The Prime Minister, John Howard, has met with President George W. Bush during his visit to Washington DC.
The two leaders once again asserted the strength of the mutual friendship between the United States and Australia.
- Listen to portions of the media conference (2m)
Transcript of White House photo opportunity following a meeting between Prime Minister John Howard and President Bush.
Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.
The United States has got a great friend in Australia, and I’ve got a personal friend in the Prime Minister. And I want to thank you for your steadfast support when it comes to fighting terror.
I reminded the people here in the meeting that the last time the Prime Minister and I visited here in America was on September the 10th, and our world was changed forever the next day. I found it really interesting that one of our best friends was with the President of the United States the day before the attack. And our best friend will be with us at the end of this war, too. And that’s really comforting to know.
I look forward to working with you on a variety of issues. I look forward to coming to your country one day. The Prime Minister invited me to go down to Australia. I’d love to go. But I want to welcome you very much; an honour to call you friend.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. There is something rather poignant about us meeting again in this Oval Office, and remembering the last time was the 10th of September. I said to the Congress yesterday that America had no better friend anywhere in the world than Australia. I want to put on record the admiration of the Australian people for the tremendous leadership that you’ve displayed, Mr. President, over the past nine months.
Australia is a firm and faithful friend, and we are in there with you in the fight against terror. It still has a long way to go, and I think it’s very important that the people don’t imagine that the fight is anywhere near complete. And there will be a lot of commitment on our part, and we do respect and admire the contribution that you’re making as the leader of the world’s response.
And personally, can I thank you very warmly for your welcome, and that of your administration. It was a real honour to address the other part of the United States government yesterday, and to talk to some of the congressmen, and to understand the processes of your form of democracy. We each have our own challenges — you have yours, I have mine.
But it’s great to be here. And I said yesterday that Americans and Australians like each other, and they find it easy to relate to each other. And I’ve certainly found that, at a personal level, with you, Mr. President. And thank you very much.
Mr. President, Secretary of State Powell has been talking to Arab and Middle Eastern media in recent days about you very soon having a time line for Palestinian statehood. And he’s also raised the possibility of a provisional or temporary Palestinian state to get the ball moving. Do those statements reflect your views? And how soon could we anticipate something from this?
I’m — listen, I’m listening to a lot of opinion. I met today with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. The Prime Minister and I talked about the subject. And I think it’s probably wise for people not to spend a lot of time speculating.
I’m going to lay out my vision at some point in time. It’s going to be a vision that will help lead toward two states living side by side. People are going to have to be — in order to achieve that vision, people are going to have to take responsibility. Israelis are going to have to be responsible, Palestinians are going to have to be responsible, the Arab world is going to have to assume responsibility to achieve this vision.
And there’s one thing for certain that I strongly believe, and that is that we must build the institutions necessary for the evolution of a Palestinian state which can live peacefully in the region, and provide hope for the suffering Palestinian people.
Mr. Prime Minister, Vice President Dick Cheney has said in recent days that the problem of Iraq requires a direct response from both the United States and its allies. I just wonder whether you discussed that issue, whether Mr. President, there was any timeline on what you would require from Australia?
Well, we discussed it. I think what’s been said by the administration earlier on this was repeated. Clearly, Iraq’s behaviour has been — in relation to the weapons of mass destruction has been offensive to many countries, including the United States and Australia. But the question of any action by the United States is a matter for the United States. And I’ve indicated before in Australia, and I repeat now that if there are any approaches made to Australia, we’d consider them in the circumstances, at the time, if they occur.
Yes, I told the Prime Minister there are no war plans on my desk. I haven’t changed my opinion about Saddam Hussein, however. He is — this is a person who gassed his own people, and possesses weapons of mass destruction. And so as I told the American people, and I told John, we’ll use all tools at our disposal to deal with him. And, of course, before there is any action — military action, I would closely consult with our close friend. There are no plans on my desk right now.
Mr. President, on the new source review changes that were announced by the EPA today, environmental groups say that this is a giveaway to industry that will actually increase pollution at these dirtiest power plants. One former member of the EPA who joined that organisation under Bush 41 said today that the new rules are disgraceful, sir. And I’m wondering what your opinion is.
They’re absolutely wrong. The new source review reforms, coupled with the Clear Skies legislation, will reduce pollution by approximately 70 percent. This administration is committed to clean air and we’re going to work vigorously to achieve clean air.
Mr. President, if Congress gives you trade approval, will a trade deal be a priority with Australia? And will Australian farmers get better access to American markets?
I talked to John about the importance of trade. The qualifier was, if Congress were to give me trade promotion authority. I appreciate you qualifying it that way. I urge Congress to give me trade promotion authority, so we can have fruitful discussions with our friend. But first things first. And as you know, the bill passed the House, and one passed the Senate. And now it’s time for them to get together and get the bill to me. And I would be more than willing to ask my man, Zoellick, to talk to the Australians, but only until and after we get TPA.
Listen, thank you all for coming.