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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21751

Doorstop Interview Calamvale Community College, Brisbane

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: 17/05/2005

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21751

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister there's a thousand farmers in Parkes today participating in a drought conference wondering why you are not there, will you be attending?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I obviously won't be going to a meeting in Parkes today if I'm in Brisbane. The Government will be represented by Mr Truss and I'll be visiting drought affected areas of New South Wales on Friday of this week. But the Government is providing through the exceptional circumstances system hundreds of millions of dollars of drought relief and we'll continue to respond to the needs of this drought, it's very severe, it could have an ongoing impact on not only our economic performance but more particularly on the lives of the people who are affected. The Government will be well and truly represented by Mr Truss and I'll be visiting the drought affected areas on Friday.

JOURNALIST:

Why was funding cut in last week's Budget, if the drought is still so bad?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look the funds weren't cut because the drought assistance, exceptional circumstances is a demand-driven programme. You make an estimate of what is likely to be needed and it's that estimate that's in the Budget - if more is needed, it's automatically made available. So in that sense funds are never cut for drought, you make an estimate based on how long you think the drought will last, if that estimate proves to be inaccurate, then more money is automatically made available as areas of the country are drought declared. There can be no argument that the Federal Government has been reluctant to provide drought assistance. We have provided over the last few years, not only hundreds of millions, going into billions of dollars of drought assistance and we'll continue to do so.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

I just can't hear you sorry.

JOURNALIST:

The message that farmers obviously got from the Budget last week, clearly wasn't that...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is not the message... I had a meeting with the President of the National Farmers' Federation last Thursday and he is the leader of the farm organisations around Australia - that is not what he said to me.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) PNG, how are the talks going and how soon before they will be back there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that would require some change to the law in Papua New Guinea. This is a difficult and serious situation. Papua New Guinea needs the assistance that these police officers were providing. If we are to have a long term improvement in the governance situation in Papua New Guinea, this kind of long term assistance from Australia is essential. It's very important. We can't go back to business as usual and assume that the situation in Papua New Guinea will repair itself in some other way. The stability and the good governance of Papua New Guinea is very important to Australia, it's even more important to the people of Papua New Guinea and we will redouble our efforts to find a way around the difficulty created by the Supreme Court's decision. We cannot have our police officers exposed as they would be unless there is some change, but we're not going to give this exercise away because it's becoming a bit difficult, because in the long run there has to be a change and Australia has to play a major role in bringing about that change.

JOURNALIST:

Has there been discussions or requests to send troops to the Gaza strip at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not recently.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard is it true Dennis Richardson is going to Washington as Australia's Ambassador?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if there were to be an announcement made about that, it would be made by the Foreign Minister. I think Dennis Richardson is an outstanding public servant who has served governments of both political persuasion with great professionalism and great loyalty.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think he will make a good ambassador though to Washington?

PRIME MINISTER:

What's the next question?

JOURNALIST:

To your knowledge is he going to be appointed?

PRIME MINISTER:

What is the next question?

JOURNALIST:

You are probably aware of the strike that is occurring in Queensland hospitals at the moment with services shut down, do think that adds weight to the argument that the Federal Government should take over the running of the state hospitals?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I think it adds weight to the need for State Governments to meet their responsibilities, as we should meet ours. State hospitals are the responsibility of state governments, under our system of government, just as the Army is the responsibility of the Federal Government and we need a federation where each arm of government meets its responsibilities, and the last government in the world, state government in the world, that can say it doesn't have enough money, is the Queensland Government, it's done better out of the GST than any other state and so it should, because it's a big state but this is a matter for Queensland, I'm staying out of it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard should we have a single regulator for the nation's infrastructure such as ports?

PRIME MINISTER:

They'll be a report to me on the 20th May about this issue. I have heard rumours that one of recommendations will be some changes in relation to regulation but I won't pre-empt the report, I will wait until I get it. Thanks a lot.

[ends]

Transcript 21751