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Transcript of interview with Samantha Armytage: Weekend Sunrise: 19 February 2012: First National Commemoration for the Bombing of Darwin; Australian Labor Party

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Transcript of interview with Samantha Armytage, Weekend Sunrise


Prime Minister

Subject(s): First National Commemoration for the Bombing of Darwin; Australian Labor Party

HOST: Prime Minister, welcome to Weekend Sunrise.

PM: Thank you very much.

HOST: Now tell us, why should Australians care about today's anniversary?

PM: This is an important event in our nation’s history. It was the first time we were ever attacked at home and I think for too many Australians, the history remains unknown. I was determined to change that by ensuring that we did mark this as a national day, that we told the story of what happened all of those years ago, 70 years ago, when Darwin was bombed. And then we told the story of what happened with bombings across the Top End in 1942 and 1943. This is really Australia’s Pearl Harbor and we should understand it.

HOST: We spoke to one of the Darwin defenders this week and he said he would never again trust the Japanese, still after all these years - does not trust the Japanese. Does not want a bar of the Japanese. What would you say to him?

PM: I'd say to him that a lot has changed in 70 years. The bombing of Darwin, the day we are commemorating, gave us a sense that we needed to always be ready to protect ourselves at home. Over the long years since, we have prepared for that. Of course, we have done that that in alliance with the US.

At the same time, Japan has changed too. It's become a democracy, a very strong power in our region. One that we work with closely and indeed part of the future of Darwin is going to be shaped around a huge Japanese investment in the form of Inpex, so the relations between our countries are very different from what they were 70 years ago when we were at war.

HOST: However, could an attack like this ever happen again on Australian soil, to this northern coastline of Australia particularly I guess and if so, are we prepared for it?

PM: Our defence preparation learns all the lessons of the past. Of course we fight wars differently than we did during World War II. The technology has changed, many of the threats have changed. Now we focus on terrorism, we focus on cyber security but yes, we are focussed on how we would defend our nation if ever the worst should come. And we’ve learnt a lot about what forward defence means and what it means to have our defence forces stationed in the north of our country including here in Darwin. And we are working in cooperation with the United States, our great ally; we are going to see some Marines deployed here this year for some exercises in the

Northern Territory.

HOST: We joined with some of the survivors from 1942 on Friday night to watch a documentary, a very in depth and a fantastic documentary on these bombings and afterwards we were surprised by how little we all knew about these attacks. None of us had ever learned about it this in school. Are you happy with the history curriculum in Australian schools at this point?

PM: I didn't learn about it at school and we’ve got to remember when this happens, 70 years ago, the government of the day, concerned about morale in Australia, deliberately released low numbers of how many people had lost their lives. They said 15 when of course the truth was more than 240.

So, right in the midst of the war, people down played it and I don't think we have learned about it enough since. We are shaping a new history curriculum through our national curriculum process. I want it to teach Australian children our history including the history of the bombing of Darwin but of course all of our engagements in war and what has shaped us and what has brought us that ANZAC spirit that we so much reflect upon on ANZAC Day in modern times.

HOST: When you consider the loss that a city like this had 70 years ago, does it reinforce to you the burden and the sense of responsibility that a leader has. Because at that time, there wasn't great leadership shown.

PM: The sense of responsibility you have for national security is always with you. Particularly as we shape our strategy in Afghanistan. I know what it is like to feel the weight of having to make decisions where our troops are involved and where people are in harm's way. And we have seen so many losses in Afghanistan. So, of course, I understand the weight of that responsibility. And as we reflect on the history of 70 years ago, it’s always a way of renewing your dedication to making sure we are prepared in the future.

HOST: What does it mean to you to be Prime Minister?

PM: What it means to me to be Prime Minister, is it's a great opportunity to shape our country's future. I am here in the business of bringing change. I am tremendously optimistic about our nation's future. I think we live at a time where our nation is on the doorstep of new rich possibilities for the future. We live in the growing region of the world, that's going to bring new ways of being economically prosperous. That means that we can bring new advantages to working people and a sense of more fairness in our society, for example by looking after disabled Australians better through a National Disability Insurance Scheme. So, I am driven each and every day by the sense of possibility, of bending and shaping change so that we are a better and better nation in the future.

HOST: Have there been times particularly recently when you have wondered if it was all worth it?

PM: Never. Never at all. I mean, this is an incredible privilege, an incredible privilege to live the life as Prime Minister, to have the opportunities for making decisions about the future that it brings. And the things that always sustain you as you live this life, is I can go out in the Australian community and I can see the benefits of changes that I decided upon and that we have brought to the Australian community.

So, when you can go out and meet a child who is getting a better education because of decisions you made, go to a hospital that's offering improved health care services because of decisions you made, go to work-places where people are being treated better because of decisions you made, then of course, that reinforces how important it is to do this job and keep making sure that this great nation of ours has an even greater future.

HOST: These past few weeks must have been difficult for you personally, I imagine. And I have to ask you about these Weekend Australian claims today that Kevin Rudd is planning to mount a challenge before the Queensland election. If he did that, is there any possibility he could win?

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PM: I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals and I must admit, over the last few weeks I have been focussed on our economy and how we are going to build that for the future. When I've got the unemployment results on Thursday and saw our economy create 46,000 jobs in January, that's the kind of thing I'm focussed on. Understanding too that there are days of pressure in our economy for some people, in manufacturing and we have seen job losses. So, look, that's what drives me. As for the rest, I just don't spend too much time focussed on it.

HOST: But there is a lot of focus on this at the moment. How do you get on with business and move the spot light in a situation from all this talk of leadership back to the important issues that Australians are saying they want to hear about, like the economy, they don't want to hear about leadership any more. How do you bring it back?

PM: Well, for me, it's just about the determination to keep focussing on the things that really matter. I do understand that this kind of focus over the last few weeks means it's more difficult for me to be out there explaining to people what is happening in our economy and these days of incredible opportunities, but also, dramatic change and that dramatic change has painful moments for people.

For me to be out there explaining what is happening in schools and what we are trying to do with school funding and we have got a big review coming out on Monday; what we are doing in hospitals to improve standards. But I will keep doing that because that's the important thing about the job. Not the Canberra based gossip but actually delivering things that have got a real chance of making a difference in the lives of families around the nation.

HOST: Do you see it calming down in the next few weeks?

PM: Look, I'm focussing on what I'm doing as Prime Minister here in Darwin, in what is inevitably a humid but very beautiful place this time of year, to reflect on our history, but also to talk about our future in terms of national security and beyond.

HOST: Prime Minister, thanks for your time.

PM: Thank you very much.

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