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Transcript of doorstop interview: Amberley RAAF Base: 27 June 2007: water; indigenous emergency; Jayant Patel.



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PRIME MINISTER

27 June 2007

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW AMBERLEY RAAF BASE

Subjects: water; indigenous emergency; Jayant Patel

EO&E…………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen could I just make a couple of points and then I will be happy to take any questions. I am pleased to say that the $408 million that the Federal Government is providing for the Western Corridor Recycling Project here in south east Queensland is now unconditional. The conditions we asked of the Queensland Government, most particularly an arrangement that was satisfactory to the local irrigators, those conditions have now been met and the $408 million is an unconditional contribution to the project. We will work very closely with the Queensland Government in relation to it because it is vital to the future water security of south east Queensland and $408 million does represent a major slice of the $2 billion water fund that I announced in 2004. Might I also deal very directly with a misunderstanding that some have gained in relation to the six month period that I have referred to concerning the intervention in the Northern Territory. This is not a six month intervention. The intervention will remain as long as necessary. The six months was the initial period for the application of the prohibition on alcohol. We named six months because we believe that would be adequate time for the Northern Territory to develop its alternatives in relation to alcohol, but if those alternatives are not satisfactorily developed within six months, then that period of the application of the Commonwealth prohibition will be extended beyond six months. I don’t want anybody to imagine for a moment that the Commonwealth’s intervention is, in any way, limited to six months. And I wanted to make that point because I noticed a couple of people had picked it up and said oh well, six months is not long enough. There has never been a contemplation that the intervention would only be for six months. And in relation to the liquor part of it, if the Queensland Government…I’m

sorry the Northern Territory Government has not sorted things out within that six month period, well we’ll just keep our laws in application for a much longer period of time. And before I take your questions can I just say again that it’s a great pleasure to be here at RAAF Base Amberley. It’s one of the premier military bases around Australia and the heavy investment of the Government in new aircraft and necessitating additional hangar space is obvious for anybody who comes here. And this base will of course be housing the C-17s, in time the new Super Hornets; they have the F-111s and, of course, the Airbuses as well. It’s a remarkable facility and this is an amazing hangar and you have actually go inside it, as you do with a C-17, to get an idea of just how big these facilities and assets really are. Have you got any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, a leading economist says that your indigenous plan will be more likely to be $5 billion over five years, but you’ve allocated millions. What is your reaction to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I haven’t seen that analysis and people fly…throw figures around. It won’t be $5 billion but I am quite sure that whatever is needed will be made available by the Commonwealth.

JOURNALIST:

You said this morning you would have been criticised for the timing of this announcement whether you made it now or whether you waited six months. Are you concerned that with the election approaching the politics might overshadow the positive aspects of your plan?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I am not. The point I was making this morning was that if we had put off acting on this until after the election we would have been criticised; that is the point I am making. And this idea that when you’re in the run up to an election, that you don’t do anything through fear it would be seen as political means that you are paralysed in the year leading up to the election and that’s not government. We only have three years and if you cut a year out of that, or close to a year out of that because it’s too political to take a decision, you end up paralysing government for a third of your term. I mean I think that argument, which has been advanced by some of the Premiers; although they appear to be dropping off it now which is welcome, I think that argument is ridiculous. We acted now because we had clear evidence from the Northern Territory report of how the serious the situation was, how dire it was and it was obvious that the Northern Territory Government was not handling the situation and that is why we’ve intervened. And it’s got nothing to do with the election, it’s got nothing to do with politics, it’s got everything to do with caring for indigenous children and I don’t really care what other people say about our motives. Our motives are correct, our motives are about the protection of children and I will wear any criticism from anybody in the community about what we’re doing because I believe in my heart it’s absolutely right.

