Transcript of Doorstop Interview - New Delhi
WED 17 OCTOBER 2012
New Delhi, India
Subject(s): India visit; Tony Abbott’s visit to Indonesia; Sachin Tendulkar; Uranium exports; David Hicks; Macquarie Dictionary; United Nations Security Council bid
PM: It has been a great honour to be formally welcomed by the Prime Minister of India and I’m looking forward to a day of events. Now the events include a formal meeting with the Prime Minister and a state dinner, they include a business lunch, and I will have the opportunity to meet a range of political leaders here in India.
Our relationship with India is of shared sentiment, we have got very strong people-to-people links, but in the past we have not had sufficient shared interest to drive the relationship forward.
In the modern age all of that has changed. As we have both reformed and grown our economies, the economic relationship between our two countries has grown. We have grown together. And that means that there are huge possibilities for the future in our economic relationship, and I will certainly be raising that in my discussions today, and speaking to the business audience about it.
And then secondly, we have shared strategic interests. We share a region of the world; we share an ocean, where we can work together on issues including maritime security.
So India is at the forefront of our thinking and the forefront of our relationships in the world. Just like we put at the forefront of our thinking our relationship with the US, with China, with Japan, with Indonesia, with Korea, India is now at the forefront of our thinking.
So, I will be very pleased to be getting on with today’s events, I will return to Australia overnight, but this is a very important visit and the key political discussions are during the course of today.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned the countries that are at the forefront of your thinking, Britain is not mentioned in that anymore, is this a signal that we have moved on? That we are so Asian now that we have moved on from Britain, it is no longer in the field?
PM: We will always have the bonds of history with the United Kingdom and a shared outlook on the world, obviously Australia’s history and the history of the UK are intertwined, and so that is a very special relationship for us. But in the modern age, when we look at our economy, when we look at our strategic interests in our region of the world, it makes sense for us to look to the US, to China, to Japan, Indonesia, Korea and India.
JOURNALIST: Have you been surprised by yesterday’s reaction to the announcement of [inaudible] and by the reaction to your speech back home, given some new status [inaudible]?
PM: I have been left in no doubt that a lot of people have clicked on and watched that speech here in India.
When I gave it, I did not quite expect the kind of reaction that we have seen around the world and the dissemination through all of the new technology, but people have raised it with me and raised it with me approvingly.
JOURNALIST: The Macquarie Dictionary has announced that it is extending its meaning of the word misogyny to include, I can’t remember the exact word, does that surprise you?
PM: I will leave editing dictionaries to those whose special expertise is language.
JOURNALIST: On uranium, when you meet with Prime Minister Singh today how advanced do you think it will get in discussions on negotiations for safeguards, and will you be raising some of the sticking points that you have?
PM: Negotiating a comprehensive safeguards agreement is going to take some time.
We have found this when we have negotiated them with other countries, and that will be true of India. We will of course, want the assurances about the use of Australian uranium, and oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
So with Prime Minister Singh today, I will not be discussing the specifics, the word by word of what would be in a comprehensive agreement; that lies for the future.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any response to David Hicks saying he wants to sue the Australian Government after developments overnight, and if I may, do you also, are you surprised there has been some of the criticism of the announcement that you made on Sachin Tendulkar?
PM: Well on the two quite different topics, taking the matter involving Mr Hicks, it is important to remember that Mr Hicks was convicted under US law, not under Australian law, and there has been a case to which Mr Hicks was not a party, but a case in the US overnight, which Mr Hicks is clearly considering, and considering his future action following that case.
What Mr Hicks does in light of that decision is a matter for him and whether or not that case is further appealed by US authorities is a matter for the US.
On the award for Sachin Tendulkar, you know, people love to discuss cricket, so they love to discuss every aspect of cricket, and I expect in the sport pages and beyond there will be some discussion of this, but the assessment we made was across the breadth of his career and his status as one of the finest batsmen the world has ever seen, the finest since Bradman, and the fact that he has enthralled and delighted Australian crowds with his skills.
JOURNALIST: The UN Security Council vote goes very soon, how do you feel about Australia’s chances now, and if we are unsuccessful, will Government blame and Kevin Rudd [inaudible]?
PM: I am not going to war-game about what lies beyond the vote, but let us be very clear here. This is a tight, closed, contest, it has been all along.
It is a contest in which, in the UN, size of your nation is not a determinant of your success, where nations around the world obviously make decisions for a range of reasons, it is tough and it is close, so I am not going to predict the outcome until we have the outcomes.
