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Transcript 11009


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: 12/07/1999

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11009

Subjects: Meeting with President Clinton - trade issues; security

arrangements; Care workers


Mr Howard, good morning..well good afternoon to you.


How are you Steve?


Now Prime Minister, last Thursday you were calling the lamb decision

hypocritical and appalling, and now it's just an odd difference of

opinion. What happened to your anger?


Well it's not an odd difference of opinion. I told the President both

in a private discussion and also during our luncheon, our working

luncheon, that this decision had caused more anger in Australia on

trade than any other decision in the time that I'd been involved.

So I don't know that there's been any alteration at all.


How did the President react?


Well he understood how upset we were. I mean look, we have to be realistic.

He's taken a decision based on domestic political considerations and

Australia has been hurt in the process. And he's aware of that. I

made that very plain to him both publicly and privately. And it remains

what I described it to him and that is a decision that has upset Australia

on trade more than any other decision that the American...this or

any other American administration has taken. But what I was at pains

to say today was that there are other aspects of the relationship

that oughtn't to be contaminated by this decision. Now that doesn't

in any way diminish the concern and sense of frustration that we feel

about the decision. We can't reverse the decision and I think anybody

who suggests that we can is deluding themselves.


So does the American President still support, in spite of the lamb

decision, does he still support a more open trading system?


Well he told me that he did and I was asked about this by the press

afterwards and I said well, it's a question of reacting to outcomes.

I mean he told me that he remained committed to achieving a more liberalised

trading environment out of the World Trade Organisation. He said he

would be coming to the APEC meeting in New Zealand in September, that

he was attracted to the idea of a leaders' declaration supporting

freer trade out of that meeting. He said all of these things. Now

people will make their own judgements about that. I think my judgement

is that I will see what happens. But I can only repeat what he said

to me and what I said to him. In the end we are all judged by our

behaviour and the outcomes we achieve rather than by the words we

use and that applies to him as it does to me or indeed any other political



But I'm wondering whether we can read into that: yes he still supports

a more open trading system unless it impacts on American producers.


Well I think people in Australia would be entitled to read that into

it. I mean there's no doubt that America has taken a decision on this

issue which looks after Americans and has adverse consequences for

Australians. Now of course they have.


So Prime Minister, in the course of your discussions with the President

you didn't perhaps feel inclined to remind him about our security

relationship and the fact that he's got a couple of bases on Australian



No I didn't, and I don't believe I should. And the reason for that

is that it's not in Australia's interest to do so. Some people in

Australia have the quite erroneous idea that the security relationship

between Australia and the United States is all one way in favour of

the United States. The reason I'm not prepared to put the security

relationship on the table is that that would hurt my country, that

would hurt Australia. That's why I don't put it on the table. And

people who argue that you should put the security relationship on

the table in discussions with the Americans are really ignoring the

national benefit to our country of the security relationship.


Prime Minister, just finally, what about Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace?

I know you discussed their predicament with the President. Is he going

to do anything for them?


Well I discussed their predicament with both the President and also

with the Secretary of State. Now Madeline Albright, who I saw last

night, I went into some detailed discussion with her. Both of them

have undertaken to do what they can in discussions not only with the

Yugoslavs but also with others to try and secure their release. Now

I don't think either of them can wave a magic wand. In the end they

will be released if President Milosovic of Yugoslavia can be persuaded

to release them. I operate on the view that the more people you have

working to achieve that the better but I don't think there's any magic

wand that Clinton or Albright can wave around, and I don't think anybody

should imagine that that is the case. I don't know precisely what

combination of circumstances is going to trigger a change of heart

on the part of the Yugoslav President. We remain hopeful. Our best

on the ground diplomatic advice is that they will be released but

it's an awkward situation. They are being held unfairly and wrongly

but we've said all of that. We'll continue to raise it, we'll continue

to mention it and talk about it to anybody who we think can have some



Okay. Prime Minister, I know you're r

Okay. Prime Minister, I know you're rushing off to another engagement.

Thank you for talking to us.


Thank you.


Transcript 11009