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 31/10/06

Interview with Alan Jones
2GB

Tuesday, 31 October 2006
8.10 am

SUBJECTS: Sheik al-Hilali

JONES:

Peter Costello, good morning. 

TREASURER:

Good morning Alan, good to be with you. 

JONES:

Thank you.  Interesting points you have made. 

TREASURER:

Well that is right.  According to the newspaper reports, and it depends when the sermon was actually preached…

JONES:

I think at the beginning of Ramadan which is about sort of a month ago.

TREASURER:

The sermon was about a month ago and the Sheik put out a statement last night.  It looks like, according to newspaper reports there might have been 500 at the original sermon, there were 5,000 later on that came down to support the Sheik after the comments became public.  But the point is this.  This had been preached about a month before it hit the newspaper headlines and apparently there was no objection at the time that it was preached nor was there any objection until such time as it got in the pages of the newspapers.  And then even after it got in the pages of the newspapers as I said, according to newspaper reports about 5,000 people came down to voice their support.  So you know, it is good that it looks like some action is now being taken by the Sheik but what is worrying is that there does seem to be a sizeable group of people that take no objection to what he said.
 
JONES:

Well that is quite right.  Last Friday when he emerged from prayers at Lakemba Mosque and he was asked by the media whether he would quit over that speech, and he said, after we clean the world of the White House and he was cheered loudly by supporters.

TREASURER:

That is right, and my point Alan is I don’t think the Sheik just had a bad day with one bad sermon.   I think that these kinds of views have been preached quite a lot and you have got to go right back to when he was in here on a temporary visa before he was allowed to stay in Australia.  He was preaching anti-Semitic and offensive material then, for example…

JONES:

The Jews were the underlying cause of all wars, he said.

TREASURER:

…yes, at Sydney University, 1988 – this is 18 years ago – he claimed that Jews were attempting to control the world using sexual perversion, promoting espionage, treason and economic hording.  Now, you go right through the decade, the Sheik has been anti-Semitic, he has supported Jihadists, he has made statements which are absolutely offensive to women, such as the uncovered meat one.  It wasn’t just that he had a bad day last September and the point I am making…

JONES:

I mean he was so bad that the Labor Party, the then Minister Chris Hurford, determined to, Herford’s words, in 1987, 86, ‘terminate the Sheik’s visa as soon as possible.’  But they were frightened of a backlash from the Islamic community and the Labor Party backed off. 

TREASURER:

This is the point, you see, he came here, he overstayed his visa under normal rules, that’s it, you’re out.  But, and of course the Minister for Immigration wanted to throw him out, Chris Hurford as you said.  Then we had this very, very intriguing intervention of Paul Keating and Paul Keating somehow managed to keep Sheik Hilali in the country.  Now, my point is this…

JONES:

And the Speaker Leo Mc Leay.

TREASURER:

Yes, yes, but my point is this, Alan: it was already well known what his views were.  As I said, he had already given his famous speech at Sydney University accusing Jews of controlling the world and engaging in sexual perversion and so on.  So it was quite well know even then what he was preaching and we have this very strange intervention from Mr Keating and Leo Mc Leay to keep him in the country even though he was a visa over-stayer.  Now, he stays for the next decade or so, this latest episode is just in a long tradition.  I congratulate the Muslim community for dealing with it now but my point is a lot of damage could have been done in the last decade. 

JONES:

Yes that is right.  I mean, Senator Ray just for the benefit of my listeners, Senator Robert Ray was the Minister when he learnt of – that is after Herford – he learnt of the problems in relation to the Sheik, he deferred the Sheiks application for permanent residency for a year and he announced that there were, ‘key issues in considering the application involving allegations against Hilali,’ that ‘he was a divisive influence in the Lebanese community, he made a racist and inflammatory attack on Jews, he is associated with the Libyan regime.’  Now Ray said, ‘I concluded there was some evidence of the first’ – that is a divisive influence in the Lebanese community – ‘overwhelming evidence of the second’ – that he made a racist and inflammatory attack on Jews – ‘and insubstantial evidence on the third’ – that is the Libyan regime.  And that bloke then is allowed to stay and then the damage has been perpetuated.  You made a very valid point yesterday I thought when you said, and I hope I am quoting you accurately here, when you argued, let me find those comments, ‘these kinds of attitudes,’ you said, ‘have actually influenced people, so you wonder whether a kid like Bilal Skaf have grown up hearing these kinds of attitudes and you wonder whether other kids rioting down at Cronulla have heard these sorts of attitudes.’

TREASURER:

Well that is right.  You see in the famous sermon where he compared women to uncovered meat, he says that women give a wink and a nod, I can’t give you the precise quote, and one thing leads to another and the next thing you know…

JONES:

Yes, women who sway suggestively and wear make-up with immodest dress, he said.

TREASURER:

Yes, and the next thing you know some bloke is getting 65 years from a judge with no mercy.  Now, this of course is a reference to the case of Skaf, there is no doubt about it. 

JONES:

That’s Hilali’s mate in Melbourne, Sheik Omran, now what are we going to do with him?

