Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of the Press Conference of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard, MP\nPort Moresby, Papua New Guinea: 27 October 2005: Pacific Island Forum; anti-terrorism legislation; avian influenza; comments by Iranian President; Kyoto Protocol.



Download PDFDownload PDF

PRIME MINISTER

27 October 2005

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE, PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Subjects: Pacific Island Forum; anti-terrorism legislation; avian influenza; comments by Iranian President; Kyoto Protocol.

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………………..

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just make a couple of comments first of all about the meeting. I thought the communiqué and the decisions taken at the meeting maintained the thrust of the new Pacific spirit that came out of the Auckland meeting a couple of years ago and that is a greater emphasis on governance and fighting corruption and also a greater emphasis on pooling resources. The reality is that so many of the member countries of the forum are so small it is impossible to maintain the infrastructure of government in many of them and there’s no point in pretending otherwise and there’s no point in wasting resources in trying to do so. And what you really have to do is try and pool as many resources in those countries as it is possible to achieve. Now that’s been a view I’ve held and a view I’ve continued to express very strongly to my colleagues in the forum. I think we are slowly making progress towards a greater acceptance and realisation of that and obviously the Australian people, who are strong supporters of our involvement in the Pacific will continue to agree with us making significant financial provision for the Pacific, provided the money is wisely spent.

And what we will continue to do is redouble our efforts to make sure that the money we provide, not only in the Pacific but elsewhere, is wisely spent. Our aid to the Pacific has more than doubled since 2001 so I’m not talking theoretically. I’m talking about very large amounts of money. Because if you add the PNG separate contribution plus other money that’s given to the Pacific you are approaching a billion dollars, so we’re talking about a very large amount of money. And the Australian taxpayer has the right to require that to be wisely spent and it’s our job to impose conditions ensuring that takes place.

I did indicate yesterday the new initiative in relation to the Australian Technical College. I think this is a very important, practical initiative and we will get to work on implementing it as soon as possible. I am putting out a statement which draws together the various initiatives

www.pm.gov.au

in other areas such as security, avian flu, judicial training, tsunami early warning and a few other smaller matters where the Government has made significant financial contribution.

I’d like to conclude by thanking the Government of Papua New Guinea and the people of this country for their hospitality and to remark how appropriate it is that the conference takes place in the 30th year of the Independence of Papua New Guinea. Do you have any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, how do you respond to Sir Rabbie Namaliu comments that Australia’s advice on the labour mobility aspects was ill advised and misinformed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if he said that, I don’t agree with it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, corruption remains pretty widespread in the region. Should there be any specific benchmarks set with regard to corruption?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t think it’s the sort of thing Ian where you publicly set benchmarks. You establish mechanisms for the distribution of aid and the way in which you provide aid to eliminate money being wasted in corrupt practices and bad governance. People will be aware that one of the driving forces behind the Ramsay intervention was not only to restore law and order, but also to improve standards of governance and you will also be aware of other stances we’ve taken in relation to other countries. I think it’s a question of tailoring the approach to

the individual country and the individual situation rather than set public benchmarks. I think they, in a sense, create a diversion. If you are an aid donor and you say we will give the aid on certain conditions, then you can control the outcome. You get into a public debate about benchmarks. That just creates a whole lot of debate and nothing more.

JOURNALIST:

Rabbie Namaliu says that Australia’s got one plan for America and Europeans and another for Pacific Islanders. What’s your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he misunderstands the crucial difference between backpackers coming to Australia and the sort of thing he wants. When backpackers come to Australia they only come once, whereas the seasonal worker concept involves people coming and going on a regular basis, so he’s not comparing apples with apples.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister on avian flu, how vulnerable are countries like Papua New Guinea to bird flu?

