Anti-Americanism, Telstra, Mr Stephen Vizard – Interview with John Laws, 2UE

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Anti-Americanism, Telstra, Mr Stephen Vizard – Interview with John Laws, 2UE


Interview with John Laws


Monday, 22 August 2005
10.10 am

SUBJECTS: Anti-Americanism, Telstra, Mr Stephen Vizard


Peter Costello is on the line. Treasurer, good morning.


Good morning John, good to be with you.


It is good to have you. I wish you were up here on Hamilton Island. Talk about

fantastic. It is just beautiful.


Do not make me envious.


Oh well, one day soon they will give you a break. You were saying loudly and

clearly that school teachers and uni lecturers are responsible for a strong

anti-American sentiment among our young people. I agree with you, but on what

do you base your assessment?


I gave a speech at the weekend John, talking about the values of the American

alliance for Australia, in particular how when Australia was exposed in 1942,

the Japanese attack, if it had not been for American troops and the naval support

and the island campaign of Douglas MacArthur, Australia would have been in very,

very deep trouble. We were under attack …


Can I ask you why you brought that up in your speech?


Because it is the 60th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific, and the Victory

in the Pacific began when Australian troops defeated Port Moresby on the Kokoda

track. We started turning the Japanese, but with the assistance of the Americans,

Japan was defeated. It would not have happened without the Americans and Australia

would not have been secured. I think that there are many younger people in Australia

today that do not know that, and I recounted how I was recently at a local school

in my electorate, and one of the senior school students said “What have

the Americans ever done for us?”, and you know the truth of the matter

is the Americans helped to defend our country in its most extreme security crisis.

And if young people do not know that story, and do not know the importance of

it, then they are not going to know how important the American alliance is to

the defence of Australia.


It is pretty sad that we don’t teach them that in their history lessons.


Well that is right. It should be a big part of Australian history. I think

we teach Gallipoli and Anzac well, I think young people know that, they know

that story and you see all the young people that go off to Gallipoli for Anzac

Day. But do they know the story of the defence of Australia, and the bombing

of Darwin as well, and the American alliance. Why do we have an American alliance?

We have an American alliance because in 1942 the Americans helped to defend

our country, and if we are ever in a severe security danger again we would want

the same.


Now, tell me when you were talking to university students, what was their reaction

to your comments about America and the fact that we owe them something?


Well I think that there is a view, there is a bit of resentment in some quarters

in Australia towards the United States, after all, theirs is huge power, it

is a global power. People tend to resent its power. My point is that US military

power has never been used against Australia, and has been used in the defence

of Australia. So if there is a great power in the world that is sympathetic

to you and is prepared to join with you in the defence of its country, this

is not a bad thing, this is a good thing. That is my message.


Well it is pretty straight forward, and it is pretty simple. Do you really

think there is still a 1970’s mentality around, particularly in the area

of students, and those teaching them?


Well, look I think the universities, particularly the humanities parts of the

universities were very left in the 60’s and 70’s.


They sure were.


You know I know, I was a student there, and I think that a lot of today’s

teachers were trained in that climate, and that was the prevailing climate.

Now, I trust that universities are better today than they were, and many of

those teachers of course will have independent and different views, and I am

not making a broad generalisation about all teachers, but there was a very left

wing period in Australia in the 60’s and the 70’s, and I think that

could be a source of anti-Americanism which is lingering today.


And do you think that could contribute to terrorism?


Well, the only point I make is that in the terrorist mind, if we are talking

about Islamist terrorists, they are certainly anti-American, and they are also



That’s right.


They believe that westerners are their enemies for whatever reason they have.

They do not tend to distinguish, and they lump us all into the same category,

and again I think this is why we have to explain our values. I think the Americans

have got to explain their values too, because there is a lot of anti-Americanism

in the world, and we cannot rest. We do have a big job here …,


We sure do.


… in Australia and the United States.


I think it is very important that we recognise America for what it is, and

I think it is a tragedy that that sort of modern history isn’t taught

to young people so that they have a clear vision of it. Were you anti-American

when you were a student?


No I was not, because – I said this in my speech – you know I am the generation

whose parents were engaged in the Second World War, and I heard all of these

stories from my parent’s generation. I knew it pretty well, but you see

my kids would not be in the same position. This is why I think that the generation

that is going through school today needs to be reminded of these things. Sixty

years ago, VP day, it is not that long you know …


That’s right …


…and the generation is still alive, we do not want to lose it before

that generation disappears.


