Sky News Australian Agenda Bob Carr 7 October 2012

Interview with Bob Carr Australian Agenda program, 7 October 2012

Peter van Onselen: To discuss domestic and, more so, foreign affairs issues we're joined now by the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. Thanks for your company. Bob Carr: Pleasure to be here, Peter. Peter van Onselen: Can I ask you off the bat about Tony Abbott following on from Paul's editorial. I've heard around the traps that within the Labor Party you've made some pretty strong remarks about your concern that if he becomes Prime Minister Tony Abbott could be a very long-term Prime Minister contra to a lot of other people have - what a lot of other people have been saying that he might sort of fly off the handle early. Is that true? Bob Carr: I don't recall saying that but certainly my view is that you've got to be taken seriously. I think - I think he's learnt at John Howard's knee, I think he'd be a more erratic and extreme version of John Howard but he'd be attempting, were he to win, to emulate the Howard pattern of long-term success. So that makes the next election very important for my side of politics. Peter van Onselen: On another matter, and I don't want to dwell on this, but one of the domestic issues during the week of course was Alan Jones's comments which were reported last Sunday in the 'Sunday Telegraph'. Now, conservatives have been frustrated by the level of angst that has been thrown in Alan Jones's direction. I've certainly thrown a fair bit in that direction myself. One of the things that they raise is Bob Ellis and the fact that on his blog, so publicly, not at a private function, he made some pretty disparaging remarks about the Prime Minister, as he put it, fleeing back to Australia for the personal circumstances that she had. He's written speeches for a long time for
Australian Agenda 7 October 2012 Bob Carr

various Labor people, I think including yourself. Do you repudiate him every bit as strongly as you and your colleagues have repudiated Alan Jones? Bob Carr: Yeah, I deprecate that attack but it wasn't in the Jones category. He hasn't written speeches for me for I think seven years. I deprecate that attack. But it's a bit different to say the Prime Minister was wrong to return to Australia for the death of her father, she should have lingered in Vladivostok. It's a bit different to say that and to say the Prime Minister's father - I just note, it's unpleasant to recall this - the Prime Minister's father died of shame at his daughter's performance. They are in a different category. Peter van Onselen: Bob Ellis also wrote that she had, quote, "girly tears". That's in the same category. Bob Carr: Bob Ellis has got a private blog and, again, that second remark is not in the same category as taunting the Prime Minister with her father's death which was pretty monumental in its lack of taste and lack of compassion. And I hope we move beyond this but the conservative side of politics has got to accept that a lot of people will see that as emblematic of the extremism around Tony Abbott, that Tony Abbott has got a reputation for being erratic, for being extreme, and when Alan Jones who is his major media sponsor says something like that there is alarm at just how far Tony Abbott would go were he to be Prime Minister. Peter van Onselen: I'm surprised you don't see them as the same thing though, to be honest, because I think that they're equally deplorable because... Bob Carr: The Bob Ellis remarks? Peter van Onselen: Absolutely, Bob Ellis said she was fleeing back to Australia... Bob Carr: Bob Ellis has got a private blog and no-one would see him as a primary policy adviser to the Labor Party and until it was convenient for the Liberals to dig into his blog and produce this, I don't think many people took any notice of it. But there is a qualitative difference between taunting the Prime Minister with the death of her father by saying he died of shame and saying it was a bad judgment call to come back from Vladivostok for the family funeral. Paul Kelly:

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Senator, I know Labor will continue its campaign against Tony Abbott on the grounds that he's erratic and attacking his economic policies and so on, but can I ask you: do you think that Labor will also continue the campaign against Tony Abbott on the grounds that he's got a problem with women? Bob Carr: I just don't know, Paul. I'm out of the country and I'm working on a different agenda. I'm not in touch... Paul Kelly: But you're a senior Minister. Surely you're involved in this. Bob Carr: I've got another agenda, several of them pressing on me and I haven't explored the tactics of this. But Tony Abbott will be judged by what his policies - by what his policy and his stance represent for women voters. He'll be judged by women voters in that sense. And I - I think that Labor doesn't have to say that much more, that behind all the fuss and contention there are selfly committed women voters making up their own minds on this as Australian voters do. There's a lot of good sense out there and if one side goes too far in the flamboyance of its attacks or if someone else just presses too far in being themselves and that self is a little threatening or a little unpleasant, then those voters will work it out for themselves. Paul Kelly: Exactly. You've said that Labor really doesn't have to say any more. Does that mean in terms of decoding that, is what you're really saying that you don't think there need to be public and explicit attacks anymore by senior Ministers on Abbott on the grounds that he's got a particular problem with women. Is that what you're saying? Bob Carr: My sense, without having discussed it with any colleague, with any adviser of the Prime Minister, is that whatever points needed to be made have been made here, and Tony Abbott in deploying his wife to make entirely valid points from his point of view is entitled to feel he's made his point. But look, I think - I just want to say women voters will make up their own minds here. Paul Kelly: Well, what's your impression of the intervention by Margie Abbott? What did you make of it? Bob Carr: Words of Shakespeare, maybe she does protest too much, but she is obviously a charming woman and the Liberals are entitled to bring her on to the political debate.

