Press conference - Bangkok, Thailand

18 Nov 2022
Prime Minister
APEC Summit; Upcoming bilateral meetings; MH-17; President Macron; AUKUS; NSW floods; North Korea; Taiwan; Energy

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It was good last night to have a brief discussion about APEC and the important role that it plays and that comes at a time of economic uncertainty throughout the globe: rising inflation, rising interest rates, pressure on energy prices throughout the world, in part due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the consequences that have occurred. APEC is important. It is a region of the world with the fastest growing economies in history. The 21 economies that will gather here over the next two days will have important discussion and dialogue about how we overcome the challenges through increased co-operation. I will address the plenary session this morning. I will participate in the business dialogue after lunch. And I will also have some important meetings including a bilateral with President Marcos of the Philippines this morning, but also a sit-down discussion with the US Vice President, Kamala Harris, following our productive discussion in Japan, where we both represented our nations at Shinzo Abe's memorial. I also want to just say on MH17 that we welcome the Hague District Court's finding of three men being guilty of murder over the downing of MH17. Our thoughts today are with the family and friends who lost loved ones in that atrocity. 38 people who call Australia home were killed of the 298 victims of this atrocious act of terrorism. It is good that there's been co-operation between Australia and the Dutch security and police forces. We've gone through this legal and court process, and we call upon Russia to hand over for justice the people who are involved in this and who have been found to be guilty in absentia. Can I just say, also, that the day will conclude on a very pleasant note, I will visit the Palace here to have an audience with His Majesty the King of Thailand and the Queen of Thailand and Her Royal Highness of Thailand, the Princess, as well. And that will be a nice way to end the day before we're back here tomorrow for the rounding up of APEC. Rising out of APEC I'm very hopeful the Bangkok Statement, which speaks about the circular economy and environmental co-operation, will be adopted at this summit and that will be an important message that we need to cooperate to deal with the challenge of climate change and the environmental issues that we all face.

JOURNALIST: How do you respond to Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that Australia’s AUKUS subs deal risks a nuclear confrontation with China?

PRIME MINISTER: President Macron is entitled to put forward his views, as he does in a very forthright way. I also note as part of the interview, as well, that he noted that Australia has not decided to change their strategy on the subject.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is this your first disagreement with President Macron?

PRIME MINISTER: No one has suggested that. I was with President Macron last night. We had a very friendly exchange as we always do.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think he has made the comments that he has? And would France be in line for some interim submarine deal?

PRIME MINISTER: He's entitled to make whatever comments he wants as the Leader of France. We have a very co-operative relationship. We've had discussions about how we can cooperate in defence. I note, for example, that the Bushmasters that we are providing to Ukraine, 90 of them now, are made by Thales. Thales is in part French Government owned, produced in Bendigo. There are a range of other defence procurement arrangements that we have with France. We have a very good relationship and it will continue.

JOURNALIST: Japan’s Foreign Minister is going to visit China as a consequence of Xi meeting with Kishida yesterday. Blinken’s on a trip. Are we still a bit more in the dog house than others?

PRIME MINISTER: I think it was a very constructive meeting with President Xi.

JOURNALIST: You've had discussions with the with the with the French about defence cooperation. Did those discussions canvass an interim solution in terms of the submarines and the capability gap?

PRIME MINISTER: I think President Macron answered that question when he noted Australia has not decided to change their strategy on the subject. He noted it himself in the discussion. Richard Marles as the Defence Minister has noted it. We are proceeding with the AUKUS arrangements, there's nothing ambiguous about it. That is our position. We have a good co-operative relationship with France and we'll continue to engage on ways in which France can assist Australia in the road map that we agreed on when we met in Paris, which is about defence and security, it's about energy and the environment including dealing with climate change and it's about cultural advances as well.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this is your third summit of the week. What do you see as your successes? What are your four main takeaways?

