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Transcript of interview with Peter van Onselen and Paul Kelly : Sky News, Australian Agenda: 25 November 2012: AWU; trade unions; Prime Minister; Eddie Obeid; NSW Labor; asylum seekers; Middle East; Paul Keating; Asian Century; Indonesia; China; United States

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Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Sky News

Australian Agenda

Foreign Minister, Bob Carr

25 November 2012

Interview with Bob Carr

Australian Agenda program, 25 November 2012

Peter van Onselen:

We are joined now by the Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. Senator Carr, thanks

for joining us.

Bob Carr:

Pleasure to be here, Paul.

Peter van Onselen:


Bob Carr:

Peter, Paul.

Peter van Onselen:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

I'm sure you're happy that you're here with both of us. Let me start by asking you the

question that you know we have to go to right off the top, the whole issue with Bruce

Wilson and the AWU saga. Bruce Wilson has come out and said that the Prime Minister

k new nothing, does he have the credibility for that to mean anything given his intricate

involvement in some of these events...

Bob Carr:

I don't know him, I can't comment on his credibility, but I can say as we in the Labor

Party see it this is a conspiracy theory fastened on by the Opposition and as an

American visitor to these shores not long ago said to me, "Your Prime Minister is one

hell of a tough lady, one hell of a tough lady”. So let's have the Opposition fasten on to

this, they will fasten on to it as if their lives depended on it having no other policies,

having no policies, but I've got a lot of confidence, so have my colleagues, that the

Prime Minister will give them as good as they directed her.

Peter van Onselen:

So do you think that means that she'll come out and make some sort of a statement

about that, because that's what the Opposition want her to do. They want her to do it

in Parliament not at a press conference. Will we at least get one of the two this week?

Bob Carr:

Peter, it's a matter of whether you dignify this conspiracy theory with any such

attention, and I'd think twice about that. But, again, she's a tough woman and she sees

this, we all see it, as a sort of right-wing indulgence and spinning conspiracy theory.

We'll see where it goes.

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Peter van Onselen:

It's come out of the union movement first and foremost though, hasn't it. The

Opposition have taken out the cudgels more recently but this started by discussions by

former union officials about alleged wrongdoing in the past more broadly, not

necessarily directly at the Prime Minister, and then expanded from there to the media,

investigative journalists like Hedley Thomas. It's now gone wider afield than 'The

Australian', the ABC has spent the week reporting on this, and the Opposition only in

the last Parliamentary sitting finally got around to asking questions on this through Julie

Bishop. So it's not just right-wing conspiracy, it is the media, former union officials,

including the ABC in terms of the media, and now of course the Opposition that are

asking about it. It is something that she has to address, surely.

Bob Carr:

The press gallery can pick these things up and play with them and explore them, use

them for a time. I think a bit of that process is going on here. Again, on the trade union

movement it's a broad spread of people and enthusiasms and activities. If you look at

the pockets , the pockets of impropriety in the union movement over the last say 20

years, the movement comes up pretty well as an organisation fighting to protect men

and women in employment. I think it's a tragedy that you've had in, I guess, two

pockets of the union movement in two separate periods quite disturbing corruption. In

one case the Health Services Union, shocking, repugnant and apparently systemic. But

it shouldn't blind us to the fact that it is a broad movement and you've got to say when

it comes to corruption resistance it has stood up pretty well. Holding the Labor Party

responsible for the occasional blemishes, serious as those two cases are in the trade

union movement, will be like saying the Liberal Party with its business links is tainted by

corporate malfeasance, and that will be ridiculous.

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Paul Kelly:

I don't think that's sustainable, Senator. As we know and as you know there is an

institutional relationship, a firm institutional relationship between the Labor Party and

the trade union movement in terms of 50% representation at conferences. We've had a

number of examples of unacceptable union activity or corruption, whether we're talking

now about within the building industry, the Health Services Union as you've talked

about, the Bruce Wilson affair. Can I ask you looking at this generally as a very

experienced Labor politician don't you think that there's some requirement on the party

to look at its links with the union movement and try to sort out how it can minimise the

damage on this front?

