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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Prime Minister, John Howard MP: David Kay's report; weapons of mass destruction; Dr Glasson; bulk billing.\n



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PRIME MINISTER

3 October 2003

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, BRISBANE

Subjects: David Kay’s report; weapons of mass destruction; Dr Glasson; bulk billing.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………….

JOURNALIST:

Are you aware of David Kay’s report on weapons of mass destruction? What’s your reaction to the findings?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s an interim report, I think that should be stressed. It certainly has already demonstrated a great deal of concealment by the former regime and a clear intention to develop weapons programs. I think you have to suspend final judgement until the report has been completed. The other observation I’d make is that we had clear intelligence assessments that Iraq had a weapons of mass destruction capability, that was unambiguous, it was clear and that was the basis of the judgement that we made at the time we joined the coalition and I don’t retreat from that one iota.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, where is the evidence of that though? Do you expect to find it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you make judgements on the basis of information available to you at the time those judgements are made and what I’m saying to you is that back in March there were clear intelligence assessments, which we did not exaggerate publicly, which justified the decision we took. I understand people disagreeing with our decision but it remains the fact that in March there were assessments which justified the action we took and I think we have to wait until the Iraq survey group has completed all its work before we can make a final judgement now after the event.

www.pm.gov.au

JOURNALIST:

Do you still feel as comfortable with your decision given what the Kay interim report has found so far?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I do, I don’t regret that decision, it was the right decision, it was justified according to the intelligence assessments then available to our Government, to the British Government and to the United States Government. I’d also make the additional point that those who advocated an alternative course, if their advice had been followed, Saddam Hussein, with all that that implies, would still be running Iraq.

JOURNALIST:

Does this undermine Australia’s rationale for actually going to war in hindsight?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you talk about hindsight, you make judgments on the basis of the information available at the time you are required to make those judgments and the judgment was valid, the judgment was justified and it’s a judgment I totally stand by and do not retreat from one iota.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Rudd says you’ve misled the public and misled Parliament.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s very interesting, I was doing a bit of research on Mr Rudd, Mr Rudd himself declared on numerous occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, so Mr Rudd is therefore contradicting himself. Mr Rudd and Mr Crean both said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, their disagreement with us was not as to whether the weapons existed but how you dealt with the problem, they wanted it left interminably to the United Nations and if their advice had been followed Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Rudd was here earlier citing a massive drop in bulk billing rates in this area.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Mr Rudd, can I just say for the record, Mr Rudd was extended the courtesy of being invited to this function, it is in his electorate, I always invite local members, whatever their political complexion is. Look bulk billing rates have varied and they vary substantially according to the availability of doctors, there are high bulk billing rates in Liberal held electorates, there are high bulk billing rates in Labor held electorates, there are low bulk billing rates in Liberal electorates and National Party electorates and low ones in Labor electorates. The big problem with bulk billing is the availability of doctors in certain parts of the country and that is one of the issues that our fairer Medicare package is trying to address.

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JOURNALIST:

I understand your office has met with Bill Glasson from the AMA last night here in town and he’s meeting with Tony Abbott this afternoon. Are you hopeful something may come of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’re concerned about any suggestion of doctors leaving public hospitals, we want the public hospital system to be strongly supported and Tony’s having a discussion with Dr Glasson this morning in Sydney, my adviser met Dr Glasson and the President-elect of the Queensland AMA last night. We’re talking, I would point out of course that the genesis of this whole problem has been the run away court verdicts and that problem was not addressed over the years by the states because they control the negligence laws, we don’t. we’ve already put about $350 to $400 million, or committed $350 to $400 million to address this

issue, but we’ll continue to talk to the AMA and to the profession. We would like to avoid mass walk outs and we’re working to that end.

[ends]