Transcript of press conference
Honolulu, United States
Subjects: APEC, Australia-US alliance, US Global Force Posture Review, TPP, global economy, Bali consular case, Nauru, PNG
Transcript E&OE, proof only.
10 November 2011
MINISTER RUDD: Welcome ladies and gentlemen of the Australian media and welcome to Hawaii where we've all just arrived for this APEC meeting of foreign ministers and trade ministers followed by the APEC Summit. This morning I've met with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and we have spent our time preparing for the important visit next week to Australia by President Obama. Australia is looking forward to receiving President Obama. Preparations are well in hand and he will be an exceptionally welcomed guest in Australia. It will be, of course, his first visit to Australia as President of the United States. We look forward to him coming. The President of course is a strong and deep supporter of the Alliance between Australia and the United States. Australia also is a strong economic partner of the United States and the Alliance this year celebrates its 60th anniversary and is a good occasion to come together to celebrate and commemorate that fact.
In my discussions with the Secretary of State we also focused on the upcoming East Asian Summit, the future of our region's architecture and the manner in which that architecture will be used in the future to deal some of the political and security challenges we have in the wider region as well.
We also discussed Burma and recent political changes in Burma and recent indications from the regime in Burma about changes in human rights practice. We look forward to further changes by the Burmese on this score because the world's attention is being focused on what now happens with the further release of political prisoners in that country.
Secretary Clinton also today gave a very important address at the East West Centre here in Hawaii on America's future engagement in the Asia Pacific region. It is a significant address. It underlines the absolute importance which this region holds from America in the 21st century and I'd commend it to your collective attention.
I've also spent part of the afternoon with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia Marty Natalegawa. This is an important relationship for Australia. Indonesia, as all of our friends in Australia know, is the largest Muslim country in the world. Also in Indonesia we have a member of the G20 group of large economies. Also with Indonesia we have a $13 billion trade relationship. Also a close cooperation in a range of security spheres. Again, our discussions with the Indonesian Foreign Minister focused on what preparations still remain for the upcoming East Asian Summit and its important consideration of political insecurity questions into the future for our region. This will be an important event. It will be the first occasion in which the United States will be represented at head of government level at the East Asia Summit. Also, the Russian Federation will be represented as well. The fact that the United States is represented is in part due to significant diplomacy by Australia and others in recent years, to make sure that America is around this table to chart with other countries of the regions our common future together.
We also discussed recent developments in Europe and the absolute importance of our friends in Europe to take the necessary measures to ensure that financial arrangement there are taken to underpin medium to long term stability in Europe, and therefore global financial markets. We have seen some positive developments in the last 24 hours, including the appointment of the new Greek Prime Minister, Mr Papademos, himself a former European Central Bank vice president. Also, we have the recent purchase of significant Italian government bonds overnight. Nonetheless, it's important to underline that Europe remains a centre of global attention and its ability to address itself to the underlining financial challenges which lie within the Euro zone are of concern, not just to Europeans, but to the rest of us throughout the world.
Finally, of course, the reason we are here in Hawaii is because the United States chairs this week's meeting of APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group. This is an important exercise which is the product of Australian diplomacy, by and large, more than 20 years ago under Australian Labor government predecessors, in particular under Prime Minister Hawke.
These economies are highly significant for Australia. They represent for the world 56 per cent of global GDP and for Australia itself we have a huge percentage of our own exports which go to this region. We also, if you did the numbers, have in Australia, something like a benefit of $20,000 per year to Australian households as a result of our trade with the APEC economies. This is a significant region for the future of the Australian economy and for Australian jobs.
The work that's been done by APEC in the intervening 20 years has been significant at a technical and a policy level. Opening up the economies of the region. Opening up the trade flows. Opening up the investment. Creating a consensus across the region that open trade and open investment is the way to go for the future. It's the best way of underpinning long term economic growth and jobs growth.
