Doorstop interview - Hanoi, Vietnam

04 Jun 2023
Prime Minister
Visit to Vietnam; Australia-Vietnam relations; Young Matildas; FIFA Women's World Cup; South China Sea; Migration and skills shortages

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Can I thank Prime Minister Chinh for the very warm welcome to Vietnam, and for the very constructive dialogue and meeting that we held today. This afternoon, of course, I have further meetings with Vietnam's leadership. But right now, we're here to meet the Young Matildas, who are doing such a great job of representing Australia, proudly here at the qualifiers for the Asia Cup here in Vietnam. They had a big win last night, 5-0 against Lebanon. And later this week, they will be playing as well, other games, Iran first, and then a game against Vietnam. They are young Australians representing their nation proudly. And they, of course, are looking forward to Australia hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup that will take place in Australia and New Zealand in just a couple of months' time. That will be a big event. I think some Australians underestimate just how big it is. It is the third most watched event in the world, after the men's football World Cup and after the Olympic Games. And it will be a real opportunity for the Matildas, led, of course, by the wonderful Sam Kerr, who represented Australia so well as the flagbearer at the Coronation, to represent Australia with the Matildas in the World Cup, where Australia have a real shot of great success in our home finals. I do want to wish the Young Matildas the best of luck while they're here as well. Wherever you are in the world, sport brings people together. By playing on the same field, abiding by the same rules, competing in a spirit of mutual respect, what team sport does and shows us is the way that we want international relations to work as well. Working towards that common interest, with common rules, with mutual respect. And that's why I think team sport can be a bit of a microcosm for the way that we want to see international relations operate throughout the world. I do want to thank, as well, our Australian side with UNICEF, who are delivering a training clinic here, part of our development cooperation with Vietnam, providing opportunities for some of the young girls who are getting to train with these great young players from the Young Matildas, giving them that opportunity of interaction.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there's been another incident in the South China Sea, reports of a Chinese warship cutting across the bow of an American destroyer. What do you make of that? How do you resolve this?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one of the things that I spoke about in Singapore in the Shangri-La Dialogue was the need for proper rules to operate, for there to be that engagement and dialogue. And these issues are of concern. I spoke there about a misadventure or a miscalculation having consequences. We need to make sure that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea applies. We need to make sure that all operations, maritime and aviation in the region are able to operate safely.

JOIURNALIST: Prime Minister, in terms of supporting countries like Vietnam in the South China Sea, what prospect is there for an expansion of freedom of navigation operations? I mean, Australia doesn't operate in that 12 mile radius of features claimed by China sorry, although the US does and has wanted Australia to. Is there any prospect of that status chanting?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we support the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. We support freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and we express that view consistently. We operate consistently as well.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we had discussions about national sovereignty, about our position, consistent with my address to the Shangri-La Dialogue. And can I say that Prime Minister Chinh very much welcomed Australia, the opportunity that we had to outline in a comprehensive way, what my government's view is about operating in the region, but also, the way that we see international relations operate. We want to see a stable, secure, peaceful and prosperous region. And that's why this visit is important. Vietnam is an important friend of Australia. The former government signed the strategic partnership, what we want to do is to upgrade that in the coming year. And the discussions I had with Prime Minister Chinh were extremely positive. We have announcements of the $105 million clean energy assistance package, to help with the transition to net zero, that Vietnam has committed to. The investment we're seeing in education, $250 million from RMIT to invest in a new campus in Ho Chi Minh City. The support for CSIRO when it comes to innovation. So we have a relationship of cooperation across defence and security issues. It also today, of course, we've signed an MOU between AUSTRAC and the State Bank of Vietnam. That's about cooperating so that, on issues like money laundering, on issues like financing of terrorism, we exchange information in our mutual interests to rid the region, and indeed the world, of this scourge.

JOURNALIST: You’ve reflected on the history while you've been here, you’ve been talking a lot about the 50 years, but it was out of conflict, out of a very difficult period. Have you been contemplating that given the warmth of the reception you’ve received?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Australia over the last 50 years, has built friendship with Vietnam, that's occurred in a bipartisan way. And I acknowledge the welcoming by Simon Birmingham of the visit here. It's something that we need to work on. Vietnam has enormous potential to increase the engagement. We've seen a 40 per cent increase in trade in just the last year. And when we talk about diversification of our trade, it's no accident that you've had visits from the Governor-General David Hurley, but also very recently from the Trade and Tourism Minister. Today, we have important announcements about increased flights and exchanges, with Viet Jet directly flying into Brisbane, and Vietnam Airlines flying directly from Hanoi to Melbourne. That is all important. It's important for those people to people relations, but also important for both our economies.

JOURNALIST: PM, was it a mistake for Australia to become involved in the Vietnam War, and did you offer any gesture of reconciliation for Australia's involvement in that war?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I'm here, what we're doing is looking ahead to the future. That is what I'm doing. And that's what governments in Australia have done on a bipartisan basis.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, through the education ties you’ve been making on this visit, Australia obviously has widespread skill shortages. Could you see more Vietnamese who are skilled into those shortages, coming to Australia to help address that issue? And would there be any potential pathways for (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, last night, at the Business Exchange that was hosted at the Australian Embassy, I discussed with businesses there the opportunity for a linkage between our educational exchanges, and the needs that our economy has. We know in areas like aged care, for example, there is an opportunity for greater exchange and greater support. We want to make sure that when we look at our immigration, that we get the right people in the right places with the right skills, so that focus is on the need of Australia. We know that in some of the areas where there are skill shortages, then Vietnam can be of great assistance. Thanks very much.