Indian Media Online Briefing

30 Sep 2021
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Well, can I thank all of you for joining me this morning, and Rosa, thank you for helping us bring this together, but also to Alex Hawke, Minister Hawke, who’s joining us as well this morning. It's good to be here with him joining with you today to talk about what is one of Australia's most important relationships, our relationship with India.

It was my great pleasure to be able to meet with Prime Minister Modi last week when we were in Washington together for the Quad, and what was a very lengthy bilateral meeting. There's always plenty for Narendra and I to be discussing in what is a very warm friendship that we've been able to build up over several years now. And, that builds, of course, on the relationship that I think that Prime Minister Abbott first established. And I was very pleased that he was able to join Prime Minister Modi early this year in August as my Special Envoy in pursuing many of the issues.

It's been difficult, as we've tried on many occasions, the Prime Minister and I were joking about this, that on many occasions we've both tried to get together in person, particularly in New Delhi, and there's been a standing invitation, one that I've been quite keen to take up. And we've been frustrated by COVID on too many occasions and other other events. But we are looking forward to turning that around next year, when I'm very much looking forward to going to, to New Delhi in person. And to, that will be particularly important because it marks a, the significant milestone of India's 75th year of independence. And so, Australia would very much want to be there to mark such an important milestone for such a dear and close friend.

While we were together in Washington, we agreed a number of initiatives and took forward other, other matters that we've been working on for some time. The most significant, I think was our agreement to go forward with a low emissions technology partnership. Australia's approach to the new energy economy, an economy that will be transitioning to net zero over the next 30 years. We want to work with our partners. We want to ensure that the technology that enables us to achieve this, but while enabling economies to continue to grow and develop and create jobs and make things, grow things, all of this, incredibly important. And that's the vision we have about how the new energy economy works, and we want that to be inclusive. This is not supposed to be just about something for advanced economies. This is supposed to be for the whole world. And the ability to take up technology at scale that is commercial is the key to successfully transitioning to the new energy economy. And India understands that. And India is going through a remarkable transformation of its own economy, and looking to actually transition its own energy economy into the future. But, to do that in a way that is patient, which is sensible, which is practical, and so, working together on technologies, I think, is one of the, one of the key partnerships that you can have to ensure that both of our countries are able to go through this transition period. But, more than that, demonstrate that this is how you do it, that this isn't just about setting targets and doing these things. It's the how that matters.

As I stressed at the Quad meeting last week, there is a great deal of enthusiasm all around the world, I have no doubt, for trying to move our economies into this, this new energy economy, to move it into an economy that understands the impacts of carbon emissions. That's fine. But, if you don't work out how to do it, it all gets a bit academic. And, so, that's what the Prime Minister and I are very committed to achieving, a practical energy technology partnership that enables zero carbon energy technologies and even sub-zero carbon technologies and transition technologies, that actually enable us all to get there, and we actually can achieve this. This can be done. It's been done many, many times in world history. And we share a passion on the practical when it comes to transitioning our economies. And the low emissions technology partnership will particularly look at ultra low cost solar and hydrogen supply chains linking into India. And we see that as a big opportunity for both countries.

Australia has long been an energy exporter to India and that will continue, both with our traditional resource relationships, that will continue. But, in addition to that, a whole new line will open up now, we believe, in these new energy technologies and new fuel sources. Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership is further, is becoming more ambitious, and our trade ministers will be meeting, I understand next week, is our, is the current schedule. And that will see us, we have both tasked our ministers to be ambitious about where we can get to. And I think we'll be able to get a lot further in a bilateral sense with India and Australia together. And the Prime Minister and I share that objective.

And, but, this has always been a challenge. And we understand the challenges in India and the challenges in Australia in ensuring that we can get the right deal. We want the right deal for both countries. And, so we'll continue to be patient about it and take the gains where we can take them and see this as a road that we're on and we will just keep adding and adding and adding I think to the strength of that Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement that we're seeking. And this all builds off the India Economic, India Economic Strategy update that will also identify new opportunities.

Our military cooperation continues to go ahead. We engaged in joint exercises off Guam in the Bay of Bengal as part of the Exercise Malabar back in, in August of this year. I think that is a very important cooperation and shows how countries in the region are working together. We're committed to an open, a secure and resilient Indo-Pacific, and advancing our cooperation right across the Indian Ocean.

Another key matter which is, is, is very large on the global agenda is the matter of critical and emerging technologies. This will also continue to be a key part of our partnership, 5G, 6G, cybersecurity, critical minerals, space, which will deliver future security, prosperity and resilience.