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Paul Kelly: So... Bob Carr: But again - again... Paul Kelly: So they're entitled to, so they're entitled to, is it? Bob Carr: Of course they are, of course they are. But again the fact that she's been recruited, it's entirely legitimate in this fashion suggests that Tony Abbott feels vulnerable here. So any observations made by the Labor team about the threatening stance his policies represent to the status of women in Australia has obviously been made. But I think we move on and assume that - assume that Australian women voters, like Australian voters in general, will find their own way to forming - settling on conclusions here. Peter van Onselen: Senator Carr, can I ask you about this then, because the polling shows Labor is trying to, you know, basically point out that women voters have a problem with Abbott. The polling supports that. But the polling also supports that male voters have a problem with the Prime Minister. How do you explain that reality? Bob Carr: Gee, I don't know. But all I can say is that like everyone on the Labor side I'm pretty encouraged by the trend line in polling recently. Greg Sheridan: Mr Carr, could I change the subject entirely. You were subject to some strong criticism this week from a woman, Pippi Bean, who had some troubles in Libya and claims the Government abandoned her. What is the truth of that incident? Bob Carr: I've taken out the time line here and let me say that Ms Bean lives and works in Libya. She lives and works there. She wasn't a visitor on a humanitarian mission who got arrested and stuck in a prison in Zintan by armed militia like Melinda Taylor. It's a different case. She lives and works in Libya. And when she was held up by the police at the airport and prevented from leaving she made contact with the Australian consul in Cairo. Within two days he arrived in Tripoli. She made contact, she got support, and our consul flew from Cairo to Tripoli. And after arriving there he escorted her to a meeting with Libyan officials with the UK embassy officials we had put in contact with her in the meantime. And consular officials escorted Ms Bean on September 30 to the airport for her departure from Libya. Now, I don't care if she says that I abandoned her, which is plainly untrue, but I am offended on behalf of DFAT people who worked

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

very, very hard. And the politics of Libya are unsettled and complex, but they were there on the spot within 48 hours and in the meantime had attended to her needs. Peter van Onselen: So how do you explain her feeling so aggrieved? Bob Carr: I don't know. But on the basis of those facts, they're there, they're agreed. That's the record of our intervention. She cannot say for a moment she was abandoned by her country. And again the fundamental difference with the Melinda Taylor case is very clear, Melinda Taylor was there for the International Criminal Court; she was seized by armed militia, she was stuck in a prison. Ms Bean lives and works in Libya, was delayed in her departure but not detained, not put in a prison, and by the authorities, not by an armed militia. We were on the spot - we were on the spot with an embassy official from Cairo within 48 hours. Paul Kelly: So you're quite happy. I mean, are you completely satisfied with the Australian Government's response? Bob Carr: Absolutely. Absolutely, and I don't think any other government in the world where there's no resident ambassador would be able to point to a better response, a better response than this. And I just remind Australians that when you are overseas in a different jurisdiction you are subject to the laws of that jurisdiction. We'll do everything to help you, and we always do as far as I can judge, but it's hard to imagine any circumstances short of an amphibious assault by Australian forces on Tripoli that could have rendered more satisfaction. Peter van Onselen: Senator Carr, I think you were overseas at the time but you would have had drawn to your attention the front page of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' splashed with - on this very subject. Now, that happened actually following the day of the arrest and charges for the former Labor Party President Mr Williamson had been laid, yet they splashed on this issue. Did you feel that that therefore was a beat-up or did you feel that you didn't get a fair hearing in it? Bob Carr: I could not believe the 'Sydney Morning Herald' front page. If there were a Walkley Award for beat-ups, that would get it. Abandoned by... Greg Sheridan: Did they ring you first before they splashed that way?

