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Transcript of press conference: Sydney International Airport: 27 January 2005: Australian soldiers in Iraq; World Economic Forum; Aceh.



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PRIME MINISTER

27 January 2005

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE, SYDNEY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Subjects: Australian soldiers in Iraq, World Economic Forum, Aceh

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

PRIME MINISTER:

Well before I say anything about my visit to Switzerland and Singapore, I would like to say how very sorry I was to hear of the injuries sustained by Australian soldiers in Baghdad. The information I have is that none of the injuries are life threatening, although two of the soldiers must undergo surgery. This attack and also the other engagement which involved an exchange of small arms fire just underlines the ongoing danger that our men and women in Iraq face, and the very important work that they are doing as part of the coalition. On the virtual eve of the election, I want to say again how very important is this test for the future of Iraq. What is at stake is whether Iraq has the opportunity of a democratic future or whether the actions of terrorists and murderers, who show no scruples at all in their treatment of people, particularly their follow Iraqis, whether their behaviour is going to deny Iraq a democratic future. I express the hope I’m sure of the overwhelming majority of Australians that there will be a good turnout at the ballot and it will be first way-station towards the restoration of democracy in that country.

My visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos takes place at a time when the Australian economy continues to perform well. The consideration at the forum of the future of the world economy and particularly some of the major economies of the world; the United States, Japan and China I think is very timely and it will be an excellent opportunity for me to have bilateral discussions with other people who will attend the economic forum. It’s traditionally regarded as the premier economic forum and a good opportunity to interact not only with other leaders, but also with men and women who lead business around the world, and I’ll have the chance on the way back of paying an official visit to Singapore. Any questions?

JOURNALIST:

What are you doing in Singapore?

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PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll be talking to the Singaporean Prime Minister. I hope to meet his predecessor, Goh Chok Tong and also the Minister Mentor as he’s now called, Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore is a very close ally and friend of Australia’s - very important partner in our region and it’s an opportunity to pay an official visit to that country.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, are you going to Aceh?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I would like to go to Aceh - the precondition I have put on that is that I don’t want my visit in any way to interfere with the aid effort, so that’s all I intend to say at this stage.

JOURNALIST:

Is the time right though, now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve given you the answer.

JOURNALIST:

What are you discussing at the World Economic…?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the most important thing is to get the views of other world leaders of leading business men and women about the prospects for the world economy. I’ll also be taking part in a number of seminars, one focussing on terrorism and I could be participating depending on how arrangements work out in one or two other forums, which will be dealing with not only economic challenges that face the world but also some of the strategic challenges.

Thank you.

[ends]