Doorstop Da Nang, Vietnam

11 Nov 2017
Da Nang, Vietnam
Prime Minister
Indonesia-Australia relationship; APEC; John Alexander; Citizenship; TPP-11
International and Trade

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve just concluded a meeting with my very good friend and Australia’s great partner, the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

Jokowi is a remarkable leader. He is very, very committed to the partnership with Australia. We are working towards an Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by the end of the year and we discussed that at some length.

His voice in the world is perhaps more important than ever and he is showing great leadership in the region and globally because he is the democratically-elected leader of the world's largest majority Muslim country.

As he says so often, he stands for and Indonesia stands for the proposition that Islam is compatible with democracy and moderation.

It's a very, very powerful voice in the world.

So we had a very good discussion across the range of economic and strategic issues - our cooperation, obviously on counter-terrorism and regional security as well as the big economic priorities.

APEC is always a very important forum. It brings together economic leaders, it brings together business leaders and the commitment now, as ever, is to continue to work towards greater economic integration in the region because we know that that is what creates the opportunities, the investment, the jobs.

All of the remarkable rise in prosperity we have seen in the region, including in Australia over recent decades, could not have happened without the continued growth of free trade, of freedom of investment, continually opening up the opportunities for people's ingenuity and enterprise to be put to work across borders and create the great opportunities, some of which you have seen here in Vietnam with all the remarkable Australian-Vietnamese partnerships and co-investments.

So it has been a very good APEC.

We look forward now to a visit to Hong Kong. I will be the first Australian Prime Minister to visit Hong Kong since the '80s and, of course, we are progressing work there on a revised and enhanced free trade agreement there.

Then, obviously, on to the East Asia Summit where the focus is very much on regional security, counter-terrorism, North Korea and other threats to the stability and peace of our region.

JOURNALIST:  President Jokowi's democracy does not appear to be afflicted by the same challenges as yours. How will the government manage this period without John Alexander, down another number. Is a general election soon necessary?


Look, John Alexander has done the right thing. I spoke to him last night and he told me that he was no longer sufficiently satisfied or no longer sure that he was not a UK citizen.

And, as you know, I have said publicly and privately, if members believe that they are ineligible to sit in the Parliament, then they shouldn't sit in the Parliament.

John has done the right thing, and the honourable thing. He has resigned his seat.

Bill Shorten and Labor should now seriously consider whether their members who admitted they were UK citizens at the time they nominated, not only were, but knew they were, whether they should do the right thing, resign from Parliament now and the by-elections could be held on the same day as the by-election for Bennelong.

JOURNALIST:  And, PM, if they don’t, if Bill Shorten doesn't?

PRIME MINISTER:  As I have said before, Bill Shorten wanted to draw me into some kind of protection racket for Labor MP’s who were clearly UK citizens at the time they nominated, and knew they were, they absolutely knew they were. There was no doubt about it. It wasn't foreign citizenship that people had a mistaken belief in or didn't know about. They knew they were.

And he wanted me to commit the government to not vote to send them to the High Court.

There is no question that the High Court's decision and the application of the Constitution creates a lot of issues for the Parliament but we solve it, we deal with it by being transparent and by being thorough and honest and straightforward in our dealings.

If we believe, if we believe that there are members of the Parliament, whether they are on the government benches, the opposition benches, or the cross benches, where there are substantial grounds for believing that they are in breach of the Constitution, then they should go to the High Court and they are free to make their arguments in defence of their position there.

But the idea that Labor members, where you have senior counsel's advice saying that they are ineligible to sit in the Parliament, should not go to the High Court is extraordinary. But that's what Bill Shorten asked me to do.

Can I tell you - the High Court determines who is eligible to sit in the House of Representatives, not the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST:  What assurance can you give to the next –

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, Sharri, yes?

JOURNALIST:  Are you concerned that when Parliament returns and you have two politicians down, that Labor might start to pull some tricks such as passing a no-confidence motion or introducing their legislation that some of the crossbench support like a banking royal commission?

PRIME MINISTER:  We'll deal with all those issues when we get there but as you know we have the support of the crossbench on matters of confidence and supply. So there is no question of that happening.

In terms of the absences - Barnaby Joyce's by-election is on the 2nd of December. Nobody takes, least of all Barnaby, the judgement of the people of New England for granted but every expectation, I think you'd agree, is that he will be returned.

JOURNALIST:  One of those crossbenchers guaranteeing confidence and supply, is Rebekha Sharkie, but she is in the same boat as some of these Labor people, so therefore should she be standing down too?

PRIME MINISTER:  They should consider their position very carefully.

Again, she is an independent - she's got to form her own view on that.

