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Transcript 12118

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTERTHE HON JOHN HOWARD MPINTERVIEW WITH GLENN MILNE, CHANNEL SEVEN SUNRISE

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/11/2001

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 12118

Subjects: boat people; federal election.
PRIME MINISTER:
Good morning, how are you?
PRESENTER:
Very well thank you, Glenn.
MILNE:
Good morning Prime Minister, thanks for being with us.
PRIME MINISTER:
If I terminate this interview it';s because if the rains gets heavier is not that I dislike talking to you.
MILNE:
I';m sure Prime Minister, no sign of pressure. Turning straight to the boat people Prime Minister. Isn';t it a fact that these claims about children being thrown overboard were a beat up from the start?
PRIME MINISTER:
No they weren';t, if you are told and in my case in writing by the Office of National Assessment that children were thrown overboard and adults in lifejackets went overboard I don';t believe that';s a beat up.
MILNE:
Shouldn';t Defence Minister Peter Reith have looked at this video? You';ve been running the entire campaign on this issue and he still hasn';t seen it, he says. That';s not believable is it?
PRIME MINISTER:
Glenn we haven';t been running the entire campaign on a video. We have been placing a great emphasis in the campaign on the need for strong border protection laws and this issue doesn';t in any way diminish the strength of that policy or the emphasis that we have been placing on it.
MILNE:
But what about the question of whether Peter Reith as the responsible Minister he should have looked at that video shouldn';t he?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well Glenn you can argue that but what he said from the beginning was that he had been informed that the video showed certain things and yesterday despite everything that was said in the intro the head of the Navy, under no pressure from me, under no pressure from Mr Reith, had made the statement confirming that defence had told the minister that it was believed children had been thrown overboard. It was that statement, not the video, which was the original source of the allegations regarding the children being raised. At no stage did anybody say that the source of the story that children had been thrown overboard was the video.
MILNE:
Well whose fault is this Prime Minister and what are you going to do about it?
PRIME MINISTER:
Glenn the issue has not been, the issue that children were thrown over seas and that was part of advice from defence to us, that has not been in any changed by what occurred yesterday.
MILNE:
Yes but somebody gave you that advice Prime Minister, who was it and what are you going to do about?
PRIME MINISTER:
That advice was given to us by the Navy and that has been confirmed, it has been confirmed by the head of the Navy last night. You say what am I going to do about it, well it';s been confirmed. It';s been confirmed Glenn, there';s really nothing more to be done about it.
MILNE:
But it was incorrect advice was it not?
PRIME MINISTER:
No it was not incorrect advice, what is your basis of saying it was it incorrect advice?
MILNE:
Well the video shows no children being thrown overboard?
PRIME MINISTER:
But Glenn that assumes that the video covers every aspect of the operation.
MILNE:
But do you now accept that no children were thrown overboard.
PRIME MINISTER:
No I don';t accept that, I repeat what I';ve said earlier and that is that from that beginning we were given defence advice that children had been thrown overboard, that was confirmed in writing by the Office of National Assessment and last night the head of the Navy said in writing that the Minister was informed of the defence department, of Navy';s belief that children had been thrown overboard. Now in those circumstances you're saying to me there';s now no evidence that children were thrown overboard.
MILNE:
In the Australian this morning a petty officer is quoted from the Adelaide saying that the shots we can see apparently of a child being held up on a rail was not somebody preparing to throw over a child but was in fact a refugee trying to demonstrate to the Navy that there were children on board. What do you make of that, do you have any information on that?
PRIME MINISTER:
I don';t have any information on that because I haven';t spoken to the petty officer.
MILNE:
So the Government';s position remains that children were thrown overboard and you don';t retract your remarks that those sort of people should not be allowed into Australia?
PRIME MINISTER:
Glenn the Government';s position remains that we were advised by defence that children were thrown overboard, we made those allegations on the basis of that advice and until I get defence advice to the contrary I will maintain that position. But in the end on something like this I can only advise, I can only repeat the advice that I have received. Obviously I';ll be talking further to defence about this issue but the fact remains that as of now the head of the Navy says that defence did advise the minister that it believed children had been thrown overboard.
MILNE:
Kim Beazley';s accused you of lying and says it';s a question of your integrity. If you are re-elected on Saturday will you hold a public inquiry into this entire episode?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well Glenn I';m not going to commitment myself to a public inquiry into anything on the run. I will be talking to the Navy and getting more information about this. I will certainly be doing that. I reject completely any allegation of lying by Mr Beazley, he would say that wouldn';t he the day before an election?
MILNE:
Do you think that public attitudes to border protection would have been different Prime Minister if these people had been white Zimbabwian farmers speaking English with blonde children?
PRIME MINISTER:
No I don';t think it would have been and I think that';s a pretty offensive remark because it infers, and you know it infers, that this policy is racial based. I';ll finish my answer because that is plainly a question implying that our policy is racial based…
MILNE:
No Prime Minister it';s a question of community attitudes.
PRIME MINISTER:
No, no, no, well it implies that the community is racial biased and I don';t believe the Australian community is and I think one of the great mistakes that my critics and the government';s critics on this issue are making is to allege that in some way it';s all based on race. It wouldn';t make any difference at all whether they were white or Japanese, or North America or whatever, it is a question of protecting our borders. And the debate over the last 24 hours about the incident that took place on this particular vessel really doesn';t relate in any way to the policy. The policy remains unaltered, the policy is that we are not going to allow illegal immigrants to come to this country. We will take refugees but everybody';s got to take their turn, everybody';s got to be processed in accordance with the principles laid down by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and I don';t care where they come from, that is the policy we are going to adopt.
MILNE:
No doubt Prime Minister your views on border protection are genuinely held, but surely also there';s no doubt that that is played very well into your theme of leadership in uncertain times and that';s what your polls are telling you as well.
PRIME MINISTER:
Well Glenn that is a matter of political commentary, you know I';m not in the business of political commentary nor am I into the business of talking about our private polling. Private polling is what its name implies, it';s private.
MILNE:
Finally Prime Minister it looks like it';s going to be a close result, is that your view and what';s your final appeal to Coalition voters that may be thinking of voting Labor?
PRIME MINISTER:
It will be a close result and I ask those voters to consider who is better able to lead this country in difficult economic and security circumstances. We do face an uncertain future and I argue that my experience, my strength in office, my capacity to make difficult decisions, my commitment to the sort of decisions that will be needed to lead this country through these difficult times is superior to that of Mr Beazley and it';s on that basis I respectfully ask people to vote for me, to vote for Liberal and National Party candidates throughout Australia tomorrow.
MILNE:
Prime Minister we thank you for time and good luck tomorrow.
PRIME MINISTER:
Thank you.
[ends]

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Transcript 12118