Transcript of interview with Howard Sattler, 6PR
THU 27 OCTOBER 2011
HOST: Hello Prime Minister, how are you?
PM: I’m very well, Howard.
HOST: Good. You’ve been to enough, probably, parties in recent days, have you? Or cocktail functions and whatever else?
PM: I’ve been at the Commonwealth Business Forum for the concluding session, but I’m very pleased to see that the clouds have parted and there’s a bit of sunshine in Perth for the State Reception for the Queen.
HOST: You know there’s usually sunshine in Perth?
PM: I know there’s usually brilliant sunshine in Perth, and so the past few days have been really unusual for your weather, but it looks like we’re moving to a sunnier period now.
HOST: We are, we need the rain, we always need the rain here.
PM: Yes, rain’s good too.
HOST: You know I’m a bit of a sceptic and I think you have all these get togethers of all these international leaders and nothing much will happen, nothing much of account will happen, but you might like to tell me otherwise. What is going to be, hopefully, the result of this meeting?
PM: Well, Howard I think you are a bit of a sceptic.
If I can just say already what’s been achieved, the Business Forum’s been in train for the past few days – 1,200 business leaders, around half from Australia and the rest from Commonwealth countries, and indeed from some countries beyond the Commonwealth, like China. And having had the opportunity to speak at the opening and the dinner and then attend the concluding session, I can tell you that new links have been formed between businesses that are going to result in profits and deals in the future, and new ways of countries working together has also come out of the Business Forum. For example, we are going to create a Trade and Investment Council with Nigeria, which is a growing powerhouse in Africa.
So, this is very important for our future prosperity, to have these kind of business-to-business links and country-to-country links that facilitate trade and investment, because put most simply that equals jobs for Australians.
HOST: Alright, Andrew Forrest of Fortescue, of course, fame, said we should we should bring China into the Commonwealth. Is that possible?
PM: No, it’s not, but it is possible to collaborate between the Commonwealth and China and the Business Forum has been doing precisely that.
Then, of course, we’ve seen the People’s Forum, too, working through important issues about aid and development, important issues for our society and for Commonwealth societies around the world.
We’ve seen young people providing us with inspiration in the Youth Forum. We’ve seen all of the focus on Perth from nations around the world, your huge Perth sign and outlooks in Perth featuring on news coverage around the world-
HOST: -So you think there’ll be a residual effect on that, there’ll be a residual effect, flow-on of that?
PM: Look I think this is fantastic for Perth and fantastic for Western Australia. I mean you’ve got 1,000 media representatives here, all beaming stories back to their home countries about what Perth is like, what happens here, what the economy is like here - the fact it’s a great resources state, a great place to do business and full of friendly people, as well as a beautiful place for tourists who are considering a holiday down under. so I think that is fabulous for Perth and Western Australia.
HOST: You delivered a pretty terse message to the European people the other day about they better get their financial and economical and corporate act in gear, and you’d be pretty happy about the result of what’s happened with Greece and all the money that banks are going to forego to try and get them back on the rails again?
PM: Howard, I’m happy to talk about that, but if I can just say, you asked me about the benefits of the Commonwealth, I just wanted to say those benefits are already being realised and that’s before we even have the formal opening of the Leaders’ Meeting, which will happen tomorrow.
On European leaders, Howard, they met late into the night in Europe. They have come out of that meeting and announced the framework for the plan we believe we need to see. We need a comprehensive plan that delivers a lasting solution to the excessive debts problems we see in Greece, to the need to recapitalise European banks and to make sure that they’ve got a war chest large enough to stop any fears that sovereign debt issues will start a contagion that spreads across Europe and through its banking system.
HOST: Those financial institutions over there, and even in the UK, need a boot up the backside don’t they? They need the government to start to come down heavy on them, because it seemed to me, even (inaudible) the global financial crisis was coming to and end, hopefully it is, that they were still up there looking after their senior executives with amazing pays and salary rises and all that sort. They didn’t seem to have learnt any lessons at all.
PM: Well Howard, you’ve heard me use some very stern words about the situation in Europe, and so has the Treasurer. We need to recognise that the European situation is one where the debts of countries, particularly Greece, is a huge concern and when you’ve got that kind of debt problem then you obviously worry about what it means for the banking system as well.
