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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


12th November 2006


PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello and welcome to Meet the Press. George Bush dispenses with Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld. But our Government says the President hasn't dispensed with his Iraq war policies.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH (Thursday): I'm obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election
and, as the head of the Republican party, I share a large part of the responsibility.

DEMOCRATIC HOUSE LEADER NANCY PELOSI (Thursday): Nowhere was the call for a new direction more
clear from the American people than in the war in Iraq.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Defence Minister Brendan Nelson is our guest. Later, the debate over Australian
values. The welfare lobby launches a new campaign for a fairer Australia. But first, what the
nation's papers are reporting Sunday November 12 - The 'Sunday Telegraph' leads with "Belinda
Emmett dead at 32." Nearly two years after marrying TV personality Rove McManus, the young actor
has succumbed to cancer. In a statement, Network Ten expressed sympathy and announced 'Rove Live'
will not go to air this week. The 'Sunday Herald-Sun' has "PMs stick with Iraq." Ignoring the
message from US voters, John Howard and Tony Blair have vowed to keep troops in Iraq. The pact came
in a 25-minute phone call between the Australian and British prime ministers. The Brisbane 'Sunday
Mail' reports "Baby bonus rethink." Teenage mothers will no longer receive a lump sum baby bonus to
top stop them spending the $4,000 on plasma TVs. Instead, mothers under 18 will receive the bonus
in fortnightly payments. The Adelaide 'Sunday Mail' says "Homes lost as rates soar." Thousands of
South Australians have lost their homes, the paper says, this year, as they fail to meet dearer
repayments. And the Sunday 'Age' has "Australians value a fair go highest." A new survey has found
the right to a fair go is what almost all Australians put at the top of the list when it comes to
values. Two recent books in America on Iraq, Bob Woodward's 'State of Denial' and Thomas E. Ricks'
'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq', paint a disturbing picture of incompetence,
deception and bloodshed. The American people last week passed their judgment - they want a change
in direction, but what does that mean for Australia? Welcome back to the program Defence Minister
Brendan Nelson.

DEFENCE MINISTER BRENDAN NELSON: Good morning, Paul. Thanks for having me.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, the quagmire in Iraq was foretold in 1998 by President George Bush, the
first one, when he said, seven years after the first Iraq war, "Trying to eliminate Saddam would
have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad
and, in effect, rule Iraq, had we gone the invasion route." He said, "The US could conceivably
still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." Times have moved on, but on that timetable
of President George Bush senior, who after all was a CIA chief at one stage, we've been there three
and a half years. Is it conceivable that we'll be there another four?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, we obviously aren't able, nor will put any sort of time line on it, Paul. We
shouldn't forget that we had a decade of terrorist activity leading up to the events in Iraq and,
of course, September 11. We knew that Saddam Hussein, a dreadful regime that murdered on average
70,000 people a year for 15 years, we knew he'd had weapons of mass destruction. It was a question
of whether he still had them. OK, now us, the United States and about 30 countries who made the
decision to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, three and a half, approaching four years, on, we've
now got a democratically elected Iraqi national Government, 300,000 Iraq security forces trained.
We've got continuing bloodshed and violence which has been driven - of a sectarian nature. We've
got jihadists and terrorists that are absolutely determined to see the Iraqis don't have the kind
of peace and security and democracy that we enjoy and too often take for granted. We will continue
to support the Iraqis, to support their government, to see that there is stability in Iraq and in
the region, and we also know only too well that success in Iraq, in the sense of a democracy in
Iraq looking after its own security, is also very important to security throughout the rest of the
world. Labor's Kevin Rudd says it's time for the Government to take the Australian people into its
confidence. Here's what he said during the week.

SHADOW FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: The US has embarked upon a major new strategic shift
when it comes to its Iraq policy. John Howard is left high and dry. John Howard's challenge is
this: to articulate for the Australian people who he believes to be this country's future strategy
on Iraq.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, the Prime Minister will meet President Bush this week on Friday for
lunch. Can we outline our strategy or are we in effect handcuffed to George Bush?

