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Transcript 15756

Transcript of Interview Channel 9 Today Show with Karl Stefanovic Canberra

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/02/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 15756

KARL:Joining me from Canberra is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Prime Minister, good morning to you. First of all, how is Jose Ramos Horta this morning?

PM:Best of my advice this morning, he remains in a very serious and stable condition. The Australian Government, as you know, made available both access to medical facilities within our control in Dili and then subsequently flew Jose to Darwin and he has received the best possible attention over night.

But he remains in a very serious, but stable condition.

KARL: Any word on the streets of Dili, what the situation is like there?

PM: This morning's report is that the situation on the streets is calm. But my knowledge of East Timor over the years is that we really have to watch how events unfold. It can be quite volatile. And remember Karl, this is an extraordinary assault on East Timor's democracy.

This attempted assassination of, effectively, the entire political leadership of our neighbouring new democracy and therefore we have got to watch very carefully how events unfold. That's why the Government has acted quickly to respond to requests from President Gusmao for assistance yesterday.

KARL:Ok so as we understand it at this point, you are sending in an extra 120 troops who will arrive later today. Is that enough troops and is our SAS already there on the ground?

PM: Karl I won't go into the actual operation content of the deployment, that is a matter for the Chief of Defence Force staff and he makes operational decisions. But when I spoke to the East Timorese President yesterday, several times on the telephone, the request came for some additional troops. We responded to that by deploying our ready reaction capability from Lavarack Barracks in Townsville and they will be deployed today as you have just said.

On top of that, on the policing front, I spoke with commissioner Mick Keelty after a further request from the East Timorese, and we will have 50, as many as 70 additional AFP personnel on the ground as well.

Also, HMAS Perth will be mooring off Dili harbour within a matter of a couple of hours and we believe that it is necessary to support the additional defence effort on the ground.

KARL:Prime Minister has the time come to act against the 600 rebels because I know negotiation and conciliation just doesn't seem to have worked up until this point and now potentially those rebels have a martyr don't they?

PM: Well the precise nature of the events of yesterday, we have yet to fully establish and there are still conflicting accounts. Remember, this is the Government of East Timor we are dealing with and the country of East Timor who have requested us to provide assets. We will deploy those assets within East Timor based on the direction of the democratically elected government.

And I am sure that the Australian Defence Force remains ready, willing and able to assist in any operation. On the actual size of the rogue or rebel force that you referred to before, that is a matter for debate.

My advice is that this force or this group, remains in operation but on the precise size of it, it may not be as large as you have just suggested,

KARL:But particularly dangerous still? And potentially more so?

PM: Well lets see what the analysis is that comes out of East Timor today. I don't want to invent any analysis. Let's just be very careful and cautious about it. Proper policy lies Karl, in making sure you have got all the defence assets you need on the ground to act against a range of contingencies and that's what we have done in direct response to the East Timorese Prime Minister's request yesterday.

KARL: Alright given that Australia has closely followed Reinado, he has been known to us for some time. We have spoken to him many times during the last couple of years and given the increased threat he posed during the course of the past couple of weeks, do you think that it is embarrassing to the UN that they allowed this to happen?

PM: I think we really do need to establish the facts, the tragic facts of yesterday morning. Both in relation to the attack on Jose Ramos Horta at his residence. I mean, I have stayed with Jose as that residence in the past myself, I know where it is and I would be very interested to find out how the security, close personal protection for him actually worked that day. But also the attack some time later, but not very much later, on the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

These are murky facts still about what surrounded those events. Let's get it absolutely clear cut before we reach conclusions and rush to judgements.

KARL:Alright, but you don't think at this point that we should take over from the UN again?

PM:Well we have a substantial force there with this additional 120 or so troops, that will bring our total force deployment to about 1000 in East Timor. Remember Karl we have always said as Government, as a new Australian Government, that we are going to need to have defence capabilities available within Australia for quick deployment for problems in our own region, our own neighbourhood, our own backyard.

Putting those assets on the ground is important, but we want to do so in close cooperation with the UN, because the UN is doing other things in East Timor which are important for that country's long term development.

KARL:Ok. Either way it does, as you know only too well, remain an uneasy peace. Our time there is open ended isn't it?

PM:Well we keep that under continuing review but I was, when I was in opposition, I was critical of the decision by our predecessors to pull our troops out too early and that, together with other factors I think did not help when it came to the outbreak of violence in East Timor a year or more ago.

I think we have got to be very cautious about when you move substantial troops out of a country to make sure that everything is right in terms of the local police and armed forces controlled by the government of East Timor and their ability to do the job. And that is part of our mission in East Timor today, to bring that country to self reliance for it's security long term.

KARL: Prime Minister, when will you be going to East Timor?

PM: The Prime Minister of East Timor Xanana Gusmao requested that I visit and visit soon so I am planning on doing it, Karl, later in the week.

Part of the reason for doing it later in the week is to form my own judgement about what additional assets are necessary on the ground, both civilian and or military. Whether these assets we have deployed are necessary longer term or shorter term. And you only get a sense of that, frankly once you have met with your defence chiefs on the ground and spent some time talking with your East Timorese counterparts.

I also want to send a very clear message in going, Karl, that we in Australia, stand resolutely with the democratically elected government of East Timor against this rogue attack - this attempt to decapitate effectively - the democratically elected leadership of our near neighbour.

KARL: Prime Minister, we do appreciate your time today, thank you very much. We know you have a busy day. You have your first day of Parliament. Is it nice to be sitting on the right side of the speaker, perhaps?

PM: I don't know Karl, it hasn't happened yet. I have been head down, tail up, working on other things, including the matters that we have been just talking about. So, today will look after itself.

KARL:Alright, we wish you well and thank you very much for your time today.

PM: Thanks Karl.

[ends]

Transcript 15756