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Wife of former Prime Minister criticises Janette Howard in an upcoming book.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Thursday 28 September 2006

Wife of former Prime Minister criticises Janette Howard in an upcoming book

 

TONY EASTLEY: Usually it's the politicians sniping but over the last day or so it's been a former Prime Minister's wife who's been doing the running. 

 

In an extract from her soon to be released book, Margaret Whitlam is reported to have criticised Janette Howard, wife of the Prime Minister, as not doing enough for the community. 

 

She reportedly adds in her book that Janette Howard has no sense of humour, and should not still be holding hands with her husband in public. 

 

Now Mrs Whitlam says she was wrong about Janette Howard, but has stopped short of apologising for her comments. 

 

Lindy Kerin reports. 

 

LINDY KERIN: Margaret Whitlam's criticisms of the current Prime Minister's wife are detailed in her biography, to be released next week. 

 

In it, she's quoted as saying Janette Howard is "useless" in terms of how little she gives to the community. She also describes Mrs Howard as "weird" for continuing to hold hands with her husband in public after 30 years of marriage. 

 

Last night, alongside her husband at a function in Sydney, Margaret Whitlam says she made the comments about seven years ago, and has since changed her opinion. 

 

MARGARET WHITLAM: When I said what I said, or reported to have said, I was speaking a long while ago, and at the time I believe that to be true. 

 

LINDY KERIN: Margaret Whitlam's comments have sparked widespread condemnation from both sides of politics. 

 

The Treasurer Peter Costello says Mrs Whitlam should keep her opinions to herself. 

 

PETER COSTELLO: Look, I don't think it does anybody any good for former wives of Prime Ministers, or wives of former Prime Ministers, I should say, to comment on wives of serving Prime Ministers. 

 

People have their own views of course, but I don't think it's edifying to the public, to have criticisms being published. 

 

LINDY KERIN: And the Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley says one of his basic rules in politics is not to comment on the wives of his colleagues. 

 

KIM BEAZLEY: The family is off limits as far as I am concerned. 

 

RADIO PRESENTER: Should be. 

 

KIM BEAZLEY: I've got nothing to say about Janette Howard except this - that she has supported her husband through thick and thin for a very lengthy period of time. 

 

LINDY KERIN: The Prime Minister was saying even less about it. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: In the time that I have been Prime Minister, Janette and I have always given full respect to Gough and Margaret Whitlam as a former Prime Minister and his wife and I don't have any further comment to make.  

 

LINDY KERIN: As for Mrs Whitlam, she says she doesn't think her relationship with Janette Howard will suffer. 

 

The former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam didn't want to comment about the controversy. 

 

At last night's function, the couple posed for photographers, and incidentally, they were holding hands. 

 

MARGARET WHITLAM: That was something, just a passing comment, really. 

 

I mean, I don't even remember when I said it. I imagine I did, or I hope they wouldn't have said so if I hadn't said it, but I can't even remember saying it. 

 

(Referring to Gough Whitlam) I just held his hand, I've been married to him for 64 years. So of course, if you fancy it, do it.  

 

TONY EASTLEY: Former first lady Margaret Whitlam, speaking to Lindy Kerin.