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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Hon John Howard MP: Tahmoor, New South Wales: 11 June 2004: David Hicks; Peter Garrett; Iraq.\n\n



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PRIME MINISTER

11 June 2004

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW TAHMOOR, NEW SOUTH WALES

Subjects: David Hicks; Peter Garrett; Iraq

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………..

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the charges against David Hicks have been very serious (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not going to make a comment on the severity of the charges. I’m pleased that the charges have been brought. It’s not appropriate for me to get into a detailed commentary. I want the military tribunal to be convened as soon as possible. I’ve been assured that he’ll get a fair trial. We’ve been able to bring about some changes in the protocols applying to the military tribunal and I’ll leave it to the process and not comment on the merits or otherwise of his behaviour.

JOURNALIST:

It’s been discussed (inaudible) that he met with Osama bin Laden, that he undertook surveillance of the US and British embassies in Kabul. Does that surprise you?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going to comment further, the charges speak for themselves and I will refrain from comment now that he has been formally charged.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

The latest advice I have on Habib is that he will be listed as eligible for a military commission trial the very near future, I don’t have an exact date.

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JOURNALIST:

When could we see David Hicks go to trial and when could we see that wrapped up?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don’t know. The latest information I had was that it could be in August, that’s when the military commission would meet. But I can’t give you a day to day commentary on that. Look, he’s been charged. They’re serious charges. I’m not going to talk about the merits or otherwise. He’s got a lawyer, he’s got several lawyers. We’re satisfied about the rules and we’ll leave it to the tribunal.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you agree with comments that the US/Australian alliance could be put at risk by Labor’s policy of an early…?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the Labor Party is exhibiting an anti American slant, not only in Mr Latham’s personal attack on the President, but also the indifference that they are displaying towards keeping our forces in Iraq. But, could I just make the point that Mr Latham wants to pull our forces out by Christmas, not only do I disagree with that, not only does President Bush disagree with it and Senator Kerry, who’s the democratic candidate, or the British Prime Minister and the British Opposition Leader, but this morning, importantly, you had the President designate of Iraq coming out thanking Australia and saying how important had been our contribution. And you’ve got all of us on one side and you’ve got Mr Latham on the other side and the Australian people can draw their own conclusions.

JOURNALIST:

On the issue of US/Australian relations, is our alliance with America larger than just the issue of Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s sounds very much like Mr Latham’s press statement.

JOURNALIST:

Do you disagree with it then?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think what Mr Latham is doing is against Australia’s interests, that’s why I criticise him. I think it is in Australia’s interest to go the distance and to do the right thing. It’s in Australia’s interest to have a close alliance with the United States. It’s in Australia’s interest to be seen as a responsible member of the international community.

JOURNALIST:

Is David Hicks coming to trial so closely after your visit to the US, is there any link there at all?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I have certainly been advocating for some time that he be brought to trial and I’m satisfied that that has now occurred. Two more.

JOURNALIST:

What’s your reaction to Peter Garrett’s pre selection to the Labor Party?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, look, I’ve dealt with that, you know, time without number already.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) visiting the Princes Highway, Mr Howard, as part of (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I dare say at some stage I’ll be visiting just about every road there is in the country.

JOURNALIST:

I think (inaudible) a few months ago (inaudible) there was a commitment (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not aware of that, but I have actually seen parts of the Princes Highway on frequent occasions and I will do so in the future.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on the issue of reports of JI (inaudible) Indonesian targeting Australians, how seriously do we take those reports and have our intelligence agencies (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t talk about what the intelligence agencies advise me on a daily basis. Let me say this - that the situation in Indonesia remains subject to travel warnings and as far as security arrangements are concerned we have taken very particular security precautions so far as our ambassador and our embassy is concerned and we’ll continue to do that and I don’t have anything further to add on that issue. Thank you.

[ends]