30 January 2002
TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER
THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP
ADDRESS AT AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE AND
AUSTRALIA/ISRAEL JEWISH AFFAIRS COUNCIL
I am, as your President has said, somebody who is an unapologetic and long-standing friend of Israel and of the Jewish community particularly in Australia.
Its a friendship that predates my entry into politics. My first visit to Israel occurred in 1964 and I have visited in a political capacity on two occasions since. Unapologetic and unstinting friends win themselves the right from time to time to express views their friends may not necessarily agree with. But in the years that I have been in public life, and in the time that I have been Prime Minister of this country, Australia has continued, and will continue, to express a sympathetic understanding of the horrific pressures faced by the State of Israel in what remains still the most difficult and fraught region of the world.
All of us continue to be appalled by the violence occurring in the Middle East, all men of good will must want that violence to end. All of the parties must continue to work ultimately towards a just settlement and a peace which has as its first ingredient the right of Israel to exist behind secure defensible boundaries, but also includes the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a homeland.
The last time I visited Israel was a tide of hope. I had just come from visiting Gallipoli and the old battlefields of World War I where so many Australians died defending France and defending the cause of freedom in World War I, and I had been encouraged by the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to visit Yasser Arafat, to go to Ramallah, to talk to the Palestinian Council. And can I say when I first disclosed on Melbourne radio that I was to visit Yasser Arafat and I was questioned by the interviewer as to why I should be doing it, and I explained that it was an important contribution that a friendly government towards Israel, but also a government that understood the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to a homeland that was the thing to be done. And I am very happy to say that within minutes of my saying that on radio, that two people who rang in to defend my decision I think included Colin Rubenstein and Mark Leibler.
And that my friends is what two years, less than two years ago. And it was a time of hope, and how distressing, how sad how heart-wrenching it is that all of that has disappeared over the last twenty months. And I have to say against the background of all the commitment of the Australian Government towards supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people - and they do have legitimate aspirations, they do have a right to aspire to a homeland until stronger and more effective efforts are taken by the Palestinian Council, by Yasser Arafat and others, we can only continue to condemn them for what they have done and for what they have failed to do in relation to the restraint, necessary restraint being imposed on the random acts of terror which are so frequently visited upon the people of Israel.
Ladies and Gentlemen, can I say just two other things.
I take this opportunity in the great metropolis of New York, whose lifeblood, whose existence, whose special character has been so heavily shaped and influenced by the contribution of Jewish Americans. And I acknowledge the enormous contribution in this great city of the Jewish community to the life and the being and the existence of Australia. The contribution of Australian Jews to our community has been immense. It has been rich, it has been in every area and it has been a force for good, a force for progress, and a force for understanding. And I count it as one of the privileges of my public life to have been associated with so many of those people who have made that contribution.
The other thing I wish to say of course is that nobody now can visit this city without thinking of September 11. I was due to come here on the12th of September. I saw President Bush on the 10th and I visited the Pentagon Building on the afternoon of the 10th. And of course in the light of what occurred, I was not able to come to New York. I want to say how strongly Australia supports the actions being taken by the United States Government and by the American people in the name of the world to fight terrorism.
Some people have said to me why is Australia so heavily involved, because proportionately our military commitment is, given the size of our own forces, is as big if not bigger than that of any country, safe and except of course the United States. Were involved because of what happened then and what happened in this city was as much an assault on the things that we believe as the things are believed in by the people of the United States. And we are constantly told that we live in a globalised world, we do. The world has shrunk; were all so much more together. And all of that is right. And in those circumstances, an assault upon liberty and the right to go about your daily life in one part of the world is as much an assault in other parts of the world on people who hold those same values.
There are Australians who died in the World Trade Centre. There were many Australians left bereaved and affected by those events. And in those circumstances we see it as very much an attack on our way of life. Were also involved because of our very long association with the people of the United States. President Bush and I on the 10th of September last year did mark the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty, and in fact Australia has fought beside the United States in every major conflict since World War I when their forces first went into battle together at the Battle of Hamel. I might say under the command of an Australian General, one of Australias most distinguished Jewish sons, General Sir John Monash.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a very long association between our two nations that I also mark by my presence today. I admire the contribution of the American people. I admire their spirit. I admire the resilience of the people of New York, and I made a quiet resolve after it was necessary to cancel my visit last time, that I would reprise it at a time in the not too distant future. And I am glad that that has happened, and I particularly thank the good offices of my friend, Colin Rubenstein and others that have made it possible.