Finally, another focus here at the APEC meeting will be of course preparations for the East Asia Summit which I referred to before. At that Summit there will be consideration by governments of a joint Australian/Indonesian Initiative entitled ÒThe Disaster Management Strategy for East AsiaÓ. It is an important piece of work which our two governments have been working on for some time. And it's direct response to the proliferation of natural and human disasters across the wider region and how do we best build disaster resilience in the future in the countries and communities of our region and then secondly how do we best, more rapidly and effectively respond to disasters if and when they hit. This is an important piece of work and will go before the heads of government to consider when the East Asia Summit gathers.
In conclusion, this is an important gathering of the heads of government from across our wider region. It provides and important opportunity, not just at the multilateral level, but bilaterally for Australia's Prime Minister to also engage with counterparts from across the wider region. Similarly, at the foreign ministers' level, practically every foreign minister is here in attendance and it provides an opportunity for us to engage in continuing matters of bilateral concern with the principal countries of the region.
QUESTION:Mr Rudd, how should China react to US marines being based for training in the Northern Territory? and were they consulted?
KEVIN RUDD:The first thing I'd say is that the Australia/United States Alliance is a very old alliance. Its 60 years old. It's 60 years old this year. It's no secret to anybody that we have close military cooperation between ourselves and the Americans. That's been a matter of public record for a long, long time. Secondly, it is very much within the province of the Prime Minister and the President of the United States to indicate when the President visits Canberra next week as to what further defence cooperation may be possible in the future between Australia and the Americans and therefore it's important that we await the President's visit before confirming any particular elements of what that defence cooperation may entail.
QUESTION:Some people have been suggesting some defence, strategically defence (inaudible) suggesting it starts to look a bit like containment if the US is moving forces to Australia, albeit to partake in É Are there reasons for China to be concerned about it?
KEVIN RUDD:Well the first point I'd make is that it's important to await for the President to visit Australia and for the President together with the Prime Minister to confirm what further defence cooperation arrangements we may had planned between the two countries. That's the first point. So I'm not here confirming in any way any element of any particular report which may be appearing any media outlet either in Australia or the United States today.
On the broader question of China's often repeated concerns, and stated concerns, about containment, can I just make this point? American security alliances in East Asia have existed for between 40, 50 and 60 years. Ours is one of five. There is one with the Republic of Korea, there is one with Japan, there is one with Thailand, and there is one with the Philippines. These have been very much the bedrock of East Asian security for most of the post-war period.
Therefore, nothing in relation to those security arrangements, so far as I am advised, is likely to change. That is these alliances remain in place. What alliance partners then choose to do with each with those alliances will obviously undertake some change over time. Australia has always been transparent with all countries in the region about the importance of alliances to us and the broader security of the region.
From an Australian perspective can I add just one further thought? Here we are as Australians, a continent with a vast coastline, some thirty two thousand kilometres, a population of 23 million. It has always national security sense for Australian to have a strong strategic alliance with the United States, particularly given our experiences in World War II. I believe that has the overwhelming of the Australian people. But as I said we shall await the President's visit to Canberra next for him and the Prime Minister to confirm what further defence cooperation we may be planning on for the future.
QUESTION:It's long been planned that the US (inaudible) particularly in our region and that there may be a presence in Darwin or elsewhere. The Greens say that before US presence in boosted in Australia that there should be a vote in Parliament about that Ð that is should be for Australians to decide.
KEVIN RUDD:Well the first point that I'd make about the US global force posture review is that it is just that. The United States has undertaken a review of its global set of military deployments, not just in the Asia Pacific region but beyond that as well. In that context I also draw your attention to what the US Secretary of State had to say in her remarks at the East West Centre today, and what she said very clearly was that in the future, if and when you see the draw down both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, that any military resources released by that should be further deployed elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region. I simply draw your attention to what is contained in her important speech today.