2

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think all countries are to some extent vulnerable and the stronger public health arrangements people have the better they are. We think there’s things that we can do to help, that’s why we’ve made available $8 million to help strengthen the situation. But this whole bird flu issue, like so many other things, has got to be kept in proportion. Yes, there is a potential danger, but if we keep increasing the rhetoric, we will end up in a state of paranoia about it. What we need to do as countries is to make sensible preparations to remember that the latest advice from the World Health Authority is it’s a one in ten possibility. Now that’s a lot more serious than it was some years ago, but it is still within the range of a possibility, not a probability or an inevitability, so we have to keep a sense of proportion.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, on anti-terror laws, have you spoken to Peter Costello on why he’s raised concerns that these laws are unconstitutional?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, there’s no need to. I’ve had a look at what he said and his position is no different from mine.

JOURNALIST:

But didn’t he say that this needs more legal discussion?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, what he said was, which is something that’s been apparent for 104 years in Australia, and that is the final arbiter of the constitutionality of any law is the High Court of Australia.

JOURNALIST:

What about Peter Beattie? He says that he’s going to contact state leaders over legal concerns.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he can talk to state leaders as frequently as he likes. The goal of the Commonwealth is to legislate the substance of the agreement that was made at the COAG meeting and I’m sure that will happen. How you actually express that agreement is always the subject of debate and the fact that we are having exchanges with the States is all about process, its all about the implementation of the agreement. But no Premier I have spoken to wants to walk away from that agreement. I don’t believe any of the Premiers will walk away from that agreement.

JOURNALIST:

What about the Chief Ministers?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s a matter for the Chief Minister. But the Premiers are of course in a different position from the Chief Minister.

3

JOURNALIST:

So you would expect it to end up in the High Court?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know what will happen. When the law is implemented, people might challenge it. That happens with anything. There’s nothing strange about a legal view being less than 100%. I don’t think I have ever seen a legal opinion in the time I’ve been Prime Minister that says this is 100% certain. Lawyers never say that. I know, as a former lawyer myself, they always hedge their bets and they always say it’s not entirely free from doubt. Now as far as this issue is concerned there is discussion going on today between the Solicitors’ General of the Commonwealth and the States. You know, it’s a big legal pow-wow, but it’s not altering the substance of our agreement and our agreement will be implemented because the Premiers have told me they’re sticking to it. That’s what they’ve told me. Now obviously if they change their mind it’s a different matter. But I don’t believe they will. The reason they won’t is that these laws are in Australia’s interests.

JOURNALIST:

Is it likely that the clause on the so-called shoot to kill be included in the, the clarifying clause, be included in the Crimes Act and is there a possibility of a judicial involvement in the issuing of detention orders?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I take the first issue. What we set out to do at the beginning was to provide that if somebody had to be taken into custody by the police to implement a preventive detention order then the behaviour of the police should be governed by the same rules that govern the behaviour of the police when they arrest somebody. And that’s what we set out to do and that’s what we’re going to end up doing. Now there are different ways in which you can express that. We sought to express that by simply copying the provision in the Commonwealth Crimes Act into this new legislation. The States have said, well let’s express it in a different way by picking up by cross reference, the provisions of the State Crimes Act, dealing with an arrest situation. The provisions of the State Crimes Act in large measure are very similar to the provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act. This is a process issue. At no stage had we sought to introduce a new shoot to kill policy. I mean they’re nice, dramatic words and they get good headlines and they make nice grabs on all the evening news bulletins, but they don’t, in substance, amount to anything other than a desire on our part to make sure that if somebody has to be taken into custody, the behaviour of the police officer taking that person into custody is subject to the same rules as the behaviour of a police officer when he is arresting somebody. Now that’s all we sought to do and our way of doing that was to copy the Commonwealth Crimes Act provision in relation to arrests. The States have said well why don’t we say that we in each State will follow the rules in the State Crimes Act or the State Law. Not all of them, incidentally have these provisions codified. New South Wales relies on the common law. Now I don’t, frankly, care how it’s done as long as it’s done sensibly and it’s done in a way that makes sure that if a police officer takes somebody into custody, pursuant to a preventive detention order, then he’s subject to the same rule that applies to a police officer arresting somebody. That is all that is at stake here. We are not introducing and have never sought to introduce a new shoot to kill policy. I mean it’s been a fascinating debate and I’m sure every arcane detail of it is followed with great interest, but I

4

can assure you there has been no attempt made to sneak some new power in. In some respects, what we have actually sought to do by spelling out what you can and can’t do in using force - some would argue that would actually circumscribe the behaviour of police rather than expand.

