Press conference - Adelaide

  • Joint press conference with:
  • The Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence

Richard Marles, Australian Deputy Prime Minister: Welcome, everyone. Can I start by welcoming Secretary Cameron, Secretary Shapps, of course, Minister Wong, in what has been an incredibly productive AUKMIN meeting in Adelaide today. Britain is our oldest friend, it is our oldest relationship and we have long had strong people to people ties, strong cultural relationships. But what is emerging now is a strategic and security dimension to this relationship. And as we have spent the day talking, we have all reflected on how close our reflexes and our instincts are around a range of matters and how much intent there is on the part of all four of us to see a greater degree of action between our two countries on top of what is already a very, very solid base of activity. Over the last two days we have announced the establishment of a defence and security cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia, which is a Status of Forces Agreement which contains within it a commitment to consult with each other where there are contingencies which engage our sovereignty and our national security. In some respects, it's a surprise that a Status of Forces Agreement has not been in place before now. But it speaks to the degree to which we are now seeing a much greater activity and interaction between our two defence forces. There is a much greater presence of the United Kingdom in the Indo-Pacific and as we look to the future with a visit by a carrier strike group in the next two years, when we look to the littoral response group which we are seeing from the UK, the presence of a Status of Forces Agreement is practical and timely and we've spent much time over the last two days talking about ways in which we can cooperate more in relation to that increased activity. And of course, at the same time there are Australian Defence Force men and women in the United Kingdom who are training the Ukrainian Armed Forces. So, this is an agreement which comes at a very important time in our relationship.

This morning we were at Osborne where we announced the Submarine Strategic Partnership, which is the commercial arrangements that will see the building of nuclear-powered submarines right here in Adelaide for the Royal Australian Navy. And that is a joint venture that will occur between ASC and BAE. That announcement this morning again highlights the significance of AUKUS within our bilateral relationship, and when you think about the fact that the most important defence capability that we operate now, and will certainly operate in the future, in terms of a long-range, capable submarine and in the future a long-range, capable nuclear-powered submarine, when you consider that that platform will be jointly operated by Australia and the United Kingdom, it says everything about the security significance of the relationship between our two countries.

Finally, we are meeting at a time where we are watching Ukraine continue its fight against the appalling Russian aggression, the appalling, unprovoked Russian invasion of its territory. And as we meet today, we are all very cognisant that now is a time for us all to be continuing our support of Ukraine, to make sure that we stay the course so that Ukraine is able to resolve this conflict on its own terms. We've been proud to announce that Australia will participate in the drone coalition as part of our ongoing support for Ukraine. And we really want to thank the leadership of Britain in terms of supporting Ukraine in its resistance against Russia. And we really want to thank Britain for the way in which they have engaged with us in terms of our support for Ukraine. Today has been an extremely fruitful set of discussions. We're really grateful to both David and Grant that they've made the trip to Australia. We're very mindful that we are in the antipodes, it is a long journey to come here, but we very much appreciate the time you've taken out, and we feel very encouraged by the future of our relationship based on our discussions today.

David Cameron, United Kingdom Secretary of State for Foreign Commonwealth and Development Affairs: Well, thank you very much. And can I thank Richard and Penny for such a warm welcome to Australia. It's great to be back. I haven't been to Adelaide before and it's a stunning place to be, so thank you for that.

Three reflections from me. First of all, as Richard said, this is a very strong partnership, but it's just got so much stronger in recent years. There were always the connections of history and language and culture and, of course, our sporting ties. And I'm looking forward to my first ever Aussie rules football game tonight. I'm watching it, not playing it, just to be clear. But what we've added to that in recent years. Our trade deal, our joint participation in the CPTPP and, of course, AUKUS, which is just such an important development for both our countries in terms of both manufacturing and security and cooperation.

The second point is, I think the discussions we've had don't just show that we share analysis or that we share values, we share both those things. But I also say we share a pretty concrete and clear plan of action. That we're going to support Ukraine, as you've just said, in its vital fight in resisting Russian aggression, that we're going to work together as we try to stabilise the Middle East, as we try to get aid into Gaza and try to bring about a solution to that conflict. That we're going to work together in helping small island states, particularly with green finance, and that we're both going to be enhancing our presence in this region as we seek the economic prosperity and the stability and the security that we know we all need.

