You’d think that, for a foreign minister, the question was a gentle full toss to be dispatched effortlessly to the boundary. Are you for kittens? What’s your opinion about motherhood?
Freedom? Of course, we support freedom! Don’t we?
Here’s how Rudd answered:
Well the political situation is highly fluid, as a number of my colleagues from elsewhere around the world have said. We have long supported democratic transformation across the Middle East. We have equally strongly argued that this transformation should occur peacefully and without violence. That remains our view in terms of recent developments in Egypt as well.Bear in mind that, as the conversation took place, the news footage showed government thugs attacking demonstrators on the streets. Those protesters would, no doubt, have preferred, quite possibly rather more than Mr Rudd, a democratic transformation effected peacefully - but that wasn’t happening, what with all the tear gas being fired at them. So would Rudd call upon Mubarak to, like, stop repressing his citizens?
I should add to what I just said before that earlier today I met with and had discussions with the foreign minister of Egypt in Addis Ababa, where we were both attending the African Union Summit and we discussed these matters in some detail there as well.
The newsreader pressed some more.
“The White House is suggesting that the Egyptians turn the internet back on and the social networks, that sort of thing, and of course to end the violence. You'd be supportive of that, would you?”
Again, Rudd would have none of it:
Well I've not seen White House statements to that effect. I go back to what I said before. We ourselves have long supported democratic transformation across the Middle East and across the Arab world, but equally we strongly emphasise the importance for those things to occur peacefully and without violence.Note the ‘but’ in the second sentence. The implied contrast with Rudd’s support for ‘democratic transformation’ suggests that the condemnation of violence is directed at the protesters rather than those firing rubber bullets and tear gas at them.
The last few weeks have been an interesting time for freedom, a concept that, was, not so very long ago, ostentatiously central to Western foreign policy...
Jeff Sparrow @'ABC'