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Transcript 20954

Interview with John Laws, Radio 2UE

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: 13/10/2003

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 20954

LAWS:

Our Prime Minister in on the line. Prime Minister, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning, John.

LAWS:

How draining a day has it been for you and Mrs Howard?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, well, it';s been a very emotional time, a very emotional weekend. But, of course, when you think of the strain on those who lost their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers, any emotional strain that we experience is minor compared with them and I hope that the weekend and particularly the various services yesterday, particularly the commemoration service will have been of some comfort, and I have the sense that for most of them it was.

LAWS:

It was very touching and it was very disturbing to see all those photographs of fine young people and obviously wonderful parents who';ve brought children up beautifully, all gone.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, that';s right. That was a very harrowing part of it to walk out past those photographs. And, of course, when they all came in to join the service they filed past those photographs and that was certainly something. It would have been very difficult, but to many of them very necessary.

LAWS:

What';s been the most common sentiment expressed by the Australians who were back there?

PRIME MINISTER:

That they were back together with people who share the same experience, they were grateful for the opportunity, there were certainly very appreciative that we made the effort as a nation to commemorate this event where it happened and the setting for the service and, of course, these wonderful impromptu sunset surfing tribute was very Balinese and very appropriate and a wonderful end to the day.

LAWS:

Is there any anger there, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, but it';s controlled anger, it';s directed anger, it';s anger at the people who murdered their children. It';s not anger at the Balinese, it';s not anger at the Indonesians, well certainly not anger as I could tell it. Overwhelmingly people, despite their intense grief and the unfairness of it all, overwhelmingly people are controlling and directing their anger, they want the people who murdered their loved ones to be brought to justice, but they realise that we have to cooperate with the Indonesians, as we have, and part of the weekend was to pay tribute to the work of the Indonesian police and to present the leaders of that exercise with their awards under the honorary system in the order of Australia.

LAWS:

Do you remain confident that the war on terror, particularly given more car bombings now overnight in Iraq that you would have heard about, do you think we';re actually getting anywhere with it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think we';re getting somewhere, I do. I think you have to not look at it in terms of why is it still going on, but where would we have been now if we had done nothing? And we have inflicted very… or the Americans in particular have inflicted a lot of damage on al-Qaeda, we have captured many of the leaders of al-Qaeda – not Osama bin Laden, we have captured Hambali, we have captured other significant figures in Jemaah Islamiyah. It';s one of those situations where everything is relative. You can';t say that the war against terrorism has failed because it';s still going on. I think it will go on for years. We';ve entered a different stage in the world';s history, this is the new challenge. We had a Cold War for decades, I';m not suggesting this will last for decades, but we have entered a period in our history where sadly and tragically we face this new threat and we have to hit to it in two ways, we';ve got to be strong in the conventional sense but we';ve also got where possible to remove those circumstances which are exploited by terrorists to justify, however improperly, their action.

LAWS:

When are you coming back to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

I';m leaving Bali in about an hour';s time.

LAWS:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I';ll be back in Australia late this afternoon.

LAWS:

Can I just ask you a couple of other things while I';ve got you there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, please do John.

LAWS:

Are you concerned about the cost of recalling Parliament to hear the speeches from the Chinese and the American President later in the month?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I';m not. I think it';s an entirely appropriate thing to do. I can remember when the earlier President, George Bush, came to Australia, Parliament was recalled on the 2nd of January by the then government and Mr Keating had just become the Prime Minister. We had an address from George Bush and we had a reception and that was it on the 2nd of January, nothing else. On this occasion, we';re having two presentations. I mean I thought, let me say, that what the Keating Government did then was quite justified, I certainly wasn';t critical of it and I don';t recall anybody on our side being critical. And there will be quite a number of party meetings, certainly on our side, taking place while Parliament is there and the members of parliament are there. I mean, after all you';re dealing here with the President of the United States and the President of China. It is an unprecedented sequencing of speeches to Parliament by, in the case of the United States, our strongest ally and a nation in which we share so much and the most powerful country in the world. And, of course, the President of what is fast developing into an extraordinarily powerful nation and a very important economic and strategic partner of ours.

LAWS:

Yeah, probably going to become the most strategic in the years to come.

PRIME MINISTER:

We have trebled, almost trebled our exports to China in the last few years and one of the things that this country has been able to do is notwithstanding the strength of our relationship with America, which has really got deeper and stronger over the last five years, despite that we have been able to develop this very good relationship with China and in the sense the two relationships complement each other. And it';s a wonderful message to communicate to our friends and to our own people that we can be close to the Americans yet develop a very constructive relationship with China, a very different country and one that will be enormously important to us in the years to come. I don';t think the expense involved can in any way be criticised. I think those who are doing that are not only having bad memories, but they';re also being churlish.

LAWS:

I think they are, too, but somebody who';s been particularly churlish is this character from Tasmania, Harry Quick, who wants to turn his back on the President of the United States. Is that mature thinking?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it';s not but I had understood that he had changed his mind about that, but perhaps he';s changed it back again, I don';t know, maybe something has happened over the last two days I';ve not caught up with. But I had thought Mr Crean had spoken to him about that. But that sort of behaviour doesn';t win any friends, it doesn';t impress anybody, I think it is silly and childish.

LAWS:

Yeah, good. Thank you very much for your time, Prime Minister. I know you did a great deal of good for the people that were there and I know you worked very hard and in a very compassionate way. It had to be a bit draining, but you did it well and I think all Australia is appreciative of the fact that you went.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, thank you John and I just hope that the weekend has been of comfort and help to those people who lost so much.

LAWS:

I believe it has.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks, John.

LAWS:

Good to talk to you, Prime Minister. Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 20954