BRENDAN NELSON: Paul, the overall objective remains unchanged, and that is that, as I say, that the
Iraqis themselves - 12 million risked their lives to vote - that they through their Government are
able to be trained, and we're supporting that training, to be able to look after their own
security. Iraq, for the foreseeable future, will be characterised unfortunately by a degree of
violence but, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said to me when I was in Baghdad, he said, "Despite
the bloodshed and the dreadful violence that people see, Iraqis highly covet their new-found
political and economic freedoms." The strategy, Paul - and Australia's at the front of this - there
are 18 provinces in Iraq. Two of those provinces have now transferred to the control of the Iraqis.
We've got 510 Diggers that are looking after those two provinces. What that means is that we do
situational patrols, we train the Army and security and police forces. We consult with the

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, why don't we define that already as success? I mean, there has been
regime change, there are no weapons of mass destruction, there has been a democratic election. Why
isn't that success?

BRENDAN NELSON: We, of course it's success in the sense that it is progress.


BRENDAN NELSON: We've moving sequentially across Iraq, beginning in these two provinces. We expect
that some time in the first half of next year the other two provinces, Maysan and Basrah, will
similarly in the south of Iraq move to this situation. But it doesn't mean that we just sort of
jump out of Iraq prematurely. We've got to make sure that we're able to see the transition back to
fully Iraqi security control. It's very important that Australians also understand that Mr Beazley,
who every day seems to have a different position. We've got 1,450 Australian troops across Iraq.
Back in March he said he'd have them all out except 110 in the security detachment in Baghdad. So,
in other words, he said, "They'll all come out except the security detachment and the ship." 20%
would stay. Then in October he said that he would have them all out except the security detachment.
Then 8% apparently are going to stay. And then most recently he said that the only bit to come out
is the battle group down in Tallil. In other words, that two-thirds will stay. He can't even
maintain his own position, let alone have the fortitude to stand up to the terrorists, the
jihadists and all of those people that are absolutely determined to see that the Iraqis, the US,
the British and us don't prevail in Iraq.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, isn't the problem that our commitment doesn't match our rhetoric? We're
1% of the total foreign forces in Iraq, we're in the southern part of the country, which you say is
much safer. In fact, there are only four provinces left that are creating the bloodshed. Shouldn't
we be in those four provinces and shouldn't we have more soldiers helping the Americans do the
heavy lifting if we believe what you and other ministers say we believe?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, Paul, our responsibilities in defence, of course, are first and foremost on
our borders - protecting our borders and the sovereignty of our borders. We provide significant
support in our region, for example East Timor and the Solomon Islands and other countries. We're
working in south-east Asia in counter-terrorism. But these issues in Afghanistan and Iraq are also
at the heart of the security of future generations. Anyone that suggests that what we're doing in
Iraq is anything that's in some way is tokenistic, does not understand the importance of it. The
Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, the UK Defence Secretary, Secretary Rumsfeld himself, all
have expressed at great length gratitude to what Australia is doing, particularly in the south.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just finally in this segment, General Peter Pace, the head of the American
military, has said that he's looking at the Iraq study group to define what we are doing there. By
the sounds of it, you'd be shocked if the Americans defined that they would be into a phased

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, look, no country wants to be, and have, their soldiers in Iraq a day longer
than they need to be there.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you expect a phased withdrawal may come out of the study group?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, I'm not going to foreshadow anything that comes out of study group, Paul.
Every single day we are looking on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis what our
tactics are. But you can already see what the objective is. We've been restoring schools, we're
getting electricity back on, people getting access to water, but in the process, handing security
back to the Iraqis themselves, building the Iraqi public service, supporting constitutional reform,
and all of those things. The security of our country and our world relies on us succeeding and not
bailing out before the Iraqis are ready to look after themselves.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for a break. When we return with the panel, we ask, what does the new security
pact with Indonesia mean for our defence force?

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with Defence Minister Brendan Nelson. And welcome to the
panel, Maria Hawthorne, Australian Associated Press. Good morning, Maria.


PAUL BONGIORNO: And Tom Allard from the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.



