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Election 2001: Prime Minister discusses economy; submarine repair contracts; anthrax; business reforms; asylum seekers and illegal immigrants; APEC; Indonesia; budget surplus; indigenous issues; and heroin trials.



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16 October 2001

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP INTERVIEW WITH JEREMY CORDEAUX RADIO 5DN, ADELAIDE

Subjects: election campaign; economy; submarine contract; anthrax threat; business reforms; illegal immigration; APEC; Indonesia; budget surplus; indigenous issues; heroin trials

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

CORDEAUX:

How are you sir?

PRIME MINISTER:

Very well Jeremy, always nice to be talking to you.

CORDEAUX:

Welcome to town. You’ve brought some goodies to give us too I believe which we will get to. Now you’ve been through so many of these campaigns, you’d have a fairly good feeling as to how this one was going, what’s your judgement, what’s your call?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s early days yet. I said when the campaign started that it would be tougher than people were predicting. I’m sure I was right in saying that, but the Australian public has heard a lot from me, they’ll hear a lot from Mr Beazley. This election campaign is not only about the past five and a half years, it’s also about the period ahead and it’s very important that people hear from both of us about what we’ve done and not done over the last five and a half years and also what our plans are for the future.

CORDEAUX:

PRIME MINISTER

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I heard in the debate, Kim Beazley saying, he asked the question, ask yourself, are you better off today than you were five years ago?

PRIME MINISTER:

I tell you what… people who are better off, homebuyers, $350 a month cheaper - the average mortgage, real wages are higher, personal income tax is lower and more people are in work. I think people are better off.

CORDEAUX:

Maybe you should have jumped in and said that to him in the debate.

PRIME MINISTER:

That was his last comment.

CORDEAUX:

I wouldn’t like those debate things, because I think they kind of produce a pressure and a kind of a false anxiety which gets in the way of performance.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Jeremy, a debate is part of an election campaign, there’s no one way in an election campaign to get your message across. And the judgement people make at election time is not just on what happens during the campaign, it’s also on what you’ve done over the previous three years. Now I’m accountable for what I’ve done and failed to do over the last five and a half years….

CORDEAUX:

And what have you failed to do?

PRIME MINISTER:

…so is Mr Beazley. Well I’ve obviously made some mistakes, some mistakes, everybody makes mistakes.

CORDEAUX:

What would you go back particularly and do again.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I haven’t come here for a, you know, a great sort of lament, you know that’s the last thing I’m gonna do. But I’m just being fair dinkum. Any Prime Minister who pretends he’s never made a mistake has never tried anything. But I’ve tried a lot of things and most of them have worked very well and Australia’s in a better position as a result. I mean we’re certainly more respected around the world, as a result of things like East Timor. We’re a safer society

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because of gun control. And we’ve got a stronger economy because of all the reforms that I’ve undertaken. And that’s very important because the next few years are going to be difficult particularly the next 12 months. Fortunately the Australian economy is stonger than most and therefore better able to weather the storm that is coming, following the terrorist attacks, which have really sapped the confidence of the United States. I hope it recovers and there are signs, certainly through the stock market that that has happened. But it’s going to be a bit difficult and challenging, you need a lot of experience and strength over the next few months.

CORDEAUX:

Yes I understand. I mean the point I would make to Kim Beazley is that when you ask are you better off today than you were five years ago, the world is a very different place today than it was five years ago and if you consider the turmoil in the world, both militarily and economically, it just seems like somebody has smiled upon us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Australia is in a very strong position economically and after five and a half years we are entitled to point to our own performances contributing to that strength. Let me put it another way, if the Australian economy were in a very weak position now, you can bet your bottom dollar that all of the blame for that, all of it would be heaped at our door by the Opposition. So, we haven’t done everything perfectly, of course not and if we’re re-elected we won’t either but there’s no doubting the fundamental strengths, lower interest rates, lower inflation, payback of $58 billion of $96 billion of debt. All of those things make Australia a good proposition in the next little while, and we need all of that strength to withstand some of the pressure that’s going to come.

