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Transcript 15757

Interview on ABC Radio 'AM' Program, with Peta Donald

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: 15757

HOST: The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, spoke this morning to Peta Donald in Canberra.

PM: The advice the Government has received this morning is the situation on the streets in Dili remains calm. That the Government of East Timor is in firm control. And also, our own defence assets begin arriving today.

DONALD:What will they be doing when they get there? Do you think it is essential that they get out and round up supporters of the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado?

PM: My job is to respond to the request from our friend and partner, the Prime Minister of East Timor.

I spoke with Xanana Gusmao a couple of times yesterday on the phone just after the attempted assassination both on himself, and separately, on Jose Ramos-Horta.

His request was for these additional assets, therefore, my decision has been, together with the National Security Committee of Cabinet, to deploy them.

An extra company from the ready reaction force in Townsville, the extra Australian Federal Police and HMAS Perth will be berthing off Dili Harbour within a couple of hours.

The actual deployment and use of those forces once they're on the ground, that's a decision properly taken by our force commander on the ground, in close consultation with his East Timorese counterparts.

DONALD: Do you know if any of Alfredo Reinado's supporters have been rounded up overnight?

PM:On the operational details of that, I don't want to comment. I think it's important that our forces on the ground are given maximum latitude to do what is necessary at the direction of the democratically elected Government of East Timor.

But, operations I'm sure will continue to that direction. Our challenge is to work in partnership with our East Timorese friends to ensure that (inaudible) in that country.

But we know from past history that this is often a day to day affair, we're going to have to be vigilant, hence why it is important to have extra assets on the ground quickly.

DONALD:Do you think in hindsight that more should have been done to capture Alfredo Reinado before he was killed in that gun fire? Especially given that there were renewed threats against East Timor's leaders only last week. Do you think that more should have been done to capture him?

PM: What I intend to do first is to establish all the facts about what happened surrounding the actual assassination attempt yesterday morning. There is still a lot of uncertainty about what actually transpired. I want to establish all those facts before rushing to judgment. That'll take some time.

But I don't think it's aided by engaging now in a commentary of what could have been, should have been, I want to establish the facts first and then we'll reach rapid judgments once that's established about how things can be done more effectively on the ground.

DONALD: It is embarrassing though for the Australian forces in Timor and the UN that Reinado was able to get to the leaders in this way?

PM: As I'm advised, the close personal protection for the East Timorese leadership, both the Prime Minister and the President, has a long time ago gone from the Australian ADF to others in East Timor. That is, the Australian Defence Force is not responsible for his close personal protection that has been allocated by the East Timorese Government to others.

I want to establish all the facts surrounding that and also the adequacy of protection of these important leaders into the future as well.

DONALD: On the issue of the apology to the stolen generations, there are a lot of very frustrated and angry members of the Coalition who say they haven't seen the wording and they won't see the wording until this evening. And also, they're frustrated that they won't have an opportunity to speak in the parliament.

PM: Well, the question of the apology to Aboriginal people, our primary concern is to get that right with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people themselves. I mean, they are those to whom we are apologising. They are the most important people here, not politicians to be quite honest.

DONALD: But if you wanted their support and for this to be a bipartisan apology, wouldn't it have been better to treat them with more respect?

PM: I've sat down to breakfast with the Leader of the Opposition last week and handed him a piece of paper about the core points for inclusion in this apology. That is virtually unprecedented in terms of how Governments historically treat Oppositions in this country.

And the reason I've done that is your very point. We're dealing with a matter here which goes to how we as a nation heal and how it is best done if we as a parliament can act in unanimity on this question.

But the core part of making sure this apology is effective is to make sure it is done right and proper with the Aboriginal people. They are the most important people in this equation today, not politicians, be it Government or Opposition.

[ends]

Transcript 15757