Address to the Perth USAsia Centre - Perth, WA

09 Jun 2021
Prime Minister

A world order that favours freedom

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for that very warm and kind introduction, Gordon. And to the many distinguished guests here today, we’ve already called the role twice, so I don’t propose to do that again, other than to particularly welcome my many colleagues – Linda, Ken, Ben, Andrew, Stephen and many others. The great and good of Western Australia have assembled here in Perth.

Stephen particularly, it's great to see you again. Clearly post-politics life has treated you very, very well and you're looking very well, as of course is Richard Court who did a tremendous job not only as Premier of Western Australia but the work he did on behalf of the Australian Government in being Ambassador to Japan through some incredibly important engagements we have had, particularly moving towards the RAA, our defence agreement with Japan which we're looking to finalise over the course of this year. Richard and I worked pretty closely on that, and very pleased with the progress that we were able to make.
And of course, when you've got a former Chief Justice sitting next to you, it's important to recognise his great service to our country.

Can I also thank the traditional owners. I was recently in New Zealand, and as part of our dialogue with the New Zealand Government one of the things that we share in common with New Zealand is we both draw on rich Indigenous histories. They're different, but they are ancient and they have much to teach us. And so I join with Gordon in acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and their elders, past, present and importantly the future.

Can I also acknowledge any Defence Force members who are with us here today and any veterans who are with us also and simply say to them thank you for your service.

I have just noticed Nev Power over there as well, thanks for the job you did on the COVID Taskforce, an extraordinary job which I have mentioned before when I've been here.

It is true, I'll be heading over to Cornwall very, very soon, and I've got to tell you I'm not unhappy about the weather and I'll tell you why. Last time I was in Perth, and it was bucketing down, I was at this very stadium, New South Wales was playing Queensland, as they indeed will tonight, and New South Wales had a thumping win.

So I'm going to take that as an omen that I'm back in the same stadium today. It's raining in Western Australia and that should provide some look forward to what I hope to see later tonight, wearing my blue tie, of course.

Everyone is looking at me going ‘what on earth are you talking about in Western Australia?' So the rain doesn't bother me, Ashley. I take it as a good sign for the Blues tonight.

I'm heading to Cornwall, and it's been a long time since one of my family was in Cornwall. It was my fifth great-grandfather. He came out in the first fleet on the Scarborough. He stole some yarn in Cornwall and the rest is history. Over 200 years of it, here in this country. So it will be interesting to be going back there. But not for that reason, many others. Many, many others.

Because my speech today does come on the eve of a very important international summit. The G7 summit in Cornwall hosted by the United Kingdom.

And I was delighted when my good friend, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson invited me to attend as part of what is being referred to as the G7 Plus.

One of only four outreach partners together with India who, sadly, Narendra Modi won't be able to attend because of the COVID outbreak in India. But also the Republic of Korea and South Africa. And this is the third occasion on which I have been invited as Prime Minister, third year running, for Australia to participate in this G7 Plus dialogue as a partner in that dialogue.

And there has never been a more important time I believe, for Australia to be at the table with the world’s largest advanced economies and liberal democracies than right now. We very much need to be there because there is a lot at stake, for Australia, for our region, and indeed the world.

We are living in a time of great uncertainty not seen since the 1930s, outside of wartime. The challenges we face are many.

The global pandemic of course, the recession it has caused and the business-led global recovery the world now needs to restore lives and livelihoods.

A global trading system and rules-based order that is under serious strain and threat.

A new global energy economy is rising with profound implications for Australia, as the world deals with and addresses climate change.

How we succeed and prosper in this new ‘net zero emissions’ economy, without putting at risk our resources, manufacturing and heavy industries, the jobs of Australians, especially in regional Australia, without imposing higher costs on Australian families and how we keep the lights on, and not surrender the economic advantages that Australia has had, is where Australia’s national interest lies.

It’s not an argument about climate change. It’s about how Australia best advances our interests as part of a world that is dealing with climate change. It’s not about if or when. Protecting and advancing Australia’s interests in a new net zero global energy economy. In that context it is about the how.

