Peter Costello

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G-20 protests, Victoria Police effort, meeting with Bono, G-20 outcomes, APEC, Victorian election, Telstra, Beazley - Interview with Neil Mitchell 3AW

Interview with Neil Mitchell
3AW

Monday, 20 November 2006
8.35 am

SUBJECTS: G-20 protests, Victoria Police effort, meeting with Bono, G-20 outcomes, APEC, Victorian election, Telstra, Beazley

MITCHELL:

Are you aware of the incident at the Museum last night? 

TREASURER:

I know there was an incident. I spoke to the Police about it because when I went down to thank the Police for the wonderful work that they have done they said that it was still going on. They gave me a bit of an outline as to what happened.  It was nothing like what we saw on the Saturday but protests were continuing. 

MITCHELL:

So were you inside at the time?

TREASURER:

I was not at that function.  There were a number of cultural functions organised for international visitors and one of them was the Museum.  So after the day had finished they went to see something of Melbourne, Victoria’s culture and the demonstrators decided to try and disrupt them. 

MITCHELL:

I am told they got very close to breaking through, do you know if that’s true?

TREASURER:

I can’t confirm that, Neil. 

MITCHELL:

Okay.  Do you agree that the organisers of the whole rally have to take some responsibility for this?

TREASURER:

Of course they do.

MITCHELL:

One of them is your brother. 

TREASURER:

Well let’s got through them bit by bit.  When you found an organisation called ‘Stop G-20,’ what do you think it means?  It doesn’t mean, oh, we are just going to voice a protest. It means we are going to try and stop the meeting.  The organisers said they wanted to stop it.  So they have to take full responsibility.  I saw all of their spokesmen were out assuring us before the rally that it would be peaceful. The intelligence was that it wouldn’t be.  I had a number of meetings with Victoria Police about that, we shared our intelligence, the federal intelligence and the State intelligence.  It was known that there were people planning violence and the only thing that should have been surprising was the level and the sophistication of the violence.  They were uniformed, they had a command and control system, they had moving tactics called by their commanders, and they had been trained.  And you only had to go and look at what they were saying on their website, they had lawyers that had advised them on what they could do. And we even read that there is a certain legal service that had volunteered its services for them.

MITCHELL:

That was Fitzroy Legal Service.

TREASURER:

So this is…

MITCHELL:

Is that the one you mean?TREASURER:

There was one that was being touted…

MITCHELL:

A publicly funded legal service.

TREASURER:

…by the Stop G-20 and let’s go further than this Neil.  When you find some of these people charged as I hope they are, we find out what, they are students in our universities having a subsidised education from taxpayers of Australia.  I warrant to you some of them will be on education allowances paid for by the taxpayers of Australia. 

MITCHELL:

So what do we do?  What do we do to them?

TREASURER:

Neil, I have just got to say to you, the people of Melbourne and the people of Australia will not stand for this.  We are not going to give our streets across to criminals who engage in disruption and who do violence to property.  And the first thing I want to say is I have enormous respect for the Victoria Police. They are just fine men and women.  The people that were down there on the barricades, and I went and thanked all of them that were there yesterday, are just the finest men and women you will ever see.  I went and thanked the riot squad, I went and thanked the dog squad and those on horses.  You know, imagine what happens when these people, these criminal thugs come at you and you have got to stand there and hold the line and the criminal thugs call that “police violence”.

MITCHELL:

But should these people, if convicted, should they lose their benefits?  Should they lose the study benefits or allowances that they might be getting?

TREASURER:

Well, we will have to have a look at who these people are, whether they are in fact Australian citizens and what benefits they are getting.  But as far as I am concerned, I have had enough, I don’t think taxpayers want to support people who use their time inside this country to trash our city and trash our reputation.  Now Neil, the unfortunate thing is this.  This footage has gone all over the world.  CNN was playing it all weekend and so the image of Melbourne that has gone all over the world is it is a violent city.  Now we know that is not true.  We know this is the greatest place to live.  We, the delegates that were there, the Central Bankers and the Finance Ministers that were there, said this was the most warm, friendly place we had ever had a summit.  We took them and we showed them the MCG.  We took them to the Gallery.  We took them to a dinner, John Williamson played for them, the Australian Girls Choir sung for them.  They said it was a wonderful event and then along come people, we don’t even know if they live in Melbourne, we will find out, and they just try and trash our reputation. 

MITCHELL:

So if these people are not Australian citizens, should they be deported?

TREASURER:

I think if these people are not Australian citizens and they are convicted, I can’t see why they should remain in Australian educational institutions.  And I have been trying to find out whether they are entitled to frankly. 

MITCHELL:

What do you mean?

TREASURER:

Well I don’t know if they are entitled to.  If you come to this country you are expected to obey our laws.  It is that simple.  And again I want to come back to the Police, under enormous provocation the men and women of the Victoria Police were fantastic and I think the other thing that has got to come out of this is we have got to think about how we give more support to the men and women of the police force who are dealing with these criminal thugs.

