Prime Minister John Howard
Interview with Ray Martin on Channel 9's 60 Minutes
September 16, 2001
Prime Minister, George W. Bush said today that America is at war. Are we at
Well, I wouldn't quite put it that way, but we share all the emotional responses
that the Americans have. You can't fight something like this without standing
together with the Americans.
You've had a couple of days since you made the announcement of ANZUS. Have you
thought about what that means or do you have any more ideas about what our involvement
Well, we will have some military involvement and Peter Reith has already indicated
today we're going to extend the involvement of HMAS 'Anzac' in the Gulf fleet.
And there will be other requests, I'm sure. I've said we will be involved to
the extent of our capability. What the Americans are trying to do is to get
a worldwide coalition.
You have two sons of military age. Have you thought of that - personal consequences
when you made this decision?
You go through all of those things, but it was one of those decisions where
it was very clear that it was the only thing. I mean, America is our strongest
ally. This event was an assault on what we hold dear in common with the Americans
and so many other people. It was not just an isolated, distant attack on a country
and on a way of life that is separated from us. This could easily have been
an attack on a large building in a major Australian city. I don't share the
complacent view of some that this can't happen in Australia. I think it can.
Again, as a father with a couple of boys, we've seen world wars start in the
past where people thought they were going to be over quickly and they'd be contained.
Of course, they're not contained, they become . Are you conscious of that
when you thought of...?
We've seen world wars start when people don't retaliate earlier, when they should.
If the world had done something earlier in the 1930s, we wouldn't have had World
War II. Of course I think about my sons. One of my sons is working in the financial
community in the London at the moment - he could easily have been working in
New York. The greatest emotion I've had, having been there, is the feeling that
somehow or other I'm lucky, I'm privileged, I wasn't part of it, and you've
had that incredible sense of unease and insecurity... and almost a guilt feeling
that other people have died.
A guilt feeling?
A sense of not guilt, perhaps guilt's the wrong word, but why is it that other
people have been hit and not me?
You were sitting a couple of hundred yards, or metres, from the White House
when the plane went down in Pennsylvania. We have now learned that it was meant
to go to the White House in the capital. You would have been in the middle of
That's right. That's the random nature, the arbitrariness, the gamble of life.
When something like this happens, it's only later on that you start to have
those sorts of feelings. The immediate reaction is to deal with the moment.
I was in the middle of a press conference when the plane hit the Pentagon. When
I went back to my hotel room I pulled the curtain aside and there was the smoke
billowing out of the Pentagon building, which I'd been to the afternoon before.
What do you think at times like that? Do you think it's the luck of the draw?
You do in a way, and then later on you have - I mean, I perhaps wrongly described
it as a guilt feeling, but that feeling "Those poor people, they got hit,
In your business you can't escape cameras.
There was a photograph over the weekend of you and Mrs Howard at church, in
one of the churches after the event. You're leaning forward to give her a kiss.
Can I ask you why?
That was in the service where we were asked to do the sign of peace.
We gave ourselves a sign of peace with a kiss. We thought that was the nicest
way of doing it. It was a very moving service. I felt so terribly sorry for
the Americans in a quite emotional way.
How about prayer?
People around the world have prayed. Have you prayed outside of church?
Yeah, yes. I have, yes. I'm not reluctant to say that. I have. I don't claim
to be a super religious person. I regard religion as a very private thing. I
don't try and foist it down other people's throats.
Would the prayer be for advice, apart from peace?
Yes, both. Both, for everybody and for the people who have suffered. Also, we
mustn't in this country or anywhere in the world, we mustn't brand all people
of Muslim faith with the foul deeds of a few.
There is the feeling at the moment if you read the press and watch the television,
that as America and the allies, including Australia, gear up for some sort of
retaliation, whatever kind, that it's become a Muslim and anti-Muslim, or non-Muslim
I don't see it that way and it shouldn't. George W. Bush is not handling it
that way. The great bulk of Muslims are peaceful, law abiding, patriotic people,
like the rest of us and I extend to Muslim Australians a hand of friendship
and inclusion at a time like this.
You mentioned earlier the risks involved that, in fact, you don't - while it's
down the scale on Australia, nevertheless the risk is always there. Has the
risk been increased by your decision to invoke the ANZUS Treaty?
It may have, Ray, but if the ANZUS Treaty means anything, it means that in the
light of what has happened, we have to invoke it and we have to say to the Americans,
"If you want help, we'll respond to the limit of our capability."
We fought alongside the Americans in the Gulf War and Vietnam and Korea...
Every war in the 20th century.
..without invoking the ANZUS Treaty. I don't understand why you felt the need...