However, above all, the defining issue I believe, for global and regional stability, upon which our security, our prosperity and our way of life depends, is escalating great power strategic competition.
Rapid military modernisation, tension over territorial claims, heightened economic coercion, undermining of international law, including the law of the sea, through to enhanced disinformation, foreign interference and cyber threats, enabled by new and emerging technologies.

A lot to talk about in Cornwall. As we meet together in Cornwall, our patterns of cooperation within a liberal, rules-based order, that have benefitted us for so long, we know they are under renewed strain.
As American scholar Robert Kagan has warned, ‘the jungle is growing back’.

As leaders of some of the world’s largest liberal democracies and advanced economies, we must tend to the gardening with renewed clarity, unity and purpose.

Our challenge is nothing less than to reinforce, renovate and buttress a world order that favours freedom.

Meeting this challenge will require an active cooperation among like-minded countries and liberal democracies not seen for 30 years.  The COVID-19 crisis merely underlines the urgent need to deepen and accelerate our shared endeavours.

For inspiration we should look to the years immediately following the Second World War.  A world in flux.  Competing models for economies and societies.

A time when President Truman called for ‘the creation of conditions in which we [the United States] and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free of coercion’.

In many parts of the world (old and new), anxious peoples craving peace, stability, prosperity and a sense of sovereign control over national destinies.

Then, a remarkable generation of far-sighted policy-makers, under American leadership, set out to bring order to this uncertain world; and importantly order informed by liberal values and grounded in rules-based institutions.

I believe the challenges we face today demand the same common purpose for this new era.

Australia brings its own distinctive perspective to global challenges, informed by where we are and who we are - our principles, our values and of course our national character.

Our interests are inextricably linked to an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region.  That is our interest. And to a strategic balance in the region that favours freedom and allows us to be who we are – a vibrant liberal democracy, an outward-looking open economy, a free people determined to shape our own destiny in accordance with our own national sovereignty.

Today, I want to explore five areas of Australian advocacy and agency to advance these important issues in meetings in Cornwall.  The broad themes are:

  1. Supporting open societies, open economies and our rules-based order;
  2. Building sovereign capacity, capability and resilience;
  3. Cooperating on global challenges;
  4. Enabling renewed business-led growth and development, and
  5. Demonstrating that liberal democracies work.

Now, I want to be clear about what we are seeking to do, of course.  I also want to be clear about what we are not seeking to do.

This is not about drawing, as we gather in Cornwall, a closed circle around a particular club. That’s not it.

To the contrary.  It’s about ensuring we maintain an open, rules-based global system that supports peace, prosperity and aspirations for all sovereign nations.

A world order safe for liberal democracy, yes, to flourish, free from coercion, reinforced through positive, collaborative and coordinated action.

We are facing heightened competition in the Indo-Pacific region. We know that because we live here.

The task is to manage that competition.

Competition does not have to lead to conflict.

Nor does competition justify coercion.

We need all nations to participate in the global system in ways that foster development and cooperation.

Australia stands ready to engage in dialogue with all countries on shared challenges, including China when they are ready to do so with us.

Now, let me turn to the five areas where I believe liberal democracies should be stepping up with coordinated action.

The first is supporting open societies, open economies and our rules-based order.

The foundation for deeper cooperation amongst liberal democracies lies precisely in the shared beliefs and binding values we strive to live by.

Our belief that open, pluralistic societies provide the fundamental freedoms and rich opportunities our citizens need to reach their full potential.

That democratic elections, the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, independent judiciaries and accountable governments deserve our allegiance based on their intrinsic merit and on their capacity to deliver better lives for our people.

That open, business-led, market economies provide the best means for generating shared prosperity in a world of rapid change.

And that, working together, our countries can support, defend and (where necessary) renovate a liberal, rules-based international order that supports universal human rights and opportunities for all.

A world order that favours freedom over autocracy and authoritarianism.

We can't be casual about these values and beliefs. They are inextricably linked to our way of life in this country. We can't be passive about them. We can't expect others to advocate for us for them. We live them, we must speak up for them.

As we battle the COVID-19 pandemic and look towards recovery, I’ll be making the case for business-led growth globally, just as we have done so here at home. Our relative success is a broader proof point.

