Joint Press Conference - Kirribilli House

09 Oct 2019
Kirribilli House, NSW
Prime Minister, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Dutch and Australian trade relationship; MH 17; Waste and recycling; US withdrawal from Syria; West Papua; EU free trade negotiations; Dutch dual citizens in the UK.

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON: Well good afternoon everyone. It's a great pleasure and a privilege to welcome Prime Minister Rutte here today in my hometown of Sydney but also of course here on his visit to Australia. And can I begin by congratulating Mark on his investiture today as a companion of the Order of Australia. This is a great honour that we've been very pleased to impart on the Prime Minister and it's been done for a very important reason and that has been his exemplary leadership when it has come to responding to the dreadful downing of MH 17 where of course we lost 38 Australians, and Prime Minister your advocacy on behalf of them, their families and of course the many Dutch who were involved in that terrible incident has been one of tremendous international leadership but one also of a great friend of Australia. Your response to Australia was instinctive and the friendship has been very true and we want to thank you very much for the leadership you've played on that issue in particular. And of course we continue to be a solid and faithful partner to you in not only representing and protecting the interests of the Australians and Australian families who are of course are affected, but all of those who were subject to that horrific downing of the MH 17 just over five years ago. And of course we will continue to cooperate and stand by the Netherlands in their proceedings in their own courts but also on the broader international efforts to ensure that those who are responsible for this take that responsibility and are called out. And we've made it crystal clear about what we think of the involvement of Russia in that particular incident. Can I also say that we've enjoyed a very fruitful discussion today across many issues, our relationship both personally and as two countries, we tend to finish each other's sentences which is always the mark I think of good friends. And today we've had important discussions on issues particularly in relation to the circular economy and the waste management and recycling agenda which the Netherlands have shown such strong leadership. When I was recently in New York in Brooklyn I was there at an Australian recycling plant which was using Dutch advanced technology to run the biggest recycling plant certainly in the United States and arguably anywhere in the world. So it was good to see both the Australia and the Dutch flags flying in that facility. And we've agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding which will see us share technology, share research, share the science, but most importantly share our understanding and provide a platform for commercial cooperation between Australian and Dutch firms to be able to carry forward a commercially-led way to ensure we have a real circular economy around the world, but particularly here in Australia and in the Netherlands. We've also had a very good discussion about ensuring closer cooperation on the frontier technologies and working together and at the invitation for the Netherlands to join in the work we're doing on critical metals and rare earths. This was a key focus of the discussions I had recently in Washington with the President and his administration. And we now have a process in place to see the development of a strong and reliable supply chain which begins with the mining of critical minerals and rare earths, taking them through to their end products which are typically produced in countries like the Netherlands but also in Japan, and India, and the United States and Sweden and many other countries, and so we welcome the Prime Minister's interest in that project. We're also very pleased to work with them closely on the adaptive technologies for dealing with the impacts of climate change particularly here in our own part of the world, as many of you will know we've just invested $500 million over the next five years to support our Pacific Island family in the sort of works which the Dutch have known for a very long period of time and are world leaders in those technologies and in those engineering solutions and they're working towards a major event next year and where we certainly will be involved in working with them closely on those issues. And we also thank the Prime Minister and the people of the Netherlands for their strong support of Australia as we work together to try and conclude a trade agreement with the European Union. The Netherlands have been a tremendous advocate for free trade based on fair rules and global rules which can ensure that we have an open trading environment where both countries which understand that we don't get rich selling stuff to ourselves. We know that we have to reach out and we have a similar external outlook and we know that that requires the global institutions and the rules for trade around the world, needs to be modernised in today's global economy and we share that commitment and we thank them. So we are like minded in so many respects. But importantly we're good friends, and we share the same values and the same I think outlook on the rest of the world and how the world can be made safer, more peaceful, and more prosperous through the open engagement of liberal minded countries like ourselves, and the positive contribution we can make as middle power economies and nations. So thank you very much Prime Minister, Mark it's wonderful to have you here on this beautiful Sydney day. And congratulations again on joining that great club of companions of the Order of Australia.

PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: Well, dear colleague, dear Scott thank you so much. This whole investiture was very humbling. I am really excited, thank you so much, and the Governor General for that honour. And I will wear this with pride. And yes our relationship has been based of course on a long, shared history. But the downing of Flight MH 17 in 2014 has created an extra layer, and extra sense of the bond that is between us. And I'm really happy, I want to thank you for all the leadership your country has taken, you are taking in making sure that on MH 17 we stick together, that we try to get to the bottom of it, and that we get justice for the next of kin. And that's we think of the bereaved ones, and we do that collectively. We work on this very hard and I know it's very close to your heart. It is very close to the heart of everyone in Australia and in the Netherlands and together with the other partners in the joint investigation team, we are working very hard at getting to the core of this issue. This strategy has always created this bond between us and it will stay there. This was also a topic of discussion today, clearly, but not the only topic. We are both countries, mid-size economies. We are both medium sized powers. And that means that we have to work together bilaterally. We also have to look at the organizations of which we are a part and how to make them more effective. And then we compare notes. And this is the way how we can show that our responsibility as members of the international community, in the interest of our own citizens, because those are the ones who have elected us. And yes our economic ties are very strong too and becoming stronger all the time. And the Australian economy, I want to tell the Dutch voters and the Dutch listeners, is now growing for the 27th year in a row. And this country is very much on the radar of Dutch businesses in fact, around 90 Dutch companies are currently active here in Australia and the Netherlands is now the fourth biggest investor in Australia. And we are the second most important trading partner for Australia in the European Union. Between 2016 and 2018 Dutch exports to Australia rose from 4.2 billion Euros to an impressive 5.4 billion Euros and also the other way around, is an extensive trading relationship between Australia and the Netherlands. So also in economic terms our relationship is progressing very well indeed, for example when it comes to the circular economy. And I'm very happy because there is a business opportunity there. As you mentioned Scott, there is a business opportunity. So we agreed to work together on practical and business to find ways to come to a circular economy. We are working on that in the Netherlands, you are working on that here. And I'm absolutely convinced that collectively we can also build a business proposition for other parts of the world. And you mentioned also the trade agreement with the European Union. We want that to be settled. We want that trade agreement very much, and we will look forward to an ambitious, and sustainable, and inclusive, trade agreement. One that will benefit all the parties. And you can count on our support to do whatever we can to make it to make it happen on the European side. In short there are no real issues between us. But it means that we can build on the base which is there and create new opportunities. And together with Prime Minister Morrison, I will continue to focus on making those ties even stronger. So Scott again, thank you for your hospitality and warm friendship. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON: Thank you. Well thank you very much Prime Minister now we've got a number of questions from journalists and you've agreed your order. So I'll start with Rani from the ABC.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, as someone who appears to have a good relationship with Donald Trump, what counsel if any have you or will you give him about his decision to withdraw troops from Syria?

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON: Well you're right. Australia does have a very good relationship with the United States and indeed so does the Netherlands. That's expressed through the Netherlands relationship through NATO and of course Australia through ANZUS and both NATO and ANZUS have been important engagements of the United States in both in the theatre where Mark is involved, and here in the Indo-Pacific where we are, and the US presence has provided I think a very important balance and a guarantor, if you like, of the peace and stability of which both our nation and the nations of our regions have been able to flourish. And so as part of that deep relationship we obviously are in regular and constant liaison with our American friends and partners. And like others, we've always been ones to urge restraint. And one of the things that I was very pleased about when I was with the President, and we were discussing another pressing issue at the time, and that that was in relation to Iran, the President made it very clear that his natural instinct actually is restraint. This is his natural disposition that's something that I think is a bit misunderstood. And that's certainly been the impression that he's been able to inform upon me in terms of how he might approach these issues. So of course we would, with many other countries, continue to urge restraint of all of those who are involved and we'll stay in close contact. So let's move to Ian.

