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Transcript of doorstop interview: Karratha, WA: 28 July 2004: US Free Trade Agreement; Alexander Downer's comments.



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PRIME MINISTER

28 July 2004

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW KARRATHA, WA

Subjects: US Free Trade Agreement; Alexander Downer's comments.

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………..

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen, I just wanted to reinforce the advice that the Queensland Premier gave to the Federal Opposition Leader this morning. Labor should just support the American Free Trade Agreement and get on with it. This is the advice that should have been followed five months ago by Mr Latham. I think in the end he will fold, he will sign it and he'll support it, but he'll do so for political reasons and not for reasons of Australia's national interest. This Agreement has always been good for Australia, and that was identified by the Labor Premiers months ago, but still the Opposition Leader is dithering and prevaricating. He should have shown leadership five months ago on this. This is good for Australia and therefore the Australian Labor Party will support it.

JOURNALIST:

Did Alexander Downer go too far in calling the Philippines (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think Alexander Downer has gone too far at all. I mean Alexander Downer was strongly putting the view that you do not give into terrorists, and I totally support him. You don't. And we will never turn back the tide of terrorism if we bargain and parlay with them, and that has been the position of the Australian Government all along and other countries should adopt the same position. We understand the difficulties involved. Of course there are enormous personal traumas faced in these situations. But history has told us that terrorists treat people who give them concessions and who give in to them - with contempt, and in fact on many occasions in the past when this has happened, they've actually pursued those who have appeased them with even greater vigour and greater ferocity.

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JOURNALIST:

What's your reaction to their burning flags...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's a big country. I mean that sort of thing has happened before. I don't for a moment believe that is representative of the opinion of the majority of Filipinos, but people have done that kind of thing before. It's an open, democratic country and they're entitled to do that. It won't alter our view one iota.

JOURNALIST:

Speaking about terrorism, are you concerned about whether this might affect our ability to coordinate strategies against terrorism...

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, we have very good relations with the countries in our region. I don't think that for a moment. We are stating the obvious that you cannot bargain and give in to terrorists. Thank you.

[ends]