PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 20689

Interview with Kim Landers, Stateline, ABC

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: 23/05/2003

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 20689

LANDERS:

Prime Minister, welcome to Stateline.

PRIME MINISTER:

Nice to be with you, Kim.

LANDERS:

Thank you. You've just been to Townsville, welcoming troops back from Iraq. Should Australians be worried that you now see the need for a defence and security division on home soil?

PRIME MINISTER:

This administrative change has been under way for some time. It's not a new homeland security department, we don't need that. That would be unnecessary extra bureaucracy. What I'm simply doing is dividing the existing international division in my own Department into a foreign affairs division and a division that focuses exclusively on security, defence, border protection and intelligence. It will just further add to the flow of information to me, in particular but we have a very good arrangement already. The National Security Committee of Cabinet which oversees all of these things in which I chair and it's made up of other senior and relevant ministers, has worked extremely well and we always have the head of ASIO and the head of the Office of National Assessments, as well as General Cosgrove and others along to that. So, we actually already have a very tight properly functioning coordination at the top levels of Government. So, the arrangements already work very well.

LANDERS:

How closely will that unit work with Queensland Government's authority?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the levels of cooperation are already there. I mean, a Deputy Secretary in my department chairs a coordination group made up of people from the states and that was an arrangement that was put in place after the Bali tragedy and it's pretty good cooperation between the Federal Government and the States.

LANDERS:

With fresh allegations of paedophile networks within the Anglican Church across Australia, will you now consider the need for a national royal commission into child abuse?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not in favour of a royal commission. I would rather spend the money that would go on a royal commission, I'd rather spend that money - which ultimately would go to lawyers, I mean no disrespect to them, they're a great lot, I was one myself - I'd rather that money and it would be a lot that would be spent on helping people. We know there's a problem and it's not restricted to the Anglican or Catholic churches, it's not. I mean the largest level of child abuse actually occurs in a domestic situation and that's been demonstrated time and time again. And I would rather put more resources of both a state and federal level into early intervention for families at risk of an abusive environment than spend it on another royal commission. I mean do know there's a problem, but we also ought to keep it in proportion - most families are loving and caring and there are an enormous number of institutions, including of course the churches who 99.9 per cent of the time do wonderful work for the community, so we've got to keep a sense of proportion. There is a problem, it makes everybody, you know, just their flesh creeps. I mean it's the most appalling thing, child abuse and what we have to try and do is stop it. Now we know there's a problem and the way to stop it is particularly to intervene into families who are at risk.

LANDERS:

Some government party National MPs both at a state and federal level are extremely concerned about the Beattie Government's sugar industry reforms. Will the Commonwealth be drawn into helping fund those changes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we have put forward a package and it's a Federal Government package and it involves a lot of assistance. It includes cooperation with and a contribution from the Queensland Government and what we're saying to the industry - we will help, we know you've got a problem and it's no fault of yours, but you do need to restructure and reform. So, there are two elements - there's help, there's money, but there's also a condition that there be reform and there be a restructuring. Now, if the industry comes to the party on that, we'll come to the party with the money and the help.

LANDERS:

Yet some Federal Government MPs have expressed surprise at the extent of the Beattie Government changes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't want to get into the detail of it at the moment because in a way the issue is still being discussed. But we laid out a pattern of reform and change and our position is unaltered and that is that we will provide assistance on the condition that there is change and reform and restructuring.

LANDERS:

You've also agreed to jointly fund a land clearing package in Queensland. How are you going to win over the farming sector which has already described that package as unworkable and the money being offered as woeful?

PRIME MINISTER:

On something like this, you keep talking to people and you don't sort of walk away or declare it's all been solved each day. There was a meeting yesterday between, here in Brisbane, between a number of my ministers and representatives of the agricultural industry and I'd like to hear now what the farmers have got to say. I'm sympathetic to their interests, I'm also determined though to do something sensible about land clearing, it's a very important environmental issue. And I want to work cooperatively with the Queensland Government and we are prepared to put money in. I understand the Queensland Government, I know the Queensland Government is willing to do the same. So, I think we should keep talking a bit more, I'm not going to say anymore than that at the present time. I'm optimistic, but I want to be fair to the farmers whilst trying to achieve a very important environmental objective.

LANDERS:

Does and issue like that put pressure on the newly formed Queensland coalition who may face a bit of a backlash from those farm groups?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, I don't think so. I'm sure we can work the matter through. I'm always sympathetic to what farmers have got to say. I don't always agree with every single thing they've put up, but they're the backbone of a large part of our nation and I always want to give them a fair go.

LANDERS:

Prime Minister, thank you for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 20689