• 18 SEP 05
    • 0

    Costello addresses Hillsong congregation

    Australian Broadcasting Corporation
    LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2005/s1406779.htm
    Broadcast: 04/07/2005

    Costello addresses Hillsong congregation
    Reporter: Tony Jones

    TONY JONES: I spoke with Treasurer Peter Costello a short time ago just outside the Sydney Superdome, after his address to the congregation. Peter Costello, thanks for joining us. A big reaction again. Do you feel a bit like Billy Graham when you’re out in front of a crowd like that?

    PETER COSTELLO, TREASURER: Well, look, it’s a big crowd. It’s a joyous crowd. It’s a group predominantly of young people who meet together. They sing and they hear a preacher preach, a very long sermon, but a good one and an enthusiastic one, and I think if you saw the crowd tonight, you’d come away thinking that Australia’s future is in good hands, that…

    TONY JONES: Tell me, though: does the spirit move you when you’re there or is this just, for you, another political speech in front of an admittedly very enthusiastic crowd?

    PETER COSTELLO: No, I find it very uplifting personally to join in the service, the music and the message. It lifts me. I said that tonight – it lifts me, and I hope it lifts everybody else in the auditorium and, judging from their reaction, it does. You’ve got to bear in mind that people were actually queuing to get into the Superdome tonight, and I would say predominantly young people enjoying music and hearing a preacher preaching mainly from the Bible. That’s a good thing in my book.

    TONY JONES: And a politician preaching as well?

    PETER COSTELLO: I wouldn’t put myself at the same high level. My job was to bring a greeting and to welcome the crowd on behalf of the Australian Government. You know, we think events like this are important, frankly, to see young people, without any drugs, partaking in music, hearing great biblical truths I think is a good thing actually. I think it strengthens our society and it builds on values which are important for our society.

    TONY JONES: What about the philosophy of this particular church? Do you think this brand of Christianity is actually more suited to conservative politics than to Labor politics?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, certainly there’s an emphasis on individual responsibility, on taking responsibility for your own life. I think they’re important values. But I just think that this is really the same Christian faith that you meet in the older churches in subdued ways; particularly for young people, in much more vibrant ways with rock music and more punch and I think young people are attracted to vibrancy in anything. They find it here in the church and in the conference. You’ve got to bear in mind, this is not just one church, although it’s sponsored by the Hillsong Church; people come from churches all over Australia to this convention, and there might be hundreds of churches that are engaged over the course of this week.

    TONY JONES: Alright. These Hillsong people, though, who are in a sense the hosts, I suppose, of this occasion, they’re all about combining a belief in Jesus with personal prosperity. Does that work for you?

    PETER COSTELLO: It hasn’t worked in my case, no! (Laughs)
    TONY JONES: (Laughs) What I’m getting at here – well, who knows, maybe in the future! But what they’re calling this is a prosperity gospel. Now, what do you think personally of the idea of seeking prosperity through Jesus?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, look, I know that’s often said. I’ve been to last year’s conference and I’ve been to this year’s conference. Personally I didn’t hear anybody say that. I know a lot of people who are at this conference who would believe that. Personally, I don’t believe that there’s any necessary connection, so I’ve got to say to you that I think sometimes the critics try and get a steer on something that is very, very successful. That’s one of the criticisms they make. In my experience, it’s pretty unfounded.

    TONY JONES: Well, fair enough. But Brian Houston – he’s the brains behind Hillsong – he actually wrote a book titled You Need More Money: Discovering God’s Amazing Financial Plan For Your Life. I mean, do you find that comforting or do you find it a bit disturbing?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, I think he said himself that it was a provocative title, and it sure is. It’s sure captured people’s imagination. Personally, I haven’t read the book so I’m not qualified to talk about it, but I’ve got to say to you, I’ve never heard any insistence on personal enrichment or wealth out of these meetings. In fact, the guy that was talking tonight was talking about just the opposite. He was talking about leaders being servants, which to me is pretty orthodox Christian faith.

    TONY JONES: Now, Brian Houston’s belief – and Hillsong is his church – he says he’s fundamentalist on this issue – he doesn’t believe in evolution. In other words, he believes that Darwin got it wrong and that God created the world in six days, etc, etc. I mean, doesn’t it worry you when someone like that has sway over a lot of impressionable minds?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, you know, I think young people make up their views themselves, to be frank. People get information from all sources. It might be from watching television, it might be from listening to the radio, it might be from reading the media, and it might be from going to church, and actually I think sometimes the church will be a balance to all of those other sources of information. At the end of the day, they’ll make up their own minds. I don’t think it’s fair to say, just because they go to a particular church, that they can’t think for themselves. In fact, I’d encourage them to think for themselves. I think it’s a big part of exploring and learning your way towards faith.

