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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11010


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: 11010



Well, the General and I have just had a very valuable meeting. I've

extended an invitation to him to visit Australia. Nobody has a greater

overall focus on the drug issue in the United States than does he.

I therefore think his views on the issue would be very interesting

in Australia. We've talked about the various policy approaches in

our two countries and there's a great similarity of approach. He has

a particular but it's not obviously the limit of his interest, particular

interest in effective campaigns against drugs in sport. The discussion

I've had with him has reinforced in my own mind that we have the right

balance in Australia in seeing the drug problem is not being in any

way sold or mitigated by throwing up one's hands and giving up the


Legalisation is not the path to dealing with the problem that the

balance between education, effective interception and enforcement

and adequate investment in treatment. I was interested in what he

told me about Drug Courts in the United States, which is very similar

to the diversion policy that's being adopted in Australia and now

being implemented in cooperation with the State Governments. So I've

particularly welcomed the discussion that we've had General and I

certainly would welcome your visiting our country at some time that's

convenient to you because this is a world wide challenge and there's

a lot that we can learn from each other.


Well thank you very much Mr Prime Minister. I must add that I've been

trying to get to Australia for some 50 some odd years now.


Well, we'll do something about that.


Who said something can't come out of these conferences? Let me first

of all thank you for the chance to share with the Prime Minister our

own thinking on our National Drug Control Strategy and you know these

ideas are not revolutionary, they're commonsense. We have based them

on some hard work by really three people in the US Government: Janet

Reno our Attorney General, Donna Shalala our Health and Human Services

Secretary and Dick Riley the Education Secretary and that's really

the heart and soul of what we are doing. We're trying to keep young

people off drugs until they're 18. We've got another 4 million Americans

that are chronically addicted. It's a huge problem - 5 per cent and

a half of the population but it's really the heart and soul of a lot

of the damage in America. The criminal justice system, the welfare

system, the health system. We're trying to effectively pull together

treatment and these other social systems and finally I told the Prime

Minister I was very impressed by his own delegation at Lausanne, Switzerland

during the International Olympic Committee. You know the central part

of what we're doing is trying to prevent chronic drug abuse but there's

this huge opportunity we have, the world community, to prevent what

is increasingly going on around the world which literally hundreds

of thousands of young people believe that to compete and win in national

or international competition you have to get involved in chemical

engineering of the human body. With disastrous results as we saw in

East Germany with steroid use, well now it's well beyond that. Artificial

testosterone, blood packing, just a tremendous challenge. And these

drugs are available over the internet whether you're in Uganda, Australia,

the United States so many of us went to Lausanne to the IOC to demand

reform, to ask for an independent testing agency for testing 365 days

a year to save samples so that future technology could unravel cheating.

And we want to do this not just to make sure that the record of the

top 100 swimmers on the face of the earth is ethically sound, we want

to do it because they're models for the human spirit and I think Australians

are better organised on this whole issue that almost anybody I've

listened to. There's a tremendous amount of interest and here in the

United States how can we guarantee both in Sydney and Salt Lake City

international competition that's based on raw human talent and spirit.

And so I've accepted the Prime Minister's invitation to go and learn

more about their own approaches to this.

I might add it's an approach that obviously can't be based simply

on interdiction, like the world is awash in heroin. I told the Prime

Minister we probably have 800,000 Americans using heroin out of 270

million of us, but they do incredible damage. We think they use 11

metric tonnes of heroin and we're reasonably sure the world produces

360 metric tonnes. So the world communities got a problem and the

damage it's done and meanwhile it's worse than it is and I would argue

in the United States and Australia where the world owes a global effort

to confront this situation.

So again, Mr Prime Minister, thanks for your leadership and I look

forward to a visit in November.


A couple of quick questions.


Did you canvass any new issues, any new strategies that could be employed

in either country on heroin in particular?


Well, I think it's fair to say that we agreed that one or two strategies

that are in the air in Australia are not desirable such as heroin

shooting galleries. Neither of us thought there was any merit in going

down that path.


I might add to that if you'd permit me. One of the things we are most

proud of, we have finally gotten a decent level of investment in our

National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr Alan Leshner, and his colleagues.

About 600 some odd people. They are doing some absolutely breathtaking

research to deal with the consequences of drug abuse and its prevention.

But the last thing any of us believe one should do is give one of

these suffering creatures a heroin addict who is somebody's baby to

leave them with the addiction. Now, it would be like pouring alcohol

into an alcoholic. Drug treatment and therapeutic intervention can

work. We have got good studies that show you can take a tremendous

number of these people and break this behaviour. And that's what would

seem to me we owe the chronic drug abuser.


