Australian Prime Minister John Howard accepted an interview by Wang Chen, editor-in-chief of the People's Daily, during his meeting with the visiting PD delegation in Canberra on February 20, 2002. John Howard answered questions on some hot issues such as Sino-Australian relations, economic globalization and people-smuggling when he accepted the exclusive interview by the PD.
Question (Q): Denouncing Iran, Iraq and the DPRK as an "axis of evil", US President Bush alarmed its European allies, but the Australian government expressed its understanding and support. Does this mean that Australia will join the US if it extends the military strikes against terrorism beyond Afghanistan? The "9.11 event" has introduced new uncertainties in the Asia-Pacific region. What specific policies will your government make to safeguard the security, peace and stability of the region?
Answer (A): Australia has not been asked to join any extended military strikes. We will consider it if asked. Australia will undertake many measures to improve Australia's counter-terrorist capability and increase liaison with the region on this issue of common concern.
Q: In your statement made at the World Economic Forum you rightly pointed out the need to find greater and more effective responses to poverty. Do you think rich countries should increase their aid to, and remit the debt of poor African countries?
A: Australia will provide US$1.759 billion in aid this financial year. Australia supports 100 percent debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. Nicaragua and Ethiopia has no longer made repayments on debts to Australia. International help is most effective if developing countries develop sound policies. We strongly believe that more open trading system is of more help than direct aid.
Q: The performance of the Australian economy has been outstanding during your two terms in office. In the past five and a half years, Australia survived the impact of the Asian Crisis and maintained the GDP growth of four percent, which is much higher than many western countries. What are your precious experiences and knack of success in the economic management?
A: Australia's strong economic performance results from the reforms in tax, financial market, workplace relations, fiscal policy and debt reduction and monetary policy.
Q: This year witnessed a deteriorated global economy, which has affected the Asia-Pacific region seriously. As an important member and an initiating country for APEC, how does Australia view this unfavorable economic trend? What responsibilities and obligations could Australia take to save the situation?
A: We are optimistic about the future of global economy. However, optimism alone is not enough. In our view, sustained economy reform is the only way to secure long-term growth and it is vital for the countries, especially the developing countries, to make progress in the WTO round. Australia supports improved standards of economic governance through defferent ways, bilaterally, regionally (such as APEC) and through IMF/World Bank.
Q: Your Excellency has won a new term of government after the election last year. In the past two terms, your government implemented a positive China policy. 2002 is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and China. What are your views on Sino-Australian cooperation in the past three decades? How do you comment on the relationship between Australia and China during your terms as Prime Minister? In the new century, in what aspects will your new government strengthen Sino-Australia relations?
A: Sino-Australian relations has become matured and broadened since the two countries established diplomatic relations. China is our third largest trading partner. The two-way trade volume in 2000-2001 reached US$18 billion. During the past three decades, regular cultural, scientific, legal, educational and defense exchanges have been unfolded between the two countries. This government has introduced regular defense and human rights dialogues with China and upgraded and expanded the Joint Ministerial Economic Commission. Both countries had witnessed strong program of high-level visits since 1997, including my own visit to China in March of that year and President Jiang Zemin's visit to Australia in 1999.
The year 2002 sees the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It is a chance to take stock of past achievements and focus on future efforts. China is naturally influential in the region. We are looking forward to continuing further cooperation with China. There is great scope for a further economic and trade cooperation, particularly in light of China's WTO accession. A contract to supply LNG to China would contribute significantly to our commercial relationship.
Also I would like to congratulate China on its successful bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Australia is keen to cooperate with China in this field.
Q: Today, politic multi-polarization, economic globalization and rapid scientific advancement have become three major trends in the world. Do you have any comments on the relationships between economic globalization and different cultures of the world?
A: Globalization has enabled considerable progress against poverty and global inequality. It is very important that benefits, which apply to all countries and cultures, are communicated effectively. We believe that ill-informed and poor policy choices will only lead to sustained poverty while open economies will grow faster and deliver welfare gains to their people.
Q: People-smuggling is a problem for many countries including Australia. Do you think the "Pacific Solution" is a sustainable long-term solution? What Expectations do you have of the regional conference on people-smuggling, which will be co-hosted by Australia and Indonesia?
A: People-smuggling is a serious regional problem. Australia highly values the cooperation with Indonesia in this field. We hope that the conference will strengthen regional commitment to the cooperation on people-smuggling issue. The measures Australia has taken in recent months have reduced the number of people who otherwise might have attempted to come to Australia illegally.
Q: If you could visit Beijing in the near future, what would you wish to achieve?
A: I hope that I can have an opportunity to visit China in the near future. I have no specific goals in mind at this stage but I will seek to expand cooperation with China.
(People's Daily March 4, 2002)