Speech at the Woodford Festival
Speech, check against delivery, EO&E
30 December 2010
Thank you for that particularly memorable Woodford welcome.
I haven't been to a gig like this in a tent like this since Ashton Brothers Circus. I mean, it's terrific.
Well, my name is still Kevin and I'm still from Queensland and I'm still here to help.
You really are a bunch of troopers, wading your way through the mud these last several days. I don't know how you've done it but Bill tells me spirits are high are you've really pitched in again for this, the twenty-fifth Woodford Festival. So, congratulations to you all.
Let me begin by acknowledging the first Australians on whose land we meet and whose cultures we celebrate as the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
I have said that a thousand times, but each time I say it, it sends a tingle down the spine. Think of it, we have this enormous privilege of sharing this vast continent with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and they in themselves represent this thread of culture and civilisation back to the Dreamtime, 30, 40, 50,000 years. It is remarkable.
And when those from abroad come to experience something of Australia, they go back and they say how is it that it doesn't send tingles down your spine every day, that you share this continent with such an ancient and great people. So to those first Australians I acknowledge you because your contribution to this vast country and this vast continent of ours is beyond measure.
Now, you had some wet weather here. Who here is camping at the moment?
Good. I am virtually a local. Let me tell you something about wet weather. Let me tell you something about red-bellied black snakes. There's no need to be concerned. It's just that when the weather stops - that is the rain stops - there is a sudden and mass migration of these snakes.
Don't get alarmed, it's okay, it's innocent snake migration as they go back to the dry path from which they came. So if you feel that faint wriggle in your tent tonight…
Could you just keep your mind…
You feel that faint wriggle in your tent tonight, know that it is simply Mother Nature.
As a loyal son of Queensland, and having grown up on a farm not far from Eumundi, we were the proud owners of an outhouse. Anyone here of that vintage was a proud owner of an outhouse? Good, we are a dying breed, but we can remember the experience. It was singular and it was sanitary.
But the great thing about the terrors of childhood is if you went out to the outhouse at night in a great wet like this, it would induce fear unspeakable. Not only the terrors of the night but the unseen terrors of a red-bellied black snake, invisible to the human eye. And then to cap it off, the existential terror of once you've finally summoned up the courage to plant yourself upon the throne, of what lurked beneath.
Now, if you have any of those experiences here in the next few days just relax and be calm because the red-bellied black snakes are, in fact, on their safe migration back home. And I'm sure they won't molest any one of you, unless you're a southerner.
By the way, Bill, thank you for that exhaustive CV that you read out before. My father, who was a famer, always said the bigger the hat the smaller the property.
And when you read out a CV that long, well the longer the CV… anyway.
But it was very charitable.
I was in China recently after I had recently adjusted my position in political life.
Or as some would say, had it adjusted for me. But I digress, I digress.
Anyway, I'm at a function in Beijing at what is called the Red Lantern Gallery. It's a fantastic innovation by an Australian Arts entrepreneur who has taken a space on the old Ming walls of the city and created a space for Australian artists to exhibit. It's just an extraordinary place to be. Anyway, I rock up there, late, to do whatever I'm supposed to do as Foreign Minister for the Commonwealth of Australia, and Beijing television is there with a cameraman, an interviewer and various others in the Chinese media and their first question to me was [speaks Mandarin].
BILL HAURITZ: Thank you. Which is: Kevin, you're still alive.
KEVIN RUDD: Which is an interesting reflection on Chinese politics. I'll leave that to one side.
So in semi-fluent Mandarin, because I'd just got off the plane and I was feeling a bit worse for wear, I then explained to them the following. Well, in Australia we have a natural career progression. I began as a son of a farmer in Queensland, then I went to university and learnt how to speak Chinese. All the Chinese are nodding at this point. Then, I decided to apply to enter the Department of Foreign Affairs. They nodded. Then, as a career diplomat specialising in Chinese, the Australian foreign service sent me to Sweden.
That's true. Eventually they sent me to Beijing. I was the First Secretary in the embassy in Beijing.
Then, I came back to Australia and I was in charge of the China section in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Then I went to Queensland and became the Director General of the Cabinet Office in the state government of Australia. Then I entered the Parliament and became a member of the House of Representatives. Then I became the Shadow Foreign Minister. Then I became the Leader of the Opposition. Then I became the Prime Minister of Australia.
Now, I am the Foreign Minister of Australia and very soon I'll be heading the China section of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs…
…based on my current career trajectory.
