Joint press conference, Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) 2017
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you for being here this afternoon. I am delighted to join with my colleague in Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne to welcome to Sydney Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, and Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary of the United Kingdom.
This is my fourth AUKMIN, the Australia-UK Ministerial Consultation and Michael, Marise, and Boris have also attended AUKMINs in the past in London and in Sydney.
Well, I have to say that in the past four years, the international geo-strategic landscape has changed and the world is a more volatile, less stable, less certain place. The international rules-based order that has underpinned peace, stability, and security, in our region and in the European continent since the Second World War, is under strain. We're seeing the rise of economic nationalism and protectionism, the evolving global terrorist threat, Brexit, the new Trump Administration. We are seeing a level of uncertainty that we've not witnessed in a very long time.
Therefore, it is more important than ever before for like-minded countries to find common cause in supporting that international rules-based order bilaterally, plurilaterally, and multilaterally. And you could not find two more like-minded countries than Australia and the United Kingdom and today we have had a very productive session covering a range of challenges and opportunities where Australia and the United Kingdom have resolved to work even more closely together.
We discussed Brexit and the potential for Australia to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union and subsequently a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the UK. We very much look forward to the moment when we can commence negotiations and conclude what I'm sure will be a high-quality, comprehensive Free Trade Agreement; first with the EU and then, of course, between Australia and the UK.
We discussed how we can work more closely together in Syria and Iraq in terms of countering the terrorist threat there, but also discussed in detail the evolving nature of the threat of ISIS in the Philippines, very much in our region, and the whole issue of returning foreign terrorist fighters.
We spoke at length about opportunities in our part of the world, in the Indo-Pacific, in South East Asia; we spoke about China, we spoke about the economic rise of Asian economies. And we spoke about the challenges, including in the South China Sea.
We had a long discussion about the Pacific and the opportunities for deeper British engagement in our part of the world and our neighbourhood where Australia is a partner of choice, but we also see the United Kingdom as being a natural partner with us in the development and security of the Pacific.
We also discussed NATO, Russia and, in particular, from Australia's perspective, we deeply appreciate the support of the United Kingdom over our efforts to hold to account the perpetrators of the downing of MH17. Britain lost citizens, Australia lost 38 people who called Australia home in that shocking tragedy and we thank the United Kingdom for their support.
We concluded the afternoon on a very positive note. The Commonwealth Summit will be held in London in 2018. The Commonwealth Games will be held on the Gold Coast in early April. And we see, under Britain's leadership next year, a revitalised Commonwealth; a group of countries brought together by common heritage but, most importantly, common values: a love of freedom, an embrace of democratic institutions and the rule of law.
So, from my point of view, it's been the most successful AUKMIN to date. I want to thank Boris and Marise and Michael for their unfailingly wonderful company. It's been an immensely enjoyable but very serious opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts and we are aligned in so many ways, and long may that be the case.
Might I ask Marise- oh, Boris, why don't you start [indistinct] and then we'll go to the Defence people?
BORIS JOHNSON: Okay, well thank you very much. Thank you very much, Julie. Good afternoon everybody. It's absolutely wonderful to be back here in beautiful Sydney after- and I totally agree with you, Julie, it was the most productive AUKMIN yet. Britain and Australia, as you rightly say, share the same values of freedom and democracy and equality. We champion free trade together, we speak the same language, more or less.
We compete fiercely in the same sports, not always with the same success if I can put it tactfully, and we speak the same- and we seek the same goal of a peaceful and a prosperous world. And on the anniversary of the Battle of Ypres it is worth remembering that, for more than a century now, our soldiers have fought side by side in that cause in battlefields across the globe.
Our diplomats today are also side by side and shoulder to shoulder. When the- as I've just seen, the building housing the High Commission in New Z- the British High Commission in New Zealand was damaged by an earthquake and it was the Australian High Commission that took our people in. I was there just a couple of days ago and witnessed the hospitality that you have given us; I'd like to thank you, Julie, for that free office space.
JULIE BISHOP: Free?
BORIS JOHNSON: Was it not free?
JULIE BISHOP: I'll talk later.
BORIS JOHNSON: Perhaps- well, there you go. Maybe we contribute, in which case I'm perfectly happy. That friendship is going to deepen in the years ahead and you've alluded to the opportunities of Brexit, Julie, you're absolutely right. As we go through the process of leaving the arrangements of the European Union, we are going to widen our horizons and work even more closely. We have today re-affirmed our shared goal of concluding a Free Trade Agreement as soon as possible after we leave the EU and Liam Fox, the UK Trade Secretary, is coming here shortly to convene the bilateral Trade Working Group.