In terms of laying any blame at the former Prime Minister, of course not, this was a decision of Government to enter the race. Whenever we entered the race, at any stage, it was always going to be tight and tough for Australia.
JOURNALIST: There has been some evidence in Estimates about Nicola Roxon’s involvement in the Ashby case. Do you still have confidence in how she has handled the case, how the Attorney-General has handled the case?
JOURNALIST: Could you elaborate on the comment you made about closer defence links with India evolving?
PM: We of course do seek to have defence relationships with our close strategic partners. We share an ocean that is important too, and there is an organisation that brings together the countries that ring the Indian Ocean.
India has been in the leadership of that body, we are to take over the leadership of it, so it makes sense for us to work closely together on circumstances in the Indian Ocean, including maritime security questions.
JOURNALIST: Is it time to return to the idea of Japan, US, Australia, and India [inaudible] Indian Ocean as was occurring, [inaudible] February 2008?
PM: The approach we are taking to [inaudible] is because there is an organisation that brings together the Indian Ocean rim countries. We believe the best approach is to be working through that organisation and working in a very close partnership with India.
JOURNALIST: I seem to be the one left asking these questions, Prime Minister, but the little slip over there, you’re okay?
PM: Yeah, I’m okay. For men who get to wear flat shoes all day every day, if you wear a heel it can get embedded in soft grass, and then when you pull your foot out and the shoe doesn’t come and the rest of it is as you saw.
If you are in any doubt about the logistics of this some of my friends here can help you with the description
PM: We’re going to have one of those discussions are we?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned yesterday countries need to economically reform to grow their economies, will you be raising Foreign Direct Investment in Retail with your Indian counterpart today?
PM: It is not for me to discuss domestic Indian policies that would not be an appropriate thing to do, but generally what I can say is, we as a nation know that economic reform makes a difference for economic growth.
We have entered our 21st year of economic growth, and that has only been achieved because of some hard and often unpopular reforms, things like floating the dollar and reducing the tariffs, done by earlier Labor Governments, and I believe the reforms that this Government is bringing to the Australian economy are, some of them not popular, including carbon pricing, will set us up for growth and potential in the future.
Here in India, this is an economy which has doubled its share of world output that has reformed and changed.
What happens with the future of the Indian economy is a matter for the Indian Government and Indian people, but I do think we can generally say that around the world, economic reform makes a difference to economic growth.
JOURNALIST: Would you see benefits for Australia, if Australian supermarkets were allowed into the retail space here?
PM: That would be a commercial decision for our big supermarket chains.
About the outlook we take, whether it is here in India or in other parts of the world is freer and freer trade - it is better for the economy, and it is better for Australia. We are a great trading nation that can hold our head up in the world, and ensure that our people have jobs and growth with freer and freer trade.
JOURNALIST: It has been 26 years since the last time an Indian Prime Minister visited Australia. Does that show that India is still not really that into us, and are we extending fresh invitation to Manmohan Singh today?
PM: I am not sure that in international relations that we have degenerated to using the terminology that they are ‘not that into us’! But so I will not be adopting that but maybe we will see it in some of the pieces.
It has been a long time, as you say, 26 years since we welcomed an Indian Prime Minister. We would love to welcome Prime Minister Singh if he was available to visit, and of course he has a standing invitation to visit Australia. But leaders’ travel in the modern world is intensive, we meet together regularly in a series of International forums, I see Prime Minister Singh at the East Asia Summit, I see him at the G20, I see him at a variety of events around the world, that puts a taxing burden on leaders in terms of the international travel they do. So I am not surprised that selections have to be made about further travel.
JOURNALIST: The Coalition seems to be arguing that they did raise the idea of interceptions with President Yudhoyono, were you a bit hard on Mr Abbott yesterday?
PM: Mr Abbott has done two press conferences where he has had the opportunity to say the simple words ‘we raised tow-backs with the President of Indonesia’.
Despite being questioned he has declined to do so, it seems to me Mr Abbott is now spinning like a top because he is embarrassed by his failure to raise with the President of Indonesia something that he beats his chest about when he is home in Australia.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] India’s thinking and relationships, and [inaudible]?
PM: Well I am certainly here, to talk to the Prime Minister of India and beyond about our converging interests and the way in which we can work together.
I certainly believe whether it is across economic exchange, investment, dealing with pivotal challenges like water, energy security; Australia can be a strong and reliable partner for India, and that is what I am here to pursue in the discussions today, and on that note I better get about those discussions.