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Transcript 16920

Prime Minister Transcript of doorstop interview Singapore 15 November 2009

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: 15/11/2009

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16920

PM: This morning I've just come from a meeting with international leaders focussed on the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December. The President of Mexico and myself some time ago were asked by the Prime Minister of Denmark to become friends of the chair, that is, to assist in delivering the best possible outcome at Copenhagen. Consistent with that, President Calderon and I invited Prime Minister Rasmussen here to Singapore to meet with APEC leaders. Prime Minister Rasmussen flew overnight from Copenhagen and arrived at 6 o'clock this morning and we've just had breakfast with him and other leaders explicitly on the Copenhagen agenda.

This was a positive meeting. The Prime Minister of Denmark was able to outline his processes as president of the conference of parties to try and bring about a robust agreement at Copenhagen. Leaders, in their interventions around the table, were clear in their view that the current officials-led process is running into all sorts of difficulties, and therefore it is time for leaders, politically, to step in. That was the purpose of our gathering this morning.

The tone and content of the meeting was strongly positive - strongly positive about the sort of agreement we could achieve at Copenhagen, and positive also about the fact that we needed to provide maximum support for the Danish Prime Minister's leaders-led process to achieve that outcome at Copenhagen.

The other positive outcome from the meeting this morning was the growing number of states whose leaders have indicated that they will be attending the Copenhagen conference themselves. We've had statements to that effect today from Prime Minister Hatoyama of Japan, from President Yudhoyono of Indonesia. Also, I understand the President of Korea, President Lee Myung-bak, the President of Chile, and others, of course, as you know, I've already indicated that I'll be attending as well.

The other point I'd like to emphasise is this - as Copenhagen draws closer, we must remember the devastating consequences of climate change. As the clock ticks down, the need for action in fact become more urgent.

There are only two choices here: action or inaction. There's no middle path, and it's our responsibility as leaders to act.

One further set of remarks before taking your questions concerns the APEC agenda today.

Today our deliberations at APEC focus on trade and economic liberalisation, which has already helped to lift hundreds of millions of people in the Asia-Pacific region, over time, out of poverty. Supporting the G20's approach to delivering sustainable economic growth will also be crucial as we work to deliver a better growth model for the coming decades.

Trade liberalisation is the core business of the APEC agenda. Remember this: it began as process when Bob Hawke helped set up APEC in 1989, and when we go back to the Bogor Declaration under Prime Minister Keating in 1994, general protection levels back then were something in the order of about 17 per cent and over that period of time have been reduced to something like 5 percent.

This has been an extraordinary set of achievements, but there is much more work to go, and therefore the statements of support which we've already received from the President of the United States in a speech he gave yesterday in Tokyo about the TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership - as a long-term stepping stone to where we might all go in terms of a free trade agreement for Asia and the Pacific is a step in the right direction.

Finally, our deliberations here must also return to what we have failed to do so far as leaders. That is, bring about a successful conclusion to Doha in 2010. That's where significant new lifting in the overall level of activity in the global economy must come from. If we achieve a Doha outcome the estimates are that it would provide an additional increment to global growth of something approaching $1 trillion. Bear in mind this financial and economic crisis has holed out $6 trillion from the global economy. It is now more urgent than ever to get progress multilaterally through Doha, as well as through regional and bilateral arrangements on trade to open up the arteries of international commerce.

Over to you.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if the APEC leaders at the urging of China can't agree on a 50 per cent reduction in emission by 2050, what hope is there for Copenhagen?

PM: I believe there is a common resolve to get a robust agreement in Copenhagen. There is always argy-bargy on the way through, and that applies to climate change as well.

It's very important that President Obama leaves from Singapore and travels to Beijing. It's very important to hear both the positive contributions to the discussion this morning from President Obama and from President Hu Jintao about where we can go to in terms of getting an agreement at Copenhagen.

But let's not underestimate the degrees of difficulty. Here at APEC it's one step along the road. Copenhagen is where we're aiming, and can I draw your attention to the absolute importance of the discussions which will occur in the days ahead between the Americans and the Chinese.

JOURNALIST: So those other leaders you've referred to who are committed to go to Copenhagen include Hu and Obama?

PM: Those that I referred to have made indications either in the immediate lead up to our meeting this morning with the Prime Minister of Denmark or reflected at the table, but there wasn't a general invitation around the table for people to stick their hands up. All I'm saying is that they're the leaders who've so far indicated that I'm aware of. There may be others as well.

