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Australia
Prime Minister John Howard
Interview with Ray Martin on Channel 9's 60 Minutes
September 16, 2001

RAY MARTIN:

Prime Minister, George W. Bush said today that America is at war. Are we at war?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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 might be?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

You have two sons of military age. Have you thought of that - personal consequences when you made this decision?


PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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...?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

A guilt feeling?

PRIME MINISTER:

A sense of not guilt, perhaps guilt's the wrong word, but why is it that other people have been hit and not me?

RAY MARTIN:

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 it?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

What do you think at times like that? Do you think it's the luck of the draw?

PRIME MINISTER:

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, I didn't."

RAY MARTIN:

In your business you can't escape cameras.

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

RAY MARTIN:

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?

PRIME MINISTER:

That was in the service where we were asked to do the sign of peace.

RAY MARTIN:

OK.

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

How about prayer?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah.

RAY MARTIN:

People around the world have prayed. Have you prayed outside of church?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

Would the prayer be for advice, apart from peace?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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 world.

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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?

PRIME MINISTER:

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."

RAY MARTIN:

We fought alongside the Americans in the Gulf War and Vietnam and Korea...

PRIME MINISTER:

Every war in the 20th century.

RAY MARTIN:

..without invoking the ANZUS Treaty. I don't understand why you felt the need...

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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 it?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

As Aussies, we're so used to freedom...

PRIME MINISTER:

We are.

RAY MARTIN:

Not used to controlling airports...

PRIME MINISTER:

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...

RAY MARTIN:

..with IDs and photographs and Australians moving to other places. Are we close to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have evidence that some of them have a criminal background.

RAY MARTIN:

But not terrorism?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

Kim Beazley said today that the Government sat on its hands and watched Ansett collapse. Is that true?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

The angry Ansett workers the last couple of days, you've heard them...

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

RAY MARTIN:

..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?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

They lied?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

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?

PRIME MINISTER:

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...

RAY MARTIN:

In buying Ansett?

PRIME MINISTER:

..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.

RAY MARTIN:

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 decisions?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

No second thoughts in any of those?

PRIME MINISTER:

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.

RAY MARTIN:

PM, we wish you well in the hours ahead. It's obviously critical.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

END


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©2001 Commonwealth of Australia.