Interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Hong Kong Protests; US tariffs on China; Trade Tensions; US-Australia Alliance.

SABRA LANE: For more about that and other issues Iwas joined earlier by Australia's Foreign Minister, Marise Payne.

Marise Payne, thanks for joining AM. Do you shareJohn Howard's view about the Hong Kong protesters? He says they'reinspirational.

MARISE PAYNE: Well I think first and foremost, Iwould say that we are very concerned by the increasing riots and urgentlyencourage restraint on both sides and that's something that I said in recentweeks. It's so important for the viability of the one country two systemsapproach which I suspect John Howard was referring to and many of us have notedin recent weeks, that these tensions be resolved peacefully. It does give HongKong its very special character, its autonomy, and we, as Australia, have asubstantial stake in Hong Kong's success and we really value those uniqueadvantages and freedoms that the system gives us. Most importantly-

SABRA LANE: [Interrupts] Mr Howard- I was going tosay, Mr Howard says he thinks that the world is seeing here a glimpse into thefuture in the face of an increasingly authoritarian regime under President Xi.What do you think?

MARISE PAYNE: Well I think that every circumstance isdifferent to be frank, and we've been watching this develop over some weeks.We've observed the authorities in Hong Kong withdraw the bill that was ofinitial concern, but these issues continue. So in terms of their resolution,we're very focussed on encouraging them to be resolved peacefully. We are alsovery careful in ensuring that Australians are exercising their own safetyprecautions as they travel and certainly using common-sense when they'revisiting Hong Kong.

SABRA LANE: What is your message to the demonstratorsand to Chinese Australians who might be involved?

MARISE PAYNE: Well we, again, as I said, we have sucha substantial stake in Hong Kong – there are about 100,000 Australians who arepart of a very large diaspora there and our message is to, I guess, acknowledgethe importance and the value of the one country, two systems approach and toensure that in actions that are being taken that that is being preserved. Butalso that those who are, on both sides of this divide, are working withrestraint and are trying to resolve tensions peacefully, that is obviously afar preferable step.

SABRA LANE: More than $36 billion was wiped from theAustralian share market yesterday as China devalued its currency. It saysbecause- it's done that in face of the new tariffs imposed by Donald Trump. Howrough could this trade war become?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, it's no secret that the US-Chinatrade tensions are very serious. And we have been concerned in talking withboth sides, again, of that engagement to encourage a resolution in a way thatis WTO consistent. For us, it's very important that we're reinforcing the openrules-based trading system, which has stood by us so well for so many years.And ensuring that it doesn't undermine the interests of others, includingAustralia. There are legitimate concerns expressed by the United States, and Ireinforced this on Sunday with Secretary of State Pompeo, particularly aroundIP theft, around forced technology transfer, around industrial subsidies.That's not to say that the rules-based system, the WTO system is perfect. Thereare aspects which need to be updated, which need to be able to adequatelyrespond to changing technologies, the rise of large emerging economies andchanging patterns of trade. But our prosperity, and that of all of our partnersin the Indo Pacific, that depends strongly on the maintenance of an open,global economy and a rules-based trading system. So very much encourage theparties to resolve this in a way that is consistent with the rules and then wewill be working on the rules as well that need changing.

SABRA LANE: China was pretty miffed over the talksthat Australia held with the US on the weekend. The embassy here issued astatement saying that the US carried our groundless attacks and slanders andthat it's sowing the seeds of discord in the South China Sea, and also had a goat Australia about the anti-China innuendo in that joint statement.

MARISE PAYNE: Well I absolutely stand by the jointstatement and I think for those who have an interest in these issues, it's anaffirmation of the basis of the Australia-US alliance across so many areas ofendeavour. And that was absolutely also the basis of our talks in Sydney allday on Sunday, both mine and Senator Reynolds, the Defence Minister'sengagements with our counterparts, Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper, andalso the Prime Minister's discussions with both Secretaries. What it showed forus was that it's very important that when Australia is speaking, we arespeaking and acting in our national interest, and that means we have to betransparent with the Australian public about our foreign policy. So there willbe issues on which from time to time, we disagree with China. From time totime, frankly, we disagree with the United States. But it's how you handlethose differences that is important and we're very focussed on both of ourrelationships, it's not a binary choice. We're very focussed on workingtogether, where we are engaged with both. But the US alliance underpins oursecurity, has for decades, is the cornerstone of our security. And in a verychallenging strategic environment, and you've raised some of those issuesalready is very important for us to have this strong, open communicationbetween the two of us.

SABRA LANE: Minister, thanks for your time thismorning.

MARISE PAYNE: Thanks very much Sabra.


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