The reason we were all in Washington was for the, the Quad Leaders’ Summit. And the Quad has moved into a new and I think, much more ambitious chapter. The Quad is a positive initiative. The Quad is about like-minded democracies, together with Japan and the United States, coming together to demonstrate that such democracies and economies can deal with the world's biggest challenges and make a positive difference, whether that be on our response to COVID, whether that be on ensuring the development and accessibility of new and critical technologies, whether that be in addressing the global challenge of climate change or indeed dealing constructively with the regional security issues that present within our region and cooperating together as like-minded democracies.

This is not an alliance. It's, it is a practical partnership of like-minded, scaled democracies and economies that can actually bring stability and growth and prosperity to our region. All four of us live here. All four of us have our future here. All four of us understand the challenges and the changing strategic environment in which we're living in the Indo-Pacific. And, so, we've come together at a leaders’ level. And I commend President Biden for doing that as, as Prime Minister Modi has also and former Prime Minister Suga. And we look forward to Prime Minister Kishida be coming, once installed by the Diet, for him taking up his chair within the Quad partnership.

It is a dynamic and free flowing partnership. The dialogue and the discussion we had in Washington, very similar to the one we had earlier this year in our virtual, first virtual meeting. A lot of understanding and a lot of commitment that is backing up what we're doing. We want the Quad to be a very practical partnership, not just a gathering. And the fact that we're providing and delivering significantly, 1.2 billion safe and effective vaccines, I think, is testament to that. And I particularly want to acknowledge the role that India is playing in providing and producing and making those vaccines available. Critical in that is also ensuring that our medical teams and logistics experts are helping, particularly developing countries in the region, ensure that the vaccine can get in the arm. One thing to get the doses, but you've got to be able to ensure that you're helping with the distribution system, the cold storage, the training and support of the, of the medical professionals and health workers that are administering the vaccines, the logistical support and planning. Australia is doing a great deal in this area, particularly in the Pacific, work we're doing up in Papua New Guinea especially, supporting in Indonesia, as well as over Fiji. In Fiji, they're well over 90 per cent vaccinated. And all four of the Quad partners, particularly Australia, have played a massive role in delivering that vaccine program, which has effectively saved their fortunes there in Fiji. And I know Prime Minister Bainimarama is incredibly, incredibly thankful for the support that he's received, both from Australia and from India.

The Quad is also going deeper into critical and emerging technologies, and particularly rare earths, and the supply chain for rare earths and critical minerals that runs right across to the end, to the end user. And the manufacturing capabilities that exist within India, combined with the resource strengths of Australia in this field, provide a natural partnership. And when you link that with the advanced economies in the United States and Japan, it is a natural, a very natural partnership that is seeking to create more secure, more reliable, and more competitive supply chains in the rare earths space, through to end user products. And so, we do see this as one of the core elements of the work that the Quad is doing.

On climate, the work that needed to be done on a Quad Clean Energy Hydrogen Partnership. We're looking forward to hosting a Clean Energy Summit in Australia next year, out of what we discussed in Washington last week. And that's all about ensuring that we bring together, across the Quad countries, our scientists, our industrialists, our entrepreneurs, our our professors, our manufacturers, our miners, our resources operators, our our energy economists, and putting them together and being able to map out that technology pathway over the, over the, over the decades ahead, and ensure that we are linking up our supply chains across the Quad partners, and linking in more from the Indo-Pacific region, particularly through ASEAN. We see ASEAN as as central to our Indo-Pacific vision within the Quad. And so, the Quad complements these many other partnerships, just as AUKUS indeed complements, rather than takes away, from what we're doing in those other partnerships, particularly the Quad.

So, ASEAN is central to our view when it comes to the Indo-Pacific, and I was greatly encouraged by the very free flowing and very easy and warm discussion that exists between the Quad partners. We all get it, in terms of what the challenges are in the Indo-Pacific region. We totally get it. And we know that as like-minded democracies, those who believe in freedom, that it's very important to ensure that we have a free and open Indo-Pacific for all of us not just the Quad partners but for the independence and sovereignty of all all countries, because that's what we believe is in the interests of all, right across the region that Australia and India calls home. And, with that I'm happy to move to questions.

HOST: Thank you, PM. I'd like to invite Mr Raj Natarajan from Oz Indian Media to ask the first question, please.

