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9am With David And Kim -

View in ParlView

REYNE: 10 years of a John Howard Government has seen children overboard, detention centres,
Australian troops in Iraq and the Kyoto signature but no intention to comply. Have the decisions
made by Australia on a global level damaged our international reputation.

WATKINS: Is it time we got off the bench and we took a more active role in the world arena? Shadow
Foreign Affairs Minister Robert McClelland believes so and he joins us on the couch this morning.

McCLELLAND: Good morning.

WATKINS: Probably first what is Labor's response to what Bron had to say before? Does Labor have a
policy that they will change on euthanasia?

McCLELLAND: It's one of those issues that we have a conscience vote on. I have to say it was
intensely debated in the Parliament. It was a good debate from a personal point of view I voted in
opposition to allowing euthanasia. There's views held passionately on either side.

WATKINS: Can I ask why?

McCLELLAND: Personally. I was a lawyer before going into Parliament and I saw some unsavoury
things, I shouldn't damn them, by son in laws. Pressure under wills and so forth. I just don't want
a person in a vulnerable position to be susceptible to pressure from in particular son in laws.
That's my prejudice to do something that perhaps they wouldn't otherwise consider.

REYNE: It is very difficult for an elected official to come out and say yes we are on the side of
you being able to kill yourself.

McCLELLAND: It is and you just don't know the surrounding pressure that someone may be under at the
time. It's a hard issue I can see.

WATKINS: Can you see a time in Australian politics where it will be legalised, bearing in mind
we're looking now at 70-80% of the population according to polls support it?

McCLELLAND: It is very hard to say. It's one of those areas where I think if you polled the
community that the majority in favour of capital punishment. In that respect fortunately our
national leadership from both sides is opposed to capital punishment. I think there is a degree of
similarity in the issues. I think it is very difficult for elected leaders to endorse the killing
of a citizen. I think that is the psyche that will prevail for a long long time.

REYNE: Let's talk about the Dalai Lama, he is coming to Australia in a month's time. Yesterday
morning both Mr Howard and Mr Rudd hadn't agreed to meet him then Mr Howard changed his mind and
then Mr Rudd changed his mind. What's going on?

McCLELLAND: It would be unrealistic to say there wasn't symbolism of meeting him but I think quite
often you've got to put the symbolism or the political symbolism aside and treat someone as a man
and obviously he's a fine man and a principled man with a lot of decency about him and from my
point of view I have made the decision to meet him as a man and there is no reason why again they
shouldn't do so. Having said that it is regrettable that perhaps in these respects there are
political issues that do come into.......

WATKINS: There is a lot of international political pressure from China certainly?

McCLELLAND: There is a whole lot of symbolic issues I mean...

WATKINS: Well not just symbolic issues, there is political pressure from China.

McCLELLAND: I have to say that hasn't prevailed in terms of the Opposition and I would assume not
in respect to the Government. I suppose you inherit decision making - these sort of perceptions are
the things that you think through but again I think when you look at it as a man meeting then you
cut through all that.

REYNE: Obviously you had to take into account what the Chinese government thinks which brings me to
a new point. I quote Foreign Minister Downer has called you " foolish and irresponsible" for what
he believes is your support of a close alliance with China at the expense of the US alliance.

McCLELLAND: He has got it completely the wrong way around. I was in the United States three weeks
ago looking precisely at what they are doing in the Asia Pacific region and their work is
undervalued and under sung. They are just doing tremendous work.


McCLELLAND: The United States. Absolutely the presence of the United States in our region is an
imperative whether it is pre-positioning, relief for disaster that may occur, whether it's capacity
building of future leaders, whether it's a counter narcotics operations, whether it's the
overarching presence of the Pacific Command in our region. It is absolutely imperative that we
support the work of the United States in our region which is absolutely outstanding.

REYNE: Do you have preference for a Chinese alliance over a US alliance?

McCLELLAND: Certainly not. What my point was is that in terms of structuring our regional
relationships it is important that we have all players in the tent. I mean it is very important
that we don't develop a structure that isolates particularly an emerging power. It would be
contrary to our own interests and the interests of the region if we gave any emerging power, in
this case China, an excuse for not playing by the rules that we all develop.

WATKINS: ...... .......diplomacy is all important?

McCLELLAND: Crucially important and to give ownership of our common problems, climate change being
a very important one and the need to find solutions to our common problems. Whether it's climate
change, whether its appropriate giving of aid in our region, these are really important issues and
we actually need all countries to be playing by the rules not to give any countries an excuse not
to play by the rules.

WATKINS: Robert, is Australia taken seriously on the world stage do you believe?

McCLELLAND: Not as seriously as we could and should be. I mean there is obviously some political
prejudice there but if you look at what we were previously able to achieve when we were regarded as
a good international citizen. The issues of nuclear non-proliferation, the Montreal protocol that
actually has reached a situation where fluorocarbons in the atmosphere are actually stabilising and
hopefully declining. Australia drove that whole agenda of the Montreal protocol. Again if you look
at the issue of climate change we cut ourselves out of the debate by not ratifying Kyoto. If you
look at what we are able to achieve when we were actually engaged in the international community it
was really outstanding work and there is no question that Australia can return to that role.

REYNE: We had Mal Brough on the show the other day he was talking about he was saying certainly we
signed the Kyoto protocol but we haven't ratified it we're meeting our targets anyway has he got a

McCLELLAND: Again we originally signed it, we didn't ratify it but if you sign up presumably you
support it in principle. Why not support it in substance by ratifying, meaning your legal frame
work needs to come in line with what you have signed? But also the opportunity to be part of the
international community's efforts to find solutions to climate change. We have essentially been
locked out of a tent. Our scientists, our famed CSIRO have been locked out of the international
tent because we haven't ratified the Kyoto.

WATKINS: have we really been locked out?

McCLELLAND: Yes effectively we are observers at international meetings to work through solutions to
climate change rather than actual participants constructive participants which is really sad. But
worse than sad, I mean it's distressing from Australia's point of view but I believe it deprives us
of having an impact and a constructive impact we were able to have in respect to fluorocarbons for
instance. It is really wrong.

REYNE: On another point how is our involvement in the Iraq war. Has Australia's involvement in the
Iraq war effected our reputation overseas?

McCLELLAND: I think the Iraq war is perceived as several countries Australia included adopting
unilateral action for what they perceive to be a moral good. But it was outside the framework of
the United Nations the United Nations Security Council hadn't endorsed the decision to invade and
in that sense morally if not legally contrary to the international principals of multilateral
intervention. I think that has affected Australia's reputation insofar as, if you like, they broke
the international norm if not the international moral norm and I think that did effect our
reputation. I think it has affected the reputation of the United States. Again if you leave aside
Iraq what I have said in respect to the United States work in our region truly outstanding work and
they are doing that right around the globe. I mean it is really regrettable that after the
tremendous good will the rest of the will has towards the United States after the September 11
attacks it was literally trashed by some very poor decision making in respect to the invasion of
Iraq and consequently the undertaking of what follows.

WATKINS: In terms of bringing our troops out a lot has been said, that we brought the troops out of
Afghanistan too early. The same concern could also be had if we suddenly pull our troops out of

McCLELLAND: No one is suggesting pre-emptive withdrawal of the troops, Kevin Rudd and I were in
several meetings with him in the United States a few weeks ago and there was interest in the
position as you would assume and he was saying no one is going to act precipitously. They are of
course aware of our policy but we will sit down and we will confer with them as to what is going to
work in their interest and the interest of our troops and it may involve if there is another
rotation planned and everyone is assuming that rotation will occur that may take place. Yes they
know our commitment but they also know we're not going to leave them in the lurch.

WATKINS: I know you are a touch footy fan because I know you play with Mal Brough in Canberra. What
do you think of the cricket tour?

McCLELLAND: We are at one with the government on this the government I think in the influence it
has had in stopping the tour has done the right thing there is no doubt that Mugabe would have
lined up our cricketers and put himself literally in the photo frame with them for his political
advantage and the government has done entirely the right thing.

REYNE: Is Mugabe as John Howard has suggested the grubby dictator?

McCLELLAND: I think he is. I think there is no doubt he has literally tortured opponents. I think
worse than grubby, I think he has actually committed international crimes literally under their own
statute crimes against humanity persecuting opposition and that's another issue that the
International Bar Association for instance says should be pursued. These are things that again
Australia should look at.

WATKINS: Even though it may well cost Australia an awful lot of money it's worth it?

McCLELLAND: I do think so. I think if you allow these sort of characters to continue then it just
infects a whole region.

WATKINS: Is Mal Brough any good at touch?

McCLELLAND: Mal is regrettably very good (I was going to swear).

REYNE: What happens in those touch football games? Is it ALP vs Coalition?

McCLELLAND: No we deliberately mix it up. There is always a fight

WATKINS: That is usually between the journos.

McCLELLAND: No it's always between Mal Brough and Joe Hockey because they are so competitive and
usually against each other so they're always getting stuck into each other on the call whether
someone was touched or a forward pass and so forth.

WATKINS: Well it's easy to sort of stick an elbow in. I used to play a little bit when I was
younger and fitter.

McCLELLAND: It's pretty good natured.