Australia’s strong economic recovery in the past year has demonstrated the critical role governments play in a crisis, but also the enduring importance of policy settings that put the private sector at the centre of the economy.

Doing what it does best – driving growth in our economy, innovating, creating jobs, seeking out new opportunities.

Australia will be one of only two countries [in Cornwall], together with the Republic of Korea, that can point to an economy larger today than it was at the start of the pandemic.

Now, this hasn’t occurred in Australia through more regulation, more tax and more government directives to the private sector. That has not been the Australian way through this crisis. It has come about through greater tax incentives, as Christian Porter would know who is also here today, in his new portfolio in industry. What we're doing in our modern manufacturing strategy is all about providing incentives, not greater taxes. Regulatory reform, continued support for open trade and a recognition that government overreach can misdirect resources and impede the creation of good, durable, high-wage jobs.

As always, we will be an advocate for a free and fair rules-based system for international trade founded on open markets.

Australia’s prosperity rests squarely on maintaining our position as an outward-looking, open trading economy.

At the G7, we will be working with others to buttress the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to modernise its rulebook where necessary.

A well-functioning WTO that sets clear rules, arbitrates disputes objectively and efficiently and penalises bad behaviour when it occurs.  This can be one of the most powerful tools the international community has to counter economic coercion.

In my discussions with many leaders I have taken great encouragement from the support shown for Australia’s preparedness to withstand economic coercion in recent times.

The most practical way to address economic coercion is the restoration of the global trading body’s binding dispute settlement system. 

Where there are no consequences for coercive behaviour, there is little incentive for restraint.

The G7 meeting provides an opportunity to point a way forward on Appellate Body reform by the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in November this year.

This will not be easy – Australia shares many of the concerns that have been raised around the operation of the Appellate Body.

But restarting practical and serious-minded negotiations is the essential first step in identifying feasible and effective solutions that address the needs of all economies.

Another area where enhanced multilateral cooperation is essential is around data and the digital economy.  Coordinated action by liberal democracies is necessary to ensure future global standards reflect the specific needs and values of open societies.

Australia has been a global leader in advocating strengthened accountability and transparency of online platforms (especially in support of women’s safety and in combatting violent extremism and terrorism and protecting our children from child abuse) and we look forward to working collaboratively with other liberal democracies on international standard setting.

Building our own sovereign capability and resilience is central to our efforts to enhance cooperation for global security and stability. 

Australia’s strategic environment has changed significantly over recent years. Accelerating trends are working against our interests.

I really want to stress that. The view the world hasn't changed in the last five years, is disconnected from reality. Things have changed. Accelerating trends are working against our interests.

The Indo-Pacific region – our region – is the epicentre of renewed strategic competition.

The risks of miscalculation and conflict are very present growing.  And the technological edge enjoyed historically by Australia and our allies is under challenge.

In last year’s Defence Strategic Update, our Defence Minister at the time Linda Reynolds, our Government committed an additional $270 billion over the next decade to our defence capability growth.

Australia has never sought a free ride when it comes to our security.  We may look to our allies and partners but we never leave it to them.

We bring agency as Australians and critical sovereign capabilities to our partnerships. We add value to the combined effort, with our partners. This is why we are respected. This is why we are at the table.
We must intensify our own efforts and cooperation with others to meet the complex security challenges we face.  There is much more to do. Because Australia does, and must, play an active role in securing our own future, using all the tools of statecraft we have available to us.

Australia has been working hard in our region, building on the strong cooperation with the United States, Japan and India.  Stepping up in the Pacific.  Supporting Southeast Asia and engaging ASEAN as a steadfast partner.

I look forward to discussing the strategic challenges of the Indo-Pacific in Cornwall with our longstanding and unshakable allies and friends.

The Biden Administration has made its focus on the Indo-Pacific region very clear and the region is already the focus of our alliance.  My first face-to-face meeting with President Biden will provide the chance to further cement our alliance partnership, built on the bonds and the values that are shared between our two peoples.