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JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, some reports have emerged of some communities actually expressing alarm and being afraid of incursion of police or troops or whatever. Have you had a briefing on this matter?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the information I have is that some people are mischievously spreading criticism of what we’re doing and creating fear for their own purposes. I am satisfied that once people get on the ground, and there will be some people on the ground today, once people get on the ground there will be reassurance provided to those who might have been misled into thinking that the intervention was a hostile one rather than a benign

and supporting one. And there is no reason for anybody to be concerned. The whole object of the exercise is to help people, to protect people, to secure people, to reassure people. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. But there are some people who don’t like what we’re doing because it’s not the old way. Now what matters is what is the best way to protect children. I don’t care about doctrine or philosophy or debates about, you know, broad approaches, it’s what works. And the old way has failed and that is why we are intervening. And I feel very strongly about this. I mean you have no greater obligation as a Prime Minister, anybody, as a Premier, than the protection of vulnerable children. These kids deserve more of this country than they are getting at the moment and I am not going to be deterred by a lengthy debate, I am not going to be deterred by people who want this to fail. I mean look at what Noel Pearson said last night. He was astounded that people actually want this intervention to fail because they will then be able to say we were right and Howard was wrong. Look in the end, we will be judged by the care that we extend to the most vulnerable in our community and the most vulnerable in our community are the very young and the very old. And the care that we extend to them is crucial in discharging our responsibilities.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister have you signed off on Jayant Patel’s extradition?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter for the Justice Minister to talk about. We are keen that that man be bought to justice and we are also keen to ensure that the proper legal procedures are applied and that means that there is a requirement for disciplined comments by people in public positions lest ill disciplined comments are used in the legal exchanges. I think you understand what I’m talking about.

JOURNALIST:

Is it moving forward though?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is being dealt with properly.

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JOURNALIST:

If any children are found to be in abusive situations in the Northern Territory who will have the power to take them out of those situations?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the laws of the Territory in relation to that, except to the extent that they may be amended by the legislation we’re bringing forward, will apply.

JOURNALIST:

Will the troops and police being sent there at the moment…

PRIME MINISTER:

The troops and police will act in accordance with the law as it is and as it might be in the future after it is amended.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, there’s a report in this morning’s Bulletin magazine…

PRIME MINISTER:

There was a report what?

JOURNALIST:

In this morning’s Bulletin magazine that the Government…

PRIME MINISTER:

Bulletin magazine, yes.

JOURNALIST:

…may start withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Is there any truth to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have no plans to do that. None whatsoever. I don’t know who provided that information but it’s not well founded. We are not committed to a timetable in relation to our troops in Iraq. We are committed to an outcome which is driven by circumstances and events, not by a particular time.

JOURNALIST:

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Prime Minister, what’s been the reaction to chaplains in high schools?

PRIME MINISTER:

The reaction has been fantastic and to those people who attacked me over this and there was some in the teacher unions and I think a former New South Wales Premier said I was trying to blur the division between church and state; I just point to the fact

that no less than 15 per cent of all school communities in Australia applied for funding in the first round. We are going to fund just under 1400 schools in the first round. 77 per cent of them are government schools. The biggest number will be in Queensland because there were more applications from Queensland, that’s the reason. We’re not discriminating between the states. In fact, measured by percentage of applications every state will get more than 90 per cent of the applications that have been made but the parents of Australian school children have spoken on this issue,

they want chaplains in their schools. They don’t see it as blurring the division between church and state. They don’t see it as religion being rammed down people’s throats. They see it as a valuable way in which the spiritual dimension of life can be explored and developed as well as all the other dimensions of life, and education after all is about giving people a rounded capacity to deal with life. Sure that means getting a job, it means to understand our history, it means relating to people in our community but it also means some exploration of the spiritual dimension of life which is important to peoples’ wellbeing and, of course, chaplains provide a wonderful source of comfort and help and counselling to people. So I am thrilled at the response and the fact that the parents have said yes to this program is the perfect answer to its critics.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, should the journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus be pardoned by the Victorian Government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Attorney-General has spoken for the Commonwealth on that and I totally support what he has said. Thank you.

[Ends]

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