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Transcript of doorstop interview: Royal Automobile Club, Sydney: 20 October 2006: Media; Iraq; AWB; John Cobb.



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PRIME MINISTER

20 October 2006

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB, SYDNEY

Subjects: Media, Iraq, AWB, John Cobb.

EO&E………………………………………………………………………………….

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, your reaction to Rupert Murdoch’s taking a stake in Fairfax newspapers?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t have any particular reaction, it’s just a strategic investment. I don’t think people should get too excited about it.

JOURNALIST:

Do you still say that it’s not a result, those kind of movements, are not a result of the cross media laws changing?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, whatever it is, it would be governed by the current law because the new law hasn’t come into operation, but people buy and sell shares every day. I just think everybody ought to calm down.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, President Bush is starting to see comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, do you?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’m not and the White House has contextualised what he said by saying that he had in mind the use by the Viet Cong, for propaganda purposes, of the Tet offensive and the attitude of the terrorists in Iraq. In historical, and other terms, I don’t draw any comparisons at all.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, General Cosgrove says there’s been an energising of the jihadist movement through the protracted war in Iraq, that’s a direct quote. Do you agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I was asked that question last night and I made the point that whatever conclusions people might draw you still had to face the simple question of what do we do, and that if we decide to pull out that will be an enormous victory for the terrorists

and that’s why the Australian Government sets its face against a premature withdrawal. We’ll go when we believe that conditions are appropriate and reasonable stability will remain and that Iraq has a real prospect of a democratic future.

JOURNALIST:

Does that mean the 2010 deadline has been shelved?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve never set a deadline. I have never set deadlines. Other people may have said I’d set deadlines, other people might want me to, I’m not setting any deadlines. You don’t allow yourself to be driven by a date in relation to these things, you are governed by circumstances and outcomes. I have a conditions-based approach and therefore I don’t set deadlines.

JOURNALIST:

What will you be saying to the AWB chief in your meeting?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh a number of things. We’ll be talking about the concerns of some of the Western Australian wheat growers and it’s clearly a very difficult situation. The wheat growers of Australia are going through not only a severe drought but they’re looking at the different prices available through the pool and also on the open market and also the disparity between the international price and the domestic price. Now these are all issues that have arisen in the past but there’s an added significance I suppose because of the drought and some of the issues surrounding AWB. We don’t intend to make any decisions about the future of a single desk until we have received the report of Mr Cole and had an opportunity of examining that very carefully, but there are issues that have been raised with the Government by Western Australian wheat growers in particular about this year’s wheat crop and I want to have a discussion with Mr Donges and others from both AWB International and also AWB Limited about that issue and we’ll be doing that this afternoon.

PRIME MINISTER:

Prime Minister, are you still confident that the media diversity will result from your law changes rather than concentration.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think you’ll end up with greater concentration. People seem to have forgotten what the situation was in the mid 1980s. I mean in this town, in Sydney in the mid-1980s, it was possible and it was a reality that the Fairfax company owned a television station, two newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial

Review and also owned the Macquarie Network, which was a radio station. Under the laws that we have passed, it wouldn’t be possible for that to happen, you can only have two out of three. Now admittedly there was a limit on the national concentration of television, but as far as the different mediums were concerned there was a greater capacity to concentrate than there is under this new law.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you think Mr Cobb’s reported comments this morning were inappropriate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr Cobb has carefully explained what happened and I support his explanation and I accept it and I don’t believe for a moment that Mr Cobb, who I know well and respect, would mean any insensitivity towards people with disabilities or handicaps. He was explaining the context in which the remarks were made and I’m completely satisfied with that explanation. Thank you.

[ends]