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 05/03/07

Interview with Mike Carlton and Peter FitzSimons
2UE

Monday, 5 March 2007

7.10am

SUBJECTS: Brian Burke and Kevin Rudd

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer Peter Costello is on the line, morning.

TREASURER:

Good morning Mike, good morning Peter.

JOURNALIST:

Good to talk to you. You don’t know that any of this really matters today to the ordinary voter who right now is getting ready to go to work to make a quid.

TREASURER:

I think what voters will be asking themselves is whether Mr Rudd has told the truth and whether his version of events are credible, and that is an important issue. You have got somebody who is putting himself forward to be the Prime Minister of Australia; this is the first time he’s ever been under any pressure. When he was put under pressure he wasn’t forthright, he didn’t come out and say the facts, and I think people want to know what they were.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, he’s at least forthright enough to say ‘I’ve made a mistake, it was an error of judgment on my part’.

TREASURER:

Well Peter, he certainly made a mistake and he certainly made an error of judgement. But the question now is did he tell the facts? He said, oh look, I was staying with Graham Edwards, Graham said come out to dinner, lo and behold, I went out to dinner and there’s Brian Burke. Now, as I said in the Parliament, it’s a bit like Bill Hunter in Muriel’s Wedding – ‘Deirdre Chambers, what a coincidence!’ What a coincidence Brian Burke was there. And then of course, up turns this email that shows Brian Burke had invited people there to meet Kevin and Kevin was the guest of honour. And by the way, Kevin gave a speech once he arrived there.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Rudd says they never saw that email, he simply went along because his mate Graham Edwards, the Labor MP, said come to dinner.

TREASURER:

Yes. And Brian Burke had already invited people to meet Kevin, and when Kevin turned up, lo and behold, he gave the speech. The funny thing is, you walk into a restaurant, you are not expecting Brian and his clients to be there, but you turn around and you say, well seeing as you’re here, I’ll give you the speech for the evening. I don’t think you’d believe that Mike.

JOURNALIST:

Is everybody at that dinner then, comprised, if, does that include the West Australian mining businessman Andrew Forrest, who was at the same dinner?

JOURNALIST:

One of the Prime Minister’s closest friends.

TREASURER:

Yes well a lot of people in Western Australia knew that if you wanted to get on with the Labor Party, the Labor Government in Western Australia, you should retain Mr Burke. He was the person of great influence and as the Crime and Corruption Commission has shown, he actually used to get a lot of value for his clients.

JOURNALIST:

Well hold on, you said the other day that anyone who deals with Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised, does that include the Prime Minister’s close mate Andrew Forrest, the West Australian mining businessman?

TREASURER:

Mr Forrest was retaining Brian Burke to try and get influence with the Labor Government in Western Australia.

JOURNALIST:

But was he politically and morally compromised in doing so?

TREASURER:

Well he was a businessman, he was looking after his business…

JOURNALIST:

But Mr Costello, if I may just say, you did say in very strong language, anybody who deals with him is morally compromised. Now surely you don’t let them off the hook then if oh well it was only because he was trying to advance his business interests?

TREASURER:

No, businessmen are always trying to advance their business interests, but they are not running for Prime Minister. Hang on, if Andrew Forrest were running for Prime Minister, he would be totally unsuitable for the job by reason of the fact …

JOURNALIST:

But he can run a mining company ok …

JOURNALIST:

Oh, come on.

TREASURER:

Well come on Mike …

JOURNALIST:

Oh come on, you’re tying yourself in knots, that’s ridiculous, you said anyone who deals with Mr Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised, anyone.

JOURNALIST:

Except mining magnates.

TREASURER:

No, no, no, I’m sorry, Kevin Rudd is in hock to Brian Burke. Brian Burke now has the goods on Kevin Rudd because, have you thought about this: Brian Burke can come out at any time if Kevin gets into office and tell the truth about that meeting. And the moment he does, of course, Kevin Rudd is in deep trouble.

JOURNALIST:

Why did Kevin Rudd…

TREASURER:

No, this is a very important point Mike. Kevin Rudd, as of this day, needs Brian Burke more than anybody else, because he needs Brian Burke to stack up his version of events. That’s why, if Kevin Rudd gets into a position of even more influence, it is a very dangerous situation.

JOURNALIST:

It’s a strange set of priorities isn’t it, when Mr Downer and Mr Vaile can preside over the AWB scandal, send $300 million off to Saddam Hussein, they keep their jobs, Senator Campbell goes after a 20 minute meeting.

