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Howard: Iraq wheat sales; poll results; 10 yr etc

Transcript Of The Prime Minister The Hon John Howard MP Interview With Karl Stefanovic, Today Show, Channel Nine

Subject: Iraq wheat sales; poll results; 10 year anniversary; Commonwealth Games

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

STEFANOVIC:

Well you know I have been worried about this walk for some time, or this run with the Queens Baton Relay. So I decided to enlist the help of none other than a very experienced walker, the Prime Minister of this country Mr John Howard. Good morning to you Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

How are you Karl? Great to see you.

STEFANOVIC:

Good to see you.

PRIME MINISTER:

You’re looking very jazzy there, all fit and ready to go.

STEFANOVIC:

I don’t look too fat do I?

PRIME MINISTER:

No you look in great shape.

STEFANOVIC:

And what about the calf muscles?

PRIME MINISTER:

No they’re all right. I’ll leave that to the women to give commentary on.

STEFANOVIC:

Just before we go for a walk, some significant developments overnight that we need to address. You’ve heard from Mark Vaile, you spoke to him about this earlier?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I spoke to him about a quarter of an hour ago and it was a very good meeting with the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mr Chalabi. It’s very clear from that, that the Iraqis still want to buy wheat from Australia. They obviously have some problems with AWB Limited for reasons people understand, but let me put it this way, the whole tone of the discussions between Mr Vaile and Mr Chalabi are very encouraging and I believe that Mark’s visit to Iraq, which in the circumstances was a bit hairy, there’s a fair amount of difficulty in Iraq at the present time and full marks to him for going straight over there with Senator Jeannie Ferris, the chairman of our backbench committee, and I think as events unfold, it will be seen to have been a really first class meeting and one calculated totally to protect the interests of Australian wheat growers.

STEFANOVIC:

How far away from a deal are we?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t want to start talking at this stage about particular deals. Let me simply report, which is the case, that is was a very positive meeting and out of that meeting there’ll be some further work and we’ll see how things evolve.

STEFANOVIC:

Is a likely solution that they won’t have to deal with the AWB?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is an issue, obviously because the Iraqis made it an issue.

STEFANOVIC:

What, they don’t trust the AWB?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have to wait and see what the Cole commission says. We must allow due process and there is an inquiry underway and I’m not going to pre-empt that inquiry, but I also have to deal with the current reality that because of evidence that has been presented, which is yet to be replied to, the Iraqis are suspicious of AWB Limited. The whole purpose of the visit was to face-to-face reaffirm the long term commitment of the Iraqis to buy wheat from Australia. We have been a supplier of wheat to Iraq for decades, through all sorts of Governments and all sorts of circumstances and it’s very clear from Mr Vaile’s discussion with Mr Chalabi that the Iraqis want that to continue. Now as to precisely how we do that, we have to look at and there’s work to be done, but I want to congratulate Mark Vaile and thank him very warmly for the terrific job he’s done on behalf of Australian wheat growers.

STEFANOVIC:

Some sort of deal in the next weeks? Can you…

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh well I never like to make myself a hostage to those sorts of things Mr Stefanovic. You know the problem. Now we’d better get moving. Yes, I’ve been static.

STEFANOVIC:

I know, well I am sorry to interrupt your walk.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no that’s alright.

STEFANOVIC:

Now, you’re waking up to the news also, the new poll is out. The Daily Telegraph is reporting that Australians don’t want you to leave the top job. That’s good news.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a very nice poll. I think they were probably talking to my extended family there.

STEFANOVIC:

But you’re fit and healthy.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look, I am certainly fit and healthy and I always get these tricky questions from journalists and you’re no exception. But let me simply say this, I very much enjoy the job, I’m very stimulated by it, I’ve still got, along with my colleagues, a lot of ideas and I just keep working very hard for the Australian people and leave it at that.

STEFANOVIC:

Well you can’t possibly leave before we win back the Ashes.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m certainly looking forward to that and I understand the very first game, the first class game of the English tour will be right here in Canberra.

STEFANOVIC:

Is that so?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, I’m told that.

STEFANOVIC:

Well you’ll be flipping the coin as the Prime Minister then we can safely assume. Now, the Commonwealth Games obviously coming up. You said after the Olympics that it was a great thing for Australia. Obviously Melbourne is going to be the same?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yes and the Victorians and the people of Melbourne do these sporting events really well and so did Sydney of course. But Melbourne is a sports loving capital and I think the whole thing will be a great advertisement for Australia and I want to congratulate Ron Walker and his team and the Victorian Government for the work they’ve done. I mean we’ve kicked in a lot of things as well.

STEFANOVIC:

We have to stop here because we’ve run out of cable. You’ve moved too fast.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh I see.

STEFANOVIC:

But there have been some security concerns.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh but there are always security issues with these things, always. But we have provided all of the resources that it’s been assessed by the experts to be needed. You can never say categorically nothing will ever happen, but as much as we can, we’re going to make the environment very secure.

STEFANOVIC:

You’re going to be running with the baton at some stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I tend to leave it to the athletes of the nation. I’m a simple ambler. I leave it to the well-trained athletes of the nation.

STEFANOVIC:

You know that I have never been called an athlete in my life? But it’s good. The Prime Minister has just labelled me an athlete.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s right. There you go.

STEFANOVIC:

It’s going to be fantastic. We look forward to seeing you in Melbourne.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll be there.

STEFANOVIC:

And congratulations on ten years. We’re talking to you a bit later about your ten years. It’s great to see you Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks Karl.

STEFANOVIC:

Are you going that way?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. See you later.

[ends]

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