Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Lateline -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Tonight - a hint from the Reserve Bank Governor it's firming for an interest rate rise in August.

The next time we get a comprehensive round of data will be in late July, ahead of the August
meeting of the board.

Good evening. Welcome to 'Lateline'. I'm Tony Jones. Overnight our time a federal grand jury
investigating links between the whistle belower Private Bradley Manning WikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange will reconvene in the United States. With Assange under house arrest in London, the new
public face of WikiLeaks tells us the investigators are going after everything, from emails, to
chat logs, to twitter accounts.

This shows how desperate the investigation is. They are throwing out a big fish nest and asking for
Twitter accounts, information from people who have been volunteering for the organisation, who are
loosely connected to it. It seems to be an be an act of desperation and the willingness of reaching
quite far in going after the organisation and Julian Assange.

Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson on the trials and tribulations of Julian Assange and the
uncertain future of WikiLeaks itself. itself. That's coming up. First our First our other
headlines. Around 10,000 NSW public sector workers take to the streets over plans to cap pay rises.
A Sydney magistrate pleads with parliamentarians not to discriminate against her because of her
mental illness.

RBA rates signal poses challenges for ALP

RBA rates signal poses challenges for ALP

Broadcast: 15/06/2011

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

The Federal Government is facing another uphill battle to reassure voters with the RBA hinting
interest rates may rise in August.

Transcript

TONY JONES, REPORTER: It's the clearest hint yet interest rates are going up in August and it has
come all the way from the top.

The Reserve Bank governor said rates are likely to rise if inflation continues edging higher.

Mr Stevens says China's increasing demand for Australia's resources was unlikely to be short-term,
leading to structural changes in the economy which won't be driven by consumer spending as it has
been in the past.

A rate rise won't be welcomed in Canberra, where the Prime Minister weighed into the industrial
relations fight in New South Wales today.

Political correspondent Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN, REPORTER: From the streets of Sydney, an industrial stoush now echoing in the halls
of Federal Parliament.

The Prime Minister is using the fight in New South Wales to revive memories of the Howard
Government's WorkChoices, the scheme credited with helping to bring federal Labor to power.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: It's a pity that the Leader of the Opposition has always across his
political life been such a strong supporter of workplace relations reform and taking away basic pay
and entitlements from working Australians, and unless he disassociates himself from Barry
O'Farrell, it will be on display again.

TOM IGGULDEN: But the Prime Minister's got bigger concerns closer to home, being hammered in the
polls as concerns about the carbon tax persist.

And it's the unions who are driving some of those concerns. Former ACTU boss Jennie George issued
another warning today, publicly backed by a Government backbencher.

STEPHEN JONES, LABOR MP: There are thousands of workers and thousands of families who rely on
manufacturing and related industries, and we are not going to get a deal that does not take account
of their interests.

TOM IGGULDEN: Stephen Jones succeeded Jennie George in her NSW seat which includes thousands of
steel workers, and like her he wants maximum protection for the industry from the carbon tax, which
is firing up the Opposition.

JOE HOCKEY, SHADOW TREASURER: And said in relation to the carbon tax that it was, and I quote,
'Unrealistic to expect that not one job will be lost.' Given that Paul Howes from the Australian
Workers Union has said, and I quote, 'If one job is gone, our support is gone,' Treasurer, who is
right: the Member for Throsby, or your mate, Paul Howes?

WAYNE SWAN, TREASURER: We understand the importance of jobs. Those opposite don't understand the
importance of jobs. They stood for WorkChoices, less security, less security for Australian
workers, Mr Speaker.

TOM IGGULDEN: As one Liberal frontbencher tweeted today, 'In case of 31 per cent primary vote,
break glass and go with WorkChoices.' Job security fears damaged John Howard's last campaign; now
Labor too seems concerned it's losing workers.

And there was a bad omen for the Government on another front. Today the Reserve Bank governor
dialled up the likelihood that the swelling mining boom driven by accelerating demand from China
will lead to another hike in interest rates sooner rather than later.

GLENN STEVENS, RESERVE BANK GOVERNOR: With that general outlook, it follows that macroeconomic
policies must be configured in the expectation that there will need to be some degree of restraint.

