Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Townsville, Queensland: transcript of press conference: "Heading in the right direction" document, Mater Hospital post traumatic stress unit, CLP preferences, The Ashes, Indonesia visit.



Download PDFDownload PDF

News Room | Government Report Card | Australia in Focus | Your PM & His Team | Email Your PM

10 August 2001

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE - TOWNSVILLE, QUEENSLAND

Subjects: “Heading in the Right Direction” document; Mater Hospital Post Traumatic stress unit; CLP preferences; The Ashes; Indonesia visit.

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentleman the formal purpose of this news conference is for me to release two documents on behalf of the Liberal Party. Under the heading of Heading in the Right Direction, these two documents in a very extensive form list all of the achievements of the government in the five and a half years it has been in power in every area of government endeavour, not only economic but all the other areas of government policy. It is our view that Australia has been increasingly heading in the right direction under the stewardship of this government. And the larger document and the slimmer version which brings together the highlights of the achievements present very cogent evidence that over the last five and a half years we have not only in the area of economic management but in areas such as the fight against drugs, in areas such as defence which is so important to north Queensland and particularly to Townsville, in foreign policy, in social security, in landmark national decisions such as uniform gun control laws we have ensured that Australia is heading in the right direction. And these documents compile and record the achievements of the government over the five and a half years that we have been in office.

It will be our intention of course as the election draws closer to lay out in some more detail proposals the government has for its next term. We have already of course set down a detailed agenda in the many decisions that have been announced over the last twelve months and the costing of those was included in the budget brought down by the Treasurer in May.

But these two documents record the achievements of the government over the last five years and provide compelling evidence that under our leadership Australia has well and truly been heading in the right direction.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, heading in the right direction was a slogan [inaudible], does that mean we’re getting closer to an election, you’re getting closer to announcing one.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there has to be an election at the end of the year. I don’t know that I can sort of say that in any different way. I mean of course we are getting closer to the election every day. That is self-evident but as to when it will be look I am in no position to make an announcement. We should be a little bit adult about this speculation about the date of the election. The government’s three years are up towards the end of the year so obviously the election will be towards the end of the year. And I’ve been saying that now for months. And I think that as each day goes by people are more inclined to believe me because the field evidence gets stronger.

JOURNALIST:

Who’s going to get the document? How do you plan to give it out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that will be a matter for individual members. I mean I’m making these documents naturally available to the media and we will be ensuring a fairly wide distribution particularly of the thinner document. The other document is more a document of record for interest groups but the wider, the smaller document, which contains a summary of the government’s achievements, we will be arranging for a very wide distribution of that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, is that document to be paid for by the Liberal Party?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course they are being paid for by the Liberal Party. They are authorised and printed by Lynton Crosby. They are paid for entirely by the Liberal Party. Not a cent of public money has gone into the preparation of these documents.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard are you not concerned about linking the slogan and the achievements of the Liberal Party to what was a spectacularly unsuccessful state election? PRIME MINISTER:

No I’m not the least bit concerned about the slogan or its use in the past because we are very much…I mean we’ve got something to talk about. We’re able to say that we are heading in the right direction.

JOURNALIST:

Isn’t it a bit like blowing your own horn? I mean aren’t you confident that the voting public are [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

I would have thought given the hyperbole to which people are sometimes subjected at election

time that “Heading in the Right Direction” is a confidently modest slogan. We’re not saying we’re perfect, we’re not saying we haven’t made mistakes but we do believe the country is heading in the right direction. All political parties, all governments have a need to advocate their cause, if we don’t advocate it nobody else will. But I think that this encapsulates what the government has been able to do. It is as I say it’s a modestly confident or a confidently modest way of explaining or encapsulating what the government has been able to achieve.

JOURNALIST:

In Herbert are we heading in the right direction?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are certainly heading in the right direction with this man and I couldn’t commend anybody more warmly. Herbert is a seat that has benefited significantly from the government’s policies. The enormous additional emphasis that we have placed on Defence, the commitment we have made in a number of very significant other areas. I mean only this morning I opened the Post Traumatic Stress Unit at the Mater Hospital and that unit has been made possible by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs giving provider status to the hospital and that will mean that people needing post traumatic stress counselling and treatment will no longer have to travel to Brisbane and that is of enormous benefit to people.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]. Do you think this facility has come too late?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no it hasn’t come too late, I’ve talked this morning to the leaders of the Vietnam Veterans’ Groups and other veterans’ groups and they are very appreciative and they see it as an enormous step forward and a way of providing on the door step treatment and counselling and obviating the need for people to travel the long distance to Brisbane. I think it is a really first class improvement in the facilities that are available.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s available for Veterans of all conflicts and peacekeeping operations including, naturally, East Timor, the Australian Federal Police, who have gone not only to places like East Timor but Bougainville and elsewhere. It’s also available naturally to Vietnam Veterans and other veterans. It will also be available to other people in the broader community such as ambulance officers, emergency service workers and the like who are in need of help. And the great advantage of a facility like this is that it will be sustained by the support that it will get from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and it will look after the people that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs normally cares for but because it has got that solid base it will then be able to branch out into other areas and provide a true community service. It is a very integrated facility that will touch quite a number of bases and areas of need.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard there are those in the community though [inaudible] when the soldiers go back into the military they are victimised [inaudible] Is there some way that people can handle that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think all of those things can be handled fairly and properly and I don’t believe that the generality of service personnel would support for a moment any victimisation and I know that the Defence Forces have procedures in place to prevent that occurring.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory has announced that they intend to direct preferences to One Nation over the Labor Party despite your stance. Do you intend intervening…..?

