SENATOR CARR: I think it was very important to send a message to our friends and New Zealanders that we don’t take them for granted. Old friends are the best friends, and you’ve got to keep your friendships in good repair. That was the spirit in which I’ve come to New Zealand and my first visit, even before I get sworn in as foreign minister. We work with the New Zealanders on the Solomon Islands, East Timor, in Afghanistan. We are with the [inaudible] they’re shoulder to shoulder with our men and women. A very important relationship. As our prime minister said, addressing the New Zealand Parliament a year ago, it is family. It’s family. You’ve gotta keep working on the relationship, even though it’s such a comfortable and such a close one.
JOURNALIST: And what’s your view on what we should do about Fiji?
SENATOR CARR: I don’t want to go into it any further. Obviously we’ve touched on it while we’ve been in New Zealand. We’ll look at what was said the other day, I can’t go into any more details — partly because I’m not sworn in, and there’s an acting Minister for Foreign Affairs who’s commented on the announcement out of Fiji.
JOURNALIST: And do you feel you have a good relationship with Julia Gillard?
SENATOR CARR: Yes, absolutely. The prime minister’s made a feature out of the relationship with New Zealand. Her speech to the New Zealand Parliament was a very eloquent one, speaking about New Zealanders as being “family”, and in that spirit, I am here. I didn’t want to go to anywhere else in the world before I came to New Zealand, sending a message that Australians don’t take this relationship for granted, that old friends are the best friends and you always keep your friendships in good repair.
JOURNALIST: And how is it stepping into the shoes of Kevin Rudd?
SENATOR CARR: Very [inaudible]. The more I look at what Kevin Rudd has done, the more I’m in admiration. He got Australia that seat at the G20, and because of his advocacy it was a G20 not a G14 or a G7 that would have excluded Australia, and he helped get America into the East Asian Summit. He saw the opening for movement in Burma. I think his foreign policy achievements are very substantive and I’m going to build on them rather than lurch in a different direction.
JOURNALIST: And what qualities do you think you bring as foreign minister?
SENATOR CARR: I don’t know, I’d have to leave that for others to gauge, but I’m honored to have been appointed to the job by our prime minister, and I’ll work very hard at it.
JOURNALIST: And what’s your main job focus initially going to be?
SENATOR CARR: Foreign policy’s about defending Australia’s interest and seeing that we are good legal citizens. I think we’re a country that can speak with pride in the world about what we are, our democracy, our robust civil liberties, our multiculturalism, our respect for the first Australians. Without any sense of hectoring or lecturing other people, I think we’re entitled to take a step forward and show that we are good global citizens.
JOURNALIST: Has Australia let New Zealand take most of the heavy lifting in public — sorry — Pacific affairs in the past?
SENATOR CARR: Australia’s been very active, certainly as an aid donor in the Pacific. We’ve got that presence in the Solomon Islands. We’re certainly guided by the knowledge and the familiarity that the New Zealanders have with part of the Pacific. But I think the New Zealanders are happy with the way we share responsibilities. For our part we appreciate very much their presence in East Timor and Afghanistan and the Solomon’s.
JOURNALIST: Will you be placing more emphasis on [inaudible]?
SENATOR CARR: Yes I will. I will, and it justifies Australia’s attention. You can see Australia’s interest, Australia’s foreign policy agenda in terms of concentric circles, and the first line you would draw on the world map is Australia and the Pacific. And again, in that spirit, I’m in New Zealand as my first trip, even before I get sworn in on Tuesday, here to send that message.
CONVENOR: Last question.
JOURNALIST: Will your approach be radically different to that of Kevin Rudd?
SENATOR CARR: No, I’m building on what Kevin Rudd did, and continuity is the message rather than a change in direction.
CONVENOR: Thank you very much.
SENATOR CARR: Good, pleasure.
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