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Tanscript of press conference: Farmleigh House, Dublin: 21 May 2006: Iraqi Prime Minister; visit to Ireland; nuclear energy; AC Nielsen; media laws; AWB; Indonesian relations; ABC Managing Director appointment; indigenous affairs; John Perrin.



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PRIME MINISTER

21 May 2006

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE, FARMLEIGH HOUSE, DUBLIN

Subjects: Iraqi Prime Minister; visit to Ireland; nuclear energy; AC Nielsen; media laws; AWB; Indonesian relations; ABC Managing Director appointment; Indigenous Affairs; John Perrin.

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

Well ladies and gentlemen I would first like to congratulate the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr Al-Maliki, on the announcement and ratification of his new government. This is a true milestone on the hard march of Iraq towards a more hopeful future. And it’s important to note that the people of Iraq have three times defied the most fearful intimidation to vote in

elections. We tend to forget how long it has taken other societies to fully embrace democracy. We’re too hard on the Iraqi’s, the cynics in the West are unreasonable, they’re over-demanding, their expectations are far too high, they forget history and they forget how long it’s taken countries that are now accepted entrenched democracies to fully embrace it. And I think this is an occasion where the world should applaud the courage of the Iraqis. They’ve kept going and I can only hope that Mr Al-Maliki’s, Al-Maliki rather, that his government is successful. I have written to him today, congratulating him, assuring him that Australia will go the distance in helping Iraq—and that means that we’re not going to become slaves to artificial deadlines about troop withdrawals. We will withdraw our forces or reduce them when the circumstances suggest that that might be possible. But this is a very important day, very important weekend for the people of Iraq and the world should be a little more generous in praising them for what they have achieved. A little less critical, a little less cynical, a little less desirous of finding fault because of its disagreement with the action of the American led coalition.

Second thing I’d like to do of course is to say how very pleased I am to be in Ireland on this my visit to this country as Prime Minister. It’s a mistake just to see Australia’s relations with Ireland in terms of history and sentiment and nostalgia—important though those three things

are—and I’ll have something to say about the impact of the Irish on the Australian character when I have the privilege of addressing the Dail on Tuesday. But there’s also a contemporary relationship between Australia and Ireland. It’s a relationship that finds obviously some areas of disagreement over trading policy and I’ll obviously have something to say to the Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, about those matters. But the Irish economy has progressed very dramatically over the last 10 or 15 years. Some of that has no doubt been due to the subsidies

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of the European Union, but a lot has been due to the energy and the inventiveness of the Irish people.

I think there are areas where we can expand our economic cooperation. I will obviously want to talk about some of those in the areas of information technology and health. I’ll also want to get Mr Ahern’s views on progress with the peace process in Northern Ireland, it’s obviously something that concerns Australia, only in the sense— but importantly in the sense that we want to see the peace process pushed along. It’s been a long and difficult process, it’s been going on now for years and years, but we hope that the bloodshed of the last 30 to 40 years is finally been put behind the people of Northern Ireland and from our point of view I want to give great credit to both the British Prime Minister, Mr Blair, and also the Irish Prime Minister, Mr Ahern, for their unstinting efforts to achieve a peace settlement in that very troubled part of the world. Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you talk about…you’re talking about on uranium the need for a wide ranging debate…everything on the table. For a constructive debate you need some sort of structure and I’m wondering what you envisage that might be?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ll be having something more to say about that when I get back. I have given it quite a lot of thought. I didn’t lightly say what I said in Ottawa on Saturday and you’ll be hearing quite a bit more from me about that issue. It is a different world from what it was a few years ago, not only because of the price of oil—that’s an important factor—but also the reality that nuclear power is cleaner and greener than other forms of power. But like all forms of power generation, it’s governed by the laws of arithmetic and the laws of economics. And I’ve said all along that that is a factor, a dominant factor, a very important factor that will be involved. But we do need to have a debate about it and it’s in the national interest that we do so. And I agree with you Mr Parry that there does need to be some form and structure given to that— and that’s precisely what I’ve been thinking about and I’ll have something more to say about that in the near future.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Nick Minchin is quoted (inaudible) newspaper on the weekend as saying that there’s no likelihood of a nuclear power station in Australia for a century because of economic and waste issues. We’ve got plenty of time to have that particular debate haven’t we?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if that were a conclusive statement of the position, the answer would be yes. But that’s a very important caveat isn’t it?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister do you still maintain there is no economic case for nuclear energy? And secondly to aid this debate should Mr Beazley come out with his position on nuclear energy?

