Press Conference with the Attorney General, and the Minister for Social Services

Transcript
13 Jun 2018
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Social Services
Response to Royal Commission; children’s safety; Solomon Islands; North Korea
E&OE
Health and Social Services

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed shocking abuse of children. It revealed that for too long, the reporting of this abuse was met with indifference and denial by the very adults and institutions who were supposed to protect them.

Now today, with the Attorney General and the Minister for Social Services, we pay tribute, as we all should, to the survivors and their families for their bravery, their honesty, their strength in coming forward, many speaking of this abuse for the first time. For many of you, the Royal Commission was the first chance you had to be heard, to have your pain acknowledged and, most importantly, to be believed.

The crimes committed against you were validated in your evidence. You testified to them. You were heard and you were believed and the wrongdoers have been brought to account.

Now, your courage has helped expose the scale of institutional child sexual abuse in our country. The survivors that I've met and the personal stories that have been told to me, have given me but a small insight into the betrayal that you experienced at the hands of the people and institutions who were supposed to protect and care for you.

I will deliver a national apology to the survivors, victims and families of institutional child sexual abuse on the 22nd of October here in Canberra. The apology will coincide with National Children's Week, a date chosen to bring together our acknowledgement of the past and our commitment to the future wellbeing and safety of children in Australia.

I look forward to meeting with the National Apology Reference Group, chaired by the Honourable Cheryl Edwardes, to ensure the apology meets the expectations of survivors.

I'd like to, once again, thank the Commissioners and staff of the Royal Commission for supporting the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to tell their stories. It has not been easy work. It's been harrowing work and the compassion and the respect shown by the Royal Commissioners and their staff for this process has set us on a pathway to real change.

Now that we've uncovered the shocking truth, we must do everything in our power to honour the bravery of the thousands of people who came forward. We've already acted on many of the recommendations of the Commission, but today we accept or accept in principle 104 of the remaining 122 recommendations directed wholly or in part to the Australian Government. The additional 18 recommendations have been noted as they require further consideration. We've not rejected any of the Royal Commission's recommendations.

Now, the Royal Commission has made very clear that we all have a role to play to keep our children safe: governments, schools, sporting clubs, churches, charitable institutions and of course all of us. We all have a vested interest in the safety of other people's children, not just our own. We have to take an interest in our future – those children are our future. We owe it to them to ensure that they are protected.

Now, our expectation is that other governments and institutions will respond to each of the Commission's recommendations relating to them, indicating what action they'll take in response. We have to do everything possible to make sure children are safe in institutions. We must ensure those who suffered abuse have access to redress.

Now, redress is not compensation. However, it does acknowledge the hurt and harm survivors suffered, and it will ensure institutions take responsibility for the abuse that occurred on their watch by the people that worked for them. I've spoken just yesterday with the Premier of Western Australia. I'm pleased to say that he has given a firm commitment to me that Western Australia will join the national scheme and that he will sign up in the next few weeks. This means come the 1st of July, we will have a truly national redress scheme with more than 90% of survivors estimated to be covered.

I want to thank Christian Porter, the Attorney-General, who is the former Minister for Social Services, and Dan Tehan, currently the Minister for Social Services, for their combined efforts in ensuring the Government has delivered a National Redress Scheme.

We have to take practical measures and embed long-term social and cultural change to keep children safe in the future. Today, I can announce that we will accept the recommendations and create a National Office for Child Safety commencing the 1st of July. The office will be set up in the Department of Social Services and will work with states and territories to progress the national framework for child safety and a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse.

Now, while today I'm tabling the Australian Government's response to the Royal Commission's recommendations, there is much work already underway to keep children safe. We have created a ministerial portfolio with a responsibility for children's policy issues and appointed the Honourable David Gillespie MP as Assistant Minister for Children and Families. My Government is working with state and territory governments, the National Children's Commissioner and advocacy and service groups to develop National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which are based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission. We are developing a Commonwealth Child Safe Framework that will apply across all agencies. We've allocated funding for a national working with children checks database in the Home Affairs portfolio. We've allocated funding to the Safe Sport Australia initiative to generate awareness of positive child safe practices in grassroots sports across the nation, and we're implementing the Defence Youth Safety framework to ensure a consistent and appropriate approach to managing the safety of defence youth programs and ADF cadets and members.

