Doorstop - Funafuti, Tuvalu

16 Aug 2019
Funafuti, Tuvalu
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Hi everyone. The last few days, I think, have been a very successful demonstration of the way the Pacific Island Forum works together. You’ve heard me describe it as a family on many occasions and that's exactly as it has operated. We’ve come together, we've talked about serious issues as we discussed last night after I presented to you after the meeting closed. And it was great to join the Prime Minister last night at the cultural gathering after I left you. It was a great sense of a feeling of pride amongst the people of Tuvalu to be able to host an event like this. You've all been here for a few days, I think you’ve got a good conception of what this means for them. And we’ve been very pleased to play our role in supporting that effort, whether it's been the construction of the facilities here, particularly assisting in the airlift of many of the participants to be here to make this event the success it has been, particularly given the issues we've been discussing. The impacts of changing climate cannot be more apparent for countries like Tuvalu. These are regular discussions in a place like Tuvalu, they are very practical discussions, they are not about ideology, they’re not about partisanship, they’re not about all of the other things which tend to dominate those debates in countries a long way away from here. They are very practical issues that are very sensitive and we’ve sought to address that in good spirit and I think that has been reciprocated. 

So I’m pleased we’ve been able to reach the agreements that we have and that provides a platform for going forward. And all the commitments, I should stress, that they made here by Australia are consistent with the commitments that we have given and Australian government policy in relation particularly to our commitments to 2030 Paris emissions reduction targets. Australia is absolutely on track to meet, as we are indeed, to exceed the 2020 targets under the Kyoto Protocol. And there was also a good opportunity to talk to Pacific leaders about what Australia has been doing because there were a number of Pacific leaders who was surprised to hear from me about the record of Australia's achievements on emissions reduction. That's not a message that has been getting through to them. That’s not a message they’ve been reading about out of Australia. It was a surprise to them that Australia has the highest investment in renewable energy per capita in the world. In the world. Record levels of investment. These were messages that they received very positively and they were very glad to hear about that and they were surprised that they hadn't heard more about that. And so it was good to be able to have those sorts of discussions directly as a family and talk about what we're all doing and I was pleased that the declaration acknowledged the efforts of all the Forum members in what we've been doing, particularly to address climate. 

But going forward it's not just the challenges of climate we have to address for the environment. The issue of plastics pollution in the Pacific is a very serious one and I was able to talk to the Norwegian Foreign Minister and Minister Hawke has been talking to her as well. It's an agenda we share with Norway. But it's also an agenda we share with Indonesia where President Widodo has been showing a lot of global leadership on that issue and I intend for that to become an even more significant part of Australia's global environmental advocacy in the years ahead. And that starts with making sure we take care of our own waste. Our waste, our responsibility and ensuring that we're recycling our waste in Australia, not shipping it off to other third countries so it can find itself, particularly in terms of plastics, floating off the Great Barrier Reef or other parts of the Pacific. And I'm not sure if you're familiar with the research but, I mean, that isn't just about visual pollution or anything like that. It actually gets its way into the food chain of the Pacific and it ends up deteriorating fertility in Pacific Island peoples and that's why these issues are so important. So we'll take action there, we’ll take action on illegal fishing. Australia is the biggest partner for cracking down on illegal fishing in this region. We support it both with our patrol boats, we support it with our aerial surveillance and that means that we are protecting their resources. There are nations whose nationals are out stealing the Pacific's fish and they are stealing their livelihoods. And that has to stop and those nations have to stop it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Prime Minister Sopoaga said today that during discussions that were quite frank yesterday, he said the stances where he was trying to save his people while you were trying to save Australia’s economy. That’s a very strong statement, do you have a response to that? 

