Joint press briefing with Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabone

  • Transcript, E&OE

MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE Once again to my friend and colleague, the Honourable Minister Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia, welcome to South Africa to you and your delegation. We have already once again passed our sincere condolences on the passing of our dear friend and your High Commissioner to South Africa who passed away on our soil a few weeks ago. May his soul rest in peace.

South Africa attaches great importance to our relations with your country, Australia, which has, over the past decades, become South Africa's biggest trading partner and most popular tourist destination in Oceania. We confirmed during our meeting that there is a lot that we can do together, on tourism. I think that South Africans are very insular, they just like to see another place far away from home that feels and smells and looks like home and then discover Australia. And then when they arrive there they pretend they are tourists.

We have agreed that there is so much we can do together, that we have been doing, taking advantage of our historic relations. We said that we needed to deepen our economic and trade relations. We agreed that we would focus on the pillars that have already been identified. One, on mining, and how to use our mineral resources, the technological know-how, collaboration. We know there will be competition, but we believe there is more we can do cooperating and complementing each other in the field of mining and management of our mineral resources.

We also identified agriculture and food security and agriculture technologies, which again we can look at complementing each other, and joint collaborative projects. In SA particularly, as we look at a regional perspective, but also to use this to go into third countries, because we think the best resource we have is still our people and our land. We also shared with your good self, through our cooperation in IORA, which we are both very passionate about, we could bring in the ocean economy and the plan that SA has that is embedded in our national development plan and Operation PHAKISA.

So in IORA we now see more and more opportunities for us to work together with Australia. We have charged our High Commissions, we have committed ourselves, that we will work with them to put up a document, a declaration that seeks to consolidate relations in this key threshold which would come to nil if we do not emphasise on how we should unleash the potential of our economic cooperation through skills exchange and skills development. Like I said, from our side the best resource we have is our people, our own people, and our land, our natural resources, so we will be finalising this document, this declaration, that we will bring to share with the media as soon as it is completed. We are not scratching the surface, we are just needing to be coordinated better, we need to consolidate, and I think that is the gist of our meeting today.

We also agreed that we are equally very excited about the work we had begun to do, looking at collaboration complementarities by thinking. Of course, we can compete with each other on a project like the 'Square Kilometre Array'. So our leaders thought now we can actually do much better if we collaborate, so that's how we are now leading the 'Square Kilometre Array' dream in SA, with many other African countries and Australia. We are not scientists, we are not astronomers, but we are beginning to just look and listen to this mind-boggling potential that comes with a natural potential for a project that we can do together, and the benefits and many opportunities that exist that come from science and technology, particularly with this existing project, which is actually exciting. That is just still at its outset, the Square Kilometre Array.

Of course, we will continue our discussions in line with the commitment we've made with Australia, taking advantage of our good and warm and historic bilateral relations.

When we concluded our tenure in the Security Council, we supported Australia's membership in the Security Council. I think we both agree that this two year turnaround, come in and go out, after seven years, might not be sustainable. By that I mean we agreed that the reforms had to happen now. We can't all belong to this global body, where the more things change for nobody, the more things remain the same, undemocratic, unrepresentative. We don't necessarily think it really is serving the global community to its fullest but we want to compliment Australia in the role that Australia continues to play and is playing in the spirit of working together to provide the world's peace and security.

I don't have to reemphasize the importance of our partnership in IORA (stumbles over word).

MINISTER BISHOP It's not easy to say.

MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE IORA, yes. Minister would love me to be taking up her invitation to the next IORA meeting. We are also looking forward to the visit of President Zuma to participate in the G20 Summit in Brisbane that Australia is going to be hosting this year. We are looking forward to working together and continuing to work together in the international forum for the joint development working group.

We would also like an opportunity to look at global security. We will also continue sharing information about the issues of peace and security in our region. Also we touched on the challenges that come with the lack of peace or insecurity in the Middle East. We also agreed that we are going to be working together on issues of peace and security, particularly, taking advantage that Australia is one of the few permanent, a country with permanent observer status in the AU, African Union, and that would be supporting agenda. Once again welcome to South Africa………….. over to you.

MINISTER BISHOP Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here in Pretoria on my first visit to South Africa as Australia's Foreign Minister. Maite thank you for your very warm welcome. We have had a wonderful discussion. I am always inspired by enthusiasm, your energy and your capacity to call it as it is. And that's why our discussions are always so enjoyable and hopefully fruitful in the interests of both our countries.

Australia and South Africa have a long historic and economic relationship. The warmth and the regard that we hold for each other is demonstrated by the fact Prime Minister Abbott attended the service for the passing of your beloved leader, Nelson Mandela, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming President Zuma to Australia for the G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane in November this year.

We did discuss a considerable amount about our economic trade and investment relationship. It is good, it is strong, with potential for so much more. And yes, our economies are similar in some ways, being focussed on mining resources, agriculture, but there is a lot we can learn from each other and share with each other. And I welcome Madam Minister's suggestions and enthusiasm for a broader economic framework in which we can continue to build on the very strong relationship that already exists. We have discussed ways that we can identify gaps in our relationship and fill them for the benefit of both our countries.

We discussed our complementary economies in the mining sector. There is much we can learn from each other. Australia has considerable experience in mining in SA. I believe there are over 130 Australian mining projects in SA at present. Australia has a reputation that is being at the very top-end cutting edge of mining technology and mining experience, and we look forward to sharing that with SA.

