World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


PM Howard on Bali Nine; RU486; AWB; Dick Cheney

Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP
Interview With John Laws, Radio 2UE, Sydney

Subject: Bali Nine; RU486; AWB

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

LAWS:

Prime Minister, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning John.

LAWS:

You were very, very emotional yesterday afternoon, it was very touching because we all knew that the emotion was real when you begged every young Australian to take notice of what was happening and not to take the terrible risk that those people have taken.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I did feel very strongly about that and I tried to communicate the strength of that feeling and it seemed the right time, the right moment, in the wake of these inevitable sentences to issue an appeal again to any young Australian who might think he or she can get away with this not to try, you will destroy your life, you will spend most, if not all of it, rotting in a jail in another country, you may even face a firing squad and you will break the hearts of your parents and all the others who love you. So it is not worth it. I cannot understand why young people still continue to take the risk, I suppose it’s the money, their vulnerability whatever it is. I don’t have sympathy for drug traffickers, drugs destroy lives. I have a lot of sympathy for parents whose children go and do these things, it must be absolutely heart breaking so I took the opportunity again, perhaps in vain, but if it reaches a few people who might be dissuaded from doing well it would have been worthwhile.

LAWS:

I mean the Bali Nine got themselves underway despite the publicity surrounding Schapelle Corby.

PRIME MINISTER:

Exactly, it is beyond me how anybody could think that they would get away with it. You won’t get away with it. The Asians are very tough on drugs and they have every right to be. You can’t condemn a country for trying to rid its community of drugs. We hate drugs and the penalties in Asian countries are even more severe than they are here because they have the death penalty. Now…

LAWS:

Are they too severe?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s for them to decide, it’s not for me, I have no right to decide the penalties of another country. Whatever they judge, through their processes, to be correct is something we have to live with and in a sense it is immaterial whether I think they are too severe or not, it’s what we have to deal with and this idea that we can sit back and make a judgement and we can pick and choose and that if something goes wrong then the Government will go in and persuade these countries to change their laws, it’s fairyland stuff.

LAWS:

Yes it is.

PRIME MINISTER:

And it will never happen and it smacks of some kind of arrogance of anybody to imagine that we can get things changed. I mean these countries have a right to make their own laws and if the truth be known there are many Australians who believe that laws can never be too tough for drugs particularly those whose children have had their lives destroyed by drugs and there are plenty of those and the other side of the story are the heartbroken parents whose kids have overdosed or lost all reason and all grasp of their lives as a result of drugs. So I did feel strongly about it and I took the opportunity presented by these verdicts to try and again reach those people who might be tempted to think they could be the exception and get away with it.

LAWS:

I understand exactly what you are saying about another country’s regulations, they mightn’t be palatable to us but it really isn’t any of our business and because it isn’t any of our business will you be able to intervene or will you choose to intervene to have these fellows saved?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is an appeal process and after that has been exhausted if there is still a death penalty pending then we’ll make representations. I don’t want to raise expectations, we tried very hard in relation to the Van Nguyen case in Singapore and there were some extenuating circumstances relating to his family that were particularly distressing which supported in a way the case that we were putting but in this case on the face of it the circumstances appear different. Then again, the Indonesian Government hasn’t had quite the same consistency in relation to the death penalty, perhaps it is fair to say that, as the Singaporeans had. But nonetheless there is a limit and nobody should imagine, excuse me, because I am friendly with President Yudhoyono and we do have a good relationship and we are as nations, a lot closer than we used to be and that is a very good thing and I will work hard to keep it that way but when it comes to the crunch his obligation to his own people and to the strength of the domestic campaign against drugs is far greater and more important than his closeness to and his friendship with me and so it ought to be. Just as in the end my obligation to the Australian people in supporting a policy that’s good for the Australian people is far greater and more important than my friendship with any foreign leader.

LAWS:

I had a talk to Mick Keelty and as he said we are in South-east Asia, I mean if every country in South-east Asia has the death penalty for drug offences, what are we to do? I mean our police can’t operate in total isolation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course they can’t, I think this criticism of the federal police is totally unfair.

LAWS:

Yes it is.

PRIME MINISTER:

The federal police were doing their job, we expect the police to protect us but when something doesn’t happen according to how some in the Australian community think it should, they’re the worst in the world. Their job is to catch criminals, their job in that context is to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies of South-east Asia to catch drug traffickers and they did that and I think this criticism is unfair. I can understand the distress of the parents, again I sympathise with that, but looking at the thing objectively I reject totally the criticism of the police I think they do a very good job in hard circumstances, they are all human beings, they make mistakes and this criticism of them in this case is quite unfair and in any event it has been thrown out of court literally by the Federal Court.