PAUL BONGIORNO: Tomorrow in Lombok, Indonesia, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and his
counterpart Hassan Wirajuda will sign a new security treaty. The Indonesians ripped up the last one
signed between the Keating government and the Suharto regime in 1995. But like the first one, it's
a wide-ranging agreement including cooperation on anti-terrorism, border security and defence.

TOM ALLARD: Brendan Nelson, your side of politics was highly critical of the secrecy surrounding
the Keating government's security treaty with Indonesia. Yet tomorrow Alexander Downer is going to
sign this treaty and the public has not even seen the document yet. It seems to me that you've
broken an undertaking there.

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, look, there are a couple of significant differences. Firstly, we believe it's
very important that Indonesia and Australia have a very good, effective working relationship,
notwithstanding our political and cultural differences. In 1995, Mr Keating signed a formal treaty
which actually put obligations on Australia and Indonesia to do or not do certain things if there
were threats to our respective countries. Also, now, what'll happen is Minister Downer will sign
the treaty in Lombok, but then of course it goes to our joint standing committee on treaties in the
Parliament. It has to be ratified in the Parliament, and I know it'll be subject to all sorts of
public scrutiny, as it will also in Indonesia. So the ratification will need to proceed in both of
our countries before it's, if you like, locked in.

TOM ALLARD: OK. Well, what we know from the leaks in the media and some of the comments from the
Indonesian officials is that one of the elements of this treaty is that we, Australia, will not be
a staging post for independence movements in Indonesia, I guess, especially the Papuan independence
movement. What does this mean in practical terms? For example, will Australia's security agencies
and intelligence agencies be monitoring Papuans here and sharing that information with their
Indonesian counterparts?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, look, one of the things which is covered, if you like, by the treaty is that
neither country will support separatism. So Australia has not, nor is it going to, actively be
involved in encouraging any sort of separatism as far as Indonesia is concerned. In relation to
intelligence, the treaty covers cooperation in a number of intelligence areas, but I'm certainly
not going to talk specifically about any sort of intelligence that is conducted, and I can assure
you that we don't use intelligence in relation to specific issues and certainly not in relation to

TOM ALLARD: What about if they wanted to - for example, rallies by Papuans or if Papuans wanted to
go overseas and lobby foreign governments for independence - would we allow them to travel, would
we allow these rallies to take place?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, look, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. Australia is a free country.
We're a democratic country. We respect the rights and views of people, and if people are in our
country and expressing their views lawfully, of course we're not going to prevent them from doing
so. But the Australian Government is not, has not, nor will not, encourage actively separatism in
Indonesia, and I might had nor indeed in any other country.

MARIA HAWTHORNE: Dr Nelson, about the military-to-military links under this treaty? Is there a
danger that Australian forces could be, in effect, training Indonesian forces to oppress their own

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, that's a highly provocative statement. Most certainly not. It's very
important that we have a cooperative relationship with Indonesia and defence ties. We already - in
fact, the treaty will in a sense formalise what we are already doing. So, in military engineering
in our C-130 Hercules and airlift for disaster and humanitarian relief, we're going to have a
patrol boat exercise later in the year. You might be interested to know that only in September we
had an Indonesian patrol boat that apprehended a Chinese fishing vessel six nautical miles inside
our economic exclusion zone and waited for us to arrive, if you like. We were obviously
coordinating that. Part of the treaty will cover the coordination of naval patrols. It's about
security, it's about exchanges in terms of military education and training. We've got about 70
people, Indonesians, that are training with us, and we've got 12 university scholarships this year.
So formalising those things, but probably the most important is to see that we are both
professional in defence, that the rules of engagement are understood and what they mean to our
respective countries, to also work with the Indonesians on humanitarian issues in conflict zones
and zones of disaster relief and other things. We trained earlier this year with Kopassus TNI unit
81. Yes, it doesn't have a particularly outstanding record in human rights. We carefully worked
through those with the individuals that come to train with us. But Australians must understand that
Indonesia, Australia and the countries in our region and our world, we face a common enemy and it's
terrorism. It's Islamic extremism, and there is, in working with that to ensure we've got good
counter-terrorism and hostage recovery capability in Indonesia and other places, we must work
cooperatively with our neighbours. That's what we're doing.

