Peter Costello

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Newspoll, Iraq, David Hicks, flag burning, citizenship, water, infrastructure, Murray-Darling Basin plan - Interview with Alan Jones, 2GB

Interview with Alan Jones
2GB

Tuesday, 20 February 2007
8:15 am

 

SUBJECTS: Newspoll, Iraq, David Hicks, flag burning, citizenship, water, infrastructure, Murray-Darling Basin plan

JONES:

Peter, good morning. 

TREASURER:

Good morning, good to be with you Alan.

JONES:

You too, you too on this beautiful, beautiful morning.  Look, you have been in this game now a long, long time, the Government is a long way behind at the polls today, how do you explain that?

TREASURER:

Well the polls will come and the polls will go.  I wouldn’t regard that as final because Mr Rudd is very early into his leadership and he is still enjoying a soft go, the hard questions have not yet been asked of him and he has a long way to go to announce policy.  And I think once you start announcing policy, Alan, once you are subjected to a bit of scrutiny it becomes a bit more difficult and I think it will become a bit more difficult for Mr Rudd. 

JONES:

He wants the troops out of Iraq but yesterday you decided, your Government decided to send extra troops to Iraq to help train the Iraqis to look after themselves.  So on the one hand he is saying we should get out and let the Iraqis look after themselves but then when we offer to deploy extra troops to help them look after themselves he is opposed to that as well.

TREASURER:

This is an example of something he hasn’t thought through, obviously.  He says on the one hand Australia should get out so the Iraqis begin to manage the situation.  Obviously if the Iraqis are going to manage the situation they have to have trained security forces which can take over from Australian troops and other troops.  How do you get that training?  You get that training by Australian trainers who are helping with logistics, who are helping with technical support, who are equipping the Iraqi security forces to be ready for that task.  But you can’t have it both ways, you can’t say on the one hand you want the Iraqis to take over, on the other hand you don’t want to help train the Iraqis to take over.  You can’t have it both ways.

JONES:

David Hicks, there seems to be a stack of people, flag wavers for David Hicks, he has got his band of supporters.  I noticed you argued at the weekend he wasn’t actually in Afghanistan on a backpackers trip. 

TREASURER:

I think a lot of people have forgotten how all this started.  David Hicks was in Afghanistan after the al-Qa'ida attack murdered thousands of people in the World Trade Centre.  He wasn’t there as a backpacker going through the youth hostels of Afghanistan.  He had trained in terrorism and when the Coalition forces went in to look for the al-Qa'ida organisation he was captured.  Now it is true that it has taken far too long to bring him to trial and he ought to be brought to trial immediately.  But I think some of the rhetoric has got out of control here Alan, as if he was some poor innocent abroad, backpacking through the sites and the sounds of Afghanistan.  He was in Afghanistan because he had been trained by al-Qa'ida.  He had been given weapons training.  This was the organisation which he knew had just murdered thousands of people in New York including Australians.  Australians died in the World Trade Centre.  So by all means, the man is entitled to a trial, but let’s not sanctify what he did or why he was there. 

JONES:

You move around as a father and a husband as a member of a big electorate in Melbourne, you move around amongst the people, do you get any feeling from the feedback though that sometimes they think you are talking in Canberra about things that they aren’t talking about, the things they are talking about you aren’t listening to.  For example, just a quick one which I asked the Prime Minister, I mean it is not just burning the Australian flag, people feel (inaudible) to burn anyone’s flag.  To burn the Ukrainian flag, the flag of the Soviet Union, to desecrate someone’s national symbol should be an offence.  Now, if I put that to the open line now there wouldn’t be one person who agreed that burning a flag is an expression of free speech.  Now, why does Canberra take a different view entirely from the electorate?

TREASURER:

Well I hate people burning the flag and like most Australians…

JONES:

Not just our flag, any flag.

TREASURER:

Well I hate people burning the Australian flag…

JONES:

So do I.

