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Transcript 22032

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: 15/11/2005

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22032

JONES:

PM, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Alan.

JONES:

Do you have a comment on the facts sheet?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it is a fact sheet. I am very careful about anything I say. I want these people to get a fair trial. They're entitled to a presumption of innocence. As Prime Minister it's not for me to use any language that might suggest that I am other than leaving it to the courts to decide their guilt or innocence. Obviously the facts alleged, if established, are alarming.

JONES:

Exactly.

PRIME MINISTER:

And the only observation I would make is that the public owes ASIO, the Federal Police, the New South Wales Police and the Victoria Police a debt of gratitude.

JONES:

It's a phenomenal job to put that together, isn't it, in that space of time?

PRIME MINISTER:

Now it is for the courts to decide whether these people are guilty or innocent, but I just want to express my appreciation to all of those bodies. They have worked together very closely, sometimes on other issues there's a bit of turf rivalry between Federal and State police but on this issue they have worked together in close professional harmony and that is a very good thing and the whole nation owes a debt of gratitude to these agencies. And it is a reminder that people who questioned my motives and the motives of the Government in relation to that emergency legislation have been demonstrated to be totally wrong.

JONES:

The reason I mentioned all that stuff by way of introduction Prime Minister is that, and I know all these things you're always talking about the national interest. I'm just wondering though as Prime Minister do you have any comprehension of what people are saying about militant extremist Islamic behaviour out there in the suburbs? The people are saying that everything they heard yesterday being said, they've been hearing that not for months but for years and indeed Tim Priest, whom I interviewed here last week, wrote about this in his book three or four years ago in which he said 'Lebanese Muslim youths are ruthless, extremely violent and intimidating and they intimidate not only innocent witnesses but even the police who've attempted to arrest them'. In other words there are lot of people listening to you who are not really surprised by that, they've heard it all in the suburbs. Do you have a comprehension of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I do. I have, over the years, had people put those views to me before. When I say do I have a comprehension of it, perhaps not as direct as some police officers have but I certainly am aware of the views of ordinary people about the intolerance of some in our community, and I don't want to say all Muslims, they are very, very people and they're as distressed by all of this as the next person. I, in fact, was talking to somebody last night who retailed a story of his taxi driver who was a Muslim and was saying how much he detested the behaviour of extremists and how much he disassociated himself from it and how very strongly he supported any action being taken by the police to punish people who've broken the law. Because that's what's involved here. We're not targeting Muslims, we're targeting people who've broken the laws of this country and that will always be the principle and the approach. But you're saying to me is this something that is alarming to Australians? Yes. Has it been alarming to a lot of people who've had to come into daily contact with it? Yes, I am aware of that.

JONES:

The reason I ask you, this is a letter amongst hundreds that I answer here everyday and I won't go into all of it but my listeners have heard me say this, but as Prime Minister I share it with you. "Dear Alan, on your programme you talk a lot about Muslims, perhaps I can give you a Muslim perspective on what's happening at the moment. I've lived in Australia for over 30 years. You must agree there can only be one true religion and we believe that's Islam. Once that's accepted then everything else becomes secondary. Muslims have a duty to God first and to learn as much as we can about the Koran and our religion. Any loyalty to Australia or anything else must rate down the list if it conflicts with our principle duty. The non-believers will not succeed in stopping the tide of Islam sweeping the world, if it takes 10 years, 20 years or longer Australia will eventually become an Islamic state, with God's law, Sharia's law, the law of the land. That's our hope and the hope of all Muslims. But this is no different from the Christian missionaries in the 19th Century. I'm 42 now, not working, not in good health, I've got five children who've I've brought up as good Muslims. I'd not be a suicide bomber and would not have anything to do with. In fact, I condemn the September 11 actions. However, many Muslims do admire the martyrs as they're not afraid to give up their lives for Allah. I'm not encouraging any of my children to commit acts of terrorism, but if they did it to defend Islam then in a curious way I'd be a proud father. The young Muslims today have little time for the Uncle Tom Muslims who support the Government, that's why they flock to the radical clerics. True Islam cannot peacefully coexist with other false beliefs. I'm a man of peace but you must try to understand how a substantial proportion of Australia thinks. I'll try and ring you on your talkback show to explain the other side."

