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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22020

Interview with Alan Jones Radio 2GB, Sydney

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: 09/11/2005

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22020

JONES:

PM, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Alan.

JONES:

I must say on behalf of my listeners that I do want to congratulate you, they would want me to do that, on acting in the national interest. And I have to say being much more patient than we would be in the face of the persistent critics. It's no joy though to know that you were right.

PRIME MINISTER:

Alan I'm not seeking vindication. I have always tried on security issues to act in the national interest. I knew we had to make that amendment. I knew it would strengthen the capacity of the authorities to respond. And I knew that we couldn't make an amendment to a law in haste without explaining the reason. This suggestion that somehow or other we could have effected the amendment without any explanation is plainly wrong. I also knew that as the days went by people would make the accusations they did. The important thing is that we made the amendment. The other important thing is that the process of the law must now be allowed to work. People have been charged. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence. And in the time honoured Australian way the courts of this country will make a decision on their guilt or innocence. I do however what to congratulate all of the police involved. This operation was of course led by the Australian Federal Police, based on a lot of ASIO work. But there has been great cooperation and involvement from the New South Wales Police and the Victoria Police. My Premier colleagues have worked with me. There has not been at that level between us any party politics and I thank them for that. We must now also turn our minds to reassuring Australians of Muslim decent that this is not an attack on them. People who support terrorism are as much their enemies as they are my or your enemies.

JONES:

Yes, one of the callers did say that this morning, would you ask the Prime Minister to constantly stress this is an attack on terrorism, not an attack on people.

PRIME MINISTER:

There is nothing in our laws, nor will there be anything in our laws, that targets an individual group - be it Islamic or otherwise. What has happened is that people have been charged with a breach of the law. They are entitled to be properly defended. They're entitled to all of their rights under the law and I, for understandable reasons, do not intend to go into the detail of those charges. They have been outlined in proper fashion - that is a matter for the police and for the Crown Law authorities.

JONES:

Just let me sum up... turning the coin over a little bit to give you a chance to speak to the public on one of the central elements of the critics, and then we get them out of the road now and move on to other issues. But one editorial ends today by saying about the terrorist laws, they must not allow any short-term alarm to be used to degrade our heritage, the rule of law, freedom of expression and belief and tolerance of difference.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I agree with all of that. One of the treasured rights we have from our heritage and our inheritance is the right to be free from arbitrary attack, as well as arbitrary arrest - those two things are very important. There's nothing in the laws that we have proposed that are going to suspend the rule of law. Under our proposal for control orders and preventative detention the case has to be made before a judicial authority. There are avenues of appeal. There are all the rights to talk to lawyers to get advice. But what we have entered is a new phase, something we never contemplated a few years ago, and we have to adapt and change the law to accommodate that new...

JONES:

That's right. PM, just I think everyone understands that, but I just ask you one question because there's people listening to you now having breakfast, mum and dads preparing kids to go to school, a lot of young kids listen to this programme, it's very hard for you and I at our age to comprehend all of this, what do you say to the eights and nines and tens and thirteen-year-olds that are listening about the kind of world we're now living in?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I say to them it is still a world where most people are good people. The overwhelming majority of Australians want a peaceful life. We have a lot of people in this country of different backgrounds - and that's good and that's something we should respect. But the important thing is a message of hope and reassurance (inaudible) we have challenges we didn't have before. You can still rely on your parents, you can still rely on your teachers, you can still rely on the police to look after you. It's a message I would send to all children, to all young Australians. Your parents, your teachers and the police are your friends.

JONES:

The downside, of course, is that yesterday confirmed what everybody feared, that home-grown terrorism has arrived in Australia. I mean seven arrested, no one imagines that there are only seven people out there involved in this kind of behaviour?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't once again want to talk about the particular arrests and make any assumptions about those. But certainly the possibility of home-grown terrorism has emerged. That was the lasting change in my attitude that I took from the attacks in London. The thing that had shocked Mr Blair was the knowledge that the people involved in that attack had actually, or most of them had actually grown up in the United Kingdom. And that the idea that terrorists were people who were flown in from another country to do their wicked deeds and then flown out was completely altered.

JONES:

Indeed. Just taking the British...sorry, sorry PM.

PRIME MINISTER:

No it was completely altered by the experience of the British.