TREASURER:

…more than any other flag, let me tell you because I am an Australian, and it makes me sick in my stomach.

JONES:

Yeah.

TREASURER:

But them you think to yourself, well these people are disaffected people, some of them are just plain bad people.  I wouldn’t want to make them martyrs, you know, you put them in the court, you convict them, what, put them in jail?  Then they will make martyrs of themselves and then the whole civil rights lobby will get on and tell us how good they are.  I think they are people who are…

JONES:

Why be worried about any of them?

TREASURER:

Oh, I don’t worry about them, but they are just maladjusted people who do a terrible act and frankly I just don’t want to dignify them by turning them into martyrs. 

JONES:

Okay, let me ask you, you give a bloke, different from you, you are born here, I am born here, but will our people to come in here as long as you say, listen, citizenship is the ultimate gift that we can give to you as a new person here and we hope you will respond to that gift by acting consistent with our values and our standards and so on.  Then someone who has got that gift calls Australian women uncovered meat and he appears on Egyptian television and denigrates Australia and he criticises our law and out culture and our values and he says we are (inaudible) people by descendants of English convicts, Muslims have more right to live here because they had actually paid their fares.  Is there a point at which we should have a law to say, that which we have given and conferred we can withdraw?

TREASURER:

I think there is a point at which someone who is a dual citizen, if somebody is an Australian citizen and also let’s say an Egyptian citizen and that person doesn’t support what this country stands for, doesn’t want to be part of this country, I think we would be within our rights to say to that person, well Australia is not for you, you are an Egyptian citizen, why not go and live in Egypt, and you can say what you like about this country.  You get into a difficult situation if they are not dual citizens because at that point if you take away Australian citizenship they are not a citizen of anywhere, they have got nowhere to go.  But I certainly believe that if there are people who are dual citizens who do not support what this country stands for, who do not support the rule of law, who do not support the rights of others, who do not support the tolerance, who are prepared to support terrorism, who are against what is basic to Australia they should be invited to take up their alternative citizenship.

JONES:

Water, we don’t have time to canvass all these things, there is one aspect of this which is desperately worrying people who write to me, and it is not about the $10 billion scheme or whether we recycle or desalinate.  I think those issues have all be ventilated.  Malcolm Turnbull the Water Minister, a former banker, has said that when a commodity such as water is so scarce the key is to let the market work.  Now this has absolutely terrified the people who listen to me and they say, well hang on, you can’t trade water on the free market like you trade cars and houses and food and clothes, but water is more akin to things like the army, the police, the lighthouse, the parks, the gardens, things that are provided to the community because they are needed, albeit at a fair price.  Now, are we running a risk of going down this road whereby we are going to trade water so that one day there will be a Bill Gates or Macquarie Bank of water and every battle will be up there just paying the asking price?

TREASURER:

I think you are right.  I think the public wants to know and is entitled to know that water is so basic to human life that it is the Government’s responsibility to provide it.  You can’t live without water.  I think you are absolutely right.  I think there is another area, however, where you should put a proper price on water and that is in the area of industry and agriculture.  Now, let’s suppose industry uses a lot of water to make a product which it goes and sells on the market and the industry ought to pay a fair price for that water.  Let’s suppose…

JONES:

Who would decide what was a fair price?

TREASURER:

Well this is where for industrial purposes you could get a market going, for industrial purposes. 

JONES:

(inaudible) domestic consumer is not paying a fair price for water, it is far too cheap. 

TREASURER:

Well, leave out the domestic consumer because there is a public service obligation for the domestic consumer.  Let’s go to agriculture for example.  Suppose there is a river and you can take water out of that river to do flood irrigation for rice or you can take water out of that river to do drip irrigation for stone fruit.  It is not fair if the water is not priced properly so that a flood irrigator of rice who uses far more water than a drip irrigator of stone fruit isn’t paying the proper cost. 