Bob Carr:

You've raised several cases, I'm saying they are not systemic. They are not systemic.

They are not across the whole spread of union activity. They're not characteristic of

how unions go about their business in the manufacturing or mining sector, the services

sector, on a daily basis.

Paul Kelly:

Let's accept that proposition and still address the question though, because when these

issues arise they are very damaging and they damage Labor.

Bob Carr:

I agree and, Paul, it's not an unfair question. But to say that because there's been this

quite scandalous betrayal of the members of the Health Services Union, for example, by

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

the corruption of part of its leadership is not grounds in itself to say that the Labor

Party as an organisation should sever its links - its institutional, its constitutional links

with the trade union movement as a whole. If we didn't have the links with the union

movement we'd be looking for them, and they keep us in touch with the reality of the

suburban street, of the country town, with the aspirations of ordinary Australians.

Paul Kelly:

Let me just follow that question up. Do you therefore think that your institutional ties

with the union movement are an electoral plus or a negative for Labor?

Bob Carr:

Well it works both ways. If union leaders let their members down, and we've got two

examples of that, two examples of it, if they let their members down Labor looks

embarrassed or looks compromised. But I'll tell you what, when you've got a

conservative government go on the warpath against the legitimate entitlements of men

and women in the workforce then the Labor Party - I'll give you one example. You take

the battle over asbestos and James Hardie pulling out of the country leaving people

with asbestos related disease with no chance of getting compensation, their due, their

just compensation. It was the Labor Party that worked with the trade union movement

to keep James Hardie here onshore and put them in the dock. It was the Labor Party, a

Labor Government, mine in particular, that insured they went on paying compensation.

That was Laborism at its very finest.

Peter van Onselen:

Can I just ask...

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Bob Carr:

Wharf dispute will be another example. I won't go into details, but workers being

sacked for no offence except they belonged to the trade union movement and the

Labor Party stood up for them. I know that those workers back in 1998 were very

grateful that a Labor Party, a party with links to the trade union movement, was

around. They are two examples.

Peter van Onselen:

Can I just ask you one final question on this AWU matter, would you personally like to

see the Prime Minister just to clean the air, make some sort of statement about this to

try to end the matter?

Bob Carr:

Peter, as that American visitor said to me, she's one hell of a tough lady.

Peter van Onselen:

But what about you?

Bob Carr:

No, I trust her judgment. In the time I've worked with her in Cabinet I've been very

impressed by her finely tuned sense of judgment and timing, and I trust her on this


Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Peter van Onselen:

Has there been any discussion that you've been involved in about a strategy to deal

with this issue in the final week of Parliament?

Bob Carr:

Well if there had been do you think I'd be revealing it, spreading it out on the table

here for you monsters to pick over it? Let's move on.

Peter van Onselen:

We will move on. Another domestic issue though, I've got to ask you about Eddie

Obeid. Do you regret as premier...

Bob Carr:

A fragrant subject.

Peter van Onselen:

Do you regret as premier making him a minister?

Bob Carr:

He was elected by the Caucus, in those days I didn't have the power to pick my

ministers. It might have been happier if I did. But...

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Peter van Onselen:

Would he have been a minister if you had the power?

Bob Carr:

No, he wouldn't have been and my relationship with him I think has been referred to in

a few of the books and a few of the articles. If I had any reason, any grounds, to have

removed him earlier I would have but don't forget at the end of that single term as

minister it was I who insisted that he go, and it was a big, robust argument and I got

him out of the Cabinet. I'm then on record lobbying the people who took over the

government after me, after I left in 2005, to relegate him and one of his colleagues

whose name was always associated with him, out of the Parliament. I make one further

point, in 10 years as premier I never faced an ICAC finding against me or ministers in

my government and I'm proud of that. The current ICAC enquiry which is very serious

relates to matters and activities that took place in 2007 and 2008. I resigned as premier

in August 2005 and I'm not called to give evidence to the inquiry because - I've got to

insist on this, there's no suggestion that in my government he or any partner made an

inappropriate decision.