True. Now old Barnaby Joyce – he is not old, but when he has a name like Barnaby

you sort of think of Barnaby as being old, can’t imagine a little baby

boy being Barnaby, but we’ll just refer to him as Barnaby Joyce – he says

he is going to take his time on his decision on Telstra. He says he might need

a month. How long will you wait for him?


Well we would hope that legislation would be introduced when Parliament goes

back in September. There is a two week recess at the moment, and then Parliament

will sit for two weeks in September, and we hope that Parliament would debate

the legislation then.


I’m getting the message that a lot of Liberal backbenchers aren’t

too happy with the headlines that Barnaby has been getting. He certainly gets

the headlines, doesn’t he?


Well there is a big media focus on him at the moment …


Because he is rebellious?


… the press are giving him enormous coverage, and the thing to bear in

mind is that the Government is a team. No one member is more important than

all the others. They have all got one vote, and we work best when we are working

together, you know that is the thing to bear in mind. There are a lot of Liberals

that represent rural and regional areas, in fact more Liberals represent rural

and …


And they are prepared to accept it?


… and they believe it is important that the Government is able to put

in place a good economic programme. This is the point I keep on making, you

know, why do we want to put in place a good economic programme? Well that keeps

your interest rates down, and people in work. It is going to be no consolation

to anybody if we lose sight of those goals.


No. I don’t know who said united we stand, divided we fall, but whoever

said it dribbled a bit forward as they say in the classics, and Barnaby ought

to be reminded of that I think.


Well, as I say, when a Government concentrates on good economic policy, the

pay-off is jobs and low interest rates, and we do not ever want to loose sight

of good economic policy.


Do you think it is at all possible that the sale of Telstra won’t go

ahead if the share prices are too low?


Look there are two steps here. There is the passing of legislation which authorises

the offering of the shares, and then there is the offering of the shares. The

two do not have to happen simultaneously, but what the Government policy is,

is to offer those shares for sale to the Australian public, like we did previously,

and …


But you wouldn’t let them go, if they were too low would you?


Well you would take commercial advice on all of this, and you have got to consider,

you not only have got to consider where they are now, but where they are going.

You have got to consider demand, you have got to consider what other offers

are being made. So these are all commercial judgements and then you make your

offer, like we did, just the same as we did in relation to the first and the

second offer. But nothing can happen until you pass the legislation. So you

pass the legislation, and then you time the offerings.


Could Barnaby Joyce bring the whole thing undone?


Well the law has to pass the Senate, and you know if the Labor Party wanted

to see reason, it would not be any problem passing the Senate. There are other

Parties in the Senate, and then there are the Liberal and National Parties in

the Senate.


So if you can’t get Barnaby Joyce to see this as clearly as you see it,

would you approach somebody else to get their vote?


Well John, the reality is in the Senate, you never rule out anybody. You never

rule out anybody, you want to get as many votes as you can, but you know …


Have you talked to anybody yet?


Well, no I have not been negotiating the …


Have they talked to anybody yet?


I would think they would remain in contact with people, yes.


You are the master of diplomacy. Is the Tax Office investigation going on in

relation to Steve Vizard’s activities?


I cannot talk about anybody’s personal affairs. I will just make this

general point that where the Tax Office becomes aware that somebody may have

contravened the law, they generally investigate. Well, where they have reasonable

evidence they always investigate.


Okay. Were you embarrassed when all this came out, that the Government had

appointed Vizard to the Telstra Board?


Well what I would say, whether you are on the Telstra Board or any other Board,

the information that you become aware of is not for your personal benefit. It

is for the benefit of the shareholders of that corporation.


Well that is the way it should be.


And any Director who believes that they can receive information for their own

personal benefit ought to be aware, just like Mr Vizard has found out, that

you can be struck out as a company director. You can be subject to very large

fines, and if they can put the evidence together, criminal prosecution.


The reputation of ASIC has been knocked about a bit, hasn’t it?


Well look ASIC was able to conduct the investigation. It presented the information

to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He thought that on that evidence, they

could not secure a criminal conviction, but by the way, criminal conviction

has not been ruled out.


No, no I’m aware of that.


If further evidence were to come to light, the DPP has made this point, he

can still bring a criminal prosecution.


Okay. Good to talk to you Treasurer …


Thank you John.


… thank you very much for your time.


And all the very best at Hamilton.


It is just fabulous. I’m just looking out on this marina now. There are

boats from all over the world here for this thing. We really have got to promote

it because it is an international event, and could you think of a better place

to sail in the world than around the Whitsundays?


I cannot, so you enjoy yourself.


Good to talk to you Peter.