Kevin Rudd has finally decided that North Korea might pose a nuclear threat to Australia.
“What is uncertain is the current state of development of the North Korean long range missile program,” Mr Rudd said today.
“What we do know is this country, having gone from nowhere in terms of nuclear capabilities a couple of decades ago has come a long way. And its a threat to all of us, including Australia.”
Compare that to what Kevin Rudd said to Barrie Cassidy in 2004.
BARRIE CASSIDY: You were also critical of the Foreign Minister for his observation that North Korea could hit Sydney with a nuclear missile.
But if North Korea does represent a threat to Australia’s national security, then why not talk about it?
KEVIN RUDD: Again this is a question of the Foreign Minister’s competence at play, or his incompetence at play. Because last year I asked Mr Downer a question in Parliament about North Korea’s capacity when it comes to intercontinental ballistic missiles. And I asked him about that in particular, and he said to me that deployment of such missiles was some years away.
Then flip the clock forward to an Alan Jones interview last week in Sydney and suddenly Sydney is under immediate threat. Now frankly, either these missiles are deployed or they are not deployed.
And as of that interview, I asked Mr Downer if he would possibly give me a departmental briefing or an ONA briefing on this matter and they have been very slow in responding to that, although I notice his chief of staff rang mine yesterday to say that there might be one available next week.
You can’t simply be loose-lipped about such fundamental questions of national security. Frankly, people are asking themselves the question whether this Minister is up to the job anymore.
BARRIE CASSIDY: But you put out a press release last year and you insisted that in fact North Korea had the ability to hit northern Australia. So all you are arguing about is which part of Australia a missile could hit?
KEVIN RUDD: When it comes to the ICBM capacity and the debate which arose last year, that’s why we had questions raised in the Parliament about precisely the state of deployment of North Korea’s Taepo Dong 2 missiles. That is what was at issue there.
And Mr Downer, unscripted from anywhere that I can work out, goes on talkback radio in Sydney, scares the living hell out of people and says, “This is now deployed,” in the sense that these missiles are now capable of reaching Sydney.
All I’m saying is, on these matters, these are highly sensitive national security policy matters, he is the Foreign Minister and being so loose-lipped about all of this and simply letting things trip out the side of his mouth is not the way you go about doing your job if you are seriously seeking to represent this country’s foreign policy interest.
BARRIE CASSIDY: But you are accusing him of alarmist behaviour, but your press release at the time came complete with a map showing how the missile could hit northern Australia.
KEVIN RUDD: That statement of mine at the time referred to a US public publication, I believe from the office of the US Secretary of Defence, and what we were simply putting out then was the extent to which North Korea and its WMD capability at the time should have been contrasted to the missing weapons of mass destruction or the doubts about WMD in Iraq at that stage.
The Government was making public claims about Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. We said that the Iraq had WMD, that is absolutely true, but the Government went on to say that Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons were ready for use, could be given to terrorists, and that justified going to war, against the UN Security Council.
What we were saying in terms of our own region, there are plenty other WMD concerns here but Mr Downer has got a responsibility to get his language right on these questions.
I think Rudd owes Downer an apology – mind you Rudd owes the whole nation an apology.