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Bob Carr: I'm not aware they did, but we would have provided them with this time line as we provided it to other media organisations making inquiries. But an Australian aid worker who lives and works in Libya, chooses to live and work in Libya is delayed in her departure from that country and within 48 hours we have flown in to Tripoli an Australian consulate representative from Egypt. You can't say you've been abandoned by your country. And in the meantime there have been strong representations to the Government of Libya. Greg Sheridan: Mr Carr, could I change the subject again off these tawdry trivial consular matters on to high policy, where you live as a native. You've just been in New York lobbying for the United Nations Security Council bid for Australia. I want to ask you how we're going, but I want to ask you this too - I'm told the DFAT assessment is very optimistic and it's based on this, that we have a sufficient number of pledges from countries to suggest that we will beat out that geopolitical powerhouse Luxembourg for the last place and that the only doubt is whether the pledges are honest or not but - so my question to you is in two parts: how's the bid going and do we have those pledges? Bob Carr: Yeah Greg, I've got to insist here, first of all I wish you were right but I've got no DFAT advice to that effect. This is very close. At best it is very close. You say Luxembourg, you refer to the smallness of Luxembourg compared to the middle power status of Australia, but don't forget it was Portugal that beat Canada. If any middle power had an even more admirable application of middle power diplomacy and active investment, liberal interaction than Australia, it was Canada two years ago. So there are swirling cross-currents in general assembly politics. But beyond that we've got the challenge of having entered this six or seven years after the other two, and many countries had made commitments. Peter van Onselen: So why did we do that then? I mean, wouldn't we have been better off not to have rushed it? A lot of people have said that in their commentary, that exactly as you say, coming in late has probably cost us our chance here and we would have had a better chance if we had aimed further forward. Bob Carr: Well I'm not sure. It was some time ago, 2008, when my thoughts were on other things but I think Australia's reputation was strong enough especially with the advent of the Rudd Government, the impact of the apology, the signing of Kyoto, the lift in our reputation in the developing countries. I had - just to divert for a moment, I was meeting 15 - 14 Caribbean nations at a meeting in New York and I referred to the small support we gave some work they've done commemorating the transatlantic slow train, and one of the permanent representatives of Caribbean nations said "We welcome that

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

support and we know that it's done from an ethical basis". Those were her words, the ethical basis of a country which delivered an apology to its indigenous people and I was quite struck by that. So there would have been adequate reason, supported by DFAT advice in 2008 to believe that lift we had gave us a reasonable chance too, despite entering the race late. So - and I've also been struck entering this job by the high level of support this bid and this bid at this time has had from DFAT professionals. Greg Sheridan: Mr Carr, in the time of our bid we've somewhere between tripled and quadrupled our aid to Africa. A lot of professionals think this aid is misspent, spread too thinly over too many countries, doesn't support our coherent objectives of focussing in the Asia-Pacific. Can you, hand on heart, say that the massive increase in our aid budget, at a time when DFAT has been sacking hundreds of diplomats and can't meet its core tasks, has not been one speck affected by a United Nations Security Council bid? Bob Carr: Greg, here is my hand, here is my heart, 87% of our aid goes to the Asia Pacific, 87% of our aid goes there. It trains police in Vanuatu, midwives in Cambodia. It's getting rid of malaria in the Solomons. It's reducing the rate of maternal death per 100,000 births across the Pacific. That's where the bulk of our aid goes. Indonesia is the biggest recipient of Australian aid and it's hard to make a road journey anywhere in Indonesia and not cross bridges built by Australians. But here's a story about our aid to Africa. I was at a Commonwealth meeting in London and I met Bernard Membe, the Foreign Minister of Tanzania. And before he could say anything else he said "Your aid is very good for us". He said "I know a bridge, the bridge was built by your ambassador, your high commissioner in Tanzania". He said "That bridge enables farmers to get to their fields saving -" I think he said "- an hour each day". And he said "It's also stopped the kids being taken by crocodiles". Greg Sheridan: But with respect, Mr Carr, you're not answering my question. The question is: has our aid... Bob Carr: Your observation's littered with a few questions, I'm wending my way to that one. But 1,000 scholarships across Africa, yeah, that is spread thin. But I bump into for example a Minister in the Government of Somalia who says he was educated in Australia and other officials who claim - and by the way we've got a huge stake in Africa, we've got an estimated $50 billion in mining investment in the ground, or ready to go into the ground and all of a sudden we find we've got a lively agenda item with African countries because the Australian mining boom has spilled over into more than a score of African countries. And I can say Greg, hand on heart, that we would be running a relatively big and generous aid budget were we not a candidate for the Security Council seat.

