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Transcript of doorstop: Brisbane: 4 March 2007: SAS in East Timor; Cyclone Odette; Brian Burke.

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Subjects: SAS in East Timor; Cyclone Odette; Brian Burke

RUDD: There are reports coming in about the operations on the ground at present in East Timor involving our SAS and our troops more generally. On behalf of all Australians we’d like to express our support of course, for our troops in the field in what is difficult and dangerous work. Our thoughts

and our prayers go out to soldiers in the field and their families. These are always anxious times for military families and our support goes to them one and all.

There are also reports in today about Cyclone Odette, this appears from the reports to be a very cyclone indeed. When it comes to preparations being made by our police and our emergency services, I’m confident that everything can practically put in place is being put in place, should this cyclone cross the coast. Also I’d urge Queenslanders to stay close to their radios and listen to reports,

listen to any instructions which come forward from the State Government about appropriate actions to take as this storm approaches, assuming it does.

I welcome today Prime Minister Howard’s decision to make honesty and character the centre ground of the next federal election. I relish Mr Howard’s challenge. I’ve admitted that I made a mistake in going to a dinner back in 2005, but I can’t recall Mr Howard ever admitting that he’s made any mistakes in areas like taking our country to war in Iraq on a lie, on children overboard; on authorising $300 million worth of bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime. On top of that having a Minister in his Cabinet as the Mines Minister who had share in a coalmine. And on four sets of interest rates rises since the last election when he promised all Australians there would be no further interest rates rises.

But on each of these matters, Iraq, bribes to Saddam Hussein, interest rate rises as well as children overboard, not one single resignation.


RUDD: Let me conclude. When it comes to the application of standards here it’s very important and Mr Howard’s action in relation to Senator Campbell is interesting indeed. Mr Howard’s action is not an action of

leadership, it’s a political deal for six months with an undertaking it seems to

Senator Campbell to be given a new job after the next election. Senator Campbell has said he’s done nothing wrong and on top of that Mr Howard said he’s prepared to appoint him in the future. I say this: when it comes to the

question of character and honesty, I relish Mr Howard’s challenge. If Mr Howard wants to make character and honesty the centre of this election, then bring it on, bring it on now if he’s fair dinkum about it.

If Mr Howard is fair dinkum about having this election his honesty and my honesty, his character and my character, then bring it on and let the people decide. But Mr Howard is not fair dinkum about this, he’s not fair dinkum about it because what he wants simply is to have a political excuse to run a six month negative smear campaign. We’ve seen this from the Liberal Party in the past and we’ll see it again.

JOURNALIST: Mr Abbott is this morning saying though this is no longer just about your judgment it’s about your truthfulness, did you or did you not know that you were the guest of honour at the dinner?

RUDD: All these matters are covered clearly in my statement the other day and reaffirmed today in a separate statement from Graham Edwards [Campbell sic]. I say this on the question of truth and honesty: if Mr Howard wants to make truth and honesty the centre ground for the next election I welcome the challenge and beyond that I’ll tell you what didn’t happen at these meetings and this dinner: what I didn’t do was I didn’t take Australia to war on the basis of a lie; I didn’t say that when it comes to children overboard that people deliberately threw their kids into the water; I didn’t authorise $300 million in bribes to be paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) directly whether or not you knew that you were the guest of honour?

RUDD: On the question of the dinner in question, I have made a full and complete statement on that and reaffirmed in a separate statement by Graham Edwards [Campbell sic] today. All those matters I canvassed there explicitly including the point that I was there at Mr Edwards’ [Campbell sic] invitation, sorry I was there at Mr Edward’s invitation and on top of that that the question of the invitation lay with him and that is further covered completely in Graham Edwards’ statement.

JOURNALIST: So, you didn’t know, you didn’t know?

RUDD: When it comes to that matter I was there at Mr Graham Edwards’ invitation as a guest of Mr Graham Edwards and that is fully canvassed in his statement and my statement the other day - absolutely.

JOURNALIST: But Brian Burke sent out an email.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) this morning on the television that you actually did know that Brian Burke was going to be at that dinner.

RUDD: Sorry, who said this?

JOURNALIST: Mr Smith, Stephen Smith.

RUDD: When it comes to a knowledge of who was to be at the dinner in question that was absolutely clear there’d be a combination of Graham and Mr Burke and a range of business people. But on the question of the invitation of course it came from Mr Edwards and that is fully canvassed in my

statement the other day and canvassed again and reaffirmed in detail when it comes to the statement made today by Graham Edwards.

JOURNALIST: Does it matter who the invitation came from, isn’t it more important that you knew that Brian Burke was going to be there?

RUDD: On the question of the guest of honour question it’s absolutely clear-cut, that is dealt with in Graham Edwards’ statement today. I was there as Graham Edwards’ guest, the other matters there are covered off in Graham Edwards’ statement.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has described this today as an inconvenient truth.

RUDD: Mr Howard, when it comes to inconvenient truths needs to reflect on climate change and the fact he’s been denying truths which have been inconvenient to him for the last 11 years. These matters are absolutely clear-cut. I stand by every word I said in my statement the other day and these have been reaffirmed in a separate statement by Graham Edwards today.

