Bilateral press conference with Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, Minister Szijjártó for your very warm welcome here in Budapest. This is a beautiful river city and I come from Perth, a river city in Australia. We are many kilometres apart, but the warmth of the welcome shows that there are very strong people-to-people links between Hungary and Australia.

Indeed, we have a strong Hungarian diaspora in Australia. Many came after the 1956 uprising and they were welcomed to our country and they have made an enormous contribution in sport, culture, the arts, in politics and most certainly business with some very successful Australian businesses started by entrepreneurial Australians of Hungarian heritage.

Péter invited me to visit Hungary some time ago, and I have been absolutely delighted to meet with him from time to time at various forums around the world, but now having the opportunity to accept his invitation, there is so much for us to discuss. I am here to discuss ways that we can expand our bilateral relationship in trade and commerce and investment, and whilst our two-way trade and investment might seem modest compared to others, there is great potential for us to do more.

Australia is the 13th largest economy in the world. We have just entered our 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth. Our success as a nation depends on our ability to sell our goods and services into markets around the world. We are an open, export-oriented market economy. And we want to work closely with like-minded countries who support free liberalised trade and investment, to enhance existing markets and find new markets for our goods and services, and so we certainly share that ambition with Hungary.

Likewise, the opportunity to meet with the other ministers of the V4 was one that I did not want to pass up. We are very interested in the V4 grouping in Australia because it has a different perspective or it brings a fresh perspective to the EU that we've not previously accessed. And so I am looking forward to a broad-ranging discussion this afternoon with my counterpart ministers of the V4, and thank you Péter for facilitating this opportunity.

Australia is very keen to conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union. Our discussions with the EU have been going on for some time. Most certainly they pre-date the Brexit vote, but we feel that much could be gained by the EU and by Australia if we were to have a formal free trade agreement between the EU bloc and Australia given our complementarities.

We look forward to Hungary's support. I appreciate there are sensitivities, and we discussed some of them, but as countries who appreciate the benefit of open markets and liberalised trade and investment. We look forward to your support as we seek to find a date to formally announce the commencement of free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union.

Australia has a very ambitious free trade agenda. We recently concluded what's called a TPP11, bringing eleven significant economies together in our part of the world. And it is a high-quality, comprehensive, I would suggest gold-standard agreement that we hope will serve as driving momentum for similar agreements in other regions.

We also discussed in our bilateral meeting the issue of migration. Australia's experience is very different, but it is one that we offer for others to consider. Yes, our geographic circumstances are vastly different. We are an island continent. We are also a nation that has had a very different history. We are a nation of immigrants. Indeed, over half of the Australian population of 24 million people was either born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas. I believe we are the most successful multicultural nation on the planet. We have welcomed to Australia people from all over the world, and the various diaspora communities in Australia make up a significant part of our society.

We have also been a very welcoming nation when it comes to refugees. Since the Second World War Australia has welcomed 865,000 refugees. The point is the sovereign government of Australia must run our immigration system, and the point we make to the United Nations is that sovereignty must be paramount in determining an orderly immigration system.

We have put in place very strong border protection laws, and this has meant that in the last three and a half years there has not been a successful people-smuggling venture to Australia. It also means that there have been no deaths at sea as a result of the illegal activities of the people smuggling trade.

So while we don't seek to lecture others, we don't seek to advise others on how they should run their domestic policies, Australia offers as an example of what we have done to ensure that we can continue to be a welcoming country when it comes to genuine refugees and those who are in need of a humanitarian visa. We continue to welcome people from around the globe, but it is in accordance with an orderly system run by the Australian Government.

Finally, I want to thank Péter on a personal note for the work that we have done together. We have both been at forums such as the Coalition to defeat ISIS. We have discussed the ways that our defence forces can work together in the Middle East, in Iraq and elsewhere to build capacity in those countries struggling from the scourge of terrorism.

Australia is not immune from terrorism. Indeed, we have thwarted a number of potential attacks in recent years. But it is through our partnership and exchange of information and experiences in the nineties, of working together with countries such as Hungary that have enabled us to build a coalition of countries determined to stamp out to terrorism wherever it may occur.

So thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity to visit your beautiful city and it is now your turn to come back to Australia.

REPORTER: I have a question for Ms Bishop. Could you go into a bit more detail on the UN Compact for Migration. What are the points where you see eye to eye with Minister Szijjártó? And what are the points where you diverge from those of the Hungarian government? Thank you.

REPORTER: My question to you have you discussed the issue of the Hungarian billionaire George Soros and Islam. I am wondering whether Minister Bishop and Australia has become an ally for Hungary against George Soros and Islam.

REPORTER: I would like to ask Minister Bishop: How do you think the Brexit would impact the EU-Australia relations, regarding also the negotiations, seeing that the UK exiting the European Union, but remains in a close partnership with Australia.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, perhaps I will go in this order.

In relation to the UN Compact, Australia is focussing on the importance of sovereignty. We want to ensure that we have in place policies that enable peaceful and safe and secure passage to Australia in accordance with Australia's laws. We put ourselves forward as an example, but we don't suggest for a moment that our circumstances are replicated elsewhere.

As far as the details are concerned, it is a matter for each nation to put forward their views. And Australia has been, I believe constructively, putting forward what we have done, as an example dealing with irregular or illegal migration and being able to build an immigrant society. So the circumstances are quite different, but I think we agree on the issue of sovereignty being paramount.

No, we did not discuss George Soros, and no, Australia is not part of any movement in relation to that.

And, then on the question of Brexit, we obviously will await the outcome of the negotiations between the European Union and Great Britain. I have just been in the UK, and met with our counterpart, Foreign Secretary Johnson. So, there is a debate going on Britain as to what Brexit will look like, clearly there are negotiations to be had in the EU.

From our point of view, we want to conclude a free agreement with the EU as soon as possible. We understand that the United Kingdom is not able to negotiate free trade agreements until it has concluded its exit from the EU. Therefore, we will wait until the circumstances are right for us to seek to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK. But clearly, we would prefer to conclude one with the EU first. We can do that now. We can commence negotiations as soon as the EU is ready, and then depending upon how Brexit looks, we would like to be in a position to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

If the UK remains in a customs union, then that would, I understand, preclude it from entering into free trade agreements with others. If as one is led to believe the UK won't be in a formal customs union then that could give us that opportunity. But it's a little early for us to be discussing negotiations for a free trade agreement with Great Britain because it needs to exit Europe first.

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