Doorstop - Bali, Indonesia

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Australia-China relations, Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Solomon Islands, Japan.

Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thanks very much for being here. I am very pleased to be back here in Indonesia for the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting. As I and the Prime Minister made clear when we were last in Indonesia, we see the G20 as such an important forum, and as a friend and partner of Indonesia, Australia will work very closely with Indonesia to make sure this meeting is a success.

Indonesia’s themes of strengthening multilateralism and addressing food and energy security couldn’t be more pressing, and those themes obviously sit within their broader theme “Recover Together, Recover Stronger” – such an important aspiration for the world. I would make this point, that these themes of strengthening multilateralism and addressing food and energy security, which the Foreign Ministers Meeting will be addressing tomorrow, really do bring into highlight, the implications and the impacts of Russia’s illegal, unjust and immoral war on Ukraine.

If you ever wanted an example of a nation which has chosen to denigrate and weaken multilateralism, if you ever wanted an example of a nation which has demonstrated its willingness, its disregard for the need for food security for a world recovering from a pandemic, it is Russia and it is Russia in its persistent refusal to comply with the UN Charter and international law and its illegal, immoral invasion of Ukraine. We will be making that clear at the G20 and I’m sure others will do so too.

I’m happy to take questions.

Journalist: Minister, you’ve said previously that the G7+ Foreign Ministers have been coordinating and talking about how to make their displeasure known at this meeting. Is there a plan in place? Will you be walking out with when Lavrov speaks?

Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, I’m certainly not going to be telegraphing through the media precisely what we’re doing but I will say this: first, we will be making very clear, collectively, our views about Russia’s position and Russia’s behaviour. I also want to acknowledge and congratulate my counterpart Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on inviting Ukraine. That will be an important moment. That will be a very important moment to have Ukraine speak to the G20 in front of all of us, including Russia, about the effects on its people, on the Ukrainian people, men, women and children, of the consequences of the Russian invasion. We will be attending the meeting. We certainly intend to use the meeting, as opposed to leave the meeting, but use the meeting to highlight what Russia has done.

Journalist: Can you give us any idea of some of the bilateral meetings you have planned today? Have you secured a meeting, for example, with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi?

Minister for Foreign Affairs: In relation to meetings, I first would make the point that in the edges of multilaterals, it’s often very fluid and we don’t have the same sort of set bilateral program as obviously on the last occasion when I was speaking to you. My first bilateral, I think, is intended to be with Prime Minister Bainimarama. I think, unfortunately, I will be missing the PIF Foreign Ministers Meeting tomorrow, so I do want to talk to him about that and I’ll be trying to attend virtually for some of the time. In relation to China, I made comments yesterday and they remain the case. Australian Ministers remain open to engage. We are willing to engage and that willingness extends to any meeting in the margins of the G20.

Journalist: If the meeting – 

Minister for Foreign Affairs: I’m not going to respond to that because you started the question with an “if”.

Journalist: Sorry; you said it’s fluid and I understand that, but it’s not so fluid with Secretary Blinken. China has already announced that it will be having a bilateral with Secretary Blinken. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs: And we welcome that. We welcome that. If we want greater stability in this world, we would want the two great powers to engage closely notwithstanding the differences; we would want engagement between the US and China, which occurs. So, do you want to try to rephrase your question so I don’t dismiss it?

Journalist: If that meeting does not go ahead with China, can we interpret that as a sign that China does not want to restore relations with Australia?

Minister for Foreign Affairs: I will leave that to commentators. What I’ve said publicly, and it remains the Albanese Government’s position, is that we believe it would be in China and Australia’s interest for this relationship to be stablised, and that would require both parties to make a step.

Journalist: You mentioned that you’d like to see China use its position as a partner of no limits with Russia in your speech last night to influence the course of the war and to end the war. Will you be hoping to make that comment to Wang Yi himself today or tomorrow?

Minister for Foreign Affairs: I’ll simply again reiterate that position publicly; it’s a position I articulated prior to the election that as a great power, and as a global leader, and as a permanent member of the Security Council, China has a special responsibility to uphold the UN Charter and international law, and it has an opportunity to do so, and we would always encourage that to occur.

Journalist: The Solomon Islands Prime Minister has said he wants a permanent Chinese presence there to train their police force. Does that concern you?

Minister for Foreign Affairs: We have a very strong view that Pacific security should be the responsibility of the Pacific family and that will be the approach Australia takes both at the PIF Foreign Ministers meeting tomorrow and the PIF Leaders Meeting next week. And I’d make the point that the security of any one country in the Pacific Islands is a sovereign decision. It is important to recognise that those decisions, though, can impact on the region and that is why taking a regional focus and a regional approach to security is so important.

Journalist: The Japanese Ambassador to Australia has said that the Queensland Government’s hike in coal royalties by 40 per cent is an act of bad faith, essentially, and could hamper foreign investment in clean energy as well.

Minister for Foreign Affairs: I haven’t seen those comments, so I don’t propose to respond to them, but we’ll come back to you if we have anything to say.

Journalist: The Trade Minister has flagged that Australia is willing to settle trade disputes on the sidelines of the WTO, rather than escalating them through formal mechanisms. Do you think China would be willing to take an approach like that?

Minister for Foreign Affairs: I’ll simply say this, and I said this last night in a speech I gave in Singapore: we believe and the Australian Government believes, and I think the Australian people believe, that the trade measures that China has instituted against Australia should be lifted, and that remains our position.

Thanks, everybody. Cheers. Thank you.

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