MR RUDD: Firstly, I have been here in London with the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group and we are of course engaged in detailed
preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in
Perth later this year. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will be
issuing its own statement in the immediate period ahead. Of course, we have
discussed the usual range of challenges lying before the Commonwealth,
particularly in relation to Fiji. And again the Commonwealth Ministerial
Action Group has affirmed our decision to maintain Fiji’s suspension from
the Commonwealth. The reason being that we have seen no measurable change
whatsoever by the Fiji military regime, in terms of the restoration of
democracy in that country.
In the last two or three days, I have been in both Paris and London. In
Paris, with the Secretary General of the Elyssee, as well as Finance
Minister Lagarde, discussing the future of the G20. France hosts the G20 at
the end of this year. Australia is a founding member of the G20. And as a
consequence we are ourselves directly engaged with our partners around the
world on preparation for the hosting of that event in Cannes later this
year. The agenda of the G20 is of fundamental significance not just to
Australia, but to all G20 countries given the fragility of the global
economic recovery. Also the G20 has on its agenda a development item, which
goes to the future development needs of poor countries around the world.
And we are directly engaged with the French on that, and the rest of the
agenda as well.
Finally, both in Paris and London, I have been in discussions with French
Foreign Minister Juppe and British Foreign Secretary William Hague on the
unfolding situation in the Middle East: Syria, Libya and elsewhere.
A comment or two on Syria: the Australian Government, together with those
of France and the United Kingdom, condemn absolutely the deployment of
violence by the Syrian regime against its own people. As far as measures
going forward are concerned, we have noted that there has been an open
session conducted by the United Nations Security Council on this matter.
Furthermore, we believe the time has come for the international community
now to consider the use of sanctions against the Syrian regime.
Furthermore, we believe that it is important that all countries of the
world register through normal diplomatic means, their views about the
actions taken by the regime against their civilians.
That is why earlier today in Australia, we called in the Syrian Charge
d’Affairs to register Australia’s fundamental opposition to the violence
being deployed by the Syrian regime against its own people. On top of that,
I will be writing to the UN Secretary General requesting the UN Secretary
General consider the deployment of a UN Special Envoy to Syria. The media
does not have universal access in Syria. We therefore need to have a
comprehensive report on the ground as to what is happening, centre by
centre, city by city. And that I believe is the next appropriate step.
Finally in relation to Syria, the Australian travel advisories are clear:
don’t go. If you’re there, use commercial aircraft to get out. That is what
we are saying to Australian citizens. Secondly, we also now have four
Australian consular officials on the ground in Damascus to co-ordinate
arrangements with the Canadian Embassy there, which has responsibility for
Australian consular affairs in Syria. Those officials are hard at work. In
the last 24 hours, we have sought to make telephone contact with all
Australians registered as being in Syria and we have done so far, I am
advised, with about 60 per cent of those Australians. The number of
registered Australians is just under 300, but we expect there are more
there as well.
Finally on Libya, we believe that what is required for Libya is to
certainly affirm publicly the position taken by Foreign Minister Juppe and
Foreign Secretary Hague, that what is required is patience. Time is not on
the side of the Qaddafi regime. It is important that we pursue a consistent
diplomatic, political and military strategy in our dealings with the
campaign in Libya. Australia remains the third largest humanitarian
contributor to the Libyan people and those seeking to exit Libya in the
world, after the US and the EU. We will continue to remain engaged with our
partners and friends in this important challenge. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, how long can the international community go on hoping
the Syrian President halts the violence and hoping that he embraces reform?
MR RUDD: The key challenge now is to establish a factual basis on what is
transpiring on the ground, not just in the suburbs of Damascus, not just in
the Southern parts of the country, but right across the country. That is
why I believe it is urgent that we have the UN Secretary General dispatch a
Special Envoy for these purposes.
We need a clear basis of fact across the country as to the extent of the
violations of fundamental human rights occurring in that country now, and
the deployment of violence by the regime against the Syrian people. That is
where our focus should be right now, as well as the consideration now of
sanctions: whether those be authorised by the United Nations Security
Council or not.
JOURNALIST: As a country, Australia has experience with the Alternative
Vote system… (inaudible) maybe to choose one or not. What do you think … (
JOURNALIST: Could you elaborate?
RUDD: Look, each country chooses its own voting system. We don’t claim to
have the best voting system in the world, but it has served the Australian
democracy well over many, many decades. We are one of the oldest continuing
democracies in the world, probably one of the five oldest continuing
democracies in the world, with a voting system which has served us well.