Peter van Onselen:

Be that as it may though, where there's smoke there's fire. In the case of Eddie Obeid

he's been unlucky, there's been I think four fires at his various work and home

residences, he was then a minister subsequent to that. There was a lot of claims

coming from the likes of Kerry Chikarovski and John Brogden, questions asked of

yourself about his suitability and allegations of corruption and so forth during his time

there, none of which were proved by the way. All of that was coming, you were

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

mocking of it in parliament. You are a very good parliamentary performer in the bear pit

and you dismissed it.

Bob Carr:

But, Peter, the Opposition to raise something without a hint of an allegation is no help

here. What you need is proof. If a prime minister or premier in the middle of a term as

an Opposition say "I don't like your minister" and present no proof, you haven't got the

basis for going to the governor and having him expunged from the cabinet list.

Peter van Onselen:

It's less about the governor and more though about the factional system of the Labor

Party then, isn't it, with the way that they chose him?

Bob Carr:

Let's wait till the report's out and the Labor Party in NSW can face up to the challenge,

in particular the challenge of why he was put back in the upper house after I, in March

2003, with a bit of difficulty and a lot of fighting had said no he's not coming back into

the ministry.

Paul Kelly:

How does the Labor Party in NSW face up to the challenge? We've got this inquiry in

Sydney now about corruption, we've got massive headlines virtually on a daily basis

about Eddie Obeid. The stench of corruption is everywhere. This is doing ongoing and

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

immense damage to the Labor Party in NSW at both the state and federal level. What is

the strategy to fix this?

Bob Carr:

Paul, I think all of those propositions are unarguable, absolutely unarguable, and the

Labor Party has to give an explanation of why Eddie Obeid expelled from the cabinet in

2003, after the 2003 state election, was allowed to linger like a bad smell in legislative

council. In other words he was pre-selected again to go back into the Parliament.

Having him removed from the ministry was a perfect reason to say you don't go back

into Parliament. But that was after my time. That was after my time. Again, the

discipline in my government protected us from any - the sort of malfeasance that is

now being alleged.

Paul Kelly:

I'm not talking about the past, I'm talking now about the present and the future.

Bob Carr:

The party is going to have to face up to that.

Paul Kelly:

And what should it do?

Bob Carr:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Let's talk about that when the year's clear and the ICAC inquiry is over. I got into

trouble for contempt of court once when I offered a running commentary on an active

ICAC inquiry.

Peter van Onselen:

We'll hold you to that, let's talk about it when the air is cleared.

Bob Carr:

Let me say, they are absolutely fair questions and NSW Labor have got to work with the

disability attached to it, the huge disadvantage attached to it, of having this in its

legacy, in its record.

Paul Kelly:

But how can Labor perform well in NSW at the next federal election given all of this?

We know what Labor MPs in west and south west Sydney are saying, and they're saying

that they are on the nose big time, the Labor Party is on the nose big time in NSW, in

Sydney. What can be done about this over the next six months?

Bob Carr:

I think there are a lot of challenges, a lot of factors in that challenge to the Labor vote

in western Sydney. I think the party is clearly challenged. The ICAC inquiry is one

subset of those challenges. I think Labor has got to work very hard in emphasising the

things that we have done for the people of western Sydney and in particular the social

reforms, the boost to family incomes that Labor has delivered. If there's one factor that

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

works powerfully in that demographic group, in that community, it is low interest rates

that sound Labor economic management has delivered. Labor can stand on every street

corner of western Sydney and say: we've saved your jobs with our response to the

global financial crisis and you've got interest rates at a colossal low which means

thousands of dollars more that you've got to spend on your school-going kids and the

rest of your family.

Peter van Onselen:

Bob Carr, hold that thought, we're going to take a commercial break. There's a lot we

want to get through in the international sphere, starting, I guess, halfway getting there

on the asylum seekers issue. We're going to take a break, we'll continue with the

foreign minister in a moment.

Welcome back. You're watching Australian Agenda where Paul Kelly and I are talking to

the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. We are edging our way to foreign policy issues, let's talk

about asylum seekers first. I mean, there's no...

Bob Carr:

That's sort of domestic. We're still on the domestic...

Peter van Onselen:

I know you want to talk about it.

Bob Carr:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Oh, yeah, sure.

