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Transcript of interview with Fran Kelly: ABC Radio: 20 July 2009: Private Benjamin Ranaudo; Afghanistan; Jakarta bombings; Stern Hu; OzCar; Carbon Pollution Reduction Bill.

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Mon, 20th July 2009


The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Leader of the Opposition

Subjects: Private Benjamin Ranaudo; Afghanistan; Jakarta bombings; Stern Hu; OzCar; Carbon Pollution

Reduction Bill



Malcolm Turnbull, welcome to ABC Radio National Breakfast.


Yes, good morning Fran.


Malcolm Turnbull, the death of another Australian soldier in Afghanistan, Private Benjamin Ranaudo. Last week I

think it was 15 British soldiers were killed there. Is this war worth the human cost?


This is the frontline in the war against terrorism, Fran. Now when we were there earlier this month we were so

impressed by the courage, the professionalism, the commitment, the very high morale of our troops, young men

and women, serving us there in Afghanistan. This is really the frontline in the battle against global terrorism. It is a

war we have to win and it’s a war we will win.


Not everyone agrees with you - not surprisingly I suppose - but in the press today prominent defence analyst,

Hugh White, says he doesn’t believe Afghanistan will change the terrorism threat on our doorstep. He also says

there’s little chance of success in Afghanistan and therefore an Australian Government can’t really justify the

human cost.


Well, I believe that Private Ranaudo was fighting a vital battle against terrorism, a vital war. He died under our

flag, wearing our uniform and he and the other soldiers that have died there have made the supreme sacrifice in

a vital battle.

What signal would we send to terrorism in Indonesia if we were to abandon the battle against terrorism in

Afghanistan? The reality is, if you look at the military situation there, what is our strategy? Our strategy - by that I

mean that of all the allied forces there - our strategy is to suppress insurgent activity to give the Afghan

Government the breathing space to build up its Afghan National Army and its national police. And, of course, it

was part of the mentor and reconstruction taskforce that is doing precisely that work. It is part of that work that

Private Ranaudo was undertaking. So he was working there with the Afghan National Army, with many other

Australians, helping to build it up so that it can, after it’s taken advantage of this breathing space, take over all of

the security for Afghanistan and of course then the foreign troops can leave.


Talk about sending signals to terrorists in Indonesia; it’s now been suggested that western businessmen, many

Australian businessman actually, were deliberately targeted in the terrorist attacks in Jakarta on Friday. I mean, is

there something more the Australian Government could or should be doing to send a signal to terrorists, any

more than can be done?


Well, those three Australians are tragic casualties at the hands of these murderous terrorists, Fran. The

Australian Government has to be constantly vigilant. I believe we are doing a good job in cooperating with

Indonesia. These hotels had very high levels of security and it is a matter of real concern that the terrorists were

able to penetrate them. And I think what the terrorists were seeking to, seeking to make a point that nowhere in

Jakarta is safe because these hotels, well, one of them had been hit before of course and they had very high

levels of security. These are also tragedies in this war against terrorism. They are victims and we should be very,

very conscious of the heavy price those three men and of course their families are paying now.


But you’re in lockstep with the Government, the Rudd Government, on its approach to the issues and the war on



Absolutely. We give the Government 100 per cent support in helping Indonesia deal with this problem of terrorism

and the Federal Police are already there providing support. And as we have done in the past and as we should

always do - let’s hope we don’t have to do so in the future - let’s hope they can suppress terrorism in Indonesia,

but if they don’t and they can’t then we should be there to support them.


Not so supportive of the Government and its handling of the Stern Hu affair in China. If you had been Prime

Minister, what would you have done?


Well, I would have called the Chinese President of the Prime Minister. Really I think Mr Rudd missed an

opportunity there to register our very real concern. And then he defended his ‘do nothing’ attitude for a week

basically and then called a press conference and, in rather belligerent language, threatened China with some

unspecified economic consequences in respect of the Hu case. So he swung from inaction to megaphone

diplomacy and of course in the middle - which is what we were recommending - was the measured, responsible

approach of picking up the telephone.


So you would have picked up the phone to President Hu Jintao and said what?


Well, I would have said that we were very concerned in Australia about the arrest of this very senior Australian

executive working for a major Australian mining company in China. I would say we were very concerned that he

was being held without access, at that point, to consular officials, to his lawyers, to his family, to his employers;

that we wanted him to access to those people immediately and we wanted to be assured that he would be

brought before a court or not. If he’s not brought before a court of course he should be released but if there were

charges to be laid they should be laid promptly. And just simply registered our concern as I believe the Chinese

would have expected us to do.

You see, my problem Fran is this, my problem with Kevin Rudd is this - he sent a signal to Beijing that he wasn’t

really concerned about Stern Hu. You see you’ve got to ask yourself, how would it be interpreted - the Prime

Minister does nothing. Can that be interpreted as anything other than the Prime Minister saying this is not of

sufficient importance for me to take up. Look…


But if the end game is results, what difference do you think that would have made, you saying to the President I

want him to get legal access, consular access as quickly as possible and if charges aren’t laid let him go? Do you

think it would have made any difference?


Oh absolutely. I think it would certainly encourage the Chinese officials to move the process along. If they had a

charge, to lay the charge, to give him access to lawyers and his employer. You see, what often happens in these

international affairs is that you get something blowing up in the press in one country and the government of that

country will say to the government of another country at a prime minister to prime minister level, yes, it’s a

political issue here but don’t be too concerned about it. People, often heads of government will play down issues

that appear to have domestic political ramifications.

