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Transcript of doorstop interview: Tenix, Williamstown: 9 October 2007: Capital punishment; cartel operations; Richard Pratt; death of Trooper Pearce in Afghanistan.
9 October 2007
TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, TENIX, WILLIAMSTOWN
Subject: Capital punishment; cartel operations; Richard Pratt; death of Trooper Pearce in Afghanistan.
I just want to start by saying something about this extraordinary call by the Labor Party for the executions of the Bali Bombers not to take place. Mr Rudd’s policy is what Mr McClelland articulated last night and I think it’s quite outrageous of Mr Rudd to try and blame Mr McClelland and also his staff for a policy that he himself supports.
We hear a lot from Mr Rudd about the blame game; I think I now know what the blame game is. It’s Mr Rudd blaming other people when he should accept responsibility. If there is a bad policy of the Government, or a policy that gets criticised then I have to accept and so I should as head of the Government, responsibility for it. But for Mr Rudd to try and blame other people and to pretend that Robert McClelland was not articulating the policy of the Australian Labor Party is quite extraordinary and he deserves to be criticised for trying to blame other people for an insensitive policy.
The idea that we would plead for the deferral of executions of people who murdered 88 Australians is distasteful to the entire community and I remind you that earlier this year, Mr Rudd, when Saddam Hussein was executed, expressed his continuing opposition to the death penalty imposed by other countries.
We do not support the death penalty in Australia and my Government has consistently argued when Australians have faced the death penalty overseas for that penalty not to be applied. But what other countries do is ultimately a matter for those other
countries, and particularly when people are under sentence of death for murdering Australians.
I find it impossible myself, as an Australian, as Prime Minister, as an individual, to argue that those executions should not take place when they have murdered my fellow countrymen and women.
Why is the death penalty not okay for Australian citizens but okay for other citizens?
Well what is appropriate in my country, our country, is something that we decide in this country. But the proposition that we should argue for the deferral of the death penalty when it’s been imposed in relation to the murder of Australians is something I can’t accept and can’t support.
Now that is the policy of the Labor Party. Robert McClelland was articulating the Labor Party’s policy. It was a policy that Mr Rudd articulated earlier this year and what he has now done, because it's received a hostile reaction, he’s now trying to blame others. He’s blaming Mr McClelland, he’s blaming his staff. The blame game for Mr Rudd is to blame somebody else when you get something wrong. I don’t think that’s acceptable.
Do you think it shows some disruption in the Labor Party front bench that there is some disagreeance (sic)?
No, what it shows is that when something goes wrong, Mr Rudd won’t accept personal responsibility. If there is a bad policy from the Government, you all know I rightly get the blame for it. I am the head of the Government. The buck stops with me if I can borrow a phrase Mr Rudd uses a lot in relation to responsibility for Government decisions. Now what Robert McClelland was doing was articulating Labor policy and he’s entitled to feel a little aggrieved that he has been cut loose by his own leader.
In the future would a Liberal Government make cartel operations a criminal offence and follow through its earlier promise.
We would continue to examine the strength of the Trade Practices Law and if further changes were needed, we would implement them. But I am not making any commitment beyond that.
Do you retain confidence in the integrity of Richard Pratt?
Well I have always found Mr Pratt in my own personal dealings with him to be a very good citizen. I know Mr Pratt very well. I don’t want to comment on the circumstances of the case because it is yet to be finally adjudicated by the Federal Court. So I think we should all be careful what we say. It is still before the court.
For myself I have found Mr Pratt to be a generous Australian. He’s been very successful in business and my own dealings with him have always been very positive and I like him.
In 2005 the Government said it was going to make it a criminal offence. Why hasn’t it followed through?
Well I repeat we will continue to look at whether further legislative changes should be made to the Trade Practices Act but I don’t have any commitment beyond that.
You said you personally accept the responsibility for policy decisions, so do you accept personally, responsibility for the Australian soldier’s death?
I accept responsibility for sending Australians abroad, of course I do. And I feel that very keenly because in the end decisions about the dispatch of Australians overseas are determined by the Prime Minister and I feel very keenly the responsibility of that. And it’s very sad what has happened to Trooper Pearce. I send my love and my prayers and sympathy to his family.
I don’t seek in any way to evade responsibility for the decision I took to send Australian forces to Afghanistan or Australian forces to Iraq or indeed anywhere else. I am, more than anybody else, responsible for the men and women of our forces being
overseas and I will never run away from that and I won’t seek to shift the responsibility to other people.
Of course I do, and the Australian people will make their own judgements of those decisions according to their assessment of the merits. It’s a reminder, a very sad reminder, that when men and women go overseas in our name, wearing our uniform they assume risks that the rest of us don’t assume and they are therefore entitled to a special place in our affections and a special place in our regard and our esteem.