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Greg Sheridan: So it's had no effect, you'd say that. Bob Carr: Yes, I would say that, yes. Peter van Onselen: Senator, hold that thought. I know you were after a coffee before we started the show but we ran out of time. We'll get you that during the ad break. Stay with us. When we come back we'll continue talking to the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. Back in a moment. Welcome back. You're watching Australian Agenda where we're speaking with Bob Carr, Australia's Foreign Minister. Senator Carr, we started the show by me referencing the presidential debate in the United States. You're not shy of a debate yourself. You were pretty famous for it in the NSW Parliament when you were Premier. Who won? Bob Carr: I - I've got contacts running on both sides of US politics. My Republican contacts were more up-beat, Peter, even 20 minutes into the debate than my Democrats. And that's been confirmed. Now, we all follow US politics as a spectator sport and we know that debates don't always have the impact that they had in 1980 when Ronald Reagan knocked Jimmy Carter out of the race with a surprisingly deft performance. Peter van Onselen: That said though Senator, there is a fair bit of research showing that debates can have a significant impact. A fellow that I wrote a book with some years ago, Dr Philip Senior who wrote his PhD on this issue and pointed out that debates can change, you know, the consequence of an election by as much as 1 or 2 or even 3%. Now, in a close presidential contest like this, Barack Obama would want to be careful, wouldn't he, to have a better performance next time? Bob Carr: I'm sure the Democrats - we all know the Democrats are focussed on that. He's been encouraged of course by the unemployment results falling below 8% for the first time in his term. But the important point for Australia, and this is my perspective, is that we've got - we've got strong links with both camps and I've been in frequent contact with our embassy in Washington, indeed talking to Kim Beazley only yesterday about this, and I'm delighted to say that when it comes to the new personnel who might be recruited were President Obama to be re-elected, or the team that would come in were Romney to be in, not only are our embassy's links very, very sound and Australia's links very sound, but I've actually met these people with the Democrats to replace Secretary of State Clinton. I had a meeting with John Kerry in April in Washington. Tom Donnellan, the President's national security adviser, I met in his office in the White

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

House. And Susan Rice has been known to me, as to you over many years, as a participant in the Australian American leadership dialogue. She's now the ambassador to the UN and I know her in that capacity as well. And on the Republican side, again these are names that have been speculated upon in the American media - it's not much hearing secret intelligence - Bob Zoellick were he to be Secretary of State I'd be very comfortable. Greg Sheridan: Bob Zoellick goes round the world quoting your speech, saying that America is one budget deal away from reachieving global preeminence. I don't know how you got him to do that. Bob Carr: No, I said that to him when I met him in Washington when he was in his last days as head of the World Bank and he was rather taken by that point and I've been flattered that he's quoted it. But with the people speculated about in defence and State and as Republican policy advisors, our embassy's links with them are very, very good. So the change in personnel with the re-elected Obama or the change in personnel, should Governor Romney win, and by the way I met Governor Romney and I left him with a strong message about Australia's support and Australia's commitment to its treaty relationship with the United States and he's recalled that with one Republican contact of mine, we are well placed. Peter van Onselen: But diplomatic niceties aside though, you'd have to concede... Bob Carr: I'm not sure I can cast them... Peter van Onselen: Okay, to the extent that you can, I mean, you'd have to concede that the current Australian Government would have better ties with the Obama administration than Romney, if for nothing else Wayne Swan has come out slamming the Tea Party, of which the vice-presidential Republican candidate is very much a part of with some of his rhetoric over the years. Yourself on your private blog, despite your reference to Romney when you met him, had previously as a private citizen... Bob Carr: That was another age. Peter van Onselen: ...referred to him as "bloodless". Bob Carr:

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

It was completely - completely... Peter van Onselen: At the end of the day though, all of that does add up to a better relationship with the Obama camp than the Romney camp, surely. Bob Carr: Bob Hawke had a very good working relationship with George Schultz when he was Secretary of State under the Reagan - have I got that right - under the Reagan administration and you sometimes have this - certainly based on your book Paul, John Howard did not have a close natural relationship with President Clinton, or the Clinton Administration. But I tell you what, should there be a change of administration and Bob Zoellick be appointed for example I'd be really comfortable about making that phone call in the first days, and should John Kerry, Tom Donnellan or Ambassador Rice be nominated to succeed Secretary of State Clinton, I'd be very comfortable about that phone call too. Paul Kelly: Just on these points, seeing you can't cast aside diplomatic niceties, have you spoken to Wayne Swan at all about his attacks on the Republicans? I mean, what's the point of this? Bob Carr: No, I haven't but... Paul Kelly: Would you? Would you? Bob Carr: But I did say when I spoke - when I did interviews and spoke to people in New York that our relations with the Republican side are very, very robust and we'd have no difficulty about lines of communication should there be a change of administration. Peter van Onselen: Despite the Deputy Prime Minister? Bob Carr: Yeah, I think there is allowance made for people venting their political views. And by the way - by the way, there is no intervention from my side of politics that would compete for a brief shining moment with John Howard's - John Howard saying a victory for this man, Barack Obama, would be a win for Osama bin Laden. Now if you're talking about clumsy intervention in US politics that takes the prize. It was so uncharacteristic of John Howard of course it was all the more striking and I think John

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Howard replied, in an interview with you about his foreign policy experience, it's not something he'd want to revisit. Greg Sheridan: I think that certainly was a low point in the Howard foreign policy. I wonder if we can switch again. I know the panel wants to ask you quite a lot about China but I've been struck lately at something you've been saying, which is that we have no problems with China's military modernisation. Now, I - having heard you say that, I went back to the 2009 defence white paper, and the 2009 defence white paper which is still extant government policy says that we have a lot of problems with China using unconventional weapons such as shooting down satellites from space without telling anyone in advance, such as its massive investment in cyber warfare and the enormous number of cyber attacks around the world traced to China, the lack of transparency in its military budget. Bob Carr: Yes. Greg Sheridan: All these things are cited in the 2009 defence white paper and in the private version of the white paper it was also cited how many of China's new weapons, like the anti-ship ballistic missile are clearly designed to hurt and intimidate the US Navy. Now, doesn't that all add up to something about which we do have a legitimate concern or has the Government changed its mind on that and do we raise these matters with the Chinese in dialogues? Bob Carr: Yeah, there's been no change of mind. The Australian policy on this is to say China's military modernisation is a matter for China and that it's not astonishing that a country rising in an economic cloud like China's will want to secure its sea lanes of communication for example and want to have a navy and an air force able to say do that. But I quickly - mostly I remember to attach the qualification, and that is that more transparency is something required, more transparency would put China's immediate neighbours at a greater sense of ease. Of course the Chinese military modernisation has got to be seen in context with the military modernisation of all countries in the region. But it's not - as Henry Kissinger said "It would be astonishing were China not to modernise its military". Paul Kelly: Well, can I ask you about Kevin Rudd because he's had a lot to say about China this week and in particular he's talked about the change of leadership in China and given very strong views about this. What he's argued is he believes that we'll see more pro market economic reform in China as a result of the new leadership, we'll see more privatisation, we'll see more action on the currency. Do you agree with those views?

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Bob Carr: Yeah, I think that his speech - his speeches have had a number of very useful contributions. That is one of them. I'd like to return to another in a moment. The Chinese are very good at criticising themselves, at analysing their own performance, and they're aware of a landmark report by the World Bank that says China must have another bout of economic reform, it must trust market forces more than it has so far. And they'd be aware that unless they do that, especially facing the demographic trend in China, the ageing of the population, then they will be trapped in middle income status, they won't make the sort of trajectory that Japan and Singapore have made to high income status, and they're aware of that challenge. So I think Kevin's analysis is spot on. The other important point in one of his speeches was the value of confidence-building measures between China and the United States, more military-to-military cooperation so that we minimise the chance of a naval incident producing a clash. The Lowy Institute produced an excellent paper by Rory Medcalf, I think a year ago on this very thing, the need to get confidence building between the two of them. And in a report I've just had, there are three meetings devoted to military cooperation coming up between China and the United States. Greg Sheridan: But Mr Carr, on confidence building measures, my American friends tell me that they - the US Navy and State Department have constantly suggested at-sea confidence-building measures between the US and China, codes of conduct, hotlines and so on, and that the Chinese simply aren't interested. Now, is that your information? And the Americans say to me this is because they don't want anyone to know what they can do. Bob Carr: I too have heard this from the Americans. But at the same time there are at least three meetings planned at assistant deputy secretary and deputy secretary level that will deal with this agenda. So we've got the Americans and the Chinese discussing this, talking this through but certainly Australia, and I think all our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific would breathe a lot more easily were there a quantum increase in confidence building, military-to-military measures, minimising the chance of a clash. I mean, you've seen - you've seen recently the Taiwanese vessels go into the disputed islands in the East China Sea. That's very disturbing to America, it has a defence relationship with Taiwan as it does have with Japan. You've seen the Japanese response to that with fire hoses at sea. We should never overlook the fact that World War I nearly began in 1908 because of a naval incident, the Tangier incident. The other thing that - so I think it was very valid for Kevin Rudd to talk about that, but it is a lively unresolved issue. Paul Kelly: Well, can I just ask you - can I just ask you about Malcolm Fraser. I mean, he's recently made yet another very strong speech warning that we are too close to the