Now what Mr Rudd was doing by not acting was creating the impression, in my view, in my judgment, that he was

not as concerned about Stern Hu’s case as public opinion in Australia would suggest and I think that was a big

mistake because he sent a message of a lack of concern. And all of this stuff about softly, softly and you’ve got to

be quiet and even some people who I think are just craven and cowardly, there are people out there particularly

in the media, some journalists saying, oh we shouldn’t raise anything with the Chinese because it would affect

our economic relationship. Well, what price human rights, what price Stern Hu’s human rights? I mean, the reality

is the Chinese respect people who stand up for their rights. And I just say again, I’ve said this before Fran…


I’m not so sure about that. They’ve just disbarred all the human rights lawyers in China.


Fran, there is no point knuckling down to people who reject human rights. There is no point, there is no point

being cowardly. Just remember this, if you want to earn the respect of people you’ve got to stand up for what you

believe in. In 1949, when Chairman Mao succeeded in his revolution and he got to the top of Tiananmen, the

Gate of Heavenly Peace, in Beijing, right there in the centre of the capital, his first words were, the Chinese

people have stood up. That’s what he said. The Chinese people have stood up. China respects nations that

stand up for their own rights and stand up for their own citizens. So Kevin Rudd’s complacency for that first 10 or

11 days can only be interpreted by a proud nation, China, as a lack of interest in Mr Stern Hu. It was an error on

Mr Rudd’s part, a major error. It sent exactly the wrong signal.


It’s 14 to 8 on Breakfast. Our guest this morning is Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull, if I

can move to the OzCar affair. There are two reports pending now we know, from the Auditor-General and also

the Australian Federal Police. When are they due? Do you have any information on this?


Well, I don’t, you’d have to ask them.


Do you think you’ll get to see these reports before they’re made public?


Well I have no idea, Fran. It’s really up to the Police and the Auditor-General.


I know previously you’ve said that you co-operated with the Federal Police when they came around. Have they

been back for a second time, a follow-up interview? Have you been asked to give anymore information to these



Well the Federal Police Commissioner made it quite clear that I’d provided full co-operation and that there was no

need for any further interaction with me, I think was what he said.


And I just wonder, have you had any interaction, any contact with the public servant at the centre of this, Godwin

Grech, since it all blew up?


No, I have not.


Another issue of course coming onto your plate in the next few weeks when Parliament comes back will be the

Carbon Pollution Reduction Bill, due to come back before the Parliament again in August. Your frontbencher

Andrew Robb told this program on Friday that after five days in China he was more convinced than ever that

Australia shouldn’t be passing this legislation before the Copenhagen Summit. Does that mean you’ll not be even

negotiating with the Government on this legislation at all, you’re just going to propose no amendments to it, just

vote against it?


Well Fran, we are looking very closely at this issue right now and we’ve commissioned some work by Frontier

Economics on the cost of various alternatives and various amendments if you like to the scheme. We’re looking

at this very, very closely. I mean, plainly, what Mr Rudd wants us to do is to reject it twice in the statutory period

or the constitutional period so that he can go to an early election.


So what you’re suggesting is that you might not necessarily accommodate that; you might be putting up some

amendments of your own, you might be having a red hot go at trying to get this legislation through.


Fran, if I was the Prime Minister I would not - and I am very committed to Australia taking effective action against

climate change, very, very committed and I was when I was in government. In fact, the first legislation for an

emissions trading scheme was introduced into the House of Representatives by me as Environment Minister. If I

was Prime Minister, I would not be finalising the design of this scheme prior to the Copenhagen Summit because

I think we need to know what the rest of the world is going to do. It’s vital that we’re part of an effective global

solution. We also need to know what the US legislation finally looks like. I mean we’ve got a bill that’s gone

through the House, the House of Representatives, the Congress but not through the Senate. So there are

powerful arguments for finalising this in February, March next year. That’s what I would do if I was Prime Minister

and you lose nothing by doing so, but Mr Rudd is forcing the pace. And what a lot of people, particularly in the

industries that have got thousands of jobs at risk here, are saying to us is that - in fact, all the members of the

Business Council of Australia that we met with in Canberra recently were making this very important point to us -

what they’re saying is we should, even though the Government is not proceeding as prudently as they should in

terms of timing, we should nonetheless seek to make this law better so that it is more environmentally effective

and less economically damaging.


So it sounds like you’re considering voting for this bill some time either August or November if you can get some

changes through?


Well Fran, it depends on what the changes are but there is an overwhelming consensus in the business

community - and of course these are the people whose businesses have the thousands of employees’ jobs

which are at stake - there’s an overwhelming consensus that the law should be changed and we should seek to

advance and promote those changes.

You see, the tragedy of Mr Rudd’s law, Fran, is that it provides much less incentive for reducing emissions

because it eliminates a lot of the green carbon opportunities that I’ve spoken about in the past and provides much

less protection for jobs than the American bill does. So we have the absurd situation where a small economy like

Australia is going to provide less protection for jobs than Barack Obama’s world’s largest economy is going to

provide for American jobs.


Can I just ask you finally, because you have been having a bit of a rough go in the polls lately and the latest

Newspoll shows there are actually two members in your party room who are twice as popular as you as preferred

prime minister - why don’t the voters seem to like you?


Well, Fran, you should speak to the voters. Look, I’m not here to do self analysis, that’s up to you.


Malcolm Turnbull, thanks very much for joining us.