But I would be the last person on the planet to tell the good people of
Britain how they should vote politically, let alone what sort of voting
system they should be using. It is a matter for them.
JOURNALIST: On British matters, where will you be watching the Royal
Wedding, or will you be watching the Royal Wedding?
RUDD: This is the Commonwealth. Strewth. I am heading out to Jerusalem and
Ramallah this afternoon, in fact as soon as I leave you good people in six
minutes time, and I will be in discussions there with the Israeli
Government and the Government of the Palestinian Authorities, so that’s
where I will be through most of tomorrow. The extent to which Abu Mazen and
Prime Minister Netanyahu will have the Royal Wedding on in the background,
I will let you pose that question to them.
By the way, I wish the Royal couple to be all the very best. As I said
earlier today in Australia, everyone loves a lover and young people in
love, and it is a great thing to see.
JOURNALIST: You had an experience meeting with Prince William. What did
you take away from that meeting in Australia when you were Prime Minister?
RUDD: As I said somewhere earlier today, Prince William struck me as a
very decent bloke. What do I mean by that? We sat down for an hour or so
with homeless young people in the city of Sydney. We kicked out the media,
and just sat on the floor and talked to them for an hour about their
experience. And the Prince as I understand from our conversations then
supports similar charitable work in the UK. I think that he strikes me as a
man with a social conscience and therefore from our perspective, strikes me
as a pretty decent bloke.
JOURNALIST: Do you look forward to welcoming a future King William to a
republic of Australia?
RUDD: Now how many hypotheticals is that? I think we have Prince Charles
next, don’t we? Then we have got…
JOURNALIST: Not if Prime Minister Gillard has her way though.
RUDD: Then you have if and when we become a republic. We will just take
all these things step by step. The Royal Family are always welcome in
Australia, as is the Queen, and she will be made very welcome when she
visits Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting later
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you whether you or Australia will consider going it
alone on sanctions on Syria, if there is no possibility from the United
Nations Security Council, and what kind of sanctions are you thinking of?
RUDD: Well under Australian legislation, we are capable of deploying
sanctions either under the United Nations Security Council or what we call
autonomous sanctions, and we recently legislated to provide the full legal
backing to that latter course of action. Therefore we are open to the
consideration of either or both. When it comes to the specific content of
sanctions, I am liaising closely with our European friends. I know this is
on the agenda of European Leaders or Foreign Ministers when they meet, as I
understand it in the days ahead, in the military and consultative processes
of the European Union. We would seek to do it in concert with our European
The core message is this: to get a clear message out to Damascus, this is
just not on. You can’t go around and thug people to death and expect the
international community to just turn a blind eye. We don’t. And where you
start is by an open session of the UN Security Council; then you go to
sanctions; then you go and investigate through a Special Rapporteur or
Envoy what is happening on the ground. We take this step by step.
JOURNALIST: How do you think the Prime Minister performed on her visit to
China, do you think it was right to push so hard on human rights?
RUDD: Absolutely, it is the right course of action. We have so much in
common with our friends in China with whom we have been developing a strong
diplomatic, political and commercial relationship for the last 40 years
almost. But the bottom line is that we have two quite different political
systems. China is a one party state; we are not. Therefore we have
differences. And we have made it very plain, time after time again, that we
will not resile from raising these questions. And that is the right course
of action for any democracy, including ours, and I assume here in Europe as
JOURNALIST: Hypotheticals aside, would you like to see Australia become a
republic, and if so when?
RUDD: Yes and in due season. I was asked this, this morning on BBC radio,
and when I say in due season, let’s just be very clear that there are a
whole bunch of issues in Australia at present: there is such a thing as the
state of the economy; there is such a thing as dealing with a major
security and political developments in Asia; there is an upcoming G20
Summit; we have the odd spot of bother in the Middle East, which we have
been talking about. So there are plenty of other things to wrestle with on
the global agenda and the domestic policy agenda. This is therefore not a
top priority issue for Australia.
Secondly, when it is eventually put to the people, it is for the Australian
people to decide. We are a pretty mature democracy, we sort these things
out in due season. As I said to the Beeb this morning, BBC sorry, as I said
to the BBC this morning, our job is not to provide them with rolling
entertainment in terms of when or when not we wish to become some sort of
republic. That is a matter for Australia’s democratic processes, in due
season. Thank you very much.
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