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Transcript of doorstop interview: Olympic Dam, South Australia: 2 April 2007: Senator Jeannie Ferris; Olympic Dam mine; interest rates.



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PRIME MINISTER

2 April 2007

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW OLYMPIC DAM, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Subjects: Senator Jeannie Ferris; Olympic Dam mine; interest rates.

EO&E…………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Could I just start by saying how very saddened I was to learn of the death of Senator Jeannie Ferris last night. She’s been a wonderful colleague and wonderful friend. She’s fought valiant against ovarian cancer now for close to two years and she really has displayed incredible courage. And the fortitude and the buoyancy she demonstrated in the face of great difficulty and great pain has been an inspiration to many of her colleagues and many sufferers. So I can only say on behalf of all of her parliamentary colleagues we are very, very sad to hear the news. We extend our sympathy to her family, we remember her as a great colleague who made a wonderful contribution to the Parliament and a wonderful contribution to the shaping of public policy. We mourn her death and we thank her for her contribution to Australian politics.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, she was very highly regarded by her colleagues and everyone who dealt with her. Could you say a few words about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well she was one of those people that won; she won affection across the political divide. There would be many Labor Senators who would feel as I feel, a real sense of loss. She was a gutsy lady. She was a two fisted puncher, politically, but she always

did it fairly and we are really very upset. I feel very saddened, on a personal basis, at her death.

JOURNALIST:

Sorry, you were…

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I just wanted to say that I do welcome the opportunity of coming to Olympic Dam. This is one of the great strategic and economic resources that this nation has. It’s a spectacular example of the enormous success of Australian Workplace Agreements. People are employed here on workplace agreements, productivity levels are very high. A feature of BHP Billiton is its commitment to safety and the

expansion of Olympic Dam and the potential it offers to Australia is enormous. And I can only take the opportunity of saying that the Government, the Coalition remains very, very strongly committed to the expansion of this mine. Unlike Mr Garrett who has reservations about the expansion of uranium mining in Australia, the Coalition has no reservations. We believe in uranium mining, we believe in exporting uranium subject to proper safeguards and we believe that all options including the nuclear power option should be on the table if we continue to debate climate change. But BHP Billiton is doing great work for the country and it’s a wonderful resource that providence has given us and we have a responsibility to use it wisely and use it for the benefit of mankind.

JOURNALIST:

Is there an inconsistency in Labor’s position in relation to this mine?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no consistency. It is the most inconsistent policy imaginable. What is the consistency in a policy that says we believe in mining uranium, we believe in exporting it, but we completely close our minds to the possibility that we might use uranium domestically for the purpose of generating nuclear power? There is no consistency in that at all and I think if we are serious about climate change, we have to have every option on the table.

JOURNALIST:

Are you convinced that desalination will provide enough water, given that the expansion will need about 120 megalitres a day on top of what they are using now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am confident it will. The National Water Commission is assessing the application made by the South Australian Government for financial help for the desalination project, but the advice I have is that subject to all of the other considerations stacking up, it will provide sufficient.

JOURNALIST:

I understand that in relation to that desalination plant the problem was that the South Australian Government hadn’t provided enough information on the revenue side of running the desal plant. Has that information been provided?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they are in the process of providing it and when it is provided the National Water Commission can make an assessment and therefore make a recommendation to the Minister and to me.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t want to speculate about what will happen with interest rates.

[ends]