Joint press conference with Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister and Dr Ursula Von Der Leyen, German Minister of Defence
Minister Steinmeier: Statement in German.
Minister Bishop: Frank-Walter, on behalf of our Defence Minister, Marise Payne, I thank you for your gracious hospitality here in this beautiful residence on this glorious German day. We had a very constructive and frank discussion on a whole range of areas where we currently cooperate and pool our efforts, and our aim here is that we can do more together in counter-terrorism, in countering foreign terrorist fighters and in the area of cyber. As two likeminded nations committed to freedom and democratic values, we re-affirmed our commitment to a rules-based international order. Specifically we called for an end to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, we called for a de-escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, we called on North Korea to abide by the UN Council resolutions. We expressed our dismay at the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria and our commitment to not only military operations in Iraq and Syria, but to a political solution that will endure.
While this is our inaugural 2+2 meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers, we came together as friends, and we discussed many areas of cooperation given that we have such a similar world outlook and we were able to learn from each other as we brought our respective perspectives on our different regions. We may be a long way apart, but we are two countries only divided by distance. This has been a historic day for both our nations as we held this inaugural 2+2 and I look forward to continuing the discussions, I look forward to hosting you both in 2018 when we'll hold our next 2+2, but in the meantime the close cooperation between our two countries on defence, security, foreign policy and economic and trade issues will of course continue. So thank you for what I believe was a most successful inaugural 2+2 meeting between Australia and Germany.
MINISTER Von der Leyen: Statement in German.
Minister Payne: Ursula, Frank-Walter, Julie, thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in what was an extremely valuable inaugural 2+2 dialogue. As the most important thing we are as well as able to compare and contrast the work we are doing internationally on so many levels, we are also able to bring forward our personal relationships, and this dialogue makes a significant difference in that regard.
In comparison of the development of the Defence White Paper and the White Book here in Germany we certainly emphasised as the Foreign Minister said our shared commitment in the rules-based global order in all that we do. We acknowledge that we live and we work in a very dynamic and changing strategic environment. Dynamic because it is shifting as both state and non-state actors are perhaps moving in a faster way than we have seen in recent times, and it requires a very deft hand in defence and in foreign affairs to maintain the right approach in addressing those changes. We also recognised in both or our White Paper and White Book the importance of investment that we have both made in our armed forces and in our people. We know that we can't ask the men and women in the Australian and German military to do the jobs that we ask them to do without the appropriate level of investment, and both of these documents very much assure the future in that regard.
Ursula is right in terms of one of the real focuses of the changing strategic environment cyber is an absolutely imperative front for us to be addressing in a very assertive way. We have shared challenges of the known and the unknown in cyber, and therein lies one of the most important aspects of our contemplation there. The advances in technology occur on an almost daily basis. The need for expert personnel is skipping ahead of all of us internationally, and in some ways we are competing for the same market for that. It is a real and present threat to what we ask the Australian Defence Force to do, and I know this is reflected in the view of Germany as well. We may come from tens of thousands of kilometres apart, but we join in common force at the moment in Iraq, in Syria, and secondly in Afghanistan.
In Iraq and Syria we are working for the same important objectives, but primarily the defeat of DAESH, as it currently stands. We shared a significant discussion about the challenges that we have faced, the advances that have been made, but importantly what is to come down the road. I would hope that we can look to further cooperation in the work that we are doing now. Australia for example has a strong team engaged in building a partner capacity mission in Taji in conjunction with the New Zealand Defence Force. We have a special operations task group, and we have expanded our remit recently particularly to address law enforcement issues and law enforcement training, and that will be very important for what we both recognise is imperative to the successful outcomes that we pursue in Iraq, stabilisation and security of those areas in which Coalition and Iraqi armed forces are able to make advances in. In Afghanistan, as we all pursue the future security and stability of Afghanistan we of course welcome the lead Germany takes particularly through NATO, and our own capacity to participate in that NATO-led operation, that is re-enforced again in our White Paper as a very important element of our work in that area.
