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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House: 4 November 2003: Brigitte, Ruddock and ASIO; newspoll; Melbourne Cup; Iraq. \n



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KEVIN RUDD M.P.

MEDIA RELEASE

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - PARLIAMENT HOUSE 4 NOVEMBER 2003

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Brigitte, Ruddock and ASIO; Newspoll; Melbourne Cup; Iraq

Rudd: On Brigitte, terrorism it seems has a red-letter day in Australia when we have the Howard Government providing a tourism visa for a terrorist suspect to enter Australia; the terrorism suspect then being in this country for four to five months and working with terrorist cells it seems in this country; and then on top of all that said terrorist ends up getting married it seems to a member of the Australian Defence Force.

It is good to know that the country is in safe hands with the Howard Government at the helm looking after our national security. I mean, is Philip Ruddock responsible for Australia’s national security or is it Inspector Clouseau? This is starting to look increasingly ridiculous.

Mr Brigitte, known to French intelligence as a terrorist suspect for two to three years, enters Australia on tourism visa; he then spends four to five months in this country working, it seems, with terrorist cells in this country; and then to cap it all off, gets married it seems to someone in the Australia Defence Force. Well, I’m feeling secure this morning and I hope everyone else in Australia is as well that Philip Ruddock, Alexander Downer and John Howard are at the helm responsible for our national security.

Reporter: Is this a futile process for the Labor Party? You’re fighting on the Government’s turf. Are you going to have any traction in this?

Rudd: Well the bottom line is this: the Howard Government talks about national security all the time but what the Australian people are asking themselves on a continuing basis is what is the Howard Government doing about national security? When you look at the Brigitte case they talk about the need for a tougher approach to terrorism, but in terms of handling the Brigitte case it has been one comedy of errors and tragedies after the other. So I think when it comes down to the detail, the

Further information: Kevin Rudd, MP 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan 0417 605 823

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Australian people will form a view over time of the Howard Government: fantastic rhetoric on national security, but when it comes to the reality, missing in action.

Reporter: Inaudible.

Rudd: Philip Ruddock’s statement yesterday in the Parliament was absolutely extraordinary. What was Mr Ruddock saying? Mr Ruddock’s saying, ‘Look we couldn’t possibly have access to the French national terrorist database - that would be a massive intrusion as far as civil liberties are concerned’. Philip Ruddock, the custodian of French civil liberties? I mean, give us a break. Philip Ruddock is seeking to mask his own government’s incompetence in allowing a known terror suspect to enter this country for five months on a tourism visa and then go waltzing down the aisle it seems with a member of the Australian Defence Force. Well, I think that is just

terrific.

Reporter: There were actually two opportunities for him to be picked up, weren’t there? …inaudible…

Rudd: Well the details surrounding his marriage are yet to be fully teased out, or apparent marriage are yet to be fully teased out. But this is a remarkable set of developments. The Howard Government has a series of opportunities to deal with

the individual prior to him landing in this country for five months.

I mean, let’s not trivialise what the Howard Government has done here. Two years after September 11 virtually, they allow in a person known to be a terrorist suspect to French authorities; he is then in this country for virtually four or five months unmolested working it seems with terrorist cells and then is allowed to marry a member of the Australian Defence Force. I mean, the Howard Government has got a

lot of questions to answer.

Reporter: Inaudible.

Rudd: Well Philip Ruddock’s response yesterday to questions in the Australian Parliament were remarkable. What Philip Ruddock said is ‘oh well we didn’t think we would actually apply our powers under the ASIO legislation to this individual.

We didn’t think we would actually deploy fully the powers which the Parliament has already given the Government to deal with individuals like this and to obtain from this individual the information which the Government was seeking and which Australians would have want sought from this individual’. Well, frankly, Mr Ruddock can’t have it both ways all the time. He’s got legislation which enables

him to do a lot as far as individuals in these circumstances are concerned and what he said in the Parliament yesterday was, ‘Oh well, it was a moot point whether we could have used it or not, so off we go back out of the country’. Well, that’s terrific. Thanks, Mr Ruddock. The question about the Howard Government’s national security credentials is an open question for the remainder of this parliamentary term.

The Australian people take a long time to form judgments on these questions, but they will, based on performance over time. And allowing terrorist suspects into this country only months after September 11 and then allowing them to run off and

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marry members of the Australian Defence Force, I think, will cause a few people in Australia to ask the odd question.

Reporter: Inaudible

Rudd: If you have allowed a terrorist suspect known to French intelligence into Australia in the first place, I would have thought that qualifies and compromises your credentials as a government that is constantly saying it is the government of national security.

Secondly, having allowed the person in, for it then only now to be leaked out that this person apparently married a member of the Australian Defence Force while in Australia is remarkable. I mean, how long has this information been know to the Howard Government and why has it only just come out now? These are remarkable matters which should have been placed on the public record at the point in which action was taken against Brigitte back in October. The Howard Government, it seems, has been running away from the detail on this.

Reporter: Dennis Richardson was very supportive of everything Philip Ruddock said at the Senate committee on ASIO powers and the Brigitte investigation. Surely, some of your criticism must be levelled at ASIO and the ASIO chief?

Rudd: Well I haven’t been briefed personally by Mr Richardson but I notice he has been seeking to call me on the telephone this morning, and I didn’t see his testimony because I was in Sydney last night delivering an address, but I will looking closely at the transcript of what he’s had to say.

