Howard In Davos For WEF; Comments on Habib, Beazley

The Prime Minister, John Howard, is in Davos, Switzerland, for the latest meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Speaking to journalists, Howard criticised European wheat subsidies, but was otherwise non-committal on Mamdouh Habib and the ALP leadership.

According to its website, the World Economic Forum is “an independent international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation”. Its members “represent the world’s 1,000 leading companies, along with 200 smaller businesses, many from the developing world, that play a potent role in their industry or region”.

The forum aims for “a world-class corporate governance system where values are as important a basis as rules”. It argues for “entrepreneurship in the global public interest”, and believes that “economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible.”

This is the transcript of the doorstop interview given by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at the Belvedere Hotel in Davos, Switzerland.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, this is your first trip to the World Economic Forum, why have you come this year?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s not my first trip to the World Economic Forum, I went to the one in New York, it’s the first one I’ve come to in Davos. I think this is an appropriate time given beginning of a new term, there are a lot of major economic issues to be discussed, I’ll take the opportunity for example of expressing my concern about the decision of the European Union to resume subsidies for the export of wheat, that’s a matter of very great concern to Australia, it seems to run completely counter to all the rhetoric we’ve had about more open trade, if this is their idea about more open trade well Australia is deeply disappointed. There’s a lot of rhetoric at the moment about helping under-developed countries, nothing would help under-developed countries more than the removal of trade subsidies and trade barriers and if the nations of Europe and North America and others that have highly protected agricultural policies wanted to really help many of the developing countries then they could do more to help them in changing their trade policies than they could through official development assistance.

JOURNALIST:

So will you be seeking some bilateral discussions with European Union officials?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I will talk to anybody I can get hold of on all manner of subjects, I’m having a lot of bilateral discussions and I’m sure the opportunity of discussing that matter will come up.

JOURNALIST:

Mamdouh Habib arrived back in Australia today, will the Government be keeping a close eye on him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look Mr Ruddock is dealing with that, let him speak for the Government on that issue.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think in general though given that the possibility of charges being pressed has now receded, if it fair enough to say that the man’s innocent?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to express a view on that, Mr Ruddock is handling it back in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

What do you think of the election of Kim Beazley as Opposition Leader?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it was inevitable wasn’t it? Let me congratulate Mr Beazley, like all other leaders of the opposition I won’t be taking anything for granted in dealing with the Labor Party under his leadership. His responsibility now, as mine has been in the almost 10 years that I’ve been leader of the Liberal Party, is to be accountable to the Australian people. The Australian people will want to know from him, as they do from me, what he stands for and what he intends to do. You are accountable in public life for what you believe in and what you do, not what you say.

JOURNALIST:

Ten years ago you took over the Liberal Coalition in a similar position, have you got any advice for Mr Beazley?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’m not giving Mr Beazley any advice. That’s a matter for him. Look, he’s been made leader, I don’t treat anybody lightly, I’ve told my party not to get complacent, we have to work very hard to retain the confidence of the Australian people, you can never take anything for granted in politics and I can assure the Australian people that I do not take them for granted, I work hard in their interests and that’s the message I send to all of my colleagues.

Thank you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email