My friends, its a great pleasure to be here today, and I hope in a small way, it makes a contribution to further strengthening the links between our three great nations, Australia, the United States, and the State of Israel.
Good afternoon, Im David Harrelson. I would like to thank you first of all Prime Minister Howard. I think all of you in this room now understand exactly why we chose to honour this great statesman and leader. His words spoke beautifully. He has agreed to answer questions. We would like to take questions not from the media, however, but from the members and guests of the American Jewish Committee. And so if only those people would raise their hands I would be happy to call on you in the order in which I see you.
Sam Lipski: I am from Australia, and Im from the Brides side!. Prime Minister, if I can ask you a topical media question about President Bushs State of the Union address last night which I think has had a pretty resounding effect throughout the world, because apart from reiterating commitment to the campaign against terror, he opened up a second area very much looking ahead as we said into the next decade in which the United States is committing itself to oppose those nations which not only support in the part of terrorists but also which may threaten the peace of the world because of the unconventional weaponry that they have or could have at their disposal. I wonder if from your perspective, what is your reaction to this second front if I can put it that way, and where do you see the Australian government having a role to play in that (inaudible)
Well I understand why the President would have said what he did. The point he makes, and it is a very logical and forceful point, is that international terrorism has no particular boundaries and that the defeat of terrorism in terms of the al Qaeda in Afghanistan is not of itself a guarantee that you wont have other terrorist attacks supported by and emanating from other parts of the world. I think it signals a determination to go the distance in fighting terrorism. That is both understandable and something that should be supported. The Australian governments position was that we gave uncompromising support to the initial American response. We have involved our forces in the campaign in Afghanistan. If we received a request to be involved with the Americans elsewhere that is something that we would look at according to the circumstances of the request but against the background of us wanting to oppose, effectively oppose terrorism, because nobody could imagine that it wont come to their part of the world and Australians would be foolish indeed to imagine that in some way because of our geographic remoteness from Europe and North America that we are immune.
Now I dont say any of those things belligerently, it is just a plain statement of the new reality in which we live. I mean, we all live in hope that the processes of internal political activity in certain countries will lead to a change and the President last night was very keen to stress, and I am very keen to stress now that the argument of the United States is not with Islam, is not with Islamic people. Islamic people died in the World Trade Centre, many hundreds of them did, and its very wrong of the critics of the United States and the critics of some of the positions the Australian government has taken to portray or typify it as some kind of fight by us against Islam. It is not. I separate out Islam as a faith from the strictures that I deliver of terrorism and we have taken a lot of steps in Australia as you will know, as President Bush has done here in this country, to reassure our citizens of an Islamic background that our criticism is in no way directed at them. And its a time in the worlds history where we should reaffirm the common values of the worlds great religions rather than allowing these difficulties to separate.
I understood fully why the President said what he did. It was a sober reminder that terrorism doesnt have any boundaries and we went into the commitment in Afghanistan with our eyes open, and obviously if we were asked to be further involved we would look at that as a separate issue, but against the background of our broad support and very strong support for the American response to terrorism.
Thank you. Ron Wiener please.
Ron Weiner: Thank you. Ron Weiner from New York. First of all, I would like to thank you. I was in Sydney on September 11 while you were in Washington and I would like to get the same plane out that you were able to get back. We do have an enormous amount of emotional and support from the Australian people while you were there. I was really quite (inaudible)
My question is somewhat along the same lines as Southeast Asia. It appears to be increasing political and unstable . the countries. At the same time there are large terrorist activities . particularly in Malaysia, the Philippines and elsewhere. I was wondering what the Australians have . (inaudible) and were you see this evolving.
