Press Availability with Australian Prime Minister John Howard
The Oval Office
The White House
June 13, 2002
2:41 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: We're going to have an opening statement, then the Prime Minister
will. I will call upon an American reporter; the Prime Minister will call upon
an Australian reporter; I will then call on an American reporter; the Prime
Minister will finish by calling on an Australian reporter.
Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: 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
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 honor to
call you friend.
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: 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 honor 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. (Laughter.)
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
THE PRESIDENT: Stretch.
QUESTION: 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?
THE PRESIDENT: 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
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
QUESTION: 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 time line on what you would require from Australia?
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Well, we discussed it. I think what's been said by the
administration earlier on this was repeated. Clearly, Iraq's behavior 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
THE PRESIDENT: 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.
QUESTION: 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 organization under Bush 41 said today that
the new rules are disgraceful, sir. And I'm wondering what your opinion is.
THE PRESIDENT: 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.
QUESTION: 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
THE PRESIDENT: 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,
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: So do I. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: -- so we can have fruitful discussions with our friend. But first
things first. And as you know, a 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
-- more than willing to ask my man, Zoellick, to talk to the Australians, but
only until and after we get TPA.