Peter Costello

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Citizenship, Constitution - Interview with Ray Martin, A Current Affair

Interview with Ray Martin
A Current Affair

Friday, 11 November 2005

SUBJECTS: Citizenship, Constitution

MARTIN:

Treasurer thanks for joining us, we live in tense times, do you feel that?

TREASURER:

Oh yes, when you see people that are being picked up in raids in our major capital cities, being charged with terrorist offences you realise that these are dangerous times, that there are threats that are facing innocent Australians and you realise that we as a community have to be on our guard. It is something that we will have to live with, we may have to live with for a while. But it is much better to take preventative action than to have to deal with the consequences afterwards.

MARTIN:

It seems clear, from what you said in today’s press, you’re angry with people who promote Sharia, Islamic law?

TREASURER:

Well the point I would make is this, Australians are free to express themselves about political views, let’s make that clear. But there are some things Australia stands for, has always stood for, always will stand for which will never change. We will never be an Islamic State. We will never observe Sharia Law. We have a Constitution. The Constitution means that Australia has a civil state, that the laws are made by elected representatives. We will always be a democracy and to people who say, well we have come to this country and we would like to turn it into something that it isn’t, I say, you must understand, that will never occur. There are certain core Constitutional things that Australia stands for, always will and expects all of its citizens to accept. And that is a civil government with parliamentary democracy, with democratic law making, with equality between men and women and if you’re someone that doesn’t like those principles then Australia may not be the best place for you.

MARTIN:

You said it’s a free country, but it’s not a crime to criticise the law, or the government is it?

TREASURER:

No it is not a crime. But if anybody has the belief that they will somehow or another turn Australia into an Islamic republic I would just counsel against it. It will not happen. And if you want to live in an Islamic republic there are countries around the world that are Islamic republics, you might be happier in those countries than you will be in Australia. That is my point.

MARTIN:

Treasurer, you said this to me three months ago, some Islamic leaders are still out there saying it?

TREASURER:

Well there is only one law in Australia. It is the law that is made by parliament and it is enforced by the courts. And every person who lives in Australia has to understand this. This is the law they come under. And the point I make also is people who come to Australia as immigrants and become Australian citizens, they take an oath to this country and that means something. That means your loyalty is to this country, its democratic values, you pledge an oath to observe those democratic values and I think it is incumbent upon us in Government to say to those people we mean it and we expect them to mean it as well.

MARTIN:

Should we be tougher with those immigrants, should we specify when they come here that they’ll be living by Australian law, not Sharia law?

TREASURER:

Well I think we are entitled to say to people who want to become Australian citizens, this is what Australia is about. If you want to be an Australian you are expected to subscribe to it. If you don’t subscribe to that then Australia is not the place where you are likely to be happy. There may be other countries where you could be happier. I think we are entitled to say that to people that are coming to our country. I don’t think we ought to mix our messages, I think we ought to be very clear and very direct. There are things that Australia stands for and if you want to be an Australian you are expected to believe in those things as well.

MARTIN:

As you said at the start, we live in tense times, but they’re still promoting Islamic law, should you kick them out?

TREASURER:

Well I would say that people who are dual citizens, who are an Australian citizen and an a citizen of another country as well, if they are not happy with Australia it might be better for them to live in the country where they are also a citizen. See it is a funny thing isn’t it to say well I want to live in this country but I am just opposed to everything that happens or I am opposed to its system of government. If you really are opposed to everything that happens or its system of government then why not go to the country where you also hold citizenship? You might be happier there, that is my point. Rather than say I would like to change everything about Australia, everything that it stands for, maybe the problem doesn’t lie with the country maybe it lies with the individual.

MARTIN:

Well it’s your Government, what about changing the law, no more dual citizenship?

TREASURER:

Well there are plenty of people that are dual citizens. You wouldn’t want to stop that. But I would say to people who say they are opposed to Australia and what it stands for, who are dual citizens, maybe it is time to go and exercise your other citizenship.

MARTIN:

What do you do with those Australians born here, who say the same thing?

TREASURER:

Well this is a separate problem you see. A person who doesn’t have another citizenship is in a different category. They have no other country to go to. It may be that they would want to migrate to those countries but of course they don’t have a citizenship and so they are in a different category.

MARTIN:

Would you pay their way?

TREASURER:

You can’t ask them to exit, you can’t exercise another citizenship if you don’t have it. But they may of course be interested in migrating.

MARTIN:

Words don’t mean someone’s a terrorist?

TREASURER:

No of course not. Actions, membership, activity is what we focus upon and it is where somebody is a membership of an organisation or is working towards a terrorist act, that is what the law focuses on and anybody who is a member or is working or is planning is contravening Australian law. And that is when the law steps in.

MARTIN:

As I said, you said this to me three months ago, you were saying this, circumstances have changed dramatically in the last week, is it time for the Australian Government to get tougher?

TREASURER:

Well I think it is time for the Australian Government to speak clearly and to make this point and to make it to any person who has the view that somehow they can change Australia into something which it will never be, and it won’t happen. And they ought to understand that and would-be migrants ought to understand that as well and I think the time has come for plain speaking. That is what I am engaging in.

MARTIN:

Do you mean no second chance, someone who’s not an Australian citizen supports Sharia law, would you kick them out?

TREASURER:

Well it is time to realise that you are advocating something which will never happen. It won’t happen. If that is what you want you won’t find it here. That is the point I would make, you won’t find it here.

MARTIN:

I know you don’t mean to, but coming out so strongly like you have today are you saying this will turn up the heat on average Muslims, most of whom are law abiding citizens?

TREASURER:

Well of course most Muslim Australians are here because they actually respect civil state, they respect parliamentary democracies, that is why they came here. And anyone who respects those things is very welcome to come here. It is the people who come here and want to take advantage of that and then change it or abolish it that I am speaking to. It won’t be abolished, we have a Constitution, it won’t change, if you don’t like the way Australia is run, if you don’t like a civil state then you are not going to like Australia. That is my point. But if you do and you do want to take advantage of it, of course you are welcome here, very welcome here, like millions of other migrants that have come to Australia.

MARTIN:

Do you sympathise with those moderate Muslim leaders who are today saying they feel the backlash already and they’re being subjected to racist comments.

TREASURER:

Well I would say that moderate Muslim leaders have a very big role to play here as well. I think when they speak unambiguously and clearly renouncing terrorism, warning that those people who are engaging in terrorism are not true followers of Islam, that they are following a perverted ideology. When they speak like that they are a very, very big part of the solution of the security for Australia. And I would warmly welcome moderate Muslim leaders speaking out in an unambiguous and uncompromising way.

MARTIN:

What do you say to non-Muslim Australians, who see different clothes, see different cultures – be tolerant?

TREASURER:

Oh absolutely. There is plenty of room in Australia for different fashion and plenty of room for different ways of standard of living. But there is no room for people who don’t accept what Australia stands for. Parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, equality of people, civil state, that is where there is no room for compromise. How you look, what you eat, various ways bloom here but let’s be very clear about the most important things about Australia and what it stands for.

MARTIN:

Listening to talkback today, there’s an outcry people are saying it’s too late, we’ve lost our Australian way?

TREASURER:

Of course we haven’t. And this is a great country. This is one of the greatest countries in the world. And we have the will to make sure that it stays that way. And we are going to exercise that will. We are going to keep it the way we believe in and those Australians who, and they are the overwhelming majority, who believe in all of those things can rest assured that together as a people we will continue to make this one of the greatest countries in the world.

MARTIN:

Treasurer, thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Thanks Ray.

11 Nov 2005

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