JOURNALIST: Good morning, Prime Minister. This is with regard to, especially with regard to, the defence military cooperation. Recently, some of the senior Chinese officials have made statements to the effect that they see Quad grouping as a means of countering the growing Chinese influence in the region. Given such statements, how do you balance the relationship between the Quad countries, especially India and China?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't think India and Australia consider it as something that needs to be balanced in relation to China. That's not the objective. Our objective working together is to ensure that we promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, and everybody who wants to participate in that, including China, is is a welcome partner in that cause. I, we we don't really want to see the region in such binary terms. That's not how the Quad is approaching the challenges that we see in the region. Of course, we want to deter any type of behaviour that threatens peace and security in the region, that threatens the development and prosperity of countries in the region, or in any way seeks to limit their sovereignty or what their access to the freedoms that exist under international law. Of course, we want that. That's what the basis of a free and open Indo-Pacific is. And, so, we seek that goal. And I would hope and expect and think that that's what I would hope China would be seeking for the Indo-Pacific. See, certainly from Australia's perspective and I, I would be so bold to assume, you know, in my own discussions that I, this would be India's view, too, is we're not seeking in any way to constrain China's growth. Never have. We’re not in the containment club when it comes to China. We have greatly benefited from their economic development, and and they have been very successful indeed, as India has, in taking millions, hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. It's quite a remarkable economic success. This is good. We welcome that. We think that's great. But, it's important that as countries develop and as they grow, that they continue to be a positive and supportive influence in the region for peace and stability, and that the respect is there for all other countries in the Indo-Pacific, for their own sovereignty.

That, so, I suppose in the way you’ve framed the question, that's not really, I think, how we see it. I think we see our role is to be positive, very positive, in how we engage in positive programs within the region that we think underpins that, that freedom, that peace, and that stability that is necessary, I think, for all the Indo-Pacific to realise their own ambitions for their own countries. Not all the countries in the region share different, the same political systems and outlooks. There are many countries with many different systems of government. That, that's no, that's of no matter to Australia. They’re matters for their own countries, about how they organise themselves. I mean, we have an outstanding relationship with Vietnam, for example. You couldn't imagine a more different system of government to Vietnam, to Australia. But, that, that is not an issue in our relationship at all. We have a very positive and constructive and supportive relationship with Vietnam. We want to see them succeed. Australian businesses, investors, are in Vietnam as we speak, doing positive things, as I'm sure they are from India, as well. So, we have an inclusive, a very inclusive, not an exclusive. We have a very multilateral view of the Indo-Pacific, not a binary one.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.

HOST: The next question is from Srihari Kommineni from ME TV Melbourne. Go ahead, Srihari.

JOURNALIST: Good morning, Prime Minister. I would like to ask what is the plan with tourism after COVID to attract more Indians to Australia? And also, with education, which is the most important thing which Australia is looking after, when so many other countries like US or Canada have opened up with so many flexible visa options to attract the students, so what are your plans with this, please?

PRIME MINISTER: Vaccinate Australia is the first step, because once we've done that, then all of these options open up. Now, I know Alex is on the call here, and he might want to add further to what I have to say. I mean, Australia has  made our Australian way through this COVID response. In taking that path, more than 30,000 Australian lives have been saved. Sadly, we've witnessed in so many other countries around the world, and it's been heartbreaking to see what has happened in India where we've seen the virus devastate. It's been a calamity of global proportions, the likes of which we have not seen in a century. And Australia has come through this with one of the lowest fatality rates in the world. When I was in the United States they asked me about this, and I said we've lost 1,200 people to COVID. That’s about half the number the United States lose in a day, and that's over the entire pandemic. And, so, Australia has taken a cautious approach during the pandemic. It has saved lives. And the truth is that our economy has actually been one of the economies that has performed best through the COVID pandemic. So our plan has been to ensure that we have a strong health system, highly resilient, practical measures to suppress the virus until we're able to vaccinate our population.

Now, our vaccination rates are going gangbusters. Our vaccination rates now on a daily basis per capita are better than what the United States and the United Kingdom achieved on their best day over the course of their vaccination programs. And indeed, our first dose vaccinations will exceed the United States within days. The same will be true within weeks when it comes to the G7 and Europe. So our vaccination program has caught up all the ground. We had some early problems and I said, I take responsibility for the problems, but I also take responsibility for fixing them and we've fixed them. And we are now hitting where we hoped to hit in terms of the vaccination of our population by about this time of the year. So having a vaccinated population, particularly when we hit 80 per cent, that means Australia will be able to open up, begin opening up to international travel again. And there are three priorities.

The first one is, of course, for Australians around the world to be able to come home if they're vaccinated and not be subject to any caps at our airports. Now, I have no doubt that New South Wales, given where they are, will be the first to move through that. That also means Australians can travel overseas if they're vaccinated and return, because they're vaccinated.