CORDEAUX:

There’s nothing you can do to make the country bullet proof but you can set it up, as I believe you have, to be advantaged in difficult times.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s the aim. I mean the whole aim of economic policy is to prepare you for the good as well as the bad. Any old policy can get a country through when international economic circumstances are benign. But it’s when international circumstances turn nasty that the real strength of domestic policy comes to the fore. It happened with the Asian economic downturn and we were able to ride that out because we were strong and I believe it will happen over the next 12 months.

CORDEAUX:

Now I know that today, well the rumour is that you’re going to announce that we have got the sub deal, the Advertiser, most of the papers are trumpeting like you’ve already announced it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are going to sign…..

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CORDEAUX:

So why not announce it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the Premier and I have got to… the Premier’s involved in this but this is the ideal place for this kind of deal. Adelaide has the infrastructure, they’ve done it before, it makes sense. There will be some maintenance work in Western Australia and… this is a question of whenever you have a federation and you’re the Prime Minister, you don’t play favourites, one part of Australia against another, you just try and do what is sensible in the national interest and I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that Adelaide is the place for this submarine deal.

CORDEAUX:

Yes, well you can’t please everybody and there’ll be a lot of people knocking on your door asking for various favours and I image John Olsen has been there banging on the door very loudly.

PRIME MINISTER:

He’s been advocating South Australia’s cause as he should because he’s the Premier of the State but it also makes national defence and ecomice sense to have it here in South Australia.

CORDEAUX:

I remember talking to a woman called Lawrie Garret who wrote a book called The Coming Plague, she’s based in New York. And there was a section in this book on germ warfare and Australia funnily enough, and the point that she made was that we were hopelessly naive and unprepared for the kind of thing that we are seeing, even just the odd letter which doesn’t seem to be a mass campaign. But it is frightening and almost paralysing to people.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well everybody is on edge but they shouldn’t become paranoid about it but equally they should be careful. I spoke to the head of the Protective Services Co-ordination Centre this morning, Mr Tyree, who sort of oversees all this and every single instance, about 56 or 57 at the time we spoke that had been reported, many of which were only reported because the originating post mark sparked a concern, such as Florida, because that’s where it occurred in the United States. Now they’re methodically going through all of these and ticking them off and so far there is no evidence of any foul play, as the police would say. There have been a half a dozen or more cases of powder and each of those containers of powder, or portions of powder have been examined and so far no problem. Now all I can say is that, I can’t guarantee there won’t be a problem emerge We believe that we are prepared as you can be, we have the experience of the Olympic games last year to test all of our response mechanisms and I would say to people don’t be alarmed, don’t get too concerned about it, on the other hand you have to be vigilant.

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CORDEAUX:

Yes indeed. An inspector general for the taxation taxation department and you have also announced initiatives …

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes we have announced some, can I just say the inspector general is to deal with the growing number of complaints people have about how aspects of the tax legislation is administered. You have got to keep the secrecy provisions of the tax act and you can’t have a situation where individual taxpayers who have got complaints are sort of using the political process because of the allegations of political favouritism in an area that is sensitive like tax and this is really designed to improve the responsiveness of the Tax Office to some of those concerns but equally to preserve and respect the role of the Tax Commissioner. Not an easy job but people are entitled to be heard in relation to the way in which the act is administered and I think this is as good a way as any. This won’t effect the policy making role of the government and the Inspector General will report to the Parliament through the Treasurer but it’s an initiative that I think is quite important, particularly for small business.

CORDEAUX:

So the tax department has been causing you a bit of angst. What sort of woman or man would you have in mind for the job of inspector general.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the inspector general would be somebody who would be very experienced in tax matters. Not somebody from within …

CORDEAUX:

An accountant or …

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, look or a business man or woman. But this is not a hit on the tax office. It’s just a recognition that everybody needs to be accountable. I mean I am accountable and one of the challenges you have with something like the tax office is that it is not in the end really accountable to anybody. In theory it is accountable to the parliament but in practice because of the size of the bureaucracy it’s not really accountable. I mean the Treasurer can’t ring up the tax commissioner and say look Bloggs has complained to me about the way you are treating him. I mean I don’t want to know Bloggs’ tax problems if you understand what I mean. It’s his business, it’s between him and the commissioner.