As you would expect, it was in a way a feast of reason and a flow of soul between the ministers and their officials here at AUKMIN but there was also a great deal of serious business that was done. We discussed in depth the crisis from North Korea, what we can do to tackle the terrorism threat that you rightly raise here in South East Asia, our developing work in bringing together Five Eyes intelligence sharing and intensifying that. We talked about Syria, we talked about Iran and Iraq; a host of other subjects where the UK and Australia see eye to eye and I think increasingly see eye to eye as the years go on.
Julie and I have agreed to work with our Commonwealth friends on establishing an innovation challenge to help Commonwealth member countries to work creatively together to address particular problems. The Australia-UK Leadership Forum, which Julie has just described, will be an excellent way of deepening our relationship still further and I look forward to hosting the forum in London next year.
We will work together on cyber issues to achieve a free and open cyber space and we will co-chair an international workshop on the scourge of trafficking and modern slavery, to be hosted by the Australian High Commission in London next month.
AUKMIN 2017 has been the clearest possible reminder of the values that unite Britain and Australia, of our shared dedication to the rules-based international system that has been the guarantor of stability and, of course, also of prosperity for the last 70 years. In a volatile and unpredictable world, it is more important than ever to nurture the friendships that we know best and that matter to us the most and with people we trust the most, and that is what today has been about.
I also want to say thank you to you, Julie, because somebody evidently brought you news that I had been out jogging over the last couple of mornings in your wonderful Botanical Gardens in Sydney and you were kind enough just now to give me a very beautiful pair of compression tights as modelled by Hugh Jackman, I'm given to understand, so thank you, Julie, thank you, Marise, and thank you, Australia.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, Boris.
MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much, Julie, and I'd very much like to join with Foreign Minister Bishop in expressing my appreciation to Secretary Michael Fallon and Secretary Boris Johnson for being here in Sydney for the 2017 AUKMIN. I wouldalso like to acknowledge our respective High Commissioners: His Excellency Alexander Downer and Her Excellency Menna Rawlings for the support they have provided to us all in the meetings in the last two days.
We have most certainly had a very positive meeting and enjoyed a very frank exchange, as you can but imagine, of ideas and information that were part of the AUKMIN agenda and I also wanted to emphasise the consensus that we've reached on a number of aspects of further strengthening our bilateral relationship, particularly, in our case, in relation to defence and security.
This is a relationship, indeed, developed over more than a century of joined military history and this period of the centenary of the battles of World War I reminds us constantly of that very close joining. And both of our nations are now embarking upon a series of upgrades of military modernisation in all of our capabilities. We are building on our industrial maritime bases in both cases; we're integrating new and high-end capabilities whether it's the joint strike fighter or the P-8 Poseidon. The importance of that strengthened cooperation, of inter-operability between our forces, and of classified information sharing remains unparalleled.
I was very pleased to welcome Sir Michael Fallon to RAAF base Richmond in Western Sydney yesterday morning for a briefing on a number of those capabilities and engagement with senior representatives of the ADF, including, I might say, one lateral UK Royal Air Force recruit that we're not giving back, I'm sorry to remind you, Michael.
But the ability that we have to work together so effectively is due to our shared determination to work together in the pursuit of global security and regional stability. As we move, for example, into the next phase of our operations in Iraq and Syria, we will continue to work together as part of the international coalition, the counter-Daesh coalition, to ensure that, as the coalition progresses its activities, it aligns its support for Iraq's reconciliation, governance and security efforts. We agreed that going forward it will be very important that the coalition's support for Iraq helps to cement the military progress that has been made. That stabilisation activity and focus is so very important.
Closer to home, of course, and the Foreign Minister has acknowledged these, we both face common counter-terrorism challenges as the threat from violent extremist organisations and, indeed, returning foreign terrorist fighters increases in both of our respective regions. We will, therefore, strengthen our information sharing on the effective coordination of the military in domestic counter-terrorism operations and post-attack rehabilitation and on regional capacity building and countering violent extremist initiatives. We discussed the emerging global trends in terrorism and the implications of those for defence and security policy not only in the Middle East but, importantly, also in the Indo-Pacific.