Second point, as you've already indicated in the preface to your question, is that I'm not in the business today of confirming what particular elements may be discussed between the president when visits Australia, with the Australian Prime Minister on further defence planning and cooperation between us both.
On the question of the Greens Party, which you just referred to, can I just say this: The Greens Party does not direct Australian national security policy. The Greens Party does not direct Australian foreign policy. These matters are matters of fundamental national interest in which we, as the Australian government, engage in the deepest analysis and consideration and take decisions in the national interest and I believe that is the right course of action and the one which is being pursued by the Australian government under the leadership of the Prime Minister.
QUESTION:Mr Rudd, there's been some talk out of the United States, including Hawaii, about the US enthusiasm for the Trans Pacific Partnership. It seems that there's an expectation that that will be advanced significantly here at APEC. Is Australia's position on that we would want a total elimination of tariffs between the parties?
KEVIN RUDD:Well on that question Matthew, I think it's far better that it be directed to my friend and colleague the Trade Minister who is here in Hawaii and I'm sure would happily respond directly to your question. On the precise current status of negotiations on the TPP, I will defer to him. Yes I know some of those discussions are happening as we speak, so I don't wish to speak out of turn but I would wholeheartedly endorse what the trade minister has said before. We, in Australia support open free trade Ð it's in the overwhelming interest of Australian jobs and Australian economic growth. Therefore, that's the attitude we bring to the table but on the details on where the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations stand at the moment, I prefer you directed that question to him.
QUESTION:Just back to the issue of the possibility of a greater US military presence in Australia; did that come up at all at your meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Minister? And did he raise any concerns about it?
KEVIN RUDD:Well I don't go to the substance of my diplomatic conversations with foreign ministers from other countries. I will usually give a broad indication of the ties that bind our countries, but on the substance of these matters, these are important discussions to be held in confidence between us. The relationship between Australia and Indonesia is sufficiently mature to accommodate changes both in policy and in operational procedures within the security policy sphere, the foreign policy sphere, we have that sort of mature relationship and we will of course make sure that our friends in Indonesia, and elsewhere, are appropriately briefed on any changes which might arise from any closer defence cooperation between Australian and the United States.
Again I'd draw attention to the fact that these matters are the subject of discussions between both the president and the prime minister when the president visits Canberra next week.
Mark were you looking for me just before?
QUESTION:Tony Abbott's been talking to David Cameron. Apparently he's had an economic conversion he now believes it's not a bad idea for Australia to provide some money to the IMF to help ease the problems in Europe. What do you think about that?
RUDD: I believe that Mr Abbott is a policy risk for the country period. And I don't simply make that observation randomly. I would not say that about all senior Liberal leaders. I do make it about him because this is a person who rapidly and readily changes his mind from one day to the next depending on who he is with, and apparently what piece of public opinion poll research that he's read. That's not the way in which you govern Australia. That is not the way in which you direct Australian national security policy, Australian foreign policy, or Australian global economic policy.
Broadly on the question of the IMF, I could think of no more irresponsible posture than the one that I have heard him articulate in the Parliament in Australia last week. The thing about the global economy, and what we in the time that I was Prime Minister learnt fundamentally about the global economy through the global financial crisis is that we are all in this together. One economy affects the other. If there is a problem in one part of the world we are not immune, and certainly when it comes to global financial flows. What happened way back then in 2008-09 was that there was a grave risk that financial flows to Australian banks would simply freeze. That's why we took radical action.
But part of the overall response to the financial crisis at the time was to ensure that the International Monetary Fund also had sufficient resources to act globally when other future crisis with individual countries or more broadly arose. That's what we do together at the global community. It's not the stuff in which you participate with a bit of random politics here of a domestic nature, or there, just to get yourself into the headlines. But that is just the most recent example of what I'd describe as an irresponsible set of policy pronouncements by the Leader of the Opposition. If Mr Abbott seriously wants to become the Prime Minister of Australia he radically needs to lift his game and there's no evidence of that.
