Doorstop - Washington DC, USA

24 Sep 2021
Washington DC, USA
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, everyone. It's been a very busy week for Australia, over the course from New York here to Washington. Having the Quad meeting today and I want to thank President Biden for bringing the Quad leaders together here in Washington. The Quad is a great partnership, making a very positive contribution, a very practical contribution to the region that we call home, the Indo-Pacific. Quad partners, India, Prime Minister Modi, I had the opportunity to speak with him directly yesterday. And of course, Prime Minister Suga, my dear friend, this will be the last time we meet together here with him as Prime Minister. But he's on a promise to come out to Sydney and visit Jenny and I hopefully in the future. He's been a tremendous leader of his country, seeing his country through the Olympics and the Paralympics, an extraordinary achievement for Japan to press on in the middle of a pandemic and give the world great hope. He joked with me today that they won a lot more judo gold medals than the Australians did. But the Australians didn't do too badly either. There's no doubt about that. So to you, Prime Minister Suga, thank you very much for your leadership and your great friendship to Australia and to your great strength within the Quad.

The Quad meeting today. It's a very practical group. We're focused on demonstrating how democracies get things done and get things done in the region in which we live. And so with practical initiatives focusing on 1.2 billion vaccines, but it's not just about getting the vaccines. It's about getting them in arms and the programmes we're running together are helping those vaccines being distributed, being administered, the training and planning, the support that's needed to get, particularly in developing countries, these vaccines in arms. You know, a great example from our own region is all four of the Quad partners supporting the vaccination in Fiji and, a small island in the Pacific, but the Quad can see to that need and delivering those vaccines in Fiji has really turned that country around and they'll be opening up soon. And I'm sure welcoming visitors. I'm sure Frank Bainimarama would love me to say, welcoming visitors from all across the Quad nations. So vaccines are an important set of outcomes today for COVID.

On critical minerals, Australia is one of the biggest producers, but we believe we can play a bigger role in a critical supply chain that is supporting the technologies of the future and further initiatives there today being led by Australia, but connecting up with the manufacturing and processing capabilities and end users in the United States and India and in Japan, as well.

Our discussions around security began in Afghanistan and particularly focusing on how we can continue to help people who wish to leave Afghanistan and become part of our humanitarian programmes and holding the Taliban to account to ensure that they can leave safely. And we've got, and ensuring that we keep the pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan to live up to the commitments that they've made. There are already concerning reports and those who want to leave Afghanistan and come part of our humanitarian programmes that particularly Australia is involved in, we want to be able to facilitate that.

The broader security environment in the Indo-Pacific is is well known to all of us because we live with it each and every day. Australia has taken significant steps throughout our most recent partnership, the AUKUS partnership. But that builds on our direct arrangements both with India and Japan in bilateral arrangements, training exercise, reciprocal access agreements with Japan.

More broadly when it comes to climate. Today, there was a real sense of resolve and not just about the if question, of course, is the answer to that question, but the how and how we could support the particular developing countries within the Indo-Pacific to get access to the clean energy technology that enables them to transition their economies, just like Australia is seeking to transition our economy. An important initiative for a clean energy supply chain summit to be held next year in Australia to put together a road map over the next 12 months that could see how we can combine the best scientific knowledge, industry knowledge and academics coming together to ensure we can transfer our energy technology, clean energy technology, supply chains that support it to transform the economies of our region. So it was a very busy day. The Quad is a very practical initiative, bringing together partners who care about the future of the region in which we live. Positive contributions. We agreed that we've got to keep it simple, keep it focused and keep getting the job done.

So, again, I want to thank President Biden and Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Suga for our partnership that we believe is going to achieve a great deal. After six months, it's already got off to a great start. Just finally, there was the opportunity to speak to the Vice President and we had a very positive discussion about the region in particular from Australia's perspective. I was very pleased to learn about some of the programmes being run in indigenous communities here in the United States regarding the vaccine programme here and the lessons that can be learnt for Australia back home. But I was very pleased to hear about the Vice President's recent trip into the region, to Singapore and to Vietnam, and to share our own experience, the challenges in the region and particularly our relationship with Indonesia in trying to attract more investment capital into the region for private industry, not just in the United States and Australia, but further afield. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: On critical minerals, was there a commitment today from any of the Quad partner countries to buy more of Australia's critical minerals and just on the Clean Energy Summit, sorry Prime Minister, do you, would you like to see President Biden come to Australia for that summit next year?

