Australia-New Zealand Ministerial Consultations press conference

  • Transcript, E&OE

MARISE PAYNE:                Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and it's a great pleasure to be here on a beautiful Sydney spring day with my friend and colleague Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters. Thank you very much for joining me here in Sydney this week for the latest of our Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister consultations. These consultations occur six monthly. They are a very regular engagement between Australia and New Zealand, and of course we take other opportunities whenever they present themselves, to catch up when we can. But it demonstrates the strength, and the closeness of this important trans-Tasman relationship. It's worth remarking as we have done today during our discussions today how closely interlinked our economies are as well, we see our Government and our business leaders working closely together through the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, and I want to thank New Zealand for hosting the most recent meeting of that in Auckland last month. And working to improve opportunities for business and for consumers in the trans-Tasman single economic market. As our Prime Minister has emphasised strengthening our long standing and close relationships with our Pacific partners is a key priority for Australia. And to achieve that, we're delighted to continue our strong collaboration with New Zealand over so many different areas through our Step-up and New Zealand's Reset, to work more closely with our Pacific partners to build a region that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically. We of course also work together closely to promote an international rules-based order. Both of our Prime Ministers participated in key meetings at the UN General Assembly Leaders' week in New York last month to promote free and open trade and security and defence cooperation and constructive outcomes in international fora. This is the closest of relationships. It's the closest of friendships, and I very much appreciate the Deputy Prime Minister joining me here this afternoon. It's fair to say we spent a small amount of time on the World Cup, and we're equally ambitious, would be my description. Winston, over to you.

WINSTON PETERS:           Thank you Minister first of all for your welcome to Australia and for some very, very serious discussions that we've had overnight and today. The reality is that we are like family. We are the most close economic relationship than you can possibly have, and have been for decades that way. And the issues that we have to discuss, and not just about our own relationships but also about the region in which we live, the Pacific, and the very significant and very important role that we have to play. So it's been a very worthwhile update, critical for two countries like New Zealand, where so much is reliant upon the examples that we set in terms of the rule of law, in terms of democracy and First World standards. It's very important that we are on the same wavelength as much as we possibly can be. Now we also have differences, but compared to other nations, they are minuscule and our relationship, as I say, is as strong today as it's ever been. So thank you very much.

MARISE PAYNE:                Thank you very much. Are there any questions ladies and gentlemen?

JOURNALIST:                     Senator Payne, you mentioned in your remarks the international rules-based order. Can you tell us what is negative globalism, a term the Prime Minister used last night? And do you have any specific examples of where Australian multilaterally engagement does negatively impact to Australia's national interest? And to Foreign Minister Peters, do you see instances of negative globalism, do you believe international institutions like the UN are usurping national sovereignty on occasion?

MARISE PAYNE:                I think the Prime Minister's speech, which read in whole, was a very important contribution to our foreign policy discussions in Australia. I very much value the opportunity that Lowy Institute provides for events such as that. What the Prime Minister set out was Australia's long understanding that our security and prosperity is absolutely underpinned by the rules-based international order, that the institutions that were created to support it are integral to that. And when we work cooperatively with others, most importantly in Australia's national interest and in pursuit of those shared regional and global objectives that has always been and will remain the centrepiece of our international engagement. As I said, both the Prime Minister and I attended the UN General Assembly Leaders' week in New York last month, and that was key to our engagement. But the ways in each we work with others, to most effectively protect and promote Australia's interests, has to be predicated on current circumstances which change, which evolve, and we know we're in a very difficult geo-strategic environment, there is no doubt about that. So we seek an international system that preserves the unique characteristics of individual states, sovereignty must be what we are about; the pursuit of democracy and freedom for Australia and New Zealand are front and centre of that integral state. But at the same time we have a system that gives us a framework for cooperation on the most pressing issues for our security and prosperity. And one of the matters which we discussed in our meetings today included the Christchurch Call, after the awful events of earlier this year, included our Prime Minister's initiative at the G20 around violent extremist content online. That is a great example of addressing some of the most pressing issues for our security and our prosperity and doing that through the systems that exist.