PRIME MINISTER: The conversations I also would note were very respectful as well. And I understand the deep sensitivity to these issues, particularly where we're standing, and I showed respect towards that in my engagements. It's not just about Australia's economy, it's about how Australia can continue to provide the support that we do across the Pacific region. I mean, we are the biggest investor in the Pacific's development and protection of any nation on the planet. We invest $1.4 billion in the region every year. That's the highest it's ever been, under my Government, and we've gone from about one in five dollars on aid that we've spent out of Australia's aid budget and we'll be approaching almost two in five in the next couple of years. So our commitment here is significant, not only to the protection of the environment but for the way of life of the Pacific peoples. And so this was a good opportunity, I think, to reinforce all of that. I understand the deep sensitivities. As I said, it's not a theoretical issue, it's not a dinner party conversation here in the Pacific. It's a real conversation and we had a real conversation last night. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you talk about illegal fishing and some countries stealing the resources of the Pacific. Which countries are you referring to?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, those are all matters of public record. I don't intend to prosecute that here. I simply make this point - that Australia is in the top 15 countries in the world for actually protecting fisheries and that's where we sit and that's where our commitment to the region sits. 

JOURNALIST: How did you justify using carry-over credits towards the Paris targets?

PRIME MINISTER: Because that's what was enabled under the Kyoto Protocol and Australia plays by the rules. You know, the reason we can have carry over credits is because we have them. We've actually overachieved on our targets.

JOURNALIST: But how did you actually overachieve? Didn’t the Kyoto 1 actually allow for an increase in emissions on the baseline?

PRIME MINISTER: We have met our Kyoto 2020 targets. We will absolutely meet them. We'll exceed them by 367 million tonnes. There are only three other countries that have done that.

JOURNALIST: But didn’t Kyoto 1 allow for 108 per cent of baseline emissions and Australia achieved 103?

PRIME MINISTER: Our 2030 commitments will see us 26 below our 2005 levels. There are countries that will triple their emissions - triple their emissions - from 2005 levels by 2030 and that even sits under the Paris Agreement. See, Australia accounts for 1.3 per cent of the world's emissions. Australia on its own won't cool the climate and if we're serious about it, we've got to actually understand that emissions don't have a nationality. And where the bulk of emissions come from, that's what's threatening the world's climate.

JOURNALIST: PM, you spoke to Mr Sogavare earlier. I was just wondering what you said to him about threats to nation's sovereignty in the Pacific?

PRIME MINISTER: You have to be a bit more specific. It’s a bit of an obtuse question.

JOURNALIST: Did you discuss, you know, economic threats to sovereignty in the region and issues such as that.

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, we simply talked about Australia's support for Solomons. I mean, the RAMSI initiative that we were engaged in and led has restored civil order in Solomon Islands. This is something I think everyone who participated in that initiative can be extremely proud of. I mean, you can't have a viable and functional economy, let alone government, unless you have civil order. And the work that was done through RAMSI to establish that over a long period of time was put to its greatest test following the most recent election when the royal constabulary stood up and put down a protest that really could have threatened the stability of Solomon Islands following the election. Now, that showed that RAMSI worked. And so our commitment to Solomons is ensuring that we realise the benefits of that very long-term investment and involvement of Australians and to ensure that continues into the future. So we're obviously going to help them in any way they can, having established their own civil independence internally to ensure that their sovereignty continues externally.

JOURNALIST: Did Australia force Pacific nations to settle for the status quo in the communique?

PRIME MINISTER: We agreed as a family a communique which is what happens at every single Forum meeting.

JOURNALIST: Would you frame the language as watered-down as Frank Bainimarama has done?

PRIME MINISTER: That's not language I'd use but I respect the rights of other Forum members to use whatever language they like him.

JOURNALIST: Will you commit to coming to every Pacific Island Forum leaders meeting for as long as you’re Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I'd certainly like to and intend to.

JOURNALIST: PM, China's ambassador overnight in the UK said some pretty strong things about Beijing's preparedness to act in the Hong Kong situation. We have many Australians there. Are we making any plans to evacuate Australian citizens?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is a very sensitive situation. It's a very concerning situation and anything I would say would only be to encourage a de-escalation of the situation in Hong Kong. And for those who are protesting to do so peacefully and for that to be respected. And to support any initiative that de-escalates tensions. That's plan A, that's what we have to focus on right now. And I welcome what I believe are constructive contributions from others who are seeking the same thing. President Trump and others, we just simply want to see the tensions de-escalate there and so people would just go on about their peaceful lives. You're absolutely right about the number of Australians and those holding Australian passports, dual citizens that live in Hong Kong. There are tens of thousands. And so this is obviously something we're watching closely. We're monitoring the situation but right now our efforts are to address the de-escalation of the situation. 