MITCHELL:

What sort of support?

TREASURER:

Well, we just have to make, it has to be made clear that they have the powers of arrest and dispersal in relation to these mobs. 

MITCHELL:

Do you think they might need greater powers?

TREASURER:

I don’t know that they need greater powers but they have to be sure that they can use the powers of arrest and dispersal in a way that prevents the violence developing. 

MITCHELL:

There is an environment around that your brother was part of setting this scene talking about dead babies and how this meeting this weekend could save 10,000 babies a day.

TREASURER:

Unfortunately, there were non-violent protesters, and I ought to be fair about that, these were the aid agencies.  But the aid agencies tried to hype up the rhetoric. I know why they do that, they are looking for publicity.  But that didn’t help and a lot of that information, which in fact was not accurate, was taken up by the protesters.

MITCHELL:

We will take a break and come back with more from the Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello.  But today it is a (inaudible). 

[Ad break]

MITCHELL:

The Treasurer is with me, we are chasing the Chief Commissioner to talk about what happened at the weekend and the implications that have (inaudible) the police and we’ll take calls in a moment as well.  Mr Costello, you are meeting Bono today, why?

TREASURER:

Well he asked to see me and so I am very happy to see him.  He obviously wants to talk to me about global issues, I am very happy to hear him out, he is a very well-known singer, he has got a big international reputation and so I am quite happy to see him. 

MITCHELL:

I just heard your brother saying on the news that he is part of the establishment.

TREASURER:

Well probably financially he is. 

MITCHELL:

What is the agenda?  What will you discuss with him?

TREASURER:

I don’t know, he has asked for the appointment. He didn’t really say what it was about but I assume it is about global issues and look, he is an international rock star, he is in Melbourne, he asked for an appointment. I am very happy to see him.  I don’t know a great deal about his music but those that do say that it is great music and you have got to hand it to him, he has been around for a long time, he has been extremely successful as a rock star.

MITCHELL:

Maybe he wants your autograph.

TREASURER:

I don’t think I would put money on that.

MITCHELL:

Do you want his?

TREASURER:

I don’t think I would put money on that.  No look, it is just a meeting to have a discussion I imagine about global issues, he made the approach, he asked to see me, I am very happy to do that.

MITCHELL:

What if he asks your favourite U2 song?

TREASURER:

It’s “Beautiful Day.”

MITCHELL:

Another one. 

TREASURER:

Don’t try your luck.

MITCHELL:

Indeed.  In very simple terms, back to the G-20 meeting because it is a difficult concept.  What did it achieve?  What did you actually (inaudible), because I read reported saying well, they had a good talk and did nothing?

TREASURER:

Well every global summit can be criticised on those grounds. The Prime Minister has been in APEC Hanoi, APEC will meet here next year. The UN General Assembly met in October, of course there is a lot of discussion, but what makes the G-20 different is it brings together 85 per cent of the world’s economy and two-thirds of its population.

MITCHELL:

But will we have lower petrol prices as a result?

TREASURER:

Well one of the things, one of the breakthroughs we had here is we got an agreement for open markets in energy.  Oil, gas, coal, uranium.  If you have an open market in energy with increased investment and increased supply, over time oil prices will be lower than they would otherwise be. And if oil prices are lower than they otherwise would be petrol prices will be lower that they otherwise would be.

MITCHELL:

So you think you’ve taken a step towards that?

TREASURER:

A practical, concrete step towards it.  It doesn’t mean the oil price will never go up.  It will go up and it will go down but if we can get increased investment in the oil producing countries it will be lower than it otherwise would have been and that is a direct benefit for Australian business and consumers. 

MITCHELL:

Okay well people (inaudible) about interest rates.  Does it have any impact, what happened on the weekend, on interest rates?

TREASURER:

Oh well, this was probably one of the most significant discussions.  We heard from the US Central Bank which sets US interest rates and therefore has a large influence on global interest rates.  We had the European Bank which sets interest rates in Europe and of course the Reserve Bank of Australia which sets interest rates in Australia.  We shared views on where we think global inflation is going and what can be done to keep it down.  And if those steps are successful in keeping global inflation down that means that interest rates can be contained. 

MITCHELL:

One of the reports suggested that countries with lower interest rates might have to look at increasing them.  Does that include us?

TREASURER:

No, that is really a reference to the Europeans.  That was the European view that in Europe they are lower say than the United States and that was also the Japanese view.  You see Neil, one of the things at a summit like this is you can sit around, you can say well Europe, European Central Bankers, well how is this going to affect America, the US Federal Reserve jumps in.  What about Japan, what is moving there?  And then you turn to the Chinese.  What do you think your demand for uranium will be over the next ten years?  How much coal are you going to need?  Where are we going to get it from?  How much has Canada got?  How much has Australia got?  Well we can supply you here.  A summit like this is absolutely invaluable in relation to getting that international consensus and we all know how important China is for us.  To have China sitting at the table with us, where we can build an energy freeway, I believe, from our country to China, we can give China the energy it needs to bring the standards of living, its population up to developed world standards.  That will be good for them, that will be good for us.  And let me make this point Neil.  If countries start fighting over resources, if we get conflict, that can lead to hostility.