JOURNALIST: So you will be standing aside?

RUDD: On the question of responsibility, I’ve accepted responsibility for getting it wrong back in 2005 when it came to going to a dinner. But Mr Howard refuses consistently to take any responsibility for what he’s got wrong in recent years.

JOURNALIST: So you have considered stepping down?

RUDD: I say this absolutely that when it comes to proper behaviour Mr Howard has failed consistently to uphold the high standards of public administration. Sending our troops to war in Iraq on a lie. When it comes to children overboard and on top of that when it comes also to $300 million worth of bribes to Saddam Hussein.

JOURNALIST: Is this going to damage you and Labor?

RUDD: On the question of my integrity and my character I simply say this: If Mr Howard is fair dinkum about this bring it on. I’m relaxed about the Australian people deciding about his character versus my character and on the

question of his integrity versus my integrity. If he’s fair dinkum about this and not just playing political games that’s how it will be done.

JOURNALIST: And you don’t believe that this has you know negatively impacted on your reputation?

RUDD: When it comes to all these matters the Australian people will decide. If Mr Howard fair dinkum about this entire debate he’ll bring it on for the Australian people to decide. But of course he’s not fair dinkum about it, he simply wants to give himself six months to run this as a negative smear campaign against me and Labor and this will just be chapter one of a rolling set of negative smears. How do we know this? They have done it before, they will do it again and this is part and parcel of the way in which the Liberals do business.

JOURNALIST: Mr Burke’s supporters are saying that Liberal MP Geoff Prosser paid Mr Burke for his advice. Do you think that Mr Howard should do something about Mr Prosser?

RUDD: Look on the question of individuals on this whole matter, I leave it to them and I am unaware of the facts concerning that particular case. All I say is when it comes to Mr Howard’s political tactic today, that is his decision to sack Senator Campbell, it is transparent what is going on here. Firstly, it is not an exercise in leadership it is a six month political deal whereby Mr Campbell will then be offered a job after the next election. That is what it is all about here. It is a six month political deal, not an exercise in leadership.

Let me put it to you in other terms as well. The fact that I had met with Mr Burke was on the public record three months or more ago. If Mr Howard was serious about this matter, why did he not object at the time? Why did he not further object when I became Leader of the Opposition? Why has he only decided to object now, the reason being the Australian Labor Party is gaining credibility in the eyes of the Australian community and he saw an opportunity for short-term political attack? If this was a consistent position of Mr Howard, then surely, surely he would have expressed his objection some time ago and he failed to do so.

JOURNALIST: There has also been a lot more evidence out of the CCC.

RUDD: The fact concerning the meeting with Mr Burke and the basis for the Government’s concerns about any such meeting long pre-existed. Remember what has been said by the Government in Parliament concerns meetings with a person who had previously had a criminal record. That is the concern that they had stated in the Parliament and that fact was known prior to November this year. I simply go to the political tactics involved here again. Firstly, if it was a serious matter as opposed to a piece of short-term negative politics, why didn’t Mr Howard act back in November when I put these things onto the public record, point number one. Point number two is, if Mr Howard was serious about this action in relation to Senator Campbell, then why is it that we have in fact a secret six-month political deal where Mr Campbell says he has done nothing wrong, and on top of that, we have Mr Howard leaving open the possibility of a future re-appointment.

In other words, a six-month political deal with Mr Campbell, in order to provide an opportunity for a continuing, negative political campaign against Labor. I think we need to nail this political campaign for what it is: it is not an exercise in high standards, it is not an exercise in truth, it’s an exercise in short-term negative political campaigning.

JOURNALIST: Others who were at this meeting say that leadership was discussed. Is that the case?

RUDD: On the question of the content of discussions at that, I have already made a full statement, went for nearly an hour before the entire Press Gallery in Canberra.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

RUDD: It is a long transcript, and reaffirmed on the matter you have just raised in a separate statement by Graham Edwards.

JOURNALIST: Have your colleagues urged you to stand aside?

RUDD: On the question of responsibility for this, I have said repeatedly I accept full responsibility for the mistake I made back in 2005 in attending a dinner. It’s time that Mr Howard accepted responsibility for the mistakes that he had made.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) members of the Labor Party

RUDD: I have accepted responsibility for my mistakes on this matter, I don’t recall Mr Howard ever accepting responsibility for any mistake that he has made.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any suggestions that you should stand aside?

Rudd: That is the question of leadership which arises.

JOURNALIST: Has it been raised with colleagues, whether you should stand aside or not?

RUDD: On the question of responsibility for this, I am absolutely rock solid in my determination, as is the Party’s determination, to take this argument up with Mr Howard to the next election. I say again: Mr Howard, and I welcome him doing this, has placed honesty and integrity and character at the heart of the next election campaign. I will be there to fight him every step of the way because when it comes to his honesty versus my honesty, his character versus my character, I am very relaxed, very relaxed indeed, as are all my Party colleagues, about the Australian people deciding.

Thank you.