Its fair to say that the region immediately to our north and our region generally, there are many pockets of instability, but there are also many areas that are quite stable, that it would be unwise of me to generalise and to say that the whole region is unstable. Certainly in the Pacific area there has been a great deal of instability. In the countries you mention, I think there is an appreciation, a very strong appreciation, that the leadership of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia of the need for all of them, and for all of us to be vigilant about terrorism.
One of the great advantages to me of the APEC meeting that was held in Shanghai last October was the opportunity it gave such a diverse group of countries and that meeting was attended by, as well as your President, and the President of Russia, it was attended by and hosted by the President of China and in fact the most significant international gathering in China since the communist take over in 1949, it was also attended by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and of Indonesia, and the President of the Philippines. I think there is a lively concern in all of those countries about the potential for terrorist activities. I think the discovery by the Singaporean authorities of a plot in relation to the American Embassy and the British and Australian High Commissions was a reminder of the potential spread and also reinforces Sam Lipskis, the basis of Sam Lipskis question. I dont think any country in that region, and I include Australia in it, can be in any way complacent.
But equally, we must understand and respect the commitment of the governments a lot of those countries to fighting terrorism, and the United States is cooperating very closely with the Philippines in relation to Special Forces and the like. I will be seeing President Megawati on my way home to Australia after having left New York, and no doubt that will be one of a number of issues that we will need to discuss.
I think, going back to my point about the conference in Shanghai, it was a great bringing together of world leaders directly affected and one of the by-products of this awful tragedy is it has brought the President of Russia and the President of your country closer together. I think thats a very good thing, because in the long run the relations between American, the only real superpower in the world now, and Russia and of course China. That relationship is very important and to see the President of China and the President of Russia and the President of the United States, not agreeing on everything and certainly not agreeing on all the responses to terrorism, but certainly agreeing that it constituted a common threat and the experiences of the President of Russia because of the Chechyen conflict and the connection of some extremes of Islam because of that conflict was I think a valuable opportunity and so out of horror and disaster as always there can be some positive developments.
We will take one more question. The Prime Minister will be going to Ground Zero and we want to be mindful of his schedule - Ruth Millar.
Ruth Millar: inaudible
Well Im very happy to give as much publicity as I can to my countrys economic philosphy. Look, we economically at present are travelling fairly well. Weve maintained a very strong rate of growth, our productivity levels have been growing very strongly, and next year, this year Im sorry, the London Economist has predicted that our economy might grow faster than any in the industrialised world. I hope The Economist is right.
Globalisation, we are very strong supporters of globalisation. The problem with globalisation is that its benefits are not adequately advocated and explained. Its just too easy for the S11s and these other outfits around the world to sort of paint it as the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I mean I always when Im asked a question about this, talk about South Korean wigs, and its not of the political variety, but the variety that people have on their heads, that in 1958 the South Koreas major export was wigs. Now as a result of pursing an open approach to economic policy, relatively open approach, the South Korean has just grown magnificently. I mean, despite all the devastation suffered in the Korean War, it a very important country to Australia, its vies with the United States for being our second or third best customer after Japan, and its a perfect illustration to me of just how if you get a more open trading system, a more open world economy, you get benefits. And if the developed countries were overnight, which they wont, but if they were to remove all of their trade embargoes, trade restrictions, on the developing countries of the world, that would be the equivalent of something like is it ten or thirteen times the current value of overseas development assistance given by the richer countries in the world. I mean, I think that figures right, I say it with some hesitation because, but its a generous multiple, let me put it that way. That will make the point.
Now I think the biggest failing we have with globalisation is that we dont tell the story. I dont think any government in the world, any side of politics that believes in it successfully communicates it. I dont think America does, I dont think Australia does, I dont think the nations of Europe that believe in it very strongly do it either. I dont think the business community does it well enough. I mean, some of them have started to do it and I think theyve got to do it a lot more. Because its so easy to sell the simplistic story, especially to the news media that its all the rapacious behaviour of the capitalist nations which are feeding of the underprivileged. The reality is that globalisation has done more to empower the poorer nations of the world relatively speaking than anything else and I think its a story that is largely left untold.