The Chinese apparently found this so funny they kept playing it and replaying it and replaying it on Chinese television.
BILL HAURITZ: Speaking of Chinese, which of you can speak some Chinese?
KEVIN RUDD: Good. Hardly anybody; that makes me feel much more comfortable. When I went to the embassy in Beijing to work they thought I spoke terrific Chinese because I was taught at the Australia National University to speak Chinese in a way in which it sounds a bit like BBC Mandarin. That is, you're taught to speak Chinese with this impeccable pronunciation. So when Chinese folk hear me speak Chinese it's a bit like hearing someone from a PG Wodehouse novel.
Oh, I say Jumbo, why don't we pop down to the club to play a spot of polo?
Which is why most Chinese just fall about laughing when they hear me speak Chinese. It's like a lurch back three quarters of a century.
Anyway, I arrive at the embassy in Beijing, the local staff said I had impeccable pronunciation. The new ambassador, Ross Garnaut, Australian economist today, insisted that I become his interpreter. I said, Ross, I'm not an interpreter. He said, no, everyone says you're a terrific interpreter, stop being modest. I'm not being modest Ross, I'm not an interpreter. He insists and demands so he takes me in his limousine to his first meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Have you ever had this funny feeling when you're heading off in a car somewhere to do something and to perform when you know that you're about to really stuff up? It's happened to me, it may not happen to you.
Anyway, flag flying, happy ambassador in the back seat, terrified First Secretary sitting next to him. We arrive at the Great Hall of the People for this first meeting between our new ambassador to China and the Chinese Minister for Agriculture. And then what happens is all the Chinese sit in a perfect horseshoe, with senior Chinese Pooh-Bah there, the deputy senior Chinese Pooh-Bah next to him and so down the food chain of life until you've got the chief cook and bottle washer down the very end of the food chain.
And so on our side of the line as well; ambassador, the rest of the delegation, and then behind the two principals you've got the interpreters on the jump seats. The Chinese interpreter looked at me, I look at him, and he knows that I don't know what I'm doing.
Interpreters can just tell. They just eyeball you. Anyway, as perspiration begins to drip, the ambassador began with the unremarkable observation that Australia and China currently experienced a relationship of unprecedented closeness, and I thought that was a pretty clumsy expression. And so I thought, it needs to be improved.
Note to file, never do that. Whenever that thought comes into your mind purge it from your consciousness.
Anyway, I rendered this into what I thought was impeccable semi-classical Chinese. Then there was a pause, and then I notice an array of expressions on the Chinese side of the horseshoe. At the junior end of the Chinese horseshoe, they erupted into fits of laughter.
At the senior end of the Chinese horseshoe, blood just literally drained from their face, as jaws dropped.
Garnaut looks at me and says, that wasn't meant to be funny. Apparently what I'd said in Chinese as I'd sought to translate this unremarkable expression, Australia and China are currently experiencing a relationship of unprecedented closeness. What I actually said was Australia and China are currently experiencing mutually satisfactory orgasm.
Now, if you know Chinese, the word [speaks Mandarin] actually has this, sort of, dual meaning, just that I wasn't all that familiar with.
That was the last time Garnaut ever asked me to interpret for him.
By the way, I understand we've got friends here from the US Embassy tonight, is that right Bill? Well, that's good, because I've decided we need to take the Woodford Folk Festival global…
And because the US Embassy is here we can guarantee, through their normal cable distribution system
…that it will go to two to three million people, and that's before anything leaks.
Then it's squillions.
Think about that, two to three million people, that's five times the circulation of The Sunday Mail on the internal distribution system of the US cable system which has been the subject of some recent commentary.
So, Bill, rest assured your reputation is now ricocheting its way around the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department and all points in between through to Kabul.
BILL HAURITZ: This won't do my reputation any good at all.
KEVIN RUDD: Let me just say a few things about what I've actually been asked to speak to you about tonight.
Bill asked me to talk about Australia's future place in the world. So what I'm going to do for the next 10 to 15 minutes is run through a couple of basic points. One is what I see to be the five or 10 great challenges we as a nation are going to experience in the next 10 to 20 years. Two, what as a nation we're doing about them. And, three, why I think there is a real ground for us to be optimistic about that nation's future and our future in the world.
And I don't say that in the Pollyanna-ish sort of way, that everything will just work itself out in the end, I don't mean that at all. I mean that if we've got a decent vision, if we've got a lot of hard work being applied to that vision and we're working in concert with other countries around the world, we can actually tackle the problems which face us. And I believe there is, therefore, a way through.