Now, while we’ve started to take the important first steps forward to create and deliver meaningful and enduring change, we must as a country commit to long-term reform. That's why I've established a taskforce in the Attorney-General’s Department to coordinate action on the recommendations and track the progress made by all Australian governments. The taskforce will remain in place until 2020 and will report annually in December until 2022 with a commitment to conduct a 10-year review in 2027.

Our response is wide-ranging and extensive. We must keep our children safe.

The survivors have told their stories, many of them for the first time. They have been heard and they have been believed – many of them for the first and only time. We must honour them, honour their testimony. Ensure that out of their suffering, out of that abuse, comes lasting reform so what they suffered, the wrongs that were inflicted on them, can never happen again.

Now, I will ask the Attorney-General and the Minister to add to my remarks.

 

THE HON. CHRISTIAN PORTER MP, ATTORNEY-GENERAL:

Thank you, Prime Minister. Just very briefly, the Royal Commission report is obviously a massive document, it is thoroughly comprehensive. There were 409 recommendations and 84 of those related to redress, which is what Dan Tehan will speak on in a moment.

Of the 325 remaining recommendations, 122 of those were directed wholly or partly to the Commonwealth. As the Prime Minister has noted, we have accepted, either in full or in substantial part, 104 of those recommendation. The 18 that remain are certainly not, as the Prime Minister noted, rejected. They are a group of recommendations where the lines of responsibility cross over between federal, state and often local government. They are a group that I would simply describe as requiring more work on the part of all three levels of government, so that we can determine responsibility and the way in which the response will be formulated.

But there was no point in delaying this day in terms of the substantive response to the recommendations as the work on those 18 are occurring.

My job has been coordinating the Commonwealth response. As I note, that response crosses over between multiple Commonwealth portfolios, departments and agencies and has also required the highest levels of coordination and cooperation with state and local government. I would just note two things: the first is that it's difficult to recall an inquiry of comparable complexity, with as many recommendations crossing over departments and layers of government where, in a comparative sense, the response from all layers of government, has been so comprehensive in such a comparatively compressed timeframe. It always should and must be the case, that that response should be as comprehensive and as swift as possible. But, nevertheless, what has been achieved to date and what is being achieved today by these recommendations being accepted, is an enormous achievement on all levels of government and across all departments.

I would just also close by saying that the apology, which the Prime Minister has noted will be given on 22 October 2018, is an apology to survivors but it is also obviously their apology. At the moment there is a very important consultation process going on and anyone who is interested in partaking and being a part of that consultation process can go to www.nationalapologyconsultation.gov.au. Consultations are occurring online and face to face around Australia. They have been doing so very successfully, but the more who participate in the process the more the apology is owned by the people to whom it is given.

 

THE HON. DAN TEHAN MP, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

Thanks PM. As the PM has said, we have confirmation that Western Australia will join the National Redress Scheme. So we now have a truly national redress scheme. There will be more non-government institutions, I'm sure, that will seek to join the scheme but so far we estimate coverage of about 93% of survivors. The legislation is through the House of Representatives. It will go before the Senate in the coming fortnight and our hope is, Senate passage willing, that we will have the National Redress Scheme up and running as of 1 July.

The other responsibility in my portfolio is the establishment of a National Office for Child Safety, which we will also have up and running by 1 July. This office will work with the states and territories to develop a national framework for child safety research and a national strategy to prevent child sex abuse. It will consult with stakeholders about the national prevalence study which will look into incidents of child sex abuse and then what needs to be done to continually monitor that and ensure that by implementing the recommendations, we are seeing a decrease and hopefully in the end, the elimination of child sex abuse in this nation.

It will also work with the National Children's Commissioner on the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, and also work with state and territories and non-government institutions on how the updates on the recommendations of the Royal Commission's recommendations – how that's going and what extra work needs to be done by non-government institutions and state and territories to make sure those recommendations are fully implemented.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister one of the recommendations was to have a criminal offence for failure to protect children and also a criminal offence for failure to report people who may be a threat to children. Part of that also includes, I guess, extending that to Catholic confessional. What's the Commonwealth's position on those recommendations? Do you accept those changes should be made?

PRIME MINISTER:  

Well, we are committed to putting the safety of children first. For the legal matters, I'll defer to the first law officer of the Crown.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:

With respect to the relationship to the confessional, the Commonwealth's noted those recommendations and they occur at about I think, 7.3 and 7.4. The reason the Commonwealth has noted those, is that those recommendations are directed essentially at the states and territories. I think it was noted in your question. That is because the states and territories are almost wholly responsible for mandatory reporting laws and regimes. At the moment it's the case that each state and territory has a slightly different application and form of their mandatory reporting, with slightly different ways in which those laws apply to priests and exempt or don't exempt the confessional.

