PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22621

Doorstop Interview Parliament House, Canberra

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: 07/12/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22621

JOURNALIST:

Are you encouraged to spend more money on these sorts of projects after what you've seen?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well certainly we have followed the model laid out in this approach in one of the programs we now fund, and I am a great believer in early intervention. I believe very passionately in the view that prevention is better than cure. That applies to health and it applies to families at risk. We will have healthier people if they develop good eating and exercise habits very early, we'll reduce obesity if we do that and the same thing applies with families at risk and children at risk. If you can get in early, identify the problem, you not only produce better citizens, happier children, fewer criminals but you also save money. Now I am very attracted to this approach and it's one that the Government has already followed in 45 community projects around the country, and certainly in decisions that we make in these areas I will be giving priority, and the Minister will be giving priority, to programs that involve early intervention because prevention is always better than cure and it's always less expensive.

JOURNALIST:

Does that mean that you're looking to boost funds?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm keeping open all the options except reducing; that's not on the table, let me make that very clear. But obviously we make decisions in a proper budget process. But I'm indicating to you that we will want to give priority to prevention, to programs that identify people who are at risk of falling between the cracks and stop them falling between the cracks because it's so much better for them and it's also less costly for the rest of the community.

JOURNALIST:

You've been around the nation for 10 years, travelling around as the Prime Minister, does your personal experience validate what this research shows?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes my personal experience validates it and commonsense validates it. And the other observation I'd make is that having a strong economy helps. You noticed in that video, that things were also looking up because the new man in the house had a job, and that's very important. And one of the greatest things you can do to reduce under-privilege is to have low unemployment.

JOURNALIST:

The Iraq Study Group says that there needs to be a new approach in Iraq, on the ground, to try for US troops out by early 2008, engage Iran and Syria, do you think Australia needs to follow a similar path there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have said before that I have no objection to, and I would support, talking to Iran and Syria. But I am sceptical about the goodwill of both of those countries. We've just had the assassination of the politician, prominent Christian politician in Lebanon, somebody who is anti-Hezbollah and many people suspect that that assassination was orchestrated out of Syria. It's the latest example of the lack of good faith, but I do agree that you should talk to everybody. I thought James Baker made a very valid point when he said for the years of the Cold War, the west continued to talk to the Soviet Union. That was a perfectly valid, historical point to make and I have no objection at all, and indeed as recently as a few days ago, the Foreign Minister, our Foreign Minister, had an hour long conversation with the Iranian Foreign Minister. I met the Iranian Foreign Minister's predecessor in Davos last year and we talked extensively. There's no problem about talking but let us not imagine simply by talking there will be an automatic goodwill on the part of Iran and Syria. But certainly we have said well in advance of this report that we support that approach being taken as long as people are appropriately sceptical of the goodwill of those two countries.

JOURNALIST:

Do we need an exit strategy?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think we need a strategy that makes certain that we don't leave behind an outcome that is a victory for the terrorists and we leave behind an Iraq that has an opportunity of surviving as a democratic nation.

JOURNALIST:

The new Fiji interim PM said this morning that it may be two years before general elections in that country and he says he's going to look around Asia for support for those countries, do you think that's a likelihood and how concerned are you about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am very concerned. One of the ugliest photographs I've seen as a parliamentarian in years was the photograph of a soldier inside the Senate chamber in Suva. I mean that was an awful photograph, an awful photograph. To see somebody in a military uniform pushing an elected member of parliament out of the way and the officer of the Senate standing by powerless. Now that photograph symbolised what's happened in Fiji, it's quite tragic what's happened and for all its flaws and the fact that it was struggling in many ways; Fiji had re-embraced democracy and what's happened is wrong, it's brutal and it's an unlawful military takeover. And trying to clothe it with a swearing in ceremony; heavens above.

JOURNALIST:

Can you explain the difference in Australia's response between, our response between...our response to the coup in Thailand and the response to coup in Fiji?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think our responses were all that different. I think there were antecedent events; when you take into account the antecedent events in Thailand, you take into account the fact that the Prime Minister elected had himself withdrawn, I mean I know for a fact, of course, with my personal contact with him that he had withdrawn very significantly from the day to day running of the country and I think therefore those circumstances are quite different.

JOURNALIST:

New Zealand is imposing sporting sanctions on Fiji. Fiji's set to host the world championships of netball shortly and meant to be coming here for a test against the Wallabies next year. Will Australia follow suit?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, we will impose the sanctions and deliver the reactions that Mr Downer's outlined and we'll keep other reactions under view, I am not adding anything at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

On the Iraq Survey Group, you refer to the need for more consultation, you haven't...

PRIME MINISTER:

More consultation?

JOURNALIST:

Well you've referred to the suggestion that there needs to be a consultation of Iran and Syria, you haven't responded to the timeline for a possible withdrawal in 2008?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's a very conditions based timeline. I think if you read all of the report, they are putting forward certain propositions but in simple terms, the coalition wants to withdraw, but it should only withdraw if it is satisfied that a stable, defendable Iraq can be left behind. I have said before and I will say again, that for the west to pull out of Iraq in circumstances seen as defeat, would deliver an enormous boost to terrorism in the region and around the world and it would be a huge blow to American prestige and that would have bad consequences for Australia. Now I am sure that is the view no matter how much the tactics will change, and I am quite certain the Americans are going to reorganise their approach in different ways in Iraq, but the bottom line will still be they are not going to precipitately withdraw and that really wasn't what Baker was recommending.

JOURNALIST:

Are you considering a reshuffle given Labor's changes?

PRIME MINISTER:

If I have anything to say about the future composition of my Government which I think is performing very well, I've got excellent Cabinet ministers and junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries, I will announce it. But I do not give daily commentaries on that or speculate on a day to day basis. Of course, Labor is having a reshuffle, they've just change their leader. I mean of course they'd have a reshuffle.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Pauline Hanson's running again for the Senate she's indicated, do you think she still has a capacity to draw votes away from the major parties?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't have any comment on that. It's a democracy she's entitled to run.

[ends]

Transcript 22621