TOM ALLARD: Minister, a couple of quick ones back on Iraq, if I may. The first one is - you're
travelling to Washington I believe next month - will you be making any submissions yourself to the
Iraq study group headed by James Baker and in particular what is the Australian Government's view
about trying to include Syria and Iran into some kind of cooperative arrangement to help ease the
sectarian tensions and, I suppose, hurt the foreign fighters as well who are receiving support from
these countries we are led to believe?

BRENDAN NELSON: Look, we don't make any specific submission to the Iraq study group, if you like.
We talk with and deal with not only the Iraqis and the Americans and the British, but all of our
partners on a week to week, month to month, basis and at a lower level of course almost on an
hourly basis. We are constantly refining the approach that we actually take to delivering the
strategic outcome that we all want in Iraq. So the notion of Australia making a submission to that
is really superfluous. What you've got is essentially a group of people, a think tank, one of them,
as we know, Robert Gates, will replace Secretary Rumsfeld shortly. But they're thinking about new
ways of approaching this particular problem. But one thing this country will not do, we have never
stood for, nor will we ever, the idea of dropping our bundle, leaving people in the lurch and then
demanding someone else, as Mr Beazley has, in this case the Americans, lift our load for us. We are
not going to do that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, just before we go, during the week Government senators supported a motion
from Senator Barnaby Joyce calling for the David Hicks case to be dealt with fairly and quickly.
Barnaby Joyce says that he's been in jail virtually for five years without trial. Isn't the way
we're treating Hicks, in a way, denying - contradicting - all we stand for in being in Iraq?

BRENDAN NELSON: Well, Paul, Mr Hicks has been charged with very serious offences, and like all
Australians, the Government is concerned that he spent a significant period of time incarcerated
without actually having come to a court to have the charges heard. There are a variety of reasons
for that. One of them is that his own defence legal team...

PAUL BONGIORNO: Five years is a long time.

BRENDAN NELSON: ..his own defence team - legitimately - has sought to delay certain things. We have
impressed upon the Americans that we want this brought to a head fairly quickly. But no-one should
underestimate for a moment the gravity of the charges against Mr Hicks.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson. And
after the break, making Australia fairer. We talk with ACOSS chief Lin Hatfield Dodds. And
syndicated cartoonist Zanetti has this take on the latest interest rise. "The bad news is I put the
house on Tawqeet. The good news is we won't have to worry about the interest rate rises."

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet The Press. The Australian Council of Social Service has been testing
the values we claim as our own. A Morgan poll late last month found 91% see a fair go for all
Australians sums up the national ethos. 50% think Australia is getting fairer, 45% think it's not.
And the cruncher - 77% think the gap between rich and poor is widening, only 17% disagree. Welcome
to the program ACOSS president Lin Hatfield Dodds.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Why the campaign?

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: I guess the reason ACOSS is behind the Australia Fair initiative is we've had a
long-standing interest, as you know, in fairness and it's our understanding, working right across
Australian communities, that Australians share that concern about fairness. Given the current
debate about values, we decided we'd go out and listen to Australian communities. So we didn't just
poll, we've done a whole series of community consultations in every State and Territory and
face-to-face meetings. And what's come out of that is an enormous convergence of views right across
Australia about the 10 things that are required to make Australia a fair place for everyone.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Going to one of your key findings, Finance Minister Nick Minchin in the Senate this
week quoted NatSim to debunk a myth, as he called it, that the rich are greater richer and the poor
are getting poorer. He said that the NatSim modelling shows that everyone is getting better off.

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: What's interesting, I guess, in the research that we've done, and in the
conversations we've had with Australians, is as you move down the move disadvantaged end of lived
reality for people, people's understanding is that's not the case. And I guess our concern is to
make Australia a fair place for everyone. So it's actually about ensuring that everybody has access
to the means and opportunities they need to live a decent life - access to affordable housing, to
health care, education, to transport, to fair work.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Have we stopped doing that?