PRIME MINISTER: Australia's back. We're back around the table. Australia is engaged, we are having positive and constructive discussions with our historic allies, but with everyone in the region as well. If you look at where we've been seated in events, today I will be giving the first intervention at the plenary session. If you look at the status that Australia has, we punch above our weight in international forums when we're mature, when we're sensible, when we're engaged, when we engage in diplomacy. And that is a product, not of me just arriving here, it's a product of a lot of work by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it's a product of the quite extraordinary Foreign Minister that Australia is privileged to have in Penny Wong and it is paying dividends. The entry fee for credibility in international forums is action on climate change. And it all changed when we altered our nationally determined contribution for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, supported by our business community, supported by our farmers. And when we legislated that, the 43 per cent by 2030, as well as legislating net zero by 2050, when we have engaged as well in the methane pledge that Australia has committed to, that was so important for the United States, that was a priority of President Biden. We're engaged. And we want a peaceful, secure, co-operative region. It is so important. Australia can punch above our weight. But in order to do so, we've actually got to have credibility. And my government, I'm pleased to say, is engaging. It's been well received and we've had warm discussions both formal and informal over the last week.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, I'm aware that we are overseas, but the New South Wales Premier today faced some angry questions from locals about the flood situation. Can you comment on the floods? Are you planning to visit the affected areas once you get home?

PRIME MINISTER: I've had engagement with the New South Wales Premier today. He thanked me for the support that has been given, additional announcements that are either being made already or will be made very soon about additional support. My heart goes out to the victims of these floods. Premier Perrottet sent me a photo. Some of you may have been with us in Forbes, we visited a farm, a family farm, they were lovely welcoming people. Dominic sent me a photo of that farm this morning. It is under water, all around it. It was an aerial photograph, I assume taken by a drone. It's devastating and my heart goes out that family but also to others as well.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, now you have met with Xi, is Australia now less likely to support Taiwan entry into the CPTPP? And has Taiwan's representative asked for a meeting with you?

PRIME MINISTER: Our position hasn't been altered on the first matter and on the second, no.

JOURNALIST: But how do you see Taiwan's entry? Would you like to see Taiwan join the CPTPP?

PRIME MINISTER: The CPTPP, we have current entry, we have the United Kingdom as an entrant. The CPTPP is a relationship between nation states that are recognised. Taiwan is represented here because it is represented here as an economy. There is bipartisan support for the One China Policy. We support the status quo on Taiwan. And on the Taiwan Strait, we don't want to see any unilateral action which alters that status quo.

JOURNALIST: On the MH17 verdict, has the government had any contact with Russian diplomats as a result of that, or following that verdict? And in Senate Estimates last week there was discussion around a review of just how many Russian diplomats are in Australia. Could we see a situation post-verdict where there are diplomats expelled from Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: I won't comment on those national security issues without getting proper advice. We go through that advice from the security agencies.

JOURNALIST: North Korea has fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile on Friday morning. What's your response to this? It's the second launch in two days.

PRIME MINISTER: Well North Korea is a rogue state and they need to stop their aggression. I spoke about this at the East Asia Summit and the comments of Australia were welcomed, not the least of which by the Republic of Korea, President Yoon, who I had warm discussions with again this week, and my friend President Kishida. We have developed a very close relationship and that's important for Australia's national interest.

JOURNALIST: The cost of living has come up in several of the meetings, has there have been any solutions proposed in this meetings you can take back to Australia and implement at home, to push prices down?

PRIME MINISTER: What is clear from the meetings here is the extent of the global challenge. This isn't about any one nation taking action. This pressure has arisen because of global prices. I got asked yesterday about the discussion I had with Chancellor Scholtz of Germany. Their prices of gas went to over $200 US, that’s an extraordinary increase they were dealing with in western Europe. The price has been enormous. One of the things that strikes me in the discussions, whether it was Chancellor Scholtz, or President Macron, or Pedro Sanchez of Spain, that Western Europe, in dealing with these challenges, understand they need to be more self-reliant. That they need to produce more energy themselves. And part of what we're about, with our Powering Australia Plan, is just that. We are being hit by two events: one which is out of our control, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had an international impact, but we're also hit by the fact that four gigawatts of energy left our system and only one gigawatt came in over the previous decade. If you had that reduction in supply that then creates a problem for price. And that is why we're determined, as are the other nations, including Germany, the discussion that I had specifically with them, to deal with the challenge. And it has confirmed for me that, in terms of dealing with the medium-term issues, that Australia is certainly on the right track in our actions. They are consistent with the actions that are being taken in Europe, or for that matter, in Canada, or by the United States under their Inflation Reduction Act, which is a game-changer in terms of dealing with International climate change.