In the margins of the Shangri La dialogue, which was held in Singapore at the beginning of June this year, the FPDA, the Five Power Defence Arrangement countries, met to discuss how we take our engagement in that piece of regional architecture forward. And at that meeting, we agreed to strengthen our cooperation particularly on counter-terrorism as it affects Singapore and Malaysia. Today and yesterday the Secretary and I, with our counterpart foreign secretaries and ministers, have discussed how we are going to be able to implement that through adjusting our exercises under FPDA to reflect the contemporary environment and through ensuring that our information sharing is able to support those evolving terrorist threats.
We will, of course, be working very closely with the other FPDA countries; with Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand, as we move forward on this. We are fortunate to have the support and engagement of our defence counterparts in those countries in that process and of their respective leaderships.
In Afghanistan, we are steadfast in our shared commitment to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan national defence and security forces and we are reminded of the continuing challenge that we face in Afghanistan and of the men and women we ask to serve in that context. With regard to NATO more specifically, we also very much appreciate the support that we received from the United Kingdom for our Enhanced Opportunity Partner status and developing that engagement, particularly with relation to our region.
Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of over-flight, which is, of course, a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms. We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time. The FPDA is a perfect foundation for those sorts of activities.
That will, of course, be just one extra activity in an already broad and strong program of bilateral maritime cooperation around the world. We have also committed today to strengthening our defence and security arrangements on classified information sharing on capability and equipment cooperation. There is enormous potential in that particular area for us as we engage in these strong periods of military modernisation and it is work that will ensure we're best positioned to meet the emerging threats to security both here and further afield.
In a world that is, as the Foreign Minister identified in her open remarks, as uncertain and complex as the one in which we now live, it is most definitely the intention of the Australian Government, in my case through the ADF and the Defence organisation, to continue to work with the UK to address those common threats to a peaceful, prosperous and rules-based global order. This AUKMIN indeed has reinforced my very strong belief that our two nations are particularly well placed in terms of like-mindedness, inter-operability, capability, and unwavering determination to overcome the sorts of challenges that we've been discussing, and to uphold our shared commitment to global peace and to stability.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you, Marise.
MICHAEL FALLON: Well, it's great to be back in Australia. We really are the closest of allies. This weekend we commemorate those Australian and British troops who fought side by side in the cause of freedom at Passchendaele in 1917, a year in which Australians won 18 Victoria Crosses. We have stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight against fascism; we stand shoulder to shoulder in support of fragile democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. I pick out three highlights from our discussions today.
First, the need to strengthen the international rules-based order to which Julie referred. NATO has a huge role to play in guaranteeing global security. We have long stressed the need for the NATO alliance to look beyond its European borders and play a bigger role in the fight against international terror. So we believe that Australia, as an Enhanced Partner in NATO, can play a pivotal part in enhancing NATO's understanding of the challenges that we share in the Indo-Pacific region. And, we believe that the Five Power Defence Arrangements have a greater role, too, to play in building regional security, in increasing maritime security, and helping to fight terrorism.
Second, we have all spoken about the importance of greater intelligence and information sharing. We both recently suffered in our own countries at the hands of terror and we are adapting our own arrangements to those dangers. In the UK, Operation Temperer recently allowed for the deployment of troops on our streets in support of the armed police and we are ready now to share lessons from that deployment with our Australian counterparts.
Third and finally, Britain is going global. As we leave the European Union, we are stepping up to the challenges of global security, using our growing defence budget to invest in new equipment from aircraft carriers and Dreadnought submarines to frigates and fighter planes. So there is an immense opportunity here for us to join forces with the Australia Defence Forces and Australian defence industries to stay ahead of the curve. So innovation gives us the opportunity to share our interests in maritime patrol aircraft, in F-35 fighter jet capability, in air battle management systems, and in the new frigates that we are both now commissioning.
We agreed yesterday to build on those existing collaborations and to extend them further in every domain from autonomous systems through to cyber. We have agreed to build on our membership of the Five Eyes community and our growing cooperation on defence capabilities to explore developing a strategic partnership in anti-submarine warfare.
So, let me say in conclusion this was an extremely constructive and productive meeting. We are rightly proud of our history in working and fighting together in the cause of freedom. We agreed today to reforge that defence partnership to meet the new challenges of our time. This is a strong relationship. Today it just got stronger still.
MARISE PAYNE: Well said.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for four questions.
QUESTION: Andrew Tillet from the Australian Financial Review. Mr Johnson and Sir Michael, welcome to Australia.
BORIS JOHNSON: Thank you.
QUESTION: You spoke about your eagerness to secure a free trade agreement as soon as possible, Mr Johnson. Will that include concessions on visas to make it easier for Australians to live and work in the UK? And more broadly, you talk about your commitment to engaging with Australia and the Asia-Pacific; how realistic is it to expect Britain to be able to exert influence in the region given that you are so far away and there are issues closer to home you have, and challenges?
