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 29/06/2006

Interview with Karl Stefanovic
Today Show

Thursday, 29 June 2006
7.09 am

SUBJECTS: Industrial relations reform, East Timor

JOURNALIST:

Good morning to you Mr Costello.

TREASURER:

Good morning Karl.

JOURNALIST:

Well there seem to be a war being waged at the moment, who is winning it?

TREASURER:

Look, people have every right to protest and they took their protest to the streets yesterday. But at the end of the day, Australia has to move forward. We can’t return to the past of union control in this country, it won’t keep our economy competitive, it won’t keep our job market moving or our wages increasing. And so, that is why it is important that we do these reforms and I have every confidence they will make Australia a stronger place.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, do you concede that there is still a great deal of confusion out there among the workforce? Have you failed in your task of selling these reforms?

TREASURER:

Well I think they are being told lots of scary things, particularly by the union movement which has tried to whip up the demonstrations, fair enough, they are involved in a political campaign. But I think as time goes by and the public becomes aware that none of these scares come to reality they will ask themselves what was the fuss about and the reality is what we have now been going two or three months, unemployment is the lowest it has been in 30 years, wages are still rising and all of those horror stories haven’t come about. Now, I think as the months go by and you see that the horror stories won’t come about, then people will be much more relaxed about it because they will realise that all of these inflated claims weren’t true.

JOURNALIST:

So as far as you are concerned as it stands at the moment, since these reforms came into place no worker has been unfairly sacked?

TREASURER:

Look, there have been allegations that in various places that there have been people sacked or offered less money, they are being investigated and if the law has been broken they will be prosecuted. There was an abattoir case that is being looked at. But a lot of the claims that have been made by the union movement just haven’t proved factual.

JOURNALIST:

Alright, ultimately the workers and the public will decide whether they like these reforms or not, are you concerned that it could cost you the next election?

TREASURER:

Well, if the Government isn’t able to run the economy, keep people in work, have low inflation, keep the economy growing – yes, the public will judge us but over the last ten years we have managed to do those things and people have seen the results of the reforms we have put into place to date and I am very confident that the benefit of these reforms will take Australia forward into the next years.

JOURNALIST:

But these reforms won’t cost you the next election?

TREASURER:

Well, I think actually what they will do is they will make our economy more flexible, they will keep unemployment low and they will form the basis for a growing economy which will underpin higher wages.

JOURNALIST:

Alright…

TREASURER:

And the proof will be in the pudding.

JOURNALIST:

…Treasurer, as always, we have limited time with you this morning, but just a couple of other major issues that I do want to bring up with you. Alkatiri supporters in East Timor are accusing Canberra of basically orchestrating his demise, do you think those reports are accurate and where do you think things go in East Timor now, could it be more dangerous him being out of office than in?

TREASURER:

Well it is absolutely false, absolutely false that Australia has intervened in any way in the political line-up in East Timor. Australia by the way has troops that are serving in difficult conditions the East Timorese people, keeping law and order on the streets and those troops are there at the invitation of the President and the then Prime Minister, Mr Alkatiri, so they were asked to be there. And to claim that they have engaged in domestic politics is absolutely false and I can say that for a fact. Look, at the end of the day East Timor and the political leadership in East Timor is going to have to sort this out. They are going to have to run their own country and they are going to have to do it with public support and they are going to have to do it in a peaceful way. The Australian troops are there to assist but they won’t be there forever. And that is why it is important that the political parties and the leadership of East Timor resolve this, get on with governing the country and make sure that East Timor can be what it wants to be which is a proud and independent country.

JOURNALIST:

Doesn’t that worry you though that the scenes from yesterday with Alkatiri supporters coming into Dili today, doesn’t it worry you that our troops are going to be in the middle of violence again?

TREASURER:

Well, I would appeal to all of the people of East Timor to resolve their differences peacefully. It is the only way you can build a country. There will be differences, of course there will be differences, but you resolve them through the ballot box. You don’t take up arms. The Australian troops are there at the invitation of all parties and they are protecting all parties but in the end it is the East Timorese people themselves that have to resolve their differences in a peaceful way and that is the only way to build a strong country and I would appeal to them to do so. There is no point in violence, it will not achieve anything, least of all the kind of East Timor that the East Timorese want and we want to see too, peaceful and strong.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, just one final question, is Mark Vaile going to be replaced as Trade Minister heading towards the next election?

TREASURER:

Well I have no knowledge, you see speculation from time to time, he is doing a great job for Australia, he is well known on the international stage but if he wants to move that is a matter for him but I have every confidence in the job that he is doing at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

I guess the proof will be in the pudding, yes?

TREASURER:

As always, lots of pudding.

JOURNALIST:

Alright, thank you Treasurer.

TREASURER:

Thank you.