Peter Costello

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Civil penalties; Kevin Rudd and Brian Burke - Doorstop Interview, Westin Hotel, Sydney

Doorstop Interview
Westin Hotel, Sydney

Monday, 5 March 2007
11.00 am

SUBJECTS: Civil penalties; Kevin Rudd and Brian Burke

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer are our penalties against bad corporate behaviour tough enough?

TREASURER:

We released a discussion paper today to look at whether we can use civil penalties more often.  Civil penalties can generally be brought to court quicker and it would involve increasing the financial consequences – increasing the fines.  That is the proposal that we are putting out there to see if we can toughen things up a bit and make it quicker to bring proceedings against corporate crooks, dispose of the cases quicker.  There will always be jail time for the serious corporate criminals.  We have jailed more than we ever have before.  But if we can get a quicker procedure in there as well we will have a look at that.

JOURNALIST:

There is no idea of moving away from jail?

TREASURER:

Oh no, no, no, serious corporate crooks will go to jail.  We have jailed more offenders than ever before and we have resourced the corporate regulator more than ever before.  That is why it is a shame that Labor is talking about cutting money available to prosecute corporate offenders.  Under our Government corporate offenders are going to face the full wrath of the law and the corporate regulator will be fully funded to do it.

JOURNALIST:

Why is it that after the Brian Burke meetings were first made public back in November the Government didn’t raise the matter then?

TREASURER:

Well, Brian Burke is somebody who has been convicted of fraud, who has been in jail, who was under a ban from the West Australian Government and has now had three Ministers in the Western Australian Government sacked from contact with him.  And we now find out that all through that period Kevin Rudd was meeting with Mr Burke and he won’t tell the truth about those meetings. This is now a character issue for Kevin Rudd.  His explanation doesn’t wash.  He said he just turned up at a restaurant and found Brian Burke there.  We now know that Brian Burke had invited everybody there to meet him.  Mr Rudd was the guest of honour and he gave the speech.  And there are witnesses – witness after witness for the truth of what happened.  Now Kevin Rudd tried to put a spin on this, he didn’t give the full facts, he ought to come out now and do that because every day he delays the public are going to make their judgement on him.

JOURNALIST:

This meeting was first publicised in November.  Why was it okay then apparently?

TREASURER:

It was never okay.  It was never okay.  It was never okay for Mr Rudd to deal with somebody…

JOURNALIST:

Why wasn’t it raised by the Government then?

TREASURER:

Well, you ask Mr Rudd why he didn’t disclose it.  It wasn’t okay in November.  It wasn’t okay when it happened.  It was never okay.  This man was under a ban.  This man was under a ban.  It wasn’t okay for Kevin Rudd to meet him.  Let me tell you something – Brian Burke saw Kevin Rudd coming and he played him like a piano.  He ingratiated himself with Kevin Rudd and he hoped that if Kevin Rudd ever became Prime Minister he would be able to pay that back in return.  Now let me make this point, unfortunately for Mr Rudd he is now in hock to Brian Burke because he needs Brian Burke to back his story.  And Brian Burke will play him like a piano for that debt and for that he will extract a pound of flesh.

JOURNALIST:

But when these meetings were first identified in November why didn’t the Government jump in at that point?

TREASURER:

Who identified them in November?

JOURNALIST:

The Australian Newspaper.

TREASURER:

Did it? Have you got the clip?

JOURNALIST:

I haven’t got it with me.

TREASURER:

No.  Let me tell you if I’d have known in November what I know about Mr Kevin Rudd I would have raised it then, of course I would have.  It wasn’t acceptable in November, it wasn’t acceptable in March.  It is not the big issue here, the issue is will Kevin Rudd tell the truth.

JOURNALIST:

And what about Ian Campbell, will he get a spot if you are re-elected to Government?  Will he be back on the front bench?

TREASURER:

Well, what happens after the next election depends primarily upon the outcome of the next election.  And that would be looked at after the election I imagine.  But I will say this for Ian Campbell, I want to say this, he is a decent man.  He had a meeting with Brian Burke and he shouldn’t have and he has resigned.  Kevin Rudd had three – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  He hasn’t told us the facts and he won’t come clean with the Australian people.  You couldn’t have a clearer contrast today than between Ian Campbell and Kevin Rudd.  One did have principle and one hasn’t.

JOURNALIST:

So you agree that Mr Howard, when he again said this morning that it wasn’t politically motivated for Mr Campbell to go?

TREASURER:

Well Mr Campbell had a 20 minute meeting with Brian Burke.  He came clean about it and he resigned.  Kevin Rudd had breakfast, lunch and dinner.  He won’t come clean about it and he won’t do anything about it.  Now contrast the behaviour.  I think Mr Kevin Rudd has got a lot of explaining to do.  He ought to come out and he ought to come clean with the Australian public because they have got to know just what kind of a hold Brian Burke has on Kevin Rudd.  Okay thanks.

JOURNALIST:

Can I come back to private equity?  Just one question – one quick, quick, question?  You mentioned in your speech that the problems that some of the structures were unsustainable for some private equity funds coming in to invest.  Did you allude at all to Qantas the fact that there is concern in the market that they have leveraged too high in their bid for Qantas?

TREASURER:

I am not speaking about any individual cases.  I made the point that our regulators are having a look at these issues from a systemic point of view, they are having a look at these issues from the regulatory point of view, they will be giving us a report in relation to that and we will consider the outcome of the report once we have got it.  Individual companies and individual applications will be dealt with under the law as it currently stands.  Thank you.  

5 Mar 2007

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