Michelle Grattan
The Age
September 23, 2008

KEVIN Rudd has begun his controversial US trip with talks in Honolulu with the head of the American Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy J. Keating, which canvassed climate change and the PM’s proposal for an Asia-Pacific community.

Mr Rudd spent much of yesterday defending the trip against claims of the Opposition and others that he should be attending to urgent matters at home.

He said that in New York the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly would have heads of government from 122 countries including 13 of the world’s 15 major economies. The core subject on people’s minds would be the global response to the financial crisis.

“There are two schools of thought here. Either you can go down the populist route … and not go, or you can act in the national interest,” Mr Rudd said.

“Australia has to have a seat at the table.”

But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said: “Mr Rudd should be here.”

In Honolulu, Mr Rudd outlined his long-term proposal for an Asia-Pacific community to Admiral Keating, and the two canvassed the challenges confronting Pacific island nations, including the threat from the impacts of climate change.

The Prime Minister expressed particular appreciation for continued US leadership and commitment to the mission in Afghanistan.

In New York, Mr Rudd will be briefed by the head of the New York Federal Reserve, Timothy Geithner, World Bank president Robert Zoellick and the US Treasury, and will join in economic discussions with business and international figures.


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