QUESTION:Indonesian (inaudible) today (inaudible) three-month jail time for the 14 year old Australian in Bali. Is that a good outcome from Australia's perspective and did you discuss the case with Minister Natalegawa today?
KEVIN RUDD:The Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa himself raised this consular case. I thanked him for the cooperation we've received from the Indonesian authorities including in Bali on ensuring that the case was heard as early as possible given that this person is a young adolescent. And secondly, that his consular rights had been honoured and we've had complete access to this young man and his family from the beginning. And thirdly, that his accommodation arrangements have been appropriate to his age. I thanked the Indonesian Government for their cooperation on this.
On the details of the case I am reluctant to comment for the simple reason that it is a case midstream. As I understand it the prosecution has made its submission to the judge today. I further understand the judge has indicated that he will take two weeks to further consider the matter before delivering a judgement. And I would prefer not to provide public comment on a court case, which is still underway.
QUESTION:As Foreign Minister, what would you regard as a benchmark of success for this meeting?
KEVIN RUDD:Well, this is a meeting which was brought together 20 years ago with one core objective Ð how do you grow the economies of the Asia-Pacific region, and how do you do so on the basis of open trade and open investment relationships? I think therefore a key benchmark of success is whether we move further in that direction or we allow ourselves to drift in the reverse direction. We in Australia are unapologetically supportive of open trade and open investment relationships. Don't underestimate the importance of the consensus that we and others have built within the institution over the last 20 years. 20 years ago that consensus didn't exist and as a result the norm now in the policy making departments and in the central government departments across the Asia-Pacific region have as their view that we should open our economies more.
Sometimes on a day-to-day basis with a given product or a given service you have a barney. That's kind of what happens. But so long as the overall thrust is in that direction of openness, on the trade front and the investment front we're heading in the right direction. And in terms of real economic performance the global economic significance of the Asia-Pacific economies has risen considerably over the last 20 years on the back of such policies. That's my answer to your question.
QUESTION:[inaudible] ASEAN-Plus-Three briefings, which [inaudible] working on in some was parallel [inaudible] ?
KEVIN RUDD:Well my strong view is that, that the core test here is what opens the arteries of trade and investment further within the region. You are right. There are two sets of negotiations, one, TPP; one, ASEAN-Plus-Three. If anyone is viewing this from Australia as it is being broadcast, they'd wonder what we're talking about. But, these are two separate sets of negotiations, and my overall test is simply the delivery of a better trade and investment outcome for the region. On the detailed prognosis of ASEAN-Plus-Three, plus the Trans Pacific Partnership, could I again refer you to the Trade Minister, Dr Emerson.
KEVIN RUDD:The President of Nauru. I'm still being briefed on the details surrounding both the President's decision to resign and that as I understand it of his Foreign Minister. I would prefer to be fully briefed on that before I comment further. Obviously we follow developments in Nauru as we do with all of our Pacific Island friends and neighbours very closely. And I will make sure that we are fully across all the details on the ground in Nauru before we make substantive comment. I just want to make sure that we've got everything right.
QUESTION:There's some political turmoil in PNG today as well. The Supreme Court ordering the arrest of the Deputy Prime Minister and [inaudible]
KEVIN RUDD:Well, I've followed those developments as well and this is of concern to Australia. It strikes us as an unusual act. I would again prefer before commenting further to get a full brief from our High Commission in Port Moresby. Obviously there are a range of political sensitivities in Papua New Guinea which go back to the decisions concerning the replacement of Sir Michael Somare. With Prime Minister O'Neill. I understand that. I am deeply aware of its detail and the sensitivities associated with it. I am concerned by today's reports but I will seek a further briefing.
Events in the South Pacific are of deep relevance to Australia's interests, both our national security interests and our foreign policy interests, and we treat each of these developments seriously. But given where I am at the moment I would like to be comprehensively briefed before commenting further. Thank you very much.
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