Transcript of interview with Emily Bourke, ABC AM

Subjects: Afghanistan; global economy.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

21 January 2012

EMILY BOURKE: That's Chatham House's Dr Gareth Price speaking there with Rachael Brown. Well, the Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, is in Europe for key security and policy talks. I spoke to him a short time ago.

There's been news overnight that France may be withdrawing from Afghanistan, after a rogue Afghan soldier opened fire on French soldiers. This is becoming an all-too familiar story for foreign troops in Afghanistan.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, first of all we express, of course, our sorrow to the families of those French soldiers who have been killed. In the last 24 hours I have spent some considerable time with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé on our respective commitments to Afghanistan. France has already announced its own staged withdrawal of its forces over time in Afghanistan, and we in Australia, of course, have acknowledged fully that we will cede the transfer of responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces, from Australian forces in our part of Afghanistan, namely Uruzgan Province, by 2014.

As to the impact of these recent tragic losses by the French in Afghanistan, then that of course is a matter for the French government, but I detected no erosion of resolve on the part of the French in my meetings with the Foreign Minister in Paris yesterday.

EMILY BOURKE: You're also in Europe to discuss the Eurozone financial crisis. There have been warnings this week of an even deeper global downturn, how well insulated is Australia?

KEVIN RUDD: The challenge here in Europe is great; the stakes are very high. We in Australia have a deep interest in how Europe resolves this crisis, because the flow of capital to Australia through our own banking system is important to sustain small business growth and jobs. Just as if there was an economic implosion in Europe and unemployment went up further, and growth collapsed further, then this would in fact affect the global economy, and that would have a further impact on real jobs and real growth in Australia as well.

In Australia, our preparedness nationally is good - it's strong; it's solid. Our fiscal position is improving rapidly, consistent with the plans outlined in the last budget, and, of course, we have come through the global financial crisis, number one, without going into recession, and with unemployment with a five in front of it, which is about half that, on average, we see in Europe.

EMILY BOURKE: But Australia has indicated it's willing to help the International Monetary Fund with the bail-out of Europe. How confident are you that Australia won't be compromised by that sort of financial assistance?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, when we're dealing with a financial crisis of these dimensions, no country is an island to itself. We are part of an international financial system, and that international financial system in the last decade has affected various parts of the world. Ten years or so ago it was in Asia. Right now it is in Europe, and of course we had the global assault only two or three years ago, therefore Australia takes its global responsibilities seriously, because we need to do our bit - play our part - to ensure that the integrity of the system is maintained, because we have vital interests at stake as well; namely, the continued flow of capital into the Australian financial system to provide finance to businesses - small businesses - to make sure that real activity in the economy is sustained.

That is why we've got to play our part, and I'd strongly suggest that others in the Australian political process - namely Mr Abbott - get with the project.

EMILY BOURKE: The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd.


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