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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 20 September 2006: Coup in Thailand; Cairns Group; Vaile's future.

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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security




Subjects: Coup in Thailand; Cairns Group; Vaile’s future

Rudd: Events in Thailand overnight have been deeply disturbing for supporters of democracy here in our own region. Obviously Thailand has been in a state of some political crisis for the last 12 months. But the way to resolve these crises is through democratic and constitutional means. A coup d'etat is a direct assault on democracy itself. The region cannot stand idly by and leave such actions uncondemned. Therefore the Federal Opposition, and I gather from some comments this morning from Mr Downer, condemns unequivocally this assault on Thailand’s democracy.

The key challenge is to allow Thailand’s democratic and constitutional processes to work. It’s important that elections are held by year’s end so that the civilian rule of Thailand can resume. I’m deeply concerned about the impact which this military coup might have elsewhere in the region. In the last 10-15 years we have seen the consolidation of democracy across so much of South East Asia. It would be of grave concern if this action, this military coup, set another precedent. It needs to be condemned and condemned unequivocally

As for Australians who are on the ground in Thailand, I would urge all of them to make contact with the Australian embassy in Bangkok and to go to the DFAT website to see the most up to date travel advice for them. At present, I have listened carefully to what Mr Downer has said, it seems that the situation is stable on the ground, but we will be seeking our own briefings from the Department later in the day. For all those Australians who are in Thailand and for all those families here in Australia, it is important that they maintain the

closest possible contact with the Government’s source of information on this matter. Let’s hope that the situation on the ground in Bangkok doesn’t spiral out of control.

Mr Vaile at present is in far North Queensland attending the 20th anniversary commemorative meeting of the establishment of the Cairns Group as a part of the World Trade Organisation talks. This group was established by Labor 20 years ago and is a group which brings together the world’s fair trading agricultural nations under one banner. It has played a huge role in the past in bringing a successful conclusion the last World Trade Organisation global

negotiating round. This one, the Doha Round, is in deep trouble. Mr Vaile has a deep responsibility as chairman of this meeting and as chairman of the Cairns Group, to put forward an Australian proposal to breach the impasse between the Europeans, the Americans and others. That’s what must happen as a matter of

urgency. If this fails, and if the Doha Round of free trade negotiations falls into the ditch, the impact for Australia’s hardworking farmers right across this nation and other exporters in Australia will be profound indeed.

This is very much the last gasp when it comes to breathing life into these trade negotiations. Mr Vaile has a big responsibility on his shoulders and I note this morning that some of his colleagues are already predicting that he be pushed out of this portfolio as soon as the meeting is over. That’s a very bad sign indeed.

Reporter: Do you think it is likely he will step down from that portfolio”?

Rudd: Let’s hope Mr Vaile does a good job in Cairns for Australia’s sake. But I’ve got to say though that his colleagues are saying he has not been able to manage the job of being Trade Minister and Leader of the National Party at the same time. I believe that it would be very useful once this meeting is done, particularly if it doesn’t conclude successfully, for Mr Vaile to move to another portfolio. I think it is very important that he do so because what we need is someone who can handle this job together with their other responsibilities. I’ve long said also that it is time the National Party yielded this portfolio to someone else. You’ve got to have someone who can do the job properly and I can’t see another candidate for this elsewhere within the ranks of the National Party.


Contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823