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Howard In Japan - Transcripts


7 July 1999

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER

THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW - NHK

TOYKO, JAPAN

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

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, what are the likelihood of troops being sent into East Timor?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's entirely premature for anybody to be talking about that, we have a combat readiness. I certainly hope that that won't be necessary. You must remember of course that troops can only enter a foreign country in two ways, they only enter by invitation or by invasion and we certainly have no intention of invading any country, so I think we have to keep the whole thing in perspective.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Downer seems to think it might be a good thing to do after or during the transition period, I should say….

PRIME MINISTER:

I've read what Mr Downer said and I know exactly what he said and the point I'm making is that Australian troops would only go somewhere as a result of an invitation.

JOURNALIST:

But if they are invited into East Timor, if it did vote for independence, would the Australian Government be happy to do that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is something that we'll deal with if and when it arrises. The important thing for a country like Australia to do is to be ready, which we are, to offer the help that we are through the civilian police, offer the aid which we are and then deal with each development as and when it comes.

JOURNALIST:

In the meantime what about the safety of the civil police there now from Australia and other countries, is it time to arm those police given the unrest?

PRIME MINISTER:

The constant advice we've had Fran is that arming them would make them more likely targets. That matter was discussed extensively. I had the same view as you apparently have and the question implies but the advice that I had from the Federal Police, from the Head of the Defence Force and from the Intelligence Services was that past experience in other countries indicated that if you arm people, even side arms, they're far more likely to come under attack and we accepted that advice and we just have to keep the situation under constant monitoring. It's dangerous, I've never disguised that fact and we certainly hope they don't come to any harm but the strong advice we have is that if you arm them you make them more likely targets.

JOURNALIST:

Did you in your talks last night with Mr Obuchi raise any specific trade issues, any specific trade problems between the two Nations?

PRIME MINISTER:

There was what I might call a passing reference to the issues of rice and tuna, the rice issue has been dealt with in the sense that a decision was taken by Japan and there are certain other discussions and processes and our position in relation to tuna is well known. Those issues were touched upon but they weren't the dominant issues. The dominant trade issue for Australia and Japan is the upcoming APEC meeting and then going on from APEC the need to have an effective and comprehensive round through the world trade organisation.

JOURNALIST:

What are the implications for Australian farmers if Japan doesn't keep its market open?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we obviously want open markets all around the world. We want an open lamb market in the United States, we want open markets in Japan. We have done quite well over the last few years in winning access to markets previously closed. For a nation of 18.5 million people who has the most efficient farmers in the world, we have a clear national interest in prizing open markets and when we've prized them open keeping them open.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard you also discussed China no doubt, how much concern is it to the two nations that now one member of APEC Papua New Guinea has recognised Taiwan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that particular issue was not discussed I don't recall, Mr Downer has expressed a view on behalf of the Australian Government regarding it and I agree with what Mr Downer said.

JOURNALIST:

Are we coming under pressure from China over this to put pressure on PNG?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I haven't felt any pressure, I'm not aware of any pressure. We have a one China policy. We have a good understanding with China. It doesn't prevent commercial links between Australia and Taiwan but it does recognise the sovereignty of the Government in Beijing and we won't in any way depart from that. I want to make that very clear that we remain very strongly committed to the one China policy. That has been Australian government policy now for a number of years and there won't be any departure from it but there is nothing inconsistent with that in us having strong commercial links with Taiwan.

Thank you.

[ends]

7 July 1999

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER

THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP

INTERVIEW WITH NHK TELEVISION

TOKYO, JAPAN

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

JOURNALIST:

Thank you very much for sharing your time with us this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's a pleasure.

JOURNALIST:

I believe Australia and Japan relations remain one of the most stable of bilateral relationships. Were there any further points that you stressed during discussions with Prime Minister Obuchi yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

I said that I wanted us to reinvigorate the relationship. It's a very strong relationship. We now have an opportunity together to take a lead in the region to encourage further trade liberalisation through APEC and ultimately through the World Trade Organisation. Both of our countries have a lot to gain from a more open world trading system.

JOURNALIST:

A new round of WTO is to begin in November this year. What are the issues of concern for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we want it to be a very comprehensive round. We want agriculture there, we also believe it should cover manufacturing and services. It's very important that we all, in countries like Japan and Australia, we give a lead because there are some countries that would if they were not encouraged in the opposite direction, they would slide back into protectionism and that would be not only bad for them, it would be bad for the whole region.

