Doorstop with Tim Costello, Anne Gallagher and Damian Walshe-Howling

Subjects: People trafficking, DFAT ethics, Libya, ALP reform.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

Canberra

21 February 2011

TIM COSTELLO: If I sing inside church I drive them out. When I sing outside I drive them in.

Well it's a great privilege to be here with 30 out of 300 Vision Generation — the World Vision youth movement who have been part of a campaign around trafficking.

Millions of people are in modern day slavery. Which is why the songs they were singing; they came out of supporting Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery is right in that mood and that zone.

We're here because the Australian Government is doing some fantastic things around trafficking. There's a $10.6 million TRIANGLE program in labour in the Mekong Valley for kids who are in bonded labour. We know of sex trafficking, that's only ever 10 per cent of numbers actually in slavery. The great number is actually bonded labour.

A great program with ARTIP, the Foreign Affairs Minister will speak about, $21 million in terms of prosecution and strengthening law enforcement in the region and I might just say that the Technical Director of ARTIP, Anne Gallagher is here.

KEVIN RUDD: Come and join us Anne.

TIM COSTELLO: Anne's written the definitive book on trafficking Kevin, published by Cambridge University Press. I think that's for you.

KEVIN RUDD: Good that's great.

TIM COSTELLO: So part of this campaign is to say Australia is doing great things. We don't always get the visibility and recognition, because unlike 13 other nations, we don't have a trafficking ambassador. It's more low level AusAID [indistinct] people who turn up. So the call for an ambassador to highlight the great work Australia's doing and the passion of these young people is one of our calls.

The final thing to say really is that when it comes to this issue, this generation behind me I think give me great hope. They are absolutely committed to saying 'people of my age and younger must never be trafficked'. Trafficking is different to people smuggling. Lots of people Australians confuse those two. We have a people smuggler ambassador if you like. Trafficking is actually coercion and manipulation and fraud, imprisonment and that's why these young people and their passion gives me great hope to complement what our government's doing.

So Mr Rudd thank you for being here. And you're going to receive their postcards in a minute.

KEVIN RUDD: All how many, 110,000. Okay and the media will help us carry them back. It will be a fair division of labour. Do you want to say a few things of what you're up to?

ANNE GALLAGHER: No, I think that we're here to listen to you, Mr Rudd.

KEVIN RUDD: That's a worry.

ANNE GALLAGHER: Only to say that Australia is doing wonderful work in the region and it's recognised all over the world. I was in the United States last week at the US State Department Office and they're very impressed and I think they're looking to be following our lead which is great.

KEVIN RUDD: Okay that's great.

TIM COSTELLO: We introduce Damian too who is the World Vision Ambassador for trafficking.

DAMIAN WALSHE-HOWLING: Yeah and I spent some time in Cambodia last year with World Vision for 10 days and we took a camera crew over there and I saw the exploitation that is happening every day first hand and was very, very, very moved by it. Spent a lot of time in Asia myself but had never seen that level of exploitation.

Interviewed many, many different kids who had been through all sorts of traffic situations to do with bonded labour and sexual trafficking and all sorts of things and one of the girls said to us at the end of the interview and I think this sums it all up.

I said to her is there anything else you want to tell us after this really, really harrowing interview? And she said I want to tell the world that — it's on film, I've got it on film — she said I want to tell the world, please don't hurt the children.

And I feel very strongly that this is a really nice thing to be here today to round that up.

KEVIN RUDD: Thank you. Let me say a few things.

First of all too thank all of you folk for being here and for your fine singing voices and bringing the message of freedom. As Tim said before it's no accident that the young people of Australia behind us have chosen to sing some spirituals from a time when slavery was endemic in so many parts of the world, including the United States.

And this great hymn Amazing Grace was written by a man who was an African slaver, who actually saw the light and changed his ways and realised that what he'd been doing was so appalling for so many years before.

But here we are a couple of centuries on, past Wilberforce, past Newton and the writing of this hymn and we still find around the world today we have a real problem with slavery. We have a problem with bonded labour and we have a problem with trafficking, sex trafficking, in particular involving children.

And so I always had a pretty simple view of these things that part of the business of politics and an important part of the business of politics is to give voice to the voiceless. And there are none more voiceless than the little children's faces who you see on this hoarding behind me.