TOM IGGULDEN: After holding off over recent months, the governor gave a strong hint about when the
RBA will next move.

GLENN STEVENS: The next time we get a comprehensive round of data will be in late July ahead of the
August meeting of the board.

TOM IGGULDEN: And Glenn Stevens says highly indebted Australian households can't be expected to
continue driving economic growth.

GLENN STEVENS: For 15 years or so we had a world in which consumers geared up, leverage increased,
housing values increased, debt went up, saving rate went down. As published, it actually went below
zero for a while. This was a world in which the consumer, for various reasons, was helping lead the
growth dynamic of the country. But I think that period is now behind us.

TOM IGGULDEN: Tonight, Parliament House is hosting its annual mid-winter ball as the Government
hunkers down for more chilly weeks ahead.

Tom Iggulden, Lateline.

Workers unite to protest wage cap laws

Workers unite to protest wage cap laws

Broadcast: 15/06/2011

Reporter: Karen Barlow

Thousands of workers have turned out in Sydney to protest the New South Wales Government's proposed
public sector wage cap laws.

Transcript

TONY JONES, REPORTER: As many as 10,000 workers have protested in Sydney against the New South
Wales Government's new industrial relations regime.

Although yet to pass Parliament, the union movement is outraged that public sector workers pay
rises will be capped and power will be stripped from the state's Industrial Relations Commission.

The large rally failed to sway the O'Farrell Government which maintains it has a mandate to rein in
public spending.

Karen Barlow reports.

KAREN BARLOW, REPORTER: Outside the NSW Parliament today, it was loud and, under the umbrellas,
proud.

PROTEST RALLY SPEAKER: No-one can rain on our parade.

KAREN BARLOW: The prime target of the thousands of workers was the Premier, Barry O'Farrell.

PROTESTORS (singing in unison): Barry O'Farrell is his name, ...

PROTEST SONG LEADER: Kicking workers is his game.

KAREN BARLOW: City traffic came to a standstill, as firefighters joined other protesting public
sector workers, nurses, mental health workers and teachers.

TEACHER: I love my job and I love the students that I teach, but if this legislation happens, it
means $40 less in my pay.

KAREN BARLOW: The workers were told that despite being a state law, it's the national union
movement's next big fight.

JEFF LAWRENCE, ACTU SECRETARY: It's in the interests of every working person in Australia to see
them gone.

KAREN BARLOW: Under the new regime, public sector pay rises will be capped at 2.5 per cent. Any
wage claim over that will need to be offset by demonstrating savings in the workplace.

JEFF LAWRENCE: And it's not just about wages. These laws would allow Barry O'Farrell and the NSW
Liberal Government to cut pay and conditions, with no negotiation, no consultation.

KAREN BARLOW: The Premier was unmoved by today's protest, pointing to the 2.1 million people who
voted for him this year.

BARRY O'FARRELL, NSW PREMIER: The biggest protest we have seen this year was on 26th March.

GOVERNMENT BENCHES: Here, here!

KAREN BARLOW: Barry O'Farrell rejects criticism the laws will turn the state's Industrial Relations
Commission into a rubber stamp for the Government's wages policy, and he says he'll face the same
wage cap along with all NSW politicians and senior public servants.

BARRY O'FARRELL: I'm not going to pretend, Madam Speaker, that that cap is going to affect me the
same way as it does with teachers, nurses and firefighters. But I do want to send a message to all
those affected by that wages policy that it is going to be - it is going to apply equally across
the board, Madam Speaker, to all those public officials.

KAREN BARLOW: The legislation is expected to pass Parliament soon.

Karen Barlow, Lateline.

Magistrate's fate in hands of NSW MPs

Magistrate's fate in hands of NSW MPs

Broadcast: 15/06/2011

Reporter: John Stewart

NSW Magistrate Jennifer Betts has told the state's Parliament not to sack her because of her mental
illness.

Transcript

TONY JONES, REPORTER: A Sydney magistrate has asked the New South Wales Parliament not to
discriminate against her because of her mental illness.

Magistrate Jennifer Betts was forced to address the Parliament today after a judicial commission
upheld a series of complaints about her behaviour in court.

John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: Magistrate Jennifer Betts is used to delivering judgements, but today it
was her turn to be judged. She made a heartfelt apology to those she's offended.