Peter van Onselen:

At the end of the day, I mean, this is a complete mess, isn't it? What you can do to fix


Bob Carr:

I'm going to put it in an international context. You've got 40 million displaced people in

the world, what is it, 1.5 million in Afghanistan, something like that number in Pakistan.

I tell you what, you can change the government of Australia tomorrow and it would still

be faced with this problem and we'd be working with the policy tools we've got:

offshore processing and how you treat them onshore and all the rest. The Malaysian

arrangement as well would stay on the agenda. So let me just say, it ain't going to go

away because of the displacement of people throughout the world and the existence of

the people smuggling industry.

Peter van Onselen:

Let me then ask a follow-up to that, because if it is such an intractable problem why

has Labor sold its soul to try to deal with this in a less humanitarian way than it talked

about in Opposition? I mean, it was so opposed to the Pacific Solution the then

immigration spokesperson called it the greatest day of his political life when he

unwound it. TPVs are something that have been so scalded by Labor as causing mental

health yet we've now got a version of that in terms of the bridging visas that Chris

Bowen has announced. If it's such an intractable problem wouldn't Labor have been

better off to stick to its humanitarian guns rather than sellout principles it stood by for

well over a decade?

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Bob Carr:

The resilience of the people smuggling activity is the fundamental reason for that. The

fact that you've got a business model that has people receive $10,000 from people who

aspire to migrate to Australia in the ports of Sri Lanka or elsewhere. This model has

been resilient and hard to bust, but the way you bust it is by having offshore

processing. By sending a powerful message that if you get into Australian territorial

waters you're not guaranteed an existence in Australia.

Paul Kelly:

But, minister, offshore processing is not working at the moment so I think the real

question is...

Bob Carr:

What is working though is the demonstration that Sri Lankans who get into Australian

waters are sent back.

Paul Kelly:

That's correct.

Bob Carr:

It's a tough decision by this Government and it will take some time to penetrate the

waterfronts of Sri Lanka, but penetrate it will.

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Paul Kelly:

Let me just ask you, given the incredibly difficult nature of this problem is it possible for

an Australian Government essentially to stop the boats? Is that possible?

Bob Carr:

The Australian people will insist that they keep trying because the Australian people

believe, you know, despite all those displacements in the world and the recruitment of

irregular maritime arrivals on the waterfronts of nations to our north, they will insist

that Australian governments give it their best shot using the policy tools that we've got.

Paul Kelly:

But that's defeatist. That's very defeatist. I mean, to say the Australian people will insist

governments keep trying that implies that it's not going to work.

Bob Carr:

It will keep being challenged. It will keep being challenged.

Paul Kelly:

Can any Australian government...

Bob Carr:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Paul, let me be very clear, I believe it will and can work and it's beginning to work with

the return of Sri Lankans to their country. Now that is a very powerful message. Sri

Lanka is the major source, it spiked, irregular maritime arrivals have spiked out of Sri

Lanka. It has gone down from other jurisdictions and I believe that what we are doing

now in simply sending them back to Sri Lanka, with the support and understanding of

the Sri Lankan government, will get that message there.

Paul Kelly:

If we can just switch to foreign policy, we've just had this conflict in the Middle East.

One of the interesting features about this was we had a new government in Egypt

which got very involved in this. What's your takeout about the role of Egypt and the

new government?

Bob Carr:

I was honoured to meet President Morsi back four months ago. I was struck in an hour-long conversation by the fact that this man is first and foremost an Egyptian nationalist,

that he wants to reassert Egyptian leadership in the region in the world after what he

sees as a decade of somnolence under President Mubarak. He's demonstrated that in a

number of ways, by going to the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Teheran and saying

when he was asked whether he wanted, whether he would meet the supreme leader of

Iran he said "No, I'm a president and I talk to presidents".

Peter van Onselen:

Senator, can I jump in, we've got footage that we've put up at the moment of Tahir

Square with some of the protests that are going on there.

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Bob Carr:


Peter van Onselen:

At the end of the day when you see this Egypt is so central to peace in the Middle East,

democracy in Egypt hasn't been all that it was cracked up to be, has it?