The second one is in relation to skilled migrants. Now one of the big challenges we've had with our economy over the last 18 months or so, over the pandemic, is Australia does depend on a positive skilled migration program, both from a temporary and a permanent basis. And India is our biggest, I'm pretty sure Alex, it still is prior to the pandemic, our biggest, if not the second biggest,  it sort of moved between two countries, but our biggest source of skilled migrants. And we want to see that open up again, and we want to see that happening again. And so the ability for skilled migrants who are coming through the right channels, who are vaccinated and the ability to restore that entry back into Australia is very important to our economy. And particularly in a lot of our sectors that we're seeking to develop in our manufacturing sector, our high tech sector, our clean energy sector. These are all important areas that we want to see develop. And we see migrant, skilled migration from India very important to that door. So we have a keen vested interest in opening that up as soon as we can. Now of course, there'll be different quarantine arrangements from the ones we've been going through up until now. The need to, I mean, hotel quarantine has a use by date on it and it'll move to a more I think, a more scaled version which will enable more people to come in.

And the third area is of course, students. We want to see the students return. And the arrangements that have been put in place even now by state governments working with ourselves on how those quarantine arrangements could work for vaccinated students coming into Australia, I think will see us be in a much stronger position for the next year and hopefully even before the end of this year, but certainly for next year, I would hope that we'd be able to be having those students back and it'll be one of the key changes that we will see. So a very positive program. Alex, was that anything you wanted to say on that? I don't know if we got him linked up. Anyway, hopefully, that addresses the question.

HOST: Sorry, Minister Hawke, I think we're having some sound issues. I'll go to the next question. Pawan Luthra from Indian Link. Go ahead, Pawan.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, thank you for your time. Now, my question is that while Australia and Japan are both US allies, India has traditionally been non-aligned and the only Quad member to share a long and at times disputed border with China. The Quad is an ad hoc group and at any time any member can walk away. Is that the weakness of the Quad? And what is the safeguard to ensure the long term alliance of the Quad is maintained, including change of governments in any of the Quad countries, especially Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, the Quad is not an alliance, it's not a formal alliance, it's not designed to be an alliance.

JOURNALIST: Is that a problem, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think it is. I think it's actually a strength, because what brings us together is a very practical understanding of the challenges in the region. And what brings us together is the fact that we're liberal democracies that are in the region. We live here. This is not some remote prospect that we're dealing with. And there are many others who are further away from where we are. So our discussions have an acute focus to it. As you say, you have borders, we are dealing with our challenges, Japan the same and the United States. And the strategic competition which has emerged in recent times, that can be uncomfortable. But we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with it in a positive way. And so we have a shared interest, as like-minded democracies, to do just that. I would stress that, yes, while there's no formal alliance in this partnership, it's not new. It has been in place for many years now, but just not ascended to the leadership level. The first Foreign Ministers meeting was held in the Quad just a few years ago. And so it has been building to this point over a long time. And it has now sort of realised this new dimension through the leaders-level dialogue, which I think is very exciting. What keeps us together is our shared interests and our shared values and our shared challenge. And so I think that provides a very strong basis for cooperation.

What also ties us together, that each of the countries have their own direct, bilateral, strong relationships. I think what was on display when we were in the Quad from Australia's point of view, that it was I think, very clear to all participants the deep relationship Australia has with India directly. And clearly a personal relationship between the Prime Minister and I, but that is a positive thing. But that goes, the relationship between India and Australia goes way deeper than that. And that's what actually sustains these relationships. Similarly, the relationship Australia has with Japan, incredibly deep. And likewise with the United States. And I'd say the same thing for the United States, with Japan, of course, and India. And again, Japan and India. So there is a web of very strong bilateral ties which are now pulled together in the Quad. And so the reason it'll keep being successful will be because it keeps being effective. And that keeps our agenda very focussed. We had a discussion, should the Quad be larger, should the Quad deal with more issues and our view was very different. Our view was no, we should keep it simple, keep it focussed and get on with the job. This is a core set of relationships within the region. It's not exclusive. We are and want to work more with ASEAN. We do and want to work more with Europe. The Quad is not intended to exclude. It is intended to provide a better basis for partnering with more and more. In the Indo-Pacific there is an increasing web of these partnerships and alliances and that only builds greater regional stability and security. It doesn't escalate anything. In my view it reduces, it reduces the risks by ensuring that it is providing a positive outcome or a positive effect in the region that deters behaviour that would be counter to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, quickly, as a follow up. As good friends, it's been about seven years since your very good friend Prime Minister Modi visited Australia. Is there any indication of him to come over in the next 12 months or did he kind of whisper in your ear?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, I need to go there. That was our understanding. I think there's no impediment to him wanting to come back to Australia. He loves Australia, and he loves seeing the Indian diaspora here in Australia. He's so fond of the great support he has here. And he remembers his last visit to Australia very, very fondly, which was the first time I actually met Narendra. I sat next to him at a dinner down in Melbourne at the MCG, I'm sure some of you were there that night with Prime Minister Abbott. And we spoke at length that night and have maintained the relationship since. So now, as Prime Minister, I think this has only helped that relationship more. But I hope to see him here in Australia again. It'd be wonderful to see him next year in the 75th anniversary. But at this point, our priority is for me to get to India. And he's very keen for Jenny to come too. He'd like me to bring the whole family. I don't know if I could get the kids there, but I know Jenny would be very keen to go and we hopefully will be able to do that next year.