JENNIFER BETTS, MAGISTRATE: From the outset, I've acknowledged my wrongdoing and accept
responsibility for my behaviour and sincerely apologise to the respective complainants.

JOHN STEWART: The New South Wales Judicial Commission investigated four complaints against
Magistrate Betts between 2003 and 2009 and found she'd misbehaved. It recommended she be dismissed.
Magistrate Betts was accused of abusing people who'd come before the court.

Today she told the Parliament that she'd been suffering from depression, prompting the verbal
outbursts.

JENNIFER BETTS: I ask Parliament to consider that my behaviour at that time was influenced firstly
by my decision to cease taking anti-depressant medication earlier that year. Also, the fact that my
illness was not then being treated, and lastly the recent death of a close relative in a motor
vehicle accident caused by a learner driver.

JOHN STEWART: Ms Betts also asked the Parliament not to discriminate against her on the basis of
her mental health.

JENNIFER BETTS: In reality, all judicial officers are at risk of succumbing to the stresses of
judicial office, not just those who suffer from a medical condition such as depression. Those of us
who have had such a condition should not be discriminated against because of it.

JOHN STEWART: Frank Walker is a former judge and was NSW Labor attorney-general for eight years in
the Wran era. His two sons suffered from schizophrenia and committed suicide. Mr Walker is now the
president of the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW and has written to all state MPs urging compassion
for Jennifer Betts and another magistrate, Brian Maloney, who is also facing dismissal.

Mr Walker says the two magistrates are being discriminated against because they suffer from mental
illness.

FRANK WALKER, FORMER JUDGE & ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, it's a typical employer trying to clean house,
trying to get rid of the problem employees in their workforce, instead of giving them leave to get
better, instead of giving them proper treatment for their illness, most of which is related to
their work. Certainly in the case of Magistrate Betts, she got a death threat and then she broke
down after that. That's the sort of thing - so it's work-related.

JOHN STEWART: Mr Walker says the state's Judicial Commission lacks compassion and needs to change
the way it deals with judges and magistrates suffering mental problems.

FRANK WALKER: The cases we've seen so far have not been compassionate at all. They've been hard and
ruthless. And I think it's about time that the Judicial Commission got some counselling about the
way to treat mentally ill people.

JOHN STEWART: The NSW Premier says the fate of the two magistrates will be decided by a conscience
vote by both houses of Parliament.

BARRY O'FARRELL, NSW PREMIER: I've said in relation to Magistrate Brian Maloney that I do have
sympathy; I have sympathy for the views expressed by my friends Andrew Robb and John Brogden, and
that's the way in which I'll be looking at it. I spent the long weekend in particular reading the
report in relation to Brian Maloney, and when it comes to the Lower House, I'll be making my
judgments accordingly.

JOHN STEWART: It will be Magistrate Brian Maloney's turn to address the NSW Parliament next week.

John Stewart, Lateline.

Qantas to resume Perth flights as ash cloud eases

Qantas to resume Perth flights as ash cloud eases

Broadcast: 15/06/2011

Reporter:

Qantas says it will resume domestic flights out of Perth on Thursday after an ash cloud from a
Chilean volcano grounded flights.

Transcript

TONY JONES, REPORTER: Qantas has announced it will resume domestic flights throughout the country
tomorrow.

At least 5,000 passengers in Perth had their travel plans disrupted today when an ash cloud caused
by an erupting volcano in Chile forced most major airlines to cancel or postpone flights in and out
of the city.

Flights in the eastern states have been disrupted since Sunday, particularly in Tasmania, where
there've been no flights for four days.

Jetstar says it's planning additional flights to help clear the passenger backlog.

US 'desperate' for WikiLeaks dirt

US 'desperate' for WikiLeaks dirt

Broadcast: 15/06/2011

Reporter: Tony Jones

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson says the US is "desperate" and even trawling through twitter
data to try and stop the whistleblower website.

Transcript

TONY JONES, REPORTER: Here is tonight's guest. Kristinn Hrafnsson is an Icelandic investigative
journalist who's become the public face of WikiLeaks, since Julian Assange's activities have been
restricted by legal threats. He's in Australia for an intelligence square debate: 'WikiLeaks is a
force for good'. He'll be debating Gareth Evans, among others, and he'll be giving public lectures
in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane over the next week.

