Doorstop at the East Asia Summit

14 Nov 2017
Prime Minister
East Asia Summit; Regional security; Quadrilateral talks; Bennelong; Citizenship; Same-sex marriage
International and Trade


Last night at Camp Aguinaldo, General Guerrero, the Chief of Defence Forces in the Philippines described Australia’s assistance in the battle to retake Marawi and defeat the ISIL terrorists in the southern Philippines as a game changer. His words: “A game changer”.

You saw the significance of that in the extent of our assistance with intelligence, surveillance, and of course now with the ADF personnel, some of whom we met last night, who are providing training in urban warfare. It is a very strong relationship between the Australian Defence Force and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and it is getting stronger.

The focus today at the East Asia Summit is obviously on security, and on, in particular, on counter-terrorism, and all of the ways we need to work more closely together to defeat terrorism in our region and around the world.

Nowhere is far away from anywhere else. Marawi is a city that most Australians would never have heard of, and a place they would feel is a long way from home, but it literally is next door. Everywhere is connected.

Of the over 1,000 terrorists that were killed in the battle to retake Marawi, at the cost of 165 courageous soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and we honour them, their sacrifice and their courage is keeping us safe as well, believe me, and Australia's help ensured they were able to assist them in winning the victory and minimised the cost of doing so. So it is a good partnership.

But of that 1,000 terrorists that were killed, a substantial number of them were foreign fighters. People who had been from Indonesia or from Malaysia, from Arab countries who had been fighting for ISIL in the Middle East, and were coming back into the region.

So this is why, while the destruction of the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria is exactly what we have sought and what we have been supporting, nonetheless, it will mean that a number of those foreign fighters will come back into our region, and that is hence the need for greater vigilance and greater security.

These were the issues that I discussed last night among many others with Donald Trump. We had a very good one on one meeting, just the two of us. We decided we would sit down and have a very frank discussion as we do. We have a very good relationship, very frank relationship as you can see, but we did that without officials, just the two of us. That was a very good, very valuable discussion.

I have just come from a meeting with Narendra Modi, and of course we have a lot going on in the India- Australia relationship on trade, which of course has been a big theme of all the discussions over the last, of these two summits. But also again working more closely together on security, and on counter-terrorism.

Keeping Australians safe, at home and abroad, recognising that international engagement and solidarity is absolutely critical to do so. Right around the world, whether it is in the Philippines or in the Middle East, we are doing everything we can to defeat the terrorists, to defeat the Islamist terrorists, and keep Australians safe.


Prime Minister, China has expressed dismay at the quadrilateral talks the day before yesterday. You are meeting Premier Li later today. What would be your message to him in response to China’s concerns? Why is the quadrilateral necessary?


I had a half-hour one on one with Premier Li yesterday and that matter was not raised but maybe he will raise it today in the formal bilateral.

I have a very frank relationship, frank discussions, always with the Chinese leaders.

I am very consistent, I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time, and I am sure we will talk about all of those issues. We all have to work more closely together.


But Prime Minister, when it comes to that particular issue the Rudd government did dump that quadrilateral dialogue. Is it going to be rebooted? Is Mr Modi interested in it?


Yep, PM Modi and I discussed that this morning. The officials meeting went very well. They have set forward an agenda of further work and we both welcome that and look forward to those discussions and that engagement progressing.

The reality is we have a lot of security issues on our agenda, and the reality is, the world is a pretty small place nowadays and you have got to work closely together.


With your discussions with President Trump, was it decided that Australia could do more?




More to assist in the Philippines? More to assist in training?


We are doing a lot. It has been decided that Australia will do more but it has been decided by my government, by the Government of Australia.

And we have done a lot more here. We have provided the intelligence assistance in real-time intelligence which the Philippines CDF described as the game changer. It was a big deal. Hugely important.


But there hasn’t been a pledge for any more assistance?


You saw the acknowledgement and we have provided, we have got 80 trainers now working, you saw them in action last night.

We don't have plans to add to that commitment at this stage, but believe me, we recognise that in this region, we need to be prepared to give assistance and if necessary more assistance to ensure we keep ISIL out of the region.

I might also add, that we have two patrol boats conducting patrols in conjunction with the Philippines Navy in the Sulu Sea. We are cooperating with Indonesia there, and Malaysia.

So, you know, we are providing more support in this area but of course the battles to maintain the integrity and freedom of the Philippines will always be conducted by the armed forces.


Prime Minister, on Kristina Keneally, it’s a matter of record-


Let’s just get-


On international matters-


Look I’ll just say this actually about Kristina Keneally - okay - my message to the voters of Bennelong is you have an outstanding local member John Alexander who has delivered for Bennelong. Don’t let Kristina Keneally do to Bennelong what she did to New South Wales.


Mr Turnbull, on the question of Manus Island-




Was the refugee resettlement deal discussed in your meeting with Donald Trump last night? Is there any pressure to expedite the process given the very precarious situation on Manus? And have other regional leaders raised Manus with you in the last two summits?


Yeah, well as you know, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and I have had discussions about that as we did at Kirribilli House.

And the US resettlement program is progressing, so that is all happening. It’s underway, a number of people have already gone to the US, and America's Department of Homeland Security are working through it.

In terms of the people currently at the Manus RPC, they should comply with the lawful requirements of the Government of Papua New Guinea.

And those people whether they’re in Australia or in PNG or anywhere else, who are encouraging them to defy the law of Papua New Guinea, are not helping. They are not advancing in any way the interests of those people there who have very adequate alternative facilities available, with all their needs provided for. They should move to those facilities, and they should do so in accordance with PNG.

It’s about time people had respect for the law of Papua New Guinea.


Sorry Prime Minister, will you allow Australia to become a country where bakeries can hang out a shingle saying, no gay weddings serviced here?


