Friday, 2 March 2012

Farewell Remarks to DFAT

Thank you very much, Dennis. Thank you very much colleagues.

This space is a little bit like being in the Roman Colosseum [Laughter] I hope it's a gentler one than the one from which I've just come.

I said in remarks here a while ago that my career trajectory began in this Department.

When I was in Beijing, not long after I left the Prime Ministership, I was interviewed on Beijing television. They came to an event that I was opening at an arts exhibition on the walls of the old imperial capital.

And they greeted me, coming up to open this exhibition and their first question to me in Chinese was “Lu Kewan, ni hai huozhe?”

For those of you who don’t speak Chinese, the question is “Kevin, you're alive?!” [Laughter]

When you think about it, that's an interesting reflection on Chinese politics. And we think we have it rough here! [Laughter]

So I then said to him in my response, “Well, I began my diplomatic career on the China desk here at the Department of Foreign Affairs. I then went to work in an Australian State Government and became the Director General of the Cabinet Office. I was then elected as a Member of the Australian Parliament. I then became the Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs. I then became Leader of the Opposition. I was then elected Prime Minister. And I've just now become the Foreign Minister. And based on my current career trajectory, I'll soon be desk officer on the China desk in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. [Laughter]

So whoever's in charge of the China Branch watch out. [Laughter]

I'm also told that my remarks today will go to our friends and colleagues around the world. I don't know whether it's audio or whether it's video but I'm told I should keep a certain modesty of language. [Laughter] Well there's no bad language ever used around here, is there?

Let me make some remarks about where we're going in the world and those who I want to thank here today.

Thirty years ago, I first entered the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. It was only 40 years before that, in the depths of the Second World War that the modern department under Evatt came into being. When I began working here there was still senior serving diplomats in the department who had been in the department since the very beginning.

We are a young department of state. We have become, however, a great department of state. And across the world, we are now seen as one of the most respected, professional and effective foreign services of any nation state.

All this in less than two generations.

And this is a tribute to those who have gone before us.

It is a tribute to those of you standing here today.

And to those of you who are our youngest diplomats here today, you will take our department through to the centenary of the establishment of the modern department. You carry both the responsibility of history, and the even heavier responsibility to help carve out our nation's future in a highly uncertain world.

The institutions of state are of central importance.

Politicians come and go depending on the exigencies of the political season. But this great institution of state, together with the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Treasury have vital, enduring responsibilities for the protection and advancement of our critical national interests, and our growing international responsibilities - both shaped by our enduring values as one of the world's oldest continuing democracies.

The work you do here is not just relevant to these responsibilities. It is vital to these responsibilities. And you are among a handful of institutions who are the continuing custodians of these great responsibilities of state.

As both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, I have sought to lead Australian foreign policy in a bolder direction than before, mindful of our continuing interests, but seized by the fundamental changes rapidly unfolding in the world and region around us.

Globalisation is no longer a seminar topic. It is the new policy environment in which we operate. While our region remains central, we are now buffeted and challenged by developments and interests way beyond the Asia Pacific as well.

We are grappling with the globalisation of security; the globalisation of the economy; the globalisation of environment policy; the globalisation of unprecedented people movement across the planet, including the millions of Australians who travel abroad each year who depend on us when it all goes wrong, anywhere from Senegal to Central America.

The truth is our interests are now challenged across the globe in a way that our predecessors did not have to deal with at the same scale.

There is a second great change unfolding under our feet, and that is also radically re-writing the environment in which we work, both in the region and beyond, and that is the rise of China.

China becoming the largest economy in the world this decade, possibly the largest global investor in its military in the next decade - these are events of profound significance for Australia and the region and the world.

For the first time in the settled history of this country, a non -democracy and a country not of the West is on track to become the leading global power.

For 200 years, our fundamental global security bearings, and our regional security interests, have been anchored in defence relationships with the dominant western powers: for the first one and a half centuries with the United Kingdom, and for the last half of the century and more, with the United States.

We are now faced with the daunting challenge of constructing what I have called in the public debate a new “Pax Pacifica”- to preserve the peace and prosperity of our wider region while never surrendering the fundamental interests and values for which we as Australians have stood for generations.

And if Pax Pacifica can be achieved through the rise of China, and while not wishing unnecessarily to excite the classicists among you- a new Pax Mundis is also possible- built on similar principles, anchored in the international legal norms and reflecting also the changing global power realities of which the rise of China is central, but not exclusive.

So colleagues, when I have said repeatedly, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, Australia is a middle power with global and regional interests, these are the great changes in our strategic environment to which I refer. Changes we must anticipate - changes to which we must respond to, and if we are clever, to also be ahead, well ahead, of the curve.
So as Australia, we have no alternative but to embrace this bigger, bolder, broader canvas for our foreign policy than has been the case before.

When I have said before I believe in a big Australia that is part of what I have meant in this age of globalisation. In this age of globalisation, a little Australia has very little future.

Objectively, Australia is a middle power with global and regional interests. Therefore we must behave as such. It must also be our mindset. The world also expects that of us.

This is not some sort of petty national swagger. It's about driving practical solutions to complex global and regional problems, drawing upon the unique position we hold in the world, the unique assets we bring to the table, and a highly professional Australian foreign service to give it effect.

That is why I have also argued, repeatedly, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, that we seek to advance our interest and our values through the agency of creative middle power diplomacy.

I believe these should remain the three cardinal principles of our modern Australian diplomacy.

One, a middle power with global interests.

Two, a power whose interests will always be anchored in the Asia Pacific and Asia Indian Ocean regions.

And three, a global and regional engagement driven by the agency of creative middle power diplomacy as a confident democracy, a successful open economy, and a dynamic and diverse people.

I have been enormously proud to be your Minister.

As a 15 year old, I wrote to Gough Whitlam when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs, and asked Gough what I should do as a 15 year old in order to become an Australian diplomat. Gough as Prime Minister, and as Foreign Minister wrote back to me and said: Dear Kevin, go to university, study a foreign language, and apply to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

Being from Queensland, I had an instinctive response to authority. I did all the above and I joined your number.

I believe as Minister and earlier as Prime Minister, together with this great department, we have a great record of achievement.

The foundation, the establishment and the enhancement of the G20 as summit body, where Australia for the first time in its history has a seat at the top global economic table. This is a strong achievement of our diplomacy. Previous governments have dreamt of this. We in our generation brought it about. And our challenge and our opportunity is to enhance that institution and drive it forward with a unique Australian voice in the midst of it.

Second, the enhancement of the East Asian summit. For the first time in the history of Asia, we now have a single table in our region with all the principal powers around that table with an open agenda on political, security, economic and other challenges so that we can together craft a truly peaceful Pacific in the future. This had not been possible in the past. We advanced the idea of an Asia Pacific community. We've delivered that ideal and that objective by a different means.

Third, working with the United States to re-direct their strategic effort and energy and assets to this region for the 21st century. This was achieved through Australian diplomacy as well, as with the obvious concurrence of the United States. Through our active advocacy, America’s pivot to Asia was reflected in President Obama's statement to this Parliament, in this city, in our nation's capital, only several months ago. Furthermore, the re-direction of American energies in an enhanced economic entity across the Asia Pacific through the unfolding Trans-Pacific Partnership.

These are three great pillars for America's re-engagement with our region for the future. Their involvement in this new diplomatic institution, the East Asia Summit; second their military re-commitment to our region through the President's statement in Canberra in November and the pivot to Asia; and third, the widening net of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as we seek to bring about a common free trade area across our wider region, anchored in the US economy.

In the South Pacific, to our colleagues who've worked there, can I say thank you.

This is core to our interests in the future. The work we have done together with our colleagues in AusAID on the Pacific Partnerships for Development, the new framework for aid in the Pacific, together with the Cairns Compact, I believe have been hallmark achievements.

We have a singular responsibility as a government to transition these countries into a more robust self-reliant future. We must therefore renew and re-orient our efforts as we have been doing.

To our colleagues in Port Moresby, can I say, in particular, thank you for the extraordinary professionalism I have seen on the ground in recent months dealing effectively in the best traditions of diplomacy, with the unfolding challenges to security and stability in Papua New Guinea. Well done Team Australia.

Across wider Asia I would point to the fact that we have now engaged more broadly with China in what we have called China 2.0; engagement with a new Chinese economic growth model. That is the China beyond the resources trade, beyond the energy trade. The China we now engage with includes the new emerging second tier cities of that great emerging economy. This I believe has been important to open a new chapter in the perceptions of Australian business and how we carve out our future with this most central dynamic economy of Asia. And I am pleased that we have been able to secure new resources to expand our diplomatic and consular representation in Western China.

Elsewhere across wider Asia we have great success in strengthening existing bilateral relationships. We began with a 2+2 relationship, defence and foreign ministers with Japan. To that we have now added Korea. To that we have now added Indonesia. And then we're on the way to adding that with India. These are core strategic relationships; our principal relationships in many respects in the wider region and we've now anchored those in a new institutional set of arrangements which extend way beyond my occupancy of this position.

Elsewhere in Asia, the work that we have done together in opening the doors of Burma to the wider world, has been first class. I would thank all of our colleagues here who have achieved so much on the ground in prosecuting that task as well.

I'm proud of the fact that I was the first western Foreign Minister to visit Burma after they held their elections a year or so ago. We took a risk. We went in. We thought there were enough signs of possible change. We calibrated carefully with our embassy in Rangoon and through our Ambassador and with Aung San Suu Kyi. As a result we took that first step. Others have now followed. Creative middle-power diplomacy at work.

Encouraging change, reinforcing it practically and making sure we deliver tangible results for the good people of that troubled land.

We often talk of the Asia Pacific. I have sought also as your Minister to lead you in the direction of what I would describe as our enduring interests in the Asia/Indian Ocean region as well. I've mentioned our new strategic partnership with India. I should also mention the work we have now begun with India as chair and vice chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and our determination to transform that in time into a robust regional institution to deal with the challenges and opportunities which face us across this dynamic and at times dangerous region for Australia.

And the fact that we were able successfully through the combined efforts of this department to host a singularly successful Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, our western capital, underlying to the countries of the Indian Ocean region the dynamism we represent to all of them.

The combined feedback from every head of government and every foreign minister from Africa and elsewhere, who set their feet on these shores during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting often for the first time, was that they did not know that the modern Australia was like this.
Our challenge is to cause the rest of the world to reach that conclusion as well. We have a great national story to tell. A great national brand to export.

In Europe, I've also sought in this age of globalisation to extend the tent of our diplomacy to a wider canvas. Europe is a part of the world's future, not just part of its past. To our colleagues to the relevant parts of this department who have worked with me on that enterprise, I thank you as well.

The fact that we are now moving steadily in the direction of a formal treaty relationship with the European Union and that we have now a formal foreign policy dialogue at ministerial level with the European Union is a great advance. The fact that we now have the same in the principal capitals of Europe, in London, in Paris, and in Berlin where we now have a regular strategic dialogue at ministerial level, also represents a radical change from the past.

In the principal capitals of Europe, what is called the E3, or if you include Brussels the E4, we have now established and entrenched new strategic partnerships and the new institutional arrangements with all four- the principal drivers of the European enterprise within Europe and beyond, which did not exist before. They now exist as institutions for us to draw from in the future.

In the Middle East, we have been active as well. We now have an annual strategic dialogue with the Gulf Cooperation Council. We've been active in Libya, active in Syria, active in Egypt, active across North Africa. Our friends in Tunisia know the name of Australia now, because we were there to lend help at the right time. The Middle East therefore, and the wider Arab world, is a part of the global theatre where Australia's foreign policy priorities remain strong and where we must remain active.

In Africa we have sought to radically enhance our engagement. Why is this so? The reason is simple. The people of Africa - one billion of them - represent a future chapter in the global growth of our world's economy. It is emerging. It is becoming stronger and it is simply plain common sense being ahead of the curve to be totally engaged in the affairs of that great continent.

I'm proud of the fact that we have been able to open an embassy in Addis Ababa. I'm proud of the fact that we've secured resources to open a new mission in West Africa in Francophonie. I’m proud of our new institutional relationship with the African Union, and prospectively the African Development Bank.

Africa is part of our nation's future. It's not just the mining industry. It's the mining industry plus. And of course if we are serious global citizens in the institutions of the world, therefore we must be engaged in the capitals of Africa if we are to be effective agents of creative middle power diplomacy around the world.

The same logic applies to Latin America. I thank our colleagues from Latin America who in times past have often been seen within this agency as belonging to the margins of Australia's foreign policy interests. That is wrong. Anyone who looks at the future of Brazil knows that that is wrong. Brazil is a rising global power and together with Brazil the rest of Latin America follows.

Therefore, we have decided to enhance our engagement, not just bilaterally with the Brazilians but also with the institutions of central and southern America, both SICA and Mercosur. Again this is an investment in the future, being ahead of the curve, understanding where trends are taking us and not simply responding to them once they have happened.

The first Latin America Down Under Conference which we had arranged o be held in Sydney this year is designed to bring businesses of our two great continents together.

Through the United Nations could I also pay great tribute to those who work on the challenges we face there. Whether it's in the field of disarmament and our initiative for the Non-Proliferation Disarmament Initiative led so ably through this department or the other great multilateral initiatives with which we are associated.

I am proud of the fact that we are now the seventh largest aid donor in the world. In absolute dollar terms we are the seventh largest aid donor in the world. That means that when it comes to the future of the UN agencies and what they do in the humanitarian, social and economic spheres, we have a voice at the table commanded by the size of the budget we deliver and by the intellectual input we bring to those debates.

When it comes to shaping the future agendas of the global humanitarian institutions, under the framework of the United Nations, we now are not simply the provider of dollars, we are now in a unique position to begin to shape the policy of these institutions as well.

We are among the seven principals at the table. Together with the Americans, together with the Canadians, together with the European Union, the Germans, the British, we are there and now we have a unique voice to shape where those institutions go to in the future.

For our consular work, could I say to this enormous team of people in this department, our forgotten heroes, how much I value the work and the professionalism you have shown in saving Australians in dire circumstances. I am so proud of each and every one of you who have done that.

Individual lives turned around - saved - as a consequence of the sheer professionalism, friendship, courtesy of staff here and staff around the world. You literally turn people's lives around. You are the unsung heroes of this department and, I believe, of this Government.

Every time there is a conflict around the world, proper recognition is given to the role of the Australian defence and security forces, as it should be. Equal recognition should be given to the offices of this department. I remember so well the risks taken by our staff in Japan at the time of the earthquake and the tsunami and the unfolding nuclear uncertainty around Fukushima as they went about, singlehandedly, their task, their responsibility, their job to rescue and account for people who were unaccounted for.

So, what I say to each and every one of you who did that, whether you are here or listening to this at some later stage abroad in one of our missions, a heartfelt thank you. Well done. You have done great things in Australia's name.

To conclude, the Secretary made a comment before to the resourcing of this department for the future. I have done my best. In absolute dollar terms and real dollar terms the department is better positioned than it was when the Government was elected. We still need to do better again. I am pleased to have been able to achieve that. Much more remains to be achieved.

As you can see from my remarks, we've done a few things together in a relatively short period of time.

I remember as a young man listening to Paul Keating. I was with Paul at a Special Premiers Conference in Parliament House Brisbane where, after about half an hour, Paul – (then Treasurer under Bob Hawke as Prime Minister) - became bored. Paul went for a wander around the building. He ran into me, a young pup from Canberra who'd just gone up to work for the newly elected Goss Government. He said Kevie; Paul talks like that. [Laughter]

Kevie, there's only one thing to remember in life, in public life and in political life. If you're in politics, never see yourself as a Lancaster Bomber with unlimited fuel, lumbering slowly towards a target and eventually, maybe, at some distant point in the future dropping your ordinance because you may be taken out mid-air. Mate, you're a fighter pilot. Mate, you're a fighter pilot with limited fuel, get to the target, deliver the ordinance because you don't know how much longer you're going to be in the air.

There's something to be said of that. I hope I've taken some of it to heart.

To thank the Secretary, Dennis Richardson.

Dennis, not just in his current incarnation, but as I've known him these last 30 years, represents the finest traditions of the Australian foreign service. He has always had time for junior officers. I was one of them. He's always been no-nonsense about what shapes a future effective Australian foreign service officer. That's to be appreciated. His work as Australia's ambassador in Washington was superb, serving governments of both persuasions. Dennis, I honour you publicly as one of the best secretaries that this department has ever had.

To the Deputy Secretaries, Gillian; Bruce; Griggo - I can see loitering up the back; Heather and to the team of the senior executive can I say also a heartfelt thanks. You have been a great collegiate team working with me on the top challenges we face.

It may be of surprise to you that when we meet on a semi-weekly basis we work to the top 20 challenges and priorities of Australian foreign policy meticulously. It is our strategic checklist. It is our strategic planning list. That's how we operate, that's how we've done it, and I thank them for working with me on that.

To the First Assistant Secretaries, Branch Heads, Section Heads and to all the other policy officers who are here - I thank you for your professionalism and your policy advice and contribution.

To our consular staff, I thank you again for the extraordinary work you do.

