Press Conference

Transcript
29 Jul 2016
Sydney
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER:

Following the Cabinet discussion yesterday I can announce that the Government will not be nominating any person for the office of Secretary-General of the United Nations. I've spoken to Mr Rudd in the last hour and advised him of that decision and the reasons for it.

Do you have some questions?

JOURNALIST:

Why was it delayed? Was there a disagreement with a Cabinet member, PM?

PRIME MINISTER:

I wanted to speak to Mr Rudd before making this announcement and I was only able to do so literally in the last hour.

JOURNALIST:

Does this go against the advice of Julie Bishop and George Brandis?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to go into the discussion in the Cabinet. The threshold point with this - and look, I do not want to add to Mr Rudd's disappointment, I do not want to add to his disappointment - but the threshold question here, when the Australian Government nominates a person for a job, particularly an international job like this, the threshold question is: Do we believe the person, the nominee, the would-be nominee is well suited for that position? My judgement is that Mr Rudd is not and I've explained to him the reasons why. I don't want to go into them here today.

JOURNALIST:

What was his response? You said he was disappointed. What was his reaction to being told?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to go into the discussion I had with Mr Rudd. This is an important issue but it is far from the most important issue confronting the Government, as I said some time ago. It is a matter that I said would come to the Cabinet. It has come to the Cabinet and I'm announcing the decision of the Government.

JOURNALIST:

Isn’t this part of the new era of partisan politics in an area that was previously seen as beyond that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not at all. Look, this decision has got nothing to do with Mr Rudd's party, nothing at all. I think you understand that. I think Australians will understand that. This is based on a judgement about Mr Rudd's suitability for that particular role.

There are many examples, as you know, of Coalition Governments supporting people from the Labor Party or former Labor ministers and politicians in important positions. I mean, Kim Beazley's term as ambassador to Washington was extended under our government in the last term. That's just one example, there are others. But I can assure you that this is not a partisan issue.

This is a considered judgement about Mr Rudd's suitability for the role in question, that is to say Secretary-General of the United Nations. Now, I know there are many political factors that people want to speculate about, but there is a fundamental threshold point and it is this: Does the Government believe, do we believe, do I as Prime Minister believe that Mr Rudd is well suited for that role? My considered judgement is that he is not.

Now not everyone is well suited for every role. This is no disparagement of Mr Rudd. He is a former prime minister of Australia. But my judgement is that he is not well suited for this particular role.

JOURNALIST:

You can't explain why he is not suited for the role. Isn't this just about satisfying the one win of your party and about, I guess, the...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that is a political analysis that I reject.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, why didn't you back your Deputy and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to go into discussions in the Cabinet or between ministers.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be supporting Helen Clark instead?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Government will consider what position it takes with respect to other candidates for Secretary-General in due course.

JOURNALIST:

So Prime Minister, you won't be giving any indication of which Cabinet members might have been for Mr Rudd being selected and which ones weren't?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it won't surprise you to know that I won't give you a running commentary on what happened in the Cabinet room, but I congratulate you on your sense of optimism in making an enquiry about it. Just one more question, please.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the Royal Commission, what do you say to comments from the Opposition, from various Indigenous leaders, that they feel there wasn't enough consultation, that their views weren't taken into account, what do you say about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Royal Commission is established to take all of those issues into account. We've appointed a very well qualified, very experienced Royal Commissioner in Mr Martin. The terms of reference, as you've seen, are broad but not so broad as to make the inquiry an endless one. My judgement is that we have hit the right balance in terms of the terms of reference, and we have a very experienced, very capable and respected Royal Commissioner, so what I encourage everybody, anybody, who has evidence or material or submissions they want to bring to the Royal Commission in respect of the child protection and youth detention systems in the Northern Territory, and otherwise relevant to the terms of reference, then they should do so, just as we said yesterday.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what do you think of the Northern Territory Government's decision to counter sue the boys who were gassed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I can't comment on that. You've made that assertion. I'm not familiar with the facts - I'm not sufficiently familiar with the facts to be able to make any comment on it at all.

JOURNALIST:

On Mr Mundine's comments though, he said basically you hadn't consulted him on the Royal Commission and he also suggested that because there were other reports that haven't been acted upon, there is not much point in a royal commission. What is your response to him and why didn’t you consult?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I did speak to Mr Mundine actually before the Royal Commission was announced, as a matter of fact. But at the same point you're saying, you're asserting that he has said there is no point having a Royal Commission because nobody takes notice of reports of royal commissions. Well, I can assure you that this is an inquiry that is of the highest priority for us. We are getting on with it. I said we would get on with it speedily, and we have, and we have appointed an outstanding Royal Commissioner. We've set up terms of reference that, as I said, strike the right balance between a narrow limited focus and one that is broader, so I think the terms of reference are right and we have an outstanding Royal Commission. Now, the job now is for Mr Martin to get on with it. He will do so. He will have sufficient - you know, all the resources he needs to do that, and I would encourage everybody who has material to bring before the Royal Commissioner, who has extensive powers, of course, to bring that material before the Royal Commissioner, just as Mr Martin said yesterday.

So thank you all very much indeed.

Ends