TREASURER:

You know, nobody made more of that than Kevin Rudd, who kept on saying that Mr Downer and Mr Vaile had to know what a Jordanian trucking company was doing…

JOURNALIST:

No, they had to know what AWB was doing, and they didn’t.

TREASURER:

… what an Australian company, which neither of them owned or controlled, right? So, they have got to know what an Australian company was doing in Jordan, with a Jordanian trucking company, according to Mr Rudd, but he can’t tell you what he was doing in Western Australia in 2005. He can’t tell you why he went there…

JOURNALIST:

He says he did tell us, he says he did tell us.

TREASURER:

Well he can’t tell – no, well hang on, why was he there? He says this dinner was just peripheral. Why was he there? He can’t tell you what business took him to WA. If Brian Burke didn’t take him to Western Australia in 2005, what did?

JOURNALIST:

I don’t know, but you can toss that around can’t you, until you are black and blue but you’re ignoring my central point here, you’re ignoring my point. Downer and Vaile, either through negligence, incompetence or sheer ignorance, ignored the AWB scandal, $300 million pumped off to Saddam Hussein, they keep their jobs. Why is that?

TREASURER:

They were the subject of an extensive Royal Commission which cleared them. Now …

JOURNALIST:

It didn’t clear them at all, it didn’t investigate them.

TREASURER:

Well hang on, no, it did.

JOURNALIST:

No it didn’t, it wasn’t supposed to investigate the Government.

TREASURER:

Well, you know, you can believe Kevin Rudd’s line on that if you like, but I’m sorry, it investigated AWB and it found that AWB had not told any Minister, nor was there any reason for any Minister to know. Let me put it to you like this Mike, would you like a Royal Commission to investigate Kevin Rudd’s meeting at Perugino’s?

JOURNALIST:

What are you trying to suggest went on at Perugino’s, I mean this is …

TREASURER:

Well I’ll tell you what went on. Kevin Rudd was looking for influence in the West Australian Labor Party. To get influence in the West Australian Labor Party, the person who had the most of it was the disgraced Brian Burke, the disgraced Brian Burke who Geoff Gallop had said was to have no contact with Labor figures. And Kevin Rudd was flying into Western Australia, to not only make contact with him, but to get influence in the West Australian Labor Party, which would be useful for his career and has proved to be very useful.

JOURNALIST:

Although, Mr Costello, I must say I know from having written the biography of Kim Beazley, how close personally Kim Beazley was with Brian Burke for many a, many a year. You know, it wouldn’t have been the obvious thing, if you were seeking, seeking power from the power brokers in Western Australia to go to Brian Burke as your first call to undermine Beazley.

TREASURER:

Well Brian Burke as we now know was the most influential person in the West Australian Labor Party, if you could attract him, you’re in business.

JOURNALIST:

Yeah but Burke and Beazley were mates, Rudd’s hardly going to go to Burke and say look, can you help me toss Beazley.

TREASURER:

Well let me tell you Mike, when you’re looking for votes, you are looking for votes from everybody, particularly the powerful.

JOURNALIST:

You speak as a man of experience in these matters.

TREASURER:

Well, obviously I’m not successful.

JOURNALIST:

That’s very modest of you.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, how do you know with such certainty what went on at that dinner, you speak as if you know exactly what happened.

TREASURER:

Well we now have the email, we now have the witness accounts of people who were there, and the only person whose account we don’t have is Kevin’s. Now, if Kevin wants to go in to the Parliament and say why he did go to Western Australia; produce, you know, his itinerary for the day; have an explanation as to how he turns up to give a speech at a meeting he didn’t even know was on, and it’s credible, I suppose we could say well maybe you should overlook the emails and the other guests, and believe Kevin, but you see…

JOURNALIST:

One of the difficulties with Kevin Rudd is trying to stop him giving a speech, so you can’t be surprised he gave one.

TREASURER:

Yes. One of the problems with Kevin now is he says he won’t say any more about this, and what he has said to date isn’t very convincing.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, is it fair to summate that you personally would not sup with the devil to become Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

Well, I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t fly into Western Australia and seek Brian Burke’s backing for my political career. No, I wouldn’t do that, no.

JOURNALIST:

Don’t think it would help you a lot. Good to talk to you, thanks for your time.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you.

TREASURER:

Good on you, thanks fellas.