Transcript of Press Conference
FRI 09 NOVEMBER 2012
PM: I was delighted this morning to participate in the first ever trilateral meeting of Australia, Timor Leste and Indonesia. I’ve just met with President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Gusmao.
This is really a moment in history given the history between our three nations; it was really a delight to sit down in this trilateral format. As I said yesterday, 10 years ago if anybody had predicted such a meeting would happen, they would be dismissed as a dreamer. But we have had a good discussion this morning about cooperation between our three nations.
There was a particular focus on connectivity, on what we can do to work together to connect up economic opportunities for our three countries. That is a focus on infrastructure. It’s a focus on transport. It’s a focus on communications. It’s a focus on capacity building and people to people links.
We’ve agreed this morning that we will take this work forward with a meeting next year in Dili of officials – a technical workshop to be held in March or April next year. So it’s been a great pleasure to participate in those discussions this morning.
I also had the opportunity this morning to meet with President Yudhoyono and his Foreign Minister. I was accompanied by Foreign Minister Bob Carr. I welcomed President Yudhoyono to Australia in the middle of the year for an annual leaders’ summit, so we had a comprehensive discussion then.
I have had the opportunity since to see President Yudhoyono including appearing with him at an event he organised on oceans in Rio at the UN meeting. I also was with him for an event at the UN Leaders week in New York. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him at those events, and then again to have a bilateral discussion today.
Our relationship with Indonesia is strong and it is progressing well. In fact, it was those exact words that President Yudhoyono used to describe our relationship at the opening of our bilateral discussions. We’ve had a discussion this morning about our work together in our region and particularly the East Asia Summit that we will both participate in around a week’s time. We’ve talked about the work that has happened in our relationship since we meet in the middle of the year in Darwin. We’ve seen Defence Ministers meet, we have seen Trade Ministers meet and Ministers Smith, Clare and Albanese have been here in Indonesia talking about our cooperation on search and rescue.
We were able to talk about some of the challenges that we face together. Issues like people smuggling where we cooperate well with Indonesia. This relationship is very important to Australia. It consequently featured for discussion in the White Paper we delivered on Australia in the Asian Century. President Yudhoyono congratulated me on the delivery of the White Paper and was particularly focused on the words in there about Indonesia and the fact that we will be encouraging Australian students to study Bahasa.
So we’ve had a good discussion this morning capping off a good period here in Bali participating at President Yudhoyono's invitation in the Bali Democracy Forum.
I am looking forward to returning to Australia in not too long away from now, but I will take a few questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, for you explain when you are talking about connectivity, what does that mean in terms of how Australia, East Timor and Indonesia and East Timor will work [inaudible]?
PM: If you look at the future of our economies in this globalised age, what the future of our economies hold is even more intense business links. When you look at the Asian Century White Paper we talk extensively about the future of global supply chains, the fact that in the modern age, long gone that a nation could try and do it all, it is also we are moving from an economic model where a nation and a business would do all things within one nation, to looking to how we can connect into supply chains across a region. So that kind of connectivity matters to us, it matters to Indonesia and it matters to Timor Leste, to East Timor.
President Yudhoyono has got a vision about the development of the part of his country that touches upon East Timor. How he can encourage more trade and investment there. One of the things he and I have discussed in the past is the sort of economic opportunities for Australian businesses there.
So it’s really about encouraging our business sector to be involved in understanding the opportunities that span that section of the world, that section of Indonesia and East Timor. It’s about the people-to-people links that help make that happen. It’s also about very practical things like transport and communication links. And they are the sorts of things I anticipate will be the subject of further discussion in March and April.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what specifically did you ask from President Yudhoyono for on asylum seekers and cooperation on asylum seekers and did he offer anything specifically to stop the flow of boats?
PM: We talk very, very regularly to Indonesia about people smuggling and cooperating on people smuggling. It’s a continuing dialogue between our two countries and President Yudhoyono and I touched on the subject again today, discussed the subject today. We cooperate strongly with Indonesia on the disruption of people smuggling ventures and I’m very thankful for Indonesia’s cooperation in that.
In our Darwin meeting we talked about cooperation on an awareness campaign to point out to Indonesian crew, potential crew, the dangers of becoming involved with people smuggling. That awareness campaign, following our discussions in Darwin has rolled out in Kupang and in Bali and we will be continuing that kind of cooperation.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair to say that you have had a key meeting with the President of Indonesia, but you haven’t asked for any further specific cooperation or measures by Indonesia to stop boats from leaving, given the record numbers leaving since your most recent meeting?
PM: Allow me to finish my sentence. We cooperate strongly with Indonesia at every level. The President of Indonesia has said to me today that he wants to continue that strong cooperation, he wants to keep working with us on what is a shared challenge. And so for us and Indonesia it is about continuing to focus on disruption activities, stopping people smugglers, particularly focusing on the high value targets, the people who are the masterminds behind these ventures; Focusing on disruptions and that kind of high value target.