BORIS JOHNSON: Well, thank you very much. First of all, I've no doubt that we will do a great free trade deal, and I have no doubt at all because everybody raises it with me that there will be a lot of pressure about visas. I will stress that we do have a - and I certainly support - an extremely open and generous regime in favour of our European- in favour of our Australian friends, I should say, being able to come - and our European friends, why not - provided we control it.
Provided we control it, and what we will be able to do - once we take back control of our immigration arrangements - is to have a system that is fair as between everybody, and you are certainly right in that we want to welcome talented Australians as we do. Now, I'd just point that at the moment, as I understand the matter, about a million Australians come already to the UK without any visa arrangements whatever. They more or less get kissed on both cheeks at Heathrow and welcomed into our country. We want a system that is open, friendly and receptive.
On your second point about UK engagement in this region, we are stepping up, as Sir Michael has said. You will have seen last year how we sent a squadron of Typhoons to Korea and to Japan. One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a FONOP - a freedom of navigation operation - to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade. We will continue to work with our Australian friends in the Five Defence Powers Agreement. We will continue to intensify the sharing of intelligence.
One thing that we discussed today that really struck me forcefully is the increasing awareness here in this part of the world of the threat posed by Daesh extremist terror. You see what's happening on the Philippines in Marawi. This is something that we need to tackle together, and that we can tackle together. We work together through the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement and we have agreed today at AUKMIN to develop and intensify that sharing of classified information, and you will see something about that in the communique.
So, the increase in our defence budgets - that Michael Fallon has rightly alluded to - do allow for the UK to step up in this region. The change in our circumstances in our relationship with the European Union also allow us now to do a big free trade deal with Australia. The two things go together. We believe that it is the guaranteeing of the rules-based international system, the preservation of the security and stability of this region, that allow for economic growth. This is certainly where the growth is to be found.
QUESTION: Hi Boris. Phil Mercer from the BBC. Why has it taken the British Government a year since the result of the referendum to commission this full study into migration? And then a supplementary question. What would happen if the experts tell you at the end of this study that Britons said they can't do without the majority of European Union workers already in the UK?
BORIS JOHNSON: Hi Phil. I'm- obviously, I haven't seen the study you talk of because I've been here in Australia for the last couple of days and, indeed, travelling for the last week but all I can give you is my own views about the value of immigration and the value of having an open approach to it. I say what I have always said: as a society, as the city of London, benefitted massively from having talent come to our shores, we benefit from a large Australian population, I think we had 400,000 French people living in London when I was mayor. It's fantastic for the energy and dynamism of the economy, and Australia is very similar in its composition. That doesn't mean that you can't control it. That's all that I think people want to see. They want to see their politicians taking responsibility, explaining the policy, explaining what they are trying to do, explaining who can come in, on what basis and why it's good for the economy, and I think, actually, there are things we could do to reduce some aspects of immigration whilst keeping a posture that is open and attractive to talent, and I'd be very, very surprised if any report says otherwise. I haven't, obviously, the benefit of seeing the report you describe.
QUESTION: Why has it taken a year?
BORIS JOHNSON: I'm sorry, why's it taken a- well, the honest truth is you bring me news of this report today, Phil, so I'm sorry if I don't- I can't comment on- it sounds like an interesting report, I can give you- or interesting potential report. I can give you my views about immigration. I think immigration is broadly a positive thing for societies if you allow talented people to come in a controlled way to great metropolises like London and Sydney. Both cities have benefitted from it.MARISE PAYNE: Good point.
BORIS JOHNSON: I'm getting some agreement from Marise down here, so …
MARISE PAYNE: As a Sydneysider.
BORIS JOHNSON: As a Sydneysider. So, that's my policy and that's my view.
QUESTION: You are not wearing the tights, though, are you?
JULIE BISHOP: Not yet, no. Be careful what you wish for would be my advice.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] I'd like a response from both defence ministers if possible. You would be both aware of the revised US intelligence assessment briefed by the media which suggested greater North Korea missile and nuclear capability. It suggested intercontinental capability by next year. What sort of responses have you discussed today to counter that threat?
MICHAEL FALLON: You go first.
MARISE PAYNE: That's very kind. Thank you very much, Siobhan. The development publicised by the United States yesterday is one I have actually answered questions to the ABC on as well last night, so thank you very much for the question today.
