THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC NEWS RADIO
WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 2014
Subject/s: AUSMIN meetings; Iraq; Ukraine.
MARIUS BENSON, INTERVIEWER: Tanya Plibersek, you met John Kerry the Secretary of State last night, you were in the company with Bill Shorten. Was it a productive meeting?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well it was a very good meeting indeed, we covered a lot of ground. Internationally we talked of course about Iraq, and more broadly the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine. We talked about climate change, the G20, and of course also his oceans policy, he has been a great advocate of setting aside more of our oceans to be protected for the future.
BENSON: And on that list you’ve just gone through, was it just a sequence of agreements between yourself and John Kerry?
PLIBERSEK: Well of course we have a lot in common. There’s a number of areas where there is some agreement not just between our countries, but at a policy level the Democrats and the Australian Labor Party have been as one on the threat that climate change, for example, poses.
BENSON: Can I go to the issue of Iraq and the question of military action there. John Kerry made it unambiguously clear yesterday American troops wouldn’t be going in but there are, there have been, American air strikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq. Do you believe military action should be part of the potential mix in Iraq or should military action be completely ruled out?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it was extremely important to protect groups of people in northern Iraq in particular from potential slaughter and even genocide, and I think that’s what was being faced in northern Iraq. The first and most important thing was to provide them with food and water, people were starving and dying of thirst, and then to provide a path out of the areas that were encircled by IS, I think it was absolutely necessary to use force to provide a path out for those people.
BENSON: The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon has called for the world to do more for the Yezidi people who have been the focus of concern in Iraq. Should Australia do more, specifically should Australia offer refuge to Yezidi people to come here?
PLIBERSEK: Well of course Australia should do more, and it’s a shocking thing to realise that last year we gave $7.7 million in Overseas Development Assistance, aid, to Iraq, and this year the government cut that amount to zero in this budget. Australia has the capacity to do much more for the people of Iraq and indeed the people of the Middle East more generally, where we’ve cut aid funding in other areas as well, that we’ve cut the amount of aid that we’ve given to Syria, we initially gave substantially more than we’ve given in more recent times just as the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen and worsen. Australia has the capacity to help in the Middle East and Iraq much more than we are.
BENSON: Can I turn to Ukraine, there’s a Russian convoy now, a convoy kilometres long of trucks heading to eastern Ukraine from Russia. Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister has said that Russia is trying to use humanitarian help as a pretext for occupation. What should the world be doing in response to that?
PLIBERSEK: Well if the Russians have an offer of humanitarian assistance they can hand over whatever they have at the border to the Red Cross. It should be international organisations providing any assistance in that eastern part of Ukraine that is under contention at the moment. There should be no reason for Russian trucks to roll into eastern Ukraine. It is important to send a strong message that Russian trucks wouldn’t be welcome in Ukraine, but the best way to do that is to continue as an international community to send a message as we did through the Security Council in relation to MH17.
BENSON: Just looking broadly at foreign policy on Iraq, Gaza, the Middle East generally, Ukraine, in the Asia Pacific region as well, it appears that Labor and the Government are in full agreement. Is foreign policy now a unity ticket between the Government and Labor?
PLIBERSEK: Well Marius I wouldn’t say that there’s complete agreement in all of those areas. Foreign policy has traditionally been an area where we look for a united approach as Australians and in many of these issues, and the horror that we all feel about what’s happening in Iraq, the distress that’s been caused by the deaths of civilians in Gaza, all of these things are areas in which our common humanity unites us. There has been areas that we have pointed to things that we would have handled differently but I don’t think there’s a great benefit in telegraphing to the world that we’re divided on these issues.
BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you Marius.