Transcript of door stop interview
Central Coast, NSW
Subjects: Foreign aid, Detained teenager in Bali, Domestic politics.
8 October 2011
KEVIN RUDD: First of all it's fantastic to be back on the Central Coast with Deb O'Neill, a good friend of mine and a great local member, who is really working hard in this local community, and I found that out this morning having spoken to so many locals who not only know her by her first name but know what she's been doing.
We're here today at Deb's invitation to of course speak about foreign aid.
And this community, like all communities in Australia, pay their taxes and therefore they have a legitimate interest to know how we are spending those taxes when it comes to Australia's foreign aid commitments.
Also there is, right now, a particular focus on what's happening in the Horn of Africa, where we've got three quarters of a million people, mainly kids, facing a threat of starvation, death by starvation. That's a horrible way to die.
We in Australia are doing our part.
We are the third largest national donors to the international appeals for the Horn of Africa and earlier this week I launched the dollar for dollar appeal, whereby if any member of the public put say $10 into World Vision or to Caritas or to Oxfam, we the Australian government will match that, and we've said we'll do that through until 30 November.
We're concerned about the particular needs these countries will face leading into the end of the year. We have to watch very carefully whether the rains come back because that will affect our calculations for the year ahead.
Put it into a global context for the Horn of Africa, the international aid agencies have said they need $2.3 billion to deal with the current emergency, and that assumes that rains return as of next year.
Currently they've raised about $1.1 billion. We in Australia have contributed about $128 million of that. As I said, we're the third largest national donors in the world. But I'd appeal again to all Australians and to all members of this local community to get behind the dollar for dollar appeal.
The last thing I'd say is here in this local community it's good also to be with Deb at a very successful school modernisation project which we the Australian Government had funded; a state of the art library, a lecture theatre; one of dozens of school projects which we funded right across this part of New South Wales.
And great to hear also the news today about the sod turning ceremony for the regional cancer centre. This makes a difference in people's lives and I'm really pleased to see that here this morning.
Can I make one further comment about the consular case that we are following very closely in Bali, Indonesia?
This little lad has been taking a lot of our thoughts and our prayers and our concerns over the last several days.
As I said yesterday, I spoke to his dad yesterday and we are working our way through the legal system with the single objective of getting this young fellow home as soon as we possibly can.
People should be very, very aware that this may take a considerable period of time, and we are not guaranteed of success but we are working through the system.
I have directed Australia's ambassador, Ambassador Moriarty, to fly from Jakarta to Denpasar, Bali today. He will arrive at 1.30 Bali time today, and his purpose is to immediately engage the family, immediately engage the family's lawyers and to immediately engage the Indonesian authorities and the police authorities. And I'll be speaking to him again later today or tonight Australian time, once he's had those meetings.
Of course the work through our Consul General there continues and they have been very active with the local police in ensuring that this young fellow has his own room to sleep in, his own cell, and that his dad is able to sleep in an adjacent room in order to provide parental observation.
Now before I take your questions, Deb do you want to add to what we're doing here in on the left, on the coast?
DEB O'NEILL: Yeah I just — I want to say it's great to have Mr Rudd come and visit this afternoon and it's at the end of a fantastic week.
When he visited in April last year to announce the $28.6 million funding for our regional cancer centre, that was a great commencement for a really important project that will provide public radiotherapy access locally.
This week we had the sod turning and that project is underway. So it's appropriate that you should come back at this time and even coming to inspect a little bit of the Central Coast dirt.
But of course today's purpose has really been to focus on the dollar for dollar campaign, to support families in the Horn of Africa.
And this is a great community that I'm very proud to represent and people are very generous in nature and I expect that they will respond very positively to this Government initiative.
And obviously we've had a lot of lobbying from local people who are active with the Micah Challenge about meeting the Millennium Development Goals. And they have actually given me a load of literature about washing away poverty to make sure that the Minister receives those, and they're from local people who care about these issues of international aid and understand that by helping people who need it the most, helping the world, we do good things not only for those countries but for our own country as well.
KEVIN RUDD: And we get letters like this from folk right across the nation. This is all about water and sanitation which if you don't deal with that properly on the ground, then village communities around the world they just breed horrendous diseases. And those who suffer most and those who die first are little kids.
Okay folks, over to you.
QUESTION: Just on this teenager in Bali…
KEVIN RUDD: Yeah.
QUESTION: …you're a father, how would you be feeling if this was [indistinct]?
KEVIN RUDD: Desperately anxious and that's why I spoke to the dad yesterday because I'm a father of a teenage boy and I think every father and every parent of teenage kids is always anxious about what young folk can get up to and getting into strife with the police authorities, at home and abroad.
That's why I wanted to talk to the dad, find out how the young boy's mother is, how the young lad himself is holding up and I'll maintain that contact with him.
But I actually emphasise again that this may take us quite some time and I think it's very important that cool and calm heads prevail and that we handle this in a very, very disciplined and careful way. The objective is to get this young fellow home.
QUESTION: If he does come home, would he face any kind of legal action here in this country?
KEVIN RUDD: The one thing about the separation of powers in this country is I don't speak for our judicial on prosecutorial authorities. That's a matter for that arm of Government.