He was in our Sydney studio just a short time ago.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, thanks for joining us.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON, WIKILEAKS SPOKESMAN: Thank you. Happy to be here.

TONY JONES: The US federal grand jury will resume its hearings overnight, Australian time, trying
to establish a direct link between the whistleblower private Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and
WikiLeaks. What are the implications of that grand jury that's sitting right now?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well they're obviously trying to build a case against Julian, trying to
establish a connection between him and Bradley Manning, who was accused of being the whistleblower
leaking these documents to WikiLeaks. We have no idea whether he is the person who leaked the
documents. As Julian has said, he first heard the name Bradley Manning last spring when the reports
came out of his arrest. The same applies to me.

TONY JONES: So to your knowledge, no-one in WikiLeaks, Julian Assange included, had a direct
conversation, internet chatroom, any kind of conversation with Bradley Manning?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: I had no knowledge of that. But I must say about the young soldier that if he
is indeed the source of this material, he is a hero in my mind, and the treatment in the US of this
young man is quite outrageous. He has been almost for a year in solitary confinement for 23 out of
24 hours a day in isolation, he's been subjected to being stripped, to sleep deprivation and it's a
form of torture, so it's quite outrageous how he has been treated.

TONY JONES: Would it have been wrong to have a conversation with him?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well it depends on how you look at it. Is it wrong for journalists to have a
conversation with their sources?

TONY JONES: Well this is - precisely, because the identity of perhaps the most famous whistleblower
of all time, Deep Throat, who was the whistleblower in the Watergate scandal that led to the
downfall of Richard Nixon, was known to the journalists involved. So I'm wondering why would it be
different in this case for Julian Assange or anyone in WikiLeaks to have had a conversation with
the whistleblower?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well inherently there's nothing wrong with that, but the technology that
WikiLeaks is based on and the idea of the best protection for the sources is not knowing their
identity. So that is the idea that WikiLeaks is based on for anonymous submission by whistleblower
to the organisation. And as I say, the best protection that the organisation can give
whistleblowers is not knowing who they are.

TONY JONES: Nonetheless, the grand jury is trying to establish this link, and the one thing we know
that they have is the chat log of Bradley Manning's dialogue with the hacker, Adrian Lamo, in which
Manning says, 'I've developed a relationship with Assange.' Is it Assange's case that Manning was
simply big-noting himself here?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, the chat logs are very interesting to read. As I say, if he is the source
of this material, it's interesting to read in the chat log what his motives were. He is being
profiled as a disturbed man in the media in the States. It is quite interesting; they are quite
overlooking the fact that he seems to have been quite distressed with his job in the military and
what it stood for in Iraq, how innocent people were arrested, et cetera. So his motives, which are
apparent in these logs, have been quite overlooked.

TONY JONES: But you're happy to refer to what he's saying in the logs about his motives. What about
where he says he had a relationship with Julian Assange?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, I mean, I don't know what to make of that, actually. He's in a difficult
position and we have to be careful what we say about this young man.

TONY JONES: The WikiLeaks helpdesk has an anonymous chat facility. Is it possible that using that,
Julian Assange could have had an online chat with him but he was anonymous at the time.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, I mean, everything is possible in that respects. I mean, there have been
anonymous discussions with people. People need sometimes some assistance with technological
approaches.

TONY JONES: But by using that chat facility, do the people at WikiLeaks and possibly Assange
himself have conversations identifying as sources with particular material, perhaps saying, you
know, 'I've got a pile of very important secret documents'?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, I mean, there's - we don't know actually what people identity are and
what they are willing to do, but ...

TONY JONES: But with the anonymous sources, you can have this kind of conversation, can you?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: It's technically possible, yes.

TONY JONES: And - but it could have been possible in this case. Because, I mean, this is what the
US investigators are trying to uncover. In fact they're looking for everything. They've gone for
tweets, emails, chat logs of every different kind. I mean, is it possible to keep anything secret
from the investigators of a powerful government like the United States?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: This shows how desperate the investigation is. I mean, they are throwing out a
big fish net and asking for Twitter accounts information from people who are - have been
volunteering for the organisation, who are loosely connected to it. It seems to be an act of
desperation and the willingness of reaching quite far in going after the organisation and Julian
Assange.

