Remarks at the official welcome of Jessica Watson as World Food Programme Youth Representative

Subjects: World Food Programme Youth Representative Jessica Watson; Carbon price

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

Parliament House, Canberra

25 May 2011

AMIR ABDULLA: In fact, it's a real pleasure to be here on two counts, first of all I've come to meet with very many members of the Australian government and Australian aid and in particular would like to say a lot of thanks to Minister Rudd who's been one of the strong supporters of the United Nations system, but the World Food Programme (WFP) in particular, over many years and has helped develop that relationship.

And Australia and its people are very, very generous at difficult times and really that is one of the reasons I'm here, and the second one is it's very exciting to not only deal with Australia as a government but to deal with the youth of Australia and we're very excited to have Jessica going — who is already a representative of Australia's youth but to be a representative for the World Food Programme as well and take that message to the youth of Australia but also to the youth of the world, of how important the work is and, as such, Jessica, we'd like to give you a WFP little thing to wear.

JESSICA WATSON: Thank you.

AMIR ABDULLA: And when you're on a trip. You can wear it when you're sailing but also we hope you'll visit some of our programmes and we look forward to you wearing it there too.

JESSICA WATSON: Thank you very much.

KEVIN RUDD: Now, do you want me to say something or is Jess saying something?

AMIR ABDULLA: I think maybe…(gestures for Mr Rudd to speak)

KEVIN RUDD: Okay, I'll say a thing or two.

First of all, the World Food Programme does terrific work around the world. Last time I looked at the stats they are feeding 90 million people in 70 countries around the world. That is a lot of people who depend on this agency, the World Food Programme, to often survive.

So I take my hat off to what the WFP does around the world. They are one of the most effective UN agencies in delivering real food aid, emergency food aid assistance to people in all sorts of difficult circumstances.

One current example is Libya which we've been focusing on. Australia proudly is the third largest donor to the humanitarian effort to the people of Libya who are suffering an extraordinary period of conflict and crisis right now.

And within that the people who are providing food on the borders between Libya and Egypt and Libya and Tunisia and within the country itself, are the WFP and they are hugely effective in making sure people have enough to survive with from one day to the next.

And so we in Australia are proud to be supporters of what the World Food Programme does.

This morning I was having a chat to our Ambassador in Nepal and one of the little known facts is that in the southern part of Nepal, where there are extensive refugee camps supporting about 100,000 or so people displaced from the civil conflict within that country, the WFP is feeding those folk and we're funding them to do it.

These are great examples of us making a difference around the world for people who have nothing.

Which brings us to you, my love, and what Jess Watson is doing is just terrific. I mean, I've described her in the past as Australia's newest hero. When I said that as Prime Minister she immediately rebuked me and said she wasn't one.

JESSICA WATSON: Sorry.

KEVIN RUDD: No, no. But that says a lot about her. And I think it's terrific that she carries on her public roles with such modesty but also with such effectiveness.

And having you, Jess, as a youth representative for World Food Programme in Australia is terrific. You're a person who has enormous standing in the hearts and minds of the Australian people and among young people and we really value your efforts in getting the message out there that this is terrific work being done in the world's name, done in Australia's name, and through other contributions from ordinary folk in the country as well, through their taxes.

So thanks so much for doing what you're doing and — and we really appreciate your name being attached to this fantastic world effort to deal with world hunger.

JESSICA WATSON: Look, it's an incredible honour to have been given this role and to take it on. I'm very much looking forward to working with the WFP over the next years.

Sort of meeting so many of my dreams, I've been so lucky to have them come true and it's going to be just so nice to be able to do that and help out in some small way, the lives of so many other young people who need some help achieving their dreams, through feeding them and taking away that, I suppose that struggle for those basic necessities.

So I'm very honoured and very much looking forward to it.

AMIR ABDULLA: Minister Rudd, if I could just perhaps just present each of you with a little something to sort of remind you. This is for you, Minister. These are the sort of children who are leading a much better life today, thanks to what the people of Australia are donating. So thanks very much.

KEVIN RUDD: That is terrific. We're more than happy to do so.

AMIR ABDULLA: That's for your office and I think we have one for Jessica, a bit big to put in a boat. But certainly hope you'll hang it up at home.

JESSICA WATSON: Definitely.

AMIR ABDULLA: As I said, we'll hope that you get out there and see these children getting these meals and I think what you've just said is absolutely right, you know, that you will be there to help them achieve their dream so thanks very much.

JESSICA WATSON: Thanks.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, does this kind of talk highlight the fact that even in times of tight budgets, it's important that Australia continue to consider its role as a global citizen in the pursuit of the millennium development goals?

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah, these are pretty basic for Australia and pretty basic for the world and that's why we put our shoulder to the wheel.

Right now out there in the world we still have a billion people-plus living below the world poverty line and therefore we've got a responsibility with the rest of the world community to bring more and more people out of poverty. That's what the WFP does as well.

The other thing I'd say is, on the Millennium Development Goals, the British Conservative Government, in the midst of its far deeper financial challenges than we have here, has itself increased its allocation to its aid budget for the year ahead, again supporting the Millennium Development Goals and I would commend Prime Minister Cameron for accepting this as a continuing responsibility for governments around the world and we believe the same.

QUESTION: And just another issue…

MODERATOR: Thank you, sorry. Sorry, we're about to do a photo opportunity. Any interviews you'd like with Jessica can be done afterwards.

MODERATOR: Sorry.

KEVIN RUDD: You take — I'll take this one and then — I don't want Jessica to get caught with any of this domestic stuff but yeah.

JESSICA WATSON: [Laughs]

QUESTION: Just another issue. I note that the Greens are now saying they're willing to compromise on the push for putting the price on carbon. Is it a matter of regret to you that they didn't give more help with the pursuit of your CPRS when you were Prime Minister and do you think if they had we could actually have a — a carbon trading system up and running right now?

KEVIN RUDD: The key thing is to put a price on carbon. The past is the past, the future's the future. What I'm batting for is to make sure we get a price on carbon. It's the right thing to do for the future.

I've just been in northern Europe talking to environment ministers and foreign ministers from right across the Nordic countries. The polar ice cap is melting. It's having a profound effect on the environments of those parts of the world.

It's beyond debate, it's beyond a questioning of the science. It's real, it's happening.

And the big question I get asked around the world is why certain politicians in certain countries don't accept the science. We do. That's why we're putting a price on carbon and getting on with it.

Okay, Jess, let's go and do what we need to do.

END

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555