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister Rutte, no one could doubt that you have made great efforts your government to try to bring the MH 17 case before the courts and that’s going to happen, and that’s admirable, but through no fault of the Dutch government, is it not the case that as we speak now, you’re not going to have any actual charged person in those courts, they have not been brought into Dutch custody, what guarantee can you provide, if any, that you will ultimately be able to jail people if they are found guilty? How can you bring them before the courts?

PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: This has always been a step by step process. Maintaining the pressure, we know from what happens in a tragic disaster in Lockerbie, that it can take many years. To bring those who are responsible to justice. We are absolutely adamant Australia and Netherlands together with our partners in the joint investigation team to get that done. The public prosecutors have now clearly aimed the people they have a particularly interest in. We have prepared everything to get a court case going, the court case going next year. We will inform also the next of kin in the various countries over the coming months, of the next steps. And you're right, there is no guarantee at this moment that people can get jailed if that is the conclusion of the court case. But I can guarantee you one thing, that we will not rest before that court case is closed in a way in which we all feel and sense that justice has been done. And yes that could take more years than we’d like it to take. We would like it to be done quicker, and faster. But to pressure the step by step process I'm absolutely convinced will one day leads to a satisfactory outcome.

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON: I agree with the Prime Minister. We will stand shoulder to shoulder. And we will continue to pursue justice on this matter for as long as it takes. And we won't rest. That is the very least we owe to those who were murdered on that flight, and all of their families who have survived them. And so today we have reaffirmed our commitment to that task and I got to tell you, the second you start walking away is the second that those who were involved in this believe that they can get away with these sorts of things. Matt.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any reports on the situation in West Papua, and did you bring it up with Mr Widodo when you were speaking with him a few days ago?

PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: Yes. As you know I visited Indonesia and has extensive talks with President Joko Widodo, it was on Monday, so this week, a couple of days ago and we discussed a lot of issues. Also regional issues and I raised [inaudible] on the issue of Papua and West Papua. That's we hope that through a dialogue things can be resolved, at the same time we do respect and fully accept the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Indonesia. But then again we also hope that these issues can be solved with dialogue.


JOURNALIST: I have a question on Syria, does the decision by the US and President Trump to withdraw troops from the north-eastern part of the country represent a betrayal to your mind, of the Kurdish forces there and do you have any concerns about whether or not the US is still a trustworthy ally for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON: I have certainly no doubts about our alliance and friendship with the United States, it almost a year ago that President Trump first started to outline his views on the ongoing role of the United States in Syria and for that matter in Afghanistan and Iraq and so that has been a point that he's been making for some time and I think it would be wrong to not draw an element of consistency between those statements almost a year ago and the actions the United States have been taking since including most recently, but as is the nature of alliances and friendships that you work through these issues together and you understand them together and you speak frankly to one another and you do that in the spirit of that relationship. Franz?

JOURNALIST: This question is on the two passports, for the Dutch and England who have two passports and this topic was raised recently in New Zealand talking to the Dutch residents over there, and this is because we [inaudible] the Parliament has decided to have temporary passports for the Dutch people in the UK, will this be reconsidered for the Dutch people wherever in the world?

PRIME MINISTER RUTTE: Well what Parliament did is, there was an announcement of an initiative, report on the situation of citizens in the United Kingdom who are also citizens of the Netherlands. And that whole parliamentary process is still running and also the Dutch government has to take a view on that parliamentary process, on that initiative coming out of Parliament so we first have to await the outcome and if a law like that would be passed and also signed by the government if that would all take place, at that stage of course we have to assess that law against the whole, setting the context of the law. The Government will assess it at that moment.

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON: Thank you very much everyone, appreciate your attendance.