PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22369

Doorstop Interview Crown Plaza, Darwin

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: 18/07/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22369

PRIME MINISTER:

I'd like to start by saying how pleased I am that some Australians have been evacuated from Lebanon. I want to assure anxious relatives in Australia that the Government is doing everything it can, in a very difficult situation, to help their loved ones in Lebanon who want to get out.

But it is a difficult situation, the fighting is getting heavier, it's more dangerous, the alternative exit routes, and I ask people to bear with us in a situation that is very traumatic for them, but extremely challenging. We have only a limited number of people of necessity in this area and they're working 24 hours a day to organise different ways of evacuating people and we're working in close cooperation with our friends and diplomatic partners in the region.

Might I also take this opportunity of extending my sympathy to the government and people of Indonesia for the loss of life as a result of the latest tsunami and to wish the recovery efforts every success.

And finally I'm going to East Timor today, it will be a first rate opportunity of talking to the newly installed Prime Minister, Dr Ramos-Horta, a man I know and admire a great deal. He has a big challenge ahead of him but he has a constant friend in Australia, and as well as talking to him, I will take the opportunity of thanking the men and women of the Australian Defence Force, and the Australian Federal Police, and the State Police forces that have done such a fantastic job in stabilising, in bringing peace and assurance to the country over the past few weeks. They really have done a first class job in our name and I look forward to seeing them and thanking them for what they've done for Australia and for East Timor.

JOURNALIST:

What are you're likely talks with the Prime Minister in regards to Australian troops on the ground over there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we'll be keeping a presence there for quite some time. I'm not committing to a date, I'm not committing to numbers, they won't be there indefinitely in the same number as they are now-we have about 2500 troops and some several hundred police-that number will overtime decline but to what level it's too early to say.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Prime Minister there was an escape last night from an illegal detention centre in Darwin, are you concerned about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I wasn't aware of it.

JOURNALIST:

What about latest plans on evacuations, are there any updates this morning?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's better in these circumstances to announce things after they've happened and when they've been arranged. We're doing all sorts of things, we're looking at the possibility of chartering a vessel, we're looking at other possibilities of people being taken out by bus, but I ask people to understand how incredibly difficult and dangerous it is. We're dealing with evacuating people in a war zone and there is a limit to what the men and women of the Australian Foreign Service can do. They are doing a fantastic job, they're working overtime, but they've got to deal with thousands of people-there are an estimated 27000 dual nationals living in Lebanon-many of them have been there for years and then there's a smaller number, several thousand, who are visiting the country. There's about 4000 now have registered with the Embassy in Beirut and we're doing everything we can. But I have to say it's a very challenging situation and I know that people are anxious, I share their anxiety, I know they're worried about the safety of their loves ones, and we feel for them, and we'll do everything we can. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Have you seen the new opinion polls this morning about yourself and how do you feel about those figures?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to comment on opinion polls.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard one week ago you said it was a bad day, how's life now?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that's in the context of the last question.

[ends]

Transcript 22369