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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21458

Doorstop Interview Old Parliament House, Canberra

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: 13/08/2004

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21458

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, the Free Trade legislation has gone through parliament - a big achievement?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, the Free Trade Agreement is an historic achievement. Only this Government could have negotiated it and it will have enormous long term benefits for this country. I hope there are no hitches as a result of the Labor amendment but I think it's a fantastic outcome for this country and it's always mattered to me that the Free Trade Agreement should go through and that is why in the end I accepted an amendment that I didn't think was necessary and was clumsy, but the broader national interest required the Free Trade Agreement go through and I hope it will now be fully put into effect by both countries and over the years the benefits will be enormous for Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Is the ball now in the court of the United States or will you be actively arguing the case that the enabling legislation is satisfactory and doesn't require any further adjustment from the Americans?

PRIME MINISTER:

What happens, Greg, is that both countries look at the legislation that's been passed and in America I understand there's a legal process whereby the certification is given to the President and if there's any requirement for us to argue a case in aid of the consistency of our legislation then I'll do so.

JOURNALIST:

Could that necessitate talks with President Bush?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I wouldn't think that would do so, I wouldn't at this stage expect that were necessary. Look, I neither want to over dramatise it or just trivialise it. I mean, I raised an issue because I thought there was a technical inconsistency but let me repeat - I do not want the agreement to fall over. I mean, I believe in it, I've worked for this. I've poured myself into it and the last thing I want to do is to see it fall over.

JOURNALIST:

Out of curiosity Prime Minister - what did you say to Dick Woolcott?

PRIME MINISTER:

I said 'hello Richard, good to see you and always happy to talk to you'. I don't bear any malice towards anybody on that list and I respect fully their right to speak, I respect fully their right to criticise and I think if you look at what I have said in response to what they have said, I have engaged them on the merits of the issue. My reference to their service terminating before the 11th of September 2001 was not a reference to age, it was a reference to the fact that the paradigms that apply to the operation of many things now changed dramatically after the 11th of September. That was never a personal reflection on their age and let me say for the record, I have unqualified respect for people who wear the uniform of this country and risk their lives but that doesn't mean to say, I'm going to agree with everything they say and I don't expect them to support me, but I rejected their criticisms on the merits and I dealt of course today with one of those arguments in relation to this suggestion that the closer you get to the Americans the further you drift from the Asians - well, that is demonstrably wrong.

JOURNALIST:

Another matter of curiosity Prime Minister, your plans for the weekend?

PRIME MINISTER:

Productive.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be back in Canberra?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have a commitment in Sydney tonight.

JOURNALIST:

...could be on tonight?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have a commitment in Sydney tonight.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21458