Bob Carr:

I'll give you this interpretation of what's happened in the last few days in Egypt: I

believe this is a country in transition with the traditional conflict between a new

government, a revolutionary government if you like, and institutions, in this case the

judicial system, the prosecutorial system that have been crafted, shaped by the

previous regime. The acid test is not this one, the acid test will be the forthcoming vote

on a new constitution and the elections that will follow it. I would give some time for

President Morsi to make his contribution to this transition. It's a transitional phase. And

don't forget he's the first democratically elected president the country has had, and in

that conversation with me in the palace he said this, he said "Egypt is not a religious

state", that's coming from a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, "Egypt is no longer a

military state, we are a civil state". Now there's enormous promise here and it's a

promise that was confirmed by his performance at the Non-Aligned Movement summit

in Teheran and a promise confirmed by his brokering of this truce between Israel and

Hamas. And bear in mind that that's created the possibility of Hamas working with

Egypt and not working with Iran.

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Peter van Onselen:

But religion is an obvious problem in the Middle East, it goes without saying,

displacement as well in relation to events that have occurred with Syria. Now we have

also got the Israeli-Gaza situation having flared up recently. Is there anything that is

going to change in this region in coming years or is it going to remain as unstable as it

appears now?

Bob Carr:

We can't despair. It would be easy to look at various indicators out of the region and

say this is an arena for conflict. But we are obliged to work at it, that's why I've made a

modest contribution by asking world leaders to think about a medical peace plan for

Syria. If we can't get the ceasefire we want and the negotiated transition to a pleural

political system let's at least get respect for ambulances, for medical workers, and help

them rebuild the hospital system. Sixty percent of the hospitals have been destroyed in

Syria, which means when youngsters are pulled out of rubble there's no-one to treat

them. So we work on manageable targets in a context that, sure, is inducive to despair,

but the fact that Hamas sees that it's had a measure of support from Egypt and might

think about working with Egypt and not with Teheran, I think is encouraging and I think

Israelis would see that as encouraging. The test now is to see that no militia group

separate from Hamas gets out there and fires more of these wretched rockets into

Israel because Israel, like any country, finds that intolerable and must respond.

Paul Kelly:

How much is the Australian Government concerned about the plight of Christians in the

Middle East?

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Bob Carr:

I'm deeply concerned. The first phone call I made as foreign minister, coincidentally,

was to our ambassador in Cairo to ask him to visit Coptic churches and monasteries and

other institutions and give me a report. I raised with President Morsi, I said the Cops - I

know the Coptic community in Australia - I said they welcome your statement on

protection for the Coptic community and he said - he's very humorous in a cunning and

charming way, he said "Ah, there's always a but". And I said "Yes, but we do want the

protection to continue". And he said "I am President for all Egyptians". We continue to

keep the position of the Cops in Egypt under review but there is an Armenian

community, I met a delegation of Armenians in Australia recently, they are fleeing

Syria. They think as Christians they might be scapegoated when a new government

emerges in that country at the end of the civil war. They're finding life there very

difficult now, many have fled to Yerevan in Armenia. I'm concerned as well, I met a

delegation in Parliament House from the Assyrian community, the Christian community

in Iraq, also concerned about the pressures on them. I think it's a real matter of

trepidation, the loss of Christian civilisation which has existed in these countries, Arab

countries now for 2,000 years.

Paul Kelly:

I'd like to ask you about Paul Keating, your former colleague of several decades. In the

recent Keith Murdoch lecture he launched pretty much a broadside against the Rudd

and Gillard Governments. He said that the era of Australian foreign policy activism was

essentially over, which would seem to be a pretty direct criticism of yourself as foreign

minister. What's your response to Mr Keating?

Bob Carr:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Well, Paul and I have spoken about foreign policy for decades. When I turned up...

Paul Kelly:

You obviously didn't persuade him.

Bob Carr:

Look, he's - as I see it he's right in some respects, challenging us to think in different

ways. In 1969 in Young Labor Paul Keating had me appointed chair of the foreign

affairs committee of NSW Young Labor, so we've been talking foreign policy for a long

time. I think one of his ideas that Australia should seek to join ASEAN is challenging


Paul Kelly:

Do you endorse it?