JONES:

Yeh, just taking that British experience, I made this point earlier this morning. They now say that living in Britain now are some 3000 veterans of Al Qaeda training camps and up to 120,000 people from different nationalities have been, a rough guess, in Al Qaeda training camps. That's a worry isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course. I am sure all of your listeners would be appalled at the very idea that anybody would want to train with Al Qaeda. The very notion that people would train with a terrorist organisation is repugnant to the average Australian. And it's situations like that, that have prompted the Government to enact the laws that I spoke of a moment ago. One of the elements of control orders relates to people who may have trained with a terrorist organisation. And I am unapologetic about that. I mean what possible justification can anybody have for training with a terrorist organisation? And how can they possibly complain if their fellow Australians want them to be placed under some kind of surveillance.

JONES:

See Bruce rang, I think it was Bruce rang, could you just listen to this for one minute because I think he's saying something here. Bruce rang, as a representative sample, I mean the boards were full this morning of people wanting to talk, and I found them all very fair and very even-headed about it all, but Bruce said this.

CALLER:

I don't think there's enough connection between crime and terrorism. Which is to say we've been talking for years about the growing crime that the gang rape, the gang bashing, this sort of behaviour and now all of a sudden we're saying, 'oh terrorism in Lakemba and that', as if this is something new and this is something not connected between this idea of you know, the people breaking windows today that are throwing Molotov cocktails in car windows.

JONES:

What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is an element of truth in that. That is the 'broken window' theory that formed the basis of Rudi Giuliani's change of the law and order situation in New York. The theory was that if you allowed a small offence to go unrebuked, those who carry out those offences then become more bold and they go from a small offence to a greater offence and they end up with, you know, really serious crime. I think that is true to a point but I also think there is a separate culture based on religious fanaticism that is behind international terrorism and behind the local manifestations of it that we may have to confront in Australia.

JONES:

So in confronting that, do you think that there may need to be a re-assessment of immigration policy and to determine, based on behavioural patterns within some extremist people in those cultures, that these people might have to be denied the right to enter?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan there's always a case for seeing whether immigration laws are tough enough in relation to individuals. We have proudly had a non-discriminatory immigration policy and the Government doesn't intend to change that. That does not mean that there can't be renewed efforts to ensure that the anti-social, potentially anti-Australian behaviour of individuals, no matter where they come from is more readily and effectively identified so they're not allowed into the country in the first place.

JONES:

And your response there, is it too big a jump to say that we better have an eye on what's happening in France to make sure that that isn't replicated here?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well one of the reasons that... what has happened in France has not been replicated here is of course that this country is a more egalitarian, fair, even society. I mean there is no substitute for equality of opportunity. If you provide people with equality of opportunity the likelihood of those kind of riots is greatly diminished. And the great gift of Australia to the Australian born or those born overseas is equality of opportunity.

JONES:

And, of course, 10 per cent unemployment and, in some of those areas, 20 per cent.

PRIME MINISTER:

I mean you've got 10 or 11 per cent unemployment in France. You've got 5 per cent in Australia and if I can get a plug in, if we can get workplace relations laws through, we'll get it even lower. But it's true, I mean these things are not unrelated and the divisions in many European countries are still starker to what they are in Australia. And the greatest gift this country does offer people who come here is equality of opportunity. I mean sure it's tough when you first come, I accept that, but those who came after World War II and have built small businesses and have raised families and are now looking after their grandchildren, they know that exactly what I'm talking about.

JONES:

The benefits. Just before you go, so you've covered the anti-terrorism laws, we've got our security forces working overtime as we saw yesterday, and this happened months before. The tragedy is this is not going away, this is going to go on and on isn't it, in this country? We've got this continuing concern about whether we can win this battle.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh absolutely. We are not immune. Just because some arrests have been made and some charges laid, that doesn't end the matter. And sadly it's an issue we will have to live with for a very long time into the future.

JONES:

Does that mean to say that Prime Minister Howard will have to continue leading the country because he's across this issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan, as I've said before, I'll do the right the thing by my party and the country.

JONES:

Oh you've got that answer down to pat now, haven't you? Good to talk to you PM.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks Alan.

JONES:

Thank you for your time.

[ends]

Transcript 22020