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Islander Travelodge Hotel, Port Moresby, PNG: transcript of doorstop interview [Unemployment rate; republic; East Timor and aid to Papua New Guinea]



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Prime Minister

 

7 October 1999

 

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER

THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW AT

THE ISLANDER TRAVELODGE HOTEL

PORT MORESBY, PNG

 

Subjects:  Unemployment rate, republic, East Timor and aid to Papua New Guinea

E&OE……

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Prime Minister the unemployment figures, can you comment on those please?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Yes, the employment growth of another 12,600 is very welcome.  Because the participation rate went up the unemployment rate went up a tick, but that happens, it will sort of go in both directions.  But you still have a situation where a lot of jobs are being created, and we are now around five hundred and twenty odd thousand in the time that the Government has been in office.  So employment growth is still very strong.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Are you expecting it to hover around this level [inaudible]?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

I’m always a bit wary about making precise statistical predictions about unemployment, very wary indeed.  All I can tell you is that we have generated more than a half a million jobs in the time that we have been in office.  That all the indicators are, the forward indicators are that jobs are still being generated at a very fast clip.  There are large areas of Australia now where unemployment is very low but there are still some parts of the country where it is stubbornly high and we have to worry about those, particularly in the regions and in the outer metropolitan areas of the major cities.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

So you’re not going to say anything about the [inaudible] including one former Governor General who has written an open letter saying that the present model for the republic poses no threat at all?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, I said some time ago that I wasn’t going to respond every time somebody had something to say about this, but at an appropriate time I will have a few things to say about my views and why I’m voting no and this isn’t the time.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Would you prefer your senior Ministers to stop attacking each other over the republic while you consider your upcoming remarks?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

What’s the next question?

 

JOURNALIST:

 

[inaudible] Papua New Guinea, will you be looking at increasing Australia’s aid contribution to [inaudible]?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, we’re keen to sit down and talk to the government of Papua New Guinea about how we can help in a partnership way.  Papua New Guinea is very close to Australia.  We care a great deal about what happens to Papua New Guinea.  It’s got a lot of difficulties.  The new Prime Minister is to be commended for the sensible way that he is going about his job.  He is tackling the deep seated problems of the country.  And we are keen to help him.  And I’m just about to enter discussions with him so perhaps, I’ll have something more to say about what Australia might be doing after those discussions rather than try and anticipate them.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Will the meeting [inaudible] possible future contributions [inaudible] East Timor [inaudible]?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

No.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

In a general sense, what would the aid that we give them manage, in the short term?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well, the aid we currently give is in the order of $300 million a year and Papua New Guinea is Australia’s largest aid recipient and has been so for a long time and we have steadily shifted it away from budget aid to project aid, and that is a good thing because it is targeted for particular areas of need and concern.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Regional security issues, particularly East Timor, are they [inaudible]?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

I think they will come up.  They won’t be the major issues.  The major issues to be discussed really concern the bilateral relationship but, I’ve already had one discussion with the Prime Minister, in Sydney at Kirribilli a few weeks ago, and this is my first visit to Papua New Guinea as Prime Minister and I’m looking forward very much to the discussions which I now must depart to commence.  Thank you.

 

[ends]

 

 

jk  1999-10-11  10:30