CORDEAUX:

And I see you have committed the Coalition to sweeping business reform.

PRIME MINISTER:

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Yes, one of the things we’re hoping to do in that area, Jeremy, is to attract more venture capital and by having a limited partnership with taxation flow through, I know it sounds very complicated but essentially what it will do is make it more attractive for people to invest in new ventures and we need that and this is something that’s been chamioned by the Venture Capital Association around Australia and every indicator is that we have to find new innovative ways of attracting more investment to Australia. You should never rest on the investment achievements of the past and this is very much an investment plan for the next term and I’m quite excited by the responses received from the business community. We need entrepreneurs, we need risk takers, not all of them will succeed, but you can’t generate wealth in this country unless you take risks and we shouldn’t denigrate people who take risks. I mean we have a great tendency in this country to, sure we’ve had a few companies that have got into trouble, but you can’t brand the whole corporate sector according to their behaviour. And you’ve always got to look forward to the success stories which are infinitely more numerous than the failures.

CORDEAUX:

Sure, and more inspirational.

PRIME MINISTER:

Far more. And fundamental to our capacity to generate revenue, to pay for schools and hospitals.

CORDEAUX:

But we’ve got to compete with people like Ireland, Ireland was a basket case not so long ago because of …..

PRIME MINISTER:

They have had some innovative approaches, we’re not necessarily going to follow everything they’ve done but this is the sort of thing that we have to do to get more people investing in the country’s future. And in the process taking a bit of a risk but you’ve got to give them an incentive.

CORDEAUX:

You’re off to meet Prime Ministers and heads of state on Friday. That’s still on.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the APEC meeting is important in it’s own right but it’s particularly important at present because one of the things on the agenda, and in fact I asked that it be put on the agenda, is what response the APEC countries can make to the terrorist threat and you’ll have President Bush, the President of Russia, the President of China, the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of Indonesia and Prime Ministers from a number of other countries including Canada and New Zealand and of course ourselves. I think it’s an absolutely compulsory attendance for an Australian Prime Minister, even in the middle on an election campaign and I’m surprised that Mr Beazley attacked me for wanting to go, I think that was very silly and

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not really in the national interest for him having… I should be there, it’s only two days. And it’s just very important, and after all, all Australians are concerned about this whether they vote for me or vote for Mr Beazley, everybody’s concerned about this issue. It’s not something that….you know Labor people, I’m getting just as many people saying to me they support the stance I’ve taken who are Labor voters. I think it’s just important in the country’s interest that I be there and I would hope that when I’m out of the country for the sake of our own national interest the attendance at that meeting is not attacked.

CORDEAUX:

Megawati Soekarnoputri has backed away from the support that she offered the alliance or the coalition [inaudible] George Bush. Will you have a chance to talk to her, because after all I guess we and the Americans give them foreign aid. There’s all kinds of pressure that could be brought to bear I would imagine in terms of getting some continued support. While she’s saying she’s anti-terrorist, she is backing away from the action in Afghanistan.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well she is in a difficult position but I don’t think it’s in the interests of her country or in the interest of stability in our part of the world for Indonesia to weaken it’s support of the American position. Indonesia in the main has followed a very tolerant and open approach and Islam in Indonesia overwhelmingly has been very tolerant and liberal. And until recently it’s had quite a fine tradition of religious tolerance. Although it’s over whelmingly an Islamic country, there’s a sizeable Christian minority and very very strong in different parts of the country, so it really has a lot to be proud of in terms of tolerance and a liberal approach to different religions.