Third point is the action for the year ahead. I think perhaps particularly focusing on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa, where we're not just thinking about how we try and make sure there is a successful Heads of Government Meeting, but also the agendas that we can pursue. Helping Commonwealth colleagues with the challenges that they face. Working together in the G20 to enhance the status and lending and ability of the multilateral development banks as they help to finance the sustainable development goals. Working together as we fight the rollback of rights that tragically is happening in our world, whether it's women's sexual reproductive and health rights or gay rights or other rights, the rollback that's taking place - as two likeminded countries, we should be fighting back against that rollback of rights.

But above all, in the dangerous and uncertain and difficult world that we live in today, above all focusing on our mutual security. It is a time where friends and partners need to work even more closely together in the alliances we have. And that is certainly the case with Britain and Australia, and that's only become clearer in these talks over the last few days. Thank you.

Penny Wong, Australian Foreign Minister: Thank you very much. Can I first say to my colleagues, Richard, but critically, David and Grant, thank you so much for coming to Adelaide. We are so pleased to welcome you to our beautiful city for AUKMIN.

The United Kingdom is our valued partner globally and in our region. And I would emphasise this is a partnership which is a modern partnership, fit for the times, fit for the challenges of today and the future. And today and yesterday were an opportunity to discuss better how we can work together to support each other and the region. A region which is stable, prosperous and peaceful. A region in which sovereignty is respected, where no one country dominates or is dominated. We also talked about the way in which our world, what happens in one part of our world affects us in another. What happens in the Indo Pacific reverberates in Europe, and what happens in Ukraine, where we see Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine reverberates in the Indo-Pacific. And I do want to say to David and to Grant, we commend the United Kingdom for its leadership on Ukraine. We are united in our unequivocal condemnation of Russia's actions. As Richard said, we are proud to support Operation Kudu and the training of Ukrainian personnel.

Yesterday in Adelaide, David and I discussed formalising stronger cooperation when it comes to consular issues, crisis issues and gender-based violence, as he has spoken about. Today, we discussed other matters, including, as David said, how we work together to enable, particularly countries of the Pacific but small island developing states to access climate finance. How we work together to ensure the multilateral development bodies respond better to the needs of developing countries and how we ensure that the CHOGM meeting, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa, a meeting of the Commonwealth in the Pacific, such an important occasion is something we both work together to support, to ensure that it is a success. And, of course, we discussed Southeast Asia.

Finally, you will see from the statement when it is issued, we also discuss the situation in the Middle East. We know how many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are starving. I echo David's comments about the importance of increased humanitarian aid, the need for Israel to allow that aid to enter, the importance of fighting to cease to enable that aid to flow. We also spoke about how recognition could assist in giving momentum toward lasting peace.

In closing, can I just say this. This is a modern partnership. It is a partnership which is being transformed to meet the challenges of our times. And I am so grateful to our friends from the United Kingdom, from Britain, Great Britain, for coming to Australia and for being so open and constructive in their discussions with us. You are true friends and we look forward to many more years of this.

Grant Shapps, UK Secretary of State for Defence: Penny, thanks very much indeed. And it is indeed an honour to be here. Although, as Richard says, it is in fact a long way to come. But as I’ve been commenting, I’ve never really travelled so far to find so much in common at the other end. Yesterday we signed that landmark security and defence cooperation treaty. It will help us do all sorts of things, like facilitate the submarine visits between our staff, that will deepen technical sharing, it will help to commit to what we should be doing all along, which is to consult with each other when our security is threatened in any way. And we look forward to doing that. As you say, it’s just a surprise that hasn’t been in place sooner. It codifies, really, what is the case and increasingly becoming true, that Australia is one of our closest defence partners.