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

United States, that our relationship with the United States now contains grave dangers for us in terms of dealing with China. Your response? Bob Carr: I don't dismiss out of hand what he says, the whole Hugh White school, the intervention by Paul Keating. I think in all his speeches and commentaries there's a challenge to Australia to think about the future, to think about what will be developing to our north over the next 20 or 30 years and to think of alternative ways of working through our security challenges. What I would say - and by the way, I've got to - we were talking about Africa earlier, I've got to pay tribute to Malcolm Fraser, a person I respect for his deep-seated hostility to racism. Paul Kelly: Sure. Bob Carr: And we're still drawing on the stock of goodwill when we... Greg Sheridan: And you'd admire his long commitment to the Vietnam War when he was Defence Minister and Army Minister. Bob Carr: I thought that was mistaken Greg, but I just want to say about China and the US. People say we've got to choose one between the other. I noted carefully the comments of respected business figures, James Packer and Kerry Stokes, but I just want to drive home the point that the Chinese and the Americans themselves say their relationship is excellent. They say it's very good. I've heard that - I've heard that in the White House when I visited. I've heard it - I've heard it elsewhere and it's confirmed by high-level engagement in recent times. And I know it's too early to talk about any easing of conflict in the disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, but I think Americans are somewhat relieved that their engagement with China is taking place and providing some relief from fears of a sudden clash. Now, the - I just want to underline, the US/China relationship is excellent, therefore Australians should not get into a lather about this question of having to choose between our longstanding security relationship with the US and economic and other ties with China that are so very important. Peter van Onselen: Senator Carr, speaking of having to choose between two options - it's a slight aside - Paul Kelly talked about Kevin Rudd before and his interventions rhetorically in relation to China. It's been coming up on eight months now since the February challenge that he had against Julia Gillard where he stepped down from the front bench. How much longer does someone with the experience of a former Prime Minister and a former Foreign Minister have to sit on the backbench before they can come out

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

of purgatory, if you like, and re-engage on the front bench and start contributing in that more meaningful way I guess to the Government, not just to their local electorate? Bob Carr: Well, what answer do you want Peter? What am I supposed to say... Peter van Onselen: What do you think? Bob Carr: ...to this question? The issue of Labor leadership is resolved and Julia Gillard is going to lead us to the next election. Peter van Onselen: I don't mean as a leader. I mean, is it a situation where Kevin Rudd as long as he's in parliament and as long as Julia Gillard is Prime Minister, they can't work together on the front bench or is there a time... Bob Carr: Peter, I think we've got to relax about former Prime Ministers. We've been speaking about Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating, John Howard. John Howard gave an excellent speech on China that I praised when I was interviewed on the ABC's 'Lateline'. I thought it very balanced. I think we've got to accept that someone with Kevin Rudd's policy experience is going to contribute, indeed he'll be invited to fora where he is expected to contribute and there'd be something, like China's military modernisation, it would be astounding were it not happening. Peter van Onselen: But do you say there's no point at which he could work on the front bench again with Julia Gillard? Say for example if the polls shift, there has been some shift and she pulls off a miraculous victory at the next election. Is there no chance in your opinion... Bob Carr: Peter, Peter, it's not up to me to determine this. I don't... Peter van Onselen: You must have a view. Bob Carr: I'm happy to serve and I'm not... Greg Sheridan: Mr Carr, could I...