In the area of agriculture, we also see many opportunities to learn from each other, invest in each other's countries. Australia is particularly adept in issues like increasing crop yields and getting more productivity out of the agricultural sector. I know there is a great deal of potential here.

We discussed the blue economy, the ocean economy, and, of course, that naturally brings us to discussions about the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and I am very much looking forward to welcoming Madam Minister to Australia, to Perth, my hometown, for the next meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. I understand that as Foreign Minister you have many calls on your time, I would be most appreciative and honoured if you are able to give that political clout to IORA that would be evidenced by your attendance.

We also discussed our significant science and technology collaboration through the Square Kilometre Array. This will be the largest radio telescope ever constructed in the world and it is going to have several locations in SA and in Australia, indeed in the state of Western Australia. I have visited the site in WA. The potential for this massive project to drive economic growth is enormous and until you have actually seen the radio telescope and its path finder precursor, it's hard to imagine what it would do for Australian and South African technology and scientific research, not only in the area of astronomy but in the area of computing science and beyond. Its potential is absolutely astounding and I'm very proud of the fact that Australia and SA were competing for the right to host this SKA, and in a sign of great logic and friendship we have shared the massive project.

I am certainly looking forward to working more closely with you in the area of education. Australia has a long history of providing what we call the Australia Awards and these are opportunities for students from SA to undertake Masters Courses or short courses in Australia and we have discussed the opportunity to extend that to PhD-level programs. The Australia Awards are very important to our country and it is a demonstration of our commitment to the capacity building in SA. Indeed later today I will be announcing that within the Australia Awards we will have the 'Graeme Wilson Leadership Prize', which we will award to the top South African student. They will be provided with an Australia Award and this is in recognition of our late High Commissioner, who was such a close friend of South Africa, and we will miss Graeme Wilson very much. We thank your President for his kind words of condolence and for your expression of sympathy on behalf of the people of South Africa. We will miss Graeme very much and he will certainly leave quite a gap in our hearts, but we hope that this award will mean that his memory lives on. So in the area of education we'll continue to work closely with you.

As I have said to you earlier, I am accompanied on this visit by the Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, a very well-known former Senator from Australia. As we meet here, she is meeting with a number of leading women's groups in South Africa, for you surely have shown the way in empowering women to take positions in your political organisations and in your parliament and your public sector. Like Australia, there is probably more that we can do to encourage women to take leadership roles in the private sector, but women's empowerment is an aspiration that our countries share.

So Madam Foreign Minister, thank you for your warm welcome. I look forward to working with you bilaterally in regional forums and in the multilateral forums that Australia and South Africa join in membership. I can sincerely say that working so closely together, I am convinced that the best days of the Australia-South Africa relationship lie ahead of us.

JOURNALIST Minister Bishop could you please tell us the situation about Russia and the G20; a few months ago you said that you might not invite President Putin?

MINISTER BISHOP No, no, I have never said that, this might come as a shock to you but often there are quotes that are not accurate in the media, I am not suggesting that anyone present would do that of course. But we are hosting the G20 and it is not up to Australia to invite or disinvite the members of the G20; we work on a consensual basis. So, we have taken soundings about whether other countries have a view, a particular view on President Putin's presence. It seems that most countries feel very strongly that the G20 must remain the premier global economic forum and that is what is important.

As to President Putin's intentions to attend the G20 or not, there are a number of multilateral meetings between now and November, including APEC, the East Asia Summit, UN General Assembly Leaders Week and I think that we will have a clearer indication of President Putin's intentions at that time. But I make it clear it's not for Australia to determine, it is a consensual organisation based on agreement between the member states.

JOURNALIST You mentioned that you had discussed, among other things, hotspots in Africa, could you just tell us which countries identified as hotspots that you discussed and give us the latest on the situation in Lesotho?

MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE We also agree and respect the Australian position that we should leave G20 as a premier global economic forum where developing and developed countries get together and work together particularly on the development working group. Where do we take this global economy to? So we are very happy with what we have just recorded now.

But also, but leaders also get an opportunity to deal with other intractable issues on their own, so we think it is better not to close that door. Hot spots, I am sure, as a South African, you would know that our foreign policy is embedded on championing the African agenda so that we would never say we are truly at peace with ourselves, our continent is experiencing insecurity, or a period of instability.

You mentioned Lesotho earlier on. The DRC is not always what it should be, we are making progress but we can do much more working together with the countries in SADC and the Great Lakes region and DRC leadership. You know very well the Central African Republic is still struggling with finding its feet. We are well aware of what is going on in Libya. We spent a bit of time on the impact of what is happening in Libya in the greater Middle East and Arab countries.

As far as Lesotho is concerned you would know that we were in Lesotho yesterday. President Zuma had shared with the people of Lesotho, that as the chair of the Troika, he will remain the key facilitator of moving with the Basotho, working with them. It is the Lesotho relationship that must give assurances to ordinary Basothos that they will move forward and turn back to democratic normalcy in that country. - that Basothos should not only be safe, but they should feel safe, that they must walk freely even after dark. They mustn't all be rushing back home because they are not sure what they anticipate might happen, you know, post sunset. The coalition government had agreed that within a matter of two days, I guess that was yesterday and today, they would finalise the consultations and announce when they would be giving His Majesty a date for him to address the nation or reopen parliament. That SADC member states would continue working with Lesotho on the security sector reforms and all related issues.

Thank you.

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