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Transcript of Doorstop interview: 10 July, 2007 Moti appointment, McClelland’s comments on Indonesian travel advisory, Pakistan.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 10 July, 2007

TITLE: Doorstop - Moti appointment, McClelland’s comments on Indonesian travel advisory, Pakistan.

MR DOWNER: I just want to make a couple of comments. One about the appointment of Julian Moti as the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands. Julian Moti is a person who is wanted by the Australian Federal Police in order to face charges of child sex tourism. These

are very serious charges. They have to be heard and they should be heard. It does not reflect well on a Prime Minister or on a Government to appoint somebody who is facing child sex charges as the first law officer of the country. This appointment of Julian Moti is perhaps not unexpected but nevertheless a poor reflection on the quality of Government in the Solomon

Islands. But having said that, we will continue to deliver through the RAMSI because it is doing a very good job and the Solomon Islands future will be a very glim future without RAMSI. The fact is, whatever the Prime Minister (inaudible) and the so-called Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands may think, the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands are enormously supportive of the Australian-led Pacific forum (inaudible) Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands.

I just wanted to say something on something else. I noticed that during the course of today Mr McClelland, who’s the Member for Barton and he’s also the Labor Party spokesman on Foreign Affairs, has accused the Government of crying wolf with its travel advisories. This is an extremely serious allegation to make, particularly bearing in mind that Mr McClelland’s office yesterday was briefed by my Department on the reasons for the reissuing of the travel advisory on Indonesia. These travel advisories are not put together on a political whim. They are not political documents. They are put together after careful consultation between my department, the intelligence agencies of Australia and our relevant embassy. That is how they are put together. They are approved by me but they are not political documents. For the Labor Party spokesman to say that this document, the latest travel advisory, was a case of ‘crying wolf’ after his office has already been briefed on the reasons for the reissue, demonstrates a complete unfitness to hold office. Somebody who is undermining the integrity of our travel advisory, thereby reducing their credibility and putting Australians at risk, doesn’t deserve to hold the office of even the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, let alone be a prospective Foreign Minister of this country. I think it is a reprehensible thing to have said, I think it is taking party politics far too far and is putting at risk the Australian public. If the Labor Party is now going to undermine the credibility of our travel advisory, it is quite the wrong thing to have done.

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JOURNALIST: But Mr Rudd seems to have been a lot more circumspect.

MR DOWNER: He has.

JOURNALIST: He leads the Labor Party. He says you must be relying on the good advice of agencies. So is Mr McClelland at odds with his own leader?

MR DOWNER: He is. You are quite right. Mr Rudd has been more circumspect because Mr Rudd knows from his time as the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs that these are not political documents. Mr McClelland though, is the man Mr Rudd says is going to be the Foreign Minister of Australia after the next election. To have somebody in that position undermining the credibility of the travel advisories - even in contradiction of his own leader - and thereby endangering the Australian public by reducing the credibility of those travel advisories, I think is reprehensible. Mr Rudd should immediately censure Mr McClelland, if not dismiss him.

JOURNALIST: On the Julian Moti issue, is it a slap in the face for the Australian Government?

MR DOWNER: Mr Sogavare, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, has always wanted to appoint Mr Moti as the Attorney-General. This comes as no surprise to us. It’s not a question for the Australian Government. We don’t make the appointment, we can’t make the appointments. I think the challenge for us is to continue to lead the Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands and make sure it connects with ordinary people. I think what Mr Sogavare demonstrates is that we have an ongoing problem of governance in the Solomon Islands and Mr Sogavare is going to have to live with the consequences of that in terms of his relations with his own people and his own parliament.

JOURNALIST: Does that mean Australia will take no further action?

MR DOWNER: No. We continue to demand that Mr Moti be returned to Australia to face charges. Child sex tourism charges are very serious charges. This is not a matter in our country - and I think I can speak for most Solomon Islanders too - it is not a matter that is taken lightly. This is a very serious issue. These are very serious charges that Mr Moti faces. To appoint somebody who is facing child sex charges as the first law officer of a nation reflects very, very poorly on the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: There will be no changes to RAMSI. RAMSI will continue in its present form because RAMSI connects with the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands. It has done a great job in the Solomon Islands. This is the problem - when you’ve got difficulty with political leadership which is putting self interest before national interest and you’ve got a public who are begging for better health services, better education services, better infrastructure. RAMSI is providing a lot of those things so we certainly want to keep that effort going in helping the ordinary people of Solomon Islands.

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JOURNALIST: (inaudible) charge against Mr Moti (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: It is extremely insensitive to put Mr Moti into a position like this, of course. It is offensive to people in the Solomon Islands, it is obviously offensive to people in Australia - all people of good will think that anybody who is facing child sex charges should have those charges heard.

JOURNALIST: They are charges all the same though. (inaudible) outcome of the legal proceedings?

MR DOWNER: No. Anybody who has (inaudible) on the contrary. I’m only making the, I think, very strong point if you’re facing charges, those charges should be heard. Now if they are drink driving charges, or charges in relation to speeding violations or something, they should be heard. If they are child sex offences, they are particularly serious charges and I think all people of good will think those sort of charges must be heard.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: The red mosque situation? Obviously we very much hope that this can be resolved peacefully. It has been going on for a long time. We’re pretty concerned about (inaudible) in Pakistan in an overall sense. We obviously are supportive of President Musharef and the President’s efforts in Pakistan to do his best to bring under control extremism in his country. But it’s quite a deeply embedded problem with a long, long history going, if you like, right back to 1947. It’s a deep problem in Pakistan.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) to juxtapose his own political requirements with what the world demands. How does he work his way out of that?

MR DOWNER: We have a good relationship with President Musharef and I’m familiar with the difficult political issues that he faces. I think since 9/11 or more literally since the 12/13th of September 2001, he has been a good ally in the war against terrorism. But there is a

lot more work to be done in Pakistan.

[Ends]