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Bob Carr: ...I'm not in a position to shape this. Greg Sheridan: Could I take you back to China for perhaps a final question on China. Is there the prospect of Australia and China instituting a more formal government-to-government dialogue, and if so where are we up to on that and what has happened on that? Bob Carr: Yeah, Dennis Richardson, the head of my department, shortly to move to defence, was in Beijing recently to talk about this. I guess it's what's referred to as architecture. Do you want a more formal prescribed meeting between Australian and Chinese leadership... Greg Sheridan: At ministerial level? Bob Carr: ...at ministerial level or at the level of officials, and the Chinese are entitled to take their time about determining whether this suits them. And I'm pretty relaxed about how these discussions go. Greg Sheridan: What was their response? Bob Carr: They're wanting time to assess it and to think about it. I'm not somebody who gets too excited about architecture. I like a bit of - I think there's a case to be made for a bit of clever or brilliant improvisation from time to time and I don't think your problems are solved simply by fixing regular consultations. But this notion does have value, it does have value. Greg Sheridan: Did Mr Richardson see the Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi? Bob Carr: No, he didn't see the Foreign Minister but he saw - he saw - I think he saw an Assistant Foreign Minister about this, but I'm not certain, I'd need to check. It's on the agenda, we're talking about it and I think - I think China's entitled to take whatever time it likes to settle on the form of regular consultation that suits it. We would like to have it - like to have it but I don't pretend for a moment that that sort of architecture is substance. Peter van Onselen:

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Stay with us. We're going to take a commercial break. When we come back lots more to talk about in the foreign policy space. The Prime Minister in the next few days is about to head off for her first trip to India. We'll be seeking the views of the Foreign Minister in relation to that. Back in a moment. Welcome back. You're watching Australian Agenda where Greg Sheridan, Paul Kelly and I are speaking to Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. Senator Carr, the Prime Minister's about to make her first trip to India. I think that's only the second trip by an Australian Prime Minister since Labor came to power in 2007. Have we neglected that relationship? Bob Carr: No we haven't and we work very hard, for example when there was that awful regrettable string of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, Stephen Smith, I think other Ministers were up there very quickly. When I spoke to the Indian Foreign Minister in Phnom Penh a little time ago he expressed satisfaction at what we'd done and how that bewildering development had been curbed. The relationship's in good working order and the thing the Indians wanted out of us most was a decision to sell them uranium for the peaceful development of nuclear power which is a major strategic goal for them and I think an environmental plus for the planet. Greg Sheridan: Mr Carr, on uranium - but I'd have to contest the idea that we haven't neglected India. We're the Asia nation of the west and in five years of Labor Government there's been one prime ministerial day from Australia in India, one. Barack Obama, Dave Cameron have both spent a lot more time in India than any Australian Prime Minister. But on the uranium stuff are we now near to negotiating the safeguards agreement which would allow the sales of uranium to actually - to actually go ahead? Bob Carr: Yes we are, and the Indians are happy with the progress on this. And we always - where there's a sale of Australian uranium, we always have a treaty that governs it and puts in place all the safeguards we'd require, IAEA and the rest, non-proliferation references. And I recently announced one with the UAE. Greg Sheridan: Will we get an announcement during the Prime Minister's visit? Bob Carr: I'm not in a position to announce what the Prime Minister's going to announce. But the relationship is in quite good working order and again like the - like discussing the architecture of regular consultations with China - I think Greg too much can be made of form here, that is prime ministerial visits - if you refer to the substance, there's a very comfortable working relationship.

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Greg Sheridan: But would we be months away from actually beginning to sell uranium or is it still... Bob Carr: The Prime Minister's headed there, let's leave it to that. Paul Kelly: Don't you think it's a bit intellectually offensive for Australia to be exporting uranium around the world without proper safeguards agreements for the development of nuclear power around the world, and yet we have this obsession in this country that we can't even debate the issue? Bob Carr: It is interesting. I think it is noteworthy and I think the basic reason for it is the cheap, clean - relatively clean coal. I mean clean compared with coal from other nations... Greg Sheridan: We're supposed to be getting out of coal. Bob Carr: ...that Australia's got. There is a curious mental block in Australia against this. Peter van Onselen: Like within the Labor Party, the Labor left are where the mental block is. Bob Carr: It's government policy - it's government policy not to open this up and I'm not going to depart from government policy. Paul Kelly: You seem to be suggesting this as well, but you've clearly said it's a curious policy, in other words it's a bizarre policy, isn't it? Bob Carr: It's more or less supported by the Australian people. It's become more entrenched after Fukushima, quite understandably. You've got to analyse Fukushima more closely before you can reach a - I think a more sustainable view about what happened and what could happen in different circumstances. But I think after the headlines generated by Fukushima Australians aren't ready to have this debate and we shouldn't devote intellectual energy to the debate. But in the meantime we recognise - here's my perspective, and that is that if China and India, instead of building coal-fired power stations, are going to power their industrialisation and light their houses from uranium, then that's a good thing for the polar ice caps and the planet.

