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Transcript of Press Conference of the Prime Minister: Intercontinental Hotel, Santiago, Chile: 20 November 2004: APEC; North Korea; President Bush; Glenn McGrath; Telstra; small business; HIV AIDS.



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PRIME MINISTER

20 November 2004

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE, INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL, SANTIAGO, CHILE

Subjects: APEC; North Korea; President Bush; Glenn McGrath; Telstra; small business; HIV AIDS.

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………………..

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen today as you know I gave an address to the CEO Summit and had a meeting with the United States Business Coalition. The main subject discussed there was the Free Trade Agreement and possibilities and general economic conditions in the region. I had a bilateral meeting with the President of Korea and we discussed at length the situation regarding North Korea and aspects of the bilateral relationship which is in very good shape particularly but not only on the trade front. And then we had the retreat.

The two items discussed at the retreat were terrorism and aspects I guess of public health, HIV-AIDS which is a growing challenge in the region, particularly in some of the Pacific countries. And the need was emphasized not only of course for assistance to countries such as Papua New Guinea, which is a special focus of our assistance in that area, but also the need for very strong domestic government leadership in challenging and dealing with public health issues.

And I don’t know that there was much more I could add except to report there was a significant unanimity of opinion not surprisingly in relation to terrorism, recognition that it was very much a long-haul challenge and we appreciated very much the contributions of the leaders of a number of moderate Islamic nations and how important it was as always to emphasise that international terrorism is not a product of moderate Islam but is a product of fanaticism which has no place in any of the world’s great religions.

The holding of the interfaith dialogue in Adelaide next month was specifically mentioned by another country, other than Australia or Indonesia, as an example of the way in which at different levels the positive efforts should be made to bring communities and religions and countries together.

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JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on North Korea, President Bush said he wants the five or six powers to speak in one voice in getting North Korea to talk in that forum. What are your comments on that and also what about the case being made by some others that the US should negotiate directly with North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think the move should be to depart from the six power approach. I think that is the better approach. It’s not just a matter of North Korea and the United States. I’ve said before the country that had the greatest influence on North Korea is China. And I don’t think it’s a question of direct negotiation. I think it is better that it proceed within the framework of the six powers very much so.

JOURNALIST:

How exercised is APEC about the subject of North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s conscious of it. I think it would be exaggerating to say it is exercised about it any more than it’s exercised about a lot of other issues. But we’re certainly very conscious of it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, in your discussions with the South Koreans, Australia has had an auxiliary role as far as North Korea is concerned. Did you discuss what role Australia may have in that process?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know that we’ve had an auxiliary role. We’ve had a role that’s appropriate to our size, our interests and station. Mr Downer visited North Korea, I mentioned this yesterday, recently and we’ve been perhaps a little more active diplomatically than many other countries of our size. I think it is important that we speak as far as possible with one voice because the problem is that North Korea is in breach, clearly so, of international obligations and I have no doubt that if that breach ends there will be great good will and a great desire on the part of all countries to respect North Korea’s sovereignty and to help North Korea with economic and humanitarian problems.

JOURNALIST:

Is there an ongoing role for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is always a role for Australia and we dealt with this yesterday didn’t we and I don’t know that the scene has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.

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JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you told the CEOs that Australia would be prepared to put up money to help with aspects of anti corruption. Can you tell us how much?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it’s an amount of some $3 million over the next couple of years.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister a couple of questions, first of all did you have an opportunity to say a few words with President Bush face to face?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. Yes.

JOURNALIST:

Well what did you talk about?

PRIME MINISTER:

We talked a bit about elections actually.

JOURNALIST:

Can you give us the flavour of it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we just very briefly talked about the result of the elections in the two countries and he was kind enough to make some reference to my son.

JOURNALIST:

We noticed that after the initial session when you broke into smaller groups and at one stage you were chatting with some of the other …

PRIME MINISTER:

Gee you fellows are observant …

JOURNALIST:

… and they appeared to break into spontaneous applause in your direction. Can you tell us what that was all about?

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PRIME MINISTER:

I think, and I’m not absolutely certain, there was a reference made to my re-election. I think it was in relation to that.

JOURNALIST:

What did the President say about Richard?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look we just had a private … he was just kind enough to refer to him. It was a brief discussion about obviously what happened.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, in your discussions with South Korea, did you discuss the LNG contracts …(inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there are final decisions to be made but I think the flavour was that Australia had good prospects but I don’t want to over-talk that.

JOURNALIST:

In your discussion on terrorism was there any focus on new issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I think it was a reprise of the challenges and there was no particularly new initiatives. I don’t think there are any. It’s well understood that you have to tackle it in a number of ways. It’s well understood that you need to share intelligence. It’s well understood that you need to be wary of any education systems that encourage and promote hatred. It’s important to encourage dialogue between different religions as well as different countries. It’s important to try and tackle those inequalities in society which provide a, how shall I put it, a point of advocacy for terrorists. Now, I don’t share the view that terrorists themselves, many of them are the products of poverty but I certainly recognize that they would seek to exploit disadvantage.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minster, after this first session of the retreat, do you think that President Bush shares with you the notion that the prime reason for APEC is economic. I mean I just say it because he has come in with guns blazing on North Korea. He has had and will have a lot to say about terrorism. It’s as if the Americans have relegated the economic function of APEC.

