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Prime Minister discusses Bali; Amrozi; Jakarta bombing; and indigenous communities.



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7 August 2003

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP INTERVIEW WITH RAY HADLEY, RADIO 2UE

Subjects: Bali; Amrozi; Jakarta explosion; indigenous communities;

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………….

PRIME MINISTER:

Ray, nice to be with you again.

HADLEY:

I appreciate that, but we've got a very important occurrence in the next three or four hours in Indonesia in light of what happened at the Marriott Hotel, the sentencing, or in fact the determination of guilt or innocence of Amrozi and then some time later the sentencing. And we've had a message today to say that, and this comes from apparently someone in Indonesia, a message from our enemies, that if they execute any of our Muslim brothers we'll continue this campaign of terror in Indonesia and the region. Are we at risk in the next seven days?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the whole region continues to be at some risk, it varies. It's a greater risk in Indonesia and other parts of the region than in Australia. But we are not risk free, we haven't been risk free for some years. This country has been a terrorist target for a long time now and certainly there's evidence that we were looked at by al-Qaeda before the 11th of September 2001. Having said that, the degree of risk in Australia is not, I repeat, as great as in other countries but there is risk. This is a hard time because you've got to call it as it is, but I don't want to alarm people and I want everybody to get on with their ordinary lives because we've all got to live and life's too short to sort of worry that it might come to an end tomorrow. But on the

other hand, we want to try and make it as safe as we possibly can and balancing those two things isn't easy.

HADLEY:

I think it's part of our psyche to be, 'she's right mate, she'll be apples mate'.

PRIME MINISTER

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PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, that is an Australian characteristic.

HADLEY:

And so it's a bit more difficult to say to Australians who haven't been to other parts of the world where the risk is more imminent to say to them, 'well hang on a sec, she mightn't be apples like she used to be, we've got to be a little bit more careful'.

PRIME MINISTER:

That is right, although my experience has been that most Australians do accept that the world has changed forever as a result of the 11th of September and Bali and it's been reinforced by recent events in Jakarta. So side by side with, 'she'll be right mate', there is a recognition that whatever may have gone before, the world is now different and we have to adjust our behaviour accordingly. But in their great style and their great capacity to adjust and adapt, Australians I think are fighting the balance, we are being more careful, but we're still enjoying life. And gee I hope we continue to do that because you can't allow the terrorists to win. And I think one of the interesting things is that, you repeated those words of that reported warning about our Muslim brothers, the people who died in the Marriott bombing were their Muslim brothers, they killed their Muslim brothers themselves. And this is quite the important point to make - that the overwhelming bulk of the people who died in Jakarta a few days ago were Muslims.

HADLEY:

The sad part is, I've had a couple of calls this morning from people who seized upon that opportunity to say they're representative of all Muslims, obviously they're not.

PRIME MINISTER:

They are not. I mean, it's a point we have to make, and this is a time to work closer with the Indonesians than ever before because we're in this together and it's a responsibility of people of goodwill, whatever their faith, or if they have no faith at all, to work together to fight these fanatics who are the enemy of all of us. They're not just the enemy of us, although they particularly dislike our style, our lifestyle, but in the process they are killing their own self-described brothers.

HADLEY:

I think another part of Australia is that we try to see the point of positives out of negatives. Now you mentioned the links with Indonesia, after what happened in Bali and what's happened at the JW Marriott, it appears to me that you've moved very quickly with Megawati Sukarnoputri to offer support and help by our federal police, and one of the things that we've had to battle through over the last decade is our links with Indonesia and make sure they're a friendly neighbour. In a perverse sort of way, these terrible incidents have strengthened our bond.

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PRIME MINISTER:

I think they have and they have driven home to a lot of Indonesians who may have been sceptical in the past that although we're a different country and we have a different culture and a different society and a different way of doing things, that doesn't mean to say we can't be good friends in the same region. And when I spoke to the President yesterday, I said that Australians were feeling genuinely sorry for what had happened, we wanted to help. We sent eight crime scene investigation experts from the AFP yesterday morning, they're already in Jakarta at work, we had something like a dozen Australian Federal Police on the ground so it happened doing something else, they're available. And, of course, in the investigation of the Bali attack, our police have been working very closely with the Indonesians, they really have been working very closely.

HADLEY:

I guess when we look on TV and we see somewhere we've been, whether it's a catastrophe or something that's nice, we've been to it, we've seen that. How did you personally feel having been to that hotel recently?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, I don't know… I mean, I was aware that I had been but you know you sort of… you're philosophical about that kind of thing, you have to be because, and I was okay and a lot people were killed yesterday or two days ago, and they were just people going about… taxi drivers, restaurant workers, people on miserable incomes and they get blown to bits by these lunatics…

HADLEY:

Okay. To more pleasant things. You've been to the top end, you came across a young women that I first saw on Australian Story - the youngest ever regional councillor Tania Major.

PRIME MINISTER:

Outstanding young woman, articulate, intelligent, gutsy, real future leader, well a current leader. And this is the hope, you see in the Cape quite a number of young leaders and she was but one of them, people who are well-educated, people who have a strong sense of their cultural identity, who are proud to be aboriginal, very proud, but want to be part of the Australian mainstream as well and want their people to enjoy the benefits of our society and they know that unless those communities help themselves they're not going to make it. And the point I was communicating yesterday was that no Prime Minister, no political leader, but nobody can do for a community what it isn't willing to do for itself and the key is self-responsibility and self-help. The Government can help, the Government can make changes, the rest of the community can show compassion. But unless the communities involved grab hold of their own future, unless they tackle these problems of violence against women and children, which is rife in indigenous communities, it happens in all communities…

HADLEY:

I know.

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PRIME MINISTER:

Let's not kid ourselves, it does, far too often. But it's absolutely rife in the indigenous communities and that's been documented and you need gutsy people like Tania to identify the problem. I mean, it's one thing for me to say it, the tendency might be - oh but that's John Howard, he's not one of us, he's trying to make a political point. But when somebody like Tania Major says it or indeed several years ago that very courageous lady Evelyn Scott said it - different matter, here are courageous aboriginal women putting their head up and saying this got to stop. And I applaud them for it and I salute their courage.

HADLEY:

Just quickly, [inaudible] foundation and alcohol.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh very largely.

HADLEY:

Can this be the blueprint for other communities, aboriginal communities?

PRIME MINISTER:

I hope it is. In the end it's up to individual communities to decide whether or not they do it, and I don't want to suggest that putting restrictions on alcohol solves everything, but gee it makes a difference. I saw bright, alert, engaged children at these schools, where previously visiting these communities they were listless and unkempt because they'd gone to school with breakfast, they hadn't have been properly cared for. When that begins to change, simple things like that we tend to take for granted in society, have been absent because people have been blind out of their minds for days on end, and you've just got to stop this. And the only people who can stop it are the local communities and it's very good that the Queensland Government came in and said - right, if you want to restrict alcohol, well what happens is you can only drink in the canteen - it's like having a drink at the bar - you can't take anything away from the bottle shop, you can't take anything… drink in public. And restricting it to the canteen has made an enormous difference and the other good thing is that there are fewer people reporting to hospitals, haven't been bashed up.

HADLEY:

More power… thanks very much for your time, I appreciate it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, thank you.

[ends]