To our administrative staff, for keeping the nuts and bolts of this enterprise, HMAS Foreign Policy, on course with ordinance and with fuel. I appreciate your work.

To all of our Ambassadors and High Commissioners and diplomatic and consular staff and administrative staff around the world, in the nearly 100 posts that we now have around the world, again I deliver a heartfelt thanks. You are great Australians doing great work in Australia's name. Whether you are from the smallest post to the largest, I have seen so many of you in the field that it causes me as Minister to be proud.

Could I also acknowledge publicly the work of my own personal staff.

To Philip Green, my Chief of Staff, experienced having worked as our High Commissioner in South Africa. Philip and the experience he has brought to my office has been invaluable and Philip, I thank you for all the work that you have done in that time, both for me as Foreign Minister and prior to that as Prime Minister.

To Peter Sawczak, who I think speaks eight languages, I wish he would speak Chinese as well but there's a limit to what any polymath can achieve I suppose, Peter, I thank you for your work.

To Rebecca Barton, who is here, thank you so much for your contribution Bec.

Jen Mason, Ranya Alkadamani and the other staff who from time to time have been with us in the office, you have made my life bearable in what can be sometimes the rigorous demands of the responsibilities of office.

Could I also publicly thank the Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. Julie, on core questions of what I would describe as fundamental national interests, has in the great wisdom, I think, on the big foreign policy issues for Australia, invariably adopted a bipartisan position. I thank her publicly for that. That's what Australia should be about.

I have one radical suggestion at the end, and this is as Kevin Rudd, private citizen, Member of Parliament, former Prime Minister, former leader of the Opposition, former Foreign Minister.

When I come into this building and I see it and all the folk who work within it, I see it as named the Richard Casey Building. Dick Casey, although he went on to his eternal reward after I first entered this place, was a towering figure of Australian diplomacy. He was from the conservative side of Australian politics. He rose to become, eventually, Minister for External Affairs and then Governor-General. He began as one of our officers in London, attached to the British Cabinet Office. And for young diplomats here who have not read it, spend time extracting from the library here the letters which he wrote to then Prime Minister Bruce throughout the 1920s about the changing and emerging developments in Europe at the time, then in Washington during the war, and a stellar career following.

Bert Evatt also made a singular contribution. Bert Evatt founded the modern Department of Foreign Affairs in 1941 in the darkest days of World War II. Bert Evatt constructed, with the help of his staff, the modern Australian foreign service. Bert Evatt helped write the UN Charter. Bert Evatt helped in the founding of the UN. Bert Evatt led the task that we had in, frankly, dealing quite radically with the Dutch over Indonesian independence where we, for the first time in our history, sided with an emerging developing country rather than with an old colonial power. And Bert Evatt, as you know, played a seminal role in the UN Commission on Palestine which led to the establishment of the modern state of Israel.

So, the modest proposal I have as K Rudd, private citizen, is as follows.
Let's think about this building in the future being named the Evatt-Caset Building or the Casey-Evatt Building.

I leave that for others to reflect on and to contemplate. The reason I make that proposal is that this department, at its absolute best, is one which reflects the bipartisan and enduring interests that we have as Australia in a difficult and uncertain world.

Colleagues, I am proud of each and every one of you; I am proud to have worked with you; I am proud to have been one of you; and I am proud of what you will achieve in Australia's name in the future.

I thank you.


  1. what a primadonna

    1. coming from a faceless and nameless person well, should we really take any notice of what a non-entity says ...?

    2. upon re-reading my comment ...a correction is required "person" should read "persona" !

  2. Excerpt from K Rudd speech: "For 200 years, our fundamental global security bearings, and our regional security interests, have been anchored in defence relationships with the dominant western powers: for the first one and a half centuries with the United Kingdom, and for the last half of the century and more, with the United States.

    We are now faced with the daunting challenge of constructing what I have called in the public debate a new “Pax Pacifica”- to preserve the peace and prosperity of our wider region while never surrendering the fundamental interests and values for which we as Australians have stood for generations..."

    For the last 200 years global wealth was built on the blood, sweat and tears (via wars, genocide, persecution) of the people in the Pacific rim countries, by white man's burden type of empire; whose prime motive was power and profit.

    Unfortunately, this Pax-Pacifica rhetoric is an extension of the subjugation policy.

    Its these lofty ideals that explain why the West is losing the Pacific.

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