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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11210

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE, PRIME MINISTER’S COURTYARD

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: 08/02/1999

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11210

E&OE....................................................................................................

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen, I would like to mention briefly two issues.

I would like, on behalf of the Australian Government, convey our very

deep sympathy to the people of Jordan on the loss of their King. He

was the monarch of Jordan and the undisputed leader of Jordan for

43 years. He became King at the age of 17. And there was not much

doubt during most of his reign that he enjoyed not only the support

but also a great deal of affection from his people.

There are many things that could be said about King Hussein. Probably

the finest tribute that can be paid to him is to recall his very courageous

involvement when the Wye River Accord was being negotiated. When clearly

suffering the devastation of cancer he came from his sick bed and

worked very hard to bring about the agreement between the Palestinians

and the Israelis. And as a result he is entitled to join the ranks

of others who've tried so very hard to bring about a peace settlement

in the Middle East.

I have conveyed a message of sympathy to the Prime Minister of Jordan.

I have expressed the willingness and the desire of Australia and the

Australian people to continue the close relations between our two

countries under the new monarch.

His son, King Abdullah, does inherit a very proud legacy. The late

King waged a very courageous battle for a long time against cancer

and I send my respects and our expressions of condolence to his family

and to the people of Jordan.

Can I also take this opportunity to thank Shane Stone for his contribution

as Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. Shane Stone was not only

a political colleague of mine but I regarded him as a good political

friend. I thought he gave very good leadership to the Northern Territory.

He continued a long tradition of highly successful CLP leaders in

that Territory. And although he suffered a natural disappointment

when the Statehood referendum was defeated last year, nothing can

take away from the very distinguished contribution that he made to

the politics and to the development and the economic growth of the

Northern Territory.

I wish him well in whatever he may choose to do in the future. I believe

that he served the Northern Territory very well. Naturally my Government

will be very happy to work closely with the new Chief Minister of

the Northern Territory when that person is formally installed.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you've spoken of Mr Stone's contribution

to the Northern Territory and to your side of politics, do you think

you might be able to find a way of using those talents in the future?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I would like to. I'm not aware of any desire on Mr Stone's

part to pursue a parliamentary career elsewhere but he's a person

of very great ability. He was a person, incidentally, well respected

in Asia and he had a lot of contacts in the Asian region as many northern

territorian politicians had done. But I don't have anything particularly

in mind in relation to the Asian sphere if that is what you're

next leading to.

JOURNALIST:

Well no, on the other hand, would you think that he could make a contribution

in the Federal Parliament now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think he would make a contribution wherever he might turn

his attention but I can honestly say to you that I am not aware of

any intention on his part to enter Parliament in some other way. I

mean, you normally enter it by being elected, I mean, enter some other

parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Who will represent Australia at the funeral of King Hussein?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our Ambassador. Time constraints have meant that the funeral is taking

place, so I'm advised, at 6.30pm tonight, Eastern Australian

Summer Time. And that's 6.30pm Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne time.

It's just not proved possible to send a senior member of the

Government to be there in time. It is a reminder of, given the conjunction

of the religious practices involved for early burials and the distance

of Australia from the Middle East, it's just not proved possible.

And we'll, therefore, be represented by our Ambassador.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on another subject - are you pleased that the Malcolm

Turnbull of the Australian Republican Movement is now having second

thoughts about the question of whether, in the referendum on the republic

issue, there only be one question and that he would be prepared to

support, or his organisation would be prepared to support a question

on a new preamble as well, does that please you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't sort of, you know, get up breathlessly waiting

for Mr Turnbull's latest pronouncements each morning on that

or any other subject. Look, that's something that the Party Room

will take into account when it discusses this issue. People should

understand that we are allowing an open vote and a free vote on the

whole issue of matters relating to the republic. But there are arguments

for and against the preamble issue. I think there are a lot of Australians

who would like the opportunity to express their belief that it would

be nice to honour, in the foundation document of this country, the

prior occupation of the land mass of Australia by the indigenous people

because it's an historical truth which nobody can dispute. Just

how you get there, and can I assure you that I won't be motivated

by any views that I have in relation to the principles question and

that is the republic. Everybody knows my view on that. I've never

disguised it. I've never pretended to the Australian people I'm

anything other than what I am on that subjected, and I've been

elected Prime Minister twice despite them knowing that. So I don't

think people can sort of get into the business of accusing me of having

any machiavellian desires on this count. But there are some logistic

difficulties. What a lot of people overlook is that the preamble is

not part of the Constitution. It is part of the British Enabling Act

which enacted the Constitution Act of Australia. So you do sort of

have some significant logistic [inaudible]. On the other hand I think

there are a lot of people across the republican divide who would like

to join in an expression acknowledging in our basic document the prior

occupation of the land mass of Australia by the indigenous people.

And I use those words carefully because I think once you start introducing

other elements to it you start to lose a lot of Australians.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon.

JOURNALIST:

Are you motivated then to provide leadership to see some form of preamble?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well very interesting, this word leadership is always used now to

sort of bring forth a change of position on somebody's part.

It's the modern political paradigm. You call on somebody to show

leadership when you want them to change their position. It's

very very interesting. Look, the question of whether we have a preamble

or not is something that our Party Room's going to discuss and

that is in the spirit of involving my colleagues in this issue as

carefully as possible. I don't want any of the republicans to

think that this is being introduced in order to harm the chances of

the republic in question getting up. That is certainly not the desire

as I understand it of any of my colleagues.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] prospect of Camilla Parker Bowles being the next Queen

of Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon.

JOURNALIST:

What do you make of the prospect of.....

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't given that any thought. I thought the current position

was that that was not in prospect.

JOURNALIST:

There were a question on a new preamble in the Constitution. Will

we take it that you would, if that were the case, would you campaign

strongly?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well let's take one thing at a time Jim.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, no. What I'm proposing to do, as I said a long time ago,

and that is to consult my colleagues about this issue.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] idea of your view? You seem to imply really that you're

much more passionate about that kind of an issue than you are about

the republican issue.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't think I've ever pretended to be passionate

about a republic.

JOURNALIST:

You're opposed to one aren't you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm opposed to it because....well look I don't want

to get into the debate about it. You all know I'm against it.

There's no news in that.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] are you in charge of the preamble? Is that...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I would like to explore it further and the reason I would like

to explore it further is that I detect within the Australian community

that I would like to see as part of the observance of the centenary

of federation a recognition in our foundation document of an historical

truth. I think a lot of Australians feel that way whether they vote

Liberal or Labor, or whether they are for or against a republic. Now

that is an honest statement of my position. I recognise that there

are some logistical difficulties involved, the principle one being

what I've just described and that is the existing preamble is

not part of the Constitution. So you've got to think all of that

through and that might turn out to be all together too difficult.

And if it does turn out to be all together too difficult then you

won't be able to deal with it. I'm simply saying to you

is that I detect within the Australian community, whether they are

republican or not, or whether they're Liberal or Labor, a desire

for that formal acknowledgment, because they see it as an historical

truth that can hardly be disputed.

JOURNALIST:

Your Minister for Reconciliation also [inaudible] also wants the preamble

considered in the referendum and he wanted to acknowledge the disadvantage

Aboriginal people....

PRIME MINISTER:

We're not going to get into the detail of it except to say that

I think once you go too far you'll start losing people.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] free vote if you ran a preamble question.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Michelle, I've already been tried on that and I've

said I'm going to consult my colleagues, and I don't have

anything further to say. Thank you very much.

Transcript 11210