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Transcript 16733

Interview on ABC Radio's AM program

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: 05/08/2009

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16733

EASTLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.

PM: Good morning.

EASTLEY: Is the security of our military bases at a level that you're comfortable with?

PM: Yesterday afternoon I convened a meeting of the National Security Committee of the Cabinet, and went to a number of these matters, one of which was the adequacy of current security arrangements at our military installations, and the advice I received was that, from the Chief of Defence Force, was that, based on our current knowledge that the security arrangements are adequate.

On top of that, however, I've requested that the CDF and the Defence Department undertake an immediate and comprehensive review of adequacy, given these new developments.

EASTLEY: But you're quite happy that they're manned, in some cases, by unarmed civilians?

PM: What I want to be confident of is that the security at each installation is right, and that it's calibrated to our security needs. Obviously, one of the terms of reference for this investigation will be the continued suitability of those sorts of security arrangements at our bases involving private security contractors, and I await the advice of the Defence professionals on this.

EASTLEY: Links have been drawn between the men arrested yesterday and the Al-Shabaab group, deemed to be a terrorist organisation by the US. Would you be tempted to move against it here and proscribe that organisation?

PM: This has been the subject of some internal deliberation within the Government between the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs for a period of time. We are very mindful, however, in our internal deliberations on that in recent times not to have in any way compromised the investigation and the operation which you saw unfold yesterday in Melbourne.

Therefore, we'll work our way through this, systematically. Various governments around the world have acted in terms of proscription of this particular organisation. We have also, however, been mindful of an operation which was ongoing, and therefore the need to proceed with appropriate caution.

EASTLEY: So you're saying you didn't want to tip these people off and proscribe it early?

PM: No, I'm saying exactly what I just said before, which is that we proceeded with due caution, and these matters are being worked through the Government. The key thing, and I congratulate our security and intelligence agencies for what they have done on this matter, which is in a very large-scale operation over many, many months worked diligently and effectively in terms of what we saw unfold yesterday. I say again today on this program what I said yesterday - we should also be very mindful in our discussion of these matters to maintain a presumption of innocence, and that of course, lies properly within the province of the courts.

EASTLEY: Setting that aside, though, would you be tempted to move against Al-Shabaab here and proscribe it?

PM: We base all of our decisions on proscription of any terrorist organisation on the advice of the security and intelligence agencies, and mindful also of any, as I said, operational matter which might be ongoing at the time. Therefore, we will take that advice and act on it appropriately. As I said, various governments around the world have acted in this respect. We will make our own decision in due season and we will of course do so based on the expert advice of the agencies.

EASTLEY: We've now, of course, heard from the senior public servant Godwin Grech, who's admitted he forged the document used by the Opposition Leader, Mr Turnbull. Should that be the end of the matter now and the Government can just get on with governing and writing policy?

PM: Well, I was asked about these matters yesterday here in Cairns, and because, together with national security ministers of the Government I've been completely pre-occupied with the events of the last 24 hours or so, and that is as it should be. I'm here in Cairns chairing the Pacific Islands Forum, which brings together all the island states of our region. That is my priority, given our extensive security engagement in countries like the Solomon Islands, and the other matters that we are engaged on in the economy and social policy and hospitals reform will continue.

I think what this other matter to which you've just referred goes to, however, is this - it does demonstrate, I think, very clearly to the Australian people that in Mr Turnbull's case he doesn't have the judgement, the integrity, or the character to continue to occupy the position of Leader of the Opposition.

EASTLEY: But isn't there a part of you that has some sympathy for Malcolm Turnbull? Why wouldn't, you know, someone like him not believe a very senior public servant?

PM: I believe what's been on display here is characteristics of impulsiveness, of rashness, and for someone who's trained as a lawyer, why no due diligence was applied to this matter all. None whatsoever.

Furthermore, on the broader question of character, I think Mr Turnbull, as I understand it, was asked a number of times yesterday whether he had any regrets in relation to this matter. I don't see any evidence that he has accepted any responsibility for what's occurred.

This goes back to a question of character, and that is whether he has the character to continue to occupy this most senior position in Australia, and I believe that his poor judgement, his appalling judgement, and I believe the integrity with which he has managed this matter casts a fundamental shadow over him continuing in that position.