JOURNALIST: Thank you, Prime Minister. Last quick question for Minister Hawke. Minister Hawke, tell us, when can we expect to see our family and friends again. We've spoken about students coming over, we've spoken about skilled migrants, but Indian Australians haven't seen the family for two years. Once we're at 90 per cent vaccination, would you allow international travel of family and friends from India to Australia?

THE HON. ALEX HAWKE MP, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP, MIGRANT SERVICES AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Hi Pawan, hopefully you can hear me? Well, that's good, now you're going to get an answer. Thanks, Prime Minister, also for the invitation, I might address your question. I think that's your third question Pawan, but you've asked about students as well so it's pretty important that I answer that issue. I know that's an issue for a lot of the diaspora here in Australia. As the Prime Minister said, we're working closely with states about what that will look like. From a visa perspective, very conscious of the offerings that are being made by countries like Canada and the UK. But at the moment, students are studying online. That experience is is going well. We've enabled that idea, there in those tutorials, there in those lectures, the Education Minister and myself regularly assess these things. There's still great demand for the Australian education product, and we want to make sure that that is taken up again as soon as possible. Some of the products that have been offered offshore have been varying in experience. One of the things people like about Australia is the safety, the good employment circumstances, the opportunities for their children to come and study here. So the work that you would expect to be being done is being done behind the scenes to be ready to enable international students to return. We miss them. And we're finding our businesses miss them, our education facilities are missing them, obviously. That exchange is vital as well for our country. So India, Australia. So that work is being done. I'm working very closely with the Education Minister. We have several proposals that will continue to roll out. I know it's frustrating sometimes these things take a little bit longer than people would like, but the community's been very patient. Some people offshore are very impatient.

But if you look at what the Government's done throughout the pandemic, we've been flexible, we've been responsible from a visa perspective. We've made sure that we err on the side of not penalising people for things that have happened to them because of the pandemic. So we'll continue to do that from a visa perspective. But we are working closely with the sector, with the universities, with the private education sector to make sure that we've got the right mix of incentives and visa conditions to take up the opportunities post the pandemic. And we're very conscious of that. We want to be an attractive market. Demand is there though, and we've still got incredible demand for Australia. So we need you guys to communicate with the community, and thank you for all you have been doing in that regard. In relation to travel, you know, this is the big question. As the Prime Minister said, we'll obviously be focussing on returning Australians. Once we get through that phase it is a huge priority for people to be travelling back to countries because, as you know, almost everyone here in Australia has lost sometimes two, three or four family members back in India because of the Delta variant. And we're very conscious of that. They haven't been able to have their last funeral rites, their faith traditions. It's a big psychological issue for the Australian diaspora. We're very conscious of it and we're working, as you'd expect. We've got big tenders out about how we do our digital processes so we can recognise, and that's why the Prime Minister's negotiating with Prime Minister Modi about all of these issues, how people will be able to travel safely with their passports to get in and out of countries. And we know there is huge demand and, you know, a great need for people to go and see their families in India when this has come to an end after the great tragedy that's happened in the last year.

And while I'm here, I'll just say a big thank you to all of you for being very responsible during that very difficult phase that we had, you know, in terms of the Delta outbreak in India and the travel issues. I think Australia handled that really well. The media, you handled that really well as well. I know we spoke a lot at that time, but I just thank you while I've got the opportunity and we're all here to say, the community, I think, here in Australia was helped by the fact that we were very responsible in the way we spoke about those issues because it was such a difficult time. And it still remains a difficult time for people that lost so many relatives back home. So look, we'll keep working together. We'll have a lot more announcements. They're coming. But the work that you'd expect government to do, the Prime Minister's got us all working very, very hard to be ready, so we're ready to open those borders and ready for these travel arrangements to be announced. I know you'll be hearing about it first, Pawan.