If you have seen little kids who are obviously being exploited; if you go and you hear about and you see reports about workshops which depend on bonded labour of children under the age of 12, 10, eight and younger, and still reports of slavery itself — this is an abomination in the twenty-first century world.

Therefore the practical question is what do we do about it?

That's part of our job through what we do with the foreign aid program.

How do we get behind organisations and institutions that make a difference?

References have been made to some of the programs we've currently got underway and they are good. But we're also here today to fund Project Childhood.

Project Childhood will be an investment from us of about $7.5 million to assist on the ground with training people in proper law enforcement, most particularly in south-east Asia to deal with this scourge on the ground.

None of these things happen by magic. You've got to make them happen. You've got to train local professionals, train protection agencies, train illegal intervention agencies to go and do their job. Because the best part and the most effective part of this sort of program is prevention.

Any of us who are the parents of children automatically feel instinctively about this. Any of us who are members of the wider human family, automatically feel instinctively about this. Because the mark of any decent society is how we treat the most vulnerable, whether they be the most vulnerable aged or the most vulnerable infants in our wider community.

So for Project Childhood, we're in there, we're supporting you. I've heard loud and clear the idea for an ambassador dedicated to the task of combating human trafficking and you may be surprised about what we do on this run. He may be surprised. I don't want to give anything away.

But, because it does need a sharp international focus to frankly add further weight to the great work which has been done on the ground. So that all the folk around the country who have an interest in this and I know so many private charitable institutions have come on board with this program — I say thank you.

But I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg and there is so much more to be done. And today is one part of that.

And thank you to the young people of Australia for once again prodding the conscience of the National Parliament of Australia with an avalanche of postcards.

TIM COSTELLO: Well I think the avalanche is about to descend. A couple of you would you like to carry them forward. All of them guys. Just get me one bag.

QUESTION: Here Mr Rudd.

KEVIN RUDD: This is now my burden. Is that right? Have you read Pilgrim's Progress? But thank you for these and they do carry a strong message. And you've been spending time on this and our job, as the nation's parliament and government, is to act. So thank you.

Now folks, have you got some questions about this? Have you got some questions about other things? If not, I'm very happy to just leave it as we are because this is a very important event for a very important cause.

And I think what we should do, Tim, is at least once a year reflect and measure our progress so that we know where we were, not just us but the rest of the international community, and what progress we've made in a year's time and a year after that and a year after that because this work still has a ways to go.

And thank you Captain Underbelly for your help.

DAMIAN WALSHE-HOWLING: Thank you very much, Mr Rudd.

KEVIN RUDD: Okay. Thank you very much. So don't mess with this guy. He can do you serious damage. But it's good to have an ambassador out there on the home front who is spreading the message and the challenge for us, is to so designate someone abroad. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, how will this $7 million be targeted? In particular, what will it go to combating?

KEVIN RUDD: Particularly what we were looking at is child sex tourism in South-East Asia. What we're particularly looking at is how do we train local law enforcement officers to do their job on the ground. That is the gap at present and that is what we are doing on the ground with this funding assistance.

It is critical for local law enforcement agencies to have the capacity, the training and frankly the legal framework to operate, to crack down, to prevent, rather than seeing this as just some sort of free market which is just a revolting thought.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, are ethical and behavioural standards in Australia's embassies slipping?

KEVIN RUDD: It sounds like a loaded question. What do you have in mind in particular?

QUESTION: The Western Australian report today that there's been an increase in complaints with DFAT's ethical…

KEVIN RUDD: Oh look, I think every department of state has its normal procedures for handling individual complaints like that. We're not different. Each one of them is looked at on their merits.

Can I say more broadly I believe that our officers around the world are first-class people. I've seen for example their work above and beyond the call of duty in the evacuation of hundreds of Australians from Egypt. These are people that are out there, going well above and beyond the call of their official duty statement. If there are individual complaints about individuals, fine. Let's go through them and look at them.

QUESTION: Things in Libya are getting a bit nasty. What's your message on that on — have you got any updates at all about Australians over there?

KEVIN RUDD: Yes. We have just under 100 Australians registered in Libya. We've been in close contact with our consular-general in Tripoli. Of course, the violence has largely been concentrated so far in Benghazi.

But I would say this very clearly to the Australian public, the travel advisory for Libya has now been upgraded and we are calling upon Australians now to reconsider their need to travel. And if it safe to use commercial means to exit Libya now, then you should do so.