    TONY JONES: I take it you do believe in evolution, then?

    PETER COSTELLO: Oh, yes. Look, you know, you shouldn’t overstate the influence that kids are under. I think they’re under a whole powerload of bad influences, frankly, that come through the media, through some forms of rap music, and actually, a bit of counterbalancing the other way may actually even the playing field a bit.

    TONY JONES: A bit of creationism can’t hurt; is that what you’re saying?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, look, they’ll make up their own minds. I think that they’ll principally get their views on biology from their teachers at school, and they’ll principally get their views on faith from their pastors, and the fact that different people have different views, I don’t see as a dangerous thing. In an open society where kids are encouraged to question and learn, hearing different views doesn’t do them too much damage.

    TONY JONES: The influence of religious-based, particularly Christian-based politics is already starting to have an impact on federal politics after the deal the Coalition made with Family First. Now, how seriously are you as Treasurer going to take the process of assessing each new piece of legislation through the prism of a family impact statement?

    PETER COSTELLO: Look, it will work in some cases, Tony. Let’s suppose we’re discussing changes to the Family Law Act. Well, then you’d want to have a family impact statement – very obvious area. But let’s suppose we’re making a decision on whether to buy an air warfare destroyer. I can’t imagine that a family impact statement would be very influential. So you don’t want to overstate these things. I think in some areas it will be helpful; in other areas it won’t be appropriate. But if you have this information in the front of the Cabinet, I don’t think it will do much damage. You just gotta make sure, I think, that the Cabinet ministers are able to sift and assess the information and make decisions, as they always will, on what’s in the national or the public interest.

    TONY JONES: Who’s going to write these family impact statements? Is it going to be public servants or politicians? Is it going to be the Family First advisers coming in to write them on your behalf?

    PETER COSTELLO: I imagine it will be public servants. We already have a regional impact statement which accompanies every Cabinet submission. We have a regulation impact statement which accompanies every Cabinet submission. That’s produced by essentially people who are answerable to the Treasury in the long term. So I imagine it will be written probably by public servants in the Family and Community Services portfolio.

    TONY JONES: How’s the family impact statement on industrial relations legislation going?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, I haven’t seen one, Tony. This is something that the Cabinet signed off on some months ago, and I’m not sure there was one. I’m not sure when the family impact statements come into force.

    TONY JONES: You’re surely going to have one, though, because this has to go to the Senate where Stephen Fielding is going to be at some point.

    PETER COSTELLO: The family impact statements come to the Cabinet, they come with Cabinet submissions, and they’ll be given due consideration in the Cabinet.

    TONY JONES: Peter Costello, the reaction to those industrial relations plans and to the union campaign against them may be starting to bite. Tomorrow’s Age poll has some bad news for you, with Labor streaking ahead in two-party-preferred terms. Your reaction to that poll, those new results?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on any particular poll because some of them are more accurate than others. But obviously, industrial relations is going to be a big argument, and I wouldn’t underestimate the difficulties of explaining this argument. It’s always easier to sell a negative than a positive, and the union movement’s been out of the blocks fast with a negative, but what we have to do is we have to explain to people that these changes are designed to increase jobs and increase wages. If you have a better industrial relations system, more profitable economy, there are more jobs and more wages, and that’s the case that we’re taking to the Australian people. It’s going to be a long argument and a long discussion. But I think when you think about it, and you think about it maturely and soberly, you can see that a better industrial relations system is in the long-term interests of Australian employees and their wages.

    TONY JONES: But your Industrial Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, is saying of the union and Labor campaign it’s just a scare campaign. It does appear to be biting with the electorate. Does that worry you?

    PETER COSTELLO: Well, of course it’s a scare campaign. Everybody knows that it’s a scare campaign. No legislation has actually been produced, and they got out of the blocks very quickly. That’s because the ACTU needs a cause to keep it going. But as I said earlier, it’s always easier to start off with a negative and harder to sell a positive. But as time goes by and as people maturely think about this, I think they’ll realise that a more flexible industrial relations system means a better economy, more jobs and higher wages. That’s the message that we’ll be putting to the Australian public.

    TONY JONES: Alright. Peter Costello, we appreciate it’s pretty cold out there. We thank you for taking the time to come and talk to us nonetheless. Good to see you.

    PETER COSTELLO: It’s great to be with you, Tony. Thank you very much.

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