PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11487

Doorstop Interview, Kingsford Smith Airport, Sydney

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: 21/04/2000

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 11487

Subjects: Official visit to Turkey, France and Israel; Telstra; mandatory sentencing; third world debt; Zimbabwe.

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

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think all of you are aware that I am leaving this afternoon to attend the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Gallipoli. There, the New Zealand Prime Minister and I will inaugurate the new memorial. It is very gratifying that the new memorial has really been made necessary by the fact that the large number of people who now gather on Anzac Cove on Anzac Day are filling the space in front of the old memorial and a new one is necessary.

After visiting Turkey I will go to France where I will meet the President, President Chirac and also the Prime Minister and have discussions with other senior ministers in the French Government and I will also visit the battlefields of the Western Front on the Somme where so many Australians fought and died during World War I. This visit to France will in fact be the first contact between an Australian Prime Minister, the first bilateral meeting between an Australian Prime Minister and the French President I think since 1991 and it is a very opportune moment to strengthen what is a very important bilateral relationship with Australia.

After that I will visit Israel where I will not only have discussions with the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Barak, and senior Israeli government ministers but I will also visit the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza. And it's opportune in Israel to of course make contact with the leadership of the Palestinian movement as the peace process between Israel and the Patestinians has progressed very rapidly although there is still much to be done and barriers still lie in the path of a lasting peace in the Middle East . Australia has always been a very staunch friend and ally of Israel's and my government has been a strong supporter of Israel but we recognise the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. They have a place in the sun in the Middle East and it is our hope that there can be a lasting peace between the Israelies and the Patestinians. Do you have any questions.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry I just can't hear you, I'm sorry. I am not aware of the details of that .

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]..the Maccabiah Games and compensation with the Israeli Government ?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will raise that matter with the Israeli Government yes. There are some aspects of it that I will pursue with them. There has been a very significant decision by the Israeli courts in the last few days. It was a matter that was canvassed with me when the Executive Council of Australian Jewry came to see me last week. So it will be an issue that I will raise with them.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have any concerns about Telstra's investment in Solution 6 given recent revelations about one of the directors..[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am not aware of all the details of the directors of Solution 6 but it is not for me to give a running commentary on every single commercial decision that Telstra makes. Except to make the obvious point that you would not even feel the need to ask these questions if the Government didn't own 50.1% in Telstra and as time goes by the incompatability of half government ownership and half-commercial ownership will become more and more apparent. I don't want to in any way unreasonably limit what Telstra does but it is commercially hobbled. It can't issue new scrip, it can't raise new equity capital because it is prohibited by law from doing so and there are all sorts of reasons including of course the desire of this country to be free of net Commonwealth debt why the sale of Telstra should go ahead in full. Any other questions?

JOURNALIST:

Do you have concerns about the deal on mandatory sentencing with the Northern Territory given the position of the Chief Magistrate.

PRIME MINISTER:

The position of the Chief Magistrate has nothing whatever to do with the arrangement I made with the Chief Minister. The position of the Chief Magistrate is a matter for the Northern Territory government and the Northern Territory courts. It doesn't in any way impact on the deal. The deal obtains whoever is the Chief Magistrate, let me put it that way.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Treasurer announced today that they have wiped some foreign debt to third world countries. Why have we done that ?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well because we believe as a relatively wealthy country we can make a contribution to relieving the debt burden of the very poor countries in the world. We join other relatively affluent countries in doing that. It is a small but important contribution that Australia, a relatively wealthy country, can make towards relieving the economic strain and burden placed on so many poor countries.

JOURNALIST:

The World Farmers Federation plans to approach you about the Zimbabwe farmers, perhaps accepting them as migrants. Are you open to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course we are open to considering the position of any group of people who might fall into the category of refugees. We are obviously, like everybody else disturbed at the apparent break down in law and order, the apparent disregard for the authority of the courts that is now occurring in Zimbabwe. We will according to the criteria of our refugee programme have a look at it. I can't and won't try and give an ad hoc ruling as to whether they are entitled or not but obviously they like other people placed in very desperate circumstances can be considered. There is of course a limit on how many people Australia can take but we are always ready to give a helping hand to people who face persecution in their own country and the situation in Zimbabwe is despairing to say the least and there is a very disturbing and apparent break down in respect for the courts. The courts don't appear to be getting support from the Government and from the police and when that happens you don't really have a functioning democracy.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 11487