Here, there, and then over there.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, you said in your speech yesterday that you saw, you outlined your hope that the countries of APEC would ultimately enable an Asia-Pacific community concept. Can you just clarify, do you think that ultimately APEC morphs into such an arrangement, or that it continues, and what I mean is, do you see that APEC as an organisation is, you know, on borrowed time, and that you see going broader architecture?

PM: These are all valid questions about where we go to for the future, and these are parts of the discussion among us all as APEC leaders. That's why a lot of the internal discussion is where do we take APEC after its 20th anniversary, into the future?

There is now an open discussion, which you saw something of yesterday at the Business Leaders Forum, on the future of how we shape our region and what institutions should do it. APEC's performed a fantastic job in terms of the trade liberalisation function as well as providing this regular forum for leaders who can actually engage in a whole lot of other business as well, and beforehand, that didn't exist.

Over here you've got the East Asian Summit, and it's an evolving institution, effectively ASEAN plus six, but it does exclude the United States. You also have something called the ASEAN regional forum, which was established again, largely at Australia's initiation some decades or decade and a half ago. It has a, let's call it, a broad security mandate, but can I say we don't have an institution yet which draws all the threads together. That is, a membership which includes America in the region on the one hand, and a body which is capable of handling the full scope of the agenda - political, economic and security - on the other.

That's the core logic, if you like, of the Asia-Pacific community concept. How it may grow if it's embraced by leaders across the region, that's very much an open question, is yet to be determined. As I said in my remarks yesterday, there's great achievements already on the board for APEC, great achievements on the board for ASEAN, great achievements on the board for a range of other institutions, but we shouldn't just sit back passively and hope that it all sorts itself out for the long term. I always believe in trying to be ahead of the curve.

Over here.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you have a successful agreement at Copenhagen without presidents Hu and Obama turning up and have you asked, in your talks with President Obama, have you tried to persuade him to turn up at all?

PM: Well, I've had a few chats with President Obama last night and this morning. I was sitting next to him at the breakfast session which I was co-chairing with President Calderon. We discussed the substance of his contribution to the discussion this morning which, I've got to say, was first-class - strong, positive contribution. We didn't get down to the nitty-gritty of whether he was going to Copenhagen or not, to be quite honest, I was focussed on the substance of how we actually craft the content of an agreement, as was President Hu Jintao's contribution - substantive and positive.

We should draw some confidence from this.

There is a lot of pessimism in the international community at the moment about our ability to craft an outcome at Copenhagen. It's going to be tough as all hell, but let me tell you I believe everyone is seeking, right now, to put their best foot forward, and that was reflected in what transpired around a small table of 20 world leaders this morning, but who represented between them 56 per cent of the global economy, and it was good for Australia to be co-chairing that event.

Sorry, Tim.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister could you just qualify for us, or be explicit for us, on the question of agriculture in CPRS - how much ground is your Government willing to give on this question, and how close do you believe you are now to an agreement with the Opposition such that the CPRS can be passed?

PM: In answer to your question on agriculture, quite a lot. Answer to your second question, don't know. We still don't have the full reply from those opposite.

The reason we've done what we've done on agriculture is to underline what we're on about here, which is good faith negotiations. We listen carefully to what the Liberal Party and the National Party have said. They've said, for them, that agriculture's exclusion is a red line issue. Therefore, for the reasons I've just gone through on the global agenda, in trying to do what is possible to get a global deal on climate change, it's a negotiation. Getting our CPRS through in the Australian Senate, that's a negotiation as well. It's a good faith negotiation all round at this stage. Agriculture is out there from us, and that's desired to be part of an overall negotiated outcome with the Coalition.

I want to get the CPRS through. I've said this consistently over a long period of time.

Just there.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you clarify - have you met, have you had a specific discussion with the Indonesian President about people smuggling, and can you give us an idea of the tenor of those discussions, and can you clarify if it was a full bilateral or was it a pull-aside, and if it wasn't a formal bilateral, can you explain why?

