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 14/03/07

Doorstop Interview
Treasury Place, Melbourne

Wednesday, 14 March 2007
11 am

SUBJECTS: World’s Greatest Shave for leukaemia, Senator Santoro, Kevin Rudd & Brian Burke, guest workers

TREASURER:

Over the next two days the World’s Greatest Shave is taking place where people will be seeking sponsors to have their head shaved or coloured to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation.  Nearly 25 Australians a day are diagnosed with leukaemia or lymphoma and the World’s Greatest Shave is a way of raising money to help with research, to help with treatment and to improve the prospects for so many Australians who suffer from this terrible disease.  If you have the chance to take part, please do, I have just engaged in the first of the World’s Greatest Shaves and I hope that the whole people of Australia can get behind this fundraising idea.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you didn’t volunteer yourself as a shavee.

TREASURER:

No I didn’t volunteer as a shavee, I volunteered to be a shaver so I have done my little bit by shaving someone else and I think actually his hairstyle improved a bit after the shave.

JOURNALIST:

What about a colour change?

TREASURER:

I don’t know that I have got enough left to have a colour change, I have to be very careful with a diminishing resource. 

JOURNALIST:

Santo Santoro, why shouldn’t he be punished given that he has broken the Prime Ministerial Code of Conduct?

TREASURER:

Well in relation to Senator Santoro, he disclosed his shareholding although he did it later than he should have, but he took no decision which affected those shares, he made the voluntary disclosure, in the end he actually donated any profit that he had made to charity, so that he was proactive in relation to that, he should have moved earlier but this was a timing thing and given the circumstances where there was no individual profit or conflict of interest, I don’t think that it is appropriate that any further action be taken. 

JOURNALIST:

The comparison is being made though with Senator Jim Short and what happened to him. 

TREASURER:

Well of course it was alleged that Senator Short had taken a decision in relation to a company in which he had shares.  It is not alleged here that Senator Santoro had taken any decision in relation to a company in which he had shares. 

JOURNALIST:

So the organisation that he says received the donations says it is not a charity, what are your thoughts on that?

TREASURER:

Look, I am not aware of the organisation involved but Senator Santoro has donated the proceeds, in the circumstances I think that was a wise decision and of course he took no decision which would have in any way personally affected or improved his financial standing. 

JOURNALIST:

What about the Government’s attack on Kevin Rudd’s dealing with Brian Burke, has that resulted in Government casualties?

TREASURER:

Well the reality is, as Kevin Rudd himself says, he was wrong to meet with Brian Burke.  He was wrong to solicit favour from Brian Burke.  And Kevin Rudd now ought to be completely upfront and honest about all of his dealings.  We still haven’t had an explanation from Mr Rudd about his dealings with Brian Burke.  Now there will be all sorts of Labor Party spokesmen out there today with advice for Senator Santoro, why doesn’t Kevin Rudd lead the way?  Why doesn’t he make a statement, detail to us what happened at his breakfast meeting, what happened at his luncheon meeting?  Why doesn’t he come clean about his dinner meetings and why doesn’t he actually level with the public of Australia about the extensive contacts he had with Mr Brian Burke?  Brian Burke was an influence peddler.  Four Ministers have been sacked for dealing with him, Kevin Rudd at least owes the public an explanation as to why and how and in what manner he was dealing with Mr Burke on all of those occasions when he flew to Western Australia to see him.

JOURNALIST:

There has been a fair share of political mud-slinging in the last couple of weeks, I mean do you think it is going to backfire for you guys at all?

TREASURER:

Well of course Kevin Rudd decided to attack the Government over Australian Nuclear Energy and look where it landed him – mired in the filth of Brian Burke.  So you have seen what actually happens when you start attacking business people as Mr Rudd did in attacking Australian Nuclear Energy and Ron Walker, that people start scrutinising your own dealings and his dealing didn’t bear up to a lot of scrutiny. 

JOURNALIST:

Are you worried what the polls are going to show in upcoming weeks?  I mean they have started to show already that this mud-slinging isn’t working.

TREASURER:

I don’t think the polls are any particular indicator of the situation that the public will find themselves in when they come to vote and the public will find themselves in this situation: who are you going to trust with your mortgage and your job and your kids’ education?  A government with a proven track record of economic management or an inexperienced leader who by his own admission lacks judgement with a team behind him of people who have quite radical ambitions for Australia.  That is the decision that people will make when an election comes along sometime later in this year.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer there is a parliamentary committee sitting in Melbourne on the issue of guest workers and 457 Visas, do you think that Australia’s immigration laws should be relaxed in order to allow guest workers to help overcome Australia’s skills shortage?

TREASURER:

I don’t think the Australian public will support the idea of bringing people into Australia on temporary visas to do low-wage jobs and then to be rounded up and asked to leave.  That is not the Australian way.  When we bring people into Australia we generally want to offer them equal terms and conditions to Australians and the opportunity if they want to, to make good Australians as migrants.  I don’t think the idea of temporary low-wage unskilled workers on time-limited visas is something that the Australian public will see as consistent with the Australian ethos.

JOURNALIST:

Even if it was properly regulated you would be against expanding that particular visa programme?

TREASURER:

Well guest workers are quite different from 457 – 457 is in an area of skill, subject to wage minima upon an application that people being given a proper visa.  The guest worker system is quite different.  The guest worker system as it operates in the Arab world, as it operates in Singapore is a low-wage temporary entrant who it is expected will get no rights in the society and will be expected to leave within a short period of time and if they don’t leave, voluntarily rounded up.  That is quite a different system to the Australian ethos.

JOURNALIST:

So what about our Pacific nation neighbours who has asked for these guest worker programmes to be expanded to allow them to get greater economic stability in the region?

TREASURER:

It is not entirely clear to me that it would even help Pacific nations.  If labour starts leaving Pacific countries and coming to Australia it is not clear to me that that would help the Pacific at all.  In fact it could actually be a drain on the Pacific.  If their most able labourers start coming to Australia, it is not clear that that will help their countries, it could well hinder them.  All right, thank you.