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: Government's going a fair way towards that, Government's taken some really
steps, but our concern, I guess, is just given that we've got such a strong economy, given the
surplus is so strong, it seems to us that we've got a golden opportunity right now to make a real
difference, and that's certainly what we've heard across the country. Ordinary Australians can
identify the problems and they're interested in engaging around the solutions.

MARIA HAWTHORNE: Lin, we've seen this morning that the baby bonus is no longer going to be paid as
a lump sum to teenage mothers. Women under 18 will get it as a staggered payment rather than all in
one go. Is that the right way to go and should it be extended to mothers of all ages?

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: I guess that's one of those issues that we'd like to throw back to the
Australian public in some ways. I think for people who are doing it tough, getting money coming in
on a regular basis, in fortnightly payments, will certainly ease the squeeze, I guess, from week to
week in terms of budgeting. And so that seems a good thing from our perspective.

MARIA HAWTHORNE: Are teenage mothers really so irresponsible, though, that they'd go out and blow
the whole lot on a plasma screen or something like that rather than on their baby?

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: Look, I don't think so. I think what it's about really is ensuring that single
mothers and single parents, who really do struggle on very constrained budgets, are able to access
the finance they need week to week to be able to meet their bills and to be able to pay for what
their children need.

TOM ALLARD: One of the interesting findings from your survey was that people under 35, the youth of
this country, actually believe Australia's a lot fairer than older people. What do you make of that
finding and is there a new young generation, I suppose, of conservative Australians, Howard-loving

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: That was a really interesting finding actually. When we looked at that, I guess
our reflection is that that probably reflects a life stage. If you're a young Australian it's
unlikely that you've needed to access aged care, for example. You're unlikely to have needed to
access the range of supports and services that older Australians get into as people begin to parent
and begin to move into the world of work or not move into the world of work. So our belief is that
those findings probably reflect a life stage. What's interesting about our findings, though, is
that 91%, as Paul said, of Australians did agree that a core value is a fair go for all
Australians, and people didn't want to just express that value, people were interested in moving
beyond that value and turning that into action. The Australia Fair initiative is all about that,
how do we come together in our communities as ordinary Australians to move beyond the values
rhetoric to values and action to make things fairer for everybody.

TOM ALLARD: Of course, your members are at the coalface of welfare service delivery. We've had
three - four - interest rate rises I think since the last election. What are you seeing there at
the coalface in terms of the damage that that's doing to families? Where are they coming from and
what sort of services are they needing to access?

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: I think it's important to remember, when we talk about interest rate rises,
that while it affects everybody with a mortgage, and affects particularly people who are on lower
incomes who might have stretched themselves far to have their mortgage, it's also the case in
Australia that there are a million people who simply can't afford to buy into the Australian dream
of home ownership at all. And at any one point in time there's around 100,000 people homeless right
across the country. So I think one of the things we would say from the coalface, as you say, is
there's a real issue in Australia around housing affordability, particularly in the outer metro
areas of our large cities and in rural and regional Australia.

PAUL BONGIORNO: It's beginning to impact on renters as well, isn't it?

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: That's right, and that's really that knock-on affect. As housing affordability
lowers and gets worse, the rental market increases. So it just ends up pushing people who are more
vulnerable more towards the edge.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So do you think that the whole notion of welfare to work, the carrot and stick but
more of the stick, is something that Australians would accept as being fair? I mean, is it tough

LIN HATFIELD DODDS: Well, interestingly again, in the consultations we've done and the listening
we've done across Australian communities, people kept coming up with a very similar list of 10
things to make Australia fair, none of which were sticks. They were around providing opportunity
for Australians to access education, health, welfare services, rights at work, rights and
responsibilities for everybody. So there was a suite of issues that all Australians were saying,
'This is what we need to work on together to ensure that everybody gets a fair go."

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today Lin Hatfield Dodds, and thanks to our
panel Maria Hawthorne and Tom Allard. Until next week, good-bye.