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 John Laws
2UE

Friday, 24 February 2006
9.15 am

SUBJECTS: Australian citizenship

LAWS:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning John, good to be with you.

LAWS:

Good to be with you. Can you tell me just in simple straight terms what exactly you meant. Because I have heard all sorts of people making convoluted attempts to say what you are saying and they are exaggerating it in some instances and they are underplaying it in others – so in plain language what is it you are trying to say to people who come to Australia?

TREASURER:

I say that when you come to Australia and want to be an Australian citizen you are expected to subscribe to certain values – loyalty to the country, respect for the rights and liberties of others, a belief in democratic Government and respect for the law. And if you don’t agree with things, if you can’t subscribe to those values then you are not subscribing to the values of Australia and you can’t really embrace Australian citizenship.

LAWS:

Do you agree with what the Prime Minister said the other day when he said that there was a small group of agitators that are here that are spoiling it for others and are spoiling it for Australia?

TREASURER:

I think we are entitled to ask every person who is an Australian citizen and every person who comes here to respect Australian values. The point I made in my speech last night is if you go to a mosque you will be asked to take your shoes off…

LAWS:

Yes.

TREASURER:

…as a sign of respect. Now if you don’t want to take your shoes off then don’t go to the mosque.

LAWS:

That’s it.

TREASURER:

And when you come to Australia you will be asked to subscribe to certain values – Australian values. If you don’t want to subscribe to those values, don’t come to Australia.

LAWS:

You see I think it is very damaging when State MPs who get themselves along to citizenship ceremonies make statements like – becoming an Australian does not mean you have got to give up your culture, or your religion, or your opinions or love of the country of your birth. They are not doing us a lot of favours are they?

TREASURER:

Well this is the point, becoming an Australian is a great privilege. You know, I feel privileged to be an Australian myself. And our citizenship it is not all one way, it is not all beer and skittles, you get the benefits of being an Australian but you are also expected to do certain things. You are expected to give your loyalty to Australia and you are expected to subscribe to Australian values. And we have got to be very clear about this, we are entitled to be clear about this, because we want people to embrace those values. If they embrace those values we can all live peaceably with each other, everyone will have their rights and liberties protected but people who don’t embrace those values then it risks the freedom and the liberty of others. And we have got to get some rules here, some rules that everybody respects so that we can all live respecting others rights and liberties.

LAWS:

You realise that some of the hierarchy of the Muslim community have suggested you should be censured for your comments?

TREASURER:

Well I would say, rather than try and censure me what they should do is they should make a clear statement that they subscribe to all of these views, that they are loyal to Australia, they respect the rights and liberties of others, they believe in democratic government and they believe that all Australians should live unequivocally under the one law made by the Australian Parliament and endorse these values and recommend them to their followers. I think that is what we are asking people to do. I don’t think it is very much actually. I don’t think you should find that too hard. And that is what I would invite them to do rather than to criticise me.

LAWS:

Yes. So in other words all the sheiks and imams who have objected to what you have said should be doing their own job first – making sure that their followers agree with the principles in-principle of Australia.

TREASURER:

Yes. Pledge themselves unequivocally to these values first of all and then call on their followers to pledge themselves unequivocally to these values. This is what I would invite them to do rather than to criticise me because all Australians should in my view subscribe to these values. And what’s more, it is in the pledge of citizenship so if you have taken out Australian citizenship you have already pledged it so it shouldn’t be too hard a thing to do.

LAWS:

Are you a bit surprised when up until now you have had a fair band of critics saying how dare he challenge John Howard, and he is not going to make a good Prime Minister, he will never become Prime Minister – and all of a sudden when you make a comment like this one you have got all the followers in the world saying that now he has earned his colours he can be Prime Minister now because you have made a remark which was considered by some to be racist.

TREASURER:

Well look, leave aside all those other things, I think these are important issues John, I think people who are listening to this programme will say, yes, yes, this is what Australia is all about, it is not too much to ask people to respect these values. We need to respect these values if we want our country to remain the kind of place that it is – free and open and tolerant. And that is the kind of Australia I want. I think that is the kind of the Australia the overwhelming proportion of our population wants. And they are entitled to it by the way, Australian citizens are entitled to know that all of the people in this country are going to respect their rights and liberties.

LAWS:

You did do it and you did it very well. And I certainly for one applaud it and I think that the majority of Australian thinking people applaud it as well. Nice to talk to you Peter.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much.

LAWS:

Have a nice, what have you got planned for the weekend? Relaxing weekend?

TREASURER:

Unfortunately the work rolls on John but I will try and spend some time with my family.

LAWS:

Okay. Lots of luck. Talk to you soon.

TREASURER:

Thank you.