TREASURER:

Well, when you read Hilali – I will come to him in a moment – but when you read Hilali he is definitely talking about that case of Bilal Skaf and he says, oh well, he came up in front of judge with no mercy.  You see, the cat had seen the uncovered meat and the next thing you know he is in front of a judge with no mercy and he gets 65 years.  And the only way you can interpret this is he is trying to say that the crime wasn’t as bad as the judge thought it was, that it shouldn’t have been punished in the way that it was and you have got to remember that in fact some of these defendants even argued this in their case.  And when you see a sermon like this being preached, when you see him referring to the Skaf case in that way, you can’t help but think that this kind of thinking could well have contributed to the way in which Skaf and his co-criminals engaged in their criminal conduct. 

JONES:

Well I think it is worth too and I made mention of it this morning, of this Sayyid Qutb, I don’t know whether you have caught up with all of this.  Only last week this Hilali said that he was a self-professed admirer of this Qutb and he described Qutb as a great leader, a symbol of Islam and a model for Muslims.  Now, the main tenants of Qutb (inaudible) Qutbism who he advocates Sharia Law, not just the sacred law but as a compete way of life, he described the west as a rubbish heap, he said the western world realised that western civilisation is unable to present any kind of healthy values, he was anti-Semitic and proudly anti-Semitic and he was explicit that the whole world must inevitably submit to Islam.  Now this is the fellow Qutb, Sayyid Qutb, that Hilali said last week was a great leader, a symbol of Islam and a model for Muslims.

TREASURER:

Absolutely.  And you can see this strain of extremist thinking, what is often called Islamisist thinking which is coming through in Sheik Hilali.  On these issues he is quite extreme and you have seen it in his attacks on the Jews.  I mean, the comment the other day that he will leave the Mosque when the world is cleared of the White House, I don’t know what that means, well what does that mean? 

JONES:

Blow up the White House. 

TREASURER:
Well you know, is that what it means? 

JONES:

But how many other disciples of Qutb are there in the leadership of the Muslim community?  You have got (inaudible) in Melbourne accusing Australian judges of discriminating against Muslim rapists. 

TREASURER:

You see, again we come back to this rape issue, don’t we, that obviously Hilali and as far as we can tell Omran feel that Bilal Skaf was given a bad sentence.  I think 99.9 per cent of Australians will say that somebody who engages in organised pack-rapes like that deserved everything he got.  And you don’t blame the victim, you don’t blame the girl in that case and that poor, well she is grown up now, but I saw her picture on the front page of the paper, the poor thing, everything she goes through and now we have these Sheiks saying, they actually got a bum rap. 

JONES:

That’s it, but I mean…

TREASURER:

But they have got to understand you know, in Australia rape is a crime, we don’t blame the victim, if you are not wearing a veil, that is not an open invitation…

JONES:

But you see, isn’t it what you said yesterday though, he didn’t have a bad day, you know, what you and I don’t know and what the world doesn’t know is what is going on in these Mosques down there in Melbourne and up here.  Now, Omran is the bloke who is now defending Hilali today but he is the bloke who hit the headlines when he claimed Osama Bin Laden was a good man and that the United States was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. 

TREASURER:

That’s right and of course what happens in a lot of these Mosques, particularly Sheik Hilali, he preaches in Arabic, you see, so unless you understand Arabic or have got a translator on hand, you don’t actually quite know what is being said.

JONES:

Well let me ask you this, I mean you are the Treasurer, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, people would say that at least the second most powerful political man in the country.  There are people who ring me and say, and they are in the last 24 hours, we give as a gift and so we should, citizenship in this country, you have to meet certain criteria.  Why can’t we withdraw that which we give? 

TREASURER:

Well I gave a speech on this earlier in the year you might recall and I said, everybody who wants to come to Australia ought to know what our values are and if they don’t like those values then they shouldn’t come.  And if they are citizens of other countries and they don’t like Australian values, there is no point taking out Australian citizenship.  I made this point, of course I was attacked in some quarters for making it but I think most Australians would agree, we have got to be very clear about what our values are.  Here are our values…

JONES:

But what are the sanctions?

TREASURER:

…and we say to people, if you don’t subscribe to these values, if you can’t put your hand on your heart or swear on the Bible or the Koran that you adhere to these values, then Australian citizenship is not for you. 

JONES:

But then we don’t say that to them, there is no sanction.  We are not in a position today where we say, as a result of these statements by Omran and Hilali we will be reviewing your citizenship, this is the Citizenship Review Board and the ultimate sanction will be citizenship will be withdrawn and you will be asked to go back to where you came from even though you weren’t there, you were there most recently 20 years ago, you will still be asked to go back.  We don’t have those sanctions cast in concrete.

TREASURER:

No it is not entirely clear, I agree with you Alan.  What I said is where they are dual citizens, where there is somewhere else for them to go back, I for one, would be quite prepared to invite them to go back.  They don’t like Australia and Australian values and in fact are citizens in another country, well they may well be happier in that other country.  And here are the values that we ask them to subscribe to – a belief in democracy, a belief in the rule of Parliament, Parliamentary law, not Sharia Law, tolerance for all Australians, respect for women as well as men.  These are core values, everybody in Australia would recognise these values, if you don’t like these values, then Australia is not going to make you a happy person to live in. 

JONES:

It is good to talk to you.  Thank you for your time. 

TREASURER:

It is good to be with you Alan, thanks.