Bob Carr:

No, to be right before your time is to be wrong. The day may come, what as Willy

Brandt once said, "What belongs together will come together". We don't want to go

around like a mendicant knocking on doors, when ASEAN sees that as an organic

growth in our relationship Australia and New Zealand will move into the organisation.

But I just...

Paul Kelly:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Is that an acceptable vision therefore for Australia?

Bob Carr:

I judge it not timely and...

Paul Kelly:

We're talking about vision. Do you think it's fair enough as a vision?

Bob Carr:

It's fair enough as a vision.

Paul Kelly:

You do?

Bob Carr:

It's fair enough to be out there floating as an incentive but in the meantime the

practical work is to be done on trade relations involving Australia, New Zealand and

others with ASEAN and on the coordination of foreign policy. Like what I've done with

Myanmar in being forward leaning, lifting not just suspending sanctions, the opening to

Myanmar, which Myanmar has responded to very warmly, is an example of us fine-tuning foreign policy, taking the advice of ASEAN, even on nomenclature, using

"Myanmar" instead of "Burma". It was Australia taking guidance from ASEAN.

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Peter van Onselen:

What's wrong with modern Labor to advocate something before its time is to be wrong?

This is meant to be a progressive political party of great vision.

Bob Carr:

What I mean, Peter, is this: if I said today or the Prime Minister said we want to be in

ASEAN the chances are we would be rebuffed and ASEAN would say "that doesn't fit

our vision". The point is to work at it and work on trade, on foreign policy alignment, on

consultation, so that when it happens it's an organic thing, a natural thing. They're not

ready for it yet, we might be. You don't go out there and seek a rebuff, it's not the way

you run foreign policy.

Peter van Onselen:

Speaking of having to work on things, Paul Keating also thinks that Australia needs to

work on its relationship with Indonesia. That's a fair comment, isn't it?

Bob Carr:

No. I can't think of an extra button to be pushed or lever to be pulled on the

Indonesian relationship. Our biggest concentration of diplomats in the world is Jakarta.

We've had an exchange of a minister or a senior official coming down here or going up

there on average every three weeks.

Paul Kelly:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Minister, he was scathing about the relationship with Indonesia. He said ties with

Indonesia had languished, he said there was no proper framework, he said there was

no coherent policy. What's your response to this?

Bob Carr:

Paul, that is not right, it is simply not right. Indonesia couldn't have a higher level of

cooperation with Australia, Australia couldn't have a higher level of cooperation with

Indonesia on counter-terrorism for example, something of interest to both of us, than

we have at the present time. Police cooperation, Indonesia is the largest recipient of

Australian aid and our aid program, unlike that of other countries flowing to Indonesia,

is tailored to fit the President's priorities. Again, that level of exchange, senior officials

and ministers, once every three weeks. Once every three weeks. Indonesia coming here

or us going up there. There is now a level of consultation - the Prime Minister would not

have a closer relationship with any head of government or head of state in the world

than she has with the Indonesian President. After that very successful Darwin summit

she, and I for that matter, were in Bali at President Yudhoyono's Bali Democracy

Forum, just another confirmation of the effortless consultation we have built with


Paul Kelly:

Let's talk about President Obama, he's been reelected. First overseas trip is to our


Bob Carr:


Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Paul Kelly:

Do we see this as part of the US pivot to Asia? What do you think the second term will

mean on the part of President Obama and our part of the world?

Bob Carr:

First of all that visit was very, very important. It did confirm that President Obama is

thinking Asia and it did confirm this administration more than any other, since the

Vietnam War, is engaged with South-East Asia. It acknowledges the trajectory of

economic growth, of improved social indicators that are the revolution of our time. Not

just South-East Asia, of course, but East Asia. That's very satisfactory. The challenge

would be were Secretary of State Clinton to give it away in this term - no-one wants her

to stay in her job more than Australia - but were she to give it away in this term we

would want a new Secretary of State to make his or her first visit to the region. I might

as well put that on the record now. We think that would be a dramatic confirmation

that with any change of personnel America is still focussed on the region to our north.

