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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21921

Doorstop Interview United Nations

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: 14/09/2005

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21921

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] President Bush's speech what he said today? Any general comment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I thought it was a good speech. I particularly welcomed his very strong remarks about the need for progress at Doha. It seemed to me that the President was stating a very strong American commitment to greater trade liberalisation and throwing out something of a challenge to other countries, and I welcome that because Australia has been arguing very strongly for many years that we needed to make a lot more progress in agriculture. Now we obviously have a national interest which I declare in that but in the context of this United Nations meeting, the value to developing countries of reducing trade barriers is enormous. It's more valuable than increases in direct overseas aid, so I especially welcome those remarks. And of course we very strongly support the democracy fund and I will be indicating an Australian attitude in relation to that at the meeting which is taking place quite soon.

JOURNALIST:

Regarding now just the treaty signing, how do you (inaudible) President Bush commented on eradicating poverty and how that may lead to terrorism in Iraq being deterred?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there's obviously a truth in that proposition. Terrorists exploit poverty, poverty is not the cause of terrorism, terrorism is based on a perverted ideology and terrorist acts are often committed by people who are anything but poor. But terrorists can take advantage of poverty and therefore the elimination or reduction in poverty is of enormous value in fighting terrorism, but so are a lot of other things. There's no one thing. But spreading democracy is also very important. You can't be passive, you can't just oppose the terrorists, you have to also promote the positive value of the democratic alternative.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Kofi Annan has been quite pessimistic about some of the outcomes here, particularly on disarmament. He says that we of the Summit, or we of the UN have allowed posturing to get in the way of results and that this is inexcusable. Do you share his view?

PRIME MINISTER:

The document is like the Curate's egg, it is good in parts, some of it is very valuable, some of it is very disappointing but my expectations in relation to the document were never that high that what has resulted is earth-shattering. I didn't expect there would be agreement on all of the things that were needed and as I've said on other occasions, it's not the language or the document or the architecture that really matters, it's what the practical outcomes are, and there have been some valuable practical outcomes. But it has fallen short on disarmament, particularly on non-proliferation. The most urgent challenge to the world in the disarmament area is obviously proliferation. And having in mind particularly Iran and North Korea, the document is also thin on reform of the United Nations, but that is difficult, we have to be realistic that the process will be very slow and we shouldn't have great expectations on that. But eventually the question of Security Council reform has to be tackled.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, to matters at home. You finally got your Telstra legislation through, how do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm delighted that the Telstra legislation has passed through the Senate. I thank all of my Coalition colleagues and on the basis that it will be passed by the House of Representatives, I think we can look forward to a new era for telecommunications in Australia. We will now have a fully and freely operated Telstra when the process has been completed and that will provide a more competitive environment, and when you have a more competitive environment you have better outcomes for customers. And I have no doubt that the guarantees that have been legislated, I have no doubt the fund which is being established, all of those things will ensure that services in the bush remain up to scratch, that was our commitment and now is, I'm sure, going to be the outcome.

JOURNALIST:

What about in the meantime, how can you get it into some kind of shape so you can sell it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I believe that once the legislation has gone through and everything settles down, there'll be an air of normalcy returning and people will see the inherent strengths of the company and they will understand the value of the guarantees that have been put in place. And we have seen enormous strides in telecommunications in Australia. We have a very competitive market in the sharp end of it. Mobile phones in Australia are the latest, the best and the services are cheap and very effective and very comprehensive.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, a second person has been given the death penalty in Indonesia [inaudible] in the Jakarta Embassy bombing [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I've always respected the system in Indonesia and I've always encouraged Australians to believe in it. I'm not going to comment on a particular verdict, except obviously to welcome the full working out of the process. I had a brief discussion about this with President Yudhoyono at breakfast and I commented that Australia welcomed the process but I have no doubt that the process in the new democratic Indonesia is strong and robust and people can have growing confidence in it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister the carnage in Baghdad overnight, up to 150 killed in a number of incidents, is there any end to the violence and death in Baghdad? And what more can we do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Greg there is obviously a link between violence in Iraq and the forthcoming referendum to approve the new constitution. Sadly we can expect violence to get worse in the lead-up to the next ballot. And what is at stake here is whether the democratic experiment in Iraq is going to be allowed to succeed, or whether it's going to fail. And however difficult things are now, the alternative will be infinitely worse. If support for the democratic process in Iraq is withdrawn by the rest of the world - including Australia, the carnage will be multiplied, the chaos will be infinitely greater and the outcome will be much worse for the Middle East and for the rest of the world.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister what do you think the future is for the United Nations right now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the United Nations will continue. I think the things that have distinguished it in the past, its strengths, will remain its strengths and that is particularly its specialised agencies. I think many of them do outstanding work. I have a very pragmatic realistic view about the United Nations. Its general peacekeeping processes can work on some occasions. I've seen that at close hand. In other situations it doesn't work because there can't be a consensus within the Security Council, and I think we have to take the view that on some occasions the achievable result is through the United Nations, on other occasions the achievable result is not through the United Nations. I think we make the mistake if we take the view that unless the United Nations authorises something, and yes the United Nations does this or that, then you can't do it, it's a question of the inherent merit and virtue of decisions. I mean I think particularly of Kosovo, that was not the subject of a Security Council resolution, yet the world hardly argues it was the right thing to do.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21921