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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22362

Doorstop Interview Blacktown Workers Club, 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: 12/07/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22362

PRIME MINISTER:

Ladies and gentlemen, can I just start by repeating the sense of horror that I felt when I learned the news of the terrorist attack in India. I send my sympathy, and that of the Australian people, to our friends in India.

It's a reminder that no country anywhere in the world is immune from the possibility of a terrorist attack. It doesn't matter what the foreign policy of the country is, it doesn't matter whether it's a democracy, or what form of democracy it might be, all countries are subject to terrorist attacks.

But this is a particularly callous and brutal and insensitive and cruel attack, people going home from work; a planned, premeditated, terrible terrorist attack and it's once again a reminder that no country can complacently assume that it is immune.

And it is a reminder to Australians that it could happen here. We are less prone to these sorts of things than many others but we are not immune. And the fact that you've had terrorist attacks in countries like Britain, the London Underground, the capture of people who were apparently planning an attack on the New York underground, and of course the arrested people, I repeat suspected, of planning a terrorist attack in Australia at the end of last year.

All of this is a reminder that we do live sadly in a different world and it is a world that behoves all of us to be more vigilant and careful, to invest more in our security services, to change our laws and maintain those changed laws under constant surveillance to make sure that they are adequate to the new reality.

This is a new kind of war, we're dealing with an invisible enemy, it's borderless, it's not like the old, the wars of old where armies roll across borders and you knew where they were coming from, it's an entirely different threat and it's a threat that confronts the entire free world.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, Mr Costello has asked for a smooth transition, that's not a veiled threat is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I don't have any comment on that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you would be aware that Mr Costello did hold a press conference this morning where he did say in your discussions with him yesterday, you said to him you were now considering your future. Is he right and when did you say to Mr Costello you might have an answer to him by?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there was a discussion yesterday and I've indicated that the leadership of the Party is something that is determined by the views of the Parliamentary Party and that remains my position. And no, let me make it quite clear, no agreement was entered into between Mr Costello and me about the future. It is not my right, nor is it his right. The question of who leads the Liberal Party is a matter for the Liberal Party room.

JOURNALIST:

Should you have a succession, some sort of succession plan in place, is that what you intend to do?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think we should get on with the business of serving the Australian people.

JOURNALIST:

You said yesterday that you wanted to continue working with Mr Costello and you think you could continue working with him closely, how can you do that when he is publicly calling on you to retire?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think we can work together very well. He's had an ambition for a long time to be the leader of the Liberal Party, it hasn't stopped us in the past working together very closely and it won't stop us in the future.

What I think, with great respect, the ladies and gentlemen of the media sometimes miss, is a reality that most people in politics are ambitious. I was ambitious to become the leader of the Liberal Party, it didn't stop me working with others. He is ambitious, it doesn't stop him working with me. He's been ambitious for a decade and it hasn't stopped us working together and being very effective and it won't in the future.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard some of your supporters, I'm thinking here of Warren Entsch, has even, has come out and said this morning, you must declare your hand, you must for the good of the Party, so there's no more damage, state whether you will contest.

PRIME MINISTER:

I heard what Mr Entsch said and I thought his observations were very positive.

JOURNALIST:

You're talking about how everybody's ambitious in federal politics, surely the goal posts have changed because now it's being played out in the public theatre, are the gloves off?

PRIME MINISTER:

What's the next question?

JOURNALIST:

How long are you going to stay on for, can you tell us that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I will remain the Leader of the Liberal Party as long as the Party wants me to, and it's in the Party's best interests that I do so. Now that was my position three years ago when I told the party room in June of 2003 that I would continue. It was the position I put to the Australian people, I was re-elected Prime Minister with an increased majority on the basis of that position and therefore it is proper that I maintain that position.

In the end the people who will decide this are the men and women of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, and I really am not going to deviate from that. That is my position and you can ask me all the questions you like, but I'm not going to give you a different response. Yes?

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, would you say that you're personally ambitious to stay on as Prime Minister of Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

My ambition is for the future of our country and for the continued political success of the Party that has been kind enough to have me as its Leader for more than a decade. First and foremost, my ambition is for Australia, and secondly my ambition is for the Liberal Party of Australia.

JOURNALIST:

What about other frontbenchers, other Ministers, they have ambitions to become Treasurer no doubt?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not getting into that.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard yesterday in your discussions with Mr Costello, did you seek or receive an undertaking from him that he not challenge you before...

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, certainly not. I would never seek that from anybody.

JOURNALIST:

I'm just also wondering do you accept that until you declare whether you will contest the next election, this leadership issue will just continue to ...

