Transcript of Joint Press Conference
THU 08 NOVEMBER 2012
Subject(s): Bali Democracy Forum; US election; Visa arrangements; Energy White Paper
PM: I am delighted to be here in Bali with the Foreign Minister, Senator Carr. I am here to attend the Bali Democracy Forum. I’ve come at the invitation of President Yudhoyono to co-chair this forum with him and the President of South Korea, President Lee, so it’s a great honor to be here.
There is no better place to talk about democracy than here in Indonesia and I want to pay tribute to the leadership of President Yudhoyono in creating the Bali Democracy Forum.
This is a nation that can tell a story about a journey to democracy. In fact I very clearly remember coming here as a young parliamentarian for the first free elections in Indonesia and on my many visits since you’ve seen over time the development of this strong and vibrant democracy.
What that means is that President Yudhoyono is uniquely positioned to talk about democracy here in the region and around the world.
This is a meeting about democracy, not a meeting of democracies. But it is a credit to the leadership of President Yudhoyono that so many nations have gathered here for the discussions that will happen today and tomorrow.
Australia has been a big supporter of the Bali Democracy Forum since President Yudhoyono first created it. My predecessor Kevin Rudd co-chaired the initial Bali Democracy Forum with President Yudhoyono. And we have been supporters too of the Institute of Peace and Democracy that supports the work of the Bali Democracy Forum.
And I’m very pleased to be here with Senator Carr to announce that we will make available a new $1.75 million to continue Australia’s support for that institute over 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Australia works in our region to support democracy. Whether it’s our work in Cambodia, our work in East Timor, our work in PNG, our work in the Solomon Islands, our work on the democracy challenges in Fiji, we work on the spread of democratic practice here in our region and around the world.
I have had the opportunity to listen to some of the contributions this morning and I will co-chair a session of the Bali Democracy Forum this afternoon. I have also had the opportunity since I have been here to have a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of PNG.
We had a discussion about his forthcoming visit to Australia where he will address the National Press Club. I intend to go to PNG in the first quarter of next year which will be my first visit as Prime Minister.
We’ve had the opportunity to share perspectives following PNG’s election in which of course we provided assistance through a number of Australians who went there to support election processes including officials from our Australian Electoral Commission.
I thanked him for the cooperation that his nation is giving us on the issue of people smuggling and the creation of the centre at Manus Island and we had the ability to share perspectives on some of the issues in our region.
Later this afternoon I will have a bilateral discussion with the President of South Korea, with President Lee, I will also have a bilateral discussion with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Prime Minister Erdoğan. I am hoping to have a discussion with President Karzai of Afghanistan.
Then tomorrow morning in addition to a bilateral discussion with President Yudhoyono, I will meet in a trilateral format with Indonesia and with East Timor.
This is the first time that at leader level an Australian Prime Minister has meet with an Indonesian President and the Prime Minister of East Timor. When you think about the history in our nations, the history that we share this is a development that I think is significant and I am very much looking forward to those discussions tomorrow.
As I remarked when we were at the UN during UN Leaders’ Week, and as I referred to in my remarks to the Bali Democracy Forum this morning, if ten years ago anyone had suggested that in a decade’s time democratically elected leaders from Australia, Indonesia and East Timor would sit and meet together in a trilateral format they would have been dismissed as a dreamer, as an idealist. And yet here we are and that is precisely what will happen tomorrow.
I’ll turn now to Senator Carr for some comments and then we will take some questions.
SENATOR CARR: It’s a great honor to be here as Australians with this initiative of the Indonesian President and for a practical example of its affect on the region, think of Myanmar.
President Yudhoyono took a lead role in the opening of Myanmar, he went there and said the role of the military is in the barracks. And this was very, very supportive of President Thein Sein’s Government embarked as it was at the time, on the transition that has transformed the political situation in that country.
We applaud Indonesia’s lead role in promoting the ideas of democracy, and it is in that spirit that Australia has got a presence here. Again we thank the Government and the people of Indonesia; this is a great tribute to them. Thank you.
PM: Right we’re happy to take some questions and then we’ll have to keep on the move.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister today President Ahmadinejad of Iran has described the US election and the result there, said that justice and freedom and human dignity had been sacrificed by the selfishness of a minority, your reaction to that? Something you disagree with obviously?
PM: Well look I didn’t hear the President’s remarks, I was having a bilateral discussion with the Prime Minister of PNG. So I don’t really want to make comments on remarks I haven’t heard.
But obviously as you would have told from me comments yesterday about the US elections, the people of America have made their decision and re-elected President Obama. Whatever the political leadership of the US and Australia over many, many decades, our two nations have been firm friends and allies.