PRIME MINISTER:

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Oh no, no, no, look, look, if you wait until he comes out with a clear position on something, it’ll be a long time before you have a full debate. This in a way has got nothing to do with Mr Beazley except to the extent that he obviously will contribute to the debate. I’m not putting this on the table because of Mr Beazley. I really do believe that this is a very important issue. The economics of it are dominant of course, but until you have a proper examination and the proper testing of assumptions, you can’t be certain that the economics haven’t shifted from what we thought they might have been only a short while ago.

JOURNALIST:

The politics though is as poisonous as the nuclear waste, I mean that’s where Nick Minchin’s coming from. He knows what happened in South Australia; people just don’t want to know.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think public opinion is shifting. But even if it is not, isn’t it part of one’s responsibilities as a leader to promote debate on important issues, even though there may be difficulties involved? Don’t we get criticised, including from time to time by journalists for only touching things that have some immediate political dividend? Isn’t the right thing if you believe that it’s in the interests of the country to have a proper debate on something? My sense is that attitudes to nuclear power are a lot different from what they were 10 years ago and certainly a lot different from what they were 20 years ago, when you even somebody like Peter Garrett with all of his background adopting a different stance now than what he did when he ran as the…what the NDP Senate candidate in New South Wales, what in 1984— the world is very, very different from what it was then and that’s the point I’m making. Now my responsibility is to debate these issues and the fact that initially some people may say well that’s not very popular—well I’ll live with that. People didn’t think tax reform was very popular when we put it on the agenda and I don’t intend to walk away from this debate because energy, the cost of energy, the availability of energy, the cleanliness of energy, the greenhouse gas propensities of energy is a very, very important issue for all of our societies, and I don’t think people in my position should walk away from these debates just because the first opinion poll may say that people don’t want to hear about it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister (inaudible) senior Ministers, Downer and McFarlane, have both said in principle that Australia should consider enrichment of uranium. Do you… is that something that you’d like to explore as part of….

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I think you should explore…I think the whole thing should be debated, that’s what I meant when I spoke in Canada, a full blooded debate. But as to the form that that debate will take, as I said in answer to Mr Parry’s question, I’ll have something more to say about it.

JOURNALIST:

That’s the view though Prime Minister isn’t it, that if we did go down the (inaudible) we wouldn’t have to deal with storing uranium in Australia - uranium waste?

PRIME MINISTER:

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All of those things have to be part of any debate. I mean we haven’t taken any decisions about anything except I have made it very clear that I want all of these aspects and all of these issues fully debated. Now of course people will be opportunistic. When the States, you mentioned the issue of nuclear waste, the States have been utterly opportunistic about nuclear waste. They all solemnly agreed some years ago that we would have a process to find the best place to store the waste.

JOURNALIST:

The Nimby (inaudible)..not in my backyard……

PRIME MINISTER:

Exactly. Now I mean we are never going to solve these big problems if we get overwhelmed by nimbyism and particularly on something like this.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you say public views on this have shifted. Have your views on nuclear power shifted, particularly, in the last week of talks that you’ve had…

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh I don’t that they’ve shifted, I don’t think they’ve…Mr Lester I don’t they’ve shifted, I think the context of the last week or so has given my developing views more prominence because I have in the United States talked to Mr Bodman, as well as President Bush about the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and the interaction of that with Australia as a uranium holder and uranium exporter, uranium producer and also what I did find interesting in Canada was the changed attitude of the new Canadian Government, changed from the previous government about Kyoto and about the Asia Pacific Partnership for Development and Energy.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister has your Government (inaudible) you a supporter of nuclear power now….

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon…look Tim, Mr Lester, let’s not sort of get in to just sort of slogans. I know you know you want this or that for the evening bulletin. But this is a serious issue and everybody just give me a moment….no can I just be given a moment to answer his question.

