Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Press Conference, Tokyo Japan

18 December 2015

Tokyo, Japan

Prime Minister

E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: You’ve all been to the visit to the Miraikan Museum of technology and innovation and it was great to meet ASIMO the robot. It’s the first time I’ve met a robot, first time I’ve taken a selfie with a robot. I suppose the next time we come here the robot will take the selfie himself. But this Innovation Agenda is absolutely critical. It’s critical to the prosperity of both Australia and Japan. And we've just had, as you would've seen, a very good round table, quite a long table in fact, discussion with the chief executives, chairmen in some cases, senior executives of some of Japan's biggest companies.

All of whom are very focused on the innovation agenda, as indeed it is, been a big part of Japan's business culture, constant innovation, constant improvement in processes and products. And it was good to see there is already a considerable amount of collaboration with Australian universities. Particularly we had a very good discussion about the collaboration on the medical research side, with Monash, but there's the opportunity for much more. So it's great to have the Group of Eight universities and almost all of their Vice-Chancellors here in Tokyo to continue those discussions so that is very promising.

Of course, later today, I’ll be meeting with Prime Minister Abe. We have a full agenda, we have the Special Strategic Partnership to continue to discuss and all of the strategic issues in our region. The economic agenda, charged up by the success of the free trade agreement, the JAPA, which has already seen very considerable increases in volumes of Australian exports to Japan, so that is really proving its worth, proving the worth of Andrew Robb's great negotiating skills in achieving that agreement.

And then you know then of course we've got the whole range of issues. I mentioned, I’ll certainly be raising our disappointment at Japan resuming whaling in the Southern Ocean, with the Japanese Prime Minister. That is one of the, that's one of the few points upon which we, we do have a disagreement. But friends should be able to exchange views on this frankly and honestly.

Now, before I go into questions, there is one thing I wanted to raise. It's pleasantly cool here in Tokyo but it is not at all cool in southern Australia. We've already had a very tough summer. The early weeks of summer have been harsh. We've had bushfires and we've had a tragic loss of life already in Western Australia. Indeed where I was recently visiting with the community in Esperance and in South Australia.

Now, given the extreme heat and right now and its likelihood of continuing over the next few days, it is absolutely imperative that everybody takes all precautions they can to protect lives and property. For those in areas that are where bushfire is a possibility, implement your fire plans and make sure you listen for advice, follow that advice from the authorities, listen to the ABC in your area, if fires develop and make sure you keep a good watch on elderly neighbours in particular who may be struggling to cope with the heat and that point of looking out for your neighbours and looking after your own family, of course, but look out for your neighbours, particularly older people and that applies whether you're in a bushfire area or whether you're in, you know, the centre of Melbourne.

We're going through a very, very hot summer and it is vital that we all take care of ourselves to protect each other, our persons, our family, our neighbours and of course, our property as well. So community solidarity is absolutely critical at times like this.

So do you have any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes please, Prime Minister, did you or your office have any involvement or have any conversations with Duncan Lewis that led him to make phone calls to some of your colleagues?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I understand, I talk to Duncan Lewis all the time and I talk to him - I take an enormous amount of advice from Duncan, and I, I would encourage him, I do encourage him to speak to as many people as he can, as many members of Parliament, not just on my side of the chamber either.

Look, Duncan Lewis is not just the Director General of ASIO. The man leading the organisation, the national security organisation that is in the front line of our defence against terrorism. That, in and of itself, would qualify him to speak and be listened to and for people to resort to for advice. But Duncan Lewis is a General, he commanded the Special Air Services Regiment. He has been the National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister. He has been the Secretary of the Department of Defence. He has represented Australia as the Ambassador to NATO. It is difficult to think of any single Australian that has a better understanding of the full spectrum of our national security challenge and in particular, the issues relating to terrorism.

So I talk to Duncan a lot and I would always encourage him and I've always encouraged him to talk to colleagues, to talk to parliamentary committees, to give speeches. He recently, he went on the 7.30 Report. I thought he did, I thought he did very well. He is a really trusted and respected and informed authority in this area.

JOURNALIST: So did you or your office ask him to contact those MPs and ask them to wind their language back?

PRIME MINISTER: Well which MPs are you talking about?

JOURNALIST: The ones who've been speaking out with regards to saying there's a problem with Islamic...

PRIME MINISTER: Well I understand, well if you're talking about – I understand Duncan Lewis recently has spoken to two MPs. Only two and neither of them have been complaining about him or have been referred to in the media.

One of them was Andrew Hastie, who is a young MP and was until very recently a junior officer in the Special Air Services Regiment that Duncan used to command and the other one who I assume Duncan talks to all the time is Dan Tehan, who is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and he, Dan is talking to, as he should, that's his job. You see, this is a, the, the reality is that we face a very big challenge on the terrorism front and all of us, prime ministers, ministers, members, senators, all of us, have an obligation to keep ourselves informed. Nobody tells MPs or senators what to say. They can say what they like. That's their responsibility, right, they've got to make up their own mind but we all have an obligation, I think, to make sure that we're well informed and while Duncan Lewis or Andrew Colvin or Greg Moriarty, the Counter-Terrorism Director, can't spend all day you know talking to you know one person after another on the phone, the more they engage with MPs and senators, the more they engage with journalists, the more they speak out to community groups, the better, because these are the people that know the most about the problem and so when everything I say on this topic, everything that I say, is calibrated and calculated to make their job less difficult than it is.