CORDEAUX:

But how worried are you about Indonesia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Indonesia is a very big country, there are a lot of internal pressures. And the great challenge Indonesia has of course is to be cohesive and the national unity is a very big challenge. It’s going through this huge modernisation, it’s transforming itself into a democracy and the transitional challenges of that are always difficult. I mean it is in my view the only way for the country to go, I don’t think the future of Indonesia lies in returning to more authoritarian ways. The country has moved on from that but the process of change is going to be very difficult but you never succeed in walking away from the threat posed by something like terrorism. You can’t successfully appease people like that and it really is in Indonesia’s interests and it would be a view, if I have the opportunity of putting it, which I expect to, a view I would be putting to her that in everybody’s interests… and we all have to work together. This is not a struggle, she must understand, this is not a struggle between Islam and the rest of the world. We don’t have any argument with Islam, we have argument with terrorists and people who behave in such a cruel and indiscriminate way and it’s not really because of their Islamic faith, it’s because of the way they are. It’s really got nothing to do in a sense with their Islamic faith. And it’s very important that the country, which in a way is the largest Islamic country in the world does not allow this issue to be something of Islam against the rest, it is not. We have no quarrel with Islam, I know George Bush has no quarrel

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with Islam, I know that. What he’s told me is how strongly he feels about the need to separate the two things.

CORDEAUX:

Kim Beazley seems to think that you can easily fix the boat people asylum seekers problem by getting on the telephone, talking to Megawati, fixing up a deal whereby they just guarantee to take them back. Is it that simple?

PRIME MINISTER:

I wish I’d thought of that. It is not as simple as that and there is no evidence to suggest that if we had a Labor Government it would be any easier. Our relationship with Indonesia was of course strained over East Timor. I mean we might have had a more accommodating relationship if we hadn’t have stood up for the people of East Timor but I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice them in the interest of preserving a relationship at all costs with Jakarta. Anyway, that’s behind us and we’re rebuilding the relationship but no matter who is in power in Australia, getting one of these return agreements with Indonesia in present circumstances would prove difficult. It’s not the most important thing on their agenda, we are continuing to pursue it and we will continue to pursue it and we will continue to pursue it.

The evidence is that what we have done over illegal immigrants has slowed the number of people going into the pipeline. It hasn’t deterred them completely, I would never allege that but it has certainly slowed the number of people going into the pipeline and we’ll keep persevering and we’ll continue to run a policy which is designed to prevent illegal arrivals coming to the Australian mainland. Okay, we’ve found different processing centres and we’ll go on with that but we are determined to maintain a position that people simply cannot present themselves to this country and in effect demand entry and then get the protection of the laws of this country relating to refugee status.

We will take refugees, we take more refugees than any country in the world except Canada on a per capita basis, but we are not going to allow people to simply present themselves on demand and say we demand the right to come into the country irrespective of our state, irrespective of us not demonstrating our capacity to be part of the Australian community. We’re just not going to allow that and we have that very strong view. It won’t be easy and I don’t for a moment suggest that there won’t be other boats that will try and come but I can say that the number entering the pipeline has slowed but it doesn’t mean to say we won’t have more.

CORDEAUX:

Does it surprise you, the overwhelming support I guess this programme and programmes like it all over the country have never had the kind of phone traffic on an issue like this.

PRIME MINISTER:

Perhaps the extent of it did. I think what it does indicate is that people want, just as they want control over their own lives they want this country to have control over its own borders. I think it’s very important and that’s what it’s about, it is not about being unsympathetic to people who are persecuted, it is about giving ourselves the capacity to control our borders and

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it is a very important right for any country and incidental to that I happen to believe that the best way to help refugees is to really help them in their country of first flight and first asylum. For example if there are a lot of refugees from Afghanistan into Pakistan the best way we can help is not to imagine that we can resettle them all around the world because you won’t do that. There are only eight or nine countries that have a resettlement programme and Australia is one of them, the rest of them won’t take refugees. What you have to do is provide more resources for a country like Pakistan to absorb them and we have provided more money and the Americans have, I think the British and some of the other Europeans have as well, I’m not sure about that. That is the best way of tackling the problem, really the country of first asylum.