It’s a serious issue, I want it fully discussed, I think everything should be debated. I believe that the attitude of the public has begun to change. I believe that I have a responsibility to promote a debate, even though it maybe unpopular with sections of the public—I’m not going to run away from it—and if people think I’m going to be driven by the first opinion poll on this issue they’re completely wrong. I think we do have a huge challenge in the world and Australia as the holder of the largest reserves of uranium in the world. We have a particular responsibility to contribute intelligently to the debate, but you’re not going to get me hitching my name to a particular slogan. Could we have somebody who hasn’t asked….yes Alison.

JOURNALIST:

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Thank you Mr Howard. Do you believe that nuclear power in Australia is inevitable and what kind of timeframe would…

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I’m not going to put a timetable on it. I think it’s important, it’s imperative that we have a debate and I…

JOURNALIST:

Is it inevitable?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well once again you’re asking me to sort of you know grab a particular label. I’m not going to do that.

JOURNALIST:

Talking about public opinion. How much do you think it would have to shift for a community to accept a nuclear power station (inaudible) town or suburb?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look, look, Phil, I’m not going to try… I mean that is an impossible question to answer in any quantifiable form. I mean you can go and ask Sol Lebovic, or John Stirton, or Gary Morgan, but don’t ask me. Mr McMurtrie

JOURNALIST:

When did you start to rethink the nuclear issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

When did I start to rethink it? Look seriously, you can’t put a particular time on something like that, but certainly if you go back it was sometime before I came on this visit, if that’s what you’re getting at. Sometime before and you will find that I have said a number of things about this issue over a period of time, well before this visit. I mean you can check, you can ‘Google’ that, but I can assure you that that’s the situation.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, Mr Kitney, good heavens, I recognise the voice, and now I see the face.

JOURNALIST:

And I recognise you.

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PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah but I’ve got a light shining in my eyes.

JOURNALIST:

The last time the nuclear issues were formally looked back in Australia’s was by the Fox committee (inaudible). Would you consider some sort of similar view process now to take up this debate from where that left off.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well my recollection is that Fox ran the Ranger Inquiry and the principle output of that was to lay down a set of safeguards, and that still forms the basis of the conditions under which we mine and export uranium. I wouldn’t automatically say we need another inquiry just for the sake of having another inquiry, but obviously what Fox did has continued. The agreement that we signed with the Chinese…I mean bear in mind we signed an agreement to sell uranium to the Chinese only a few weeks ago and that was largely instructed by the safeguards laid down by Fox. I don’t rule that out but equally I don’t think just because that was done all those years ago it doesn’t continue to be valid.

JOURNALIST:

….some sort of formal review process.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh like that?

JOURNALIST:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to commit myself to that kind of judicial process. I’m not certain that that is always the right way of going about these things. The world was a bit different then and attitudes were probably different. Well I thought Fox did a very good job, but sometimes lawyers are suitable for those things and sometimes they’re not.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard….

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh Mr Epstein, good heavens, all these old folks, you know…

JOURNALIST:

If you could have (inaudible) and more efficient (inaudible) might need a government (inaudible) things like waste and costing issues?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Look it is altogether too early for me to be saying yes or no to something like that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard there’s Nielsen poll out today, at home, which seems to reflect the findings of the newspoll which (inaudible) Labor’s vote is strengthening and so is Mr Beazley’s (inaudible) your Budget. Given the tax cuts (inaudible) initial response to budget, why do you think that is?

PRIME MINISTER:

Karen I don’t normally as you know comment on polls and this evening is no exception.

JOURNALIST:

You have no view on why you’re not getting a more immediate, positive…

PRIME MINISTER:

I have no comment on this latest poll.

JOURNALIST:

Are you surprised that more Australians would’ve preferred a petrol tax cut rather than an income tax cut?

PRIME MINISTER:

Refer previous answer.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard do you still intend on this trip to meet with Tony O’Reilly and the board of his company, and if so , how much will your talks will centre the Government’s proposed changes to media laws in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m quite certain that after discussing Rugby, we will clearly talk about that very …. I’m sure we’ll have a serious discussion about that and a lot of other things—I always enjoy meeting Sir Anthony O’Reilly, Tony O’Reilly, he’s a very important figure in Australian media. He’s an interesting character and he’s wonderful company and I look forward to meeting, but we’ll certainly talk about those laws, yes certainly.

