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Opposition Leader discusses the children overboard affair; and allegations against the Governor-General.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT 0F INTERVIEW - STEVE PRICE, RADIO 2UE, 18TH FEBRUARY 2002.

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: ‘Children overboard’ affair, allegations against the Governor-General

JOURNALIST: First, the Federal Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, joins us. Thanks for your time again.

CREAN: Pleasure Steve.

JOURNALIST: Those photographs now that we’ve seen the uncropped version of what happened off Western Australia in October completely changes the context of which that was released, doesn’t it?

CREAN: Yes, and this then raises the questions as to whether the Government deliberately put them out and I believe they did. They put them out to tell a different story than the pictures told.

JOURNALIST: Who cropped them and who ordered the cropping?

CREAN: Well obviously you’ve got to go to Minister Reith and his office. Look at the reports. Look at the fact that only two were requested, even though we now know, because Defence has contradicted the Prime Minster, the Prime Minister said only two were sent. Defence now says more were sent. They took the text out. The text would’ve shown the date, the day after the incident these photos were taken and the context, the context being the sinking boat. Of course people will be in the water including children if a boat’s sinking and what they show is the Navy HMAS Adelaide coming to the rescue to help people in distress. This was not families throwing their kids overboard as Minister Reith said.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says you’re just whinging and can’t come to terms with the fact you lost the election.

CREAN: No, look, that’s completely wrong Steve. Look we’ve lost the election, we’ll move on, we can’t change it. But what this highlights that this was

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Government prepared to cover up the truth. It was prepared to deceive. It was prepared to tell the Australian public a story that wasn’t true and then cover up the truth for the next four months. If the Government was prepared to lie on this issue what else is it prepared to lie on? That’s the issue and it’s a Government that has to be held accountable also for its public servants. Now it’s very interesting that in another story in today’s paper, Steve, in the Fin Review, is a report that someone in the Prime Minister’s office, one of his advisers was on the, John Howard’s Senior Foreign Policy adviser, Miles Jordana was asked on October the 9th and again on the vote, November the 7th, to check the ‘Children Overboard’ story because the media reports suggesting the initial version was incorrect.

JOURNALIST: I think they’ve denied that haven’t they?

CREAN: But they continue to deny it but the trouble is this evidence keeps appearing.

JOURNALIST: So is the Upper House….

CREAN: The Prime Minister’s Office is now involved in this as well and that’s very serious because the Prime Minister says at no stage did he know.

JOURNALIST: Is the Senate inquiry then sufficient?

CREAN: Well, we’ll see. I mean the Senate Estimates process begins this week. That’s a different process than the inquiry Steve. It’s, it goes to Departments and their activities and it may be that material comes from that.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you about the Governor-General? John Howard this morning on the Today program on Channel 9 said ‘he is entitled to defend himself against the allegations’ and that the Prime Minister will say nothing until the Governor-General replies tonight. It’s an extraordinary situation where we have the Governor-General going on television tonight to argue why he should stay in the job.

CREAN: I think that it is very important that the Governor-General be given the chance to defend his position because I think they are serious allegations. I think it’s important that he be given the opportunity to answer them fully before any further calls are made. But the longer this goes on it can only diminish the Office of Governor-General and that’s not in anyone’s interest, least of all his.

JOURNALIST: Thanks for giving us your time again. Simon Crean there. Federal Opposition Leader.

Ends.