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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security: Parliament House, Canberra: Pakistan Earthquake, Defence Report from Ross Babbage.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW - PARLIAMENT HOUSE

10 OCTOBER 2005

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Pakistan Earthquake, Defence Report from Ross Babbage.

RUDD: We have seen an appalling loss of life in the earthquake in Pakistan and beyond Pakistan. This is a natural disaster of huge proportions. As the reports come out of northern Pakistan, this is getting worse and worse and worse, with reports of 30,000 deaths and more.

The Australian Government has already contributed $500,000 dollars to the immediate humanitarian assistance task. We welcome that. I would also suggest to the Australian Government that given the magnitude of this disaster, and the loss of life, and the needs right now in the field, that Australia gives more. We

could make appropriate contributions to UN humanitarian agencies, and also to the Pakistan Red Crescent society. I would call upon the Australian Government to give this serious consideration today, I think it’s time for Australia and their government to dig deep because our friends in Pakistan need help.

It’s not just a matter of humanitarian assistance to our friends in need. Pakistan has also been a strong partner of Australia in the war against al-Qaeda, and therefore I think we have an additional responsibility to help in any practical way now, and as a matter of urgency.

REPORTER: The Prime Minister has said that there is more money on the way, it is just an initial reaction. How much money would you like to see contributed?

RUDD: Well, can I just make this point that if reports are accurate that we have 30,000 deaths or more, let’s put this into context- that is thirty times more deaths than was suffered in Hurricane Katrina. And we have in Pakistan a country with much less civilian infrastructure than the United States for coping with massive natural disasters.

I would simply call upon Mr Howard and Mr Downer to dig deep. This is an important humanitarian challenge for Australia and the Australian people, and I am confident, and I hope, that the Australian Government will rise to the occasion.

REPORTER: There is a report out today showing a spending gap in defence. Do you think that it needs to be rectified?

RUDD: I will certainly look in detail at that report. I know Ross Babbage very well, he is a very thoughtful individual who has been studying Australian defence structures and spending now for some decades, and I will be chatting to Shadow Minister Robert McClelland about this later today.

For Australia, for the Australian Labor Party and for the Australian people, national security is number one. And that is why we have got to place priority on our responsibilities when it comes to the ability of our defence forces to do their job.

REPORTER: The report highlights that Australia might be unprepared for a major war in Asia in the next decade or so. Does that concern you?

RUDD: Well, defence preparedness concerns the alternative government of Australia a great deal. We think that it is extremely important that our defence forces are properly equipped, and I know that Robert McClelland and Kim Beazley are looking at this very closely. Ross Babbage is an Australian authority on the funding of equipment for the Australian Defence Force. He has been talking about these things for two decades. You can’t dismiss reports like this out of hand, and therefore we will be giving it every element of serious consideration.

Ends.

Media contact : Alister Jordan 0417 605 823