The process will be that the states have agreed – and this occurred at the Council of Attorneys-General last week – to harmonise their laws. So in effect, to accept the recommendation of the Royal Commission. That process will take a little time. At the end of that process, a question does arise for the Commonwealth, which is how the harmonised model provisions that the states will work towards might interact with section 127 of the Uniform Evidence Act.

That provision, which is often overlooked, provides a protection to the confessional. But ever since that provision has existed, that protection has never been absolute. It's always been very heavily qualified by the fact that confessions made for a criminal purpose have never been the subject to protection or a privilege.

Now, when the states reach a modified, uniform position with respect to mandatory reporting, it’s likely that there will need to be some form of modification to that exemption, to the privilege, so that there's consistency with the states' position. So we assist the states, work towards an outcome and then consider the Uniform Evidence Act.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, can I ask about the child sexual abuse that's still happening in the Northern Territory in particular. What from what you announce today is going to stop that? Will this new child safety office and strategy do anything about that? Is the Territory Government failing these kids? Given the Commonwealth can override the Territory, what's your view on how the Territory Government is tackling the problem?

PRIME MINISTER:

Any abuse of children, in any context, in a family or in an institution, is unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.

You've referred to cases in the Northern Territory, we are certainly supporting the investigation of those. It is a law enforcement issue, a children's protection issue, as you know, it is within the jurisdiction of the Northern Territory Government. Perhaps I’ll ask Dan or indeed Christian, if they want to add to that, but…

JOURNALIST:

Are you satisfied that they are doing enough in the Territory?

PRIME MINISTER:

I've discussed this with the Chief Minister. Clearly, they have not done enough to stop what has already occurred. But it is a very complex issue, as you know and we expect children to be protected everywhere. But, David, I think the critical thing is the support, particularly in local communities that provides the awareness and the solidarity that I spoke about at the outset.

See, we all have – and ‘we’ is everyone in Australia, in every context, in big cities or in communities, remote communities – we all have a vested interest in protecting the safety of each other’s children. They’re our future and we owe it to them. So we owe it to them to speak out. We owe it to them not to turn a blind eye to abuse that is going on. We certainly owe it to them to ensure that their safety is put first.

Dan, do you want to add to this?

 

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

Just briefly, PM. Obviously, the national prevalence study will shine a light on where child sex abuse is occurring right across the country. So what it will do is make sure that it is incredibly transparent where the problems and the issues are and where they need to be addressed.

We will work with every state and territory to make sure that that is consistent so that we have a uniform approach to highlighting where the problems are occurring and where they need to be addressed. Then, obviously, the office will then want to work with those state and territory governments to ensure that best practice across the nation is occurring in those jurisdictions.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, how will the payments be calculated and what will the standard of proof be?

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

Sorry, this is for the National Redress Scheme?

JOURNALIST:

Yes.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

So the maximum payment is $150,000. The Royal Commission recommended that it should be $200,000 but what all states and territories and the Federal Government agreed was that that level should be $150,000, but that there would be a higher average payment and the higher average payment would be $11,000 higher. So $76,000 will be the average payment, the Royal Commission's recommendation was around $65,000.

In terms of burden of proof, I might ask the Attorney-General to talk about the burden of proof.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:

So, the redress scheme is meant to be non-litigious, with low evidentiary standards. So the standard is effectively reasonable grounds to consider the event which is subject to an application. So it's a relatively low threshold and the scrutiny that will be cast over these applications will be largely on the papers, so that we can make sure that they're dealt with in a way that doesn't re-traumatise survivors.

JOURNALIST:

You mean a statutory declaration, something like that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:

Yeah, there will be a paper-based form of application and those will start very soon.

JOURNALIST:

So in that, can you tell us then who is then eligible? Is it people who have been abused themselves? Or can a classroom in which abuse has occurred, can all the members of that classroom now seek compensation?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:

Well, it's essentially the survivor. So the individual person who has been the subject of sexual abuse in an institutional setting.

I think maybe the answer to your question is that the institutional settings can be very, very broad in their range, which is why the coverage now is high, because we've had opt-in from diverse groups: Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Scouts and a range of others. So that 93% coverage covers everything from immigration and defence cadet settings right through to kinship arrangements and care arrangements.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, could I ask, on another subject…

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure, but just before we get onto that, can we exhaust the questions on the Royal Commission response?

