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Transcript of doorstop: Monday 24 February 2003: Brisbane: North Korea; Iraq; Zimbabwe cricket; Iraq and Cabinet meeting.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs



Subjects: North Korea; Iraq; Zimbabwe cricket; Iraq and Cabinet meeting

Rudd: Mr Downer is going to South Korea today to participate in the inauguration ceremonies for the new South Korean President. Labor, of course, welcomes the fact that the Foreign Minister is travelling to Seoul for this purpose. Labor also extends to the new South Korean President our congratulations on his appointment to the highest office in his country. In South Korea, Mr Downer will also be speaking with the Japanese, the South Koreans and US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, together with Chinese Vice-Premier Chen Chi Chun on the question of North Korea. Labor also welcomes the fact that the Foreign Minister is doing this.

Labor, however, also has a view that if Mr Downer is travelling to Seoul, in South Korea, then it’s important that he continue on and travel to Pyongyang in North Korea. Australia is one of the few western countries with full diplomatic relations with North Korea. This provides an excellent opportunity for Mr Downer on behalf of all regional countries and western countries, to put a solid view to the North Koreans as to why their policies of nuclear proliferation are unacceptable to the region and unacceptable to the world. If Mr Downer is taking the trouble to travel to South Korea, it’s important that he go the extra mile and travel to North Korea to Pyongyang and put our case directly to the North Korean leadership. On top of that, Mr Downer must take initiatives at this time to add to initiatives elsewhere in the world to place North Korea on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Mr Downer and Mr Howard spend so much of their time focussing on Iraq and Security Council activity on Iraq that North Korea seems to fall off the side of the table. Well, if sufficient grounds exist for security council activity on Iraq, I’ve got to say this: sufficient grounds also exist for Security Council activity on North Korea and for that action to occur now.

On the question of Iraq, the Prime Minister has said for some days now, that Australia faces no greater terrorist threat than any other western country and that our military involvement in Iraq, under a US rather than a UN flag, will not alter the terrorist threat to Australia. Mr Downer has also echoed this line in recent days. Neither Mr Howard nor Mr Downer have responded to the clear criticism of Mr Clive Williams, of the Australian National University, that if Australia participates in a US led military attack on Iraq, Australia will become one of the top four terrorist

targets in the world after the US, the UK and Israel. Mr Williams’ criticism is that Australia’s participation in such an attack on Iraq would place us as one of the top four terrorist targets in the world, yet Mr Howard and Mr Downer simply say we don’t face any greater threat than anyone else in the west. The time has come, so close to an Australian decision on participation in an Iraq war, for Mr Howard to put the cards on the table, be very plain with the Australian people, and say whether or not Australia’s terrorism threat will change as a result of the commencement of an Iraq war involving Australia. Up until now, Mr Howard has refused to answer Labor’s questions on whether or not Australia would become a bigger target. It’s time for Mr Howard to give his assessment to the Australian people about what change will occur as far as terrorist targeting of Australia is concerned.

On the cricket in Zimbabwe, the match in Zimbabwe today occurs despite the fact that governments from around the world have said to the International Cricket Council that this match should never have proceeded. It is wrong that the ICC have kept the venue at Bulawayo. It is wrong that the ICC has shunned international

opinion on this question. Our criticism of the Prime Minister has been that while he has been hyperactive on Iraq, he’s been missing in action when it comes to applying real leverage on the ICC to change this match venue. We hope that this match will proceed peacefully. Unfortunately, violence that will occur in and around Bulawayo will probably be beyond the reach of television cameras. It’ll be meted out on those opponents of the Mugabe regime, those associated with the movement for democratic change.

As one footnote on the cricket, I would say this: two courageous Zimbabwean cricketers have had the guts to wear black armbands in matches involving India and also other countries as well. By wearing those black armbands, these courageous players have protested the death of democracy in Zimbabwe. I think a good measure for the Australian government to consider is what can be done for these courageous Zimbabwean players to give them an opportunity to further their cricketing careers in Australia. The bottom line is this: I know something of the Mugabe regime. When things like this are done in Zimbabwe, I don’t think you can confidently predict the future careers of these two players in particular. So I’m calling on the Australian Government to consider ways in which the cricketing careers of these two individuals can be furthered in Australia once the World Cup Series has been played and forgotten.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: I don’t support any proposal which encourages kids to miss out on school. If young people in Australia who are attending school wish to register their views on the war, there are multiple ways in which that can be done. The internet is one of them, emails are another as well as plain old correspondence and telephone