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I'm not going to get into a commentary on Australian politics. I try and influence and shape Australian politics, I don't write or comment on them.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think this leadership spat between you and Mr Costello has damaged the Liberal Party at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I said yesterday about the past few days I meant, but the position is that the overwhelming bulk of the Party want us to remain in our current positions, and that's very clear to me and it's very clear to all of our colleagues and I will continue to work in close professional harmony with Mr Costello.

JOURNALIST:

How can you possibly trust Peter Costello?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I have had not difficulty in working with him over the last decade, and I am quite sure we can continue working together.

JOURNALIST:

You say your leadership now is in the hands of the party room.

PRIME MINISTER:

It has been ever since I've been leader.

JOURNALIST:

If that's the case then, what were you doing in this meeting in December 1994 plotting to become the Leader of the Opposition?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look you have numerous discussions when the question of leadership is around, and I don't, look what I have said about 1994 I've said, I don't retreat in any way from what I have said about that. But I do not intend to go over that again, it is 12 years ago. Most people are really interested in the next 12 years rather than the last.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, isn't it the case that you decide first, then it goes to the Party?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going there. I mean you are entitled to make that statement, but I am entitled to say to you that at the end of the day I do not determine the leadership of my Party, nor does Mr Costello. It is a unique gift of the 100 men and women who comprise the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister why can't you get rid of Mr Costello, why can't you do without him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think he is a very talented man, and he's done a very good job as Treasurer of this country over the last 10 years and I think it's in the interests of Australia and in the interests of the Coalition Government, that he continue in that position. So that is my attitude towards Mr Costello.

JOURNALIST:

People have said that over the past few days, talkback radio has been filled with people saying that Mr Costello has let the Liberals down by his actions over the last few days, do you feel he's done that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I think Mr Costello is a very capable member of the team and it is the view of my parliamentary colleagues that the current leadership arrangements involving me and Mr Costello should continue. And I respect the views of my colleagues, I always have and I always will and that is why those arrangements will continue.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard when do you think you'll be in a position to let the Australian voters know when you will be able to decide on your future?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I am not going to give some kind of running commentary about the future.

JOURNALIST:

I am just wondering what you say to people who say how can you have an effective partnership, working partnership with Mr Costello when you are still at odds over who's telling the truth?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well most of the people who ask me those sorts of questions, with respect to journalists, I've just met 300 fellow Australians in aspirational, marginal, western Sydney. None of them raise that issue, not one, and I have just met 300 of them. Now, you've got a job to do, I understand that, but I mean there is a disconnect, these sort of frantic, searching for dates of declarations are things that do fascinate journalists. I understand that, that's your job, but the average Australian wants good government, and they've had it for the last 10 years and they'll continue to receive it.

JOURNALIST:

The average Australian wants to know who is going to lead them.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the average Australian knows who is leading them.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you are often compared to Robert Menzies...

PRIME MINISTER:

I would never presume to compare myself to Robert Gordon Menzies.

JOURNALIST:

But you wouldn't want to be compared to Bob Hawke though would you?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't seek to compare myself to anybody, others can...

JOURNALIST:

You run the risk though sir...

PRIME MINISTER:

I can leave it to others to make comparisons. Every Prime Minister of this country has had his, and up to date, only been his and I hope in the future it will be his and hers, own unique contribution to make to public life in this country. And this business of forcing comparisons, can I say, momentarily breaking my own rule about giving comments, can I say that I think that is a mistake. I think that every situation is different. This business of saying this is like such and such or that's like such and such, I think that shows a misunderstanding of political history. Every situation and every dynamic in every government under every leader is different from what has gone before.

JOURNALIST:

Is Peter Costello indispensable to the Government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Peter Costello is an incredibly valuable person and I would like him to remain in his current position. He is the Deputy Leader of the Party, it is the clear will of the Party that the current leadership arrangement continue. It is his clearly expressed preference to remain as Treasurer. It is the most important position in the Government after that of Prime Minister and the current arrangements are not only entirely appropriate, but more important than that, they are the arrangements that my federal parliamentary colleagues want and as always I am the servant of the Parliamentary Party.

JOURNALIST:

You must be disappointed, surely, that his own personal ambitions, his anguish is being played out in the public theatre?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I am not going to make a comment on that, I have responded to those sorts of questions already and I have nothing to add. Now is there anything else, I think we have given this a fair run and it's had a good workout on the park, now is there any question about anything else, because if there isn't we might give it all a bit of a rest hey?

JOURNALIST:

I am just wondering, how long can you work with Mr Costello, have an effective relationship when you're still at odds over who is telling the truth. And would you agree that truth is the foundation of good governance and here you are still publicly at odds over who is telling the truth?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ten-and-a-half years and counting.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22362