JOURNALIST: Thanks Alex.

PRIME MINISTER: Can I add to that. As I said earlier, my intention is for Australian citizens, residents who are vaccinated in a state that has gone into Phase C, ie. 80 per cent vaccination, that they will be able to, so you'll be able to travel to India and return. And I hope to see that this year. I believe that'll happen in New South Wales, for Australian residents and citizens who are vaccinated. And I'm working for that to happen this year in states where, who achieve those vaccination rates. Now, that will certainly happen I think in New South Wales. Whether it will happen in Victoria or not, that will then depend on whether those states are going to impose, what restrictions they're going to impose on people. If they're going to insist on hotel quarantine well, that is not a scalable option. And those states will then be preventing Australians who are vaccinated actually going and seeing their family overseas and returning. And so, I mean, the National Plan provides for you to be able to, if you're vaccinated go and come back and have a modified form of quarantine. And the home quarantine trials that are underway now is the scalable, safe way of achieving that. For those who, I think your question Pawan is about those who are not Australian residents and citizens and whether they can visit Australia. I don't envisage that happening this year. I think we have to work through the priorities of Australian residents and citizens, skilled migration and students. I think they're our priorities. And then next year, I think we'll be able to move to that. And I hope we can. But we've just got to take this one step at a time. The vaccination rates in India are very encouraging and they've got a very, very good vaccine, which is also great. So I think that gives us a lot of opportunities going into next year. But I can tell you there is another flight arriving from India today. There are another four flights planned in October, these are for residents. We have so far facilitated 65 flights from India specifically. That's more than a third of all the facilitated flights that the Australian Government has put in place to get Australian citizens and residents home. 26,500 Australians registered with DFAT in India have returned since March of last year. So India has been our biggest area of activity when it has come to getting Australians home. And it's been challenging, particularly with the issues we had some months ago. And I want to echo Alex's point about appreciating the community's practical understanding of what we were facing. I thought the Indian community showed a lot of wisdom, patience and judgement, and I'm very grateful for that. We moved through that phase pretty quickly and I'm looking forward to the next phase where everybody can get connected again. I don't want to be the only one who's going to New Delhi next year, in fact, I want to see people going there before the end of this year. Or Mumbai, I'm not picking favourites.

HOST: The next question is from Rajesh Sharma, Indus Aage. Go ahead, Rajesh.

JOURNALIST: Thank you Rosa. Quad grouping is a diamond of democracy in Indo-Pacific. The group first came together I think in 2007, only to be disbanded within months because of China. India, Australia, Japan and US are stepping up defence ties again. But could the strategic differences hinder the effort to counter China's growing might?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think so, and I love how you describe it as a democracy diamond. I think that's a very good way to put it. I think that's exactly what it is. And our government has spent eight years seeking to rehabilitate the Quad. And the way it fell away last time, for the reasons that you said that is with great regret and I can assure you of my government's absolute commitment to this and our partnership with India. And now a lot has changed in the last five years, let alone the last 10 in the Indo-Pacific. And as I said, I want to stress this is not about containing the economic growth of any country in the Indo-Pacific. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We just want to see that occur in a way that is inclusive and doesn't place burdens on other countries in the Indo-Pacific, which is only reasonable, only reasonable. And I think the combined partnership of the four nations of the Quad, I think really does help guarantee that and help keep the Indo-Pacific on the right path. And where all countries, including China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, we're all different. The Philippines, Korea, Japan, all of us have these aspirations. And I think the Quad just provides a steadying influence for that, for that purpose. And I'm personally extremely committed to it. I know Joe Biden is as well. And Japan is and I have no doubt about Narednra’s commitment to it. And so this is a bit of a sweet spot, if you like, in the relationship between our four countries. And we're really trying to channel it for the positive of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask one more question? India's Covishield vaccine has been accepted in the UK and majority of the EU countries. Will Australia accept Covishield as a travel vaccine, approved travel vaccine for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well ultimately, that's a decision for the Therapeutic Goods Administration, as you know, those decisions aren't made by politicians and nor should they be. And in most of the countries you mentioned, if not all that is the same process that they have followed. Australia is well advanced in that process. Covishield is a excellent vaccine. It's based, well it is the same vaccine as we're manufacturing here effectively in Australia, the AstraZeneca vaccine. So I think there, it makes a very strong case on, I'm not, I'm not a scientist and not at least in that area. I have a Bachelor of Science, but not in the approval of therapeutic medicines or vaccines. That's why we have Professor Skerritt to make those decisions. But we note those other approvals and understand their basis. And I think that therefore lends itself very well to the application that is being made to the TGA.