TONY JONES: And of course he must be under incredible pressure at the moment. You've been living
with him just outside London until you've come here and I suspect you were staying in the same
house with him until then. Can you tell us what his state of mind is? How is he coping with this
immense pressure to be the centre of an investigation that's trying to pin him down in the United
States, an extradition hearing going on in Britain to take him back to Sweden and so on? How's he
handling the pressure?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: He's handling the pressure very well. He is holding out well. He's - has a
strong personality and strong convictions. He believes in what he is doing. He's an intelligent
guy. He has been holding out pretty well.

TONY JONES: Reports of serious tensions in that household: truth or exaggerations?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Exaggerations.

TONY JONES: Now, the other legal minefield - we just mentioned it - Julian Assange has to go
through is his appeal against extradition to Sweden. Can you explain for us, first of all, why he
shouldn't face trial to clear his name on these sexual misconduct charges in Sweden?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, one thing to start with: it's important to keep in mind that he hasn't
been charged with anything. These are allegation that are being investigated. It's very important
to keep that in mind. As he himself has explained, when in Sweden he would probably be put into
isolation, in custody, and be facing a trial behind closed doors. So he was - there was also the
threat of extradition from Sweden to the United States, especially months ago when there was a very
heated debate in the States and heated words against Julian and the organisation borderlining hate
(inaudible), even incitement to murder. So the situation was very dire at that time.

TONY JONES: Is that what he's worried about: a trial in Sweden will inevitably lead to extradition
to the United States, perhaps to Guantanamo Bay or something of that nature? Is that the sort of
fear?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: That is the - one of the worries, and if you reflect back to what was being
said by public figures and rather prominent figures in the States at the time, last fall, when the
extradition demand came, it was a very justifiable reason for resisting.

TONY JONES: But I have heard it said that you're more likely, or he'd be more likely, to be
extradited from Britain under their laws than from Sweden under their laws. Isn't there a bigger
fear of being extradited to the United States from Britain?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, I mean, this is something that was made under legal advice in Britain. So
they advised him against from going to Sweden.

TONY JONES: Why should it worry him facing trial behind closed doors in Sweden? It's not a kind of
primitive backwater, it's a modern democracy with a well-functioning legal system.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well I don't want to discuss the details of the Swedish case. It is an upcoming
hearing on that. But through the extradition hearing in London and through selective leaks out of
Sweden from the - probably the police and the prosecution, there have been information that people
can study on the internet and make up their own minds about the merits of the case. And there are a
lot of things there that should raise an eyebrow.

TONY JONES: Well, yeah, I mean, it's true that what constitutes sexual assault in Sweden probably
would not constitute sexual assault in another place, but then again if you're living in Sweden you
are subject to the laws of Sweden - that's a - the established principle, isn't it?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well the chain of events in Sweden last fall was very un-Swedish as well. Keep
in mind that the charges was brought forth and a arrest warrant was issued. The day later it was
withdrawn from a high-ranking prosecutor. Then politics came into play in the running up for the
Swedish election and the case was re-opened.

TONY JONES: Do you believe there's pressure from the outside from the United States?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: I have no proof of that.

TONY JONES: But it seems to be what you're suggesting, that political influence has played a part
here.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: It could be local political angles in Sweden as well. A lot of the players in
that case are coming from the same party.

TONY JONES: What role do you expect or hope the Australian Government will play, and does Julian
Assange expect or hope the Australian Government will play, as this unfolds?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, he hopes, and naturally of course, that the Australian Government would
support him and condemn the attacks against WikiLeaks. It was quite extraordinary a few months ago
when your Prime Minister basically claimed that WikiLeaks was doing something illegal, even though
nobody has charged the organisation or the founder, Julian Assange.

TONY JONES: Julian Assange describes himself as a publisher. Since being - since doing your job
effectively as a journalist is an offence against the Espionage Act in the United States, this is a
very important title. Do you believe he's a publisher, a journalist, or something else?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Of course he is. I mean, WikiLeaks is part of the journalistic community. I've
been a journalist for 20 years and when I started working with WikiLeaks last summer, I didn't
cross any line. I'm still a journalist and we are still doing journalism. We are unearthing fact
and giving them to the public - that's what journalism's supposed to do.