JOURNALIST:

We haven't seen the list of what you have and haven't agreed to. The 18 that you say are a bit difficult right now and you're going to keep working on. Can you give us a sense of what they are?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:

Well, I can actually give you, after this, if you like, a list of the 18 that have been unpacked.

To describe them in general terms, they are recommendations that go to securing an outcome in a field of importance, but there are responsibilities which cross over local, state and federal government lines. Quite often, they're about funding and so, as you'll appreciate, it's often the case that a degree of negotiation needs to occur with each layer of government to establish what responsibility and what share of funding will flow from each level of government. In almost all cases, those negotiations are well underway.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, now have we exhausted this topic, or one more on this?

JOURNALIST:

Minister Tehan, you'd probably be aware that there have been concerns in regional and rural areas that the redress scheme will be necessarily city-centric and that the services won't get out to a large number of people outside of metropolitan areas who have been subjected to abuse. What guarantees can you give that the services will be provided to all those people equally?

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

So, we've worked very closely with all the state and territory governments to ensure that the counselling services will be provided where they have committed to providing those services.

In some instances, where the state or territory hasn't committed to offering the counselling services themselves, it will be up to the individual themselves as to the type and form that that counselling will take place. I say this and I don't say it flippantly at all; in some instances they will want to take the money and they might think the best type of counselling for them is to take a vacation. They will have the right to do it. So they will have the individual choice to decide what is the best form of counselling for them.

So we've made it as flexible as we can for the individuals. Where the states and territories have committed to doing the counselling themselves, we've had close consultations with them to make sure that the counselling services will be provided right across their jurisdictions.

JOURNALIST:

PM, your Attorney laid out quite a long pathway to what might happen to the Catholic Church and the seal of the confessional. You're a Catholic, the seal of the confessional is absolute, what do you say to the Catholic Church about where we might be headed with this?

PRIME MINISTER:

The safety of children should always be put first. The details of the harmonisation of evidence laws I'll leave to the Attorney-General and his counterparts, but children's safety should always be put first.

We know, thanks to the Royal Commissioners’ work, that in far, far too many cases, it wasn't.

ATTORNEY GENERAL:

Prime Minister, if I could just add to that. The seal of the confessional has been absolute in doctrinal terms. It has never been absolute in legal terms in Australia.

There is a very substantial exemption to the privilege or protection that sits around the confessional. What we will be talking about at the end of the day is a modification to the existing exemption.

I might add that this seems to fascinate because of all its technical and intercepting legal and theological principles. That provision, section 127 of the Evidence Act, which has been in place since 1995, my Department tells me they cannot find a case in which it's been activated and used.

JOURNALIST:

But you might find a circumstance though under this, where a Catholic priest – because the seal of the confessional for them would be absolute – refuses to give evidence?

ATTORNEY GENERAL:

Look, of course that situation could arise. But as my Department advises me, that section has never actually been the subject of judicial decision-making in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

But it might?

ATTORNEY GENERAL:

Of course.

JOURNALISTS:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, just steady on. Now, have we completed questions on the Royal Commission?

JOURNALIST:

No.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, very good. We'll have one more and then your colleague, before his arm comes out of its socket.

JOURNALIST:

Can I take you back to David's question?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep.

JOURNALIST:

About the protection of children in the present and in the future. There's a lot of controversy at the moment about taking children away from their families, Indigenous people have protested there's too much of that. Others say it's absolutely necessary and we've seen that in various cases.

What is your view? What is your view on that balance? Do you think the balance is correct at the moment? Or do you think it leans too much one way or the other?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'll ask Christian to respond to that but I'll repeat what I said at the outset: the safety of children has to be paramount. It's difficult to generalise about this, because every case is different.

JOURNALIST:

But they are unsafe at the moment, right?

PRIME MINISTER:

Some children are in unsafe conditions, of course they are. We understand that. But the safety of children must always be put at the forefront. That is the duty of parents. It is the duty of family and I have to say again, it's the duty of neighbours. If you see a child being abused, or you believe a child is being abused, don't turn a blind eye.

You know, turning a blind eye and walking away from wrongdoing like that – that's no good. You've got to, all of us, if we see children being mistreated or abused, speak up, speak out. That's critical.

JOURNALIST:

But it's been reported and nothing done, it would appear.

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, Michelle, I'm happy to pass over to Christian, but you're asking me to comment on the generality.

The principle is one that I think we all agree with: it’s that safety of children must be paramount full stop. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that not just our own children, but that other people's children – keep an eye out, be aware – that's why reporting is so important, that's one of the recommendations that's come out of this.