JOURNALIST:

I believe there were some talks on the Olympic Games as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Prime Minister, particularly over dinner last night - one of your champion judo contestants who will be almost certainly at the Sydney Olympic games - he was very interested to hear the progress that is being made and we are making tremendous progress and I'm quite certain that it will be a marvellous celebration not only of sport but also a celebration of what Australia means to the rest of the world and we will have lots of visitors and I know lots of Japanese people will come to Australia and enjoy themselves.

JOURNALIST:

I wonder how the trio is doing. I learnt the names off by heart - Sid, Millie and Ollie? Are they busy preparing for the Games?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there's tremendous enthusiasm in Australia. I think all walks of life in Australia are going to be so well prepared for the Games that they'll be beyond, I think they'll be the best ever.

JOURNALIST:

I thought it was quite impressive that those mascots symbolise certain aspects of Australia

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they do to many people around the world they are a marvellous resonance to people around the world of how they think about Australia. Australia of course, is a very modern, diverse society, it's a very open, tolerant society and it's a very friendly country and all of those characteristics are going to be on display and those mascots in a way remind people in a very warm way just what sort of country Australia is.

JOURNALIST:

What is it that you would like to convey through the Olympics?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that we are an open, tolerant, harmonious, welcoming country. We also are very competitive and there will be a huge Australian team at the games and we will be competing very hard. We're very proud of our sporting capacity in a lot of sports and there will be plenty of activity on the Australian side and we look forward to some outstanding Olympic events.

JOURNALIST:

Concerning the events and updates within the Asia Pacific region I believe you're personally watching the updates in Indonesia now that the election is over. How do you assess the current situation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Indonesia is to be congratulated for its huge shift towards democracy. There are 211 million people in Indonesia and this is the most democratic exercise that the country has been involved in for almost 40 years and it is a remarkable thing and I don't think Indonesia has received enough credit for what has happened, for the transformation that has been undertaken. The vote has not been finished, well the vote's been finished but the count has not been finished and it will be a little while yet before we know the final shape of the Parliament and who the next president will be. It's too early for me to make a prediction but I do welcome the fact that the vote has been completed with so little violence, far less violence than people predicted and the Indonesian people are entitled to take a bow for having achieved such a big transformation.

JOURNALIST:

Considering the current situation in East Timor what would be your concern?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are concerned about the security position in East Timor. We pushed very hard to have a free and open ballot and it's very important that that occur and Indonesia's world reputation will be affected badly if it looks as though a free vote is not allowed and that is the message that I am conveying on a regular basis to the Indonesian Government, and I know it's a view that is shared by Mr Obuchi, the Prime Minister of Japan, and President Clinton and many others. We are really saying to the Indonesian Government it is in your interest and the interest of your country that there be not only the reality but the appearance of a free and open ballot in East Timor. Because if we have an outcome which people don't believe then that will do great harm not only to the people of East Timor but also to Indonesia's international reputation.

JOURNALIST:

What would be some of the area where perhaps Australia and Japan could contribute to stabilising the society?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well both of us are contributing civilian police and that is very important. We are contributing significantly to the cost of holding the ballot that's been completed in Indonesia proper but also to the cost of the operation in East Timor and we've also contributed some millions of dollars of aid and Japan has also provided assistance. We need to be there to help both in the transition to whatever form of future government East Timor has. We also need to be there to help afterwards, particularly if East Timor opts to go independent.

JOURNALIST:

There seems to be so much stress on issues like election because it is telegenic in a sense. But what comes after the election, establishing the order phase is equally important.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well in some cases it's more important. Now if East Timor decides to separate from Indonesia then that new country will need a great deal of help because it will be a very poor country. It has fewer than one million people and it will need a great deal of help.

JOURNALIST:

And Australia would be standing by?

PRIME MINISTER:

Australia will help. We feel we have a particular responsibility but we can't do it all on our own and we will need the assistance of other countries, including of course Japan.

JOURNALIST:

I understand that you are envisaging Sydney to be a financial hub in the region. Could you possibly elaborate on the programme and the reform that is taking place?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Australia of course is very, very strong economically at present. We have a very high growth rate, we have very strong business investment, we have undertaken a lot of reforms, and we have a very stable political and legal system. And we have a very well supervised financial system. And all of those things are very attractive because they bring stability and predictability and transparency and those things are very important. And the reforms that we have undertaken, and are undertaking, to our taxation system will make it more attractive for securities transactions to occur. We will be getting rid of stamp duty on share transactions. We're undertaking a major review of our business taxation system. We're removing stamp duty on certain financial deposits. So all of these things taken together with our great lifestyle and Sydney in particular, but not only Sydney there are other cities in Australia that offer a great deal in the way of financial services. Australia in many ways can become, because of the sophistication of our markets and the transparency and the prudential supervision of them, becomes a very attractive place in which to transact securities business.

