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Howard stands by actions -

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Howard stands by actions

Reporter: Kim Landers

MAXINE McKEW: The PM has launched a spirited defence of his Government after a group of former
military chiefs and diplomats accused him of misleading the public about the reasons for going to
war in Iraq.

They also claim John Howard has made Australia more of a terrorist target.

But it's not the only political battle the PM has been fighting.

He's getting legal advice tonight before deciding whether to support Labor's changes to the US free
trade deal which were finally unveiled today.

From Canberra, Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: After a week long political stand-off over the US free trade agreement, Labor finally
revealed its hand, tabling the three key amendments it's demanding before it'll pass the deal in
the Senate.

opinions supporting Labor's amendments.

KIM LANDERS: It wasn't without a hitch, the Greens complaining there hasn't been enough time to
consider the changes.

SENATOR BOB BROWN, GREENS LEADER: Nor is it our role to get things out of the way for the big
parties to have an election.

KIM LANDERS: But with this possibly the last sitting week before an election, Mark Latham outlined
the amendments at a media conference today, saying the threat of multi-million dollar fines would
stop big drug companies from trying to prevent the sale of cheaper medicines.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: I would have thought that a $10 million penalty plus compensation
to the Commonwealth, the states and the territories and the generic company, plus the possibility
of the confiscation of profits that you've made - that's quite a substantial deterrent.

KIM LANDERS: Soon after, in Question Time, he pressed the Government for a response.

MARK LATHAM: Will the Government support Labor's policy to protect the PBS and ensure that
Australians have access to cheaper medicines?

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I'll be very happy when I do see the amendments to have a look at them
and to communicate to the Parliament what the Government's attitude might be.

KIM LANDERS: And tonight, after a quick look at Labor's changes, John Howard had this response.

JOHN HOWARD: I'm getting legal advice on it overnight and I'll give a final position from the
Government tomorrow morning.

KIM LANDERS: The group representing Australia's prescription medicines industry is also getting
legal advice about the changes.

Medicines Australia says much of the debate has been ill-informed and it's called for an end to the

The PM's also been fending off an attack on a second front, this time over the war in Iraq.

MARK LATHAM: Doesn't the Government now face an unprecedented crisis of credibility as a result of
its repeated dishonesty?

KIM LANDERS: The debate over whether the Government misled the Australian public about the case for
war has been reignited by stinging criticism from a group of 43 former military leaders and
diplomats, headed by two former Defence Force chiefs, two Navy and one Air Force chief.

JOHN HOWARD: May I say to the 43 who penned that letter, in order to establish a charge of
deception you have to prove that the Government deliberately set out to mislead the Australian
people and they have not done that, Mr Speaker.

KIM LANDERS: And John Howard's questioned the impact of their intervention, saying all but one had
left their posts before September 11.

JOHN HOWARD: I'm not going to cop a charge of dishonesty against myself or against my Government.

The argument that I took this country to war on a lie, is itself a lie, Mr Speaker.

KIM LANDERS: The PM also emphatically denies the involvement in Iraq has made Australia more of a
terrorist target, while one of his Coalition back benchers has launched a counter attack of her

DE-ANNE KELLY, NATIONAL PARTY MP: These doddering daquiri diplomats - would they have done any

KIM LANDERS: As for John Howard, he's prepared to stand on his record.

Kim Landers, Lateline.

(c) 2006 ABC |