LAWS:

You’ve got one of your own being critical at the AFP in the form of Bruce Baird, have you had a word to him.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, that was a matter raised in the party room, I don’t comment about those, it’s a free country people can express views, we don’t run a Stalinist political party.

LAWS:

It wouldn’t have made you very happy surely.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look in the great scheme of things people are entitled to express their views. I don’t think it’s a sign of weak political parties to have a range of views, I think it’s a sign of strength.

LAWS:

Okay just back to these people who have been tried and convicted in Bali, the rest are going to spend the rest of their lives in jail because life in Bali does mean just that, life. Will you be doing anything to try and have those sentences reduced?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that really is a matter for the courts, I don’t have any control over the Indonesian justice system any more than President Yudhoyono has any control over ours.

LAWS:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

The only way in which the sentences can be reduced is by an appeal process and as others have pointed out there’s a real prospect that if you appeal you might get an even tougher sentence and the only toughening of a life sentence is the death penalty.

LAWS:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Now that has happened but that’s a matter for the lawyers to decide, it’s not for me. Now the President of Indonesia has a clemency power and that’s what we would call a Crown prerogative of mercy, he’s got a clemency power but whether he exercises that or not is entirely a matter for him and we will make representations about the death penalty. The question about whether we make representations about the level of the sentences is not something on which I’ve have taken any advice and not something to which we’ve turned our mind. That would be less usual. Because it does reach a point, apart from the objection we have in principle of the death penalty being imposed on Australians, we’re against the death penalty generally and we take the view from that that it is legitimate to make representations when the death penalty is delivered on an Australian. Beyond that, I don’t know that it is the role of a government to start running the ruler over the size of every jail sentence imposed on an Australian overseas.

LAWS:

Yes, in another country.

PRIME MINISTER:

Exactly. Would we like President Bush if some Americans were convicted here saying, well ringing me up and saying John ‘I think twenty years too much, why don’t you make it ten.’ Do you think Australians would like that? I don’t think so.

LAWS:

No, they wouldn’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

They would say ‘mind your own business George.’

LAWS:

That’s exactly what they’d say.

PRIME MINISTER:

And this is the problem, this is the dilemma. I mean I do feel for these people, for the parents, I don’t feel for the traffickers I am sorry I don’t, I feel for the parents very, very much.

LAWS:

It’s awful.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I don’t want to see young lives destroyed, that’s why I had something to say with feeling yesterday.

LAWS:

Yes well you said it with feeling and it had a very very good effect let me tell you, you know people listened. Just quickly to Iraq, now they are not going to deal with AWB, why don’t you just get rid of the AWB?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am not going to do that unilaterally, there is an inquiry underway and AWB incidentally is owned by the wheat growers, you are not talking about a group of suits, you are talking about thousands of Australian wheat growers who have an investment in AWB Limited, they own it and it is a natural justice principle at stake. AWB Limited has not been fully heard on this, I am not sticking up for them, I am remaining neutral I am, that’s why we are having a effectively a royal commission and he will get to the bottom of it. Now the evidence has been very critical to date but we haven’t heard all of the evidence and it would be wrong of me to pre-judge what Mr Cole will find. Mr Cole is a very good lawyer, extremely, you know, respectable, highly-regarded lawyer, great judge and he’ll do a very good job and I am sure he will get to the bottom of it and the blame will fall where it may.

LAWS:

The Nationals I imagine are committed to hang onto the AWB and they are committed to also to having a single AWB desk.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is fair to say that there’s a lot of people in favour of keeping a single desk, the question of whether it is AWB Limited or some other arrangement is a separate issue. Not all the people in the National Party are in favour of a single desk and not all the people in rural areas in the Liberal Party are against it, there’s a whole range of views and that’s something that we down the track will consider. We’ve got to do it away from the pressure of the current issue, although the problems of AWB Limited inevitably contaminate consideration of the single desk. But we will do it in an orderly way, but I am totally preoccupied with making sure that there is no immediate loss to Australian wheat growers and that’s why I am having a meeting with AWB Limited today and when I’ve had the meeting I will be having something further to say.

LAWS:

Are you going to have something further to say to Danna Vale?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think enough has been said. I don’t agree with what she said.

LAWS:

No.

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a free vote, it was in the context of this debate.