An ever closer security and defence relationship has become a signature part also of our Special Strategic Partnership with Japan.  I look forward again to affirming our strengthened bilateral security cooperation when I meet with Prime Minister Suga in Cornwall, as we work towards signing our Reciprocal Access Agreement, agreed in-principle last November.

I welcome the United Kingdom’s commitment to engage more deeply in the Indo-Pacific following the Integrated Review announced by Prime Minister Johnson in March.  When we meet in the UK, it will be an opportunity to discuss how we can deepen cooperation also on security and defence issues.

And of course, I look forward to sharing perspectives on the Indo-Pacific region’s strategic challenges with other leaders at Cornwall, and with President Macron when I visit France on my return to Australia. 
A key focus of discussions will be ensuring that markets for new and critical technologies develop in ways that reflect our shared values.

Growing security challenges surround the development of secure and resilient supply chains for critical technologies.  Artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing and other technologies have enormous potential to support the prosperity, security and well-being of our people.

But they do carry risks.

We need these technologies to be reliable, affordable, resilient and importantly secure, as well as governed by rules and norms that reflect our liberal democratic values.

A further priority is the development of secure and diverse supply chains in those critical minerals, essential for clean energy technologies and military applications.

This challenge, and the related opportunity, is perhaps better understood here in Western Australia than anywhere else in the country.

At present, the supply chain for rare earths is not diverse - a single nation currently accounts for about 85 per cent of the world’s refined rare earths products.

And given its endowment in critical minerals, Australia has a responsibility to contribute to greater diversity of critical minerals supply, as far along the value chain as possible.

The same can be said for lithium.

That effort will yield both a strategic and economic dividend for Australia.

I also look forward to discussions on broader supply chain issues as they relate to our economic, health and social resilience.

Australia is a keen advocate of efforts to keep supply chains open, transparent, competitive, trusted and diverse.

We’ve joined India and Japan to establish a new Supply Chain Resilience Initiative and at home we’ve set up an Office of Supply Chain Resilience.

We’ve launched a $107 million program to remove key supply chain vulnerabilities.  At Cornwall, I will point to supply chains for critical medical equipment, PPE and vaccines as key examples where we need enhanced cooperation and I think that view is broadly shared.

Importantly, sovereign capability does not mean we must produce everything we consume here.  No economy can or should be self-sufficient in all products and services.

That is why reliable supply chains with trusted partners are so important.

Cooperating on global challenges will be the third focal point of Australia’s participation in the G7 Plus.

We will continue to battle a global pandemic together and there is much more to do to ensure countries ravaged by COVID-19 can respond, particularly with the sharing of vaccines.

Each month, Australia is delivering tens of thousands of vaccines to the Pacific and to our Timor-Leste family to respond to serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

At the same time, we’ve been working with our Quad partners – India, Japan and the United States – to synthesise our financing, research, manufacturing and vaccine access and delivery strengths to help vaccinate our Southeast Asian neighbours.

Our discussions at Cornwall will also focus on the need to do more to prevent a pandemic like COVID-19 happening again.

I will lend Australia’s weight to growing calls for a stronger, more independent World Health Organization with enhanced surveillance and pandemic response powers, as I have articulated before.

And I strongly support President Biden’s recent statement that we need to bolster and accelerate efforts to identify the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Having led calls for such an inquiry, an independent inquiry, it remains Australia’s firm view that understanding the cause of this pandemic has nothing to do with politics, it is essential for preventing the next one, for the benefit of all people everywhere. It is a very practical, sensible perspective.

Australia also looks forward to participating in discussions on climate and the related energy challenges.

Australia has a strong record of setting, achieving and exceeding our commitments to responsibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We are well on the way to meet and beat our Paris commitments, as we indeed meet and beat our Kyoto commitments. This will see emissions per capita fall by almost half, and our emissions per unit of GDP by 70 per cent. We will release our Long Term Emissions Reduction Strategy in advance of COP-26 in Glasgow.

Performance must count in this agenda, as much as stated ambition when it comes to addressing climate change.

In Australia, we have reduced emissions by 20 per cent since 2005. That’s more than Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the US.

