The reckless and dangerous conduct of the North Korean regime has been the main topic of security discussions today with the President of the United States, Donald Trump, Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.
Also, with President Duterte, last night, we talked about the fight that he has been conducting, and successfully, to put down the ISIL-backed insurrection in the southern Philippines.
He was very appreciative of the support the Australian Government is providing both on the intelligence and surveillance side, the three P-3 Orions and of course, more recently, we’ve stepped that up with the provision of 80 ADF personnel who are training now, already, over 200 Philippine forces personnel on urban combat techniques. This is one of the big challenges in Marawi, as the President was saying, was fighting, literally hand-to-hand, house by house. Obviously our forces have seen a lot of that in the Middle East.
Now we’re also providing support to the Philippines on the maritime security front in the Sulu Sea.
Turning back to North Korea, this was the focus of the discussions with PM Abe and President Trump as you saw.
We are absolutely committed to ensure that maximum pressure is put on this regime - maximum economic, financial pressure - to bring it to its senses. Now the key player, the key economic player there is of course China and I was pleased to meet earlier today with Premier Li and again discuss the measures that China is taking, which are without precedent in China’s history with North Korea, to bring that pressure to bear, so that the regime stops its reckless conduct, which is putting the safety and stability of the whole region at risk.
These are dangerous times in which we live in our region.
The threats to our peace and stability are greater than they have been for many, many years. Whether it is the threat of nuclear war from North Korea, or whether it is the threat of ISIL-backed terrorism in our region.
Its been a key focus of discussions with all the leaders, with President Widodo of Indonesia, for example, as well.
What we’re seeing in the Middle East, is the destruction of the so-called caliphate that’s being rolled up. One city after another has been taken from them.
But, of course that’s good news, but the consequence of that is that there is a real risk or probability that more of the foreign fighters that went to fight for ISIL in the Middle East will start coming back to our region.
Now my job is to keep Australians safe and that means we want to keep ISIL out of the region.
Terrorism is a threat to us around the world. It’s a real threat to us in our region.
Remember Bali - young Australians, Australians of all ages, are everywhere in our region.
We need to ensure that we work closer than ever with our partners here, assembled here in Manila to ensure we keep the region safe and we keep Australians safe.
Prime Minister are you willing to upset the host government by strongly criticising what is happening with the extrajudicial killings? They are happening without obviously trial or charges. Are you willing to strongly go on the record here in the Philippines and criticise that?
Look, I had a very good discussion with President Duterte.
We talked about the war on drugs and he’s talked about how the leadership of that campaign has been taken over by the drug enforcement agency and he certainly recognises the issues that have been raised.
On North Korea, what are the next steps apart from economic sanctions? What was actually discussed today with Trump and Abe about what more you can do to reign in this rogue dictator?
He is a brutal dictator. A brutal dictator who runs a global criminal operation, threatening the peace of our region.
The key method of bringing him to his senses, without conflict is economic pressure and that requires concerted action.
It requires making sure that they are not able to use loopholes and that’s what we were talking about in Hong Kong, as you saw yesterday.
It is why we need to ensure that other countries, including smaller countries in the Pacific don’t unwittingly provide flags of convenience to North Korean owned ships. That was a focus of my efforts at that Pacific Island Forum recently.
We’ve got to make sure that we keep the squeeze on North Korea.
China has the biggest leverage.
I hasten add, I just want to restate this point again, China is as frustrated with North Korea’s criminal conduct as every other nation.
North Korea is not to China what East Germany was to the Soviet Union.
So China is stepping up. I think President Trump’s visit to Beijing was extremely valuable. You can see that he and President Xi see eye to eye. It is very important that we work with one mind and one goal to bring that regime to its senses.
Prime Minister, just on a domestic issue-
Hang on. We’ll just deal with foreign affairs and then we’ll come back to domestic.
Prime Minister, did you talk about potentially Australian military intervention assisting with America if it comes to that?
We have talked about a wide range of options in respect of Korea. I’m not going to go into any more detail than I have.
Can you clarify whether you are or aren’t concerned about Duterte’s extrajudicial killings? And secondly why is it important Asian democracies banned together in quadrilateral and trilateral?
Well it is vitally important that we work more closely together all the time.
You would have seen at the opening ceremony of ASEAN this morning the theme of connectedness. We are all connected and we are connected in many good ways. And we are doing a lot on trade. Prime Minister Abe and I agree to keep working together on the TPP for example. We had a very valuable discussion about that as well.
So we are connected on trade.
We are connected culturally.
We are connected economically.
But we are also connected in terms of preserving our security.
We are living in a world that is in terms of communication, it is borderless. We are here in Manila. We are in the same time zone as Perth. You may as well be in Perth in terms of the way you’re dealing with people in Australia and they are dealing with us here.
That is exactly what is happening to us in the battle against terrorism.
Everything, nowhere is far away from anywhere else.