WINSTON PETERS:           I didn't hear the speech, and I've not read it, but I imagine full well why he made the speech, because a lot of countries are globalist when it suits them and want to be, and pretty seriously nationalistic when it suits them. So it's not unusual that someone would seek to demarcate what they regard as legitimate nationalistic sovereign issues, and everybody in every country in the world argues for that in one form or another. So I don't know what your point was, but if you are saying that somehow that globalism is ordained with fundamentally magnificent principles we should all follow, that's not a doctrine I subscribe to or my country subscribes to. We believe in the standards of democracy, the rule of law and First World economic standards and accountability, in the sense that of all the countries in the world, only nine can make that claim for example, of an unbroken line of democracy these last 150 years. Just nine countries can make that claim and whether they're globalist or not, we would still aspire to the world having a respect for democracy that our two nations have.

JOURNALIST:                     For Deputy Prime Minister Peters, Australia is proposing new migration rule changes, which could greatly increase the number of New Zealanders who are deported from Australia. Now, New Zealand has criticized that policy in the past as corrosive to the relationship. What do you make of these changes? And I suppose to you both, what does it say about the relationship that, while New Zealand is asking for this policy to be reconsidered, it is in fact being strengthened by Australia?

WINSTON PETERS:           Well, first of all we're having discussions about an improved circumstance on the issue you're talking about. And second, the issue that you're talking about in terms of proposals is not fixed in stone at this point in time. And we seek to be optimistic about this, to get a better outcome from the one we've currently got. And we are hopeful that that is going to happen, and thus far we've got reasons to believe it will happen.

JOURNALIST:                     So, you have reasons to believe it will not pass under the form already proposed by the Australian Government?

WINSTON PETERS:           Well, I could take a pretty serious bet that I'm right on that.

JOURNALIST:                     And is that the result of your discussions?

WINSTON PETERS:           No, it's because we've been working on a better dialogue with Australia, a better understanding for a better outcome. And we're optimistic about getting there. We will not get our way, but we hope to be in a better space at the end of these discussions, bearing in mind that we recognise that Australia has every right to write domestic policy for its country in the same way we write ours.

JOURNALIST:                     Do you have any comment on that, Minister?

MARISE PAYNE:                Well I would say, in addition to what the Deputy Prime Minister has said, is that we work very hard to work cooperatively to manage these issues between Australia and New Zealand. Today's discussions were a representation of that, and I look forward to that continuing.

JOURNALIST:                     A question for Foreign Minister Payne, last month you talked about the government working towards fair treatment for the three Australians detained in Iran. What progress if any has the Government made in working towards securing their release?

MARISE PAYNE:                I don't have anything further to add to my comments on that matter. I made a statement to the Senate at the time, and I don't have anything to add on that.

JOURNALIST:                     Has there been any progress?

MARISE PAYNE:                I don't have anything to add on that.

JOURNALIST:                     Minister Payne, what do you say to Republicans in the US who claim that Alexander Downer was part of an international conspiracy to derail Donald Trump's election campaign?

MARISE PAYNE:                I would say don't rely on the random observations of a slightly enlivened US media on these matters. The Ambassador, I, the Prime Minister, and Mr Downer himself, have placed on the record Australia's position, and that is not reflected in some of the commentary in the United States.

JOURNALIST:                     As we've seen this week with the 70th anniversary celebrations in China, just to you both, what do you think the implications are of growing Chinese militarism for Indo-Pacific security?

MARISE PAYNE:                Well, I can start, if Winston doesn't mind. Australia's focus and I think I could reach so far as to say Australia and New Zealand's focus together is to ensure that any contributions to our region, the Indo-Pacific and the Pacific in this case, contribute to the security, the stability and the prosperity of the Pacific. This is our neighbourhood, this is our family and we encourage partners in development and in other activities to support the region, but to make sure that they are meeting those three fairly simple criteria. I understand in an anniversary such as the one that we have seen this week, that we will always be treated to an impressive display of capability. As a former Defence Minister, I would expect that to be the case in fact, but at the same time we work closely with our partners to make sure that the stability of this region is our first priority and we would expect that to be others' as well.

WINSTON PETERS:           Well, some countries at an event like that would roll out their examples of freedom and democracy and the improvement in economic circumstances and welfare of their people, and some might have a different way of displaying what their country is about. But for our part and for the Pacific's part, and I hope it's a shared aspiration between all Pacific nations from the East to the West of Pacific, we're staying put. We are here to defend our values, our sense of democracy and the Pacific way, so to speak, that's been around in our DNA for thousands of years.

MARISE PAYNE:                Thanks everyone, and thank you Winston for joining us in Sydney.

WINSTON PETERS:           No, thank you. Much better than going to Canberra.

MARISE PAYNE:                Please don't misunderstand him. In fact, I think he said go Raiders.

WINSTON PETERS:           I did say that.

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