In 2020, Australia deployed new renewables eight times faster per capita than the global average, and nearly three times faster than the USA, China and the EU. I don't make those comparisons to reflect on any other nation but more so to highlight the performance that Australia has achieved. And is underappreciated.

We have the world’s highest uptake of rooftop solar – one in four households have rooftop solar systems in this country.

As technologies continue to advance, supported by our $20 billion investment in our technology road map, we expect to do even better than this and will regularly report on our progress. We're one of the few countries in the world that report quarterly on how we perform in this area.

Australia is on the pathway to net zero.  Our goal is to get there as soon as possible, preferably by 2050. But we will get there through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support, especially in our regions.

That thinking drives our plans to pursue technology partnerships with the US, UK, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and reject carbon tariffs, which is simply trade protectionism by another name. 
Enabling renewed business-led growth and development is how we restore the global economy.

As leaders of market economies, we must want a business-led recovery, not a government centred and government dependent economic recovery. That is certainly not the Australian way.

To achieve this outcome, advanced liberal democracies have a profound shared interest in rebuilding the growth and dynamism of business-led growth in developing economies in the wake of the pandemic.
Specifically, part of bolstering economic recovery in a post-COVID world should be a stronger offering when it comes to infrastructure investment, particularly in our region.

We need to get the foundations right.  Infrastructure that lacks appropriate standards — or that is too expensive, or isn’t environmentally sustainable, or that comes with onerous conditions — just isn’t worth having.

Projects should be high-quality, affordable, and with no strings attached.  They should meet real needs and deliver sustainable economic benefits.  And they should not compromise countries’ resilience or sovereignty.

G7 and outreach partners can play a very crucial role here, both through our bilateral development programs, and as the major stakeholders of the multilateral development banks – especially by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

And we can leverage private sector financing and mobilise capital.  Ultimately, our efforts should be about giving developing economies options and choices to best meet their needs.

More also needs to be done to provide for a coordinated and transparent approach to resolving the debt challenges faced by many developing economies – and to provide alternative sources of financing. 
Absent this safety net and transparency, our neighbours face obstacles to open economic development and can become vulnerable to debt diplomacy.

Finally, as we affirmed at our first meeting of Quad leaders, we must continue to demonstrate that liberal democracies work.

This was a key focus of President Biden. I'd say it was his primary focus when he called the other three leaders together in the first meeting of Quad leaders.

Liberal democracies will always be, in our view, most persuasive based on the power of our example, not our pitch or our preaching.

As Mathias Cormann often reminded us, a great Western Australian and of course now the head of the OECD, he used to remind us around the Cabinet table and many other forums - West Berlin shone bright in an otherwise desolate economic landscape he would say. It was one of the most compelling arguments for freedom that ultimately tore the wall down.

This lesson is one that Australians have long understood.

We know that our influence with others rests overwhelmingly on our success at home – on our open, democratic society; on our belief in freedom and a fair go and how we put that into effect; and on a strong and resilient economy that enables us to fulfil our promise to the Australian people and project leadership abroad.

Our open economic outlook, a vibrant civil society - this underpins our resilience in tough times, and continued stability and prosperity in the long run.

Our success also gives us the confidence and the means to protect and defend our liberal, pluralistic society.  To push back against coercion, to maintain our sovereignty and to support others to make decisions that are in their own long-term sovereign interest.

At Cornwall and beyond, our challenge is to show that liberal democracies work for all.

That we can and do find solutions and do deliver for the common good.

It is in Australia’s interests to be dealt into these big discussions about where the world is heading, with our fellow like-minded nations,  and I can assure you we are. We are part of the solution.

Our elevated standing in global affairs, our stature amongst our colleagues around the world, has placed us at this table in Cornwall and it is no accident.

We are there because we stand true to our values.

We are there because we have a capability to add value.

And we are there because we are connected and respected, not just within the Indo-Pacific region, but the broader global family of like-minded nations who favour freedom.

So, there will be an Australian voice in Cornwall.

It will be clear and direct.

It will be positive and constructive.

And it will be respectful and confident of who we are as an Australian people – our values, our agency and the positive contribution we make.

Thank you very much for your patient attention.