PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22794

Doorstop Interview, Townsville

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: 17/05/2000

Release Type: Doorstop

Transcript ID: 22794

Subjects: drug rehabilitation; Mahathir comments; interest rates; reconciliation; Telstra, budget health measures.

JOURNALIST:

…announcement about the Salvation Army funding in Townsville.

PRIME MINISTER:

The Federal Government is going to provide one quarter of a million dollars to the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Centre in Townsville, particularly for the employment of an addiction counselor for women who have a problem with illicit drugs. This centre provides a great amount of support for men who have a drug problem. I met a large number of them and talked to them for quite a while before the announcement but there is a gap so far as women are concerned and this additional money and the additional counselor that it will fund will enable the Centre to reach out to women in the Townsville area.

This is one of many parts of the Tough on Drugs Strategy that the government has implemented over the last two years where we have emphasis on not only fighting the drug peddlers and not only do we try and educate young people against drug taking in the first instance, but we also are putting a lot more money in to rehabilitation and I also hope along with the other states it will be possible for the Queensland Government to come on side in relation to the diversionary programme. I know the Premier of Queensland expressed his support for it at the Premiers meeting last year. This is a programme whereby if people are caught up in the criminal justice system and charged with relatively minor offences, instead of them being charged we say to them look if you are prepared to go in to a rehabilitation programme and if you go through that programme and see it to the end we won’t go ahead with the charge. And that kind of diversionary approach is something that has very strong support in the Australian community.

JOURNALIST:

Are you disappointed about Dr Mahathir’s latest outburst at you and Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve read one report of a yet to be broadcast interview. I think perhaps I should wait until I see that interview before considering whether I should respond to the comments allegedly made by the Malaysian Prime Minister.

On the general question of Australia’s commitment to an involvement in and acceptability to countries in Asia let me say any suggestion that Australia is not deeply involved in the region is plainly wrong and inaccurate. I am going to Korea tomorrow for a three day visit. Korea is Australia’s second best customer. Our best customer is Japan. Last time I checked they were both Asian countries, broadly defined. As far as Malaysia is concerned, we have very deep and close and important people to people links. Something like a hundred and thirty thousand Malaysians have been educated in Australian Universities. We have very close economic links. There is a lot there. Australia has a very close involvement in the region and I point out that one of the countries I am going to tomorrow in fact Korea was one of the countries that supported Australia’s involvement in the Interfet force and was in fact involved along side Australia.

But as to the particular comments allegedly made by the Prime Minister, I haven’t seen them made by him, I’ll just wait and see what is broadcast tonight.

JOURNALIST:

What about your personal relationship with Dr Mahathir?

PRIME MINISTER:

They’re cordial.

JOURNALIST:

Do you feel welcome in Asia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am going to Korea tomorrow and I was asked. And I have been to China, I’ve been to Japan twice. I’ve been to Indonesia three times. I have been to Thailand. I’ve been to the Philippines. I have been to a meeting in Malaysia of the APEC countries. That’s quite a list. I have spent a lot more time visiting there than I have visiting Europe and North America.

JOURNALIST:

How much pressure is there on Australian interest rates ?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t speculate about the future movement in interest rates. I don’t. And I would simply on that issue draw your attention to remarks reported in this morning’s press made by the Treasury Secretary Ted Evans, I thought he expressed it quite well.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister why has the decision been taken to only allow ministers Ruddock and Herron to take part in the walk across the Harbour Bridge at Corroboree 2000….

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we haven’t placed a ban on anybody. What was decided was that they would represent the Government. There is no suggestion that people are prohibited.

JOURNALIST:

So other ministers are entitled to take part?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s not a question of entitlement. We just decided that the appropriate thing was, because of their responsibilities, they would be representing the Government so to speak. But if other individuals wish to well that is fine as far as I am concerned.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be taking part?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I have some other commitments that day. But I will be taking part in the Corroboree. I will be attending the morning session. I will be delivering a speech on behalf of the Government.

JOURNALIST:

Back to Townsville, Kim Beazley met with Telstra workers this morning, they’re worried about their jobs. Can you give them any reassurance ?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Mr Beazley perhaps told them that when he was Minister for Communications or a minister in the Keating Government, there were 17 thousand redundancies in the old Telecom when it was fully owned by the government. So if what Mr Beazley is saying is that if you have Government ownership you have no redundancies that’s wrong and he demonstrated it when he was in government. This idea that you can save every job in Telstra by not further selling down the government’s ownership is wrong, completely wrong. Mr Beazley only has to look at his own performance. There were 17 thousand redundancies between 1991 and 1996 when Telecom as it was then called was completely owned by the Federal Government.

JOURNALIST:

Is there anything the Federal Government can do to influence the decision on regional services…..

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there’s a lot. We can influence as we did in the budget, health services. We have put 560 million dollars in to health services in the regions. The biggest ever attack on the deprived country areas of Australia in health services.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just clarify, if other Ministers wish to join that walk across the bridge just in a private capacity that they will be allowed to do that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is no ban, when you say allowed, I mean there is no ban..

JOURNALIST:

Are we likely to see the same expenditure on health in future budgets ?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we take one budget at a time and I don’t predict what is going to be in next years budget. Come around May next year, we will be able to talk about that. But what we have done in this budget is to take one important area of rural disadvantage, and that’s doctors, and do something about it.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look at the zinc plant…enormous benefits. Well anything you do to further build the favourable investment climate between the two countries is something that will be of great benefit to North Queensland

Transcript 22794