ATTORNEY GENERAL:

Michelle, you and David have asked, I guess, the central question. Each of the states has a Department of Child Protection or equivalent body and essentially the responses that you're talking about, are responses undertaken by the states.

There are some issues on which the Commonwealth are now dealing with the states. In every state there is an essential measure which looks something like this, which is the number of children known to child protection to whom harm comes. That is a measure that each state will have a variant of. Your question goes to this point: from time to time and place to place, is that measure far too high? The answer is, it absolutely is.

That measure is different and the performance of child protection authorities and departments is better and worse in different times in a single state and from state to state.

I would say that about a quarter to a third of all the recommendations that have come out of the Royal Commission go either directly or substantially to ways in which that child protection system across the states and territories can be radically improved.

So that is the major and central project, if you like, for these recommendations and this report. We play a leadership role and a coordinating role with the states and territories and…

JOURNALIST:

And a monitoring role.

ATTORNEY GENERAL:

Absolutely a monitoring role. Part of this, as Dan noted, is actually measuring in a consistent way, around that central concept of the number of children to whom harm comes, who are known to child protection authorities, is a major and complicated project. But assessing those measures and having that data, which is part of what these recommendations go towards, is utterly crucial to improving the performance of child protection across Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

We'll move on.

JOURNALIST:

Thanks Prime Minister. Given the great lengths that Australia went to, to stop Huawei building the undersea cable between the Solomon Islands and the Australian mainland, will Huawei or its agents, be put on the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme? So that's perhaps a question to you both and in your own words Prime Minister, could you tell us what concerns that Australia did have when it came to Huawei building that undersea cable?

PRIME MINISTER

Well, you're talking about the undersea cable that we're building to the Solomon Islands and PNG?

JOURNALIST:

The one that Huawei was originally contracted to do.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, there have been a number of cable projects that have been contemplated with respect to the Solomon Islands over the years, you've referred to one of them. What we are doing, is providing very practical and substantial support and aid as part of our foreign aid program to provide that telecommunications infrastructure, which will ensure that Solomon Islands has access to 21st Century telecommunications, which is vital - as I was discussing with the Prime Minister today - it's going to be vital for education, for commerce, for economic development. In every aspect of their society, just as it is in ours.

JOURNALIST:

My question was the concerns that you had over Huawei?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, our concern is ensuring that Australian aid provides the support for economic and social development in the Pacific. That's why we're building this cable.

JOURNALIST:

And will they put on the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, Huawei or its agents?

ATTORNEY GENERAL:

Andrew, obviously we submitted some amendments to the Foreign Influence Register Bill to the parliamentary joint committee. Central to those amendments, was a narrowing of the definition of foreign principal. The definition now includes an entity that we've described as a foreign government-related entity. There’s quite a number of features that you would use to determine whether or not any enterprise or company or body is a foreign government-related entity.

The company that you've listed, it’s a question that they would necessarily ask themselves. But most importantly, anyone who was employed or acting under their instructions in Australia and engaged in political communication, or lobbying or parliamentary lobbying, would need to make that assessment themselves. So ultimately, that is a question that would be asked by the company itself and the people working for that company.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just add something to this. The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, as its name implies, is about transparency. So it's simply ensuring that people who are engaged in the activities that the Attorney referred to, on behalf of a foreign government or foreign political party or a corporation controlled by one or the other of those, do so transparently.

So it’s a dose of sunlight, which I would think everyone would welcome.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

No, again, you can form your own assessments. But the assessments, as Christian said, as to whether somebody is covered by this legislation, will have to be made by the people concerned. Hang on, the gentleman in the front and then we'll go to you, alright?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister on the summit yesterday, have you reached out to the Trump Administration? Will you reach out to them? What role do you see Australia playing in the denuclearisation of North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER:

We've had a briefing this morning on the summit. Of course the President himself gave an extensive briefing to everybody following the summit. We certainly will make available specialists to engage in the verification process of the denuclearisation, the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation, which is the objective of the summit and of the communique that was agreed to between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

JOURNALIST:

Are you worried about the pull out of American troops from North Korea and perhaps from Japan as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there aren't any American troops in North Korea.

JOURNALIST:

South Korea.

PRIME MINISTER:

Right, well President Trump has indicated that wasn't on the table or discussed. But let me just, perhaps I should just give an overall reaction.