It’s about focusing on awareness campaigns, particularly to dissuade Indonesians from crewing these vessels given the high risks that it comes with and it’s about working within the region together for regional cooperation. This is, at the end of the day, a regional problem.
Since we met in Darwin, where we discussed this issue, we’ve followed up that meeting with the awareness campaign, and with Ministers Smith, Clare and Albanese coming to Indonesia. So we will continue that kind of intense cooperation. We’re already so deeply engaged, we need to sustain that effort and we will.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how successful do you think that cooperation is so far?
PM: Well I believe when you look at the disruptions statistics for example that our work with Indonesia has successfully disrupted many ventures from setting sail.
We work intensively on policing and following up high value targets. I think the work we have done to dissuade people from crewing these ventures too is important work.
President Yudhoyono’s role in the region working with us through the Bali process on people smuggling is also important.
JOURNALIST: So new measures were raised today?
PM: We talked about our continuing cooperation, that’s right. We are intensively engaged every day with Indonesia on combating people smuggling.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, was the internet filter a bad idea from the outset?
PM: The essence of all of this was about not having on the internet access to material that is repugnant and unlawful. I have said in the past, we would not tolerate a situation where you could see child abuse and child pornography at the local cinema. Consequently we don’t want to tolerate a situation where that kind of material is freely available on the internet.
Now this is a difficult challenge, there is the internet, because of the very nature of it, trying to deal with these things on the internet is difficult. But public policy wise that is what we are trying to achieve and as Senator Conroy has made clear in Australia today we will continue with trying to achieve that goal.
JOURNALIST: You’ve wasted several years now getting to this point. Why didn’t you just do that in the first place?
PM: We’ve worked through to try and find the best approaches and the best solutions here. I don’t think effort that is aimed at trying to deal with true evils like child pornography is ever wasted effort.
JOURNALIST: You’re not clearing the decks for the election next year? Getting rid of another problematic issue?
PM: I see all sorts of silly speculation in newspapers and through media from time to time. As I’ve said every time I’ve ever been asked, the election will be held in the normal cycle in 2013.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said that he thinks there could be a legal challenge against your approach (inaudible). Do you share that view and have you discussed the threats – any potential risks of this arrangement President Yudhoyono today?
PM: Look, I think Kevin Rudd was making the common sense point that in questions of migration law and asylum seekers it’s quite routine to see legal challenges. No, I didn’t discuss with President Yudhoyono what would be, you know, legal proceedings if they were brought under Australian law.
JOURNALIST: There have been calls by a senior NSW long-serving detective that there should be a Royal Commission into the Catholic Church’s alleged cover ups of child abuse. Do you agree that it’s got to the point where there needs to be a proper inquiry now into the role of the Catholic Church in this regard?
PM: Well I think like any other Australian I’m very concerned about this issue and about the distressing human stories that we continue to hear what happened to people, and what happened to people over a long period of time. I haven’t had the opportunity from here in Bali to in detail review the material that is in today’s newspapers and the associated material. I will do that when I return to Australia and if I have something further to say at that point then I’ll say it.
JOURNALIST: There’s talk of this so-called fiscal cliff in the US prompting a recession, their economic would go back into a recession which has wide implications for the global economy. Considering that, do you still guarantee a surplus in Australia next year? Do you have any concerns about the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff on the Australian economy?
PM: Look the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister has been dealing with this matter in the context of the G20 meeting – Finance Ministers meeting he’s just been to. Of course we are concerned about the fiscal cliff in the US and we are concerned that if this matter isn’t resolved that it will have severe implications for the economy of the United States and that’s got implications for the global economy including our own.
But I’m not going to deal with hypotheticals about our budget position. We have just delivered very recently the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. We’ve got in there the projections that Treasury believes are appropriate for the Australian economy and we’ve made savings in there – hard savings to bring the budget to surplus and we stand by the work that was done for the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in your phone call to Barack Obama last night was the topic of your misogyny speech in Parliament raised at all?
PM: I’m not going to go into private discussions but I think it’s fair to say he was aware of it.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us what else you discussed?
PM: It was a warm discussion of congratulations on President Obama’s re-election. I was very glad I had the opportunity by phone to congratulate him. Of course I have publicly offered my congratulations. I’ve written to him about our continuing work together. But it was great to have the opportunity to speak to him directly, to personally congratulate him on his election victory and to commit ourselves yet again to continuing our work together on the global economy on all of the issues that we share cooperation with the US.
We’ve got a very big shared agenda with them. Such important issues for our nation: Afghanistan; the future of the global economy; stability here in our region and their engagement in our region of the world. So I’m very much looking forward to continuing to work with President Obama on those questions.
JOURNALIST: What did the President have to say about your misogyny speech?
PM: I’m not going to go into the details of private conversations but it is safe to say he was aware of my speech in the Parliament.
Okay, thank you very much.