This is a difficult and dangerous environment. The reaction to street protests by the Libyan regime has been violent. We have now reports, credible reports of more than 200 fatalities. And therefore, this is right now the most dangerous place to be.

I've also, last night or early this morning, spoken with the foreign minister of Bahrain to register our concerns there about the continued non-use of lethal force in dealing with peaceful protest.

The Bahraini Government has assured us and others in the international community that, following the incidents with the army several days ago, the army have been withdrawn from the streets, that the constabulary have been now directed to behave in normal protest handling activity and the non-use of lethal force. That I believe is the right course of action. But we'll be watching closely what happens on the streets of Bahrain and elsewhere as well.

QUESTION: Does the situation in Libya make a government-funded evacuation more unlikely in this case?

KEVIN RUDD: We have detailed consular contingency plans for most countries in the Middle East. I indicated that following the rapid escalation of events in Egypt not long ago. So we work on this on the ground. We work with our officials on the ground. And we would activate whatever was necessary whenever it is necessary.

But I would draw everyone's attention to the fact the travel advisory is upgraded. If you are there and it's commercially possible and it's safe for you to exit, you should exit now. And if you're thinking of travelling to that part of the world, reconsider it now. It's a difficult, dangerous and bloody place.

QUESTION: What do you think all the unrest in the Middle East means for the world?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, we have at play I think a universal cry for freedom. And you cannot permanently put a plug into a bottle which suppresses the aspirations which all of us here have, which is if we have a view it should be able to be freely and peacefully put.

But when it comes to the business of our governments, it should be a view which we can freely and peacefully put, through protest activity, through a free media, through freedom of association and also through the ability to participate in free and fair elections. That's what's at play here. And for far too long these aspirations have been suppressed. And now they rise to the surface.

Of course, for the rest of the world, this is a very important period of time. And I've been speaking with foreign ministers from around the world in the last several days on how we the international community, as international partners of democratic Egypt, support Egypt at this difficult period of transition.

Egypt for example has problems of food security. Egypt for example has problems of mass unemployment. The collapse of the tourism industry has meant that, with seven per cent of the entire workforce dependent on tourism, you have joblessness often in the most vulnerable areas of that country and broader economic challenges as well.

So we are in partnership with others, working our way through how we assist. And we hope to be able to bring that to conclusion before much longer. I spoke again with the interim Egyptian authorities very early this morning.

QUESTION: Should Gaddafi step down?

KEVIN RUDD: As I've said consistently in response to whether it's Mubarak in Egypt or other leaders in the region, the precise course of action to be supported in each individual country should derive from the aspirations and actions of the people themselves. Every national set of circumstances is different.

I noticed Colonel Gaddafi is out there saying that all this is being fermented by international forces. Can I just say that's just not true? And what Colonel Gaddafi needs to have a look at is his own backyard, where people are rising with a legitimate aspiration for freedom.

And his challenge is to embrace a democratic reform process, like we see being negotiated now between the Crown Prince of Bahrain and opposition parties in Bahrain and in other parts of the region as well, including in Jordan.

But if the response is the barrel of a gun, as we've seen in the streets of Tripoli, it will make the situation worse and Libya itself will be effectively exiling itself from the rest of the international community.

QUESTION: This morning you said on radio that the Labor Party needed to be reformed to be made viable. What's wrong with the Labor Party that it has to change?

KEVIN RUDD: Well I'll just leave my comments where I left them this morning. And that is that the party has produced an internal review document. I've not studied it in detail yet. I've been preoccupied with some of the things we've been talking about this morning.

But it's very important that, if we are to remain a viable party of the people in the future, that we eliminate the power of factional leaders and factional bosses. I think that's what people across our movement would want to see. I also think that's what the wider Australian community would want to see, so that there's one principle at play in our movement and that is merit, one principle at play and that's the merit of a person and the merit of a good idea.

QUESTION: Mr Rudd, you're going to review that review and read it. Do you think that there are members of your party who may toss it aside and may ignore it completely?

KEVIN RUDD: I think I've said all as I need to say at this stage. I've advocated a single principle for future reform. I've not had the opportunity to read the document yet, nor those other documents which haven't been publicly circulated. So we take this one step at a time.

Okay, folks. Done. Thank you.

ENDS

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