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 05/07/07

Doorstop Interview

Thursday, 5 July 2007
2.30 pm

SUBJECTS: Fair Pay Commission decision, Iraq, foreign aid

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) Fair Pay Commission to award a $10 a week increase, what’s your reaction?

TREASURER:

I welcome the decision. I think it is a responsible decision. I think it gives a pay increase to the lowest paid in our community.  It means that wages for the low paid will be preserved in real terms, but it also gives enough room to make sure that it won’t have any job destroying consequences.  So when you balance together the fact that it will keep the purchasing power of the low paid, it will be consistent with new job creation, it is a good decision and it is one that I welcome.

JOURNALIST:

The ACTU has described it as measly, what do you say to that?

TREASURER:

Well when you are making sure that you are awarding pay increases you want to on the one hand, ensure that people get fair value, and this increase ensures that the lowest paid are protected, but you also want to make sure that the consequences don’t rob people of jobs or stop new job creation going on.  And I think the Fair Pay Commission has got it about right.  It has balanced those two competing objectives and it has done well.

JOURNALIST:

The union wanted about $28 a week; would it have been job destroying in your opinion?

TREASURER:

Well, I think if you don’t have any eye to the overall economic consequences you can either set off inflation or you can restrain employers from creating new jobs. And I think this is a good balance and a balance that puts those two objectives together – one looking after the low paid, two making sure that for the benefit for all of us, including the low paid, the economy keeps growing with low inflation.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well of course the unions will have one view and employers will have another view, but you have the Fair Pay Commission to arbitrate.  And I think the arbitration that it has done is a pretty good one actually.  It balances protection for the low paid, it means that inflation won’t be put under undue pressure and it won’t interfere with job creation in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

No. The war in Iraq is about keeping a democratically elected government in office, making life better for Iraqis and ensuring that in the Middle East, particularly in the Arab world, there is viable democracy.  And don’t forget this, that the Iraqi Government is an elected Government. Under Saddam Hussein you didn’t worry about elections because it was a dictatorship.  The Iraqi Government has been elected. It is absolutely critical for the future of Iraq, to the Middle East and to the world that an elected government can be maintained.  If the terrorists beat a newly elected government in Iraq the terrorists will beat democratic governments all through the region and that would be bad for global stability and bad for the world.

JOURNALIST:

Is oil security a factor in your position on the war?

TREASURER:

No because this is all about an elected government.  The coalition that deposed Saddam Hussein made sure that there were conditions for a free election and an elected government.  That government, having been elected, to allow it to be crushed by terrorism would give an enormous public relations win to al-Qaeda and the terrorists who are preying on freedom and democracy around the world.  We can not afford to let that government go down.  We are fighting for something much more important here than oil.  This about democracy and freedom in the Middle East.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard has indicated that oil is a factor in Australia maintaining its presence there.

TREASURER:

No, the reason Australia and the coalition are there is to make sure that an elected government remains in place; that is why we are there.

JOURNALIST:

So are you at odds with Mr Howard on the war?

TREASURER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Well look, Mr Rudd says that they might adjust aid, not if he is elected in 2007, but if he is re-elected in 2010.  So it is something he might do in four years time if he has had two successful elections.  You have got to say that it is pretty uncertain.  You have got to say that he does not sound very confident about it.  And you have got to say that it is pretty unlikely it will ever come to fruition.

JOURNALIST:

But is that an affordable thing to do, to spend 0.5 per cent of GDP on foreign aid?

TREASURER:

But who knows what he would do?  He hasn’t made any concrete commitment at all.  He said if he gets elected he is going to have an audit, and if he gets elected a second time in 2010, he might have a policy then.  Well let’s wait until 2010 to see if he has won not just one, but two elections.

JOURNALIST:

You won’t try and match that?

TREASURER:

Match what?

JOURNALIST:

Match what he says he’ll do?

TREASURER:

But what has he said he will do?

JOURNALIST:

He certainly has put forward that he wants to increase foreign aid.

TREASURER:

No, no, no. He has said that if he gets elected in 2007 he will do an audit and if he gets elected in 2010 he will think about a policy then.  How can you match that?  You might as well whistle dixie.  That is not a policy, that is not a commitment. That’s Hawker Britten spin.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer how important is the preservation of American prestige in plans for the future of the coalition presence in Iraq?  How important is preserving American prestige?

TREASURER:

Look the most important this about Iraq is this: if you had a free election and you have got a democratic government in place you have got to defend a democratic government.  You can’t defend a democratic government if the terrorists win in Iraq you will not be able to defend democratic free governments anywhere in the Arab world. And that would be a defeat for the whole democratic world.  For the United States certainly, for Britain certainly, for Australian and other democratic countries, certainly.  And it would be a great win for who?  For al-Qaeda and for the cause of militant Islamists.  Now that is against everybody’s interest.  It is against peace loving people’s interests throughout the world, including particularly in the Middle East.  That is against the interest of the Iraqi people. They would be the people that would be most affected by the defeat of democracy and freedom in Iraq. They are the number one consideration in defending freedom.  Yes, that is important not just for the Iraqi people but it is important for the people of the Middle East, it is important for Australia, it is important for Britain, it is important for all of the democratic countries of the world.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer just to clarify, is the need to secure oil supplies a reason for Australia staying the course in Iraq?

TREASURER:

I have said to you before that the important thing is to defend democracy.  You have a democratically elected government. Now if al-Qaeda has a victory over democracy in Iraq, this is a huge win for terrorism worldwide. And if terrorism worldwide wins then none of us has our safety in hand.  Nobody in any of the democratic countries wants to see a win for terrorism in Iraq. Thank you.