Last night, I had the honour of going to see the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial, and I found it incredibly moving and poignant. I know that next month when Anzac Day comes I will be thinking of that, but it also made me think about the price we all oh for our freedom. And nowhere is that more specific right now than the war in Europe, in Ukraine. It’s a long way away from here, but I just want to express the extent to which what happens there really matters in the rest of the world. Because if there is a despotic leader, an autocrat, or somebody who just chooses to take over someone else's land, and if the civilised world simply gives up, loses focus, has a form of attention deficit over two or three years, then others will draw the conclusion that it's okay to take land, it's all right, because the civilised world will just forget about it. And that is why I'm so incredibly grateful, despite the distance, that Australia has stepped up in this conflict. The training of those Ukrainian troops in the UK, what we call Operation Interflex, and here is Kudu, I think, is hugely welcome. We've now trained overall, since before the war, over 60,000 Ukrainian troops. But it hasn't stopped there. When I last saw Richard, we talked about the International Fund for Ukraine, there's $15 million that's been ploughed into that fund and I can announce today that we're using, slightly different currencies here, 60 million pounds of the International Fund for Ukraine to fund drones, long-range drones and air defence drones as well, which will be an important part of the desperate defence that is going on. But not only that, as you just heard, Australia has joined the drones coalition, which is a very important, cutting edge process of developing the kind of drones which I suspect will be very important later this year and already is in Ukraine, but will increasingly be important, not just in Ukraine, but for our own defence industries. And so by being part of the drones coalition, the benefits will be felt directly back here with your own armed forces. So, just like with AUKUS, the purpose of investing in that somewhat far away conflict is to help with defence and security back home. And on that subject, it was fantastic to join the others to visit the Osborne facility earlier today, in fact, very early today, and see where the submarines will be built: the SSN-AUKUS. And AUKUS is, of course, fundamentally about freedom of navigation. It's about ensuring that the world's navy and oceans are capable of being sailed freely, as they should be, including here in the Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Sea. What we're about is maintaining a global, world-based order. It's something we hold particularly dear, which is why I'm slightly surprised to be going to an Australian footy match later, where the world order of rules is something of a mystery to me. And I'm looking forward to explaining them whilst we're there, Richard. Thank you very much.

Deputy Prime Minister: Thank you very much, Grant. So we’ll go to questions. Andrew.

Journalist: Afternoon, can you hear me there? Andrew Green from the ABC. My question is to the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary. Firstly, Minister Wong, we've seen concerns from your US colleague this week, Kurt Campbell, about the possibility of China trying to kill off Australian mining operations, and it was something you discussed with your Chinese counterpart this week. Do you share concerns about what Beijing is doing there? And Secretary Cameron, an internal Whitehall assessment has reportedly advised ministers in your government that the government would be pausing consideration of sanctions against Chinese firms indefinitely around human rights concerns. If that's the case, how does that sit with your rhetoric about China?

Foreign Minister: I was asked a very similar question, I think, yesterday, or was it the day before? Sorry, it was the day before in the press conference after my meeting with the Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister of China. And the point I made there was the same point I made in the bilateral meeting, which is Australia takes the view that we are all better off where there are transparent, efficient and functioning global markets. And whether it's on this issue or more broadly, that is the approach we take. And I did express to him the concerns that have been raised by some Australian nickel producers in this context.

Foreign Secretary: In terms of your question, I haven't seen the report to which you refer, but let me just be clear: Britain speaks very clearly to China about things we are concerned about, whether that's about Hong Kong, or about individual cases like Jimmy Lai, or about human rights. We always stand up for our values and speak very clearly. We think that's perfectly consistent to do that while having a good working relationship, a relationship based upon our principles of protect, align and engage. In terms of sanctions, the only sanctions I can think of that we've put in place recently have been sanctions to stop companies in other countries, including in China, supplying Putin's war machine. And I’d just take this opportunity to make the point that Britain is doing that because we think it's important that Russia doesn't get hold of these so called dual use goods. And we urge other countries to take the same approach and recognise that if we're truly on Ukraine's side, which we should be in their defending their country against this appalling aggression, then we should make sure, using sanctions appropriately to make sure that Russia can't feed its war machine and continue to prosecute this war.

Deputy Prime Minister: Monique.

Journalist: Monique Van Der Hayden, Sky News Australia. My question for Secretary Cameron. Do you believe that the election of Donald Trump in November would have an impact on the future of the AUKUS agreement?