HOST: Thank you. The next question is from Ram Mohan, India News. Go ahead, Ram.

JOURNALIST: Good morning, Prime Minister. India presents growing opportunities for Australia's critical minerals, especially the nation, looks to India, looks to build its manufacturing sector, defence and space capabilities. How do we see that unfolding in the next few years? And what is the immediate potential? Can we see our lithium or minerals into our Indian cars or our Indian autos and Indian scooters and stuff like that using the critical mineral resources from Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, is my wholehearted answer. Yes, yes and yes. And that is exactly what the partnership that we're forging is designed to do. But we're practically, we're realistic about it. And you have to have a supply chain here that can enable that and links up. Narendra has a great phrase, which I quoted at the Quad. That supply chains today are not just about cost, they're about trust. This changes how liberal market economies, I think, need to think about supply chains, and we've learnt that during COVID, we've learnt that the least cost supply chain has fragilities. It has vulnerabilities that have previously not been priced in. And it's important that supply chains are not monopolised and Australia has an opportunity to work with, particularly India and the manufacturing capability and all of the technologies you're talking about, to actually provide that secure and trusted supply chain. And that's what we're, it's not going to happen overnight. This is a very complicated economic task that just doesn't involve the work between governments, it involves the work between businesses and industries. And Indian manufacturers aren't going to just all of a sudden pay over the odds to do what they're going to do. They're not. We get that's not a criticism. That's just that's a reality. And so we need to have a supply chain that is competitive. So it's a it's a good, positive commercial choice for Indian manufacturers to be able to access what they need in this space on rare earths and critical minerals from Australia. And the same is true in the United States and in Japan.

Now, Japan is already well down this path in the work that is done with Lynas and that is an important part of their supply chain. Now, this can equally be true with India. The processing of rare earths and critical minerals also brings with it some very difficult environmental challenges. And so there's a whole range of technology that needs to be able to be commercially implemented at scale in India to that end as well. And so while the answer is yes, it's not easy yes, it's a yes that's going to require a lot of work to realise that. And that's why I said at the Quad and others said, look, we've got three things we're focused on here. The COVID response. The climate response. And the rare earth and critical minerals, critical technology supply chains. And of course, we have a regional security discussion as well. And we discussed the situation in Afghanistan at length. And Prime Minister Modi, of course, raised the  very serious concerns that he has about security most directly on India's borders. So we want to keep that really simple. And I think if we do that Ram, then I think we'll make a lot more progress. The great risk of these groupings is they just do too much and they just end up becoming talkfests and the practical initiatives tend to fall by the wayside. So all four of us are very keen for this to be successful and we're quite jealous of its agenda and keeping it focused on the things that matter most. So the answer is yes, but it's going to take a lot of work, I think, to practically achieve it. So the manufacturer sitting in Mumbai says, yep, that works for me. I'm going with them for the next 10 years and I'm going to sign a take off agreement to that end because that's good for my business and makes me competitive. That's the goal.

I want to finish on another point, because it's important we want India to be a powerhouse in the manufacture of the new energy economy consumables. We really do, making solar panels, making wind turbines, making the components that go into electric vehicles. We want India to be a powerhouse in that in that space. We want Australia to be playing our role in the supply chains of that and being very successful as well. But make no mistake, but we know that India has the potential to really lift its strength in that area in the global market. And we think strategically that is a very good outcome for Australia.

HOST: Thanks PM. Conscious, we've gone to time, are you OK for one more question, please?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm in quarantine in Canberra. I thank you for your company.

HOST: We'll go ahead. The next question is Avneet Arora, SBS Panjabi program. Go ahead.

JOURNALIST: My question is for Minister Hawke and Prime Minister. Just about the topics of all the international travel, international students and also skilled migrants. But my question is, a lot of people were stranded offshore, especially the skilled migrants or temporary graduate visa holders. Now, they’ve run out of  visas and they feel that they do not have another pathway to come back. Can we expect some announcements, some concessions.

PRIME MINISTER: Alex, I think you should cover that one, mate.

THE HON. ALEX HAWKE MP, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP, MIGRANT SERVICES AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Thanks Avneet. Sorry I missed the question because there was a bit of static, was it the low risk country question?

JOURNALIST: My question is, can we expect some concessions for temporary visa holders who have run out of the visas and are still offshore?

