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Prime Minister discusses plane crash in Indonesia.



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PRIME MINISTER

8 March 2007

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP INTERVIEW WITH KARL STEFANOVIC AND SARAH MURDOCH,

TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL NINE

Subjects: Indonesian aircraft accident.

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………

STEFANOVIC:

First, to Prime Minister John Howard, Mr Howard good morning to you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Karl.

STEFANOVIC:

Prime Minister, can you update us on the latest in regards to the survivors?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well one of them has been taken to Perth, that's Cynthia Banham, and she will be treated there. There are, as all Australians know, remarkable burns facilities at the hospitals in Perth. And that is the best place for her to go. The businessman, Mr Tallboys, has gone to Singapore, and they are the two who have gone out of the country and the others are still in hospital, as I understand it, I think one of them is essentially not needing hospitalisation in Jakarta….in Yogyakarta. That is the latest situation concerning them. And I guess the only other piece of new information I can provide is that our embassy has been in touch with the office of the Indonesian President, and we have made an offer of additional medical assistance and the Indonesians have the indicated that they will be very ready to take that up if it is needed.

MURDOCH:

Now Prime Minister a devastating situation there, and five Australians are still missing, grave fears for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well yes, it’s one of these very difficult situations. They are unaccounted for. Obviously, as time goes by, the fears can only grow. I'm not in a position to confirm anything other that that. I know that there are widespread media reports this morning, both about their identities and also about the fact that they are missing, presumed dead. I can't confirm that, and it's not right of me to try and do so. But every effort is being made through scouring the hospitals. I spoke again to Mr Downer late last night. He had been to the hospitals. He had visited all of the people who were there, and had spoken to them, and he assured me that what was happening was that a meticulous check was being made of the hospitals in Yogyakarta to make absolutely certain that people who are now unaccounted for were not there, and so far I can't report anything other than what has been consistently reported in the news media that there are five people who are missing. And grave fears must be held for them.

STEFANOVIC:

Prime Minister, a specialised team we know has already left. You mentioned that there may be more medical supplies and people going over. Do you know when that might happen? Do you know how many people?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there are two teams on the way from Australia, and one of them, of course, includes Dr Fiona Wood, the former Australian of the Year and burns specialist from Western Australia. And there are a lot of medical resources there and some went from

Darwin. At this stage, if more are needed, they will be sent. But I think it's fair to say that the response has been swift, and it's been very adequate and I was satisfied after talking to Mr Downer late last night that all the resources that were needed, both to help our people and also to help the Indonesians - I mean this is a common tragedy - and we are only too ready to ensure that Indonesian people who have been affected, been injured, been burnt, that they should receive, as far as possible, the same sort of treatment that is given to Australians.

MURDOCH:

Prime Minister the Australian Federal Police officers are flying in to Yogyakarta with the grim task of identifying bodies. I can't imagine how difficult this will be for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is very difficult. Very sadly our Federal Police have had a lot of experience in this. We had it in the wake of the first Bali attack where the task of victim identification was both gruesome and lengthy. And the same applied in the wake of the Asian tsunami. And we have offered that assistance, and it was very readily

accepted by the Indonesian authorities, and they could be there for some time. And they have, of course, the realisation that they could be dealing in relation to people that they know. But we just don't….we just at this stage don’t know and we'll just have to wait and see. But this will have an impact on our police. I know they're trained for it. I know they're used to it. But it is a reminder to all Australians who are prone, every so often, to forget it, just what difficult tasks police - both our police within Australia and our Federal Police both in Australia and elsewhere - the tasks that they're called upon to perform. And we need them at a time like this and it's important we remember it.

STEFANOVIC:

Absolutely. Also an impact, I would imagine, on you personally. We saw vision of you taking the call yesterday. Are you able to share with us your thoughts when that initial call came in?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I had actually heard about the accident earlier. But the call that was…you're referring to is one that I took from Mr Downer who was in Jakarta. He was filling me in on a lot more detail. I always feel a sense of particular responsibility when something like this happens to people who are in the service of Australia - diplomats

and police and military personnel - they are doing our work in our name in another country. And I do feel a particular responsibility, and also for those who report and cover the news, because they are all part of our democratic network. But it's a terrible tragedy for their families and it's a period of intense anguish and anxiety for those close to people who are missing and for whom very grave fears are held.

STEFANOVIC:

Well Prime Minister, we appreciate your time on this difficult morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]