JONES:

Or BHP taking 150 million litres out of the great Artesian basin for nothing. 

TREASURER:

For nothing, absolutely and…

JONES:

Doesn’t this highlight the fact that we do have and we can’t debate this this morning, a stack of water out there, we do have to harvest it to recycle it, I mean in the bush, agriculture, harvest it, we may have to move it as Peter Beattie is saying from where it is to where we need it.  I mean the argument is oh, this is all too dear, it will cost $5 a kilolitre, but mightn’t the benefit be $2½ a kilolitre which means the end result is reasonably cheap. 

TREASURER:

Well you have got to look at the market in relation to that.  And if the price of water whatever it is, is such that you can still turn a crop and make a profit, it is like other things.

JONES:

(inaudible). 

TREASURER:

But that is in what I would call industrial and agricultural use.  It is quite different to your ordinary consumer, you know, Mum and Dad or the pensioner wants to turn on the tap.

JONES:

Well on that basis then, on that basis, just taking the industrial and the agricultural and we say, all right, who is going to pay for all of this infrastructure, why wouldn’t you issue infrastructure bonds, I mean as a result of your superannuation changes, there is a stack of money going into super and away from other means of investment, and let the public decide whether they want to invest in infrastructure bonds where basically we can then rebuild the country. 

TREASURER:

Well the public can invest in infrastructure bonds and the public does invest in infrastructure bonds.  For example in relation to road construction, there has been a lot of infrastructure bonds, a lot of the tollways in Australia were financed out of infrastructure bonds.  Infrastructure bonds is just a way of…

JONES:

I meant the initiative of the national government. 

TREASURER:

Well infrastructure bonds is just a way of raising money.

JONES:

Correct.  Particularly for infrastructure.

TREASURER:

Yes, that is right.  You can borrow from a bank, if a company wants to borrow from the public it can issue a bond and you call it an infrastructure bond or anything else.  And it can actually be done.  Anybody who wants to go into one of these programmes can do it. 

JONES:

But if you went tomorrow and said look, we are only going to do one thing and promise one thing at the election, we will rebuild Australia.  We are going to raise money out of all of those available sources and with that dough we will fix up the Pacific Highway, we will fix up the hospitals, we won’t have demountable classrooms, we will build dams and we will build pipelines, the public would say, thank God, at long last.

TREASURER:

Well we are doing this in important respects.  Take the Murray-Darling Basin.  The Commonwealth Government has gone to the public and gone to the States and said the Murray-Darling Basin, four states, our biggest waterway, our biggest ever agricultural use, we are going to set aside $10 billion…

JONES:

That doesn’t help Scone or Ballarat.  So it is good for the Murray-Darling, you are dead right, you have done that and that is (inaudible)…

TREASURER:

It helps Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  It is not good for everywhere, that is true. 

JONES:

That’s true.  So where are going to build the dams that you need and harvest the water.

TREASURER:

Well we are going to look after the Murray-Darling Basin and I will tell you why.  It covers four states.  You say Scone and Ballarat, well we do have a state government.  You know there is a bloke, there is a Premier of New South Wales who may have some responsibility for Scone.  There is one in Victoria who may have responsibility for Ballarat.

JONES:

I’m sorry, so instead of chucking buckets of water, buckets of money at them by the GST, might you just say, well look, some of this money will be tied, I’m sorry.  We are going to say to you, well listen.  If we have got to get all of this dough, we are going to ensure that it is spent in the national interest.

TREASURER:

Well there is.  Some of my colleagues Alan, who say $11 billion will be the amount that will be poured into the New South Wales Government.  $11 billion next year, why not suggest a few projects to them.

JONES:

I agree with that.

TREASURER:

Well…

JONES:

I agree with that.

TREASURER:

…that is an argument for another time. 

JONES:

For another day.  Thank you (inaudible).

TREASURER:

Thanks Alan.

20 Feb 2007

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