I mean what we did with the refugees from Kosovo was a case in point. We said we’d give them a temporary safe haven until conditions in their home land were restored so that they could go back and they did. And that was the humanitarian sensible thing to do.

CORDEAUX:

You fix the cause instead of fixing the problem.

PRIME MINISTER:

Instead of dealing with the consequences. You just can’t disperse, the world will not take such large numbers and it’s far better to try and establish conditions of stability and tolerance in somebody’s homeland or the country of their first flight rather than imagine in a way that just won’t be realised that you can disperse them around the world.

CORDEAUX:

Well it continues to be a very polarising issue, you can see on the wall there, is John Howard our preferred Prime Minister. This is the vote that we do on our website which is 5dn.com.au and that’s a progressive kind of result if you like, it will let you know (inaudible) and so far you’ve got 68 per cent of people saying that you are their preferred Prime Minister and 32 per cent say no. And in behind much of that is the boat people, and how you handled that crisis, I’m sure of that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s not to me to make those sort of judgments, I mean we’re in an election campaign, people make judgements on a number of things but I do feel very strongly about this issue and it is something that goes to the very heart of your responsibility and that is to put Australia’s interest first. I’ve copped criticism from some quarters, I’ve copped a lot of understanding. Very interesting when Tony Blair rang me to say that he could not come to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Brisbane and that was really the sign that the meeting had to be called off which it was the following day. We talked about the terrorist situation and the aftermath and one thing he said to me was that he and the British Government had to reassess Britain’s position on a lot of things, he said one of the things we will have to change our attitude on is asylum seekers.

CORDEAUX:

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You see that they have announced that they are now going to put asylum seekers in camps, they’ve described them as camps.

PRIME MINISTER:

I mean he was somebody who was perhaps earlier than that may have had a different view and he’s on the other side of politics, he's the Prime Minister of Britain and I deal with him irrespective of his politics, but he's on the other side from me and he was making that point. So I thought that was an interesting observation and no country over the years has been more liberal and decently so in relation to giving a haven to people than Great Britain because over the years she’s been a country that’s taken people from everywhere. So every country has in the end a challenge about controlling its own borders.

CORDEAUX:

That’s off the Internet, asylum seekers will now be kept in camps. The Charter of Budget Honesty, this is something that comes out tomorrow.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it’s coming out on Thursday, the actual release of it, the actual pre-election financial overview which is signed off by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Department of Finance will come out this week. And it will give the country the official state of the books.

CORDEAUX:

What do they look like?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I expect that we will have a surplus this year, we’ll have a surplus next year and the following years and it won’t be as big as we said at budget time because the economy is slowing a bit and we’ve had to spend some more money on a number of things including asylum seekers and a number of other things and make provision in various areas. But we intend to maintain a budget surplus.

CORDEAUX:

Where would you have been if you didn’t have the money that you unexpectedly had to find for these things that jumped out at you? Where would you have been?

PRIME MINISTER:

If we hadn’t of had … well we’d have been in a pickle to put it bluntly if we hadn’t have kept a balanced budget. And there won’t be a lot of money for either side to promise away, there won’t be and the other thing I’ll be interested to know is whether Mr Beazley as well as providing the cost of any of the promises he makes between now and the election as to whether he’s going to cost all those promises that are listed on his website. I mean there’s been a bit of debate about those promises on his website, he made a point of saying they’re

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still valid, well if they’re still valid I’d like to know the cost of all of them.

CORDEAUX:

Would you take a couple of call?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

CORDEAUX:

Hello Donald.

CALLER:

Good morning. I’d like to thank the Prime Minister for taking part in that very interesting television debate. It was very informative and we probably should have more of them. But I’d like him in particularly if he would to comment on the Advertiser’s coverage of it. On Monday morning it gave a very good coverage, double page spread. A photograph of you Prime Minister shows you beaming and happy whereas the photograph of Kim Beazley shows him very morose and glum. Now my memory of the debate was the reverse, that you hardly smiled and Mr Beazley smiled quite a lot. How can the Advertiser get it so wrong do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you’ll have to ask the editor. Look I have no, I mean no disrespect to the Advertiser but I am not my Advertiser’s keeper. I think you really will have to talk to the Adviser about that.