Well, because the ANZUS Treaty speaks particularly of the relationship of Australia
and the United States in connection with the Pacific area. It speaks of an attack
upon the metropolitan area of a member country.
Prime Minister Blair has talked about even perhaps the next stage warned
of the next phase of terrorism which may well involve nuclear strikes or may
well involve chemical or biological strikes. It can get out of control, can't
The world has changed forever in relation to certain things as a result of this
event. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I'm not the person to have
said it and I won't be the last. It has changed. But by the same token, we must
control our responses and we must continue to be governed by reason as well
as passion and emotion. You need a mixture of the three.
As Aussies, we're so used to freedom...
Not used to controlling airports...
I think we'll have to put up with more inconvenience. I think we'll have to
accept that. It won't be easy, but I think it will be necessary. Checking on
people who come to Australia...
..with IDs and photographs and Australians moving to other places. Are we close
I think it's too early for me to try and be prescriptive and talk about the
detail of it. This is going to cause shockwaves and repercussions for months,
perhaps years. It will mean that we live in a higher state of alert. It's sad,
it's the last thing we want in carefree, lovely Australia, but we are a global
village now and we have to accept this.
We now know, in fact, this attack against New York and against Washington was
planned over a long period of time. We have about 5,000 refugees or people in
our camps around Australia. Do you have any evidence at all that any of these
people have a terrorist or heavy criminal background?
Well we have evidence that some of them have a criminal background.
But not terrorism?
Well, we're not sure about that. Of course, there are a lot of others. Now,
I'm choosing my words very carefully because I don't want to be accused of trying
to extrapolate from one situation to another, but equally, border surveillance
and border protection and greater scrutiny of who comes to this country is clearly
one of the things we have to do as a consequence of what's occurred.
Kim Beazley said today that the Government sat on its hands and watched Ansett
collapse. Is that true?
No, it's not true. That implies that the Government has a responsibility to
bail out a company. At no stage did Ansett or Air New Zealand ask the Australian
Government to put money into Ansett. But, Ray, last week, when I was in Washington,
I was told that if the Government indemnified the administrator for a week,
he could have a more orderly wind down and that would cost about $40 to $50
million. I actually agreed to that on Wednesday. Within a few hours, I was told
that it would cost between $120 and $170 million to keep the airline going until
Saturday night. That's, what, last night, 24 hours ago.
The angry Ansett workers the last couple of days, you've heard them...
..they've been saying that they've known for the best part of a year that Ansett
was a basketcase. When did you know they were broke?
As recently as the end of June, the managing director of the company told me
that they had reserves of $1 billion, the group did, and would last...that would
last a year.
Well, I'm not saying - I don't know, they may have made a mistake, I just don't
know. I'm just making the point to you, Ray, that the suggestion that we knew
it was going to go belly up when it did, Is wrong. The broader point I make
is that it is not the job of governments to use taxpayers' money to prop up
companies. We are looking after the workers' entitlements. I feel sorry for
them on that and we're going to look after their statutory entitlements - their
long service leave, holiday pay, etcetera.
You know better than I do, I think, but it's not just the 16,000 workers at
Ansett, it's the ancillary industries of tourism. They're talking 60-70,000
jobs at stake as this has gone belly up. It is a Government issue, isn't it?
Ray, I don't think you should lose sight of the fact that a lot of the people
who were employed by Ansett will get jobs with Qantas. At the moment, I understand
the liquidator is speaking to something like half a dozen people and companies
and consortia who have expressed an interest...
In buying Ansett?
..in buying bits of it. We can't prop up companies. If you do that, there's
no end to it and the taxpayers will rightly be very angry because it's their
money, not mine.
Can I just wrap it up? It seems these last two weeks, PM, you've had some extraordinary
decisions to make. You've had to decide on whether or not you would rescue 400
men, women and children, including pregnant women, in the middle of the Indian
Ocean. You've had to decide whether you would possibly send Australian troops
to a war. You've had to decide whether you'd prop up a company at risk with
tens of thousands of jobs in Australia. Have you slept easily? They're tough
They are. I've agonised over each of those decisions and I still agonise. I
believe in each case I've done the right thing.
No second thoughts in any of those?
No, no. I've thought about each of them very carefully, but having taken those
decisions, I haven't had any second thoughts. I think we have done the right
thing with Ansett. I am absolutely determined that this country will protect
its borders against illegal immigration. If ANZUS meant anything, we had to
put our hand up beside the Americans in the wake of what happened last week
- the most appalling act of terrorism in your or my lifetime and clearly an
attack on the United States.
PM, we wish you well in the hours ahead. It's obviously critical.