MITCHELL:

Will fewer babies die each day because of this meeting?

TREASURER:

Because of this meeting and because it facilitates economic growth around the globe, it means that living standards will rise as we pull people out of poverty. 

MITCHELL:

So lives will be saved. 

TREASURER:

Let me give you one figure.  280 million people have been pulled out of poverty in the last 20 years through improved trade, principally in China.  Let me say that again, 280 million.  In our generation we have pulled more people out of poverty than any other generation and it has been done principally through economic growth, increased trade, the absence of corruption, the opening up of countries like China and India and if we can keep that process going that can continue.

MITCHELL:

You mentioned APEC, given what happened here at the weekend, would you be concerned about APEC next year and security?

TREASURER:

Well of course APEC won’t be in Melbourne, it will be in Sydney. There will be an APEC Finance Ministers meeting.  The one good thing that could come out of this weekend is that it will give us more intelligence on the anti-social elements that organised these destructive tours and it will also enable the Sydney police to improve their tactics.  And one of the things that the men and women of Victoria Police said to me yesterday is that they really want to share the experience they had with other police forces so that other police forces don’t have to go through what they had to go through on the weekend. 

MITCHELL:

So you do think the tactics were appropriate at the weekend?

TREASURER:

Well that is what I said, improve tactics against the para-military type protesters. 

MITCHELL:

Is it para-military?

TREASURER:

Well let me tell you, they come in a uniform.  They come with a command and a control system.  They try and move in at weak points.  They film, they filmed the whole security set-up before they launched their attack. 

MITCHELL:

So we really have to be on the alert for the APEC meeting?

TREASURER:

APEC is going to be absolutely critical.  We can’t afford to have APEC disrupted.  Here’s Australia, in our region it must be one of the most safe, secure, harmonious societies and yet within our midst we have a small group of anti-social people that want to change all of that.  They are doing it in the name of politics. They don’t want Australia to be safe and secure.  They don’t want people to be able to come here and have a good tourist experience.  They want to trash Australia, that is what these people want to do. 
 
MITCHELL:

Just on something else, Telstra, you are going to get $15.5 billion which is far more than expected.  Where will all of that money go?

TREASURER:

Well this money is invested in the Future Fund.

MITCHELL:

It all goes there. 

TREASURER:

Yes, which will be investing for future generations of Australians.  You have got to remember Neil, you don’t actually have more money at the end of the day.  What you had from a Government point of view, was $15 billion of shares and now you have got the cash.  And what we will do is we will invest that for future generations. 

MITCHELL:

Ted Baillieu, figures are looking better, do you think he can win?

TREASURER:

He has got every chance.  Now, you never take anything for granted in politics. It doesn’t help to be a front runner but you run a very good campaign. It has been a very disciplined campaign, the Labor campaign has been very lacklustre and things are improving and narrowing and I wish him every success.  I think there are five days to go. 

MITCHELL:

Do you think he has campaigned well?

TREASURER:

Yes.

MITCHELL:

How?

TREASURER:

I think he has stayed on message. I think the policies have been good.  I think the policies on transport and roads have been very good and I also think the policy on stamp duty is very good. 

MITCHELL:

Have you been involved in the campaign?

TREASURER:

Yes.

MITCHELL:

When?

TREASURER:

Well at the launch, and policy advice.

MITCHELL:

You have been advising Ted Baillieu?

TREASURER:

Well I have been advising some of the people around him.

MITCHELL:

On what things?

TREASURER:

Economic issues. 

MITCHELL:

There is a perception that you are not actually doing a lot on the campaign trail. 

TREASURER:

Well, I didn’t last weekend because I was hosting Melbourne’s biggest international summit. And of course I have a full-time job.  But outside of my full-time job I am very willing to lend a hand.

MITCHELL:

9610 0693.  Is Kim Beazley gone?

TREASURER:

He is in trouble.  Once you start seeing the kind of briefing that you are seeing against him, it means you are in trouble. 

MITCHELL:

Who is going to get the job?

TREASURER:

I think that is the problem.  He could even survive I think because they don’t have anyone else.  

MITCHELL:

Thank you for coming on.  I notice the Prime Minister got a new dressing gown at his meeting.  What shirts did you give the G-20 lot?

TREASURER:

We gave them Driza-Bones. 

MITCHELL:

Did you?

TREASURER:

Three-quarter length Driza-Bone overcoat.  It was very nice and appreciated. 

MITCHELL:

Did you get one?

TREASURER:

Yes. 

MITCHELL:

Thank you for coming in. 

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Neil. 

MITCHELL:

Actually Meatloaf is more of your thing?                                                   

TREASURER:

I was a Meatloaf fan in my younger days.  Two out of three ain’t bad. 

MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time. 

20 Nov 2006

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