THE HON. ALEX HAWKE MP, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP, MIGRANT SERVICES AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Yes Avneet, I have spoken about this a few times, so there will be announcements coming in the very near future. We're very conscious of this issue. We do thank some of those students for their patience offshore, there has been a lot of issues to think about, about this, how it would work, what we can do for people who've been offshore and been disadvantaged. And, yes, we'll make some announcements in the very near future. And, you know, I'd expect those to be, as I've said in the beginning of the pandemic, every visa announcement we've made has sought to give people leniency, to give them flexibility and to give them opportunities to take advantage of what has happened to them. So, you know, sometimes for a person offshore, they may want a refund, may suit them. For some people offshore, they might want an extension of their visa. Some people might change their plans. We're working on how to make sure we accommodate everything that's happened to people through no fault of their own. And that is coming very shortly. I know there's a lot of people waiting on this announcement, but it won't be too long. I'm working very closely with the Education Minister, as I said earlier. We've got a strong instinct to have flexibility for people to continue. And frankly, you know, the temporary graduate visa holders do a lot of good in Australia and we're very conscious of that. We just have to be careful about the quarantine arrangements. Still, that doesn't mean other people will be able to travel as a priority. We still got to get through the phases that the Prime Minister has described. But what we can do is offer some certainty for them going forward and we'll make those announcements in coming weeks. It won't be too long, I think.

PRIME MINISTER: We want to keep the links. Alex and I are very conscious of the fact that there's been a great disruptive impact to the sort of migration linkages that we've had with India. And we see those migration linkages with India as incredibly important, not just to Australian society. Alex and I, you've heard us both talk many times about the wonderful contribution that Indian nationals have become Australians have made to Australian society. That goes without saying, the shared values. It's such an easy translation from India to Australia and the entrepreneurial spirit that that brings and the family values just, it's obvious, but it is an important part of our economic plan is the resumption, the reconnection of our migration links with India, not just in students, but I mean, particularly in terms of skilled migration. This is a big and important part of our plan. And so that's why I want to assure you that we have a very high motivation to see this result. There are lots of issues and there are still complicated, COVID is incredibly complex in terms of making your way through, but we are very clear about what our goal is. Alex has done an extraordinary job just working through painstakingly all of these issues because the regulatory processes get disrupted, the connections with individuals that have been applying get disrupted, and we've got to try and connect all that up again. And so I ask for your patience on that, because I know I've got a Minister who is all over it and is just really trying to connect that up again as best as effectively as we can. I know that will be the ambition of the Australian Indian community as well.

HOST: Thanks, PM, and thanks Minister Hawke for your time this morning. PM, would you like to make any closing remarks before you sign off?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, sure, one topic that didn't come out, which I just want to reassure everybody about, and it applies equally to Japan as it does to India. But there was a very warm embrace of the AUKUS announcement by our Quad partners. Narendra and Yoshi totally understood and supported what we were seeking to achieve there. And they totally were positive about how it complemented the Quad. It wasn't in place, because the AUKUS partnership is a security and defence partnership. We have direct bilateral partnerships with the United States, the United Kingdom and the United States. We are formal allies. So what was great in the Quad when I spoke to both prime ministers before the announcement, the day before, they were pretty much there at hello. They totally understood it, understand its strategic significance, the direction, how it was going to help and add to what we're all doing. And I thought that was very positive. I think that just showed the instinctive nature of that Quad partnership. We sort of all know where we're each going and how we're operating. And so we're quite synchronised. And I think one of the goals that India and Australia have and Japan have is to continue to encourage the United States and indeed Europe for greater economic engagement within the Indo-Pacific, and I would say particularly not only with ourselves and India, Japan, Korea, but I would say also with ASEAN and particularly in places like Indonesia. Indonesia's success will be all of our success, I believe. And so encouraging investment into that country as well from all of our countries, I think will have a very positive impact on the region. Other than that, I'm just grateful for the opportunity to spend time with you today. I hope I've been able to address many of your questions. I am very much looking forward to a visit to India together with Prime Minister Modi next year. And I think that will be another significant milestone in our partnership, particularly in India's seventy fifth anniversary year. But I am hoping to welcome him to Australia. I promised him after I won the last election, I was up in Cloncurry of all places, and he rang to congratulate me. And on that night I promised I'd cook him a great meal if I could ever get him to Australia. I've been able to learn much more now about his preferences, so entree will be ScoMosas as I jokingly call them, and that will be followed by a Kirribilli Dahl, I think. And dessert, I'm open to suggestions.

HOST: Thank you very much, Prime Minister.