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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 28 December 2006: Exports and Infrastructure Taskforce; Fiji; Solomon Islands.



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PRIME MINISTER

28 December 2006

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW SYDNEY

Subject: Exports and Infrastructure Taskforce, Fiji, Solomon Islands.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

JOURNALIST:

Mr Prime Minister, can you firstly explain why you’ve written to state and territory premiers on this issue of mining and energy production?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I’ve written with three suggestions that will make a good system governing the export industries of Australia even better. The good news is that the regulatory framework is working very well, compares well with the rest of the world and is not an impediment, but there are three areas industries say could make it even better. One of them relates to the speed with which Aboriginal heritage issues are dealt with, another establishing a one stop shop for approvals and the third is to alter the

occupational health and safety requirements so that there’s a spreading of liability for any mine accidents and they’re not as some states now provide focussed merely and personally on mine managers. Now, these three things are sensible proposals and if the states agree, and I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t, because they’re commonsense proposals to make a good system even better.

JOURNALIST:

In terms of criminal liability issues for mine managers and mine workers, how do you think they would react to, mine managers might react to the idea of change?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what we’re trying to do is not make mines less safe, what we’re trying to do is to spread the responsibility to where it should be. At the moment it’s hard to get qualified mine managers because so much of the responsibility criminally is focussed on them and not necessarily on other people who may carry the responsibility for things when they go wrong, but under the law they don’t have the same amount of liability. It’s a question of the fair sharing of burden, not reducing in any way mine safety.

JOURNALIST:

How do you expect that this proposal may impact on say the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is an individual case under the present law, but we certainly believe that there is a case for speeding up dealing with Aboriginal heritage issues. They should be dealt with fairly but they should be dealt with at a state level as speedily as possible.

JOURNALIST:

And in your letter you mentioned that there is also the issue of it costing a lot of… it’s costing money, can you quantify that for us?

PRIME MINISTER:

You can never quantify that but the good news is the system is working very well and these proposals will make it work even better.

JOURNALIST:

And Prime Minister, can I also ask you about the decision to cut funding to the Fijian regional assist…why has the Government made this decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a consequence of the Fijian military overthrowing a lawfully elected government. The military regime in Fiji must understand that there are consequences for what it did and unless the world, and in particular the close friends and partners like Australia, demonstrate their displeasure then their regime will imagine that it’s been a costless exercise and the Fijian military was getting help from us in relation to [inaudible] they can no longer get that same help and we’ll discuss with other countries such as New Zealand and Papua New Guinea the plugging of any gaps that may arise.

JOURNALIST:

Are you considering any other kind of sanctions?

PRIME MINISTER:

Those that were announced, we’re not going to be going overboard, but Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth, there are prohibitions on visits and a number of sanctions and responses that the Foreign Minister has announced and the one that was the subject of your question was one of them but we think they are appropriate.

JOURNALIST:

And can I ask you also, the decision by… in regard to Shane Castles being considered persona non grata in regard to the Julian Moti affair, what is your reaction to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’re very concerned about that decision, Shane Castles has done an excellent job in the Solomon Islands Police and there is, in Australia’s view, no justification for him being declared persona non grata. I mean, any country has the right to do that,

but I have the right to say on his behalf and Australia’s behalf that it’s an unfair and unreasonable decision and not justified by anything he did. He did his job very well and it’s a great pity that the Solomon Islands Government has taken this decision.

[Ends]