Transcript of doorstop interview, Rio de Janeiro
THU 21 JUNE 2012
Subject(s): G20 summit; Rio+20 sustainability conference; Marine parks; Julian Assange
PM: As you know I've come to Brazil following the G20 meeting in Mexico. Over the last few days in Mexico the G20 has been talking about plans to strengthen global economic growth.
Of course that’s of paramount importance, particularly at this difficult time in our global economy. But growth always needs to be sustainable. Australia is one of the great continents of the world. We are a people who inhabit a continent.
And so, being custodians of a land as diverse and rich in natural habitat as our nation, our focus on sustainability needs to be strong. Economic growth is necessary but we also must be focussing on sustainability.
So I’m pleased to be here at the Rio+20 conference – the United Nations conference on sustainable development.
Now this conference is bringing together the nations of the world for the third time in twenty years to collectively set a course for sustainable development.
Now, at its simplest, sustainable development means people having a decent standard of living, but also making sure that we are not compromising the standard of living and the natural environment of our children and the generations to come.
As a developed country, Australia has taken a number of steps to protect our natural environment. Here at Rio, we will be talking about steps on sustainable development for the world.
I’m here, as a leader, to work through issues on sustainable development, and I’m particularly here to support the work to establish comprehensive sustainable development goals for all the world’s countries.
I’m also here to work to strengthen the UN institutional settings which are responsible for pursuing environmental matters at a global level.
And last but not least I’m here to support work on oceans, to recognise the value of our oceans, and to ensure that they are better looked after in the future.
Australia’s got a proud record of promoting sustainable development.
Whilst here in Rio I will be participating in a number of events to showcase the things that we are already doing, and I’ve just been to one such event. But we are also here to talk about what is happening in other countries, and to learn from best practice around the world.
In attending this summit I’m also delighted to be here in Brazil. Whilst this is not a full bilateral visit to Brazil, I am the first Australian Prime Minister to come to Brazil.
I’m looking forward to discussions with the President over the period of time that I’m here – of course we’ve just been at the G20 together – this is a strongly emerging economy so it is a good time to be here in Brazil’s history.
I am very pressed for time, I’ll take some questions.
JOURNALIST: The document that the (inaudible) represented to sign off doesn’t actually set out exactly what sustainable development goals should be. (Inaudible) What practically do you hope this conference will achieve?
PM: Look, officials have been working long and hard to get text that can be agreed amongst all of the nations of the world.
I’m not going to stand here and pretend to you that what is in that text is going to make some indelible mark on the world’s history from tomorrow on.
But I do think this meeting is putting the spotlight on sustainable development, and that’s important. I believe it’s putting the spotlight too on oceans and that’s important.
And in assessing what is being achieved here, I think we do need to remember that for example the Millennium Development Goals had pretty humble beginnings and were a long time in the generation, but they actually have worked.
More needs to be done, but they have worked to channel aid and development monies to most effective uses and to transforming lives. So I think identifying sustainable development goals as something that we need is a modest step forward.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday there was a significant grouping of the High Seas Alliance and a marine biologist who gave a damning assessment of the way that the section of the communiqué that deals with oceans was blocked by the United States and Venezuela amongst others. Where did Australia stand on the oceans part of the document and are you disappointed that it’s been blocked by those other nations?
PM: Look, Australia has been working hard to time and get more ambitious language about oceans. Obviously this is a consensus-driven process and so that means that everybody’s view get put in the melting pot.
As a said in response to Lenore’s question I’m not going to overstate what is coming out of this summit but I do think having a focus on oceans at all is a good thing. It is only relatively recently that the importance of marine environments has come to the fore.
In our own country of course we very proudly announced the largest marine reserves in the world last week. This is a process that’s been worked on in our nation over a long period of time. It originally hails from the days of Paul Keating so it’s taken a long time to get change but we are achieving some change.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on Julian Assange, what’s your knowledge of Nicola Roxon’s (inaudible)?
PM: Well I said yesterday – I can’t tell you chapter and verse. I think you are referring to a letter by the Attorney-General. Obviously I haven’t been in a position to receive full briefings about all things in the Australian media but on Julian Assange the position is exactly as I described it to you yesterday.
He has been in receipt of consular support, he’s entitled to consular support like every other Australian citizen. Given how long running his matter has been, Senator Carr has noted that he’s received more consular support in a comparable period than anyone else.
I’m not going to get involved in speculation but I very clearly said yesterday and let me clearly say it again. The Australia Government always opposes extradition in death penalty cases for Australian citizens – anytime, anywhere, any individual.
PM: Well look I’m not prepared to comment on reports. I anticipate the Attorney-General will deal with the full letter today.
JOURNALIST: Will you be discussing it with Ecuador’s representatives here?
PM: Look, I’m not scheduled to meet with Ecuador. Our High Commission in London is engaged in the process of discussing the matter involving Mr Assange directly with their counterparts from Ecuador in London.
PM: Mr Assange’s decisions are a matter for Mr Assange.
PM: Well as I’ve indicated to you I am not pretending that the outcomes here are going to make a huge difference from tomorrow on, I’m not trying to pretend that.
My reference to making change was a reference to a specific initiative in Australia where we have created the world’s largest ocean reserves, and so that’s something I think we can be proud of.
In Australia we’ve taken a number of other steps too to protect our environment. Whether it’s the historic protections we’ve provided to areas like Kakadu and Uluru or whether it’s our more recent focus on putting a price on carbon, as a nation we’ve focused on environmental issues.
But there’s always things to discuss and things for the world to come together on and I’m here, as a leader, to lend political weight to the discussions that are happening here.