Rudd falls in behind PM’s asylum-seeker plan, announces trip to Pakistan

James Massola, Joe Kelly

The Australian

September 15, 2010 1:18PM

KEVIN Rudd today denied Julia Gillard’s plan to process asylum-seekers in East Timor was a “lurch to the right” but confirmed he would not lead the talks with Dili.

In his first statements as foreign minister, Mr Rudd said he would work closely with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who would be responsible for the negotiations.

He also announced he would visit flood-affected areas in Pakistan – a trip he recommended to the Prime Minister – before flying to the United States.

Mr Rudd said Labor’s policy on regional processing did not constitute the “lurch to the right” he had warned against on the night before Julia Gillard deposed him as prime minister.

“The government’s policy on a regional processing centre states very clearly that such a centre and a regional co-operation framework on asylum-seekers would, one, be compatible with the United Nations refugees convention, two, have the support of the UNHCR and the International Office of Migration, the IOM, and three, the support of relevant regional countries,” he said.

Mr Rudd said a “lurch to the right” meant acting in defiance of the “provisions and principles” of the refugees convention.

During his press conference, Mr Rudd outlined the details of his trip to Pakistan and the US.

“I recommended it (the Pakistan trip) to the Prime Minister and had a long conversation with the PM on Monday. And she readily agreed to it. She like myself shares a deep humanitarian concern for what has happened in flood-affected Pakistan,” he said.

“As for the rest of the international community, 24 hours into the job, I’m not quite sure what other countries have done and what more they are proposing to do. I’m sure that will become apparent on Sunday in New York.”

Mr Rudd will meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US national security adviser General James Jones in Washington to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan.

In New York, he will deliver the annual address to the United Nations general assembly and attend a series of high level meetings on climate change, environmental sustainability and the millennium development goals.

Mr Rudd said that Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan was contingent on the fulfilment of the “mission statement”.

“What is our mission statement? It is to train the Afghan 4th Army Brigade to the point it can undertake the security obligations which are necessary within the province of Oruzgan,” he said.

The trip to Pakistan was necessary, Mr Rudd said, because “Australia is currently the fifth largest donor, some $35 million and the international community needs to do more”.

“We do not want to turn around in three or six months time and ask what more could we have done.”

Mr Rudd also paid tribute to his predecessor as foreign minister, Stephen Smith, and said he looked forward to “working very closely” Trade Minister Craig Emerson and parliamentary secretaries Justine Elliott and Richard Marles.

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