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don’t think he’s relegated the economic function of APEC but because a thing like terrorism impinges on economic considerations it’s always going to be discussed. I don’t think they’ve relegated it but I think what I feel when I say the economic thing is still the

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prime issue, I think it is important that we don’t allow APEC to drift into being a forum for detailed discussion for environmental issues; a forum for detailed discussion of labour relations issues; a forum for discussion of all manner of other issues - not that those issues are unimportant - but the central role of APEC was trade and economic facilitation. North Korea was touched on but it was not a central focus of the discussion this afternoon. And the comments the President has apparently made about them are comments that any leader makes. He naturally gets a lot more prominence than most because of the position he occupies. I mean you might ask me a question about something unrelated to the central role of APEC and I say something about it and it gets reported back home, that doesn’t mean that I’ve declared that the economy is no longer the central focus of APEC.

JOURNALIST:

You don’t think he’s relegated economic issues but do you think that he’s sought to elevate security issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the security issue has been discussed at APEC since the meeting in Shanghai in 2001. Self-evidently, you can’t go anywhere to any meeting now without discussing terrorism.

JOURNALIST:

With the LNG contract, can you give us some idea of what they’re worth?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’d have to take that on notice Tom. I just don’t know off hand what it’s worth. It’s a valuable contract. It’s billions, billions but I can’t tell you how many. I mean once you get to a certain level it’s all quite… it’s mega isn’t it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, in the lead-up to the summit here in Chile there’s been an expression of being very much behind secure trade and anti terrorism but it comes to an issue of money and whether they can afford it. Was there any discussion of how to pay for these measures?

PRIME MINISTER:

Pay for what measures?

JOURNALIST:

Anti terrorism measures or secure trade measures perhaps looking at shipping and protection of airlines?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the fact that some countries found that more difficult than others, people are obviously conscious of that. It wouldn’t be right to say we spent a detailed amount of time addressing that particular issue.

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JOURNALIST:

Was there any discussion of the scoping study for an APEC-wide free trade agreement?

PRIME MINISTER:

What during the leaders’ meeting?

JOURNALIST:

Yes?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Are you aware of the greatness that has been achieved by Glenn McGrath?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I am aware and it’s another example of what a magnificent cricketer he is. 54 not out?

JOURNALIST:

53.

PRIME MINISTER:

53. You sure?

JOURNALIST:

I was advised by the Prime Minister’s office.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, this morning in an interview you were asked about the timetable for the sale of Telstra and you mentioned the legislation going through in this term but not necessarily the commercial conditions for the sale. There was no mention of the condition regarding rural services. Is that because it goes without saying or because it’s gone?

PRIME MINISTER:

It goes without saying. The question I was asked Greg, and there’s nothing complicated about this, the question I was asked was did I expect the legislation authorising the sale of Telstra would go through in this term and I said yes. Well I think I was first asked did I think Telstra would be sold and I said yes and then I adjusted that to speak of the passage of legislation but of course it will only go through subject to the conditions that are contained in our policy.

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JOURNALIST:

So does that mean to use your words that you do now think services are ….(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if you have a look at the policy, that will be adhered to.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, still on domestic issues, Mr Latham has indicated that he wants Labor to be a friend of small business and announced policy changes …

PRIME MINISTER:

He wants them to embrace small business. Well I think it’s the warmth of the embrace that will be important. I mean there are embraces and embraces and if it’s not a warm embrace he won’t win the girl and the real test will be what you do on unfair dismissals.

JOURNALIST:

And will that legislation be coming up soon?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it could well be re-presented.

JOURNALIST:

You went through earlier a range of issues on counter terrorism where there was discussion. Was there a recognition by the countries that more horse power needed to be put into those?

PRIME MINISTER:

More what?

JOURNALIST:

They needed to put more horsepower, more focus on those issues that you mentioned including education?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look it’s not the kind of interaction where every country is lined up to give a specific response to each proposal that is put forward. It doesn’t work that way. It’s just fair to say that those issues were referred to.

JOURNALIST:

Your discussion with the American business coalition, what did you say in terms of world economic conditions and did you hear Mr Bush’s comments about his commitment to reducing the budget deficit in the US.

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PRIME MINISTER:

I haven’t heard those comments but I welcome that.

JOURNALIST:

And what sort of …(inaudible) did you tell the American business coalition about world economic conditions?

PRIME MINISTER:

I said the same thing to them that I said to the CEO’s meeting which you would have heard. I didn’t say anything different. That’s my view of world economic conditions at the present time.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister on HIV AIDS, can you outline a little bit about what you were saying to the forum about the issue.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I said in relation to HIV AIDS that one of the critical things that is needed in all of these big public health challenges is that you’ve got to have very clear and unambiguous leadership at a government level about what has to be done.

The countries that have most success with public health programs are those where there is a strong, clear no-nonsense statement of the problem and very strong support for changes in behaviour and so forth that are needed to try and deal with the problem. I think, I hope without being accused of self congratulation, Australia, and I’m not just speaking of my government but of other governments, we’ve been very successful with public health programs because we do tend to deal with many of these issues in a fairly direct no-nonsense fashion and unless that happens you are not going to get results and tragically in parts of Africa that hasn’t happened. And it’s not just a question of more and more billions of dollars being made available by wealthy countries, you’ve got to have well directed public education programs and you’ve got to deal with these things in a very up-front fashion and this applies whether you’re dealing with HIV AIDS, you’re dealing with smoking, you’re dealing with any of these issues - unless there’s a disciplined explanation of the problem and what is needed you are not going to achieve results.

We will be spending something in the order of $600 million up to 2010 in assistance for HIV AIDS and we are particularly focusing on countries in our region that’s where our emphasis is. There’s a big problem in Papua New Guinea. We recognize that and we want to help but I made the observation at the gathering that a major part of it is the leadership that occurs at a government level. Unless that occurs, assistance from other countries can be virtually useless because it won’t be properly directed.

Thank you.

[ends]