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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21543

Doorstop Interview Convention Centre, Canberra

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: 10/11/2004

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21543

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you were talking about debates ongoing between state rights and federal responsibilities, the abortion debate, should that stop now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Did I say something about states' rights? I don't think I actually used that expression.

JOURNALIST:

State responsibilities and federal responsibilities.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you ask me about the abortion discussion, well look the position is as I stated before and after the election. There will be no Government-sponsored change at a federal level to current arrangements. It is always open, if somebody wishes to on an issue like this, to bring forward a Private Member's Bill and the Liberal Party for its part, and I'm sure also the National Party, would allow all of its members a free or open vote as we have in the past. These are not issues that can be determined in accordance with political philosophy. There are strong views on both sides and I respect those views. There are a few absurd propositions floating around in the whole debate. One of them is the vague suggestion of trade offs between support for legislation in one area provided there is change in relation to the government's attitude to abortion. Let me make it clear, there'll be no trading off in relation to this issue of any kind. The other rather odd proposition is that in some way it can't be talked about because there was a debate 20 or 30 years ago. That is self-evidently a negation of a free and open society, people are entitled to raise these issues. But I stress there will not be any Government-sponsored change because we have a situation and inheritently it is matter of a free vote and a matter of conscience. But if people wish to bring forward a Private Member's Bill, well people are free to do so but they will obviously have to assess the views of people individually within the parties that are represented in the Parliament. But it's not an easy issue and I would encourage those who hold strong views on both sides of it to recognise the strength of feeling of those who support in its entirety the present arrangements, that it is ultimately a matter for a woman to decide and equally I ask those who hold that view to respect the fact that people on the other side of the argument believe that they are dealing with issues relating to the termination of a life and that those views are held with equal strength.

JOURNALIST:

Are you personally comfortable...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have personally expressed a view about late term abortions in the past. If you have a look at an interview I gave on the Neil Mitchell programme only a couple of weeks ago.

JOURNALIST:

So you may support...

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I have stated the broad framework in which the debate will take place, I'm not going to add to it. Next subject.

JOURNALIST:

Yasser Arafat Prime Minister, are you concerned that the fate of Yasser Arafat might have an impact on the Middle East peace situation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the man is obviously very ill and near to death, that's been stated by those who know far better than any of us. It will obviously have an impact on the climate and the atmospherics. I share the hope, vain and futile though it may seem on occasions, that we can have some kind of lasting settlement, there has to be a recognition on the part of the Palestinians that constant suicide bombing attacks on Israel are not conducive to a lasting settlement and there must be of course an acceptance by the Israelis that a two-state solution is the only solution. That is the position of the Australian Government, it's been our position for a long time. We have been a staunch friend and ally and supporter of Israel and continue to be so but we also believe that the Palestinians have a right to a homeland and I hope that out of all of this ultimately some day, some way we can achieve a more peaceful outcome.

JOURNALIST:

If he was to die would you attend his funeral?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Would you send representatives?

JOURNALIST:

An appropriate Australian Government representation would attend.

PRIME MINISTER:

Would a new Palestinian leadership advance that hope that...

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I think it is inappropriate for me to be talking about the impact of a new Palestinian leadership. I mean obviously I was asked if the man were to die would there be a representative, there would be appropriate representation but it certainly would not be at a ministerial level.

JOURNALIST:

When will Cabinet consider more active interventions in the welfare of Aborigines where welfare payments may be tied to behaviour change by indigenous communities?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we don't have any particular timetable for that. We believe very strongly that the new approach to Aboriginal affairs is the right approach. I am very heartened by the warm public response to the new advisory body. Can I express my gratitude to all of the men and women who have agreed to serve on that body, they're a very distinguished group of indigenous Australians, they represent different interests, different lifestyles, different parts of the indigenous community of Australia and it really is very encouraging that a person of the calibre of Sue Gordon has agreed to become chairman of the body and it's very encouraging to me and to the Government and I believe to indigenous people around Australia the people of the quality of those who are on the body have agreed to take part.

Okay.

[ends]

Transcript 21543