JOURNALIST: What would be the ramifications if they did descend into violence? 

PRIME MINISTER: I don't think it's helpful for me to speculate on that other than to say that we're monitoring the situation closely and that our first attempt is and, I think, I hope will be successful along with other countries, is to see that de-escalate. But largely that's a matter that has to be resolved internally within Hong Kong itself and more broadly within China.

JOURNALIST: If you had friends or family members planning a trip to Hong Kong would you advise them to reconsider the need to travel?

PRIME MINISTER: I'd advise them to read the travel advice for Hong Kong as I would for anyone going to any part of the world. They should always do that and I mean that quite seriously. I mean, if you are travelling... Australians, you know, we love getting about. We like experiencing the world and, you know, the world can be a dangerous place. Many of you know local members of Parliament well and a number of times that when we're called upon to try and assist one of our constituents who find themselves in a bit of bother somewhere in some part of the world, it's not uncommon. It happens quite a lot and in many cases you say, ‘Gee, I wish they'd wish they'd read the travel advice.’ because that advice is there to protect Australians and to ensure that they can travel safely around the world and I’d encourage them to make use of it. 

JOURNALIST: We have America and China addressing the Forum today. What would you... what would your sort of comments to the great powers be or advice or requests in terms of their interaction with the region?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't think they need any coaching from me. I'm sure they've come well-prepared. It was nice to meet the Secretary of the Interior today, I hadn’t met him before. And we had a good chat and he's looking forward to my visit to Washington and I'm looking forward to that as well. When I'm there we'll obviously have the opportunity to talk about some of the things we've talked about here. I mean, one of the great virtues of Australia being in the Pacific Island Forum which members expressed yesterday was that, you know, Australia sits in the G20. I'm off to the G7, we're invited by President Macron to participate in that Forum, the first time we've done that Forum. And that means that this provides a channel, a link, a point a connection for the Pacific and we take that responsibility for the Pacific very seriously.

JOURNALIST: Jacinda Ardern, Hilda Heine and [inaudible] have called for leaders to do more to ensure that action is actually progressed on domestic violence, treatment of women, saying that some leaders aren’t fully acknowledging the problem or there is the right words in place, policies, that we’re not seeing outcomes. What should leaders be doing to ensure this improves?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I mean, I can only offer Australia's example about what we're doing. As you know we've got the Fourth National Action Plan that we have committed to, funded and just agreed that further with Premiers last week. That Action Plan, I think, speaks frankly and in a bipartisan or multi partisan I should say, apartisan probably even better, way about addressing the scourge of domestic violence in Australia. I think the first thing we all have to admit that we've all got our challenges in that area. We've all got our problems in that area. Australia has and it doesn't matter what part of the country it is. It can happen in a remote Indigenous community. It can happen in the suburbs of my home electorate in southern Sydney. And so I think the first thing we all have to understand is it's happening in our communities, and none of us can turn a blind eye to it. We have to acknowledge it and address it very, very seriously. We do that as part of our aid program, working with Pacific Island nations all around the region. I mean, the Prime Minister's XIII, for example, when we were up in Papua New Guinea was promoting the message of anti-domestic violence. And sport is a very powerful tool for communicating these messages culturally into communities. It's one of the great advantages I think Australia has in our engagement with the Pacific is we have such a strong cultural understanding. We can finish each other's sentences, we do understand where we're coming from. We're interested in the same things, we've got similar types of heritages although, you know, we're very different people. So we can have those conversations, I think, in a more effective way. So I endorse what [inaudible] said and Prime Minister Ardern and Australia supports that absolutely and I took that opportunity to do the same yesterday. Thank you.