JOURNALIST:

Is he sort of foreign investor you’d like to see…

PRIME MINISTER:

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We have a set of rules and I think the existing rules need changing but as I’ve said before, I’m not going to invest excessive amounts of political capital in something like that if there isn’t general acceptance of the changes that we have in mind. I hope there is because I think the present laws are antiquated—I’ve thought that for a long-time—I have a very consistent position going back to the 1980s on that issue.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard just going back to your time in Canada, what discussions (inaudible) on AWB. Did that get raised with you?

PRIME MINISTER:

AWB was not raised by anybody. The only person who raised AWB was with me in discussion with some of my advisers and others. But it was not raised in any of the…any of my interlocutors. I mean it was raised in the context of preparation for news conferences. I perceived that somebody at one of the news conferences might ask about it and I just in the general discussion threw that on the table. But it was not raised by anybody in the administration, it’s my recollection and one of my advisers will correct me if I’m wrong; it was not raised on the Hill, and it was not raised in Canada.

JOURNALIST:

Given that Conservatives hold all the wheat belt seats in Canada, and Canada was the first country that raised their concerns with the United Nations, did you seek to give your assurances to the new Canadian Prime Minister about Cole and what…

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I didn’t, I wouldn’t raise the issue Paul unless it were raised with me. How would that advance Australia’s interests? I go overseas to represent Australia. I don’t go overseas to give advice or counsel to other people unless it’s asked for.

JOURNALIST:

It could impact on our relations.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Paul it wasn’t raised. I mean, I’m sorry, I know you might be disappointed it wasn’t raised, but it wasn’t raised. I mean come on you haven’t got a story on this, unless you want to write the story that it wasn’t raised. I challenge you.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you were asked in Canada also about a report to do with Iran and the possibility that they might be suggesting people would have to wear markings as Jews or Christians. Do you have and further clarification on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

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Well, I have not had any confirmation and there have been some reports to the effect that well it’s not really going to happen, and I hope that is true and I did heavily nuance and qualify my comments with a remark if it were true.

JOURNALIST:

You’re going to leave a few hours earlier that originally scheduled and you will be back in Parliament Thursday. Would we be wrong to read anything into that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well is just convenient for me to leave on Tuesday night. It means I’ll get back to Australia on Thursday morning into Canberra, and if everything going according to schedule I will be in Parliament on Tuesday (sic) afternoon and I will be going to Melbourne to see the soccer match between Australia and Greece.

JOURNALIST:

Can you shed any more light on your prospective meeting with the Indonesian President?

PRIME MINISTER:

No because beyond what I said earlier, and that is that I would expect to see him fairly soon there have been no arrangements made but I would expect that to happen at some time but I don’t have anything further to say.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer said today that the meeting will happen in the next couple of weeks in Indonesia, not Jakarta. That sounds likes its just about done and dusted.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, when I’m in a position to announce these things, I will.

JOURNALIST:

… new managing director of the ABC will do a good job?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it’s a Board appointment. I wish him well. I know him but he has been appointed by the Board. It’s not a Government appointment, I do know him. …

JOURNALIST:

Do you think they’ve made the right choice?

PRIME MINISTER:

I respect the decision of the board and I’m sure they’ve made the right choice.

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JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, on the indigenous children, there are reports today that your Government might be considering tying your funding more specifically to improvements in governance in indigenous communities or perhaps bypassing some indigenous organisations and funding direct through State Governments. Can you confirm that, and how might that work?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it’s probably not appropriate for me to speculate about that. Clearly there is a lot of debate going on and Mal Brough has a brief from me to question arrangements and look at all the existing arrangements. I think he has tackled his new responsibility with a lot of

