Remarks at ASEAN Summit

06 Sep 2016
Prime Minister

We have gathered together, our neighbours of ASEAN and some of the leading powers in the world - India, China, Russia - are gathered together here with all of our neighbours.

Now, we've seen, overnight, two disturbing reminders of how important it is that we focus on these critical issues of national security here in Vientiane over the next few days.

We saw the latest missile tests by North Korea, which have been condemned and which I condemned earlier, as indeed have other governments. These represent continued destabilising, dangerous and provocative conduct by the DPRK.

In addition, we've also seen overnight, a call by Daesh, or ISIL for lone-wolf terrorist attacks in Australia, nominating prominent Australian locations for these attacks. Now, this is consistent with my national security statement of last week, in which I noted that as Daesh comes under more and more pressure on the battlefield in Syria and in Iraq, as it is rolled back, as its territory is being taken back, it will resort to terrorist activities outside of the Middle East.

Australians can be reassured that we have the finest security, intelligence, police forces in the world, and we are providing them, as you saw in my national security statement last week, with the laws they need and the resources they need to keep us safe. But at the same time, we need, more than ever, to cooperate closely, to engage intimately with our neighbours in the fight against counter-terrorism. Sharing of intelligence is more important than ever before. And so counter-terrorism, too, is going to be a key focus of these meetings over the next few days.

This is the premier forum for discussing and resolving issues of national security, economic security in our region. So I'm very pleased to be here, and I'm here in Vientiane, and I'll be leaving now to speak with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, in advance of meetings over the next few days.

Prime Minister, may I ask you - it seems as though you have met with everyone but Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.


I’ll be meeting with –


Sorry to interrupt - have you sought a meeting with him? And what's Australia doing to repair that relationship with Japan post the subs decision, which has caused some friction?


Can I say that the relationship with Japan is very, very warm and very close. I spoke with Prime Minister Abe on several occasions in the course of the G20 meeting. As you probably know, there are formal bilaterals but in these conferences very often the most valuable encounters are the less-formal ones, where there can be a very candid exchange of views and Prime Minister Abe and I had a number of meetings of that kind. However, we do have a formal bilateral meeting scheduled here. But the relationship is a very warm one, a very close one. We regard each other as friends at a personal level. It's a very strong relationship.


Prime Minister, how do you judge the capacity of Daesh to deliver on the threats? Do they worry you?


Well, of course we are concerned about terrorism. We have a threat level of "probable", so it is a real threat. Our security services are relentless - tireless - in keeping Australians safe. The capacity of Daesh, of course, is much less than they proclaim it to be but we do have to be very alert to the actions of these lone actors. Individuals who - as I've described in the national security statement last week – individuals who for a variety of reasons may be radicalised, often associated with mental illness, frankly, can be radicalised very quickly and engage in very destructive, lethal conduct, as we saw in Nice, for example. So we have to be very alert, we are focused on that, my coordinator of counter-terrorism, Greg Moriarty, who of course is now heading up the international policy advice in my office, has been working on and completing a report, a review, of our measures in the light of these lone attackers - of the phenomenon of the lone attacker, following the Nice attack. Every time there is a terrorist incident, wherever it is in the world, we learn as much as we can about it and then take those learnings to keep Australians more safe. I have been meeting and will be meeting over the next few days with the leaders of countries who have experienced very severe terrorist activity in our region very recently and, of course, as we know from a number of tragic incidents, including, of course, the Bali bombing, when there is terrorist activity in our region, very often - almost invariably, for a large-scale attack - Australians can be put at risk and, indeed, have lost their lives. We're all in it together. It's got to be a very strong full-court press against terrorism. We're committed to that. And I'm looking forward to some very candid and constructive discussions over the next few days.

Thanks very much.