calls. Also we’ve had protest activity recently on weekends when young people could attend without creating any problems as far as school attendance is concerned. I understand the passion of young people in Australia opposed to John Howard’s

policy on the war but I think when it comes to missing school, I don’t think that’s the right way to go. I think protest activity can be delivered by other means.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: For Australia, North Korea represents a challenge at three levels. One, I agree with Mr Downer. Bilateral engagement between the United States and North Korea is useful. Two, however, bilateral engagement between Australia and North Korea is also important and at the Foreign Minister level, hence my call for Mr Downer to go from Seoul to Pyongyang so that views can be put directly to the North Korean regime. But thirdly, where I part company with Mr Downer, is that this problem will only be resolved when the full weight of the international community is brought to bear. That only occurs when North Korea is listed as a formal agenda item for the UN Security Council. There’s another reason for that. It is only through the UN Security Council taking North Korea on as a challenge to peace and security that the Russian federation and China will be required to take a formal position on this. So far, Russia and China, with long-standing, positive relationships with North Korea, have been reluctant to become directly engaged. The virtue of the UN Security Council engagement on the North Korean question is that those two countries, Russia and China, will have to take this on directly. I believe that, together with the other measures, is the way in which we see an outcome on North Korea.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Mr Downer is very quick to talk about the intricacies of the UN Security Council process on Iraq and very slow to talk about any UN Security Council process on North Korea. North Korea, for Australia, is more dangerous than Iraq. It beggars belief that Mr Downer could say that the UN Security Council should be brought into gear on Iraq but not on North Korea. It’s time that we had consistency on Australian Foreign Policy on what is a real challenge to Australian National Security.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Weapons of mass destruction are a problem throughout the world. Recently, the Confederation of American Scientists produced a report which said that there was some 27 countries across the world with chemical weapons, 19 countries across the world with biological weapons, 9 with nuclear weapons and a whole lot

with long range missiles. Now, the challenge therefore for the world community, is what do you do about that? Iran possesses a range of these weapons, as do Syria, as do North Korea and other nations in that category. Labor’s response to this is we

need to bring back to the forefront of the international agenda global arms control, the comprehensive test ban treaty, the proper implementation of biological weapons convention, the proper implementation of the chemical weapons convention, the re-establishment of a proper program of work for the Canberra Commission on the question of the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Labor, when it was in government, had these disarmament challenges at the top of the Foreign Policy priorities of the government. The Howard Government has these disarmament measures at the bottom of their foreign policy priorities. Unless you have a solid global disarmament regime underway, none of these problems will ever effectively be dealt with.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Well, Iran needs to be subjected to the full weight of the biological weapons convention, the chemical weapons convention as well as a comprehensive test ban treaty. Specifically on the biological weapons convention, could I say this: the verification protocol for the biological weapons convention has not been able to

come into force because it has been opposed by a number of states including the United States. We think that is unfortunate, because in order to verify the existence of biological weapons worldwide, we need a robust verification regime. The US has stood in the way of that. A useful thing for Australia to do, using it’s relationship with the US, is to get verification going effectively, globally for the biological weapons convention, and that would assist in dealing with countries like Iran.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Mr Howard, in my experience, is a master of distraction strategy. Last year, when the government was in trouble on domestic questions like bulk billing and the collapse of higher education places, we then resorted, under Mr Howard, to the terrorism campaign and terrorism on your televisions and terrorism on fridge magnets. Well this year, we find that distraction strategy number two kicks in, and what is that? Well, there’s now a problem on the international agenda, affecting this government’s policies on Iraq. So what does Mr Howard do? He flips to the next

distraction, which is to say let’s quickly throw the reel back to the domestic policy agenda so that people concentrate less on what a hash we’re making of the international questions, such as Iraq.

So I suppose I’d repeat it in these terms - Mr Howard, for some months now, has run a distraction strategy as far as domestic issues in this country are concerned, but now that the international agenda is getting out of control, he’s now seeking to bring on a

new distraction. I think it’s time Mr Howard simply levelled with the Australian people about what the real problems facing the country are and deal with them in real terms, not flip from one strategy to the next - the common denominator being ‘how do I keep public attention and public gaze away from real problems facing the country?’


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