CORDEAUX:

Well you should have rung yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER:

We all, can I tell you, on occasions be photographed to disadvantage and that’s happened to me time without number over the years. So occasionally if I get a smiling photograph I should count my blessings.

CORDEAUX:

Well Donald we had Malcolm Mansell, the editor of the Advertiser in yesterday, you should have rung and put the question to him. Thanks Donald, Geraldine.

CALLER:

Oh hi yes Mr Howard.

PRIME MINISTER:

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Yes.

CALLER:

A person who has a part time job two days a week supporting two people and they go for an interview for a second part time job for another two days, on the second part time job they have to pay 50 per cent tax. Why?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s not necessarily the case. I mean you get it back on your assessment.

CALLER:

But how do you survive the week till you get it back?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well from a practical point of view you do raise a genuine issue but the way the tax system operates is that employers are obliged because they don’t necessarily know what people’s other working commitments are, to deduct a certain amount on the basis that it is your only position and then at the end you aggregate it and you’re entitled to the full tax threshold and you get an adjustment. Look you raise, it’s a practical issue, I’ve tried to find a way around it in the past but it’s not easy. But you do raise a genuine practical issue and I will talk to the Treasurer again to see if there is some way around it.

CORDEAUX:

Okay and there are still probably things that can be done with the tax system. I’m sure there are things that can be done with the superannuation system which is causing people some concern, money that is taxed going in, money that’s taxed while its earning and money that’s taxed when it’s taken out. Would you like some reform there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, we’ll have something to say on the superannuation tax issue during the campaign. I’m not foreshadowing that there’s going to be a major overhaul because one of the things people want in that area is nothing to happen. There have been so many changes over the years that a lot of the complaints I get are that Governments have tinkered with the system too much, far too much and they are frightened of further tinkering and I know small business is frightened of the prospect that if the Labor Party were to win they would increase that superannuation guarantee charge which is really just a tax on small business.

CORDEAUX:

Sure. Okay a couple more quick calls. Stuart.

CALLER:

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Yes good morning everyone. I want to ask Mr Howard and the Liberal Party on the (inaudible). Now you were saying about two months ago New Zealand people, unemployed or whatnot, you’re going to do something about that. Are you still going to do…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have done something about that, what we’ve said is that they’re not, unless they get permanent residence status, they’re entitled to, like anybody else to benefits, but they’re not automatically entitled to benefits when they come here and that’s an agreement that was hammered out with the New Zealand Government and it will over time produce quite a significant saving but we don’t want to interfere with the free flow of people. But we’ve just said that they have to qualify along with everybody else for those entitlements and be treated no different in relation to the entitlements and over time it will save Australia quite a bit of money. But we have to remember that our two countries are close. And we share a lot of history and we share a future together and it’s very important we not allow, particularly some of the difficulties over Air New Zealand to colour our attitude towards our cousins in New Zealand. They’re a very important country to Australia.

CORDEAUX:

Would you see one day a common currency?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m always careful because ours, you know we’re the larger number of people, not to sound as though I’m being in any way patronising. That’s a matter really for New Zealand to determine. It might happen, it might not. But the point I simply make is that, you know going back to the dole question, we have made changes there, it will save us money. But we have to look at the relationship between our two societies in a very positive light.

CORDEAUX:

Jane is the lucky last, the Prime Minister’s got to go.

