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Prime Minister discusses Victory in the Pacific Day.



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PRIME MINISTER

15 August 2005

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP INTERVIEW WITH JOHN BARRON ABC NEWS RADIO

Subjects: VP Day.

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

JOURNALIST:

Looking back to August 15th 1945, you were quite a young lad at the time. Do you have any tangible memories of the day?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I do. I can remember my older brother Bob, I was six at the time, saying to me if the headlines are big then the war is over. Now that’s what he said, that’s my recollection, something to that effect… maybe he didn’t put it that way but I can still remember him standing at our bedroom window - we shared a bedroom at the time, holding up this copy I guess, it was the Sydney Morning Herald. Maybe in those days you still had a broadsheet of the old Sydney Sun, I don’t know, but maybe you did. And the headlines were certainly very big and I do remember going to something on Sydney Harbour, being on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour and watching some fireworks, and searchlights. One of my very earliest recollections as a child were of searchlights, which probably would’ve gone up around the time of the Midget Submarine scare, or a bit later, but these recollections are very vague and unclear aren’t they.

JOURNALIST:

I suppose we’ve heard from older Australians this morning who’ve got many more tangible memories…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they certainly have. I mean I was born in 1939, just six weeks before the war started. I obviously lived through the war as a very young child. I do remember talk about the dropping

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of the bomb. I can remember seeing blackout paper being put up on windows in our home in Sydney, in Earlwood. They’re memories that I have and I can certainly remember a welcome home party that we had at my grandmother’s place for one of my uncles who had served in Syria during the war.

JOURNALIST:

Looking back at that generation of Australians Prime Minister, they survived the depression, they lived through the war of course, do you think that looking back we’ve lost anything in terms of our spirit, our identity compared with that generation?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don’t think so. They were in every sense of the expression an heroic generation. But so is the current generation of Australians. I’ve just had the privilege of visiting our men and women of the ADF in Iraq, in Al Muthanna - their spirit is terrific. I can recently recall, as all of us, the spirit of people after the terrible attack in Bali and the determination of the young of Australia to retain that sense of adventure. I’m an optimist about the continuity of the values of successive generations of Australians. We’re not the same, we obviously have opportunities that the second World War, depression generation, didn’t have and I admire unconditionally their tremendous stoicism. Their childhood, overwhelmingly, was blighted by the depression, but they nonetheless did what they knew was necessary to defend this country and we should always honour them for it. But in doing so, we shouldn’t feel that in some way current generations of Australians, different though they are in many respects, would respond less adequately to a similar challenge.

JOURNALIST:

Government policy of course had a lot to do with the fairly rapid reconciliation between Australia and Japan after the war. Given the feelings that many Australians naturally had towards the Japanese, are there lessons in that process for us now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the lessons are to respect and salute the great generosity of that generation of Australians again that suffered at the hands of the Japanese, and also never to forget that suffering. It is possible to be both positive about the relationship with Japan, but also to be frank about what happened. If we do that there’s no reason why we can’t continue to have a good relationship and an even closer relationship with Japan. And I have worked very hard on that. And there is of course no country in the Asia with whom we have a closer relationship than Japan. And a lot of credit is due to John McEwen, the former Deputy Prime Minister, way back in the 1950’s who pioneered the push for a commerce agreement with Japan that laid the foundation of the very strong economic relationship we have. But side by side with that we should never be reluctant to talk about what happened and should never be reluctant to remind, both ourselves and others of the suffering, especially of those Australians who went into captivity after the fall of Singapore.

JOURNALIST:

60 years after VP Day of course we’re fighting in another war, another kind of a war, do you think that we’re going to be seeing some day people dancing in the streets, celebrating victory on the war of terrorism?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Different war altogether. The conventional view of war until the war on terrorism was of Army’s rolling across borders - even as recently as 1979 when there was an invasion of Kampuchea, as it then was called by Vietnam. It was an army going across a border. We’re not dealing with that anymore, we’re dealing with a borderless war where the enemy is not an army and therefore many of the conventional understandings about surrender and hostilities and who’s a combatant and whether you’re a lawful combatant, or an unlawful combatant, I know this sounds all very technical but this is tied up in the debate about David Hicks. All of those things are different now. Therefore you don’t have a start point, a clearly defined start point which we obviously had in both World War I and World War II, and the Korean War, and therefore you don’t have a clear finish point. It’s very different and that makes it harder in some respects, it’s sporadic and you’ll never quite know when it’s over.

JOURNALIST:

Finally how would you Prime Minister like to see Australians commemorating the anniversary of VP Day today?

PRIME MINISTER:

Proud of the victory that Australia enjoyed, confident that we won the war in a just cause, but overwhelmingly, a sense of humility and gratitude towards those who delivered that victory and especially those who died to make this country free.

JOURNALIST:

Thanks for your time this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]