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Greg Sheridan: Mr Carr, one area where you have given a lot of leadership is on policy towards Myanmar, a country we used to call Burma, I'm glad we now use the same name as the rest of Southeast Asia. Australia's been forward leading and a bit out front on this. Would you - like we've lifted trade sanctions for example on Myanmar as I understand it. Bob Carr: Yes. Greg Sheridan: Would you like the Europeans to follow our lead and not merely suspend but lift their sanctions altogether? Bob Carr: At a UN meeting called Friends of Myanmar, I said to the Europeans, "You need to lift your sanctions. If you're going to have investment from Europe flow into Myanmar, one of the poorest countries in the world, to give jobs to its unemployed in garment factories to go through that first stage of industrialisation that other Southeast Asian nations have gone through, then you need to send a message". If a European investor puts money into a mine or a garment factory in Myanmar it's not going to be in danger by a reimposition of European sanctions. So you've got to lift them, not simply suspend them. And Myanmar wants that to happen. I've spoken to maybe half a dozen European Foreign Ministers to press the same message. I said we're engaging with Myanmar very, very strongly and the Government of Myanmar appreciates it and we've become a bit of the advocate of the UN, getting the UN to change the wording in its annual resolution about Myanmar to be more encouraging of a democratic transformation taking place there. But the Europeans definitely need to follow. Greg Sheridan: And do you think the Myanmar Government is genuinely committed to these reforms? Bob Carr: Yes, yes, because there's the Government, the government of Thein Sein that's seen its party lose I think 43 out of 44 seats in a bundle of by-elections. But it hasn't suspended the reform process. I remember there, going in the delta, going near Aung San Suu Kyi's electorate, going to visit a school, a school where the teachers had been trained and the blackboards provided by Australian aid. And there was a proud parent outside the school because of the activity around the school that day, my visit, and I saw his T-shirt and the guy from the embassy said "That's an Aung San Suu Kyi T-shirt, he's a member of the National League for Democracy". I said "Well, tell him that - tell him that I met his leader yesterday". So the message went across and back came a translated comment. He said yes, he saw it. He saw it on TV. And I thought if television

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

in Rangoon is reporting me going to see - a mere Australian Foreign Minister going to visit Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's now got substantially a free media, and he's someone who supported the opposition at the last election, standing there in his T-shirt outside a school where his child's being educated, helped by Australian aid, and he says he saw me visit the leader, the iconic leader of the Myanmar opposition. Paul Kelly: Can I just ask on another issue, do you think the Israelis can be persuaded against a military strike on Iran or do you think that's the way things are likely to evolve? Bob Carr: I think it's a running debate in Israel. I would urge Israel to resist from the high adventure here, and I know that they - I acknowledge their feeling, that they see - they feel threatened by what they see as provocative and illegal action, illegal in terms of international law action by the Government in Tehran, but I'd urge them to persist with sanctions and negotiations. Paul Kelly: How grave is it? Bob Carr: Very disturbing, but I think we've got more time and as the Americans have concluded, the Government in Tehran has not yet made their decision for nuclear weapons. Meanwhile it moves towards giving itself that capacity. We've got time. Peter van Onselen: Senator Bob Carr, we are right out of time. One very final question though: former Labor Party President Mr Williamson being charged from a time when he was Labor President, doesn't get more embarrassing for a major political party than that, does it? Bob Carr: It doesn't. Peter van Onselen: All right, we are out of time. Concise answer. Bob Carr, Australian Foreign Minister, appreciate you joining us on Australian Agenda, thank you very much. Bob Carr: Thank you Peter. Peter van Onselen: Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan, Editor-at-Large Paul Kelly, appreciate your company as well. And thank you for your company. We'll see you at the same time next week.

Australian Agenda

7 October 2012

Bob Carr

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful