Foreign Minister Bob Carr interviewed by Andrew Biggs in Thailand
21 February 2013 – Interview with Andrew
Biggs – Part One of Two IN THAI (translation for audience): Hello
my name is Andrew Biggs and today I am at the Australian Embassy in Sathorn at the Ambassador’s
residence, as a result of (the Ambassador) receiving a special guest from Australia.
The guest is the Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs. His name is Bob Carr and today I
will interview him in English and I will try to translate into Thai.
QUESTION: Minister Carr, welcome to Thailand. I understand this is your first visit officially
as Foreign Minister. Have you ever been here before?
BOB CARR: Oh many times, many times. I love the country, I love the people and I want
to build closer links between Thailand and Australia.
IN THAI (translation for audience): The Minister has come many times already. And he has come
in order to build the close relationship between these two countries.
QUESTION: Australia and Thailand have a very strong relationship between the two countries
from this end anyway, Thais looking toward Australia. What’s it like from the Australian
end? What’s the perspective from Australia? BOB CARR: Just under a million Australians
come here every year. So that is one in 25 Australians coming to Thailand each year.
(Biggs – that’s a lot) That’s a very important people to people contact.
QUESTION: How do Australians view Thailand generally?
BOB CARR: I think in a word, “friendly”. Their view is friendly and they regard Thailand
as friendly towards Australia. IN THAI (translation for audience): One in
25 Australians come to Thailand every year. This shows that we (Thailand) are an important
place for tourism and business for Australians. As well, Minister Carr stated that it’s
important that Australians view Thais as friendly and close with Australia.
QUESTION: From your time when you were the Premier of New South Wales, there was a strong
platform of multiculturalism that was around at the time and continues to now. What’s
your view on this, particularly in relation to Thailand?
BOB CARR: Well, 25% of Australians were born overseas. Now that’s a very high level.
And then you have got the sons and daughters of people who were born overseas. So that
makes Australia a bigger migrant nation than the United States for example. And multiculturalism
is just the way we live. And I think Thais understand this. I think Thais are very tolerant
people and accept cultural and racial and ethnic differences.
IN THAI (translation for audience): Thais will likely understand the policy and culture
of multiculturalism in Australia. If you look at Australia, 20% of Australians were not
born in Australia, come from other countries and have come to live in Australia. This proportion
is bigger than the US. QUESTION: Multiculturalism has been around
probably now for more than one generation. As you mentioned just then, the children are
now growing up. How does that change the fabric of Australia, now that we’re looking at
two generations of Australians? Does the new generation blend in? And what do they contribute
to Australia? BOB CARR: Put it this way – when our government
says Australia has a future in Asia, Australians living in the Asian century…the people of
Australian understand it implicitly because that’s how we view [inaudible], that’s
how we view ourselves. The largest source of our migrants for some time now has been
China, the last year just supplanted by India as our largest group of migrants.
IN THAI (translation for audience): The majority of migrants who come to Australia come from
India, as well as China. The largest is from India. So it’s changing the Australian society.
It’s important to [inaudible] QUESTION: If we think back to Australia from
30 or 40 years ago until now, Australia has changed quite dramatically in many ways, as
far as socially goes. Can we put that down to the large number of immigrants coming in?
BOB CARR: I think so. I think Australians are travelling more, Australian businesses
looking to Asia more. I’m about to talk to a group of Australian businesspeople working
in Thailand. And I think so; I think Australia has been caught up in globalisation as much
as any other part of the world. IN THAI (translation for audience): Migrants
coming to Australia have transformed the society. Another thing that has occurred in the past
30 years is that Australian businesses have looked to Asia. As well as this, they have
focused on Asia and understood the current situation of the world they live in and understand
that they are not the only country in the world.
QUESTION: There’s a large population of Thais in Sydney, actually there’s a large
population of Thais all over Australia. What do they contribute to the Sydney scene?
BOB CARR: I think they alter South East Asia [inaudible]. The number of Australian businesses
seeking engagement with Thailand have experience and advice available to them and they contribute
knowledge of the culture of this remarkable and economically very very dynamic country.
IN THAI (translation for audience): The community of Thais who live in Sydney, Australia. Carr
said that these people have an important role of bringing to Australia and Australian businesses.
As well as this, they inform Australians about the beautiful culture of Thailand.
QUESTION: And of course the Thai Restaurants. Are you a patron of the Thai restaurants,
Minister Carr, or not? BOB CARR: yes I am, I love Thai food! I love
the emphasis on vegetables and the focus on freshness. I love the variety of taste. But
I need to make two slight caveats: I think it is unhealthy to eat too much sugar and
I always ask in a Thai restaurant if they use MSG.[inaudible]
QUESTION: If they don’t have the sugar or the MSG what is your favorite Thai dish?
BOB CARR: Anything with fish and vegetables, anything with ginger and coriander, and
healthy cuisine, variety of vegetables, and
where I can see a Thai influence. QUESTION: Your wife is Malaysian?
BOB CARR: Yes, she is from Malaysia, her mother is Chinese her father is Indian.
IN THAI (translation for audience): The Minister’s wife is from Malaysia, her mother is Chinese
and her father is Indian. The Minister likes Thai food very much but doesn’t like a lot
of sugar and MSG. He likes dishes with ginger and fish and fresh vegetables.
QUESTION: Just finally, about the White paper on Australia in the Asian century, which you
mentioned before. Very briefly, how does the paper affect a country (such as Thailand),
or what does it say or recommend that has some sort of affect for us in Thailand?
BOB CARR: Most fundamentally, it tells all government – all level of government and government
departments – and the private sector and non-Government organisations that the Australian government
sees Australia’s future in Asia. So it is a paper about strategic direction.
IN THAI (translation for audience): the paper is a plan, a policy document named Australia
in the Asian Century, which is about Australia’s future in the period ahead; it outlines many
things. QUESTION: What areas exactly is the paper
looking at? Like education, or trade? BOB CARR: Basically the economic future of
Australia. The Asia-Pacific is growing fastest of all the world’s regions, and Australia
needs to position itself to take advantage of that.
QUESTION: What about education? Does Australia still see a place like Thailand?
BOB CARR: Let me tell you about a very interesting program we are going to start here next month:
the BRIDGE program. That will link Australian schools with Thai schools. I’ve seen how
this works in Indonesia. It means learning Indonesian language, there are direct live
video link between Indonesian and Australian class rooms. I was sitting in an Islamic school
in Denpasar and they were talking to an Australian Christian school in Tasmania.
QUESTIONS: this would do wonders to all sorts of people. And this program starts next month?
BOB CARR: yes it starts next month, linking Australian schools and Thai schools, sharing
one another’s languages and cultures. QUESTION: And this is the BRIDGE program?
BOB CARR: Yes, it is called BRIDGE. QUESTION: And this is a Federal Government
initiative? BOB CARR: yes.
IN THAI (translation for audience): there is a new initiative, which is called BRIDGE
– as in bridge – which will build links between Australian schools and schools in the Asia-Pacific
region, including Thailand, which will commence next month. The Minister told me about an
existing program of this kind between a Muslim school in Indonesia and a Christian school
in Tasmania, Australia. QUESTION: Is there anything else in the field
of education that we are looking towards with Thailand?
BOB CARR: Yes, there are 11 scholarships this year for Australians to study in Thailand
– which has world-class universities – and that is something we want to encourage: Australians
coming to Thailand to study. IN THAI (translation for audience): there
are also scholarship programs for Australians to come live and study in Thailand.
QUESTION: Minister Carr, before we say good-bye, you are here for a very short time. Are you
coming back again in the near future for perhaps a little bit longer?
BOB CARR: I think the relationship between our two countries is so important. We need
to get together on a more regular basis and that means Australia nominating some dates
for a Joint Commission to be set up between Australia and Thailand.
IN THAI (translation for audience): The Minister is here for a single day on this occasion,
he will meet with our Foreign Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Apart from
this, owing to the limited time available, he will not be able to do much else. Owing
to this, the Minister intends to come back in order to continue to build the relations
between our two nations. QUESTION: Thank you very much for coming.
Thank you for talking to us. BOB CARR: Thank you, Andrew, my pleasure.
QUESTION: you can follow Minister Carr on Twitter, what is your twitter name?
BOB CARR: @bobjcarr IN THAI (translation for audience): @bobjcarr
– you are able to follow Minister Carr on Twitter. For us it is time to finish up with
a traditional hello and good-buy in Thailand with the traditional Thai wai. Thank you for
following our program and good luck, I’m Andrew Biggs, Sawad-dii krub.