We welcome the outcome of the summit in Singapore. We welcome it cautiously, naturally. There have been many disappointments along the road to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. It clearly hasn't occurred and the President has to be given credit for having the determination, the courage, to really act in a way that's very decisive. You know, he has acted in a way that no President has done before, he has gone and seized the opportunity, had a meeting, spent a lot of time with Kim Jong-un personally and they've reached the commitments they have.

Now, where will it lead? Will it result in the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula? Only time will tell and the President has acknowledged that. But he is having a red hot go at achieving denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula. You have to give him credit for that.

I want to also say that I do not believe that summit would have occurred, had it not been for the absolute solidarity and the very tough economic sanctions on North Korea that have been imposed by the UN Security Council. That's had the support, obviously, of the United States, Japan, Australia and other countries, but also China. I share President Trump's assessment of that, when he thanked the leaders of Japan and South Korea and China for the solidarity they've shown. But time will tell.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, sorry. We'll go to you.

JOURNALIST:

Is it a good idea to halt those military exercises? He has put pulling out troops now, on the table at least. What's your reaction to that? Is it OK that China appears to be pulling back from that maximum pressure campaign on North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there's a whole lot of assumptions in your question that I don't necessarily agree with. What the President has done is offered an alternative vision for North Korea. You know, he even put a video together, which we've all seen. He's gone, he's sat down with Kim Jong-un and he's offered him an alternative vision, a chance to chart a better future for his country. He's made a strong pitch for that and time will tell how persuasive or how compelling it is. But we know what the alternatives are. None of the alternatives are attractive.

JOURNALIST:

Just a quick one, you said you'd been briefed, presumably by the Americans this morning on the outcomes of the summit?

PRIME MINISTER:

My staff have, yeah.

JOURNALIST:

The Foreign Minister said this morning that she didn't think that the cessation of military exercises with South Korea would occur, because it wasn't in the agreement, it wasn't in the declaration. She cast doubt over whether that would occur. She said he said it at the press conference, it wasn't in the agreement.

So what is the Australian Government's knowledge about whether or not these military exercises will continue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the President of the United States said what he did. He said that they would not have the war games, as he described it. That's obviously part of the negotiating tactic.

Look, President Trump is a deal-maker. He is a businessman who has brought a lifetime's experience of doing deals, of getting to know people, of being able to persuade them to come to an agreement. He has chosen to take a very dynamic, very personal approach to this that none of his predecessors have done in the past. He's acknowledged that it may not work. But as he said, what he has given up is the time to go to Singapore. He is in a position to change the approach he's taken, if the process - as he's made it very clear - if the process towards denuclearisation does not proceed with the pace and the expedition that the meeting between the two leaders agreed to.

So look, he is giving denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula - something that everybody has sought for years, for decades - he's giving it a red-hot go in his way; as a very persuasive, very powerful deal-maker.

It's a very personal approach. It's not one that's been undertaken before. But, you know what? The other approaches haven't worked. So he's taking his approach. He's taking the approach of Donald Trump the deal-maker, to this and we welcome it, but we welcome it with caution. As he did. Donald Trump himself said it may not work. He hasn't said; "It's all done." He said, "There's work to do, but it's made”. You've got to welcome it.

Look, nobody wants to have a war on the Korean Peninsula or anywhere else, let alone a nuclear war. So, he's giving it a red hot go. We welcome it, but we do so clear-eyed and with caution.

I'll just take one more and then we'd better go.

JOURNALISTS:

Are there risks in this Prime Minister? Are there risks in this approach?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are risks in everything, David. To say that international affairs and negotiations with respect to the Korean Peninsula is risk-free, would be very inaccurate.

There are plenty of risks. But let me just say to you, there are plenty of risks in doing nothing. So give Trump credit for having a go at this, okay? Okay, this has got to be the last one, hang on. Phil, you haven't had a question.

JOURNALIST:

Back to the meeting with the Solomon Islands PM this morning. Can you tell us how much we're going to spend on this cable, out of our aid budget? Has the Government been premature with recent aid cuts, given we're now realising the strategic importance of our aid budget?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, well the project, the overall cost of the project to which PNG and the Solomon Islands will contribute, will be in the order of $200 million and it is within the aid budget.

Look, you know, we spend a lot of money on aid, as you know. This is an investment that I think, when you rank all the money we spend on aid, different categories and types of investment, I think this will rank very highly as a very, very practical piece of vital telecommunications infrastructure, supporting economic development and all of the economic progress that Prime Minister Hou and his country are committed to.

On that note, thank you all very much.