PM: I think as I said to you the other day, what happens in this business is that we are constantly running into each other and having longer and shorter conversations. I've probably been chatting to SBY now, 3, 4, 5 times about this, that and the other. We've covered, in those conversations, both the substantive agenda of APEC plus our bilateral relationship, including within it cooperation also on people smuggling, including cooperation on the handling of this individual vessel as well. That's what he expected me to do. That's what I've done.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us a little bit about the substance of the discussions-

PM: -Diplomatic negotiations and discussions are what they are. I'm just saying that's the scope of it, and as you'd expect, and I'm sure I'll probably catch up with SBY again later today. That's just the way in which things work. There's a few things going on.

JOURNALIST: Any indications that he was going to step up to do more as per your request?

PM: No, what we agreed to, frankly, in Jakarta- some weeks ago now- was to work on a new framework, an additional framework for cooperation on people smuggling. And that work, as I indicated to you the other day, is ongoing. We've still got some ways to go. I can't give you a conclusion point for that, but that's rolling its way through, I'm sure we'll be chatting about it later today, depending on how the rolling agenda of APEC unfolds.

JOURNALIST: What's your information, Prime Minister, about the boat of Afghan asylum seekers that's been intercepted by Indonesia, having two people shot by Indonesia?

PM: Yeah Mark, I've seen those reports this morning. I don't have any further information, other than the reports. We're seeking, of course, clarification as to what's happened. This lies within the purview of Indonesian National Police, but we'll be seeking to get details concerning what has occurred. But I've seen the reports, but I have nothing further to add.

JOURNALIST: Doesn't that say something about the relationship Prime Minister, that it gets into the paper and you know nothing about it from Indonesia?

PM: No, what it does say Mark is that when you've got in the last 12 months 86 interruptions conducted between ourselves, the Indonesians, the Malaysians and others, when it comes to people smuggling, there's a lot of activity underway at any given time. As I said, I've seen those reports, I don't have further information on it. But I'll be seeking that in due course.

On the Malaysians, by the way, can I make this clear to those who are here at this press conference this morning. We've been discussing for some time now in a range of gatherings with Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, the desirability from our point of view of the explicit criminalising of people smuggling activity within Malaysia. And I would like to thank the Malaysian Government for their indication of support that they're now moving in this direction.

And I would congratulate Prime Minister Najib for his Government's decision on this, his action means that the Malaysian Police will soon be able to arrest and prosecute people involved in people smuggling activities. And every decision like the one that Malaysia has made makes it more difficult for people smugglers to engage in their ugly trade. This is something I raised some weeks or months ago I think on the first occasion with Prime Minister Najib, I'd just like to thank him, publicly, for the way in which he has handled this, and for the substance of their cooperation with us in dealing with people smuggling.

JOURNALIST: The incident with the shooting asylum seekers sends a brutal but strong signal that the Indonesians are (inaudible)

PM: Look, I can't comment more than what I just said in response to Mark's question. And that is, I've seen the reports, I don't wish to elaborate on them until I actually know further about what's occurred-

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Well can I just say this, when it comes to people smuggling, we have said consistently, we support and are engaged with our friends and partners in the region in a hardline response. I can't comment on the details of this particular event other than the reports that I have seen. But, people smugglers are ugly individuals. They are acting in violation of a whole series of basic legal precepts, and law enforcement authorities across the region will be taking harsh measures. I say that without reference to the details of this particular incident.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Stephen Smith has said in Parliament a few weeks that there was hope that at this weekend you would sign an agreement with President Yudhoyono. At what stage did it become clear that the signing (inaudible)

PM: Just on that first point though Andrew, I think what Stephen said in Parliament- because I was there on the day- he said that we'd get a progress report on this new framework agreement with the Indonesians, and I think that's pretty explicitly what he did say, and he didn't say we'd be signing it, am I right?

JOURNALIST: Ah, I think that-

PM: I think I am right. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Secondly, can you confirm that the sticking point remains Indonesia's concern about taking responsibility for the housing, processing of asylum seekers who are intercepted in their search and rescue waters by another country?

PM: Not that I'm aware of, in fact the scope of what we're talking about here with the new framework on people smuggling covers a whole series of different boxes. One of which of course goes to the law enforcement machinery and the legal framework within Indonesia itself. But this'll take some time to work through. It actually occurs on all sorts of different categories, from physical interdiction through to the law enforcement machinery, through to the action and network for intelligence collaboration with us, and with regional partners.