Can I just clear up one thing? Let me take the opportunity because I read in the media - in fact Bill Shorten said – that I called Bek Sharkie to tell her she was in breach of the Constitution. That's not true.

I called Bek because I understood she wanted to talk to me about the management of the Parliament and all of these issues going forward, obviously I talk to the crossbenchers regularly, and in the course of that conversation, she volunteered that information about her own citizenship and when she told me the dates, I did say to her: ‘Well, Bek, you've got a real issue here’.

JOURNALIST:  She should decide then on the same basis as Justine Keay?

PRIME MINISTER:   I will leave that to her. She is an independent.

It is up to every member, Phil. Every member and senator has to be satisfied that they are eligible to sit in the Parliament. It is a personal responsibility on each member and senator.

JOURNALIST:  You were hoping, you were saying that this is a successful APEC, but you were really hoping that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be passed. You were stood up yesterday by Justin Trudeau. Can you tell us what you thought about that and what you said to him later in the day?

PRIME MINISTER:  Let me set out the situation. As you know, discussions about negotiations about continuing the TPP without the US had been continuing over the last year, this is TPP-11.

There was a meeting of trade ministers, as you know, which had agreed on the terms of it. That was certainly what had been reported.

There was a leaders meeting scheduled yesterday for the 11 leaders of the TPP-11 countries.

As it turned out, the Prime Minister of Canada decided that he did not wish to proceed yesterday on the part of Canada and so, obviously, the meeting, which was designed to ratify the agreement, couldn't proceed.

As to his reasons for doing that, and the timing and manner and so forth, that's really something you'd have to ask Justin about that.

JOURNALIST:  You spoke to him about that - what did he say and what did you say to him?

PRIME MINISTER:  Look, we had a very good and frank discussion. I always stand up for Australia's interests. I also don't disclose discussions that I have with foreign leaders.

JOURNALIST:  You’re famous for being forthright Kerry Packer style - just how forthright were you with Justin Trudeau?


PRIME MINISTER:  You're too young to remember Kerry Packer's style!


JOURNALIST:  How forthright were you though with Justin Trudeau last night?

PRIME MINISTER:  I'm not going to go into any more detail.

I'm always frank and plain-speaking in defence of Australia's interests but, you know, I make it my business always to deal respectfully with others, whether they are leaders of other countries or, in fact, other members of Parliament.

Hang on – we are going to take two more but I will take one from you and then one from you and perhaps one from you too.

JOURNALIST:  That’s three!

PRIME MINISTER:  I know, I’m being very generous.


JOURNALIST:  Most Australians would be looking at Canberra and seeing this dual citizenship crisis as something of a farce. What assurance can you give Australians that you can continue to provide stable government throughout this period?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, we absolutely are providing stable government and delivering.

You know, you've seen just here at APEC, in addition to the matters I've mentioned a moment ago, obviously the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement.

My commitment is to continue to do everything I can to create more opportunities for Australians to export and that's anywhere in the world. We know that giving Australians more access to more markets creates more opportunities, and dare I say it, more jobs and more growth.

JOURNALIST:  I was just going to ask, PM, you are here still for another four days - have you given any consideration to abandoning this trip and going home?

PRIME MINISTER:  No. Absolutely not. These are very important meetings, huge priorities.

The East Asia Summit is dealing with regional security. It is difficult to imagine anything that is, any priority that is higher than keeping Australians safe.

And particularly when you are talking about the threat of terrorism in the region, we've just seen the re-taking of Marawi by the armed forces of the Philippines from ISIL-backed terrorists.

We've got the threat from North Korea.

There are a whole host of regional security issues.

That's where Australia has to be present and that is a time when the leader has to be present.

I should also add, I know you know all this but it doesn't really matter where you are in the world, you are constantly in touch and perhaps me more than most. Now, one last one.

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister, I am interested to know your response when Justin Trudeau didn't turn up and perhaps how long he has indicated he is willing to consider this before you try and put it back to the table again?

PRIME MINISTER:  Again, time will tell. The parties have agreed to keep talking but time will tell. That's all I can say.

JOURNALIST:  And when he didn’t show?

PRIME MINISTER:  Clearly we were expecting to have 11 nations represented around the table and one didn't show up so we were disappointed.

But the commitment to delivering more opportunities for Australian exporters is ongoing.

You get setbacks with trade negotiations, it happens all the time. The Uruguay round took, I think, two goes.

So this is not without precedent but the important thing is to be determined, persistent and resilient and focused on Australia's national interest. That's what I'm defending, whether it's in terms of trade or national security, always Australia's interests come first and we know that the priorities we've set out are the ones that will deliver us the security and the prosperity we need and our children and grandchildren deserve.

Thank you all very much.