I am looking forward to continuing work with President Obama, work in our region, work at the G20, work on an agenda that we share.
JOURNALIST: How do you feel about sharing the stage with President Ahmadinejad?
PM: I am here at President Yudhoyono’s invitation as are other leaders and so I am here at a meeting about democracy as I have said to you it’s not a meeting of democracies and I am pleased to be here at President Yudhoyono’s invitation for what as I have described to you I think is a very important continuing initiative on democracy.
JOURNALIST: Does the President of Iran’s presence here undermine the purpose of the meeting?
PM: President Yudhoyono’s purpose is to spread democratic practice. That’s why he created the Bali Democracy Forum. He wants to talk about democratic practices and norms and this is a meeting to talk about democracy, it’s not a meeting of democracies. So of course the invitation list was a question for President Yudhoyono.
The decision I made was whether or not I would accept his invitation to co-chair this forum and particularly to co-chair the session that will happen after lunch. Given the closeness of our two countries, given my admiration for President Yudhoyono, given the journey that this nation has been on in creating its own democracy, I thought it was a very important opportunity for me to be here as Australian Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Slightly off topic, given the growing relationship between Australia and Asia (inaudible)?
PM: With nations around the world our practice isn’t about visa on arrival, but we do have with some nations around the world e-visa arrangements, so obviously using the power of new technology to make visa arrangements easier.
We worked through those issues with nations bilaterally and obviously it is a judgment call for us and those nations about what best suits.
PM: We are seeing growth in tourism for example, we are seeing growth in the number of independent tourists from China, and we anticipate that we will see more and more growth of tourism.
We have got to get with our countries in our region and around the world visa arrangements right. It’s about balancing ease of access, because of course we want tourists to come to our beautiful nation, against security concerns and other concerns that need to be weighed into the system.
JOURNALIST: As a matter of principle isn’t it better to engage with pariah states than isolate them. If you agree with that then why wouldn’t you speak to the Iranian President?
PM: We are engaged with Iran. We engage diplomatically with Iran, we have an embassy in Iran and the world is engaged with Iran through the P5+1 process.
What I am obviously concerned about is that despite that engagement, Iran and the President of Iran does not appear to be listening to the concerns of the world about Iran’s nuclear program.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister would you have listened to his speech today and been in the room had you not had that bilateral meeting scheduled with the PNG Prime Minister?
PM: We make bilateral arrangements, we make the best use of the time that we can. I was at a bilateral with the Prime Minister of PNG, I wanted to have that discussion to update me personally on matters since the PNG election and that is how I determined to use my time.
JOURNALIST: Did Peter O'Neill raise any concerns at the unrest seen at Nauru and in relation to Manus Island?
PM: No he did not.
JOURNALIST: When the UN mission ends in East Timor this year there will be 900 local staff who potentially face lose job, will you be able to give any assurances to East Timor in that trilateral meeting tomorrow of any support from Australia beyond the end of the Australia UN mission in East Timor.
PM: One of the issues I am sure will be discussed tomorrow is the winding down of the UN mission in East Timor, in Timor-Leste, and what that means for future. So I do anticipate that this will be a subject of discussion.
JOURNALIST: Two questions, firstly when you intimated earlier that your decision to co-chair the Democracy Forum was (inaudible), and my second question is – because I am from The Australian – with Slater & Gordon (inaudible) why didn’t you contact (inaudible)?
PM: On your second question I refer you to the answers that I gave to a journalist from The Australian when I was in Vientiane.
On your first question, no I wasn’t meaning to imply that at all. I made a decision about attending this Democracy Forum because of my respect for the vision and leadership of President Yudhoyono, because we are the closest of neighbours and friends with Indonesia. Because I understand and respect his vision of bringing nations together to talk about democracy, and in our own region, we, Australia, have been a supporter of the spread of democracy.
As I indicated we’ve supported the spread of democracy in Cambodia, we’ve supported the spread of democracy to other nations in our region. I believe we appropriately calibrated our foreign policy responses in relation to Myanmar and we’ve seen remarkable change there.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident of getting the states on board to support the proposals before today?
PM: Like all COAG arrangements it takes a bit of charm and a bit of force and I will be exerting that come December.
PM: We worked on the Energy White Paper long and hard for a reason and that is because it s very important to our nation. Minster Ferguson in particular worked on it long and hard.
Energy security, energy pricing is of key concern to Australian consumers and businesses. As I made very clear in August there are some clear factors here that are causing increases in energy prices. There is the question of the gold plating of the network, there is the question of dividend to state governments.
I do want to see these issues worked through an addressed in December at COAG. And like all other COAG discussions it does require a bit of charm and a bit of force; I’ll be applying both.