PRIME MINISTER: It wouldn't be a leaders summit for that and the summit that we're talking about next year is practitioners. People who are involved in the research and the technology and the commercialisation, in the engineering and the scaling up of the application. This is an applied summit, which is about putting together a very clear work program as to how clean energy supply chains can be built up in the Indo-Pacific. So we'll be looking forward as Quad leaders to seeing that plan come forward to us. And so that is the purpose of that summit. There was a deep appreciation from all the Quad leaders today about the role that Australia can play in providing critical minerals into the region, because that is a necessary supply for the many industries and processing works that they operate themselves, whether it's in the defence industry. Lots of discussions today about semiconductors and their role in the future. And this is an ecosystem we want to create and we want to do that as like mindeds in the region. And we want to create that so we can provide those supplies throughout the Indo-Pacific because remember, the Quad is all about positively contributing to the economic development, the prosperity and the stability of the region and very practical discussion on those items. We're really good at digging stuff up in Australia and making sure it can fuel the rest of the world when it comes to the new energy economy.

JOURNALIST: Welcome back to Washington. About two years ago, you were here at the White House for a state dinner hosted by former President Trump. How would you describe your relationship with President Biden versus your relationship with President Trump? And secondly, are you and President Biden on the same page as it relates to your approach to China?

PRIME MINISTER: We are on the same page. We're allies and partners, and, you know, the great thing about the alliance between Australia and the United States is that it has been our alliance stewarded by 15 Australian Prime Ministers and 14 US Presidents. We've come from both sides of politics. And I can assure you, when you put all those names on a list, you're going to find a lot of differences in people on that list. But one thing we're all committed to is the stewardship of this very important alliance, whoever serves in our roles. We have the absolute privilege of stewarding this great relationship, and I've enjoyed both great relationships with both the presidents I've worked with. I appreciated it my relationship with President Trump. I greatly appreciate my relationship with President Biden and the relationship, as you've seen through the AUKUS arrangement and the AUKUS partnership, which President Biden has agreed to and lent his great support to, together with Prime Minister Johnson. This is taking our relationship to a whole other level. It was an opportunity to talk to the Vice President about that day. And as you know, I was pretty busy up on the Hill this week where we have had overwhelming support it on a bipartisan basis here in the United States for AUKUS.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said you support a free and open Indo-Pacific, sir, you said you do not support coercion in the region. What is the message you want China to take from the meetings that you had today? And from the statements that you have made and I also have a question on vaccine delivery under the Quad initiative, when are they likely to start.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they're already flowing now, they're already flowing now on vaccines and they're going to continue to flow. But I do want to stress again, because President Biden and I were both making this point today, it's one thing to get the vaccines. The thing you've got to do is be able to deliver on the ground the cold chain of distribution networks. I mean, you think about the countries right across our region, think about Australia, it's a big country, there's a lot of distance, there's a lot of terrain. And think about countries like Indonesia an archipelago, hundreds and hundreds of islands and moving through the region. How you get the vaccines into the arms, the medical professionals, the health professionals that are needed, the PPE and all of those things that are necessary. Vaccination programmes are more than just the doses, it is everything that goes into it, and there was a lot of focus on that element today and on the first?

JOURNALIST: On China, sir, what what is the message you want China to take from the meetings you had today?

PRIME MINISTER: The Quad is a partner. The Quad is a partner, whether it be for China or it be any other country that is in the Indo-Pacific region. We're there to make the region stronger, more prosperous, more stable. It's a positive initiative designed to lift the wellbeing of the people of the Indo-Pacific.

