Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview of the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, MP: Loxton /Bookpurnong Salt Interception Project: Loxton, SA: Salt Interception Project; funding to tackle environmental concerns; South Australian bushfires; industrial relations; David Hicks.\n



Download PDFDownload PDF

PRIME MINISTER

2 August 2005

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, LOXTON / BOOKPURNONG SALT INTERCEPTION PROJECT

Subjects: Salt Interception Project; Funding to tackle environmental concerns; South Australian bushfires; Industrial relations; David Hicks.

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

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Minister and my Federal colleague Patrick Secker, Anna Baric, the Liberal Party Candidate for Chaffey in South Australia, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this delightful part of the Riverland. And we’ve invited you here today so that I can, in conjunction with the State Minister, make an announcement of a total of some $65 million of support for the environment in South Australia, of which some $43 million is straight cash. That’s some $32 million from the Federal Government, the rest from the State Government and then some $22 million of support in kind from the South Australian Government. The investments that I’m announcing by the two Governments’ represent the latest installment in a very cooperative effort between the Federal Government and the State Governments’ of the various Australian States to tackle problems of salinity and problems generally to do with the environment.

The projects that I’m announcing today cover, of course, the 8 natural resource districts of South Australia. One of them deals with salt problems here in the area of Loxton and we’ve just had an opportunity to demonstrate some of the environmental challenges. We decided at a Federal level several years ago that one of the biggest environmental challenges Australia had was the salt problem, the need to deal with salinity. It’s a problem not only in the country areas of Australia, but it’s also a problem that’s touching

1

many of the larger provincial cities and also some of the larger metropolitan areas as well. And we, along with the States in partnership, committed between us $1.4 billion to tackle that challenge and over the years we’ve progressively provided money for that and we’ve already invested out of that salinity programme, and also out of the Natural Heritage Trust, which I might remind you, was originally established when we sold the first part of Telstra way back in 1997. And that enabled us to establish this $1 billion fund to deal with environmental challenges. And those two funds have operated together to provide a basis of investing in practical, local, on the ground solutions to environment problems and what is good about this announcement is that it represents total cooperation between the Federal Government and the State Government and also local communities. And it’s very good when that occurs. People don’t want the Governments’ and local communities arguing, they want them working together to tackle some of these problems.

And to give you an example of the sort of things that will be tackled out of the money I’m announcing today, we’ll be protecting riverbank vegetation and coastal areas, we’ll be reducing salinity through targeted water use strategies and salt interception schemes. And that’s where the investment of some $1 million in the Loxton Salt Interception Scheme which of course affects this local area, comes into the picture. Improved irrigation infrastructure and water quality, restoring the habitat and managing animal and plant pest and protecting threatened species, and developing Indigenous land management planning and restoring water ways. So it’s a programme that allocates significant amounts of money in a whole range of areas and it means that the partnership between the Federal Government and the South Australian Government is as strong as any of the partnerships anywhere in Australia between the Federal Government and the States in tackling, in a practical way; and we had a little demonstration tour a moment ago of some of the things we want to do, and I commend this. I thank the South Australian Government, and particularly the Premier who sent his Minister along today, for the cooperation that has been evidenced by the Government of South Australia in relation to this project.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, how important is a project like this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what’s important about this is that it gets local people involved and I think the solution to the environmental challenges of Australia have got to be dealt with at two levels. You have the big things that only Governments can do, but you have all the little local solutions and the revolution that’s occurred at a local level in the whole Landcare movement, which has been embraced by Australia’s farmers over the years, the way in which local environmental groups have sprung up, and working with money from Federal and State Governments they are tackling problems. And I think they are enormously important because the solution lies; it’s a two level solution, there’s the big things, and then there are the hundreds, indeed thousands of small local projects where you can clean up a river bed, you can tackle a local vegetation problem, you can, with a small amount