Look the answer is we’re not going to introduce new, well, I don’t believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the government does not, would not countenance making legal, discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful today.

So the fact is that however, as far as the same-sex marriage bill is concerned, there is now a free vote on that.

And so, everybody, every member has a vote.

And you will see members of the government, of the Liberal-National Coalition, voting on amendments in different ways as you’ll see people in the Labor Party no doubt voting in different ways.

Everyone calls out for Parliament to be, for politicians to be authentic, and not be hidebound by party discipline. Well what you’re going to see, assuming there is a ‘yes’ vote tomorrow – and look I hope there is because as you know Lucy and I are strong supporters of same-sex marriage being made legal and have been so, I might say, for a lot longer than some of the leading figures on the Labor side.

But the fact is that assuming there is a ‘yes’ vote tomorrow, the pollsters will really be rocked if there isn't, but assuming there is, there will be a Private Members Bill and amendments can be moved and if people want to move an amendment of that kind, well you know they can.

I think it would have virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament, but as far as the government is concerned, we are keeping our promise.

We said we would give everyone a say and we did.

We have had an 80 per cent turnout. Amazing. Extraordinary. Vastly beyond everyone’s expectations.

If there is a ‘yes’ vote announced tomorrow, then the Private Members Bill will be debated and people will be free to move whatever amendments they want and they’ll be debated and voted on and determined. And every member of Parliament will have their say on those amendments and they won't be, from our side, at any rate, constrained by any party policy. 

My views are very, very well-known and have been for a long time.

The people will have their say.

We’ll find out what it is tomorrow and then politicians, parliamentarians will be able to vote as they see fit.


Will you wait on the parliamentary disclosure process to conclude before making any MP referrals to the High Court? Or will the referrals be done straightaway when Parliament resumes on November 27?


Clearly, the process that has to take place is the - this is the process that I laid out last week.

What we need is for there to be, now that we know what the law is, because the High Court has declared it – a much more literal interpretation, stricter interpretation, harsher interpretation if you like then we argued for, but nonetheless, that’s it, they’ve made their decisions. Seven-nil. So we accept it.

So now we want everyone to make those disclosures. I'm glad that we've been able to reach agreement with Labor on that. Once the disclosures are out there, there needs to be some time, some days at least for them to be read and considered. Then I think Parliament should deal with it.

There may be some cases where there are more questions to answer and there is a debate about it. It may be that everyone agrees and says nobody, or those people should be referred and nobody else does or there may be a debate about it.

But ultimately, it is up to the High Court to determine who sits in the Parliament, not the Labor Party or the Liberal Party, for that matter.


It is a matter of record that Kristina Keneally became premier with the support of Eddie Obeid who is now in jail and Joe Tripodi who has been found corrupt. Are you concerned about a puppet of jailed Eddie Obeid coming to Canberra?


Well she is Bill Shorten's handpicked candidate, so obviously Eddie Obeid and Bill Shorten have formed the same view about Kristina Keneally.

I just say again, the voters of Bennelong should back John Alexander. A great local member who has delivered in every respect for his community. He knows them, they know him. He is an Australian champion and he has been a champion for Bennelong.

Don't let Kristina Keneally do to Bennelong, what she did to New South Wales.

We are just going to take one more and then I have got to go to a meeting with the Premier of China.


You have half a dozen MPs who are publicly and loudly supporting changes that would wind back anti-discrimination laws in this country. Is the reason that MPs are showing a lack of discipline, as you call it, because you have no authority over your party?


No Sarah, with respect, everyone in the media calls out for politicians to be true to themselves and not be hidebound by political masters and party discipline. They want people to express their own views.

Here we have in same-sex marriage - and bear in mind Labor was in government for six years and did nothing about this. Zero, nothing. The great champions of same-sex marriage today on the Labor side were mute. They opposed it when they were in government. 

Now, it’s under my prime ministership that all Australians have been given a say on this issue.

And if their answer is ‘yes’, then we will, as I promised, as I promised, there will be a free vote.

That means that you will have members of my party taking different views to members of the same party and ditto on the Labor side. 

That is what a free vote means.

It will see Parliament at its best and I just say to you without wanting to be at all critical of you all and as Donald Trump did to his media, I want to thank you for accompanying me on this long and arduous trip. You’re showing great stamina. Donald was, I thought, filled with compassion for the media.


Where is the leadership here when you have got MPs wanting to wind back Australia’s anti-discrimination laws? Don’t you have to stand up to them and take control of this issue?


Look, it is a free vote. I’m not quite sure what part of that is hard to follow.

It is a free vote. It means a member can move whatever amendment they like and it will be voted on by the House and Senate. That is, not only is what is going to happen, it is what I promised.

Another thing, you know, how often have you criticised politicians for breaking their election promises? What did I promise at the election? I said everyone would have their say. Bill Shorten didn't want anyone to have their say except the members of Parliament. I gave every Australian their say and 80 per cent of them took up that offer and have voted. We’ll find out what they said tomorrow.

Then I said there would be a free vote and everyone would be able to vote regardless of their party, as they wished, on this important social issue. So it will be a free-flowing debate.

But you know what leadership is? It’s keeping your promises. It’s delivering. That's what I'm doing. That's what I have done. And if there is a ‘yes’ vote tomorrow, you will see Parliament at its best.

I'm sure you will all applaud the authenticity and the passion that will come into the different views and then the Parliament, each house will vote on the amendments and vote on the Bill and it is my belief that the Parliament will duly resolve, if the people have voted ‘yes’, to legalise same-sex marriage before we get up at the end of the year.

That's the goal, but it's up to the Parliament. It’s a free vote. That's what I promised. That’s what I’m delivering.

Thanks very much.