JOURNALIST: We know the Quad are all about trying to counter Chinese aggression and, but for some reason you won't mention China. You won't talk about that. Can you please tell us, what were you discussing in the Quad with the other leaders about China's belligerence in the region? You said all of us have experienced it. You have talked about coercion and bullying, basically of China, of Australia and its other neighbours.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we talked about today is how we achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific. The way you do that is that countries like Australia and India and the United States and Japan will stand up for the values that we believe in. And and we resist any any suggestion or any pressure that would come on any of us to be anything different to what we are, and we want that opportunity for all countries in the Indo-Pacific. Whoever they are, they value their sovereignty, they value their independence. And that should be a shared project by all countries in the Indo-Pacific.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] South Korean [inaudible], because right now you only have four countries participating in this meeting, so would you support [inaudible] for the other allies?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you for the question. The Quad will remain a Quad. We discussed that today. Keep it simple, keep it focused and keep getting the job done. That's what the Quad is doing and that's our mantra. But the Quad will continue to reach out and connect and work with other countries in the region, particularly with Korea. President Moon was recently at the G7 plus and many of the, all of the countries of the Quad were there at the G7 plus and I know seeking to connect and work with Korea for the good of the region. We're also reaching out to the European countries as well. There's much more interest from Europe in the Indo-Pacific and a keenness to be involved in promoting stability and prosperity of the region. And so we want to reach out to all those countries. The Quad is not an exclusive idea, it's an inclusive idea. It's an initiative to engage and do positive things in the region and work with other partners who want to do the same thing.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, forty five thousand Australians are registered with DFAT as wanting to come home, they've been locked out of the country for over 18 months. The Sydney Morning Herald's now reporting that there are no commercial flights left to get those Australians home by Christmas. What are you going to do to get those Australians home?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've already been running a lot of facilitated commercial flights and if we need to do more than we will. But ...

JOURNALIST: If you need to do more? There's 45,000 Australians.

PRIME MINISTER: But once we hit 80 per cent vaccinations, once we hit 80 per cent vaccinations, then that means Australians will be able to travel in in those states that are opening up. They'll be able to get on planes and go overseas and come home. And that means Australians who are overseas who are vaccinated with the vaccines that are recognised in Australia, will be able to get on planes and come to Australia. The caps at the airports for vaccinated Australians to return will be lifted, and that means there'll be the commercial demand for those flights to be put on. I don't think Qantas will have to be encouraged to start running those flights and putting people on seats. And I'm looking forward to them getting on with that job because that's the business they're in.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] reaction to your AUKUS deal. How would you interpret their reaction to that and also just in terms, you met the World Bank and IMF managers last night, did anything in those conversations talk about China's economic influence in the Indo-Pacific?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me, sorry, the first one again? It's been a long day. A longer day for you.


PRIME MINISTER: I had the opportunity to speak to both Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Suga before we made the announcement about the AUKUS arrangement and where we were proceeding with nuclear submarines, that was on the eve, in the afternoon before I did that, as Quad partners and our special relationship with both of those countries. And it was warmly received then and it's even more warmly received now. It was a subject of the bilateral discussions I had with Prime Minister Suga this morning and Prime Minister Modi yesterday. They understand what this partnership means for the Indo-Pacific and also the way it's going to better enable ourselves, the United States and the United Kingdom, connect more with them and the work that they're doing.

Yesterday, though, I did have a very interesting meeting with both the IMF and the World Bank. In both cases, as you know, or you may know, Australia is a very forward leaning supporter to countries in our region, particularly countries like Papua New Guinea, where we've been involved in providing financial support to help them through the COVID pandemic and IMF and others have been involved. And so it's an important opportunity for us to swap notes with them and understand some of the financial pressures on countries in our region and how Australia can provide a supportive role, together with the IMF. And with David Malpass at the World Bank. I was particularly focused on talking to him about how the World Bank could be working with Quad countries to support clean energy financing in these supply chains that we're discussing and help countries in our region with their transition to this new energy economy. And the role the World Bank can play in their financing of projects that can actually accelerate. There are a lot of countries out there putting debt on other countries, that is causing a lot of, a lot of stress and a lot of strain, and it's important that countries do not get in over their head with projects that at the end of the day don't really add value. But what will add value, are projects that build up the clean energy capacity, and the energy transition of these economies.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: The two are completely complementary. And they're not exclusive at all. AUKUS and the Quad support each other. They're mutually reinforcing, and that's the whole point of the Quad and AUKUS. They're not there to replace anything, but to add and I want to stress this very clearly, that the work that we are doing as a Quad particularly recognises and respects ASEAN. ASEAN is a huge committed relationship that we each have individually and we really do see, and seek to see the world and particularly the region, through the ASEAN vision and so we look forward to continuing to work with those partners. Thank you very much.