Interview with Maruis Benson – ABC Newsradio

Subjects: Libya, Syria, Australian Labor Party

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

10 June 2011

GLEN BARTHOLOMEW: Let's look at what's happening with Libya. Australia's recognised Libya's Opposition as the country's legitimate political representative.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement at a meeting at the United Arab Emirates during the third round of talks on the country's future.

More than 20 foreign ministers are there discussing ways to further support the Libyan Transitional National Council and Mr Rudd used his address to warn that Libyan leader Qaddafi's days are well and truly numbered.

The Foreign Minister has spoken from Abu Dhabi to Marius Benson.

REPORTER: Kevin Rudd, you have said that Australia now recognises the Opposition in Libya is clearly not running the country. Is this just a gesture to encourage the Opposition forces?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, Australia's longstanding policy is that we recognise states, not governments.

What we've indicated today, consistent with British policy, is that Australia recognises the Libyan Transitional National Council as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.

That's important in terms of doing business in Libya right now, and by doing business, I mean making sure that we've got a point of contact for the distribution of humanitarian aid and post-conflict support in terms of building a new Libyan state.

REPORTER: The American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says Muammar Qaddafi has been talking with various interlocutors about transition.

Is he close to going in your estimation?

KEVIN RUDD: My strong belief is that Qaddafi's days are now well and truly numbered.

Listening to colleagues from around the world today, the French Foreign Minister, the US Secretary of State, and others, it's quite clear that the momentum is decisively now against Qaddafi militarily, diplomatically, politically.

And as I said to various representatives of the international media here in Abu Dhabi, we need to prepare ourselves for the next step, and the next step is working closely with the Transitional National Council on post-conflict stabilisation and the building of a new government capable of delivering services to the Libyan people.

REPORTER: Is there a need for increased military action in the meantime? Should the military effort against Qaddafi be stepped up?

KEVIN RUDD: NATO forces have already indicated in the last 24 hours that it will continue their campaign for the next 90 days. And furthermore, that there'll be an intensification of air strikes against Qaddafi.

Qaddafi in the last 36 hours has sought to undertake a further counterattack against opposition forces in the city of Misrata.

That has been repelled. NATO is accelerating the military action. Diplomatic pressure and political pressure, therefore, must be heightened as well [inaudible] the world, in part, underlining our decision to recognise the Transitional National Council of Libya in the way in which we have done.

REPORTER: Can I go to Syria, because the United Nations' officer, Navi Pillay has said that the Syrian Government is now waging war on its own people. Do you believe it's time for greater international intervention or direct international intervention in Syria?

KEVIN RUDD: The truth is, on Syria, the United Nations Security Council, until now, has been unable to reach a unified position on Syria.

However, as a product of the French and British efforts in the Security Council, I believe a resolution will soon be put through the Council which condemns the actions of the Syrian regime.

I believe this is useful as a first step, but Australia has a further position, which we put to the international community, is that a next step should be for the Security Council to make a formal reference of the Syrian regime, including Bashar al-Assad, to the International Criminal Court because of the repressive acts and acts of violence and murder, which have been undertaken by the Syrian security forces against innocent Syrian civilians.

GLEN BARTHOLOMEW: Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd speaking on a couple of fronts, Syrian and Libyan, to Marius Benson.

More from him later this morning.

GLEN BARTHOLOMEW: Well to many within and outside Labor the rolling of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister last year was the best example of the power of factional chiefs in the party.

Mr Rudd who's now travelling in the Middle East supported Senator Faulkner's criticism of Labor when he spoke to NewsRadio's Marius Benson this morning.

KEVIN RUDD: I thought John was spot on in his analysis of the problems within the structure of the Australian Labor Party.

Fundamental reform is necessary for the Australian Labor Party as John has said quite rightly.

It's not just a question of Labor Party members being listened to but in fact Labor Party members being heard and this is the beginning of the reforms which are necessary and that's I believe the task which lies ahead at the national conference of the party at the end of this year.

MARIUS BENSON: Is he right when he says the party has to repudiate the power brokers and are those power brokers the factional leaders who brought you down?

KEVIN RUDD: Well I don't intend to reflect upon the events of 12 months ago but let me say this, the cancer within the Australian Labor Party lies in factional power and lies in factional power brokers intimidating others from exercising their own free political will.

I've said that before. I say it again and I fully support what John Faulkner has said in his speech on this matter as well. The time for reform is now.

MARIUS BENSON: You've spoken of that cancer before. Has the issue been addressed in the months since you've spoken about it publicly, warning of it?

KEVIN RUDD: Well John Faulkner together with others has put together a reform proposal for the future of the Labor Party which was released a couple of months ago.

I support the thrust of what John has said and what others have said in that report.

It should now be considered not just by the national executive but by the national conference of the Australian Labor Party as well.

It's time for these problems to be dealt with if the party is to be truly democratic in the way in which it conducts its business it has to put the age of factionalism behind it and get on to a future where every member has an equal say in the deliberations of the party and where we can confidently carve out a future for the party fully canvassing all of our talents to our country, Australia's future challenges rather than the individual political ambitions of individual factional operatives.

MARIUS BENSON: John Faulkner did set out his concerns months ago in his official report to the party, he remains pessimistic. Are you pessimistic now?

KEVIN RUDD: To be in the Labor Party the last 30 years that I have been means that you are an eternal optimist. I remain that way and I believe that calls for reform is clear.

It's time however for the members of our party, the tens of thousands of them who are out there still labouring in the fields in support of the core ideals and values of our movement to take the party back from the factional power brokers who have taken it over in the party's structure.

And I think the opportunity to do that lies at the national conference at the end of this year.

MARIUS BENSON: Is Julia Gillard doing enough to drive reform?

KEVIN RUDD: Well the Prime Minister indicated her response to the thrust of the report delivered by John Faulkner and others earlier this year, of course the structure reform of the Australian Labor Party lies with the Conference itself and that's where the decisions will need to be made as to whether we are serious about the party's future, as a party of the people, and a party that's primarily concerned with the country's future rather than the future of the factions, that's where the decision should be taken.

MARIUS BENSON: Sounds like it could be an interesting Conference.

KEVIN RUDD: Well most Labor Party conferences are – in my experience – are rarely dull.

Let's hope as others within our movement also hope that this opportunity is seized with both hands and as I say embrace our country's future cognitive values which have stood so well by the Labor Party over the last 100 years in the past.

MARIUS BENSON: Kevin Rudd thank you very much.

KEVIN RUDD: Thanks for having me on the program.

GLEN BARTHOLOMEW: That's Kevin Rudd, the Foreign Affairs Ministers speaking with NewsRadio's Marius Benson.


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