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is alarming. It is a statement that does enormous disservice to the cause of good Muslims in this country. One of the problems we face with terrorism is that we are dealing not only with evil and hostility to our way of life, but we are also dealing with total irrationality. Now, you may think that's a secondary consideration but normally when you are confronting an enemy that enemy has some instinct for self-survival and you can plan accordingly and you can assume that if that person's life is put at risk he will adjust his behaviour accordingly in order to preserve it. But when you're dealing with people who are willing to give their own lives in a fanatical cause the equation alters and that makes the nature of dealing with terrorism all that much more difficult. That view is obviously a view that some Muslims hold. I have to say that it is abhorrent to me, it's abhorrent to all Australians and I mean there is talk about the comparison with Christian missionaries, well that is a very, very long time ago and we can have a long historical debate about that but if a Catholic or a Protestant ran around these days publicly saying there was only one true religion they'd be pilloried from one end of the country to the other for being intolerant. And the politically correct brigade would say it was outrageous.

JONES:

So why are the laws, when you're trying to change laws, explain to my listeners, why is the Law Council of Australia, why are human rights lawyers, why is your own George Brandis saying I'm struggling to see the utility in a law, this is the sedition law, that hasn't been informed for over 50 years. Where are these people coming from?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I saw that quote from George this morning. That's not quite the same as what was the discussion that took place in the Party Room. But the Parliamentary Liberal Party is supporting these laws. That doesn't mean to say they shouldn't be kept under review. As far as the Law Council is concerned, I guess they have to explain themselves but they see themselves as having a role, even in a difficult situation as now, to defend the basic principles of our Anglo-Australian legal system, the presumption of innocence, of the need to prove things, the need for people not to be put in inadvertent jeopardy by their conduct or actions. I understand that as a principle. I disagree with the conclusions that they have in relation to these laws. I don't dispute for a moment their right to always be vigilant about those things. That is their role, but I don't agree with the conclusions they've reached because my reading of these new sedition proposals is that they are essentially a modernisation of provisions that have been there for a long time and those provisions have not left journalists being in jail for attacking John Howard or Kim Beazley or anybody, and neither will these. I mean that is completely ridiculous, there's nothing in these changes that are going to curtail vehement political criticism of anybody.

JONES:

Just supposing, I mean forget that you're John Howard, Prime Minister, and we're talking as a third person about John Howard the Prime Minister, if someone is out there saying kill John Howard or daubing the streets with kill Howard and that goes on and they are marching up the streets and the fists are raised, if sedition is conduct or language which incites rebellion against the authority of the State, is that sedition?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not really an objective adviser in relation to a thing like that. But look, all of those things will depend entirely upon all the surrounding circumstances. I mean people have written the equivalent of that about me as a form of political protest and in the past it's not been regarded as anything other than a form of political protest. But if you have people exhorting terrorists to attack Australian soldiers, I mean that's one of the things that has been specifically added to this legislation, that is certainly sedition and...

JONES:

Well what about books being sold at the Brunswick mosque telling Muslims they should, quote, "hate and take as enemies non-Muslims, reject Jews and Christians and learn to hate in order to properly love Allah". Is that sedition.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I guess it's a question of whether in the final analysis it's inciting people to violence in order to give effect to the expression of that belief. I am very wary about trying to give (inaudible) opinions because they may be, because I am a public figure and I can't ever divorce myself from that public identity, while I have it, they could possibly be used and pleaded by people in some kind of future proceedings.

JONES:

Just before you go, to paraphrase a recent American President, it's no longer about the economy, stupid, it's about terrorism. Do you think those people who seem to have designs against Australia and the Australian values and the Australian culture and the Australian way of life understand that we're fair dinkum?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they don't really care whether we are or not. People who are really permanently sealed in their determination to do this country harm don't really care what the consequences are. And I think this country is more fair dinkum than some people imagine, I think Australians will respond, and are responding, to this issue very well...

JONES:

And you're determined?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely.

JONES:

Good to talk to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

JONES:

Thank you for your time.

[ends]

Transcript 22032