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The World

Dec 6, 2010

The Canberra Cables

This will not be end of Kevin Rudd’s starring role in the WikiLeaks Canberra cables, writes Luke Miller.

This will not be the end of Kevin Rudd’s starring role in the WikiLeaks Canberra cables.

While it is being widely reported this morning that WikiLeaks has drawn blood against Canberra by publishing a single cable that contains details of Kevin Rudd’s “brutal” posturing on China, the reality is that nearly his entire time as Prime Minister is covered by the cables. Considering the energy Kevin747 devotes to foreign affairs — it many ways it defines him on a professional level — and the conversational style of all the cables released so far, it is highly likely a long, drawn-out, one-sided portrait of the man will be teased out as 1400 documents are drip fed to the Australian public over the next few months.

So do these revelations have the potential to make his position as foreign minister untenable?

With spikes in cable traffic during major international events such as the Copenhagen Climate Conference, as reported in Crikey last week, and hundreds of cables covering 2007-2009, foreign leaders meeting with the foreign minister will be asking themselves, “You can say that Kevin, but tell us what you really mean?”

Rudd allegedly told Hillary Clinton he was a “brutal realist on China”, that in our region “China could succeed only if the United States ceded the field” and we should be “integrating China effectively into the international community and allowing it to demonstrate greater responsibility, all while also being prepared to deploy force if everything goes wrong”.

By contrast, current Prime Minister Julia Gillard is safe. The run of leaked cables ends in February 2010, while she was still deputy Prime Minister with a strong domestic focus. The Liberal government members you would expect to be affected by the pre-2007 cables, Alexander Downer and John Howard, are no longer on the scene.

It’s important to note that the leaked cable contains only unverified US impressions of what Kevin Rudd said. The document contains few direct quotes from the former Prime Minister but several large slabs of material paraphrased by the Americans. The Australian government’s policy is not to comment on the cables, however this position may shift quickly if corrections to the public record are required.

It is not just China that will be wary of Rudd. If there is a Chinese equivalent of the US cable, a “compare and contrast” could throw up a contradictory position on the diplomatic fissure that is Taiwan.

Australia has long been known as trying to disengage itself from immediate military support for the US in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan. This kind of double positioning is exactly why world leaders prefer their conversations to remain private.

While Australian diplomats will undoubtedly be working overtime to defuse the issue, last night’s cable, with its declaration that Australia would use force “if everything goes wrong”, has highlighted at least one question of public importance that should be answered: exactly what would Australia do if China used non-peaceful means against Taiwan?

Rudd’s office is refusing to comment on any matters relating to the latest WikiLeaks release, but Rudd was candid about the WikiLeaks cable drop in a doorstop with the Bahrain based outlet Al Arabiya on the 4th of December:

REPORTER: [translation] Who do you think has profited from what’s happened with WikiLeaks?

MR RUDD: I don’t believe anyone has profited from what has happened with the unauthorised release of classified information. You see diplomacy is necessary. Diplomacy is done in secret because diplomacy seeks to solve problems for which there are no other public solutions. Therefore what is at stake here is the essence of how we deal with international problems; the machinery through which we deal with international problems – the mechanism through which we deal with international problems, in the language in which we deal with international problems. And when this is all put into the public domain, it’s a problem for all of us to combine our efforts to deal with some of our fundamental challenges. Therefore we in Australia condemn the release of this material. It helps nobody. In fact it is a real problem for us all.

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19 comments

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JohnB
Member

Re the heading… “and the first shall be last and the last shall be first”.

‘Twould make more sense if written as “Not the LAST time Rudd will feature.”

It’s not too late to fix the on-line version.

Amber Jamieson
Member

Thanks John. The heading has been updated on the website. Cheers.

Sir Lunchalot
Member

Kevin may just have rat f***** himself!!! unwittingly

shepherdmarilyn
Member

As if the mutterings of Rudd or anyone here mean much – now if only there are some about AWB, David Hicks and so on.

As for the whining government threatening Assange, a pox on them and Rabbott.

John
Member
I appreciate the point that Rudd is trying to make. However when I contrast that with the secrecy that surrounds most of the actions of all governments and the fact that it is our interests that they are supposedly representing then I am delighted that this material is being made public. In answer to the interviewer’s question I would say that all citizens of the countries discussed in the leaks have profitted because they know what positions their governments have been maintaining in their discussions with the US. They can then compare these with the stated positions and hold their… Read more »
SusieQ
Member
I can appreciate Rudd’s point too, but also concur with John – and lets face it, have we, yet, seen anything we didn’t know or had suspected? Russia is run by the mafia – well, doh! As for the posturings and whining of Gillard and McClelland, well, it has been a disgrace – apparently the basic tenet of ‘innocent til proven guilty’ is not applicable to someone who upsets the Americans? Threatening to withdraw his passport? Why? What has he done? Not one country has come up with any charges against Wikileaks yet. As for all this nonsense that lives… Read more »
Noocat
Member
What wikileaks can do is make it harder for governments and corporations to cheat, lie, and abuse their power just to protect those who are already rich and powerful. This is why there is such an outrage. These people don’t want to engage in ethical, honest behaviour. But maybe we’re about to see the endgame. If wikileaks or other wikileak-type organisations continue exposing the truth, these people may be forced to think about the consequences of their actions. Maybe they will be less eager to wage wars that destroy millions of people’s lives on the basis of lies. Maybe they… Read more »
whoknows
Member
So ‘stare me down’ Julie Bishop is using the illegal. unverified, illegal WikiLeaks document regarding Rudd and his cable to Hilary Clinton about China to posture to the Gillard Government if in fact the labor Party still holds this position. Let’s disown Julian Assange, threaten to remove his passport, agree with the US that he is responsible for placing allied troops and civilians in danger, probably death or worse, but gee can I get some political points using these yet to be proven leaks to throw dirt at the Government… It is becoming more and more apparent that the actions… Read more »
whoknows
Member

Just in case you misunderstand my position regarding “yet to be proven documents of Wikieaks” – I support Assange and his crusade to hold governments to their word, but it is interesting that if a government thinks they can get cheap mileage these “unverified”, they will.

The people are changing faster than their government and it will expose the rubbish soon enough.

Rena Zurawel
Member

I have a problem with the very term ‘classified information’. Who actually decides whether the info or event is ‘classified’ or not. In which category would Monica Lewinsky affair fall into? What about AWB? Or some foreign no -bid contracts. How does it relate to a ‘transparent’ government? Are there any non-classified guidelines?

MLF
Member
I’m in general support of Wikileaks too, and think the war cables shone a necessary light on a very dark area. But todays cables re: Rudd/Clinton/China and now the release of the US ‘vital facilities’ list, I do believe are bordering on the irresponsible, and I do agree wholeheartedly with Kevin Rudd’s comment above. People can posture all they like saying politicians are frauds etc but what public good can come from these releases today? For us, as Australians, I would imagine some decent damage has been done to the China relationship, and in an economic and security sense, no… Read more »
David
Member

shepherdmarilyn, I am surprised Rudd has not released material on Howard and Downer over the AWB scandal. He spent months and months gathering and must be sitting on heaps, let fly Kev you owe it to those two bast–rds.

BSA Bob
Member

I’m also in general support of Wikileaks, but think the local media will likely ignore their overall scope & instead seize on the chance to “tease out one sided portraits”. One suspects another cheap and easy beatup on Rudd is on its way. The coalition, after being largely mute on the entire issue, appear to have scented blood & will no doubt be afforded generous uncritical coverage.

AR
Member

Goverments ascribe motives to whistleblowers coz they’re ‘disgruntled/mentally unstable/corrupt’ rather than address the issues – generally incomptence, whether criminally culpable or not is merely a distinction with little difference as it is the failure of the system, any system, once it becomes more intent on maintaining & protecting than fulfilling its function.
Those who believe that they live in democracies ought to think about when they last helped select a party candidate rather than trudge to the ballot box and make thei mark purporting to ditinguish betwen several shades of simulacrae..
The short version – “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

MLF
Member

Yes, @AR, but as my old mentor Toby Ziegler once said, “For germs, maybe. Not the plague.”

scottyea
Member

My favourite aspect of this circus is that it highlights how an individual can still make a difference.

No doubt, however, the fallout from this will just be more regulation, more secrecy, more government departments and a therefore slightly all-round nastier world.

michaelx
Member
The thing I hate most is that government officials never have to explain their wrong doings. Even if their wrong doings are exposed they can say ‘no comment’ and that’s it. Nothing angers me more than this. These people, being in the powerful positions they are in, should have to explain themselves more than anyone else in the world. They should not be free from any kind of scrutiny or inquiry. I hate that with their position comes implied trust in the majority’s eyes. Not in the minority’s–for example the people at Crikey’s–eyes, for people like this, government positions come… Read more »
whoknows
Member
I gather what drives Assange and WL is to wake community out of its slumber, its dazed existence. To show the uninformed that what is done on its behalf is not always in its best interest. Does anyone truly believe what Howard, Bush, Blair et al decided was in their countries best interest? Don’t care, too bad, what can we do about it anyway? Well one can make a difference, those who join in seeing truth override deceit and express the intention to not support decisions that are contrary to a world we would like to live in, can do… Read more »
Socratease
Member

There’s a fine irony in Rudd “the serial leaker” being outed by leaks about his own behaviour.

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