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Transcript of interview with Neil Mitchell: 3AW Breakfast: 8 December 2010: Wikileaks; Julian Assange



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Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0466 745 615 Department: 02 6261 1555

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH NEIL MITCHELL

3AW - BREAKFAST

8 DECEMBER 2010

Subjects: WikiLeaks, Julian Assange

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

KEVIN RUDD: Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL: Can you understand why anybody would think you were abrasive, impulsive and a control freak?

KEVIN RUDD: Well Neil, I think you and I have known each other for some years. I think I've been called far worse. With respect to the whole realm of whether it's journalism or for that matter diplomatic reporting which is - they say that he's witty, charming, speaks well, laughs at all our jokes and does everything we want him to do. I mean for goodness sake, it's just not like that. But you know, consistent of what we've said in recent weeks Neil, we're not in the business of commenting on the individual content of any - of the diplomatic cables which have been the subject of unauthorised release but - an answer to your broader question, that's kind of my view, it's all water off a duck's back.

NEIL MITCHELL: Does it - this and the China stuff though, does it make it difficult for you now as foreign minister to deal with these countries?

KEVIN RUDD: Well you know Neil I've just been in the Middle East for the last week or so and every foreign minister and every head of government in the world is dealing with this stuff at the moment. And it's just one of those things that happens, you just deal with it and

Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0466 745 615 Department: 02 6261 1555

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you move on and you get on with the business. So as I've said earlier today, the big challenge of international relations remain and that's - how do you maintain peace and stability in our region, how do you get on with the business of ensuring there's peace and stability in the Middle East, how you're dealing with the big challenges of terrorism. These are the day to day bread and butter of foreign policy and the national interest that I'm asked to prosecute. This stuff doesn't help let’s just be frank about it. But look, we're not Robinson Crusoe, there are governments all around the world doing this at the moment.

NEIL MITCHELL: The Americans are perhaps in diplomatic terms more robust than the Chinese as you well know - the Chinese are robust but they can also be offended, do you think that they will take offence about what's happened?

KEVIN RUDD: Look as I said in relation to the reports in the paper a day or two ago, we don't go to the content or the accuracy of those cables by the way. The other thing I'd just say though Neil is that our dealings with the Chinese, it's pretty robust. I mean the Chinese would hop into us from time to time and do so in the public media. That's what happens but as I said our job is not to get offended by anything, it's - our job is to get on with the business of real diplomatic negotiations on things that count and things that matter. And I intend to do just that. I'm not in the business of going around pleasing everybody and either as prime minister or as foreign minister, my job's to get on with arguing for Australia's national interests and to do so without apology.

NEIL MITCHELL: I can understand that but also as career diplomatic and as a prime minister and a foreign minister it must irritate you or hurt you a little to have a senior ambassador saying you're incompetent.

KEVIN RUDD: Well listen, you know something Neil, I'm sure there's far worse that's been written into the [indistinct] communications somewhere and I know for a fact far worse has been written in the Australian media so look it's seriously water off a duck's back, you just don't let these things bother you. You just get on with the business of the real job which is arguing for Australia's national interest and that's what I intend to do. Diplomats are going to have their views, whether they're right or wrong, right around the world. Various other foreign ministers and heads of government according to unauthorised leaks of diplomatic cables, don't know if they're accurate or not, have gone to the question of high level corruption. Heads of government elsewhere in the world urging the United States to go to war against other countries, all that sort of thing; as I said we're not Robinson Crusoe here, in fact far worse things have been said in other parts of the world.

NEIL MITCHELL: Well in a broader sense are these WikiLeaks documents damaging to Australia? Do you think they - we'd be better off if they weren't released?

KEVIN RUDD: Look I think - the key question which is in what you just raised Neil which is what's the core problem here? The core problem here is the unauthorised release of these things by the US system.

There are problems in their system and that will all be established in our own legal processes in due course, but when you've got a quarter of a million cables pecking around out there and on top of that you have people who have had access in the US system to these sorts of cables in excess of two million people, that's where the core of the problem

Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0466 745 615 Department: 02 6261 1555

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lies. Secondly in terms of the dissemination in the information, you know, around the region or around the world, whether it's by WikiLeaks, by the Melbourne Age, or by anybody else, well that's an entirely separate matter. But my view is the core problem lies with the US protection of its own diplomatic communications.

NEIL MITCHELL: So the core problem is the Americans have mucked up by the fact that it's got into the public arena.

KEVIN RUDD: Well that's what I'm getting at is that this is the - that's the core problem. Whether any other offences have been committed by anybody else and that's a separate matter and when I've been asked about that, you know, we're a country of laws in Australia. And the AFP will investigate whether Mr Assange has committed or not committed any possible offence against Australia to criminal laws and if there is that will be reference to the DPP. That's all at political arms length from what the business of government is about. The key thing also, a number of people have raised this with me in the last 24 hours is about Mr Assange's legal rights in terms of the matters he's now facing both in the UK and in Sweden. I've spoken with our High Commissioner overnight in the United Kingdom and he's confirmed that Mr Assange has been offered exactly the same consular support and about his welfare and confirmation of his legal representation as we'd give any other Australian who is in any sort of trouble abroad. That's what we have to do with all Australians and he's been treated no differently.

NEIL MITCHELL: Would you like to see him back in Australia once this issue's dealt with?

KEVIN RUDD: Well it's a - that is - the way in which he'd be handled from here on in would be entirely subject to legal advice coming off what the Australian Federal Police recommend to our own legal and judicial system so I am old enough, ugly enough and wise enough to know that that should lie in the hands of others. The key challenge we've got right now is with this bloke in the UK, is to ensure that he is provided the same consular assistance and other forms of assistance that we give to any other Australian citizen around the world and we intend to do that without fear or favour.

NEIL MITCHELL: Thank you very much for your time. I know you're busy but you can be straight with us, do you think you are a bit of a control freak?

KEVIN RUDD: You know something Neil? I reckon if I was to get a list of the things of which I've been accused over the last several months or several years, it would probably be thicker than the Melbourne telephone directory. So water off a duck's back mate, I really don't care.

NEIL MITCHELL: Thank you very much for your time.

KEVIN RUDD: Thanks very much Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL: In Brisbane, the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd.

ENDS