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 15/12/06

Interview with Virginia Trioli
702 ABC

Friday, 15 December 2006
8.40 am

SUBJECTS: Qantas offer; alleged weapons blackmarket

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, good morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Virginia.

JOURNALIST:

Would you block the bid, can you block the bid?

TREASURER:

The consortium will have to comply with the Qantas Sale Act and also with the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act. Under that Act a party which has significant foreign control is obliged to give a notification. Upon giving the notification the Foreign Investment Review Board has a close look at it, it makes the recommendation to me and I give a decision. So the first step in the process is for a notification to be given under the Act.

JOURNALIST:

And that will happen of course.

TREASURER:

Well I assume it will happen. The Qantas bidders are obliged to comply with the Act and with the Qantas Sale Act.

JOURNALIST:

What concerns do you have about the bid?

TREASURER:

Well, I would like to actually see the detail of the bid. We need to know what the economic interests are, what the voting interests are, what the association provisions are and I think the appropriate thing for me, Virginia is to wait till I have got all of the information and until people have gone through it and then we will make a decision accordingly.

JOURNALIST:

Is there generally the potential concern, what have you heard so far that reassures you, Peter Costello?

TREASURER:

Well I have to be very careful that I don’t prejudge this application, so we will wait for the application to be made and then we will consider it.

JOURNALIST:

Geoff Dixon has refused to rule out that jobs will be lost or go offshore, as I mentioned earlier, and your colleague Bruce Baird has voiced his concerns about that, what is your response?

TREASURER:

Well you see Mr Dixon is the chief executive of Qantas at the moment and he will be the chief executive of Qantas under the new ownership. You see, I don’t think Mr Dixon’s attitude is changed by this change in ownership. Mr Dixon has been talking about various segments and where they are going to be located for some time. I am not sure that change of ownership changes his plans in any material effect, but of course I – like everybody else – will be interested to know what their business plan is.

JOURNALIST:

Leaving to one side all of these other (inaudible), I understand Treasurer that you have to wait to see the particulars before you can respond. Do you feel that you can support such a big (inaudible) in-principle?

TREASURER:

Look Virginia I think the best thing is if we get the application and we look at it very carefully. These things are quite often litigated, there could be court proceedings out of it. I hope there is not, I hope it all goes through rather smoothly but experience of litigation has told us that it is very unwise to prejudge these things.

JOURNALIST:

When you say you hope that it all goes through smoothly, do I interpret from that that you would have no problem with it going through …?

TREASURER:

No, no, that the process goes straight through. I am not talking about the outcome, that is my point. I can’t prejudge the outcome, I just hope that the process goes through smoothly. And at the end of the day, if we get the process right, then we will be announcing the outcome.

JOURNALIST:

The Prime Minister has said I hope the Qantas we know is the Qantas we keep. Is there a way the Government can ensure that?

TREASURER:

I think we all want to see a good full service domestic airline. You have got to bear this mind, Qantas is the only full service domestic airline. Since the demise of Ansett we have had other airlines come in on domestic routes but they are not full service, they have a particular niche in the market and I think the travelling public would want to know that. It is a little bit different at the international level. At the international level there is competition, although not good competition on all of Qantas’ routes. There is good competition on most of them however, and we want to see that there is good competition, I think, for the travelling public internationally, as well at the domestic level.

JOURNALIST:

The Treasurer is with us this morning at 14 minutes to nine on 702 ABC Sydney and 666 ABC Canberra. Treasurer I know you are busy and I won’t keep you much longer but I did want to get a response from you a story that was on page one of the Herald today, reporting that rogue elements apparently in the Australian military are feared to be behind the black market sale of a cache of rocket launchers and guns to terrorist and criminal groups. Does the Government have a response to this news story today?

TREASURER:

Well look I don’t have any particular information but knowing the Australian Defence force as I do, that would be extremely surprising. The Australian Defence force is a very, very dedicated and professional outfit and in all of my dealing with it, it has always been found to discharge itself with honour. Now if any allegations are made of course people always check these things and I have no doubt that will be done. But let me say in all of my dealings with the Australian Defence Force I have found it to be a superb outfit - very efficient, very loyal and something which I have the utmost confidence in.

JOURNALIST:

So on the face of it, you’re sceptical about a report like this?

TREASURER:

Well I wouldn’t be too distracted from my long held view by that. But no doubt, if people have evidence that will be checked thoroughly.

JOURNALIST:

Peter Costello thank you very much.

TREASURER:

Good on you Virginia, thank you.