Joint doorstop with German Foreign Minister Dr Guido Westerwelle

Subjects: Visit of German Foreign Minister; Australian carbon tax; Military deaths in Afghanistan; Syria

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

31 May 2011

KEVIN RUDD: First of all could I just simply say how delighted I am to have my friend and colleague, Guido Westerwelle, in Australia.

We pressed him hard to come. He came. And we're delighted to have you here, also to open together CeBIT Australia which actually is a symbol of how closely our economies and our research centres are working together.

Tomorrow in Canberra we speak — and tonight over dinner — we'll be talking about our common foreign policy agenda.

But this is a good relationship. It's a close relationship. We're doing it more and more in the councils of the world together and our business people are making money together and that's good as well.

Over to you folks.

Someone from the German media?

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, you seem to be a very good friend of Mr Westerwelle, you seem to know him very well.

KEVIN RUDD: I do.

JOURNALIST: What is your judgment — since he has quit his job as a party leader has he become more relaxed as a Foreign Minister?

[Laughter]

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: Be careful.

KEVIN RUDD: It's okay — it's all right mate, I understand these things. The — I've known Guido for quite a long time.

I have experienced Guido as one of the strong forthright foreign ministers of Europe. I speak with him regularly on the phone.

We see each other regularly in the flesh. He is one of the leading foreign ministers of Europe and therefore of the world.

In terms of internal developments in German politics, I'm sure Guido would never comment on my internal politics, I'm not going to comment on his internal politics. But let me say this — he's a first-class colleague and whose views I value, and we work very closely together.

JOURNALIST: Dr Guido Westerwelle, Jennifer Macey from the ABC. Currently Australia is undergoing a debate over a carbon tax.

What's your position? Are you surprised at the level of debate here — and what advice do you have for Australians seeing as that Germany went through this debate several years ago when introducing the European emissions trading scheme.

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: I can only answer it in the same way like Kevin Rudd already did because I do not want to influence or to comment your interior discussions.

I can only say that from our point of view the climate change and of course the question of environment, issue of environment is very important but I'm full of confidence that Australia will find its way and we as Germany, we're looking forward for a very close cooperation especially in the theatre of renewable energy.

JOURNALIST: Well speaking of renewable energy the Federal Government has just scrapped its rooftop solar subsidy that would be, potentially, a big export market for Germany.

Are you worried about that?

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: Well we just had a very intensive discussion in Germany about our energy strategy, and we decided at home this weekend that we changed our energy strategy, which means we want to end the chapter of nuclear plants, and we want to strengthen our renewable energies.

And this is of course our message. We — like I mentioned before in my speech, we think that German technology in the future of renewable energy is really a leading technology worldwide, and of course we want to sell it, and of course we are seeking for partners in the world for cooperation and collaboration.

KEVIN RUDD: Let me just turn to the German media again — but I might add to the question that was just asked before.

And that is, we in Australia in recent years – the last two or three years – have increased the renewable energy target for Australia by legislation, to 20 per cent of the total grid.

That is a major change.

Therefore we're in the business of developing renewable energy sources right across the country — solar, wind, geothermal, you name it, we're into it. This is a vast country with huge renewable energy potential and a mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent will push that in a big way.

German media, anyone else in the German media here?

JOURNALIST: Anya of Deutsche Welle. Both countries have lost soldiers in Afghanistan just recently. What kind of strategies do you have to get out of there?

KEVIN RUDD: Well…

JOURNALIST: Mr Westerwelle first maybe? Will you talk about this on your visit?

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: First of all I would repeat what I've said before. I really want to express our sympathy and our condolences with the families.

And second, I would like to add Germany will follow our common international strategy which means we want to transfer the responsibility for security, we want to start this summer on a regional level and we want to finish this process in 2014.

And this is not the opinion of a single country. This is what we discussed and decided together — not only Australia and Germany, but all our international partners, we started to revitalise the political process with the London Afghanistan conference. We continued on the Afghanistan conference in Kabul. And we will follow this strategy.

KEVIN RUDD: And for Australia could I also indicate as Foreign Minister Westerwelle has said the tragic nature of the losses of two brave young Australian soldiers in the last day.

Germany has lost soldiers too.

We have lost soldiers in years past and in months past.

This is a tough, difficult, and bloody war.

But our strategy is the same. It's agreed at NATO ISAF level. It is a common strategy. It's a military strategy.

It's a political strategy. It's an economic strategy. And we're implementing this in different parts of the country together, as friends, as partners, as allies.

And we intend to stay the course within the time frame which President Karzai himself has laid down.

And last question from the Australian media.

KEVIN RUDD: We'll head inside to take one more question from the Australian media.

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: Wonderful.

JOURNALIST: There are reports about a Syrian child who was tortured, what are your views on that?

KEVIN RUDD: I have seen the reports of these images, and I've seen some of the reaction to them. The torture of a child is inhumane in the extreme.

I believe this will further galvanise the international community in their attitude to the brutality being deployed in Syria at present by the regime against innocent people.

JOURNALIST: Will it galvanise Australia?

KEVIN RUDD: Australia, together with our partners around the world, has now imposed the second and third round of sanctions against the Syrian regime, including the leader of that regime.

But this appears a brutal act, a brutal act by, I believe, by a desperate regime.

GUIDO WESTERWELLE: I agree. I agree 100 per cent with what my colleague, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, has just said.

I'm absolutely shocked by this report and of course it is necessary to investigate and it is necessary to address the united and common answer of the international community. There is no justification for atrocities like we just saw there.

And we will discuss the whole case of Syria, in the Security Council, in New York because we think this is not a domestic, an internal issue, this is something we have a responsibility.

KEVIN RUDD: Germany and Australia are also members of the Libyan Contact Group. The Ministerial Contact Group will be meeting again in Abu Dhabi soon with foreign ministers around the world and I'm sure in the corridors of those discussions together with what will occur in New York in the Security Council, where Germany is currently a member, these questions concerning Syria will be on the forefront of people's agenda.

Good.

Okay.

END

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