TONY JONES: The editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, pointedly refuses to refer to Julian
Assange as a journalist. He calls him a source, which does tend to undermine his defence in the
United States that he is in fact a journalist - and he's got a different purpose in what he's
doing. Do you think Keller has helped to undermine the case that Assange is a journalist?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well if Bill Keller believes that Julian is a source, it is quite interesting
how the New York Times is then treating their sources by stabbing them in the back with sleazy hate
pieces on the front page of the New York Times, et cetera. That's not a very honourable thing for a
journalist to do, to attack its source, is it?

TONY JONES: Do you think he's undermined the case that Assange is a journalist, which would
actually help him against the Espionage Act?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Possibly. I mean, the - what the US media has been quite different from the
media in the rest of the world with regard to this. Keep in mind that we are now still working on
the cable-gates project. We have now made agreements with media and news organisations all around
the world. There are now more than 75 media outlets publishing or have been publishing stories
based on the cables. We've had very good relations with most of them and I've never heard anybody
doubt that WikiLeaks is a journalistic organisation and that Julian is a publisher.

TONY JONES: Is WikiLeaks still functioning today as it was. If someone like private Manning wanted
to post on WikiLeaks the same type of information, secret information, belonging to a government,
would it be able to do that?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Not by the electronic anonymous dropbox; it has been closed for months. We have
been quite overwhelmed with working on the information that is already in place and it would be
wrong to have a lot of information coming in which we have - could not have - could not process
properly.

TONY JONES: Is the dropbox closed because your former colleague Daniel Domscheit took the secret
codes which are meant to be used for the protection of people who use that dropbox?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: It's part of the reason that he and his colleague sabotaged the system, but we
didn't put an emphasis on opening up again because of the reason of - that I mentioned, that we
have a lot of information. But despite the fact that the dropbox is closed for submission,
information has had a way of getting to us.

TONY JONES: Will WikiLeaks ever be re-opened for business in the way that it was at its height, or
has WikiLeaks itself become a kind of victim of this war against secrecy?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well, I think that WikiLeaks will continue in some way. The most important
thing, though, is to keep in mind that WikiLeaks has already done a great thing in my mind in
presenting the idea of anonymous dropboxes, which other (inaudible) are copying, which is a good
thing, if they are providing a secure platform. So, what is the future of WikiLeaks? It's hard to
say. We are under constant attacks. Still the strongest financial institutions in the world are
trying to strangle us financially. It's still not possible for cardholders or Visa or MasterCard to
donate to the organisation. It has now been for six months; same applies to PayPal. So - and Bank
of America will not process bank transactions, et cetera. This is outrageous.

TONY JONES: So how do you keep it going with no money?

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Well we do have some money. It has slowed us down, because we haven't been able
to grow and expand our operation the way we would have. But, it will not stop us.

TONY JONES: Kristinn Hrafnsson, we thank you very much. We'll have to leave you there.

KRISTINN HRAFNSSON: Thank you.

Thai PM defends crackdown on riots

Thai PM defends crackdown on riots

Broadcast: 15/06/2011

Reporter: Zoe Daniel

Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has spoken exclusively to Lateline, saying he had no choice
but to crack down on anti-government protests last year.

Transcript

TONY JONES, REPORTER: In just over two weeks, Thailand will hold a landmark election that follows a
period of deadly civil unrest. Last year more than 90 people were killed and around 2,000 injured
in anti-Government protests calling for the dissolution of Parliament. Despite the obvious
opposition to his government, the incumbent prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is leading his
Democrat Party to the poll. Well the opposition Puea Thai Party is leading the polling. The
Democrats are optimistic they will win enough votes to form a coalition.

Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke with our South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel, who prepared this
report.

ZOE DANIEL, REPORTER: This'll be the first election that Abhisit Vejjajiva will face as incumbent
prime minister. He and his party were installed by the parliament in 2008 after the then ruling
party was kicked out by the courts for violating electoral law.

That dissolved what remained of the party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was
ousted in a coup in 2006.