Remember, the Malaysians are just across the water from the Indonesians and a lot of this activity involves them directly. It's at all these can I say, segmented levels and based on my last conversations with the National Security Adviser, it's kicking along. But it's going to take some time. And remember, the cooperation right now, though not visible to the public, and I understand why people would not be aware of it, is extensive and vast. I go back to the point in the last 12 months, 86 individual disruptions of people smuggling activities, this is substantial work which our agencies are involved in every day of the week, with the Indonesian agencies, with the Malaysian agencies, and with others.

Sorry- Phil, and then to you Malcolm.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) On climate change, you talked about good faith and that (inaudible) with agriculture, how do you reconcile that with the speech you gave to the Lowy Institute when you basically called Malcolm Turnbull a coward and lumped him in the same category as Andrew Bolt.

PM: The- I was making some robust remarks about climate change sceptics, as they operate globally- at home and abroad, I should say. And I don't resile from my concern about the activities of climate change sceptics, wherever they may manifest themselves. You know why? Because they are, frankly, not helping when it comes to deliver the outcome which the science says we must deliver.

What was again encouraging about this morning's meeting was, I think, leaders around the table had a sense of the burden now on their shoulders to try and pull this thing together. And it's very difficult. You can imagine, you've got not just the 180 plus nation states who are involved in the conference of the parties, but you have such wide and diverse interests as the ones I spoke with Prime Minister Singh about recently in Delhi, President Hu Jintao representing what will become the largest economy in the world with a vast population, and of course, President Obama in the United States, who wrestles with the Congress on the one hand, and secondly, like myself, replaces an administration which was not actually acting at all in this area. It's hard, it's difficult- but frankly, there is a resolve among the leaders that the science is in, and that we need to move ahead.

Sorry- Malcolm.

JOURNALIST: On to perhaps a greater disaster, the New South Wales Government- they've had their conference. Premier Rees has said that he will select his Cabinet. He'll bypass the factions and select his Cabinet. A) do you see that as part of the rehabilitation of the Government in New South Wales, and b) do you think it's possible?

PM: Well firstly, I've seen that statement from Premier Nathan Rees, and I fully back it. Fully back it.

The reason I back it is because frankly, in the 21st century, we in the Labor Party need to have a system whereby whoever is elected as leader should have the ability to select their Ministry, their Cabinet. And as I said to our own crew way back at the beginning of our own Government, this is part and parcel of the modern age and leaders are charged to make a balanced selection based on the availability of talents and abilities to get the best team. And frankly, the days when, you know, someone was a factional powerbroker behind the scenes should dictate the show, I think, should be stuck in the past. It's time we actually got with the program, and the program of modernity is you elect a leader, it's a leader's job to select the best executive. Nathan Rees has made that call. I back him 100 per cent.

And guys, I've actually got to get to-

JOURNALIST: Can you give us any indication on what India and China will be willing to sign up to at Copenhagen, given that you mentioned President Hu's contribution this morning as being substantive, but given also that the Indian and Chinese have been in part behind the decision on the APEC final statement (inaudible)

PM: Again, I wouldn't read a whole lot into that latter point, and where the final communiqué negotiation is on that, I'll find out during the course of the morning, I mean these things ebb and flow during the course of the day, as is normal. But secondly, regard this as a stepping stone to Copenhagen itself. It's a negotiation. And I draw your attention strongly again to the importance of the meeting between President Obama and President Hu Jintao in Beijing in the days ahead. It's a pretty important meeting for the world. Not only is it the President's first visit to China, but, I've got to say on top of that, with climate change looming so sharp, fast, and hard, it's a really important set of discussions.

But I go back to the tenor of the contribution. People around the table this morning, in the conference that the Mexican President and myself chaired, were positive, they were seeking to deploy their political leadership, their authority to bring about the best outcome possible. And that is how I saw President Hu Jintao's contribution as well.

Last one Matthew, and then I've really got to go, I'll be late up the hill.

JOURNALIST: You said it was very important that India be brought into (inaudible). Has that been discussed here (inaudible)

PM: As I understand the APEC processes, there's a question which comes due before too much longer about further questions of membership of the body. As you know, the membership of APEC, I think, was frozen some years ago.

It has been my longstanding position with a vast economy, such a politically significant country as India, and that India is part and parcel of the Asia Pacific region. And it is an incomplete entity in India's absence.

And having said that folks, I've got to zip.

Transcript 16920