My job as Prime Minister is to keep Australians safe. My job is to make it less likely that there, so far as I can, less likely that there’ll be a terrorist attack; more likely that our security services will be able to thwart them and so, everything I do is calculated, is deliberately calculated, on my part, to make the work of the AFP, ASIO and the other security services, including the state police forces, to make their work better able to be done, because my job, my overwhelming priority as Australia's Prime Minister, is to do everything I can to keep Australians safe.

That's my focus. That's the only agenda I have in this area and that's why I talk to Duncan Lewis, I talk to Andrew Colvin, frequently.

JOURNALIST: So so, just once again, did you or our office ask Duncan Lewis to make those phone calls and ask people to wind their language back?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I haven't given Duncan Lewis any – I haven't asked him to do, to make give any advice to anybody in particular but I encourage Duncan Lewis to speak to as many people as he can. And so, do I, if Duncan Lewis was here I would encourage him to give you, give you his views. He is so well informed. He’s so, he has got so much experience and he is, Duncan Lewis is not going to give anybody the views of anybody but himself, right, he is not a, you know, he is his own man and has been and he, look, he doesn't just write, there are some people who like to write about terrorism. There’s some people like to express theories about terrorism, theories about religions and so forth. That's fine, they're entitled to do that. Duncan Lewis, he has actually fought against terrorism. He has led soldiers against terrorism. He is defending Australia today.

He knows what he's talking about and his advice should be heeded. You don't have to – when I say heeded, I mean listened to, respected. If people think that they know better, fine, let them do so, it's a free country but from my point of view, as the Prime Minister, I rely on the advice of my security chiefs and Duncan Lewis is in the counter-terrorism area and domestic security, his agency is the lead agency, ASIO.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Prime Minister may I ask you about the trade relationship?

PRIME MINISTER: Sure.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Are you confident the TPP will pass [Inaudible] including the United States? And after the post-TPP how do you see the Australia Japan relationship and cooperation in the region?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm confident the TPP will pass our Parliament. The President Obama is, has expressed confidence that it will be approved by the Congress so but I can't, you know I can't give a commentary on his opinion. So I’m speaking from my own country, I'm confident it will be passed. I think it's a very important step in the 21st Century open markets, free markets, are a key to having the agility and the freedom that you need to ensure all of our prosperity. I mean everybody has been an enormous beneficiary from free trade.

JOURNALIST: And how do you incorporate China into that framework of TPP?

PRIME MINISTER: Well China is not a part of the TPP but as indeed there are number of other countries that are not a party to the TPP and I think the goal would be with any of these plurilateral trade agreements to make them bigger. TPP started off actually with a Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore.

So it's grown into quite an agreement and I’m sure, I think everyone would welcome a wider agreement. Indonesia has indicated it wants to join the TPP and I think everyone would welcome that too.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just turning to defence and security quickly. I mean how can you act with Japan obviously, the US, in terms of curbing or sending a message at least to China's territorial claims, its ever growing territorial claims in the South China Sea and with that, do you expect to do more freedom of navigation flights as we saw last week [Inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: We, well, in terms of our future operations, I'm not going to flag those, but we are absolutely committed to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight in accordance with international law as indeed is Japan.

In terms of the larger question, let me answer is this way. Japan's prosperity, Australia's prosperity and the prosperity of every country in this region has been dependent in very large measure on a long period of relative peace or relative tranquillity in this region. Many decades and any threat to that imperils the economic growth, the prosperity, the prospects of every country in the region large and small, of every individual in the region, whether they are the wealthiest business person or a struggling farmer or a young student or a worker in a factory somewhere.

So everybody has a vested interest in continued economic growth and that depends on continued peace. Now clearly, people, countries, have differences of opinion on territorial matters, as we mentioned, the South China Sea, Australia has no claims in the South China Sea so we have no, our only interest is that in so far as there are differences of opinion, and there clearly are, they should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.

You know all of us in our societies have differences of opinion, with our neighbours, with, even politicians and journalists occasionally have differences of opinion but we settle them peacefully and that is what the international order is all about. Because without that, if that long period, the only threat to continued economic growth, to continued prosperity, is disorder, is tension, is conflict.

So we all have – whatever the merits of individual claims may be and Australia does not take a position on them. Our point is simply we all have a strong vested interest, every single country, as I said, large or small, whether they’re a claimant or not, we all have a vested interest in disputes being resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law and actions and all claimants and all actors should, should aim to ensure that whatever they do does not exacerbate tensions and, or raise the risk of conflict so..

JOURNALIST: Just very quickly did the Prime Minister deal with the issue of you expressing deep disappointment about the resumption of whaling? Will that compromise in any sense the greater relationship here [Inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the disappointment is, is real as you know there is a very strong, very strong opposition, very principled opposition in Australia and indeed in many other countries, in New Zealand as well, in Britain, in the United States, in Brazil, it’s a very long list. There is very principled opposition to whaling and it’s important that we make that, we make that very clear.

It is one of the few points of disagreement between Australia and Japan but it is important that we understand the Japanese position, it’s important that Japan and the Japanese people understand the position elsewhere in the world. We welcomed the cessation of whaling last year and its resumption this year as I said, is a matter of grave disappointment.

Ok, thank you very much. Righto, thank you.