energy and a lot of intelligence. The reports that have come out in the past week, particularly those that came from the prosecutor in the Northern Territory have been distressing to everybody and there is clearly a major problem. Clearly it’s got two dimensions. One of them is a law enforcement dimension. If these reports are correct, and there appears overwhelming evidence then it is a failure of the criminal justice system in this country which is, of course, the responsibility of the States and Territories and I’m not saying that to shift blame, I’m simply making the obvious comment. I mean the criminal justice system quintessentially in this country is a State responsibility. We don’t prosecute people for murder. We don’t prosecute people for rape and sexual molestation. Never have under the Federal system. Clearly that is the first observation to make and there are other - clearly other issues involved of dysfunctional communities and families. And from my point of view the most important thing is the safety of vulnerable Australian citizens. Whether they are Aboriginal or not really is beside the point. Vulnerable women and children are the concern of all of us. But I don’t want at this stage want to respond to that speculation. I think it would be a very good idea if the States and Territories responded to Mr Brough’s call. I think the Northern Territory Chief Minister in particular is being unreasonable and in the past I have found her reasonable to deal with on these issues. She was one of the first to come out in favour of extending traditional Australian concepts of land ownership to indigenous people and I thought she took an enlightened view on that, and a progressive view in the sense in which I would use that term and I’m therefore very disappointed that she seems to have retreated and got a bit defensive on this issue. I think that’s a mistake. I mean, Aboriginal issues are from time to time talked about at COAG and they will in future. And I don’t object to aboriginal issues being discussed at COAG but this issue needs more specificity and it needs to be the total focus of a gathering rather than just item number six on the agenda.

JOURNALIST:

Do you need to have a special summit for State (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

No I think what we need is for the States and Territories to respond to what Mr Brough is trying to do. I mean he is trying to address a problem and we’re not sought to politicise this but clearly what we are talking about here is the enforcement of the criminal law of this county. Now the criminal law of this country is administered by the States and Territories, it is not administered by my Government. The first reaction of the Northern Territory Chief Minister is to say we want money from the Commonwealth. That is not the issue. There may be a desirability to have more money from all Governments in some areas but what clearly is

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involved here is a law and order criminal justice issue. That’s the first thing that has to be recognised and accepted.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Steven Harper, who you clearly struck up quite a rapport with, said words to the effect that he thought you were just getting into your stride. Was he privy to some Prime Ministerial musing that we were not privy to.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, he’s been for an early morning walk with me.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can you elaborate on want you will be talking to the Taoiseach about?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we will be talking about Doha. I will put to him certain views. I know that Ireland is a significant beneficiary of existing arrangements. And I know that our views don’t entirely coincide on this issue but I will be putting my views to him on that. I will be talking about the Northern Ireland peace process. I am sure that we will talk about Iran, general foreign policy issues. I‘ve had discussions with him over the years, sometimes at international meetings and sometimes on the telephone about a number of international issues so I think we’ll probably kick them around and we’ll talk a bit about domestic politics in both our countries. I mean he always likes to talk politics, you know Irish politicians love talking politics, like Australian politicians.

JOURNALIST:

Have you found an Irish relative at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think I have got any living Irish relatives. I mean two of my eight great grandparents were born in Ireland, one on each side of the border so that’s very even handed, isn’t it?

JOURNALIST:

When you were having talks in Washington I think you mentioned as an aside to one of the officials when you were talking about your schedule, that every self-respecting Prime Minister of Australia has to come to Ireland at some point …

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes …

JOURNALIST:

Why is that?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well because there is a very strong historical and cultural tie between Australia and Ireland. The two countries that have shaped the Australian personality most are Britain and Ireland and they have shaped it in different ways. Our institutions and I guess our practices of society and our approaches to Parliamentary democracy, freedom of the press, the rule of law, we have clearly inherited very much from Britain but some aspects of our character we have inherited from Ireland and sometimes the sentimental side of us we have inherited from Ireland. The passion on certain things and I think that’s important. And I think it is part of the journey of being an Australian Prime Minister that he or she at some stage visits Ireland. My three predecessors have visited Ireland and they have all been extended the privilege of addressing the Dail. And an often un-remarked aspect of the then Prime Minister R G Menzies time in London during World War II when he was on the British war cabinet was, and circumstances were very different then, he actually took time off to go to Dublin to talk to de valera in the hope that he could bring from the advantage point of being an Australian Prime Minister, some more reconciliation between Britain and Ireland at that very difficult time. So Australia has always because there are so many people of Irish decent in our country has always had a special relationship and you can tell from the reception that you receive. So there are all those reasons why I think an Australian Prime Ministers should at some time—Paul Keating did it. Bob Hawke did it. Malcolm Fraser it and I’m doing it.

