Doorstop interview

Parliament House, Canberra

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

13 March 2012

JOURNALIST: Senator, first day at school?

BOB CARR: It is. I've got a lot to learn. I'm bound to make mistakes. I hope my colleagues will correct me and teach me the right way of going about it. It's a big step to go from the New South Wales Parliament to the Parliament of the Commonwealth but I'm looking forward to it. It's a very great honour.

JOURNALIST: What will be your first order, Afghanistan perhaps?

BOB CARR: I am shattered by those heartrending events in Afghanistan, the slaughter of men, women and children reminds us of the terrible things, the atrocities that can occur in war.

Our condolences go to the families who've sustained these losses.

The tragic thing is that it worsens the drift towards what some people describe as clash of civilisations and that is something that we've got to redouble our efforts to guard against, the notion that there will be increased tension between the different faiths and the different ethnicities.

I would hope all Australians would redouble their efforts in their own communities to see that cooperation between faiths and an understanding of faiths is enhanced. It's a sad, tragic thing if the burning of a Koran and the act of an individual soldier, a maverick like this, can see those tensions worsen.

And it's with a heavy heart that I'll be asking for briefings on this subject and look again at what we can do.

JOURNALIST: Should there be a public trial for the US soldier?

BOB CARR: I won't commit myself on that. That is a difficult — that's entering a difficult legal terrain.

Can I just say something about that poll in the paper today?

I think it is striking that 18 months out of an election there's simply a six point gap between the two sides and I think it's very interesting that Tony Abbott's support has gone down. I think people are waking up to the fact that Tony, I thought of this over breakfast, Tony Abbott is like a cheapskate hypnotist in a rundown circus.

He's saying to the electorate: look into my eyes, you are growing weaker, no more boats; look into my eyes, you are growing weaker, end Labor's big bad tax; look into my eyes, you are growing weaker, debt and deficit.

He's trying to hypnotise the electorate with these slogans and, I mean, it's a very cheap performance and if you paid five bucks to get into Wirth's Circus and that's all you got from the hypnotist, you'd ask for your money back.

JOURNALIST: Will we see performances like this narrow the gap in the polls?

BOB CARR: I just want people to think about it. The endless repetition is like an attempt by a trainee hypnotist to work wonders on a cobra in a basket and I think the electorate is far too intelligent for this.

JOURNALIST: Labor's primary vote is stubbornly low and showing no signs of moving. Isn't that some…

BOB CARR: But you get us to an election where people are focused on the choice between Labor with its attention to jobs, schools, skills and health, and the slogans endlessly repeated, hypnotically repeated by the Opposition.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that your arrival will boost Labor's primary vote?

BOB CARR: I can't say that, no. No, I wouldn't say that for a moment.

JOURNALIST: Senator, if we could go to Afghanistan briefly, do you believe that there is a risk that after the last incidents that you've referred to, the Koran burning and the tragedy yesterday, that the public opinion is approaching a tipping point in Afghanistan, particularly US…

BOB CARR: We've got to see how this settles. I'll be talking to our Ambassador about this but the commitment we've made is there, it's publicly known to all of you, you've got the conference in Chicago in May that is going to look at this. I won't say any more about the strategic position in Afghanistan till I've had those briefings.

JOURNALIST: This morning Bob Brown said your first effort in the Senate should be think about returning Australian troops, ending our war in Afghanistan, that should be your first order in the Senate.

BOB CARR: I would caution against such dangerously simplistic thinking. We've got women to protect in Afghanistan, who would lose their rights under Taliban rule. We've got a commitment to mentor and build the Afghan army. We've got a commitment with allies to work towards a secure future for the people of Afghanistan without the constant threat of terrorism and we've got to see that through in cooperation with our allies and build support for a people troubled by an ever-present terrorist threat. That's our mission.

JOURNALIST: Senator where would you make your first trip as foreign minister?

BOB CARR: I think the opportunity of making a quick visit to some of our ASEAN neighbours is a clear priority and then we're looking at a program after that. Most likely the United States. Remember that as well as meeting the Secretary of State in Washington, there's an obligation on us to be more active than ever at the General Assembly in the United Nations because we are committed to that seat on the Security Council. It's always a challenge for Australia to win a ballot but we're encouraged by the signs of support we've got. But it does mean — it does mean talking to the people who will vote and that's the ambassadorial representatives at the UN.

JOURNALIST: Are you personally committed to the UN Security Council spot?

BOB CARR: Absolutely. Absolutely.

JOURNALIST: There is already talk of Rudd's ouster is going to have a detrimental…

BOB CARR: No, abs… Well, it has always been a challenge to win that ballot. We haven't had that seat since 1986 but we believe that Australia as a major player in the United Nations, as an activist, creative middle power, is entitled to sit on the Security Council and help shape the policies, the policies that we've been adhering to, working under UN mandates in Afghanistan, in East Timor and elsewhere.

JOURNALIST: With the ASEAN countries that you're visiting, would Indonesia be the first country?

BOB CARR: I'm excited by the fact that later this week I will meet the Indonesian Foreign Minister and Defence Minister in the regular talks, the 2+2 talks that we have. Whether I see Indonesia on the first visit to ASEAN countries or a month or so later is something we're determining now. But this week, indeed on Thursday, I'll be meeting my Indonesian counterpart and that's a very great honour for me.

JOURNALIST: Are you comfortable with the fact that DFAT's obviously or parts of DFAT are obviously very uncomfortable about the way you might have Graeme Wedderburn…

BOB CARR: No, that's absolutely wrong.

JOURNALIST: I've heard it reported that there is discomfort.

BOB CARR: It's not the case. I've got a former ambassador as my principal advisor and I've got Graeme Wedderburn on the staff to work in the political and parliamentary role. DFAT is extremely comfortable with that and I've got to say my fallback position was always to have a senior DFAT person of ambassadorial status as the senior figure giving me advice in my office.

Good, thank you.

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