In the same recent edition of the Washington Post that published

your very articulate article strongly opposing the legalising of drugs

like marijuana, it was reported in another story, the same edition,

that the US Army is now allowing the use of peyote for religious purposes

provided that none of the native American church soldiers who use

peyote are allowed to handle nuclear weapons. Now, I have.


That piece is very encouraging.


Do you believe peyote using US soldiers should be allowed to use other

weapons like sting missiles or stealth bombers and should they be

allowed to participate in the Olympics and that's a first part?


Now, that's a question I rush to avoid. I don't know what to make

of all this. I mean, to be honest I shouldn't comment on a policy

I haven't studied. On the surface it looks goofy, it got wrapped up,

I am sure, in some very detailed legal issues that are based on Constitutional

principles. We absolutely do not believe that.we are so proud we are

having a drug-free armed forces, we don't want them using psychoactive

substances, we don't want them smoking cigarettes and we don't want

them abusing alcohol. And that's really the only useful [inaudible].


Sorry, I have only got a limited amount of time. I apologise but I

have got to go and make a phone call in a minute.


I am sorry, I have a question that doesn't have anything to do with

drugs but instead with the PNG. I have learned that you have been

discussing with IMF and World Bank regarding PNG and I am just wondering

that the, you know, that a country that was the first..


Where are you from, what's your..


Oh, I am sorry. My name is Mark [Inaudible], I am with the Economic

Daily News Taiwan. Australia was the first country in Pacific Asia

to warn the, you know, Chinese missile exercise in '96 and now it

is the country that first.the country to warn that the PNG's decision

to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan will bring insecurity

to that area. That [inaudible] a strong protest from Taiwan. I am

just wondering that, can you share some of the discussions with IMF

and the World Bank on PNG's economic situation? And also your relationship

to Taiwan?


Most of our discussion was about the internal situation in Papua New

Guinea. I don't know that I want to get in, at this gathering, into

a detailed discussion of that issue. I made some comments reaffirming

what is a longstanding Australian Government policy in relation to

recognition and the maintenance of a one China policy and also the

reaffirmed, the value we place on our longstanding and very good commercial

relationship with Taiwan.


Are you satisfied, Mr Howard, that President Clinton and his advisers

are sufficiently alert to the dangers of the situation unfolding in

East Timor and what would you like to see them do?


Well, I think it's fair to say that our discussion today we spent

more time, apart probably from the issue of lamb, we spent more time

talking about Indonesia and East Timor than any other issue. And I

know that they are very engaged in what is happening in East Timor.

I offered some views about what I believed was happening in Indonesia

proper. I have expressed my views on that before and the views I have

expressed publicly on that are consistent with the views that I expressed

privately to the President. And I thought as a result of our discussion

today he and the other senior members of the administration who were

present had a very detailed idea of what I and the Australian Government

thought about what was happening in Indonesia, what needed to be the

response of other countries and what was happening in East Timor.

Both of us were very seized of the need to remind the Indonesian Government

constantly of international attitudes towards their handling of the

situation in East Timor. One more question and then I really do have

to go and take a phone call.


Could I ask General McCaffrey. In Australia quite a lot of money and

effort is already going into drug education and research and other

aspects of trying to counter the drug problem. Do you have any ideas

about what further can be done that might cause some sort of breakthrough

on this front?


Well, of course in November I'd be very keen on learning more about

what the Australians are doing in their existing programmes and their

own thinking. We have an array of approaches we are taking. That is

the heart and soul. The central component of the National Drugs Strategy

is a reduction of drug abuse to include alcohol and nicotine by American

adolescents. So that's a central piece of what we are doing and there

is a series of programmes and education, health and human services

designed to minimise that. And they all begin with parents, homeroom

teachers, coaches, pediatricians. It's community level action. And

we are starting to see a pay-off. We are finally seeing the beginning

of the turning of the curve we believe. We have got to stay at it

for 10 years.


Look, I really must go, I have got to make a phone call.


Just on the lamb.


I am lambed out. We have dealt with lamb at some length. I mean, my

view is well known, it has not changed, it's adamant but I don't know

that I can add anything.


Are you preparing a retaliation against the United States?


Well, what form do you think that should take?


[Inaudible] focussed here on alcohol and tobacco with children. Should

that be something that Australia can..


Well, we do it now. In fact Australia has probably been more successful

than any country in the world in reducing tobacco use. We still have

a long way to go. And it is part of it. I mean, one of the things

I have always found perplexing is that some of the people who are

the staunchest supporters of discouraging people from using tobacco

are amongst those who believe that you go in the other direction in

relation to marijuana and other drugs and I find that puzzling. Anyway,

I really, I must go.


Transcript 11010