Australian foreign minister Bob Carr cool on Anwar request

The leader of Malaysia’s largest opposition party and former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, appears to have thrown Australia’s Foreign Minister a curve ball with his request for help to deal with the corruption in Malaysia’s coming general election.


Mr Ibrahim wrote to the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, to outline his concerns and to ask for Australia’s help in ensuring that the election is free and fair.

But Senator Bob Carr told Sabra Lane that it’s difficult for the Australian Government to assist unless it’s the Malaysian government that asks for help.

Correspondent: Sabra Lane

Speakers: Senator Bob Carr, Australian Foreign Minister

CARR: Well the Malaysian elections are a matter for the Malaysian people. It’s very hard for Australia to do anything about how they’re run, as hard as it would be for Malaysia or another government to have a say in how Australian elections are run. We’re not the election authority for Malaysia.

Of course we support free and fair elections in any country. I spoke to Anwar Ibrahim in a private conversation during my recent visit to Malaysia. I heard him express concerns and in the letter he underlines them by talking about, by making accusations of fraudulent and fraudulent registration processes and raising concerns that the elections can reflect the popular will.

We can’t comment on that. An opposition leader is entitled to say that to us. But we discussed the elections with him, I’m aware of his concerns.

LANE: What are you going to do about those concerns?

CARR: Well we’re not the election authority for Malaysia.

LANE: So you’re not going to do anything. You’ve got, Nick Xenophon characterises this as a desperate letter…

CARR: Yeah, I’m not sure what you’re saying Australia can do. We don’t run elections in other countries. We’ve received concerns. I say, in respect of this, we want free and fair elections in any country but we’re not the election authority for Malaysia.

It is important that we follow what happens in Malaysian politics and our commission there does it. I think their analysis of Malaysian politics is very, very good. Very high quality. But I’m, and it’s useful in that process that we talk to opposition forces as well as people in the government.

LANE: Can we offer assistance to Malaysia? Are we interested in sending a parliamentary delegation to…

CARR: Well they would need to ask for it. The only way that can happen is for the government of Malaysia to ask for assistance and then we’d respond.

LANE: Okay. So you won’t respond until a request is made?

CARR: Well there’s no way we can. Australia doesn’t run elections for other countries. We send observers when other countries ask for them. We receive, we receive submissions from opposition figures in other jurisdictions. We have in this case and we take what is said seriously. Our position is, we want free and fair elections in any country.

LANE: How would you characterise the letter that you got?

CARR: Well it’s a letter from an opposition figure expressing concern about the elections in his country. But that is the point. It is his country, not our country. And while we can express concern about the freedom and fairness of elections anywhere, we don’t run elections in other jurisdictions.

LANE: That’s fine, but he’s obviously asked for your help and you’re saying we can’t do anything.

CARR: What help are you proposing we provide?

LANE: Well, I’m simply asking.

CARR: Do you want an amphibious landing on the east coast of Malaysia?

LANE: No, I’m asking.

CARR: This is in Malaysia. Australia doesn’t run those elections.

LANE: Some Malaysians believe Australia may be reluctant to say anything given that we are still hoping that the Malaysia asylum seeker swap can be enacted with the country…

CARR: No, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. We’ve got friendly relations with Malaysia and we haven’t a capacity to do anything about the internal affairs of Malaysia any more than we have with any other country.

LANE: This criticism has been made this morning. Senator Nick Xenophon said that there are figures in Malaysia who believe that Australia will do nothing because of that deal.

CARR: What are you proposing Australia do?

LANE: I’m not, I’m simply putting this…

CARR: Sorry, that is, that is, the essence of it. What are you-

LANE: I’m putting the proposition to you.

CARR: What are proposing Australia do? Malaysia is a sovereign country.

LANE: I’m putting the proposition to you.

CARR: No, but I want to know what it is, proposed by anyone, Australia can do about an election in a sovereign country.