But the bottom line is the front line in defence is Australian embassies abroad. Who do you allow into the country? I seem to remember that being used in a previous election campaign: ‘We determine who comes into this country, not anybody else’. Well, the Howard Government determined to allow into this country a person who was a known terrorist suspect to French intelligence authorities. Philip Ruddock’s response yesterday: ‘We couldn’t possibly have asked the French for access to their national terrorism database, it would have been an infringement of domestic French civil liberties’. Give us a break.

Reporter: The latest Newspoll shows that the Coalition would win an election if it were held now, and it has reversed the trend that Labor had in the last Newspoll.

Rudd: Well I think, frankly, Jack the Ripper could have got a bounce out of the polls if you’ve had two sets of presidential visits in this town over 48 hours. It is not remarkable that the Prime Minister gets a lift in the polls as a result of that. That’s kind of politically normal for that to occur. But bear in mind in terms of politically opinion poll volatility that we’ve now had I think an eight per cent turn around in the Government’s primary vote in two weeks. I know a little bit about opinion polling having been in politics for a while and an eight-point turnaround in two weeks is usually regarded by opinion pollsters as unsustainable and atypical.

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Reporter: So does this mean that Simon Crean has consolidated his leadership in the Labor Party?

Rudd: Well we resolved the leadership question at the last leadership ballot. I don’t think that’s a matter at all.

I think also what the Government’s probably thinking about this morning is the debate they had some time ago about whether they would go out at the George Bush and Hu Jintao visit and bounce straight into an election. I think some of the people within the Government were thinking strongly in that direction. Others obviously have prevailed as an election obviously hasn’t been called, but this would have been an opportunistic call for them to run to an election now had they so chosen.

But eight points in two weeks is, I think, pretty unsustainable. Health and education are eating away at them. If you go to any shopping centre in the country at the moment you cannot walk up to the Woolies counter without someone telling you about bulk billing; without someone complaining to you about the absence of child care places. It’s happening all across the country and these matters are those facts which are working their way through the opinion polls over time.

Reporter: Do you have a tip for the Melbourne Cup?

Rudd: Number 19, Ain’t Seen Nothing. I think Ain’t Seen Nothing is my tip because it symbolises the Howard Government’s policy on finding a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Reporter: Inaudible.

Rudd: On Iraq, it was six months on Saturday since the formal hostilities were declared at an end in Iraq. Six months later, what’s the Howard Government’s report card on Iraq? Six months later, no evidence of chemical and biological weapons and the stockpiles claimed by John Howard prior to the war; no evidence yet of the reconstitution of Iraq’s nuclear program; no evidence yet that this war in Iraq has reduced the possibility of any terrorists having got a hold of weapons of mass

destruction in the first place; and the final claim made by the Prime Minister, we needed to go to war in Iraq in order to reduce the overall threat of terrorism.

Last time I looked in Iraq, the place was awash with terrorists, awash with al Qaeda and hundreds, possibly thousands of al Qaeda and Jihadi fighters having arrived in Iraq for the first time since the war - not having been there prior to the war. And leaving to one side the impact the Iraq war and Australia’s participation in it had on the recruiting drive by Jemaah Islamiah and al Qaeda in South East Asia against

Australians, well, if I was putting together John Howard’s report card at the six-month point after the war against Iraq, I would give him one out of ten for effort.

Reporter: What should the Government do? Should we boost our commitment to Iraq to try and help them out? What is it we should do?

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Rudd: The Howard Government’s responsibilities in Iraq are defined now by virtue of the fact that it is an Occupying Power. You’ve heard me say this on multiple occasions in the past. John Howard, together with George Bush and Tony Blair are in effect the pro-consuls of Iraq today. They run the country. The Coalition Provisional Authority is a political instrument of the three Occupying Powers: the US, the UK and Australia.

We’ve got a number of staff currently working within the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority. What’s our responsibility under law? The physical security of the Iraqi people and, secondly, to ensure that they have basic physical sustenance as well - food, shelter, and medicine. That is not my opinion; that is what international law says. We signed up to the Fourth Geneva Convention; we signed up to the Fourth Hague Protocol of 1907 as well. I don’t see John Howard out there giving daily press briefings to the ladies and gentlemen of the press about today’s situation

report in terms of the physical security of the Iraqi people or their physical wellbeing. That is his current responsibility under international law.

So you ask whether we should do more? My answer to that is: if John Howard can’t deliver any additional direct security himself because of military constraints elsewhere in terms of the ADF, his responsibility is through vigorous international diplomacy to ensure that any security gap in Iraq is met. And on the humanitarian assistance front, its performance at the Madrid Conference a week or so represented by Christine Gallus was lamentable.

The UN said that Iraq over the next four years requires US$36 billion to reconstruct the country. US$36 billion additional to what has already been pledged. At that conference in Madrid, US$13 billion was pledged. The Government of Japan, not a combatant power in Iraq, pledged itself US$4.5-5 billion assistance to Iraq. But the Government of Australia, one of the Occupying Powers, one of the combatant powers, pledged an additional US$14 million. Well done, John Howard.

Reporter: So he should be taking this thing up with Tony Blair next week?

Rudd: Well, the responsibility of the three Occupying Powers is to work out how this country is to be kept together and its civilian population kept secure. John Howard seems to regard this as an optional extra. I mean how many times in a press conference since April this year at the end of hostilities has John Howard addressed with any representatives of the media the responsibilities he has for the civilian administration of Iraq now, or its political transformation, or its physical security.

John Howard’s has got a very clear strategy on Iraq and that is to try and escape from his responsibilities from the war and hope that everyone out there in Australian electorate just forgets about it and goes to the beach for Christmas.