JOURNALIST:

Pacific States will hold a counter terrorism exercise….

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST:

Pacific States are going to hold a counter terrorism exercise in Fiji in November. What will that involve and does Australia still believe insecurity in the Pacific could create a haven for terror groups?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m sorry, what was the first bit?

JOURNALIST:

In the communiqué (inaudible) a counter terrorism exercise in November. I was wondering will that involve and does Australia still believe that insecurity in the Pacific region is…?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it will involve all the things that you normally have when you carry out those exercises. I think there is a terrorist threat in different parts of the world. It’s probably not quite as high in many of the Pacific countries as in other parts of the world, but none of us can pretend it mightn’t happen to us.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard (inaudible) any advice about reported links between one of the London bombers and training in South East Asia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not that I’m in a position to talk about.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, have you spoken to Jon Stanhope in the last two days?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I haven’t no.

5

JOURNALIST:

Do you intend to speak to him over the next 24 hours to 48 hours about….

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t have any current proposals.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the Iranian President has…

PRIME MINISTER:

The Iranian President?

JOURNALIST:

Iranian president saying that quote,’ Israel should be wiped off the map’. How do you respond to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s a very dangerous, serious, speech. I think it does represent grounds for very great concern to have the president of any country saying another should be wiped off the face of the earth - is a reminder of the psychological pressure, quite apart from the actual pressure that the state of Israel is under. And this obviously is an issue that the United Nations has to address.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Jon Stanhope is apparently now suggesting that he might walk away from the COAG agreement, particularly over I think an issue of judicial review. If that were to occur, what consequence would that have and would the Commonwealth have available to it powers that would make his walking away irrelevant?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t intend to respond to that at this stage. Let’s see what Mr Stanhope does. If and when he indicates that he’s going to walk away from the agreement he entered into; he entered into it very openly, you saw them all at that press conference. They were all very strongly in support of that agreement. He spoke at the meeting. If and when he walks away from that then I might have something to say. But I’m not going to say anything now. That will not achieve any purpose at all.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any sign that home grown terrorism is part of the training manual for South East Asian terror groups?

6

7

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know that I want to contribute anything more on that subject than I have in the past.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, former Premier Bob Carr is today spearheading a publicity campaign urging government’s to take action on climate control. Are you going to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and what is the Government’s agenda on climate change?

PRIME MINISTER:

If Australia were to sign the Kyoto Protocol in its present form, that would sell out in the interests of Australian industry and Australian jobs. The Kyoto Protocol is anti-Australian jobs particularly in the resource sector because it imposes burdens on Australian industry that it doesn’t impose on like industries in countries like Indonesia and China and I’m amazed that a former Labor Premier should advocate that we should sign up to something that would export the jobs of Australian workers. I think we might end on this. We’ve done very well.

JOURNALIST:

Yesterday you said that according to the (inaudible) authorities, the terror laws are quite constitutional. Where’s the hedging of bets in that regard?

PRIME MINISTER:

Where’s the hedging of bets?

JOURNALIST

You say that lawyers hedge their bets with the advice they give…

PRIME MINISTER:

What I’m simply saying there Kieran is that most legal opinions I’ve ever read says although the issue is not free from doubt, I believe it’s okay and that’s basically how lawyers talk. They always say there’s a possibility, well usually say there’s a possibility of another outcome. But always legal opinions are expressed in an on balance, taking everything into account and although it is not free from doubt, we believe nonetheless, and it’s on that basis that I made that statement. There’s nothing new or revolutionary about that.

Thank you.

[ends]