JOURNALIST:

Just on Iraq, the new Italian Government has announced that they are probably going to pull out there contingent. I think it’s the third largest contingent in the coalition of the willing. What would be the implications of that and what’s your view of that decision by the Italian Government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s the Italian government’s right. I don’t think the language that has been used by Mr Prodi is very different from the language that was used by Mr Berlusconi. I’m obviously disappointed that the Italian Government has decided to go ahead with that but it’s not surprising because it was in their election platform to do so.

JOURNALIST:

Are there any implications for other members of the coalition of …?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are no strategic - logistic implications that I’m aware of, no.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the nuclear issues Mr Howard, you’ve expressed some wariness about the GNEP

PRIME MINISTER:

Are you OK?

JOURNALIST:

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On the mend thank you … You’ve expressed some wariness that this GNEP as a producers’ group could disadvantage suppliers like Australia and Canada and have spoken about having some sort of alliance with Canada …

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not saying that I believe it will, what I’m saying is that Canada and Australia to some extent working together will keep an eye out so that it doesn’t. We are not suggesting for a moment that this initiative is designed to damage Canada or Australia. I don’t think that for a moment. I think it is designed as an instrument of anti-proliferation but because we together have so much of the world’s uranium reserves it could have, if it goes in a particular direction, it could have implications for us and I think we should keep an eye on it.

JOURNALIST:

Can I follow up on that question? Wouldn’t it make sense it that case for the two biggest suppliers to seek membership of that group… wouldn’t it make sense to be in the tent, to be part of that group?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it’s in its formative stages, and let’s wait and see. But as I understand what’s happened the only people thus far that have been invited to join it are those that are allowed under the non-proliferation treaty to have nuclear weapons, plus Japan which is a significant fuel producer.

JOURNALIST:

Is it true your view would be that for a big issue like uranium or a nuclear policy or processing or whatever it would be a decision that would be made by parties taking it to an election and I’m wondering whether you are thinking it will be this election or the next?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’m not committing myself to that.

JOURNALIST:

Just back to the US led group, is the potential for the price control or the limiting of the free market, is that your only concern about that group? What other concerns do you have?

PRIME MINISTER:

You use the word concerns

JOURNALIST:

Well, you mentioned cartel the other day, and I draw conclusion from that.

PRIME MINISTER:

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What I’ve said, and what Mr Harper has said is because we, each of us, holders of large reserves of uranium, we want to keep an eye on how the thing develops. At the moment I don’t have concerns, but depending on how it develops, I might develop concerns and that’s why we have to keep and eye on it, and why Canada does.

JOURNALIST:

Do you see other aspects that could…

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, Karen, you’re sort of over-analysing my reply.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, just at the beginning of the press conference you said when you get home you’re going to have a lot more to say on the nuclear power thing. What sort of time frame, are you planning a statement or is it going to be a speech or are you just going to …

PRIME MINISTER:

I will have something more to say about it when I get back. I’m not going to start making myself hostage either as to the time or what form that will take. I think we’ve sort of had a go. I thought I should mention to some of you who would have known him that one of my senior staff, John Perrin, who was my social security adviser, health adviser, he died early Sunday morning.

JOURNALIST:

He wasn’t that old.

PRIME MINISTER:

He was fifty three. He developed cancer about eighteen months ago. It’s very sad. He was a lovely bloke and he was instrumental in advising me in relation to the family relationship centre. He played a big role in developing the welfare to work policy and also the Medicare safety net. He had been on my staff from about eighteen months after I became Prime Minister. He had been a senior officer in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and he was a very respected figure. Very respected and a lovely bloke and I am very sorry and I extend my sympathies to his wife Debbie and his son Richard. I went to see him and spent about an hour with him just before I left Australia He was in good spirits in the circumstances. Yeah, I just thought some of you who knew him would want to know that.

Thank you.

[ends]

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