PRIME MINISTER:

They’re not part of the Liberal Party….you should understand it’s a separate party. I mean what I have spoken of is the position around Australia for the Liberal Party and my position on that has not altered. For the Federal Election it is my view that One Nation should be placed last on all Liberal Party how to vote cards. But the CLP is a separate party and I don’t have any role or power of intervention and I don’t intend to try and assert or assume one.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Beazley is describing it as a test of your leadership. PRIME MINISTER:

Oh dear really. I’m distraught.

JOURNALIST:

Labor suggests that 40 jobs are being cut from the local Tax Office. Shouldn’t this set off your red light trigger…..?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you see I operate on that old fashioned principle that until I check a claim made by the Labor Party I don’t accept that it’s true.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard will you be taking a role in the Ryan preselection to make sure [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well those things are matters for the organisation to resolve. You see we have…..as a political party we operate on the basis that I have a lot of authority in relation to the parliamentary party and the choosing of a Cabinet. I don’t sort of consult the organisation about who I put in the Cabinet or who I give jobs to in the government. And equally when it comes to the choosing of candidates the organisation has a role. that’s how our constitution works and it’s up to the party organisation to resolve those matters and I’m sure they will.

JOURNALIST:

John Herron said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that you and Lynton Crosby asked him to go up and lead the party in Queensland, are you happy with the job he’s going?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think John’s doing a great job.

JOURNALIST:

Are you looking forward to the tattoo tonight?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I am. I like military tattoos. I can remember going to my first one when I was about six and it was held just after the end of World War II in Sydney and it was a fantastic experience. And I always watch the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on television each year. I’ve never been to that before, and I’ve been to a few over the years and I really am looking forward to it. I think it’s a wonderful night. It’ll be a wonderful night for Townsville and I can tell talking to people just how the community has been caught up with the spirit of federation frontline. It’s been absolutely fantastic. JOURNALIST:

How important is Townsville to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Townsville has been important to Australia for a very long time. I mean it is a major provincial city. It’s a very important element of our whole defence infrastructure because it hosts the barracks and the RAAF base. And it of course is a major port and therefore is very important from a trading sense. It boasts a very significant tourist industry and it’s also a very significant university city and it really has got it all.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, any chance of prime ministerial intervention to help bring the Ashes to Australia

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I do believe very strongly that not withstanding the tradition cricket authorities in England may feel, I think the time has come for that urn to come to Australia. I really do. I think it should come to Australia and, no offence meant to anybody else, I think it should be given into the custody of the authorities of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and that is in my view the place for it to be in Australia. I say that with all due respect to other cricket grounds around the nation that might want to have it. But I do think that symbolically it would be a real gesture on the part of the English cricket authorities for it to come. I mean I’m not going, let me say, I’m not going to make a diplomatic incident out of it. But it’s pretty important though that it come and I think after seven victories. And I ask our English friends to look at it in this way - if the urn were to come to Australia that would give them a much greater incentive to get it back. I mean some may even argue that the reason why, you know, you get my meaning anyway. I just think it would be a piece of symbolism that would not be lost on the cricketing world, and given the long run of victories that Australia has had, and I don’t say that truculently because as much and all as I enjoy Australia winning I also recognise that no country in any sport can ever be complacent and things can change very rapidly. But I do think the most, I guess the most treasured token of international sport as far as Australia is concerned are The Ashes. I think that urn belongs in Australia and I think it would be good if it could be housed in the museum there at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister there are security concerns surrounding a possible takeover of Optus satellites by SingTel. Are you concerned and what can you do about preventing those security….

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have been given quite a lot of advice about that and we are satisfied on the advice available to us that there are plenty of protections. JOURNALIST:

Just on the helicopter announcement today, since they’re going to be based here in Townsville and in Darwin I understand, why shouldn’t they be constructed here and [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Defence Minister is making a detailed announcement about that and I always find that when one of my senior ministers is making a detailed announcement about something and I haven’t seen the details of it it’s better to leave it to him, otherwise you can sort of have a traffic jam of information and I’ll leave it to him. He’s announcing it today.

JOURNALIST:

The Labor Member for Fowler has again complained to the Speaker that Mr Downer’s been blowing kisses to her and making offensive hand gestures to her across the Chamber. Are you going to investigate that or…..?

PRIME MINISTER:

Really I’ve got more important things to do than either get involved in things like that or with respect answer questions about that.

JOURNALIST:

Townsville’s had to endure a long running debate and bickering between state and federal politicians [inaudible] arterial road [inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the most important thing with these issues is to understand that the federal government has responsibilities for certain roads and the state has responsibilities and we’ll see that our responsibilities are met and we expect the Queensland government to meet its responsibilities.

JOURNALIST:

Just on Indonesia, on Sunday, you said this morning that you think it’s important for both countries to be good friends. What do you hope to get out of these talks and what did you mean by that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it’s important at a political level that we go forward in a spirit of positive realism. We must be realistic that there are differences between our two countries and there have been differences in the past but we don’t want those differences to cloud the future. And it’s very good that the first foreign leader President Megawati will meet is the Prime Minister of Australia. I mean nobody was more resolute in the view taken in relation to East Timor than I was. But we are moving on from that and it’s very important that we move forward in a spirit

of cooperation but a cooperation based on mutual respect. We shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations about the relationship with Indonesia. I think in the past that’s been the mistake. We should be realistic but we should be positive about our realism.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look, no. It’s a thing that you build in a whole variety of ways.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m putting out a short statement about it and it will be available at the end of this news conference along with some copies of these magnificent documents. Thank you.

[Ends]

Interviews 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997

top

Home | Links | Search | Help | Site Map | Copyright | Privacy  

Send comments about this site to the Webmaster

Quick Find: