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Minister wants reassurances on athletes' safe -

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Minister wants reassurances on athletes' safety in China

The World Today - Friday, 11 April , 2008 12:13:00

Reporter: Ashley Hall

ASHLEY HALL: The Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the Federal Government is taking
seriously reports that Chinese police have foiled a plot by terrorists to kidnap athletes, tourists
and journalists at the Beijing Olympics.

And the Federal Minister for Sports Kate Ellis says she'l be asking for reassurances from Chinese
authorities about security arrangements for the Australian team. In her other capacity, Kate Ellis
is the Minister for Youth, and this weekend she'll be hosting a youth forum in the lead up to the
2020 Summit next week.

Kate Ellis, you'll be the most senior Government member to greet the Olympic torch when it arrives
in Canberra on the 24th of April. Opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, thinks the IOC (International
Olympic Committee) will have cancelled the relay by then, do you agree with him?

KATE ELLIS: Oh look, obviously, it's a decision for the IOC and we'll be kept briefed on where that
is.

At the moment, the torch is due here in a couple of weeks, and my focus is really on trying to make
sure that we are shining the spotlight on our athletes, and on their preparations for the Olympics,
and putting some of the attention back onto the positives of the Olympic Games, and role models it
can create for the rest of our community.

ASHLEY HALL: But you can't avoid the pictures that we've seen of the torch relay in other cities.
Already it's being reported that the relay won't go past the Chinese embassy, and there are reports
the Chinese ambassador may not be running because of safety fears. We can't escape these issues,
can we?

KATE ELLIS: Well, I'm not suggesting that we should try and avoid the fact there has been a large
amount of controversy around the torch relay. My point is that whether or not the relay makes it to
Australia is an issue for the IOC, and we'll be acting under the advice that it is, until we hear
otherwise.

ASHLEY HALL: It was supposed to be a massive public relations bonanza, both for China and the
Olympics, but it's so far been far from that. Was it a mistake to plan such an ambitious event?

KATE ELLIS: Well, I think that the torch relay has become an important part of the Olympic
movement. We've also seen that wherever the Olympics has been held throughout the world that there
has been a significant spotlight on that country, and not just on the way that they put on the
Games, but on their history, on a whole lot of activities taking place within that country, and
that's one of the positives that we've been arguing of the Olympic Games being able to provide the
opportunity to have a microscopic look at what's going on in that particular region, in this case,
China.

ASHLEY HALL: Away from the relay then for a moment. Chinese authorities say that they've foiled a
Muslim separatist terrorist plot to kidnap athletes, tourists, journalists, at the Beijing
Olympics. How concerned are you about this?

KATE ELLIS: Well obviously we've seen those media reports, and the Australian authorities, as well
as the AOC (Australian Olympic Committee), are in close contact with the Chinese authorities to
make sure that adequate security arrangements are in place for our athletes.

ASHLEY HALL: The swimmer Libby Trickett describes it as a "competitor's worst nightmare", and the
Acting PM, Julia Gillard, says she is concerned about the security of athletes.

Will you be boosting the security for Australian athletes?

KATE ELLIS: The Chinese authorities have primary responsibility for the security arrangements at
the Games themselves, but we'll certainly be making sure that Australian authorities are working
very closely with them, to make sure that our athlete security is maintained at all times.

ASHLEY HALL: A number of China watchers and terrorism experts have raised concerns about these
claims of terrorist plots, they say they could well be spin doctoring, if you like, to distract
from the troubles around the torch relay or to justify a crackdown on protesters in various parts
of China.

How seriously are you taking these reports?

KATE ELLIS: Obviously, the Australian authorities take seriously these reports and are working very
closely with Chinese authorities to make sure security arrangements are in place.

ASHLEY HALL: But you believe that the reports of these plots are accurate?

KATE ELLIS: Well I know that our authorities are taking seriously the conversations that need to be
had with the authorities back in China, making sure that we have the best information flow coming
through, and making sure that we then have arrangements in place to deal with that.

ASHLEY HALL: Onto your other role then as Minister for Youth, you get to host the youth version of
the 2020 Summit this weekend. You've got a hundred of the best and brightest young people for the
event.

By any definition, though, these people are likely to be high achievers. How much attention are you
paying to the views of the mainstream body of young people?

KATE ELLIS: Well look, we think that it's very important that one, during National Youth Week, but
also, all year around, that we take the views of young Australians very seriously, that we give
them a strong voice and then that government listens and responds to that voice.

And particularly, when we're talking about Australia in 2020, what sort of country we're going to
be and what our responses are to the challenges of the time, we think it's crucial that we involve
young Australians who by 2020 will be the parents of Australia, they will be the business leaders,
they will be the community spokespeople. So we think it's important to get them on board now.

The 100 delegates that we've got are starting to arrive in Canberra now for the weekend summit are
a really broad and diverse group. They come from all sorts of different backgrounds.

ASHLEY HALL: Some of the delegates have said it's a bit like being invited to Christmas dinner only
to find out that you're sitting at the kiddies table. Why have the views of young people been
relegated to a second-tier summit?

KATE ELLIS: Well, I don't accept the premise of the question at all that young Australians have as
much opportunity to apply for the 2020 summit next weekend, and what we've in fact done is made
sure that 10 of the attendees of this weekend's youth summit will then go on to the 2020 summit the
following weekend. But we've put in place some mechanisms to make sure that their views are
definitely considered.

ASHLEY HALL: Kate Ellis, thanks for talking to The World Today.

KATE ELLIS: Thank you for having me.