So Marawi is not something, it is not a place people in Australia haven’t heard of a long way from home, it is right on our doorstep. So is Raqqa. So is Mosul. That is why we need to be relentless in our efforts to work together, to pull together to keep Australians safe.
On a domestic issue-
Okay, right, domestic. Righto.
Conservative MP’s have released their own version of the same-sex marriage Bill today. Will you support it and more broadly how will you manage this process given you now have warring factions within your party room?
Well, as I said, we would give every Australian their say. Now, remember, Bill Shorten didn’t want that to happen. He did everything he could to stop that happening, and we did.
And do you know what? 80 per cent of people cast a vote in that postal survey. It is an extraordinarily high participation rate. It has been a triumph in terms of participation. In a general election, you know, where it is compulsory, the participation rate is only a little bit above 90. So this is amazing. And we’ll find out the result on Wednesday.
We said if the result is ‘yes’ - everyone seems to assume it is, I hope they’re right – if it is ‘yes’, we said we’ll facilitate a Private Members Bill. It is a free vote. It is not a Coalition policy issue on the same-sex marriage issue now. We’re going to have a free vote and the Senate, if it’s going to be moved in the Senate, the senators will work out which bill they want to deal with first.
Will you support the Dean Smith Bill?
Well that Bill has been around for some months, and it’s clearly a good Bill to start with.
In a situation like this, when a Bill is presented, it’s like the first draft and that gets put up, and there’ll no doubt be plenty of amendments, debated no doubt for hours on end and at the end of it, they’ll come to a conclusion on the Bill.
Prime Minister, can I just ask you on world leaders and North Korea-
Hang on. One moment-
Prime Minister if I may, democracies are unruly. You’re experiencing that yourself. There is another alternative on offer and China’s offering it at the moment. Kind of authoritarian-
Yes, I don’t find it appealing.
Are Western democracies from what you see-
I prefer Australia – I prefer a democracy with Australian characteristics rather than socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Certainly, but aren’t democracies under threat at the moment? Are you finding that they’re actually facing an inflection point at the moment?
I know that that would make a good headline, but I think truthfully, everyone looks at parliamentary events at any given time and says, gosh, its unruly and you know what - its always been so. Democracy is like that, it is often noisy and people disagree.
But you know what we’re doing, look at this - same-sex marriage, huge issue, gigantic issue, people are very divided about it. We gave every Australian their say, we will find out what their say was on Wednesday. Then the Parliament will deal with it, and it will get done. Sorting things out.
Look at the citizenship issue, great consternation, you know, how many dual citizens are there? Thanks to our initiative, my initiative, a resolution I drafted it’s now, we’ve reached agreement with Labor it will be approved by the Senate later today I hope. Everyone will put all their facts and materials out there, then the houses can resolve, who if anyone, to send off to the High Court and the High Court will decide who is eligible to sit in the Parliament, not the Labor Party.
You were meeting with world leaders this morning on the North Korean crisis, does it make issues like dual citizenship seem so trivial?
And yet, does it- do you worry that these trivial kind of issues could mean that this your last week in international meetings as Prime Minister? You know, with these by-elections that-
Well I’m focused on delivering for Australia, keeping Australians safe. That’s the focus right here in Manila. And that is all of the discussions, focused on keeping Australians safe.
Those of us committed to values of democracy, freedom, the rule of law know we have to work together to be safe and secure and we got to work together more closely than ever. And you can see that’s what we’re doing that’s what I’m doing here.
Prime Minister it’s been an untidy day at home and the polls are not great.
When have you ever said it’s a tidy day?
Well there you go, you can’t answer my question!
But what’s your message to people in your party in the Coalition who are wondering if you have the wherewithal with them to take them to the next election and turn this around? What’s your message to those people who are having doubts about whether you can win the next election?
We face plenty of challenges in politics and we deal with them. You know we’ve had issues about energy policy, we’ve got agreement on the National Energy Guarantee – big commitment. Big agreement, solidarity there on that.
Same-sex marriage - very divisive question. We’re getting that resolved. Got the postal survey up, everyone’s had their say, or everyone who wanted to have their say and that was almost everyone, has had their say. We will find out what they said on Wednesday and then the Parliament will deal with it.
Citizenship, look I didn’t seek the decision of the High Court I would’ve preferred they took a different approach but what they say is the law and our job now is to comply with it. And what we are doing is going through a process that will enable everybody to put all the relevant facts on the line, that’s the commitment I gave when I walked out of Cabinet with that draft resolution. I’m glad Labor has come on board. That’s good. Let’s get on with it, get all the facts on the table and then the Houses can consider them and then if they wish refer people to the High Court and they will determine.
So my job is keeping Australians safe, governing, delivering, ensuring our future prosperity, our economic security as well as our national security and when these big issues come up resolving them, getting them sorted out. That’s what we are doing.
Thanks a lot.