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Shadow Minister discusses Vivian Alvarez; whaling; and Alexander Downer on ALP foreign policy.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security



SUBJECTS: Vivian Solon-Alvarez; Japanese whaling; Downer on Labor foreign policy

HOST: Kevin Rudd, Labor’s Shadow Foreign Minister, is on the line. Good morning.

RUDD: Good morning.

HOST: Well the Philippines case. The Philippines Embassy has said the Australian Government bungled it. What’s your comment on that?

RUDD: I think this creates a big problem for Mr Downer’s record of events so far. The key thing is this: the Philippines Embassy said that back in 2001 when Ms Alvarez was booted unceremoniously out of the country that they requested the Australian Government to delay the move so that she could be given therapeutic counselling because she was in such distress from trauma and also that she be given some money from the Filipino community, a charitable gift, in order to pay for her living expenses when she got back. What happened? Those requests according to the Philippines Embassy were ignored and she was just booted out anyway, without those things happening.

HOST: Now in the search for her, it appears, if we believe the Philippines Embassy that nobody from the Government actually contacted them and said, can you help?

RUDD: Well that again seems to be what the Philippines Embassy is saying in this statement, quoting directly from it they say: "The embassy believes

that an official inquiry/request coursed through the Philippine Embassy in Canberra stating the true status of Ms Alvarez would have produced better and immediate results." Now if I’ve not seen a shot across the bow to the resident government, mainly the Howard Government from a foreign embassy, then that certainly is one such shot across the bow.

HOST: Do we now need a Royal Commission into this whole thing, not just, I suppose the Alvarez Young case but also the case of Cornelia Rau and really the whole Immigration Department’s fiasco?

RUDD: Well I think we on our side of politics have been slow to judgement on this. The Cornelia Rau matter is a disgrace in terms of what can happen to person who is suffering obviously from some form of illness. Then we come to the Alvarez case, involving an Australian citizen. And I think your listeners to this program, whatever their views on immigration policy might be Mike would simply say that when it’s an Australian citizen, how could one of ours be booted out of the country, lost for four years and then for there to be a mad bureaucratic scramble, to make it try and look as if they are now suddenly being compassionate.

HOST: And that it was actually found out by the media in fact, not the Government.

RUDD: Well the media combined with a very fine spirited Catholic priest somewhere in the Philippines.

HOST: Yes.

RUDD: So however you list this, something’s rotten in the system, we need a public spotlight on it and the best way to do that is through a Royal Commission. Of course they don’t want that to happen. They want a private, secret, internal investigative enquiry, where the facts aren’t fully put before the public.

HOST: OK. Can we move onto another topic? The Japanese are going whaling again in a big way it seems. What should we do about that? Stop their ships? What?

RUDD: Well I think when it comes to this one, Mr Downer and Mr Howard have boasted repeatedly that they’ve got this first class, super flash, you beaut, new relationship with Japan. In fact Mr Howard gave a speech not long ago where he said “Australia has no greater friend in Asia than Japan.” Mr Downer, in Washington the other day said that he has, “upgraded Australia’s relationship

with Japan, into a deeper and broader strategic relationship.” Well, if all that’s true, and that’s the claim by the two principal spokespeople for foreign policy for the Howard Government, then our challenge is this: why don’t you use this you beaut, new, flash, super reinvented relationship with Japan to fix the whaling problem.

HOST: It seems we’ve said it’s all too hard, that we’ll try and do something in the Whaling Commission, talk, talk, talk, with no action.

RUDD: Well the Whaling Commission meeting, I understand, comes up in June in Seoul in South Korea. The key question there is, will this Japanese proposal to increase their total whale take, under the so called scientific catch requirement, or provisions of the Whaling Convention, pass the necessary votes required in the Whaling Commission meeting?

There’s a double challenge for Australia and its foreign policy. Mr Downer I noticed is missing in action on this question. Have you heard a peep from the Foreign Minister on this? I haven’t. Well he’s got a challenge. One is to use his super, you beaut relationship with Tokyo to try and fix this now and get the Japanese to pull the proposal back and if that doesn’t work, then the other diplomatic challenge is that the other countries going to the Whaling Commission meeting need to be actively lobbied by the Australian Government to prevent this Japanese proposal from getting through.

HOST: Now across the front of The Australian this morning. There’s a report of an extraordinary speech by Downer last night, in which he accuses Labor leaders from John Curtin all the way up to Mark Latham of being soft on Nazis, on appeasement, appeasement of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and more recently on Saddam Hussein. What do you reckon?

RUDD: I think Alexander must have had a game of ‘Battleships’ in his bath tub over the weekend and got very excited. I can’t make sense of this. I think what Mr Downer’s trying to do is to make himself sound like a very important person by having a very big new idea by giving a very controversial speech. I think what it’s all about is, Mr Downer saying, look there’s going to be a vacancy soon in the deputy leadership of the Liberal Party, I need to up my profile. Because the content of the speech, Mike, just doesn’t make sense and doesn’t bear any form of scrutiny.

HOST: He seems to think by going back to the Second World War that John Curtin should have gone into a Government led by Mr Robert Menzies in 1939.

RUDD: Well, for those who question about that period, that is whether Menzies’ representative in London Lord Bruce was in fact part of the so called “Halifax Appeasement Party” within the then British War Cabinet, any subjective history of the time would pose that question. And let me just put this, which party was it that led Australia during World War One? The Australian Labor Party. Which party was it that led Australia through the bulk of World War Two and into the victory on the Kokoda Track through our great and bloody heroes?

HOST: After the collapse of the Menzies Government.

RUDD: After the collapse of the Menzies Government, the answer? The Australian Labor Party. Which party led Australia through the first Iraq War? The answer? The Australian Labor Party. The fact that we have problems with things like the Vietnam War and the second Iraq War, the one that’s still going on, well frankly I just think that’s the mark of an independent foreign policy.

Mr Downer, I think, is just out there trying to create a diversion strategy about why it is that he is impotent on the question of Japanese whaling; a diversion strategy about the mess on the ground in Iraq; why we have 2000 missing passports out there in the mail which could be picked up by terrorists and all those sorts of basic things including the collapse of this $800 million aid program to Papua New Guinea through sheer diplomatic bungling.

HOST: Thanks Kevin.

RUDD: Good to be with you Mike