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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 20856

Doorstop Interview, Sheraton Hotel Auckland, New Zealand

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: 13/08/2003

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 20856

JOURNALIST:

Harold Keke gave himself up this afternoon. Do you have any comments on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good news. The Solomons intervention has so far gone extremely well and I congratulate Mr Warner and all the police from Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries who';ve all cooperated. And Keke';s surrender is very good news and it means that there';s been a big mood shift in the Solomons and people realise that the world is going to be different, it';s going to be more optimistic and it';s a very good development.

JOURNALIST:

Will it shorten do you think the involvement of Australia now that it has been going so well in only a short period of time, that it may not be ten years, it may be five years or something like that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Geof, I';ve always thought that the involvement of the ADF would be limited and the involvement of the police would be much longer. I don';t want to get into months and years on that. It';s always dangerous. But it has gone well and one of the reasons it';s gone well is that everybody';s cooperated. The malcontents in the Solomons have been given a very clear signal that the whole of the Pacific area is committed to improving things, committed to getting law and order back into the Solomons, committed to restoring economic growth, committed to rooting out corruption and it';s a very important message that I want to send at this meeting that we';re very keen to help but an essential precondition is that people have got to get on top of corruption. The time when you could ignore that has long since passed.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the early success in the Solomons gives a lead to this conference in what you';re trying to achieve and that is to sort of get more cooperation amongst the different countries?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they';ve cooperated very well and I';m just one of a number and the secret of this success that we';ve achieved so far is that everybody has worked together. It';s not just an Australian operation. It';s a Pacific operation. We happen to be contributing the largest contingent because we';re the largest country but many other countries have contributed quite magnificently and I want to record my thanks to them and the spirit of partnership that';s dominated the whole exercise.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it has any implications for Greg Urwin';s candidature for Secretary General?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I just hope that that is determined on merit. The principle has to be that you choose the best person and I hope the colleagues will make a judgement in Greg';s favour but if they don';t then we';ll obviously work with the other person. But we think Greg';s the best. I don';t want anybody to be in any doubt about that and that';s why we put him forward, but that';s not put disrespectfully of other people.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think there';s any perception here Mr Howard that it might appear heavy-handed if Australia was to hold that position?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I don';t think so Nigel. We';ve not held it before and the principles established and accepted at the meeting last year that it wasn';t something that permanently was unavailable for an Australian so I don';t think that would be the case at all.

JOURNALIST:

You speak about the message of the Solomons. What';s the message here to particularly a number of other Pacific nations particularly with regards to the level of probity in their government and how that may effect their aid that they receive from Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well our very clear message is that we want to help but a condition of that help has to be rooting out corruption.

JOURNALIST:

Is it shape up or you can forget that aid?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I just content myself with the words that I';ve used. We want to help, we';re willing to help, we have helped in the past, but in the future a condition of our help is that corruption has to be rooted out.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, do you have any comments on Geoff Clark';s suspension from ATSIC?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it';s the right thing in the circumstances. It';s been done in accordance with the law and Mr Ruddock has my total support in what he has done. In the meantime we';ve been doing a lot of things in indigenous policy. I went to the Cape last week and we';re forging ahead with partnerships in areas of health. I helped launch one today with Rio Tinto. So there';s a lot being done and people are very focused on practical solutions to improving the condition of indigenous people.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] on Sydney trains this afternoon, there was some sort of….

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I did. I';m very confident that the New South Wales police will handle this situation in the appropriate way. They';re very skilled and I';ve got a lot of confidence in them. Naturally the Commonwealth is keeping in touch with the New South Wales authorities and if at any time our help is needed it will be available. But it';s not at present. The New South Wales police are handling it and I guess the only other thing I';d say is that there seems to be some evidence around of community interest and keenness to keep an eye on things and I think that';s a very good development. Thank you.

[Ends]

Transcript 20856