It's never been accepted by Thaksin supporters, and it's dogged Abhisit Vejjajiva, who's now also
blamed by many of his opponents for last year's deadly military crackdown on anti-government
protestors. But he still says he can bring unity to Thailand.

Mr Abhisit, thank you for joining us. How confident are you that you can win the election?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA, THAI PRIME MINISTER: Well we've been up and down the country. I think when we
speak to people, we've got good responses. I think they recognise what we've done over the last
couple of years. But they're facing hard times and they want to listen to us and see how we can
help them through times of high prices, and we're making solid proposals, and I think with 19 days
to go, when they see that their priorities are our priorities, they will come around and support
us.

ZOE DANIEL: Would you accept that the community is more divided now than it was when you took
office?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: I don't think so. I think in many ways there was the basic division, and the
beginning of it all of course was former prime minister Thaksin, who has been a divisive and
central figure to the conflicts. But I think that the organisation of groups like the Red Shirts
and - with some violent tendencies, have made it more difficult.

ZOE DANIEL: Do you accept responsibility for what happened in Bangkok in April and May last year?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: Right after the events, you know, we had a censure debate, and parliament in
fact has had numerous debates to bring us to account. We've had a number of independent
commissions, we're making progress with the cases.

ZOE DANIEL: So you're saying you won't accept responsibility (inaudible) ... ?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: I'm saying the truth needs to be known. But I can confirm that the kind of wild
allegations made against me that I ordered a violent crackdown, killings, that doesn't just square
up with the facts if you look at the chronology of events.

ZOE DANIEL: Who ordered the army in if it wasn't you?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: It was clear that no losses would have taken place had there been no armed
elements infused among protestors firing bombs, grenades, bullets at the military and possibly at
people as well.

ZOE DANIEL: So you put the blame on the Red Shirts for forcing your hand to send the military in;
is that what you're saying?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: We - I'm saying that we had to uphold the law and we were under tremendous
pressure because they were causing a lot of trouble for ordinary people. But we exercised
restraint, patience, tolerance, we offered real solutions like concrete dates for early elections,
and every time it was rejected by them.

ZOE DANIEL: I don't speak Thai, but I'm told that you've never said sorry for ...

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: I've expressed regret and I think that I will wait for the reports, the
fact-finding reports.

ZOE DANIEL: Why?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: Why? Because...

ZOE DANIEL: I mean, in the spirit of reconciliation, people - Red Shirt protestors - tell me that
it would make a difference to them if you said sorry.

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: I'm not so sure about that, because I think that we should look at the facts to
see who's done what before we start saying who's to blame and who needs to apologise. But I didn't
want the losses to happen.

ZOE DANIEL: You were Prime Minister when that happened. You now have to convince people to vote you
in again after presiding over that. How do you convince them that you can actually achieve change?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: Well, you know, when the events that took place in the Middle East happened this
year, there were so many people that came up to me in the streets and said, 'now we understand;
it's not easy.' And error on one side or the other could have led to much, much worse.

ZOE DANIEL: So if the key to progress is some sort of reconciliation, some sort of unity to get
past this, how do you achieve that when you are inevitably tainted by what happened?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: No, I'm saying that if the people vote for the Democrats to lead the next
government, we address all people's concerns, including the Red Shirts, that's the way to move
things forward.

ZOE DANIEL: Regardless of who wins the election, that could cause ructions on one or other side.
The Democrats form a coalition, the Red Shirts will protest. They would - Puea Thai would say that
if they win, then there'll be a coup. I mean, how do we get past this gridlock?

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA: Well how do we get past this? First of all: free and fair elections. Let's
respect the decisions of the people on 3rd July. Let's respect the constitution. That applies to
everybody, the military included. And let the next government take the country forward, solve the
people's problems and not make themselves a self-serving government. That's the recipe for
stability and progress in this country.

ZOE DANIEL: Mr Abhisit, thank you.

TONY JONES: Zoe Daniel there with the Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva.

weather, rain clearing in Sydney, a shower or two for Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. Fine in
Brisbane and Hobart. Sunny in Melbourne and in Darwin. That's Darwin. That's all from us. If you'd
like to look back at tonight's interview with Kristinn Hrafnsson or review any of 'Lateline's
stories or transcripts, you can visit our website and also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. See
you again tomorrow night. Until then, good night.