CALLER:

Oh thank you Jeremy. Mr Howard I was very very disappointed with the debate the other night in as much as some time ago Mr Beazley said that if he became Prime Minister within the first week he would say sorry to the Aboriginals. And I’m just wondering that once he has done that where all the money will come from for all the promises because there won’t be anything left and I’m wondering why you nor Ray Martin didn’t ask the question.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I just say in relation to that issue, what Mr Beazley says the Labor Party will do in the first week is call parliament together and issue a formal national apology. There is a difference between an apology and feeling sorry. I mean as a person I feel very sorry for the injustice that was delivered to indigenous people in the past. I’m sorry about it but I think a formal apology assumes that I accept responsibility and the current generation does, I don’t think that's right and I don’t intend to. There are compensation issues involved and that’s a

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valid observation, or view to make and we won’t be, if we’re re-elected, delivering a formal apology. We did have a motion of sincere regret in the parliament a couple of years ago and I think that correctly captured the mood of the community. I don’t think the community believes that a formal apology is appropriate but as an individual I am personally very sorry for any injustice that was meted out to any indigenous popple in the past and I think the best way to tackle this problem is to give them job opportunities, improve their health, their education, their housing and we are making progress on that front. For example there are now four times more indigenous people in apprenticeships in Australia than there were five and a half years ago. Now it’s that kind of practical advantage that I think is very important.

CORDEAUX:

And you will not be supporting free injecting rooms?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I have a very uncompromising view on heroin, I mean it’s not popular with a lot of people, they say I’m too hard line on that. I think once you start allowing those things you are really running up the white flag and I’m not prepared to do that. So people have quite a clear choice on issues like that. Mr Beazley said in a sort of way that he’d sort of think about perhaps having heroin injecting rooms and heroin trials. He’s rather iffy on all of those things, I’m not. Some people will disagree with me very strongly. I wear that. But can I say, and it is early days, and things might change but over the last year there has been a significant decline in the number of heroin deaths in Australia. Now some of that is due to the supply of heroin drying up and unrelated to what we have done. Some of it is due to the fact that we’ve interdicted a lot more drugs, heroin, and I think our policies are having some effect but while ever I’m Prime Minister we won’t have heroin trails and we won’t have heroin injecting rooms.

CORDEAUX:

I know that you've got to go and you’ve got a very busy day but your private polling would be probably telling you that it is an issue with your supporters that they want you to commit for the full term. We talked about this last time you were on the phone with me. At what point in time are you going to say well alright it’s only another 12 months that you would commit presumably to finish the term and if it is going to be an impediment to your re-election why wouldn’t you just commit to it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Jeremy I’ve never said I am going to retire.

CORDEAUX:

But you’ve let people speculate.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what I’ve done is tell the truth. And that is say that, I think the leader should tell the truth on things like. Don’t you. I think people prefer candour rather than humbug and

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obfuscation. I’ve simply said that if I win again and I’m trying very hard to win again, a couple of years into the term I’ll think about my future. Now I think people are entitled to know that that is in my mind. It goes no further than that…

CORDEAUX:

(inaudible) all you've got to do is say I’m going to be there for the three years.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you can’t say you’re going to think about something and I mean I’m just trying to be honest with people and I think it’s better to do that. And I understand, I mean it’s very kind, I am very flattered by the fact that people raise it but I’m just trying to level with them. Right at the moment I’ve never felt fitter. In a way I feel more on top of the job now than at any time in five and a half years. And there are a lot of things I want to do, and I’m certainly determined to see the Australian people through the huge challenge that we now face.

CORDEAUX:

Can you be pursued to just sort of think about it rather than…

PRIME MINISTER:

Once you’ve said something you can’t unsay it. I mean Jeremy I think the Australian people are quite mature enough to handle the notion that somebody at some stage might sort of think about their future. I mean I think we can get too, how shall I put it, rote about things like this. I mean election campaigns become so artificial when people say oh that’s outrageous he says he's going to think about his future. I mean that’s what people do every day of their lives and I think we make a huge mistake, we treat people in a very condescending way when we’re not up front about these sorts of things and I’m being very up front. I don’t… right at the moment the last thing I want to do is leave public life. I am enjoying it, I’m stimulated by it, more importantly I feel on top of it but most importantly there are a lot of things I want to do. There are a lot more things I want to do so my political career is not just about what I’ve done but also about other things I want to do. So that’s the picture.

CORDEAUX:

If I don’t let you go these guys are going to lynch me. Have a good time in Adelaide, enjoy your stay and thank you for all this time I’m very grateful.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]