Doorstop - Funafuti, Tuvalu

15 Aug 2019
Funafuti, Tuvalu
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: It’s great to be joined by Minister Hawke. First of all, let me say we’ll be joining the singing shortly. And it's been a long day today but it's been a great day to come together as a Pacific family and to talk through the issues that families do talk through. And I was very pleased that we were able to come to agreed statements on a range of very important issues, not just to the Pacific but to Australia as well. We want a viable, sustainable, successful, sovereign, independent set of Pacific Island states, working together of course with New Zealand and Australia. And for them to maintain and realise their way of life here in the Pacific Islands. As you can hear behind me it's not just about preserving your environment or just protecting your economy, it's actually preserving a way of life here in the Pacific. And this is the connection that we make with Pacific peoples all around the region. 

So today, yes we were able to further address following the Boe Declaration from a year ago. Specific commitments in relation to taking action on climate change, which is something Australia has been doing for many years now. That's why we are going to meet our Kyoto targets, that's why we are going to meet our Paris targets, and our commitments today reflected what we have already committed to when it comes to the Paris Agreement. Now, on top of that at the meeting today we talked through important issues of illegal fishing and the preservation of fisheries. We talked about the importance of dealing with plastics pollution throughout the blue Pacific. We talked about issues relating to their local economy - skills development, and we made an announcement on that yesterday. We made our announcements, not only those on the $500 million to go in resilience works in the Pacific which are very obvious for the need of those here as we stand in Tuvalu. But we also committed $2 million today to deal with oil spill clean-ups as we saw most recently in Solomon Islands, where we played a very positive role along with New Zealand. And so there are so many practical things. We just work together with Pacific Island nations, and that was the nature of our conversations today. And as is the nature in the Pacific, you work through and you talk through all of the issues. And that's what enables you to come together in a spirit of commitment. 

Now, on top of that, I would not make only one other comment. I have been aware of Brendan Nelson's announcement for some time and I want to thank Brendan for the amazing job he's done at the War Memorial. We've been very pleased as a Government to support the major proposal that he and his board have brought to the Government for a major upgrade of the War Memorial. I want to commend him not just for that because that took enormous leadership and vision, but it also took a vision from him to introduce so many new practices the War Memorial. And the evening service which he's been running now for many, many times I'm sure so many Australians have had the good fortune to participate in. It has become part of the official proceedings, if you like, of the opening of Parliament now as we all gather together as a Parliament for those who are able to be there on that afternoon. So I want to thank you, Brendan, and for everything you've done. You have really honoured that great institution of our War Memorial and you'll be a hard act to follow, though I can assure you that the Government will be working hard to find a suitable successor.

So happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you were in the meeting today. Can you clarify for us precisely what was agreed? Because we understand there has been both a communique and a statement on climate change. Can you take us through precisely what was agreed to today?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the communique and the declaration which had been agreed today, and that text has all been signed off on and that will be released by the secretariat in due course. So I'm not going to jump the gun. We're here as a guest Tuvalu and as a member of Pacific Island Forum and they have their processes for releasing those documents and I'll allow them to do that. But what those documents do is commit again to realising that here in the Pacific in particular and Pacific Island nations, the impact of climate change, the impact of rising sea levels, it's not a theory. It's real, it's happening to them right now and has been for some time. And so the actions and directions that are set out in both of those documents, I think, speak about our collective commitment to continue to address those issues. But look, there are issues that are raised in the communique that deal with, you know, dealing with old war wrecks in the sea, that deal with unexploded munitions, that deal with issues going back to nuclear testing in the Pacific…

JOURNALIST: So I understand there was an agreement on almost everything, but not one thing and that is the small island states outcomes forum, is that correct? That was one area where leaders did not agree. 

PRIME MINISTER: There are two… the Pacific Island Forum has its leaders meeting and it agrees the things that it agrees. And then the small island states have their own forum that sits within that and it's not incumbent on the leader’s forum to have to run a ruler over that. So I want them to be able to express freely and for that to be unconstrained by any views that Australia might have, or New Zealand, or anyone else.

JOURNALIST: But Australia is alone, Australia is isolated. 

PRIME MINISTER: No. No, not at all. We agreed our statement tonight and that statement on the small island states was exactly the same as what was agreed last time, and that was particularly recommended by New Zealand. So we followed that language of last year and I thought that was a sensible thing to do and I thank Jacinda Ardern for the suggestion.

JOURNALIST: PM, PM, Mr Sopoaga identified Australia as the one qualifier on that statement which the upshot of that…

PRIME MINISTER: On the small islands states?

JOURNALIST: On the small island states as the qualifier on the small island states... 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the statement does not specify. In fact, it is done as a general statement that enables any state - any state - to express qualifications about anything in the small island states resolution. So where Australia wants to do that, we can. It just means that what the small island states agree when they come together is not binding on all the other members of the Forum.

JOURNALIST: The rest of the question though is that the upshot of that means that Australia is left isolated on the question of coal and going carbon neutral by 2050. What did you tell the PIF leaders…

PRIME MINISTER: Hang on, no I’m sorry, I have to correct you. I have to correct you about that because that's not what the statement says. And the small island states resolution which they meet and then the Pacific Island Forum just simply says we note… we endorse with qualification. Now, that qualification extends to every single member. It just doesn't extend to Australia. And as far as I'm aware, no member state has expressed anything about what their possible qualifications are. Let me finish. What I simply have to say is that unless you've directly spoken to states who have set out what their qualifications are or are not, then just you just can't make that assumption and you'd be wrong.

JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, you’ve mentioned all the other issues that were discussed in the leader’s retreat. But from day one there was a call for all the Pacific Island state on Australia's reliance on coal. Is that also the point of discussion?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Australia's reliance on coal is actually falling. That's what's happening to Australia's reliance on coal and that will continue to happen as our economy goes through a transition, not just over the next 10 years but the next 20 and 30 years and that is where what is happening in Australia. It's also what's happening in the United States, by the way, and what Australia has done over the last six years is taken what was around a 700 million tonne deficit in terms of what we were expecting to happen in 2020 with our current, our then projection of carbon emissions. And we've turned that around into a 367 million surplus. So Australia's actions on climate change have actually produced a more than a billion tonne turnaround on carbon emissions. Now, that means that by 2030, our carbon emissions are going to be lower than they were in 2005 by 26 per cent. Now, that's a good thing and that's the action Australians are taking and it was acknowledged today, the actions that Australians are taking. But not just Australia - all the members of the Forum community that we're all taking and we need to be mindful that the thing that warms the globe are where there are nations that are not just increasing their emissions by small amounts but by doubling and trebling them over their 2005 levels.

JOURNALIST: So you’re claiming that Australia is not at odds with every single other Pacific Island nation with regards to the endorsement of the SIS meeting outcome?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm just simply saying that it is not incumbent on any member state to endorse that statement. It's a statement by the small Pacific states. What I can say is we're all completely in agreement on both the communique, which is the purpose of the Forum, and on the Declaration on Climate which was also agreed by all the members as a family.

JOURNALIST: Are you upset by comments made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday where she said that Australia had to be accountable to the Pacific? 

PRIME MINISTER: I think they were taken out of context, one. But two, look, I want to thank Jacinda Ardern for her contributions and as I do all the members at the meeting today. But I'm accountable to the Australian people. That's who I'm accountable for and Australia comes here, I think, with a very strong record of not only what we've done to turn our situation around to reduce our emissions to meet our 2030 target, but we come here having invested already by the end of this financial year $500 million - $500 million - which includes some $200 million through the Global Environmental Fund. And that money is going into serious resilience works right across the world, but particularly in the Pacific. Now what we're doing at the end of this financial year is putting down another $500 million and that is all going here into the Pacific Islands to address things of resilience. So that is big commitment stuff which is greatly appreciated by the Forum island states.

JOURNALIST: The communique on climate change that you have agreed to tonight, does that include a reference to the 1.5 degree limit that Pacific Island states want to see?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah it does, as does the Paris Agreement and our commitment to that statement today simply mirrors our commitment in the Paris Agreement.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on Jacinda Ardern’s comments, Alan Jones said today he believes you should shove a sock down her throat. Do you condemn this comment? 

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I've only just come out of the meeting after 12 hours…

JOURNALIST: I can give you the full quote if that’s helpful.

PRIME MINISTER: The comment has been relayed to me and I must say on what's been reported to me I find that very disappointing and of course that is way out of line. I have two daughters, so you can expect me to... that's how I would feel personally about. I'll leave others to explain what they've said and how they've said it. But I thank, as I said before, Prime Minister Ardern for the way she worked together with all the Pacific Islands Forum members today, including Australia. You know, we don't always have to agree, and we don't. But when we disagree, we should do it well. And I'm all for, you know, there being lively debate and lively discussion. But I've said for some time now, as Australian journalists would know, we've got to learn to disagree better. And showing respect to one another as we did tonight as we did tonight, as we did all day today. Showing respect for the challenges, the existential challenges faced by Pacific Islands. 

JOURNALIST: How’s the Step Up?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s looking great, it’s looking great. We showed up, we’re stepping up and it’s getting on.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, do you mean to say you disagreed better today? Like, is that a confirmation you were disagreeing?

PRIME MINISTER: No, my comment was in relation to the comments reported by Mr Jones.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, a number of leaders this week have asked Australia not only to contribute directly bilaterally with them about climate finance but also to the Green Climate Fund. President Trump, yourself have both announced that you won't be contributing to the new replenishment of the Fund.


JOURNALIST: Has the discussion this week changed your mind on that?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it hasn't. Because I just want to invest directly in helping the Pacific family here. I don't need to send a cheque via Geneva or New York or wherever it has to go. And I've heard a lot of frustrations, frankly, with the Fund for Pacific Island members, the time it takes. I mean, Alex, Minister Hawke, he has had those meetings as well. So look, what we're doing is we want to help our family in the Pacific deal with resilience challenges of climate change. And so we're just going to do that directly and get on with it. We'll do it quicker. We'll do it better. And I think we'll do it in a greater partnership, so that's exactly what we're doing. But there were so many issues discussed today, that was that I think the real practical thing about it. I said yesterday that families get together, they talk about the things that matter and that's whether your kids can get jobs and where they have a future and a way of life you want to protect here in the Pacific. That's what we talked about today and I thought it was a really good discussion and I enjoyed the time immensely. Right now, I'm looking to go and enjoy a bit of time with our hosts. So thank you all very much.