So, our response to the steps that European leaders have taken overnight is that we welcome those steps, we think they are important, we think what that means is that they’ve got a framework there. Now they’ve got to get on and deliver the concrete plan under that framework.
HOST: Alright, human rights is an issue which has been brought up by a number of people attending here. I had a talk with a lady from Uganda the other day, said she was going to try and meet with you and have your champion the rights of woman farmers, of all people, in Uganda. Did she get to see you?
PM: No, I haven’t met her Howard, so sorry I can’t say I have. But the Commonwealth does have a focus on democracy, human rights, the rule of law. If you like, they are the Commonwealth values that have bound the Commonwealth together and have been what it stood for for all of these years, and we are looking to revitalise the Commonwealth here in Perth and to make sure that those enduring values are pursued by the Commonwealth in a new way in the future. Obviously our world continues to change and the way that we work as a Commonwealth needs to change with it.
HOST: How are we going to hold countries like Sri Lanka to account when we’re going to have the forum there next time round?
PM: I’ve made it clear that we are concerned about allegations of human rights abuses, particularly in end stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. There is a process in Sri Lanka underway. It’s called the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission-
HOST: -Sounds good.
PM: Well, look, Howard I know you can be a sceptic about these things, but there have been other nations that have used reconciliation processes to move beyond huge and traumatic experiences in their past and I’d point, for example, to the work that was done in South Africa after the end of apartheid.
Now Sri Lanka has its Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission. The message we have sent loud and clear is that this needs to be a process that deals with the findings and work of the United Nations Secretary General Advisory Panel that has had a look at the question of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka in the end stages of the conflict there.
HOST: You’re still trying to resolve your Malaysian people swap deal and since Chris Bowen won’t ever talk to me these days– I wonder why that is, by the way. Do you know?
PM: I can’t help you with that Howard, no I don’t know.
HOST: You’re his boss, so you tell me. Are you going to stitch up a deal with Malaysia? Why won’t they sign this United Nations human rights contract, or whatever it is? That would remove all opposition, wouldn’t it? If they’d sign that the courts would have to approve it?
PM: Howard, we have an arrangement with Malaysia-
HOST: -They’re not a United Nations-
PM:-Well no, if you’d let me finish Howard.
We have an arrangement with Malaysia. It is an arrangement that if we are able to implement the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will involve themselves in the implementation of it. So, in terms of the views of the United Nations, the part of the United Nations that deals with refugee questions if prepared to work with us and Malaysia on the implementation of the arrangement that we have struck.
The fly in the ointment, if you like, the stumbling block, is that Tony Abbott has thought it was in his political interest to stop all of this happening.
HOST: But most people agree with him.
PM: Well Howard, this is a question of getting the best possible deterrence to stop people getting in boats and risking their lives-
HOST: -No-one wants that to happen, Prime Minister, but if you-
PM: -No-one does Howard, and if you listen to the people most expert in this area of policy and I’m talking about senior public servants in the federal public service - who were relied upon by the Howard Government at the most senior levels to give them advice, and who are being relied upon by my Government now - those experts in the public service, non-political, they’ve worked for all governments and been relied on by Prime Ministers in the past, like Prime Minister Howard, those experts say the best possible deterrence message we could send is through implementing this arrangement with Malaysia.
HOST: Well, when he was in office, John Howard had people going to Nauru and Papua New Guinea, so those same people must have been advising that was a good idea, because-
PM: -They were, yes, clearly they were advising John Howard on that course of action and they couldn’t be clearer in their advice now, Howard-
HOST: -Why don’t you choose-
PM: -If you let me finish my sentence I’ll explain precisely why.
The same people who have provided advice to governments in the past now say in relation to Nauru, that the people smugglers have worked it out that what happened with Nauru last time was that when people’s claims were processed there and then people were resettled, many of them in Australia, the people smugglers have seen that happen and they now recognise that Nauru is a weigh station to Australia, so it no longer has a deterrence effect and that is why those same experts that advised the Howard Government are saying the best way forward now is the arrangement with Malaysia.
HOST: Alright, I’ve got to leave you there. Time for me to say I appreciate you calling in, enjoy the rest of the stay you’re having here in the best city in Australia.
PM: Thank you very much, I am enjoying myself.