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Transcript: Howard Interview

28 July 1999

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, PARLIAMENT HOUSE

Subjects: Defence Department Secretary; Paralympic contract; heroin injecting rooms; marching bands at Olympic Games; Papua New Guinea; HIV infection through blood transfusion

JOURNALIST:

What is the status of Mr Barratt’s employment with the Commonwealth?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there are certain matters before a court at the moment therefore I don’t think it’s appropriate I answer that question. The only thing I would say is that the Defence Minister is doing an outstanding job and he has my total support and confidence.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the contract should be terminated?

PRIME MINISTER:

Louise, I’ve answered that question.

JOURNALIST:

If he stays on do you think he could work with Mr Moore?

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] that same support to Mr Barratt that you just [inaudible] Minister?

JOURNALIST:

Is the Department of Defence out of control [inaudible] significant difficulties with projects such as the Collins Class submarine, and now administrative difficulties as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the situation regarding the Collins Class submarine was detailed in the report prepared by Dr Macintosh and Mr Prescott so I think the facts on that are very well known, and they’ve been very clinically analysed in that report and we’ve made that report public and people are aware of all the facts. So far as the department itself is concerned, and particularly so far as the armed services themselves are concerned they are doing an outstanding job, the armed services, for Australia, and they of course continue to have my total support and the total support of the Government and I’m sure the total support of all Australians. Beyond that I’m really not going to say anymore and please understand that.

JOURNALIST:

Can you tell us how you rate Mr Barratt’s performance at least?

PRIME MINISTER:

Louise, I’m not going to answer anymore questions. If you have questions on anything else I’ll take them, if not I’ll depart.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, when did you make the decision to extend the Paralympic relay?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh that decision was taken a couple of weeks ago.

JOURNALIST:

Bob Carr seems to have changed his mind on heroin injecting rooms. Have you?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. That is a decision for State administrations and Territory administrations to take. But the views I have on those facilities have not changed. I regret that he’s taken that decision. I share the view that a number have expressed that it does send the wrong signal. I’m unconvinced as to the reasons he’s put forward, but it’s a decision within the prerogative of the State government and I can’t stop it, and I won’t attempt to stop it. But it’s not a decision that I can support.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned with any conflicts in Federal law…?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not aware of any conflicts with Federal law. My advice and understanding is that it’s entirely a matter for State government.

JOURNALIST:

The ACT Health Minister Michael Moore yesterday said that he was going to attempt another heroin trial, and that he was going to try to change your mind.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he won’t be succeeding in doing that. I have no intention of changing my mind on heroin trials none whatsoever.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, SOCOG’s board meets tonight to consider this bands issue again. Nick Greiner reckons he’s got the numbers to overdo Michael Knight’s decision. Would you support his move?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve stated a view on that. My view is that there should be a very strong preference given to Australians. And I don’t really want to get into the detail of it. I’ve stated a view. I’m not going to sort of respond to each and every little difference of opinion on SOCOG. The Federal Government wants to work with SOCOG in promoting the games as an outstanding Australian event. So please leave me out of arguments about this that or the other. I’ve stated a principle, I did it a couple of weeks ago and I’m not going to embellish it.

JOURNALIST:

It is an issue though that’s going to cost SOCOG many millions….

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you’ve heard my answer, you’ve heard my answer and I’m not going to get further drawn into it.

JOURNALIST:

When the most senior public servants were put onto performance contracts was it ever envisaged that there may be contestibility through the courts?

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay.

JOURNALIST:

Have you got any plans to go to PNG to show your support for the new government and [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t have any plans to go there in the next few days.

JOURNALIST:

In the next few months?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I may visit PNG in the next few months but that’s something that I haven’t firmly decided on yet.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard do you have concerns about the blood bank given the tragic case in Melbourne where a young girl was to become HIV infected?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think everybody is upset at what’s happened and I understand the State health ministers who are responsible for these matters are going to meet to see whether any changes should be made. I think when they do meet all the possibilities should be on the table including privacy issues because in the end there is nothing in a sense more arbitrary or more shocking than the idea that somebody could receive infected blood. And if there are some rules based on privacy that are standing in the way of more adequate procedures and protection then perhaps they should be put on the table as well. But it’s a matter for the State health ministers and I don’t seek to tell them what to do. It is their responsibility not mine. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Has the Treasurer gone to Port Moresby with specific riding instructions from you, or is this in the nature of an exploratory ….

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t think it’s either Dennis. He’s gone there as a very senior member of the Government to make contact with the new Prime Minister, to assure him of our goodwill, of our support, our understanding, of the importance of cooperating with the IMF in rebuilding the economy of PNG. We have a special interest in PNG but PNG’s an independent nation and it has to stand on its own two feet. It has to accept the disciplines of the IMF if it is to restore its economy, and it has to have good domestic policy. Thank you very much.

[Ends]

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