LAWS:

But when she says we are aborting ourselves out of existence.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look I don’t agree with her statement, I don’t but, what always happens with these debates, and we shouldn’t get too worked up about it, what always happens with these debates is that because it’s a free vote people give full vent to their emotional feelings. Now Danna has a strong anti-abortion view and I respect her right to have that, a lot of people hold those views.

LAWS:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

And it’s free and of course there’s been some pretty silly things on the other side of the debate as well and I have been critical of some offensive remarks a Greens Senator made and there are some extreme remarks so it ought to be seen in that context. But you are asking me did I agree with…

LAWS:

No, actually…

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s not a good idea in this debate to be segmenting the Australian community, we are all Australians, that’s the aim of sensible policy for people to see themselves not as Muslim-Australians or Lebanese-Australians, I don’t like the hyphens too much. I think we ought to try and drop the hyphens and just talk about Australians.

LAWS:

So do I.

PRIME MINISTER:

And you might be interested as to the ethnic background of a bloke but that is secondary to whether he is a good or bad Australian citizen.

LAWS:

Yes I didn’t think for a moment you’d agree with what Danna Vale said but I just wondered if you had chastised her.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don’t look, well she’s over 21, she’s quite capable of making up her own mind. She would know from the reaction of colleagues that it was not universally supported. But Danna’s a hard working local member and she’s a good colleague and she means, her heart’s in the right place but you don’t always agree with what she says but she probably doesn’t always agree with what I say.

LAWS:

Do you think it was a bit risky talking about us becoming a Muslim nation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t agree with using that kind of segmenting people, I don’t like that, but as to whether, I don’t think it’s dangerous, I mean people say things at the spur of the moment and we shouldn’t become a nation that sort of darts around, overreacts to each individual comment and that applies on both sides of these debates. I mean we have an issue in relation to obviously some sections of the Australian community that is not as well integrated as others and we all have an obligation to work on it but we’ve got to make it very clear to Australians of the Muslim faith, that they are as welcome as anybody else and they should feel that way and they should know that their government treats them the same as all other Australians and expects the same of them as we expect of other Australians.

LAWS:

Well that’s reasonable. Are these amendments designed to scuttle the whole thing?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t know I wouldn’t have thought so, but they are not my amendments.

LAWS:

No I know that.

PRIME MINISTER:

I mean my view on this is that in the end something as significant as this should still be left for political decision making. I don’t hold the view that you should work hard, get into Parliament, cop all the opprobrium when something goes wrong but when it comes to decisions you hand it over to a bureaucrat because in the end if this bill goes through the ultimate legal decision will be taken by a delegate of the Secretary of the Department of Health. Now some people may think that’s a sort of a philosophical argument, it is in some senses, but that’s my view but it’s not a view that I am trying to ram down anybody else’s throats, I’ve stated it, I will probably state it again in a more formal way but in the end people will make up their own minds.

LAWS:

And of course if RU486 becomes available it doesn’t mean people are going to use it.

PRIME MINISTER:

No it doesn’t mean that at all and I am not saying that it would be capriciously made available by bureaucrats, I am not being critical of bureaucrats, I think people who work on the TGA and advisers are perfectly hard working conscientious men and women, I am not critical of them. It’s just that I hold the view that in the end because if something goes wrong the elected people are held responsible then as far as possible they should control the decisions which might lead to the complaint. If you give power to a bureaucrat and they decide something and the public doesn’t like it, they don’t go to the bureaucrat and say change it, they come to me and say you change it and if I say no the bureaucracy have decided, they say what you are Prime Minister, fix it. That’s how it operates isn’t it.

LAWS:

Have you got any planned trips to the United States?

PRIME MINISTER:

I could go there later, in a few months, there’s nothing fixed. I think I could well go there but I would be going; the first visit I have of great importance this year is to India where I will be going in March for a visit of a few days to see the Indian Prime Minister and I will be taking a group of Australian businessmen and women with me and it’s a very important relationship which we need to invest even more in.

LAWS:

Yes I was just going to suggest to you if you do go to the United States, don’t go shooting with Dick Cheney what ever you do.

PRIME MINISTER:

No well I am not as you know, I banned guns.

LAWS:

Yes that’s right.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s got me into a bit of trouble with some people but I am glad I did.

LAWS:

Well sometimes you have to do things that get you into trouble.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes well my friends are probably relieved that I don’t use them so I probably wouldn’t be a very accurate shot either.

LAWS:

Well you aim pretty well politically and have done for a long time. Nice to talk to you Prime Minister, thank you very much for joining us live from Canberra.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news