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NBN continues to dominate home politics -

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NBN continues to dominate home politics

Broadcast: 15/09/2010

Reporter: Heather Ewart

Tony Abbott has announced he'll try and get the independents on side to oppose Labor's National
Broadband Network. Independent MP Rob Oakeshott has stated he'd like to be Speaker of the House of
Representatives and newly appointed Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd travelled to Pakistan today.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Former Prime Minister now Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has hit the road in
his new job this afternoon, heading for Pakistan and the United Nations in New York after
attempting to put the recent past behind him; leaving the Prime Minister to focus on her latest
challenge -- Independent Rob Oakeshott's surprise revelation that he would like to consider being
the new speaker of the Parliament.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, meanwhile, is suggesting he'll be attempting to get the Independents
to join in opposing Labor's National Broadband Network.

Political editor Heather Ewart reports.

HEATHER EWART, POLITICAL EDITOR: He's back and making sure everyone knows it.

KEVIN RUDD, FOREIGN MINISTER: Okay, ready to rock and roll up there? Good.

Later today I'll be flying to the flood affected areas of Pakistan and then to Washington and then
to New York.

HEATHER EWART: Less than 24 hours after being sworn in as foreign minister the former prime
minister has resumed his globetrotting ways. And his first task is to urge the international
community to do more for flood stricken Pakistan.

KEVIN RUDD: The reason I'm going to Pakistan is that when I was briefed by AusAID officials during
the week it was quite plain that we are in the process of seeing a slow burn humanitarian disaster
in that country - a humanitarian disaster potentially of horrendous proportions.

HEATHER EWART: Kevin Rudd will address the United Nations in New York next week - a role that's
normally reserved for the Prime Minister. But Julia Gillard figures she has enough on her plate
right now settling in the new minority government.

That suits Kevin Rudd just fine. He'll be centre stage and sees foreign policy as safe territory.
Domestic politics is not.

KEVIN RUDD: I don't intend to engage in any retrospectives whatsoever on recent political events,
including the conduct of the last federal election.

REPORTER: How would you describe the relationship with the current Prime Minister and is there more
than a crack of light between the two of you?

KEVIN RUDD: The Prime Minister and I had a great discussion on Monday covering a whole range of
foreign policy measures. It went for an hour or so and we covered a lot of turf. That relationship
is a very productive and professional relationship and I'm sure it will continue to be conducted on
that basis.

HEATHER EWART: The rest of his Labor colleagues certainly hope so but they're all too aware there's
no dodging the relationship being in the public spotlight for some time yet.

Julia Gillard can't afford to have her predecessor outperform her on foreign policy and will need
to display some expertise in the area sooner rather than later.

Today she was busy defending the last minute changes she'd made to the titles of some her
ministries.

JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I'm the sort of person who on Christmas Day wants to rip
the packaging off and see what the present is. Other people like to look at the wrapping paper and
comment on that, so I wanted to get right down to the substance.

Now, obviously, there were some comments about ministerial titles, further decisions I had to make.
The day on which all of that had to be clarified was yesterday, and of course it was.

HEATHER EWART: The changes, under pressure from the university sector and indigenous health
community amongst others, weren't the only things noticed at yesterday's swearing in ceremony. All
media eyes it seems were trained on Kevin Rudd and how he and his collegues were responding to one
another.

REPORTER: You looked quite pained and uncomfortable - why was that?

KEVIN RUDD: I love these psychoanalyses of how I look. What's your qualification, by the way? Are
you like David Marr, got a PhD in the discipline or what?

I just think this stuff is great. How long did the ceremony go for yesterday, guys?

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Was a bit boring.

KEVIN RUDD: Can someone give me how long it was?

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: About an hour and a half.

KEVIN RUDD: Okay, and did you study everyone's faces for an hour and a half, as to whether they
maintained an absolute gaze of unmitigated engagement with every scintilla of it?

Probably not, probably not.

HEATHER EWART: Suffice to say, Kevin Rudd didn't exactly look as though he was surrounded by close
friends. And you can bet the Opposition will be seeking to point to this at every opportunity.

Today, though, Tony Abbott's emphasis was on the National Broadband Network, as he moved to
highlight the appointment of Malcolm Turnbull as his Communications spokesman, and signalled they
were going to try to win over the Independents to change sides.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: I think that's what we should be doing and as I said I think with
someone like Malcolm in charge of communications policy, in charge of exposing the waste and
extravagance inherent in the Government's broadband plans, that becomes a very real prospect.

HEATHER EWART: It's not something Tony Windsor is entertaining and his fellow Independent Rob
Oakeshott doesn't see it as a game changer either, though he's welcomed Malcolm Turnbull's
appointment.

No, Rob Oakeshott is more interested in other matters at the moment, having knocked back the offer
of a Government Ministry, he's now eyeing off the position of Speaker in the House of
Representatives.

ROB OAKESHOTT, INDEPENDENT MP: There's a couple of constitutional issues that need to be clarified
but if they can be resolved I'll be putting my hand up and hopefully it's a step into the centre of
political debate, working daily with people such as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott and therefore, as
a local member, really representing front and centre.

HEATHER EWART: Not exactly what Labor and the Coalition had in mind when they were negotiating
parliamentary reforms with the Independents. This one comes out of left field and it's not clear
yet how either side will deal with it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Incidentally, our attempts since the election to get an interview with Mr Abbott,
including today, have so far been unsuccessful. Malcolm Turnbull also declined an interview for
tonight.

Political Editor Heather Ewart.