AUKMIN bilateral - doorstop interview with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP I am delighted to welcome to Australia British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. Philip has attended a number of AUKMIN meetings. This is the second that we have shared. The last was in London, when the Foreign Secretary was indeed the Defence Minister of the United Kingdom. So I'm delighted to welcome him here and his delegation.

We have just held a bilateral meeting in advance of what will be the seventh AUKMIN meeting tomorrow. And during this bilateral meeting, we affirmed our commitment as the strongest and closest of partners and two countries who share a unique relationship because of our history and because of our deeply shared values.

We are both open, liberal, Western democracies. We are committed to the rule of law, human rights and freedoms. We discussed the challenges that both our nations face because of the regional and global challenges that are emerging, particularly that of foreign terrorist fighters and the more globalised, complex, dangerous and diversified terrorist organisations that are perpetrating atrocities in various places around the world.

At this point, I want to extend Australia's deepest condolences to the people and Government of Japan. The depraved behaviour that has led to the killing of two Japanese nationals is an unspeakable atrocity. We are united in our resolve to counter terrorism in all its forms, wherever it occurs.

We discussed the steps our respective countries are taking to counter terrorism, to counter the radicalisation, particularly of young people, who are taking up the barbaric cause, the toxic ideology of terrorist organisations, including Daesh in Syria and Iraq. We discussed our various approaches and our collective response in Iraq.

We also discussed the current situation in Syria and Iraq. We are dealing with terrorist organisations that respect no government, respect no boundaries, and have no regard for civilised behaviour or humanity. I expect this will continue to dominate our discussions tomorrow.

We also spoke about our united effort in enforcing sanctions against Russia, given its behaviour toward Ukraine and its actions in Crimea. I thanked the Foreign Secretary for the support that we have received from the United Kingdom over the shooting down of MH17 and how grateful we are that Britain supported our efforts to bring our people home.

We also discussed our joint effort in Sierra Leone over the Ebola crisis. I thanked the Foreign Secretary - and through him Prime Minister Cameron - for the support you gave us recently when an Australian health worker needed to be evacuated to Britain for checking after the breaching of protocols relating to the treatment of people with Ebola. I believe we are making headway. We are not complacent about it, but together we have built and are managing and operating an Ebola treatment centre - another example of Britain and Australia working closely together.

Finally, we discussed our region. We spoke about trade and investment opportunities with the emerging and growing economies in Asia. I put in a very strong pitch for Australia as a launch pad for British companies and investors to do business in Asia.

I'm very much looking forward to our meetings tomorrow. In Secretary Hammond, I have a friend and confidante and someone I know I can call upon when our two countries' national interests are affected. So Philip, welcome to you and your delegation.

PHILIP HAMMOND Julie, thank you very much for those kind words and it's a great pleasure to be here. Can I start by echoing the Foreign Minister's words on the apparent murder of Kenji Goto? We stand together with the people of Japan - and indeed all our allies - against terrorism wherever it rears its head. I'd like to send my expression of sympathies to the family and friends of Kenji Goto and indeed to the people of Japan.

This is my first trip to the Asia-Pacific region as Foreign Secretary, although I've been here many times as Defence Secretary. I know from my time as Defence Secretary, the importance of this AUKMIN dialogue series. It is forum we are able to use to further our already excellent relationships in the field of defence and security and coordinate our approach to the many foreign policy and security challenges that we are dealing with around the world.

The common theme of the subjects that we have most focused on today has been the threat to our rules-based international system. Whether it comes from Russian aggression in Ukraine, ignoring all the rules of the post-Cold War settlement. Whether it comes from the growing challenge of Islamist extremism, seeking to break down the structures of nation states and the order in the world as we know it. Or whether it comes from unconventional threats like the Ebola outbreak - which thankfully now looking as if it is coming under control - but a disease outbreak which had the potential to have caused havoc on a regional or perhaps even a global scale.

We share values. We share interests. We are separated by geography, but united by almost everything else. It is vitally important that we work together to strengthen the international rules-based system upon which both of our countries depend for our security and prosperity. Whether that is meeting the challenges of Russian map re-drawing in Europe, or working together to ensure prosperity and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, or combatting the spread of Islamist terrorism in the Middle East.

What Australia and Britain can do together is a force multiplier for what the civilised nations of the world can achieve in pushing back against all these challenges to our prosperity, or security and our values. We will go on working together in all these areas and our discussions tomorrow will cover all the ground that Julie and I have discussed today and some other ground, as well as we seek to set the agenda for collaboration between our two countries for the year ahead. Julie, thank you.

JULIE BISHOP Ladies and gentlemen of the press do you have any questions?

JOURNALIST Yes, Minister Bishop, do you think the PM should step down in the best interests of the Government?

JULIE BISHOP The Prime Minister has my support.

JOURNALIST You've given the Prime Minister your support and said you've guaranteed not to challenge for the leadership now. Will you make a guarantee that you won't challenge in the future?

JULIE BISHOP I've said the Prime Minister has my support. Now they are my two questions, there are now two questions for the Foreign Secretary.

PHILIP HAMMOND Different ones I hope!

JOURNALIST Mr Hammond how do you fight against home-grown terrorism and do you have tips for Australia?

PHILIP HAMMOND Yes and that's of course the domestic counter-terrorism agenda. It is one of the issues that we have discussed and it's on everybody's minds. We are going to visit the café tomorrow and hopefully be able to sign the Book of Condolence. Events like that bring home to us how vulnerable we all are to this international menace.

You've changed some of your laws here. We've changed some of our laws in the UK. We work together very closely between our police and intelligence services. We exchange information to make sure there is no hiding place for these people, wherever they are, whatever nationality they hold. They are part of an international conspiracy against the rule of law, against the rules based system of international governance and we will work together to tackle them wherever they rear their head.

I think it's important that we do recognise that although the current challenge is focussed around Iraq and Syria. We have to recognise that the underlying challenge of extremist Islamism is going to be with us for a long while. This is a generational struggle against this ideology and we are going to have to fight these battles, not just in the Middle East, but in other parts of the world as well. There is nowhere that is safe from this challenge and we need to work together to be two or three steps ahead in the chess game if we want to prevent this menace spreading to other parts of the globe.

JULIE BISHOP And the last question for the Foreign Secretary.

JOURNALIST Mr Hammond, there are currently two Australians that are set to be executed by the Indonesian Government in the next week. What's your government's opinion of the Indonesian policy of executing drug dealers?

PHILIP HAMMOND Well the UK's position, like Australia's position, is that we are opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. We've abolished it at home and we strongly advocate the abolition of the death penalty in other countries. I am going to Indonesia after my visit to New Zealand in a couple of days' time and will be engaging with our Indonesian counterparts there and I will be delivering on behalf of all the governments of countries who have people convicted and on death row, including the UK - we have UK nationals on death row in Indonesia - that message about our own position on the death penalty.

But I'll also be talking with our Indonesian partners about the importance of us being able to collaborate together to ensure that we counter the evil narcotics trade and in some cases it will be more difficult for us to be able to do that if these sentences are carried out in the way that is now being proposed.

JULIE BISHOP Another example of Australia and Britain having a similar world view. Ladies and gentleman thank you.

Media enquiries