We have maintained a very consistent position between the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and myself, in terms of condemning the reckless behaviour of the North Korean regime in terms of their missile activity, and we continue to do so. We have been working with the United States, indeed, since 2014, if I'm not mistaken, on a ballistic missile working party which is part of our engagement with the US on the challenge that this faces for all of us. Most importantly, though, we call upon North Korea and we speak to our regional country China in relation to exercising restraint in their activities. We know and we have raised in appropriate diplomatic fora with China the importance of them also engaging with the North Korean Government, with the regime, to emphasise the foolhardy nature of the activities in which they're occupied in relation to missile activities. We are consistent in saying that North Korea must cease its provocative actions. Its long-term interests, the region's long-term interests and the world's long-term interests would be best served by them ceasing their nuclear activity and their ballistic missile programs and engaging positively with the international community. We continue to prosecute that case. The Foreign Minister has spoken at length on previous occasions in relation to our engagement in terms of sanctions and reinforcing our strong view of the application of sanctions and our extension of those just recently. That is an important message from not just Australia but from other members of the international community, and out of our discussions today we are as one in terms of our condemnation of the North Korean regime.
MICHAEL FALLON: Well, so far as the missile tests are concerned, they are provocative, they're dangerous, they are illegal. They are in clear breach of United Nations obligations. First, China has to engage. With international influence comes responsibility, and it is now for Beijing to use the influence it has over the North Korean regime to get it to abandon its program.
Second, it's not possible to put together a missile program - that North Korea has done - without assistance from outside, without some kind of help financially and commercially and scientifically from elsewhere. So the existing resolutions - and there are half a dozen of them - clearly are not being properly enforced. Whether or not we have a new resolution at the United Nations, we have to now enforce the existing sanctions regimes and make sure those resolutions are properly respected.
QUESTION: Minister Johnson, Roger Mainard from The Standard in the UK. Can you give us an idea of the exact impact on British-Australian trade after Brexit? And secondly, would it mean cheaper Australian wine in the UK?
BORIS JOHNSON: Well, Roger, I can see the headline you are after there. All I can say is I think there are huge opportunities, not just in goods but also in services. I think we manage to sell Â£8 billion- Australia sells plenty of stuff to us. You sell skateboards to …
JULIE BISHOP: And you send us boomerangs.
BORIS JOHNSON: And we sell- thank you, Julie, for that. We sell 100,000 boomerangs a year to Australia from Leighton Buzzard, I discovered …
JULIE BISHOP: True.
BORIS JOHNSON: … as part of eight billion quids' worth of exports. We think we could intensify that …
MARISE PAYNE: Boomerangs.
BORIS JOHNSON: Not just boomerangs, Marise. Plenty of …
MARISE PAYNE: Because they come back.
BORIS JOHNSON: Our boomerangs are the non-returning kind, you see. We think we can thicken that pipeline a great deal. Just one thought I will give you- never mind Australian wine, which is, of course, delicious. Unless I missed my guest, there are tariffs on Scotch whisky in this country which seem to me to amount to a cruel deprivation of the Australian people of Scotch whisky at the price they could have it. I merely throw it out there. Whereas I don't think we have any tariffs at all on, for instance, Bundaberg rum. It might be possible to develop that kind of discussion, but I think the real gains are going to be in the services sector.
The important thing is that Australia and the UK share a belief here, and it's a deep-seated belief in free trade. And this is not an uncontested belief now, and I think one of the most important aspects of AUKMIN today was how strongly we agreed that we should work together to promote this view of the world, particularly perhaps with some of our friends in the United States who aren't necessarily these days so committed to that ideal. You've got the UK and Australia strongly committed to something that we think has massively boosted the prosperity of the world, and we think a free trade deal between our countries would boost our prosperity too.
JULIE BISHOP: I believe that Australia and the UK can take a leadership role in this regard and when the timing is right, we will obviously do the scoping studies that will lay out the kind of benefits for both economies, but it will be more than just trade in goods. It's about trade in services and also the investment regime. We believe that free trade has benefitted Australia enormously; we are an open, export-oriented market economy. Our standard of living, our economic growth, depends on our ability to sell goods and services around the world and to receive foreign direct investment. That is a view shared by the United Kingdom, so we can take a leadership role in the face of growing economic protectionism to prove - through this free trade agreements and with other free trade agreements that we are both pursuing - that the liberalised trading system, underpinned by the international system, is good for our respective economies, good for our citizens, and good for more jobs.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
BORIS JOHNSON: Definitely. Definitely well said. Jobs is the thing. Jobs is the thing I should have mentioned.
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