Transcript of interview with Andrew O'Keefe and Samantha Armytage, Weekend Sunrise
Transcript, E&OE, proof only
Subject: Japanese earthquake
13 March 2011
KEVIN RUDD: Good morning.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: What is the latest information that you have on Australians in Japan?
KEVIN RUDD: So far in our consular crisis centre here in Canberra we've taken about 5500 calls from the Australian public in the last 24 hours or so, concerned about friends, family and loved ones. What we do is we seek to systematically line that up against the embassy checking on each individual. That takes time.
Secondly, within the disaster-affected prefectures we now have 189 registered Australians. That is, Australians who we know to have been in these areas. And, again, we'll work through each of those systematically. I spoke to the Ambassador just before coming onto your program this morning, who told me that he's now received seven phone calls from Australians in one of those affected prefectures saying they're okay. So what we'll do is systematically go through the list against the confirmations and provide you with updates on these numbers as they become available. No reports of Australian injuries or fatalities at this stage.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay, well that is some good news for Australians. What can people do if they have not yet heard from a family member who is in Japan?
KEVIN RUDD: Can I recommend a three-stage process. One, try and contact your family members or friends directly by mobile phone. The Japanese system is coming back online.
Two, if that fails, try and call the most appropriate landline. Three, if that fails, ring then, immediately, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) consular emergency crisis hotline - which I'm sure is across the bottom of your screen and your programs - so that your name can be officially registered, and then we go through the checking procedures that we've just referred to before. That's the best way to proceed.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay, now I understand, minister, that two Air Force planes left early this morning with search and rescue teams and sniffer dog teams onboard. Is there anything else the government is offering in terms of aid and support to Japan?
KEVIN RUDD: Because we've had some loading difficulties with those aircraft they will now be leaving later today, and we'll keep you updated on their precise arrival time in Japan. I spoke last night to the Japanese Foreign Minister at some length about other areas of assistance which Australia could provide. I advised him that we had an ability through the Defence Force and through our other medical assistance teams to deploy immediate field hospitals in the affected areas, if that's what Japan wanted.
I also indicated to him that we could assist through the Australian Federal Police with disaster victim identification teams, and, given the large number of apparent Japanese fatalities, and possibly foreign fatalities, we have recommended to them that they bulk up their capacities in this area.
The third, of course, is I've offered him expertise from our own Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA) to work with Japanese colleagues as well. He will come back to us if any of those further offers of expertise are required.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay. Mr Rudd, we are a very generous nation, Australia. There has been so many natural disasters already this year, and obviously we're happy to help out our mates and our neighbours - is it starting to take its toll on Australian resources, though?
KEVIN RUDD: As for Australia, this is a sophisticated country with a well-developed counter-natural disaster set of capabilities. We've had those tested, most recently in the Queensland floods. They've been tested again in the Christchurch earthquake, and our systems have locked into gear in terms of assisting the Japanese government, but also assisting with Australian citizens potentially affected by these disasters.
Obviously the search and rescue teams themselves have come under a lot of pressure in recent times. I'm advised their morale is high. This is what they're trained to do. We're also embedding with them, by the way, Japanese language experts from the Department of Foreign Affairs, so that when they go out and do their job they don't have a language problem with their Japanese counterparts.
Can I add one other thing on the consular side? That is, last night we were able to get five aircraft out of Tokyo back to Australia. We had a team of Australian consular officials sleeping overnight at the airport - it took them about seven hours to get through to the airport - they've been assisting Australians onto aircraft.
Also when the search and rescue team arrives we'll be deploying a further set of consular officials with the search and rescue team into the disaster-affected areas, and we will therefore be using that as our opportunity to engage with the local authorities about the whereabouts of any missing Australians.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd we thank you for your time today. It sounds like Australia is really stepping up and helping, which is great to hear.
KEVIN RUDD: Thanks for having me on the program.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555