Peter van Onselen:

How well placed is Australia to manage the delicate balancing act between our

relationship with China on one hand and our relationship with the United States on the

other, given that we may well be as, John Dauth, the former diplomat, has described

this country, very crude in the way that we approach policy and debate.

Bob Carr:

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

I think there's a lot of subtlety in Australian debate, and frankly us saying that we have

a treaty relationship with the United States - the United States is more than that to us

of course, it's the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Australia, but at the

same time we've got an open foreign investment regime as concerns Chinese

involvement in Australia. I think that's confirmation that Australia can work with both.

What would be striking to the Chinese is that while they face crude resource

nationalism and economic populism in other countries, their bids for investment here

get judged on their merits. And only one Chinese investment has been knocked back

and they would understand the reasons for that.

I suspect that the Chinese accept the sort of argument I've made, that just as they are

entitled to modernise their military so we are entitled to look after our own defence and

security by nurturing our treaty relationship with the United States.

Paul Kelly:

What's your response to the point Peter raised about our outgoing High Commissioner

in the UK, John Dauth, giving that interview yesterday attacking the quality of debate in

this country, branding it as crude, saying that Australia was an intolerant country, we

were 20 years behind the UK with reference to sexism and so on. What's your response

as a senior politician and as foreign minister to that attack?

Bob Carr:

I value anything John Dauth says, he's one of our finest diplomats and it's been an

honour to work with him in my short time in this job. But I've just got a fundamentally

different view of Australia. I think it's one of the breeziest most tolerant nations. Out

where I live there was a march against violence against women and the local surf club

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

was in it, local volunteer organisations were in it. I think same-sex relationships don't

get a second glance these days. People accept diversity in the work force. Any instance

of discrimination gets an angry response and race discrimination, the blended

multicultural Australia that we know, I said during those demonstrations by sections of

the Islamic community, their anger against that YouTube video, I said the violence you

saw from 50 people doesn't come from the Muslim you go to school with, who you work

with. I think we are of interest to the world. We won that security council vote for

example because of our multiculturalism, our easygoing tolerance, stood out as an

advertisement for this continent and its people.

Paul Kelly:

Can I ask you about asylum seekers, because one of the arguments against Labor's

tough asylum seeker policy is that this is damaging Australia around the world. We are

seen as a racist intolerant country. You're travelling all the time, you're the foreign

minister, is this raised with you, is it a problem?

Bob Carr:

I've seen no evidence of that, I can say that hand on heart, and there are countries to

our north which are tougher with irregular arrivals than Australia.

Peter van Onselen:

Can I ask you one final question, Bob Carr, before we let you go, in this segment where

we started on asylum seekers but on a slightly different issue, in terms of employment.

Now, Chris Bowen has announced this idea of allowing asylum seekers now that the

centres are full to be released into the community but they're not going to be allowed

Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

to work. You can't think that's a good idea, can you? That just creates welfare

dependency or it creates a contribution to the taxless economy with cash-in-hand jobs.

Bob Carr:

That's sending a message to the people smugglers and to those who might give them

10,000 bucks to come to this country that it won't work, you won't get here.

Peter van Onselen:

But in a sense though if you're sending that message you're doing it at the expense of

those very people that might be spending years in the community not being allowed to

work, creating welfare dependency which they might take home or they might keep

here, depending on where they end up. That can't be modern Labor's policy to deal

with people in the community. Even TPVs under Howard allowed asylum seekers to


Bob Carr:

Peter, I agree it's a tough message but it's a tough message that has got to be sent. As

an Indonesian official warned me, he said desperate people look at Australia and they

see that there is a relatively generous social security system by the standards of

developing countries and therefore they're prepared to take the risk to get there. They

reckon if they can get into employment in Australia in a short period, some months,

they can pay all their bills and send money back home. It's again us saying to people

smugglers, this ruthless but resilient industry, it won't work for you. It won't work for


Australian Agenda 25 November 2012 Bob Carr

Peter van Onselen:

Bob Carr, Foreign Minister, as always we appreciate you joining us on the program.

Thanks for your time.

Bob Carr:

My pleasure, good to be with you.