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Transcript of news conference, ministerial wing, Parliament House, Canberra



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P R I M E MSWISTER

TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS CONFERENCE, MINISTERIAL WING, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA - 4 JULY 1991

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

PM: I wanted to take this opportunity of saying on behalf of the Government how deeply shocked and saddened we are to hear of the death of Dr Victor Chang. His contribution to cardio-vascular surgery has been recognised worldwide and very, very many people, not only in this country but in the region, owe their life to his skill, his dedication and his commitment. His services in his profession and indeed to the strengthening of relations between this country and the

region were recognised as far back as 1986 with the award to Dr Chang of the Companion of the Order of Australia. As I say, we're deeply shocked to hear of his death and I extend on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia our deepest sympathy to his wife Anne and family.

JOURNALIST: Did you know him very well Prime Minister?

PM: Yes, I did. I knew him personally. I'd met him through his work at St Vincent's and he spoke to me last year after a recent visit to China. And of course, the Government had been involved in financial support for his

work at St Vincent's.

JOURNALIST: ... suggestion of organised crime involved here?

PM: I don't know of any at this stage. I have no information.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what's the latest information that you have on Yugoslavia?

PM: Well it seems to be the case now that there are further talks going on, that the tanks of the Yugoslav Army are halted at the border of Croatia. And I want to say these things about what's happening there. Of course, we deplore the use of force and the violence that's occurred. I welcome the efforts at mediation that have been undertaken by the - particularly by our European friends. We were very much concerned to hear the reports that the Yugoslav Army

seemed to be operating beyond civilian control. It is quite clear that the movement towards democracy in Slovenia and Croatia has considerable momentum now and that the pre-existing state of Yugoslavia is not going to be.able .to__

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be held together under the arrangements that have existed to this point. We deeply hope that the relations between what had been the constituent parts of Yugoslavia will be able to be resolved peacefully. Of course as far as Australia's concerned if Slovenia and Croatia come to a point where they

satisfy the requirements of independent statehood then we would recognise them. But the important point to make, I believe, is the one I have, that we want to see these matters resolved peacefully and in an acceptable and orderly

fashion, and I would take this opportunity of congratulating the people in Australia of Yugoslav origin, from whatever part of that country they may have come, for the restraint that they have exercised here in Australia. I congratulate

them on that and certainly hope and expect that that will continue to be the case.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, is there any chance that the Jabiluka uranium deposits could be mined now that it's been sold to North Broken Hill?

PM: I believe not under the policy as it stands.

JOURNALIST: You spoke, Prime Minister, as if you felt that the Yugoslav situation got beyond the point of no return as far as the old arrangements are concerned.

PM: That seems to be increasingly accepted, I think, that the previous arrangements cannot hold. And the critical question now is to what form of relationship may emerge between the constituent parts and whether that relationship will in fact involve, as it may well do, independence for

some of those constituent parts. And I have said that if the requirements of Statehood, which are involved in recognition, are satisfied, come to be satisfied, then Australia would act accordingly.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on Antarctica ... Americans come to the party. Is that the end of the road? Is 50 years enough?

PM: Well, let me say these things about Antarctica. Firstly I welcome the fact that the Americans have now come to the point where they're going to sign the amended text that was available at Madrid last month. I hope that perhaps my letter to George Bush last week may have been one

of the factors in bringing the Americans to that point. We are very proud here in Australia of the outcome. What it means of course is that there is the very minimum of 50 years total ban on mining in that great wilderness in the Antarctic and another seven years would be involved in getting over the very high hurdles that now exist in the

amended text which is going to be signed. It virtually means that there will not be mining in Antarctica because the first hurdle that would have to be overcome is that you would have to get a majority of three quarters of the

consultative parties, of the 26 consultative parties of the Antarctic Treaty. That's virtually impossible. So I think Australia is to be congratulated with France on the way in

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which we have stuck to our guns. You remember when I initiated this process a relatively short time ago we were treated with almost scorn. It was regarded as mission impossible. Well it's not mission impossible, and largely as a result of the initiative by Australia and the fact, as

I say, that we've stuck to our guns, that great wilderness in the Antarctic is going to be preserved.

JOURNALIST: On a question of another letter to President Bush, Mr Hawke, have you had a reply to your letter on the Kuwait wheat sales and their consultative process?

PM: No. I simply say about that that we remain deeply disappointed at the action of the United States. We do not believe that their action is consistent with the spirit of the undertakings that we received.

JOURNALIST: Was Mr Dawkins straying too far outside his portfolio again yesterday?

PM: Come on, come on.

ends