2

of money, preserve some habitat. All of those things are tremendously important and aggregated; they represent a tremendous national response to environmental challenges.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister the South Australian Government only put its final wish list in last week. I think even your announcement today has caught the Government, especially the Premier, by surprise. In fact he’s not even here, where normally he would be here with bells ringing. Why the sudden decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s not a sudden decision. We’ve been working on this for quite a while. But look, the South Australian Government has worked very cooperatively with us. I don’t have any criticism of the Government at all.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the SA Opposition Leader Rob Kerin was telling me the other week that we need more (inaudible) back into the river system. What do you think about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think this announcement will make a contribution towards that because it will result in an increase in the flow of water into the Murray system. And I agree with him 100 percent. And indeed the breakthrough we had at the COAG meeting last year means that we can have many of the projects under the Living Murray umbrella, and work is proceeding on them. And there’s a commitment of $500m from the Commonwealth and the States in relation to that and I think we’re making progress. I think we are. It’s one of those areas where I believe there has been good cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Australian people want Governments to work together to solve these problems. They don’t want them to snipe at each other. They want them to work together and that’s what we’re doing.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you’re visiting Port Lincoln, the bushfire area tomorrow. There’s been some criticism in the Port Lincoln region that it’s taken far too long for you personally to get there to see them.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, I understand that, but it just wasn’t, for a combination of reasons at the time, possible for me to be physically there earlier this year. I did, however, send two very senior Ministers of my Government. We did provide all of the financial assistance and more that was requested. I did discuss with the Premier of South Australia the assistance

3

and also with Barry Wakelin, the Federal Member. So whilst I understand that, it was just physically not possible at the time, for a combination of reasons, for me to be there. But I was, and the Government was, very well represented by Senator Minchin and Senator Hill, both of whom are very senior members of the Federal Government and both of whom of course are from South Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Very briefly on another matter, Mr Iemma today has targeted your IR policy, says its weighting more almost on the working men and women of New South Wales and signaled a High Court challenge. How do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the last Government that’s waged war on the working men and women of Australia is my Government. The workers of Australia have been better off under my Government than they were ever under a Labor Government. Real wages have gone up by 14%, interest rates have fallen, taxes have fallen, unemployment has fallen and apprenticeships have risen. I have been a better friend of the working men and women of Australia than any of my Labor predecessors. That’s my answer to Mr Iemma. That’s my answer to the Labor Party on this issue. As far as the High Court challenge is concerned, well they’re entitled to do whatever they like.

JOURNALIST:

But do you feel you need to change the mood of Labor Premiers, which is very much against you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, Labor Premiers do what the unions tell them to do on this issue. I mean let’s call and spade a spade. It’s like night following day for a State Labor Government to oppose our industrial relations reforms because of the attitudes of the unions. I mean it’s not any surprise to me that a State Labor Government would oppose our industrial relations legislation. They opposed all of the changes we made in 1996. They predicted that unemployment would go up, it’s come down. They predicted that wages would be cut, they’ve risen. They predicted doom, gloom, chaos and tragedy and none of that’s occurred and the working men and women of Australia are better off under John Howard’s Government then they were under Bob Hawke or Paul Keating’s Government. That’s my answer to the criticisms that are made of our industrial relations agenda.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what do you make of the comments by Captain Paul Willee on the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions? His comments today, based on those emails, he’s described it as a charade.

4

PRIME MINISTER:

Well those allegations in America have been investigated and a two month investigation has concluded that they’re without foundation. The Government is satisfied and what we have been told by the American authorities, is that the Military Commission process will be fair. We expect that Military Commission process to go ahead quickly and I was assured when I was in Washington that that would occur.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on the issue of water, in particular in relation to salinity there is much conflicting science on that. What is the Federal Government doing to sift through that and to try and work out what are the most effective strategies?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well like all of these areas, you have as many opinions as there are experts and it’s like economics sometimes; you have to try very hard. I think we all recognise that there are some basic areas where the science agrees. There are some areas where it doesn’t agree and I think in the policies we are crafting, and as exemplified by what’s announced today, respond to those areas where there is agreement. One more question then I’d better go.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Dick Smith says that he has legal advice..

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST:

Dick Smith…

PRIME MINISTER:

Dick Smith Yes.

JOURNALIST

Has legal advice that David Hicks can be tried in Australia. What are your thoughts on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

5

6

Well that’s not correct. We have legal advice from the Crown Law authorities time and time again, which effectively says that there was no criminal offence covering Mr Hicks’ behaviour at the time and that if he comes back to Australia he effectively will escape any kind of trial.

[ends]