My concern is that this young fellow is a minor; he's 14 years old. I'm charged with the responsibility to look after the well being of the one million Australians who are overseas at any given time. He's one of them. I have a particular concern for him because he is 14 years old. I'll be doing everything in my power to try and get him home. That's what my concern is.
As for the rest of the legal framework within this country and within Indonesia, that's left properly in the hands of those who are in charge, charged with those responsibilities.
QUESTION: What will the ambassador's task be once he arrives?
KEVIN RUDD: Well our Ambassador, Moriarty, is a very experienced Indonesianist. He's been on posts in Indonesia before; he's a fluent speaker of the language. He also has been to Bali many times. I've been with him in Bali many times in the last 12 months and he knows the local authorities well.
So the first thing that he will be doing is establishing contact with the local police authorities and because he is Jakarta-based, he has contact with the national police authorities as well.
Secondly to maintain the absolute closest liaison with this young lad's legal team. That's already been put in place by our Consul-General, but I'm all for having more hands on deck.
And thirdly to provide that, you know, personal and high level support for the family members themselves.
I've said to Ambassador Moriarty and to our Consul-General that for the mission, for our post, this is the highest priority for the period ahead and we'll be pulling out all the stops. As I said this will take some time and there is no guarantee of success.
QUESTION: What did the father say to you?
KEVIN RUDD: I don't go into private conversations and I don't think that's right.
I think more broadly we need to be very mindful of the privacy obligations that we have towards a 14 year old kid and therefore I don't want to reflect on what his dad had to say to me.
We had a good and long conversation and I was certainly at pains to point out that this father here feels for him, as a dad of a teenage boy, and this is a tough time for him and for his wife and for the other members of their extended family who of course live in Australia.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] a religious family [indistinct] that faith would be in a situation that he's now faced [indistinct]?
KEVIN RUDD: I don't make reflections on people's religious faith or lack thereof. I think what's required in times like this though is a particular resilience, and it's really tough if you're in a foreign country and you've fallen foul of the local legal system.
This is a very tough set of circumstances and people will seek solace from their appropriate sources, religious or not.
I think the other way of providing support of course is to provide solidarity and friendship and that's what I've asked our consular officials to do, not just once but on a continuing basis.
We take seriously our consular responsibilities around the world and many folks around the world who have been incarcerated, for whom their only continuing friendly contact or human contact is with our officials. And I would commend again the professionalism of Australia's diplomatic and consular officials for going above and beyond the call of duty.
KEVIN RUDD: I think the intelligent approach to this is calm, cool, collected, safe hands dealing firstly at a local level with the officials, dealing at a national level through our ambassador and as for any further engagement from myself, I would only do so based on the advice of those officials.
The point is not any form of political grandstanding; the point is achieving the best result for this young boy — that's what drives me — and to get this young fellow home.
So I'll be attentive to what the officials say and I'll see where their advice takes us over the next few days. I'm in contact with them a couple of times a day personally and I'll continue that.
QUESTION: You called him a lad a lot. It does have some affection I guess, you know, that mischievous image. Are you downplaying it? He did break a law overseas.
KEVIN RUDD: Well I'm not commenting on the facts concerning his particular case because that's currently before the legal systems there, and I think that would be just quite wrong and unprofessional of me.
When I talk about a young lad, maybe it's the way I use the term young lad, I just mean a young kid and — as opposed to what you might describe as a bit of a lad — I'm talking about a young fellow, a young boy, a young lad, simply because he's 14 years old.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] denied that you were undermining the Prime Minister's leadership, do you still stand by that?
KEVIN RUDD: Well firstly let's just be very clear about this.
One, I'm very happy being the Foreign Minister of Australia. It enables me to engage in the sorts of discussions we've had with this community today. I'm very happy being Foreign Minister.
Second, I fully support the Prime Minister.
Third, I'll continue to support the Prime Minister, and fourth, consistent with what I've said before, every time someone asks me a leadership question, I will respond by telling you how Australia will change under Mr Abbott as Prime Minister.
My example for today is, and here we are in the Central Coast, we the Australian Government have funded a GP super clinic for this area, very important for adding health services here in the Central Coast…
DEB O'NEILL: Absolutely.
KEVIN RUDD: Mr Abbott has committed to abolishing funding for those GP super clinics which haven't been constructed — that means this one here and 20 like them around the country.
So if you don't want improved health services, then Tony Abbott's your man and here's a very practical local example.
DEB O'NEILL: Can I just add in there, it's fantastic to have Foreign Minister here as the fourteenth minister to visit the Central Coast and we welcome the media from city to come and explore our beautiful area any time, when any of those ministers arrive.
So yeah, we're trying — I'm trying to make sure that all the ministers deeply understand the issues on the Central Coast and you know by funding the regional cancer centre last year and then coming back and speaking about foreign aid today and meeting people and understanding the story, I think that the Central Coast has a great advocate in Cabinet here with Minister Rudd.
KEVIN RUDD: It's a great part of Australia and folks I really do need to go. I'll miss my plane back to Canberra.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555