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Transcript: Howard - On Departure For Japan

5 July 1999






Subjects: Ministerial arrangements, overseas visit



Ladies and gentlemen, under the new Ministerial arrangements Mr Mark Vaile
will become the Minister for Trade to replace Mr Fischer. Warren Truss will
be promoted into the Cabinet to take over Mr Vaile’s current portfolio of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests. And Larry Anthony will be joining the
Ministry as Minister for Community Services. In addition, Senator Ron
Boswell, the Leader of the National Party in the Senate will be appointed
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services,
Mr Anderson. These are the only changes that are being made to the Ministry.
They are sensible changes. Mr Vaile will be an energetic Trade Minister. The
appointment of Larry Anthony means that in the one century three generations
of the Anthony family have served as Ministers of the Crown in the Federal
Government of Australia. I congratulate Mr Anthony and Mr Truss and
Senator Boswell, in particular, on their promotions and also, of course, Mr
Vaile who’s not only the new Minister for Trade but he’s also the new Deputy
Leader of the National Party of Australia.

These changes will be formalised on the 20th of July. The new Ministers will
be sworn in in Canberra on the 20th of July following a Cabinet meeting that
day. Mr Fischer will act as Prime Minister during my absence overseas which
occurs in a few minutes time and will continue as Acting Prime Minister until
his formal resignation from the Ministry and as Deputy Prime Minister of
Australia when I return on the 18th of July. I think these appointments will be
widely welcomed particularly in the rural community. They strike the right
balance. And Mr Vaile will become a very effective part of the Foreign Affairs
and Trade team joining Mr Downer who is Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Anybody have any questions?


Do you think Mark Vaile will be known as the reluctant Trade Minister?


No, I don’t think so. I think there’s been a little bit of over interpretation of
what he said at the press conference last Thursday. I think what Mark was
wanting to indicate was that he wasn’t in a hurry to get out of agriculture. He’d
got rather used to it. He enjoyed the job. He was doing it well. He was never
as reluctant to be Trade Minister as people suggested. Mr Anderson and I
talked about the matter yesterday and John said, having reflected on it, he felt
that the right thing to do was for Mark to be appointed as Trade Minister and I
accepted Mr Anderson’s recommendation. It was always going to be a
National Party Ministry. That’s in the nature of the Coalition arrangement.
Mark was never disinterested it’s just that he rather liked being Agriculture
Minister. And I know what it’s like when you get a new Ministry and you’re in
it for a few months, you grow accustomed to its face and you rather like
hanging on to it.


And it didn’t concern you that it took a number of days to finalise that.


No, what, three or four days. And you’ve got to bear in mind, Raphael, that
the arrangements, the new arrangements, don’t come into force until the 20th
of July. It’s not as if we’ve been without a Trade Minister since Mr Fischer
announced his resignation. He’s still the Trade Minister. And I should tell you
that at two minutes past seven this morning he was on the phone to me at
Kirribilli House reporting on his latest discussion with Mrs Barshefsky about
our lamb exports to the United States and also giving me an update in relation
to the future occupancy of the director-generalship of the World Trade
Organisation. So, we still have a very active Trade Minister in Tim Fischer
until the 20th of July and I’m sure that he’ll be extremely active as Acting
Prime Minister while I’m out of the country.


Mr Howard, what will be your main objective in Japan?


My main objectives will be to, I guess, reinforce with the Japanese
Government the importance of the bilateral relationship, to encourage a
recommitment by Japan to the free trade goals of APEC. We agreed two years
ago with the Japanese that there would be a Prime Minister to Prime Minister
meeting each year. We had one briefly last year in Kuala Lumpur. I’m going to
Japan this year and I hope that in the nature of things it will be possible for the
Japanese Prime Minister to come to Australia the following year. Japan is still
our best customer and it’s a relationship that must be kept in good repair. It is
in good repair. And I want to drive home to the Japanese, while I’m there,
how important we regard their continued association with us both at a trading,
a political and a people-to-people level.


Does it concern you at all that John Anderson wasn’t elected unanimously by
his party and Mark Vaile was? Did that speak to you of any disquiet within the


When Malcolm Fraser was elected Leader of the Coalition in the Liberal Party
in 1975 he wasn’t elected unanimously, in fact, there’s only been to my
knowledge three cases in the last 40 years that people have been elected
leaders of their party when there’s been a change like that unanimously and -
when I became Leader of the Liberal Party in ’95, I think Bob Hawke was
elected unanimously Leader of the Labor Party in 1983, Harold Holt as Leader
of the Liberal Party in 1966. Off-hand I can’t think of any other. Doug
Anthony and Ian Sinclair had a contest for the leadership of the Party when
Jack McEwen went. I don’t think anybody could say that Anthony’s
leadership of the National Party from 1971 to 1983 was in any way
destabilised by the fact that he had to win a contest. It’s a democracy and you
have contests in democracies. I don’t think that’s an issue at all. I mean, I
don’t even know whether that story’s true. I mean, I’m never told these
things. They’re matters for the National Party Room but if it is true, so what.
It’s a contest. He won it convincingly and he’ll go on to be a very good leader
and I’m sure that he’ll have the very strong support of his Party.


Mr Howard, on a separate matter, have you seen reports of the latest
Naltrexone study that says it’s not effective in treating addiction?


Well, I’ve seen a brief report. I haven’t had any independent advice about it,
therefore, I don’t think I’m in a position at the moment to comment. Thanks.


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