Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms


27 June 2008

Interview - Shane McLeod, ABC TV (From Kyoto)

Subjects: Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, Zimbabwe

SHANE McLEOD: Minister, the TSD. I understand, you have been talking about a range of issues, but one of them is natural disasters. Could you explain what you have agreed on there?

STEPHEN SMITH: We have suggested – and the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue has agreed – that Australia, United States and Japan should work much more closely in our region on disaster relief and assistance in the face of humanitarian disasters. We have seen with the earthquake in China and the cyclone in Burma that a nation state by itself cannot deal with the aftermath of a tragedy on the great scale that we have seen. So we think we can work much better in the region and that has been agreed in principle. We are going to have a meeting at officers’ level between now and the end of the year to finalise the guidelines which will see Australia, United States and Japan working together in the future in bringing disaster relief to our region.

McLEOD: It seems an effort to establish a network. Am I right in summarising that it’s to bring the various agencies together?

SMITH: It is to make sure that the agencies, nation by nation, but across the nations, are coordinated so we maximise the effort, that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. So that rather than just responding in an ad hoc way in the face of humanitarian disasters, we will be much more prepared, much better able to bring relief very quickly. We have got a bit of, regrettably, a bit of life experience now, whether it is the tsunami, whether it’s the earthquake or the Burma cyclone. We think we can be, and should be, better prepared. We want to be good international citizens and one way of showing that is to be as prepared as we can to bring instant and urgent relief when we are faced with a disaster on a humanitarian scale.

McLEOD: Why these three countries? Why Australia, Japan and the US?

SMITH: Well, the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue that we have is very important to Australia, very important to Japan. It’s one of the trappings which underline and underpin the fundamentally good relationship between Australia and Japan. It helps to ensure that the United States is fully engaged with Japan and Australia and it helps make sure both Japan and the United States are fully engaged in the Asia Pacific region. That is an unambiguously good thing for our region. It’s also a good thing for the international community.

McLEOD: Were there productive talks other than the disaster relief?

SMITH: Absolutely. We had very productive and constructive talks, in a bilateral sense. I had a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Rice, and a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Koumura, my Japanese counterpart. Both our bilateral exchanges and the trilateral dialogue were very, very productive, and I am very pleased with the outcomes.

McLEOD: Can I ask you, is there any update from your officials regarding Zimbabwe? Is there any news that you have received that indicates any …?

SMITH: Obviously Zimbabwe fell for discussion both with Secretary of State Rice, and

Mr Koumura and also with the other bilateral meetings that I had in conjunction with the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and in particular with the United Kingdom and with other European nations, Italy and Germany. So I think everyone is very conscious that Mr Mugabe has no electoral or democratic legitimacy whatsoever and I think that everyone is waiting and putting as much diplomatic pressure as the international community can on the African states and on the Southern African Development Community states to bring pressure to bear on Mr Mugabe. I think people are wanting to see the African nation states put pressure on Mr Mugabe. Hopefully this will see a political outcome which is much better than the years of the brutal Mugabe regime that we’ve seen.

McLEOD: Minister, thank you very much.

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