are permissive on heroin injecting rooms, not like these medically supervised injecting rooms in Kings Cross, but while all that is going on we are funding programmes which is handing out needles to users of drugs which are illegal. How, are young people entitled to be confused?

TREASURER:

Well I hope we are not sending a confused message to young people. I hope the message that they are hearing is drugs are unacceptable. Don’t touch them. Don’t deal with them. If somebody says I will give you a free holiday in Bali if you bring a packet back for me – don’t. And I would really be upset if somehow the message was getting out into Australia that drugs aren’t that serious.

JONES:

But drug taking is illegal and you are funding, the Treasurer, programmes and the States are, and you give the money to the States, the States administer it, which hand out needles – 7 million in this State last year. Seven million needles and we are getting all excited about putting people to death in Bali for trafficking in the very thing we are providing to people for nothing.

TREASURER:

Well this is why I think we have got to have an unambiguous message Alan and let me tell you what the unambiguous message is – don’t touch drugs. Don’t deal with them. Don’t take them.

JONES:

But on the one hand you are saying that and then you are providing tens of millions of dollars for people to have free needles to inject themselves in a process which is illegal. What are the young people saying? I can’t work that out. What are they saying?

TREASURER:

Well I hope that they are not confused. And let me for the sake of ending that confusion make my point again – don’t touch them. Don’t deal with them. Don’t think that somehow you can play with them and use them recreationally and give it up later in your life. This is a serious business.

JONES:

This will destroy your life.

TREASURER:

And don’t touch them.

JONES:

And so Government won’t fund it either, it is illegal, Government is not going to get in the business surely under Treasurer Costello of funding programmes which are illegal.

TREASURER:

Well I am not going to do anything Alan which would give a message to Australian young people that drugs are somehow permissible.

JONES:

Just finally before you go, and I thank you for your time, just sort of a comment about the future of Australian culture and the extent to which our sovereignty is being challenged – are we sticking up the white flag or is Peter Costello and others ready to fight back?

TREASURER:

Oh look this is the greatest country in the world. It has given a home for immigrants from all over the world but we have got something special here which we need to promote and defend. These are unique Australian values – these are values which when they are subscribed to defend us all and our way of life, these are values worth promoting, worth defending. And I intend to promote and defend them.

JONES:

Keysar Trad is asking the Prime Minister to censure you today for your comments.

TREASURER:

Well he is entitled to ask what he likes. But I would recommend to him that if he is a leader in the community he state unequivocally that he believes that these are important values to Australia – loyalty to country, respect for the rule of law, respect for democracy, respect for the rights and liberties of others. And I invite him to make a clear statement that these are his values, these are the values that he promotes because if we have agreement on that we can all live in harmony with each other.

JONES:

And perhaps we could also commit ourselves to setting our face against violence.

TREASURER:

Absolutely.

JONES:

Good to talk to you Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Good to be here Alan.