And finally if I just can point more broadly to the defence relationship and two bilateral projects: We have long-standing engagements in defence materiel particularly and I know that will only grow and develop. One of the reasons they will grow and develop is exactly the point that I made earlier. We are both of us committed to develop and invest in our armed forces, in their equipment and in our people. And our equipment investment will lead us to do significantly more work together. We engage in regular exchanges – I think the 2+2 dialogue is a very good example of one of those, and I look forward to as Julie said welcoming our compatriots to a further dialogue of this nature in Australia in due course.
JOURNALIST: My question is in a couple of parts. Foreign Minister, a lot of Australia's national celebrations and commemorations focus on military victories over Germany. Does this in this context present a high watermark for relations? What sort of discussion was there in terms of counter-terrorism currently with Germany, and Defence Minister, did you say why Germany missed out on the submarine contract?
Minister Bishop: Perhaps I'll commence? For over 70 years now Australia and Germany are increasingly close partners and friends. We have a shared history going back hundreds of years, in fact during the lunch break I was delighted to see some of the archival material our German friends had put together to remind us of the deep links between my home state of South Australia and the German people. Thank you for your contribution to our significant wine growing industry, our wine growing areas and our wine industry in Australia. But we have been close friends for many years and we are able to commemorate the tragedies of the 20th century in a respectful and dignified way. And of course this is the centenary of the First World War, and Australia has been commemorating some of the more significant milestones during that "war to end all wars".
We are increasingly working together on many challenges that face us regionally and globally. We are in a very volatile world, and Australia and Germany are absolutely aligned when it comes to a commitment to a rules-based international order, a commitment to upholding freedoms, democratic values, tolerance, human rights, and in fact it was hard to find an area where we disagree. Germany is a natural partner for us in so many ways, and in the area of counter-terrorism I was struck by the fact that like Australia, Germany also has a number of citizens who have become radicalised, who have become attracted to the horrific ideology of IS or DAESH and are taking part in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Australia likewise has a similar challenge. We have 100, 120 citizens, Germany on a per capita basis something similar, 6-700. And so we can share information, share ideas, share experiences, share intelligence to ensure that together with other members of the like-minded coalition we can defeat this scourge of terrorism that is not only a regional threat in the Middle East, but is a global threat. So our relationship with Germany is strong, but this 2+2 does represent a historic milestone in this already strong friendship. It brings us even closer together and that will be to the benefit of the Australian people and I would hope also to the German people.
Minister Payne: And James, if I could say on your second question, Minister von der Leyen and I spoke about this matter five months ago now, at the time of the decision, in the first instance, of course that was only appropriate, and I have again acknowledged that the Australian decision, as the fortunate recipient of three excellent submissions from the three participants in the competitive evaluation process, the Australian decision was entirely related to what best suited our unique operational requirements, the unique capabilities that we needed, that was the basis of the decision, and I think as mature partners and as partners, as I referred to in my remarks, who have existing extensive relations across the defence materiel, we are able to manage that aspect of the relationship and we expect to continue to work very happily and well together. There's a lot more to be done together.
JOURNALIST: Question in German, asking Minister Payne about opportunities for German industry with regard to other Australian defence procurement projects, and Minister von der Leyen about further investment in the German military base in Turkey (used in the anti IS coalition).
Minister Payne: Thank you very much. If I can respond to the first part of your question and I'm sorry constrained, but I'll have to do it in English, my apologies. As I said in my remarks, and in fact in my response to James Glenday's question, we have an extensive relationship, particularly in relation to defence materiel, from the defence industry in Germany to the Australian Defence Force and defence industry in Australia. And I can only say we have a very significant, hundreds of billions of dollars investment upcoming over the next two decades in the Australian Defence Force across a range of platforms and I'll be more than happy to provide you with the parts of the Australian White Paper that go directly to those, whether they are in relation to land and our army capability, to naval capability, and a number of German companies are involved in a naval selection process at the moment for two particular surface ships that we are intending to acquire. This is very much an existing and developing, growing relationship, one which I look forward to working very closely with you over the coming years.
Minister von der Leyen: Speaking in German, confirming strength of defence industry relationship and addressing question about German base in Turkey.
JOURNALIST: Question in German regarding the situation in Syria, and the use of intelligence data collected by the German forces in Turkey.
Minister von der Leyen: Speaking in German, addressing issue of military intelligence data.
Minister Steinmeier: Speaking in German, addressing the humanitarian situation in Syria.
- Ends -