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Transcript of doorstop: 30 October 2007: climate change; Labor's candidate for Hinkler; building unions; Bali Nine; capital punishment.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 30 October, 2007

TITLE: Doorstop - climate change, Labor’s candidate for Hinkler, building unions, Bali Nine, capital punishment.

MR DOWNER: Ok, I just want to say a few words about two or three issues. I think today what we’ve seen is a window into the true Labor Party. On climate change, we have Mr Garrett revealing what Labor’s real agenda is. He doesn’t care about the economy, he doesn’t care about jobs, Labor is quite happy to sign up to a new international agreement without developing countries making any commitment.

Mr Rudd, late yesterday afternoon changed Labor’s position, which begs the question really: what does Mr Rudd really believe in? Here is somebody who has been running a ‘me too’ campaign and now is just making it up as he goes along. Mr Rudd says climate change is the most important and moral issue of our time but he doesn’t have a true position on the whole issue of a new protocol on climate change. He changes the Labor Party’s position in a matter of hours and in the middle of an election campaign to suit an election debate, revealing that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. He demonstrates very real inexperience and we know what Mr Garrett really thinks: he thinks Australia’s economy needs, or Australia itself, Australia needs a big jolt on the issue of climate change. So he doesn’t care about jobs and doesn’t care about the economy.

In the electorate of Hinkler, we’ve seen another window into true Labor. The Labor candidate there, Mr Parr, has said to the parents of a British soldier fighting in Afghanistan, risking his life, one of our allies, he’s said to them that they are war mongers. This sort of abuse of brave families, who are fighting the Taliban and fighting terrorism, it’s a window into what Labor is really like and if Mr Rudd has any sense of conviction, which I doubt, he should stand Mr

Parr down as the Labor Party candidate. Mr Parr should be disendorsed by Mr Rudd as the candidate for Hinkler for using that sort of language for insulting the parents of a brave soldier. It is a considerable test for Mr Rudd.

Let me just say something else. Here in Melbourne the building unions are running a campaign, which has been revealed today, called ‘Get Square Time’ after the election. If Labor win the election, which is what they want and they are hoping for, they are going to get square with the employers on building sites here in Melbourne.

The fact is that all of these things are a window into what true Labor is about. There are stunts, there are slogans but if you want to know what the substance is, look behind those

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things. Look at what Mr Garrett says about the economy, about Australia needing a big jolt. Look at what Mr Parr says to a family of a brave soldier. Look at what the building unions are saying on the building sites in Melbourne. That’s what true Labor is about.

Ok. Any questions? I’ll deal with them.

JOURNALIST: Mark Vaile’s comments with regards to (inaudible). Has that weakened the Coalition?

MR DOWNER: Now I think you’ll find what he was referring to was the drought and the issue of the drought. The Government’s position though is that overall, not in relation to specifically the drought which is what Mr Vaile was talking about, but the Government obviously acknowledges that global warming is happening, that there needs to be a strategy and it needs to be an international strategy to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to stabilise and then reduce internationally greenhouse gas emissions. But this is tough policy. We’ve got to do this in a way that balances our interests. We want to maintain a strong economy, we want to keep creating jobs in Australia and at the same time, work with other countries in addressing the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s not easy to do but it’s got to be done. Both of those things are important so that’s the challenge and it’s the challenge of diplomacy to promote global growth, to promote globally job creation - to help countries out of poverty on the one hand but to stabilise and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that is our position. It is a very clear position. We’ve always said it shouldn’t just be left to some countries to do this job and others needn’t bother. After all, more than half of global emissions come from developing countries. If you are serious about climate change, you need to involve developing countries. That’s what we’ve always said.

JOURNALIST: Just in relation to the Bali Nine - the decision due to be handed down today in Indonesia. Just your comments on that?

MR DOWNER: Well this decision is not definitive in the sense that the Constitutional Court will make a decision and depending on what the decision is - but if the decision is to declare that capital punishment is unconstitutional, then that in turn will have to be taken to the Supreme Court in the context of a review by those who are facing the death penalty. So the defendants will have to seek a review in the Supreme Court. Our position has always been pretty clear on this. We oppose capital punishment and will do what we can for Australians who are on death row. But as far as Indonesians are concerned who have killed 88 Australians, we won’t be making any effort on their behalf and that’s always been our position.

Mr Rudd says his position is our position but that wasn’t the case three weeks ago. A big issue like this, he just decided to change his mind because it wasn’t convenient and because the election was coming.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying you want the Bali Bombers to die?

