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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21926

Doorstop Interview United Nations

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: 16/09/2005

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21926

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen I've had a series of bilateral meetings this morning. I saw the Prime Minister of Iraq, the Prime Minister of Fiji and also of course the President of Indonesia. The Prime Minister of Iraq again thanked me for Australia's continued support. We talked about the security situation, I repeated the view to him, with which he agreed that violence would be intense between now and the 15th of October, and through until the holding of elections in December if the constitution is approved in October.

We both agreed that it was tremendously important that the progress towards democratisation go on. I commended him and his people for the courage they continue to display in such appalling circumstances. I also took the opportunity of asking him what he thought the Sunni turnout would be, and he said he thought it would be higher than it was in January, and that there would be greater involvement in the whole political process as a result of the nature of the constitution that has been put forward.

My discussions with the President of Indonesia involved my thanking... congratulating him on the Aceh peace agreement which is very promising and a very good outcome from Australia's point of view, and everybody's point of view. We talked about the ongoing terrorist challenge, economic conditions in Indonesia. He and I both expressed satisfaction with the progress of the Australian aid programme in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh, and we both look forward to out involvement in the APEC meeting and also the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, and in that context I thanked Indonesia for the support that has been given over the months by Indonesia for Australia's bid.

My discussions with the Prime Minister of Fiji focussed on a couple of aspects of our bilateral relations, including the Spartica agreement ... and that really is about it. Now do you have any questions?

JOURNALIST:

The purpose of this summit was to increase further development agenda and to reform the United Nations. How well has the Summit done, how well has the document, as a living document of this Summit, how well does that do the job?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well my expectations of the Summit outcome were lower than those of many others. I therefore see the document as being very much a Curate's egg, there were some bits of it that were good, some bits of it were disappointing. There have been increased aid commitments made. I do welcome the fact that there seems to be a greater willingness to talk about the importance of trade barriers being broken down, as a way of helping people out of poverty, and also a more direct expression of concern about corruption and governance as conditions of continued aid. That's certainly Australia's point of view, we've always been quite direct in talking about that and I have sensed in the discussions I've had in the atmosphere of the meeting that there is a greater willingness to talk rather more directly about that, because it is a very important thing for the domestic populations of donor countries. I can say as an Australian Prime Minister that there is a desire on the part of the Australian population to give assistance to poverty stricken countries, but a deep anger if any of that money is wasted in corrupt practices. And unless that issue is properly addressed, support for aid will dwindle very significantly.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister what did the Iraqi Prime Minister tell you about when his country might be able to take over the security role? What did he tell you about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the situation remains that Iraq continues to build her security forces. But I don't think any of us are in a position to be able to start talking about dates.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard there were predictions of more violence before the January elections in Iraq. There was more violence before and after them. Escalation now you predict, almost a matter of fact acceptance from the Iraqi authorities that there will be more violence before the referendum and the elections. Isn't Kim Beazley right when he says it's a quagmire?

PRIME MINISTER:

No he's not right, Kim Beazley is completely wrong. Kim Beazley's view on Iraq is a defeatist view. A view that will give counsel and comfort to those policies that will result in the terrorists taking the place over. Look the worst thing we could do at the moment is to pull out of Iraq, and by constantly talking in that vein, which Mr Beazley does, he's not helping the Iraqi people.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister your discussions with the Indonesian President, was there any talk about the sheer number of Australians still being... facing charges, drug charges in Indonesia, the number of them and concerns about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, we didn't talk about that. The one issue we talked about that might bear on Australians and Australians' interests is he confirmed that Indonesia is reviewing the policy of automatic remissions, in so far as they might affect particular groups of prisons. He had already said that but he did confirm that that process would go on. But I did not see fit to raise the issue you have mentioned. Australians who take drugs into Asian countries do so at their own peril. And any Australian who does that has taken total leave of their senses. They have been warned time and time again that the countries of Asia have very savage laws about drugs and no Australian can say he or she did not know. And it defies belief that any Australian would take that risk. And whilst we will do the right thing in a consular sense, we will do everything we can to give the sort of assistance that should be given. I repeat again, an Australian who goes into an Asian country with drugs can have nobody to blame but themselves if they're caught and very severely punished.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, did SBY give some indication of when that review might take place because Abu Bakar Bashir is due for another automatic remission at Ramadan.

PRIME MINISTER:

I understand the review is going on at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

Did he give you any indication?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. Well Geof, he is undertaking a review at the moment and the Indonesians are conscious of the point that you've made.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21926