On the challenges, let me just headline them for you. These are in no particular order, but each of them, I think, is important. Number one, the continuation of global financial instability. Some of us think this has all just gone away. It hasn't, it's still there because there's a core reason for this, and that is that the complexity, the inter-connectedness and the sheer volume of private capital ricocheting through private financial markets is so large that the capacity of individual nation states to effectively monitor, regulate and control those movements is, frankly, beyond the capacity of any singular nation state, and that's why it has to be done internationally.
This is compounded by the fact that governments are constrained now on what they can do because the interventions last time in '08-'09 to keep the whole global economy going, as we did in Australia, that we've had to inject stimulus into the global economy.
And therefore in other countries around the world global indebtedness has gone through the roof. Public sector debt as a proportion of GDP on the part of the most advanced economies in the world is running at 75 per cent. In Australia we're running at less than 10 per cent.
But the point I make is not one to congratulate ourselves for effort here on the home front, though it's been good. We didn't go into recession, we've kept unemployment around about five per cent, half that of the rest of the developed world. Imagine if we had five per cent more people out of work. We'd have more than a million people unemployed, hundreds of thousands more people unemployed, if we were running the 9.9 per cent unemployment rate there is now in the United States, let alone the 20 per cent unemployment rate you now see in Spain, and 10 per cent across most of Europe.
But the point is this: this financial market instability represents an ongoing challenge for us all and it requires unprecedented international collaboration to bring it under control for the future. And we therefore have a huge responsibility to make that work because the consequences of not doing it are dire. For the poorest people in the world, their ability to escape poverty through natural development of their economies is undermined as the global economic - as global economic confidence collapses. Secondly, for employment in developed countries it's undermined through the same forces at work. And, on top of that, you've got also the entire global economy in search of a new sustainable growth model.
So, challenge number one, which is manageable but it's difficult, is the continuation of systemic global financial market instability.
Number two, nuclear weapons proliferation. We should be thankful that in the last day or two, the last few days at least, President Obama and his Russian counterpart, have agreed on a new strategic arms reduction treaty. This is a big development. It is large. It is huge. And the United States Congress has passed it. And the Russians have indicated that the deal is done. This is good. But it doesn't deal with the fact that we have still the great danger of nuclear weapons proliferation on the part of a whole bunch of other states; North Korea in our part of the world, but also Iran.
These are not small. To contemplate the sheer destructive capability of single nuclear weapon should focus all of our attention. A single nuclear weapon, one today vastly more powerful - and we know from history - that hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
And therefore our efforts must be unprecedented in their resolve to bring a new and effective global arms control regime into being whereby the planet, for the first time, can enjoy a nuclear weapons free world. Challenge number two.
Challenge number three is what's happening out there in the cyber-sphere. There is this great cyber revolution underway and it's been enormously liberating for people. Living standards have gone up, new virtual global communities have been created, the speed of communications has made possible connections which in the past were simply not possible.
This has brought about unprecedented additions to prosperity and connectedness across the world. But, at the same time, this cyber revolution has created unprecedented vulnerabilities. Entire systems within governments, within countries are now vulnerable to various forms of cyber attack, be they by individuals, be they by criminals, be they by terrorists, or be they by nation states.
This therefore commands our attention as a new challenge of the age. And, again, all nations including ours must be seized of it.
A fourth global challenge is the continuing and mutating threat of global terrorism. It hasn't gone away. It's still there.
Our challenge is to deal of course with the causes which give rise to much terrorist activity, and that is important. And base to that is dealing with the challenge of global poverty, and also at the political level dealing with such things as the unresolved dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over a comprehensive peace settlement for the Middle East.
But beyond those factors there are still groups in the world which are committed to unprecedented violence. If you read your newspapers this morning you will have seen what happened even in Copenhagen.
This therefore is a continuing challenge for us all. It will bob in and out of the world's news media, in and out of our own news media here in Australia. It doesn't however diminish the level of its importance.
Challenge number five. Ensuring that we have about us enough wit and wisdom to accommodate in the global order and the regional order the peaceful rise of China. This is a large challenge. Just observe these two or three facts. In 2009, China supplanted Japan as the second largest economy in the world. According to The Economist, which I read this morning, in 2019 China will supplant the United States as the world's largest economy. According to the same edition of The Economist, 87 per cent of Chinese people, when polled, believe their country is headed in the right direction.