EASTLEY: So I take it it's not the end of the matter as far as you're concerned?

PM: Well, from Mr Turnbull's point of view, here we are, one and a half months since the forged email exploded in Mr Turnbull's face, and one and a half months later we still do not have a comprehensive record of all contact, of all correspondence, of all contents of conversations between Mr Grech on the one hand and Mr Turnbull and his Chief of Staff, Mr Kenny-

EASTLEY: -Can the Privileges Committee get to the bottom of that?

PM: And Senator Abetz on this matter, and it's high time that that occurred.

I think the other thing to emerge is as follows: is that we now have confirmed from Mr Turnbull's statement yesterday, and, as I'm advised, Senator Abetz today, that in fact the questions which were put in an independent Senate inquiry on the OzCar matter were in large part orchestrated, pre-arranged. Therefore, when the Australian public look at independent inquiries of the Senate, in fact we had one which was in large part, as far as Opposition senators were concerned, one which was orchestrated and pre-arranged in terms of detailed questions and question sheets between the Opposition on the one hand and Mr Grech on the other. And furthermore, all that was undertaken on the basis of a forged email, into which the Opposition applied no due diligence.

EASTLEY: So with that in mind, Prime Minister, will you pursue charges against either Mr Grech or in fact, against Mr Turnbull or against some other member of the Coalition?

PM: The Government has no alternative but to next week in parliament in the Senate move a motion for this matter to be referred to the Senate Privileges Committee so that all relevant facts can be established once and for all on this matter. I would think that your listeners, when they are observing, and all journalists when they are observing, the Senate inquiries into this matter during the month of June would've been of the view that this was a fair dinkum, up front inquiry. Instead what we find out, confirmed by Mr Turnbull himself, and now Senator Abetz, is that so many of these questions were in fact completely orchestrated.

EASTLEY: What's your understanding of what the Privileges Committee might advise?

PM: That, of course, is a matter for the Privileges Committee, assuming that the Opposition, who have the numbers in the Senate, allow this matter to be referred to the Privileges Committee in the first place. You see, what's at stake here is the integrity of the operation of the parliament, the integrity of the operation of the Senate, and the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition.

EASTLEY: So you'd like to see charges against him and Mr Grech?

PM: I believe that what the Australian people would like through this sorry, sordid affair is for all facts, finally, to be put on the table - not in bits, not in pieces. As I said, this goes back to a fundamental question of character and of judgement and integrity, and in Mr Turnbull's case, they have been found to be sorely lacking.

EASTLEY: If it doesn't go to the Privileges Committee, is that the end of the matter, or where would you like it to go after that?

PM: The responsibility at this stage does lie fairly and squarely in Mr Turnbull's court. What was remarkable about his statement yesterday, I understand he was asked several times whether he had any regrets in relation to this matter, and not the beginnings of the recognition that he may bear some responsibility for the way in which this matter was handled, so to go to your question, Mr Turnbull's got a responsibility to front the parliament and to explain, comprehensively, from beginning to end, not just partially, but totally, his entire engagement, and Mr Kenny's engagement and Senator Abetz' engagement with Mr Grech - what was said, what was asked, what was agreed to be done, etcetera, because I think, given the enormous controversy which this matter has generated in the Australian public, it's important that all facts are on the table, and the Senate, of course, has a separate possibility which lies before it, subject to the decision of the Senate itself, on a motion to refer the matter to the Senate Privileges Committee.

EASTLEY: Just briefly, Prime Minister, and of Godwin Grech? What of him?

PM: Well, of course, Mr Grech has made certain statements. My concern from the beginning when this matter unfolded has been, and certainly in my discussions with senior public servants in the Prime Minister's Department and the Treasury Department is to do everything possible to ensure Mr Grech is being properly looked after, that his physical wellbeing is being attended to and those matters.

As for anything else, that lies within the province of the properly constituted authorities, and I'll not comment further on that.

EASTLEY: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, thanks for joining us this morning on AM.

PM: Thanks for having us on the program

(ends)

Transcript 16733