MR DOWNER: No. We’re saying that we will not intervene on their behalf. We will not intervene on the behalf of people who have killed 88 Australians. It’s as simple as that.

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Look, I think, if I may say so, I think the vast majority of Australians understand that only too well. We don’t have capital punishment in Australia, we don’t argue for capital punishment around the world, we are opposed to capital punishment but as far as the Bali Bombers are concerned, these people have committed a terrible atrocity against our people. They killed 88 of our fellow country men and women and you can rest assured I won’t be using any of the resources of the Australian diplomatic service or money from the Australian taxpayers to plead on behalf of those people. I won’t be doing it. But I will in relation to those Australians who are on death row in Indonesia.

JOURNALIST: But presumably you oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, that it is wrong to take a life.

MR DOWNER: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: Presumably you oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, that it is wrong to take a life but with the Bali Bombers, your attitude seems to be an eye for an eye.

MR DOWNER: Just, you know, take my words as I articulate them. Don’t put words into my mouth. My position is although I’m opposed to capital punishment, I won’t use any Australian Government resources at all to plead on behalf of people, terrorists who have killed 88 of my fellow countrymen and women. I make no apologies for this. Although I oppose capital punishment, I would not weep for people who have killed 88 Australians if they were executed. I can’t pretend otherwise. That is my view.

JOURNALIST: Mr Downer, in the past you have said that sovereignty is not absolute. Why do you think then that in this case, that because it is happening in Indonesia it should not be (inaudible) to the death penalty?

MR DOWNER: Well because I, as far as any country is concerned, as far as the broad issue is concerned, the Australian Government doesn’t support the death penalty. But what we’re saying is that we will not in any circumstances plead for clemency on behalf of people who have killed 88 Australians. It’s as simple as that. It’s nothing to do with sovereignty. We just will not plead for them.

JOURNALIST: But you would for drug convicted people?

MR DOWNER: For Australians who are on death row, we will plead for them, yes.

JOURNALIST: Will you be making your direct position known to (inaudible) about those that are on drug trafficking charges?

MR DOWNER: To the Indonesian Government?

JOURNALIST: Yes.

MR DOWNER: We’ve of course made it pretty clear to them what our position is already. They know what our position is. That’s no secret. After all, it’s been a big discussion

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here in Australia in recent weeks about it. The Indonesians obviously observe that. I’ve written myself to the Indonesians about the Bali Nine and particularly about those that are on death row and we did that quite some time ago now. The point I make is that their cases are still before the Supreme Court, obviously there is the Constitutional Court ruling. Their cases have not been reviewed by the Supreme Court, they have an option to seek a review. Once

that review has been sought then depending on the decision of the Supreme Court, if the decision is upheld, then that would be the time when it would be appropriate for us to make representations to the Indonesian Government, including President Yudhoyono, who’s the person responsible for granting clemency.

JOURNALIST: Did you learn anything in the execution of Van Nguyen that can be applied in these (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: Well different country, different circumstances. It was a drug trafficking charge. We had, I think we’ve had four Australians in Vietnam for whom we have successfully pleaded for clemency. We have had one Australian in Singapore where we failed but Indonesia is a different country. We’ve not in my time, in fact I don’t recall at any time, had a situation where an Australian - I might be wrong, it might have happened a long time ago but I don’t recall a time - when an Australian has been executed in Indonesia. So we will obviously address the tactics of how to conduct the plea and how to deal with the diplomacy if and when the time comes.

MR DOWNER: Ok, anything else?

JOURNALIST: Mr Downer, just on, back on climate change again.

MR DOWNER: Yes.

JOURNALIST: When Australia initially signed the Kyoto Protocol but didn’t ratify it, it did accept that developing countries would in the future work to lower emission levels. Now that that future has arrived but because Australia has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol,

doesn’t that diminish Australia’s position now to go back to those same developing countries and to say that now is the time to sign on board?