Therefore if these projections prove to be accurate, what happens is in the space of the next decade, for the first time in a couple of hundred years the global economy will be dominated by an economy which does not belong to the West or does not belong to a democracy.
This is a big change. And therefore the challenge that we face in ensuring that this is accommodated peacefully in a rules based order within our region and for the world at large to preserve the prosperity and peace we've enjoyed for the last half century and can enjoy that for the next half century is then guaranteed. This will take leadership, this will take statesmanship, it will take a lot of hard work, but it is doable.
A sixth great challenge looks beyond China to the rise of India. Again, if you go to recent editions of The Economist you will find a conclusion on pure population dynamics alone, which is within 15 years India's population will be larger than that of China. Therefore, what we've observed for the last 25 years plus with the rise of China, in some essential respects will be replicated by the new dynamo that is India.
And beyond India itself, you also have the wider dynamics of the Indian Ocean and the management of the Indian Ocean in terms of the energy sources which come out of the Gulf states in the wider Middle East, and of course of some of the strategic concerns which arise from piracy in the Horn of Africa.
Australia is an Indian Ocean country. We have a deep interest in the future of that zone. And therefore the challenge again is to make sure we have a rules based order for the future which ensures that the rise of new economies is accommodated peacefully and in a manner which is consistent with the world's prosperity and the prosperity of all.
Beyond that again, a seventh challenge and one for the decades ahead, is the interconnectedness of the challenges of food security, energy security and climate change.
For food security, it's stark and it's clear. Arable land is being consumed by urbanisation, water scarcity becomes a greater problem, desertification is occurring across Africa. We therefore have a challenge to plan for better food security for the future, for the poorest peoples of the world and for all communities in the world.
Similarly with energy security, not just is there a scramble for resources at the moment, but beyond that again we have a problem fundamentally in the dynamics of energy security because of the absence of a global price on carbon. Absent that, we don't have sufficient incentivisation across the global economy to bring about the transformation to a green and renewable economy which the planet demands and which Australia demands for its future.
And for climate change itself, let's be very plain about this; the clock is still ticking. We have finite time to act globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid irreversible and unsustainable increases in global temperatures. That is a fact.
We therefore have a finite time to act globally and to act nationally. And to act nationally means bringing about as rapidly as possible a price on carbon for Australia.
Two or three more challenges and then I'll draw it to a close and then we'll have a chat with Bill.
Challenge number eight, global poverty. People may say, well, what's that got to do with me. We're living in a prosperous country called Australia. We have poverty within our own shores as well, and that needs to be dealt with.
But poverty beyond our shores, it's worthwhile putting the numerics into your mind. Of the six billion or so people who live on our planet, 1.4 billion right today are living in extreme poverty, less than one dollar a day. Those who are living on less than two dollars a day number something like 2.2 billion, or a third of the human family. For any international community of conscience, this is unsustainable in itself. We must act and deal with it.
But if that argument doesn't command people's attention, then think of the other sides of the argument purely from a self-interest perspective. If you deal effectively with poverty, you are also undermining some of the fuelling fires of militant extremism. If you're dealing effectively with poverty, look at it from a market point of view. You're unleashing new markets for the world economy as people then rise and emerge out of the degradation of poverty and begin consuming, as others consume. This therefore is a challenge for the global community.
Challenge number nine. What I describe as the global democratic deficit. Freedom is not the universal reality for all mankind. A large slice of the human family do not live in freedom. Human rights are daily traduced. Democracies daily are being challenged by events in many continents on the face of the earth.
Therefore for anyone to assume that democracy is the natural self-determined condition of humankind, and that we'll all simply end at that point anyway, read your history again. Because the history of the last two centuries says that only when women and men around the world resolved that they wanted to live in freedom and democracy, that they made it happen in various countries around the world, and so the democratic norm spread.
But this is not an assured state of being. We have to maintain and fight for our democracies and extend the tent of freedom worldwide because this is the entitlement of all humankind.
And challenge number 10 is this: given what I have just outlined in terms of the international economy, international arms control, challenges to the order, the rise of new powers, poverty, as well as the democratic deficit across the planet, and other such challenges including climate change, we have also a fundamental and underlying problem which is the inadequacy of current global governance.
On climate change, the UNFCCC recently met in Cancun and prior to that in Copenhagen; as of now has not risen fully to the charge and the challenge which it faces to deliver an outcome for the planet.
On human rights we have a human rights commission in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations. It hasn't delivered either.
