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Parliament House, Canberra, 7 June 2000: transcript of doorstop interview [memorial service for Mr Obuchi; Fiji; Solomon Islands; President Wahid; Olympic Torch]



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7 June 2000

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER

THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP

DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA Subject: Memorial service for Mr Obuchi; Fiji; Solomon Islands; President Wahid; Olympic Torch.

E&OE …………………………………………………………………………………

JOURNALIST:

Firstly at the Obuchi service what message do you take on behalf of Australians with your presence there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well very importantly, to honour a man who served his country very well. He was a good friend of Australia’s. He was a good prime minister. He initiated a lot of economic reform. And he and his wife extended very gracious hospitality to my wife and I when we were official guests of the Japanese people last year. And I am very sad. And I am going there on behalf of Australia to honour his contribution and also to mark the importance of our relationship with the Japanese people and the Japanese nation. There is no better customer of Australian goods and services than Japan. More importantly than that we have built out of the acrimony and bitterness of World War II, we have built a very good and special association and I certainly intend to honour that by my presence in the country.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be joining in discussions with South Pacific Forum leaders on the Fiji and Solomon situation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is a meeting scheduled and in fact in the short period I am there, I hope not only to take part in that meeting, but also to meet the Indonesian President and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister of Thailand, the Prime Minister of Japan and perhaps also very briefly President Clinton who is only going to be in Tokyo for six hours. So it is going to be a fairly busy few hours.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister did you seek the meeting with Sir Mekere Morauta and what will be the nature of your

discussions with him? Is there concern that the instability we see in Fiji and the Solomons may extend to other South Pacific countries?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Dennis when Australian and Papua New Guinean prime ministers are at the same meetings, they always seek each other out. It is one of those very natural things you do. We are very close friends and of course knowing that he was going to be there I said, I asked to see him. We will talk about a whole lot of things. He’s doing a great job and he has my very strong support. It’s a difficult situation for him, but there is a lot to be optimistic about in Papua New Guinea.

JOURNALIST:

Is that still a concern of yours, that this instability could spread to Papua New Guinea?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is a mistake to engage in Pacific domino theories.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, just how advanced are plans to possibly evacuate Australians from the Solomons?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we always have contingency plans in these situations. I don’t think it’s reached that stage. It may not. I hope it doesn’t. But we always make plans and we are always ready for these situations. I hope that what we’ve had today in the Solomons are signs that there’s going to be a return to some kind of constitutional government. I don’t approve for a moment and utterly condemn the use of armed force to bring about political change but if out of all of that there is a willingness to let the parliament decide who the Prime Minister will be then you do have the, I guess the emergence of democracy over other methods of settling political disputes.

JOURNALIST:

So reports that a Navy ship is heading for the Solomons region.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, I think Mr Moore dealt with that.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister is there any indication yet how long you’ll meet President Wahid for and do you hope to firm up on plans for his visit to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know how long we’ll meet I imagine it will be… we’ll say more than just hello, we’ll have a proper meeting but just exactly how long I don’t know that I’ve thought about that. I’m sure it will be an appropriate length of time. He’s very welcome to come to Australia and the last time we spoke he said he was coming.

JOURNALIST:

Since then his Foreign Minister has cast doubt on that visit. Do you think now that we’ve had several postponements and of course he’s enjoyed travel to quite a number of other countries. Do you think now is the time to meet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are meeting. We’re meeting in Tokyo.

JOURNALIST:

In Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Denis it doesn’t really help if I give a running commentary on every bit that’s in the newspapers. You know my position. I’d like him to come to Australia. He said he would come. We are interested in building a close relationship with Indonesia. It will be different from what it was but it will be very positive and very strong and that’s what we hope to do.

JOURNALIST:

If the opportunity does arise to talk to President Clinton what would you be seeking or what would you say to him about the South Pacific situation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’d give him my views on it. I’d also probably have something to say about one or two trade issues as well.

JOURNALIST:

And one for tomorrow Prime Minister. The Olympic torch arrives in Australia. How significant is that for setting alive the Olympic spirit in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think tomorrow is, how shall we put it, the real beginning of the end of all the negative stuff about the Olympics. I mean from now on I think it is magnificent. It’s going to Uluru and to have Nova Peris-Kneebone carry it, I think that is fantastic, she’s a wonderful ambassador for Australia. A wonderful athlete, wonderful Australian and I think it’s great it’s starting at Uluru, really tremendous and I think from now on everybody’s going to focus on the positives and in great Australian adaptive style we’ll forget about all the negative stuff that’s gone on over the last couple of years and we’ll get well and truly absorbed in the excitement of the Games and the anticipation of plenty of medals for Australia.

Thank you.

[ends]

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