MR DOWNER: Well I notice Mr Rudd uses the argument that the reason that China has resisted any kind of action to stabilise and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is because Australia hasn’t ratified Kyoto. That is complete nonsense. That is complete nonsense. That is a classic case of the worst of Rudd’s spin. That is just complete nonsense. I think the proof of our argument lies in the Sydney Declaration, where we did manage with a great deal of difficulty - and it required an enormous amount of experience and use of our personal contacts - we did manage to persuade China, Indonesia and other developing countries in APEC to agree to the proposition that they themselves should take action to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and to stabilise them. This argument that because we didn’t ratify Kyoto, that we didn’t ratify it, means we don’t have leverage in the international community is proven to be completely false by the Sydney Declaration. In fact, you know, Australia is the chair of the Umbrella Group of countries - the non-EU developed countries - and plays a leading role in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Australia

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chaired APEC, Australia was one of the founding members of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. I mean Australia has played a very significant role but we’ve always made the point, we’ve always made the point that we are not going to sacrifice Australian jobs and sacrifice the Australian economy. We are going to try to get the balance right and we are going to try to make sure that we don’t put Australia in a cripplingly disadvantageous position compared to other countries. We’ve always said that and if we can get the balance right, if we can get the balance right between jobs and economic growth on the one hand, and stabilising and then reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll get a good

global outcome. If you can’t get that balance right, you won’t get that outcome.

JOURNALIST: But Mr Downer, the Government said that you are going to meet your Kyoto targets anyway. How is that balance with jobs and the economy not being met already? Why don’t we just sign the agreement?

MR DOWNER: Well because we made it - two points here. First of all, we made the point all along in relation to the Kyoto Protocol, we made the point all along that it didn’t make any sense environmentally to exclude more than 50 per cent of global emissions from an agreement, from undertakings to stabilise and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That makes no sense at all. And secondly, we of course have been very protective and cautious about the Australian economy and Australian jobs. We’ve said that all along. The second point I’d like to make is that the Kyoto Protocol is old diplomacy. It’s yesterday’s story. The challenge for the future isn’t yesterday’s protocol. The challenge for the future is to negotiate a new protocol that engages all countries, including developing countries, that gets those countries to sign up to arrangements which will over time stabilise and eventually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And to do so without causing massive economic and employment dislocation. That’s the challenge. It’s not - see the Labor Party wants to have an argument about a 1997 agreement. We want to have an argument about a new agreement in 2007 or it will be negotiated between 2007-2009. Labor’s position is that it will sign a new agreement, it would sign a new agreement without developing countries undertaking any obligations. We’ve always said we wouldn’t do that. And then in the middle of the night, Mr Rudd turns around and changes the whole of the Labor Party’s position. I mean, he says that climate change is the most important moral issue of our time and he makes up policy on the back of commercial television news services. You cannot take someone seriously who makes up policy on fundamentally important issues on that basis. You cannot take them seriously and you cannot, more than that, you cannot trust someone who is making up policy on major issues on the run. He has no belief system, no organising principles, he’s just making it up as he goes along. I think, you know, it goes back to something I’ve mentioned before and that is Kevin Rudd had 45 minutes with the world’s most powerful man, President Bush, but it wasn’t apparently long enough to raise with President Bush the most important moral issue of our time. Here you have, because it wasn’t part of his media agenda that day, decided not to raise climate change. Yesterday, because it is a media issue, he decides to change the whole of Labor’s position on climate change and he changes their position to contradict their earlier position in relation to Kyoto. We should sign Kyoto, he says, ratify Kyoto - we should ratify it even though developing countries are not involved - that’s fine. Mr Garrett articulates the well-known Labor position, Mr Rudd doesn’t like the news coverage and changes the position. You can’t trust somebody like that. You just can’t trust them.

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JOURNALIST: Mr Downer, aren’t there members of your, or a member of your Cabinet who may believe that ratifying Kyoto is a good idea?

MR DOWNER: I think our Government has always been stalwart in its view on this issue, that we want to contribute to stabilising and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is an imperative, it’s very important that we do that but there is no point in ratifying an agreement, there is no point in ratifying an agreement which in the first place won’t have the effect of stabilising and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and secondly has the potential to risk jobs and economic growth in Australia. I mean, there’s just no point in that.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) economic growth though if you’ve already said (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: Well we said that right at the beginning that if you have a situation where developing countries don’t have obligations and we do, it obviously imposes an incentive for businesses to invest in developing countries rather than in Australia, either to transfer their businesses or to invest in the first place in developing countries rather than Australia. Australia is surrounded by developing countries - except for New Zealand - that is a real consideration. So sure, we can meet our target but the architecture of the system is an architecture which is contrary to Australia’s economic and employment interests. That is the problem with Kyoto and it’s not doing anything about greenhouse gas emissions, it’s not doing anything serious about greenhouse gas emissions. I mean, some people say they are wedded to Kyoto. Well if you take the impact of the commitment period, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 41 per cent through that period instead of 42 per cent had it not been for Kyoto, if every single country adheres to its targets which they’re not.

Thank you.