Foreign Secretary: Look, it’s up to America who they choose as their president. It's a very important principle in foreign policy not to involve yourself in other countries' elections. And what we will do, as I'm sure an Australian government would do, is work with whoever becomes the president. We do it in the UK on the basis that we have a very special relationship with the United States, based on cooperating over defence, and security, and intelligence in an incredibly close way. What I would say is that whatever relationship we're talking about, whatever part of the enterprise that we are involved in; whether it is AUKUS, which I think is an absolutely brilliant arrangement, or whether it is NATO's arrangements, the most successful defence alliance in history, all of those things, I think whoever is president, the best thing we can do is to get those alliances, to get those projects into the best possible shape so whoever is the new president can see that they're working with a very successful set of arrangements.

Deputy Prime Minister: And can I add my voice to the comments of David. I think that's exactly right. And we feel confident, given what we've seen, particularly over the course of the last few months in Congress, that the AUKUS arrangements really do enjoy support across the political spectrum in the United States. And we move forward with complete confidence about what the future will hold.

Journalist: Paul Starick from the Adelaide Advertiser. A question for the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Secretary relating to a question asked of you this morning. After today's announcements and talks, what's your message to the critics who say that an Australian build of nuclear powered submarines either should not happen or will not happen?

Foreign Secretary: Well, the first thing I'd say is, I think it should happen. Remember, these are nuclear powered, but conventionally armed submarines. And nuclear-powered submarines clearly have capabilities in terms of distance and endurance that outmatch other submarines, and I think it's vital technology. Britain has been running these submarines for many years and they're extremely effective. And we're looking forward to investing in the new generation of the AUKUS submarines.

In terms of our confidence. I think going to Osborne this morning and seeing both the ASC but also BAES, a company we know well, seeing what they're doing to prepare for this, I think was very heartening. And Australia is one of the most capable countries in the world when it comes to delivering big projects, and this is a big project, and we know that from our own experience, and we're going to be working very hard to make sure we deliver it properly at Barrow-in-Furness and elsewhere, and Derby in the UK. And I know that our colleagues in Australia will be doing the same thing. It's a huge project, a huge undertaking, but absolutely essential for our security. And I think so exciting for Britain, America and Australia to be working together on this project. But I have total confidence.

Foreign Minister: Well, in response to your question, first, it should happen, and David has spoken about why, and we've had a lot of discussions, including in the public context, about the strategic imperative of why it happens. It is good not just for Australia, but for Britain and for the United States, and it is good for stability in our region, and we will make sure it does happen. And we do that, understanding the scale of the enterprise, the scale of the task. But I have great confidence that not just the AUKUS partners, but also the state government, the workforce, the people of Australia and South Australia understand just how big a project this is and how transformative it is for our economy, for our industrial base and for our strategic circumstances. So, it's a whole of country, whole of state endeavour here in South Australia and across the country, and it is a shared endeavour across the AUKUS partners, and we all know what we gain from it.

Journalist: Lauren Rose from Seven News. My question is to the deputy Prime Minister also about the subs deal. How appropriate is our almost $5 billion commitment to the UK in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis?

Deputy Prime Minister: Well, it's completely appropriate, and it's consistent with what we announced last year in terms of the contributions that we will make to industrial uplift in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Let's not forget that the most significant industrial uplift that we will be doing and that we are spending money on is right here in Australia and in fact, right here in South Australia.

Indeed, we expect to spend about $30 billion through to mid 2050s in terms of building our industrial base in this country. And a very significant proportion of that will be happening right here in Adelaide. But we have said from the outset that in terms of the submarines that we build here in Adelaide, we will not be making the nuclear reactors themselves. They will be made at the Rolls Royce facility in Derby, which I visited with grant last November. Obviously, the production rate of that facility needs to increase in terms of making nuclear reactors, both for the Royal Navy, but also for our nuclear powered submarines. And so in that context, it's completely appropriate that we are making a contribution to that. And what I can tell you is that, having visited it in November, that that facility is already readying itself for the build of the Australian reactors. Indeed, Grant and I watched or looked at paths that had been already made which will be on that very first submarine that rolls off the production line here in the early 2040. So, we're really happy with the relationship that we've got with the United Kingdom, with the arrangements that we've reached. It does involve the contribution to the industrial uplift in the UK. That's entirely appropriate. And what it will do is facilitate this capability coming into service into our navy at the earliest possible date. And with that, can I thank you all for attending. Thank Grant and David again for coming and of course, thank Penny for all her efforts as well, and we will see you again soon.

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