The World Trade Organization has been labouring for years to deliver an outcome for the poorest countries on the planet in terms of a new Doha development round.
Even the International Monetary Fund is inadequate to deal with the great challenges of global financial market stability that I referred to before.
And the UN Security Council has not been able to act in dealing with obvious crimes against humanity and other crimes against humankind that we've seen in places like Darfur and in places like Rwanda.
We have therefore a problem of global governance. The problems I've run through are, by definition, global in nature yet there is a deficit in the global governance that we are bringing to bear to deal with these problems.
We have the United Nations system which is fine in its inspiration. Australia was a leading voice when this institution was created back in 1945. But roll the clock on 50 years and more, we see increasingly a gap between the aspirations which underpinned its establishment and its delivery on these core challenges on the ground.
So, to conclude briefly, a word or two about what we are doing about these 10 great challenges.
On financial markets we are now active in an institution called the G20. We now have a place at the table. We can begin to shape a global financial and economic agenda, not as an indirect voice but one where the Australian voice is directly deployed in the councils of the world. And that is where Australia's voice is being deployed right now.
Regionally we're seeking to do so now through the East Asia Summit. And nationally we seek to lead by example, by ensuring that our public sector debt is kept well under control and that we're also ensuring the sustainability of our long-term retirement incomes.
On nuclear weapons proliferation, we have worked as Australia to lead the global debate on a comprehensive test ban treaty. We have also done our bit in terms of sanctions on North Korea and Iran. We have also set about establishing a new cross-regional group on disarmament to implement the 64 new recommendations of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty conference.
We are active on cyber security through the new Office of Cyber Security.
On counter-terrorism, we are now dedicating unprecedented resources.
On China, we are active with China through the councils of the G20.
And now, through the agency of the East Asia Summit, we are seeking together to craft a new rules based order for our region, and similarly with India and the emerging states of the Gulf, of South Asia and of Latin America and of Africa, as we work together with their leading states again through the agency of the G20 and elsewhere.
On climate change, we must establish our own price on carbon. But, beyond that, by the time we get to Rio plus 20, we must have a global outcome on climate change. We must ensure that we act nationally and globally to deal with this which represents a fundamental threat to us all.
On global poverty, we in Australia have now signed up, for the first time, to the Millennium Development Goals fully and comprehensively and without reservation.
In the last five years we have doubled our overseas development assistance aid budget.
We are now on track over the next five years to double that budget again.
If we deliver that at 0.5 of gross national income by 2015, as we are committed to do, what we will dedicate to dealing with the Millennium Development Goals and the plight of global poverty will be an amount of money equivalent of that which the entire European Union out of Brussels currently expends on the same. Australia is increasingly playing its part in dealing with global poverty.
On democracy and the democratic deficit and the freedom deficit across the planet, we in Australia should never apologise for standing up for the universality of human rights and the government, of which I am a member, will not so do. We will continue to stand up for human rights.
And then on global governance, what we are engaged in now is a campaign to reform global governance through our work within the G20, and taking that agenda beyond global financial and economic management to new areas, including trade, including development, and other great challenges facing the planet.
Friends, this is some of the things that we are doing in response to these great challenges we and the international community face.
So, who are we in Australia to make a difference? Our voice counts. It really does count. We are a middle power but we are a power with global interests. We are guided by a principle which Gareth Evans once rightly described as good international citizenship. We seek to articulate the principles of good international citizenship through what I call creative middle power diplomacy; getting out there and making a difference.
The Australia which made a difference when it took the case of Indonesian independence to the international community in the 1940s; the Australia which made a difference when we sought to bring the [indistinct] on chemical weapons control around the world through the Chemical Weapons Convention; and the comprehensive test-ban treaty. The country which has taken a lead in the past in bringing about a peace settlement for Cambodia. The country which has in its tradition taken the lead and which in the future commit ourselves to taking the lead as well.
These are the principles to which this government is committed.
Of course, to make it all work, we need to make sure that our sleeves are rolled up and we're pitching in, in the practical challenges of the day.
There's a lot of hot air in international diplomacy, I grant you that. But you know something, on the key questions which count for the future, Australia is there to make a difference and to make a difference for the good. We can play a part, we will play a part. It takes statesmanship, it takes leadership, and it takes a lot of hard work.
But I submit to you this: that in the face of the great challenges we face as a human family, and the credentials that we bring to bear as the good people of the Commonwealth of Australia, we can and will make a difference to this planet and this human family for the future.
And I thank you.
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