JOURNALIST:

Am I right to say that a preparatory team has been launched the 1st of July envisioning…?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what we have done is we're establishing really an office in Sydney and to promote this and we have a Minister in the government who is particularly responsible for this and his job will be to accompany me on occasions, and on other occasions to go on his own to different parts of the world to promote the notion of Australia as an international financial centre. I'll be in New York next week and we're holding a major investment seminar there to promote the attractiveness of Sydney and Australia as a financial centre. Now we are in open competition with other cities like Tokyo and Singapore and competition is what makes markets strong and the financial system thrives on competition. We believe that we can do it better than others and we are touting ourselves around the world. But we do it in the spirit of strong competition and rivalry.

JOURNALIST:

What would you say your advantageous edge is?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have a very strong economy. We have relatively low costs. We have a great lifestyle. We have a very predictable, clear and transparent legal and corporate governance system. All of those things are very valuable.

JOURNALIST:

I believe a goods and services tax is to be introduced soon.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes the 1st of July next year.

JOURNALIST:

But will it not dampen the economy?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, no because it's accompanied by big cuts in income tax. So people will have more money in their pockets to spend. If anything it will give a boost to economic activity and in the longer term it will reduce business and export costs and therefore produce a more efficient economy. It's a reform that we have needed in Australia for 20 years and at long last it has been achieved.

JOURNALIST:

When we talk of reform, we often say reform is often accompanied by pain and cost. What would those pain and cost be in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well some reforms are accompanied by pain and cost but you must remember that if you don't reform then the pain and the cost is all the greater because you reform in order to have a share of the changed world environment in which you are living and if you don't reform then you don't get that share and you suffer even more. But there is adjustment pain associated with some reform and all governments have a responsibility. We have isolated communities in Australia that are feeling the strain of globalisation more than other parts of the country and we are trying to look after those communities but not in a way that holds back progress or reform. Because in the long run they have nothing to gain by putting a protective barrier around Australia. In the long run you have to go into new activities and new industries. If people are no longer willing to buy the products of old industries.

JOURNALIST:

So that is the strategy of how Australia survived the economic crisis that has given serious blow to major Asian economies.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are other reasons why we survived. We survived because we strengthened our economy. We got rid of our budget deficit. We got our inflation rate down and our interest rates down and we also ran a very flexible exchange rate management system and as a result of that we were able to shift our exports away from the declining markets in Asia into some new markets in Europe and North America and that greatly aided Australia. And we were helped also by the fact that many of our exports to the Asian region were in the form of long term contracts with countries like Japan and even though they were affected in some way the effect was not so dramatic.

JOURNALIST:

Concerning globalisation of economy as you say. WTO certainly is going to play a major role in enhancing that free-trade regime.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's critical that we open up markets and all of those communities that are effected by globalisation have more to gain by opening up new markets. A country like Australia needs expanding access to markets and so does Japan. Japan built her prosperity in the 1960s and 1970s on the strength of her capacity to trade vigorously around the world. So it is in the interests of both our societies that we have a more open and more liberal trading system.

JOURNALIST:

What are some of the voices that could be heard from your primary industries sector.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well our primary industries are very strongly in favour of open trading. Because we have a small domestic market and we are very efficient farmers and miners. They are amongst the most efficient of all our industries and amongst the most efficient in the world, and they don't have any subsidies. They don't have the protection that farmers in other countries, including your own have and as a result they have more to gain than virtually anybody else from an open trading system.

JOURNALIST:

When you go back to Australia, what are the points that you would like to talk to your public as fruit of your visit to Japan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that first and foremost Japan remains our best customer, it's a very close relationship, it's a very mature relationship, and it's more than economics. We are a model to the rest of the world of how two very different societies can work together and achieve common goals whilst respecting the cultural differences in each society. And that's a very important message of cooperation to the rest of the world. That both of us have a leadership role in the region in encouraging the lurch towards protectionism that is evident in some societies.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you very much Mr Howard for coming this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[Ends]


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