Press conference, Adelaide

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia-Germany Relationship; Australia’s defence industry; Australians missing in Mexico; Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine; Middle East conflict; climate change; AUKUS.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land and pay my respects to the Kaurna People and Elders past, present and emerging. Can I say to all of you, how thrilled I am to welcome Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to Adelaide. We welcome Germany's leadership in the world, and I personally welcome, as does Australia very much, Minister Baerbock's personal leadership. She is genuinely a global leader, a woman who has understood very clearly the strategic circumstances we face and has taken the responsibility as Germany's Foreign Minister of articulating a comprehensive strategic perspective and direction. And we welcome it. And I am very grateful that you have flown a long way to meet with us.

We've had a very good discussion. A serious and wide ranging discussion. We have spoken about the issues we both care about, that our countries are focused on. We expressed our shared desire to grow the Australia-Germany relationship and to continue to see German engagement in the region grow. Our two countries share an interest in a world in which rules and norms are agreed and upheld. Our two countries share an interest in a world where no country dominates and no country is dominated. Our two countries understand the value of peace, the importance of stability. But most critically, our two countries understand that we cannot simply hope that the great powers enable this, that we also have to work to ensure and assure such a world.

Germany is a global industrial power. And one of the important insights that Minister Baerbock has brought to her engagement internationally is an understanding that Germany's industrial heft is a critical part of its national power. And we welcome the way in which Germany exercises its influence in the world and in our region. And I look forward to many more, not only engagements, but many more opportunities for us to work together with Minister Baerbock and her team, but more broadly, stronger economic and strategic engagement with Germany. So, thank you very much, Annalena, I'll hand over to you.

Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister: [spoken in German] Thank you very much. Dear Foreign Minister Wong, dear Penny. Thank you very much for the cordial invitation and cordial welcome here. We're here with a large delegation, including members of the Bundestag here in Adelaide, in your hometown.

Even if my visit of nine months ago didn't materialise, we're here now. And to me, I found it important, foreign affairs, our federal government found it important for us to organise this visit, because there's so many subjects to address. And to be here with a large delegation, even if Australia and Germany are separated by several oceans, we are not only partners in values and friends, but also and most importantly, in this day and age, we can at any time rely on each other. And we can learn from each other so much, and we can learn together so much in this day and age.

Your experience in foreign policy, your experience in the Indo Pacific are of a very, very great value for us. And it was important to have a friend and to know that we have this friend by our side, who are committed to contributing to the European peace order, in spite of this major distance, if there's large distance from the very beginning.

The level of our relationship is very close. it should be broadened much further, that's why we're here. We want to ensure that our strategic partnership between both countries is developed further, and that means of many more visits. And I would like to extend a cordial invitation to you to Germany. And I want to say that the last visit of a Foreign Minister from Germany is actually 13 years back, that's the last time a Foreign Minister was here in Australia, that's a long time. And that should never happen again. Because even if so many hours of flight time actually separates us, and even if it takes a long time before we can see each other, we are not at the other end of the globe.

We actually share the same values. And we are close neighbours and friends. And your support for the Ukraine that I just mentioned a minute ago, that was not obvious, not a given. Because we had, you had to explain even more why in these difficult times, in these times that are very complex, how such a complex engagement and a very expensive engagement could actually be put forward to help us Europeans. Following this aggression of the European peace order, you were there, and you've ramped up your contribution last week again. We just discussed a minute ago how important in this day and age, air defences are for the people of Ukraine, but also the broader support in terms of critical infrastructure, humanitarian aid, and in particular, the political support are important.

In spite of the wars in our immediate neighbourhood in Europe, as a Federal Republic of Germany, as Europeans, we increasingly look to the Indo Pacific. Here in the Indo Pacific the organisation of the order of the 21st century are substantially developed and marked. This is a powerhouse for the world economy. One third of the global economy and the global output is created here. Two thirds of the growth created here in your part of the world. We therefore wish to reinforce, for economic reasons, our presence in this part of the world, but also because of political interests. Because of our friendship. We reinforce our diplomatic presence here and develop our presence.

In terms of security policy, our commitment and engagement has been developed recently. In a few days, we will actually start our Indo Pacific deployment for the year 2024. And here in Australia, the Bundeswehr would actually participate in the Pitch Black exercises. As you mentioned, we have also, of course, talked intensely about the security situation in the Indo Pacific space. We talked about China. The Australian experience teaches us that the exchange, the trade with China is important. Both our countries are in close ties there. We wish to cooperate in that space, where we can cooperate as much as possible, but we do clearly have an eye on the risks because we want to protect ourselves. This is for espionage and for undermining, but also reducing essential supply chains that could actually make us vulnerable.

Economic security and democratic resilience are not accessory matters, they are important for us, they hit us at the core, and at the core of our national interests. And in particular, it they make the international relations more vulnerable, the rules based order, if they are undermined by might and power and replaced by might and power. That's why the diversification of our supply chains is also a matter of security policy. We position ourselves as a country, as a European Union, that is highly dependent on raw materials coming from other parts of the world. In terms of raw materials, we position ourselves we see critical dependencies, and a very careful eye. And a lot of your experiences have taught us a lot. And making available raw materials out of Australia is essential for us. But we know we can actually source them directly and not go through third parties anymore, or take detours. Essential for this partnership means that the European raw materials agreement has to be found. But there can also be beautiful developments with the European Free Trade Agreement. And we want to actively work on that.

And I therefore very much look forward to hopefully to meet again very soon. To not only talk about the economy, but also about so many other subjects that are relevant for our relationships. So in this regard, thank you very much. And it would appear that the interpretation has failed in the meantime, but I hope that it's going to be back on very soon. Thank you Penny not only for this day, but also for the coming months of intense cooperation.

Minister Wong: Thank you very much, Minister Baerbock, Annelena. We will go to questions now.

Journalist: Michael Fischer, German press agency DPA, Minister Wong, Minister Baerbock. Germany and Australia are already cooperating very closely in the field of armaments, Luerssen are producing naval vessels for the Australian Navy here in Adelaide and Rheinmetall will build armoured vehicles for the export to Germany in Australia. Did you talk about further fields of cooperations regarding armaments today?

Minister Baerbock, NATO voiced increasing concern about Russian interference and Russian cyberattacks. Could you elaborate on that, please?

Foreign Minister: Well, first, just in relation to the question about armaments, of course, we have a long standing and deepening military and materiel relationship.

The point I would make, though, is one of the things we discussed is how we can better cooperate across all elements of our national power. So, the work that we are doing in the Pacific, the work on cyber security, the work on economic resilience.

I think what is important to recognise is in the strategic circumstances we face, it is not just military engagement and cooperation that matters. It does. But all aspects of cooperation across all arms of national power. In particular, and this is why I went to the economic and the industry heft, industrial heft of Germany. We must remember that the economic resilience is such a central part of ensuring and assuring our national security.

Minister Baerbock: [spoken in German] Well, very briefly on the first part of your question, we are cooperating very closely in our defence industry, armaments cooperation, and we want to foster and intensify this exchange because we're facing common threats. It only makes sense to not only engage in a strategic exchange, but also actually that our defence industry, but also a military cooperation. And this is why this upcoming exercise is also so important. And on threats, of course, excuse me, on Luerssen, of course, the threats change and it doesn't mean that we need to reduce our cooperation also in the field of patrol boats only because we need less patrol boats. We're facing different security threats and it is important to continue our exchange in this regard. We see this in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. We need to protect ourselves. We need to protect Europe.

And on the second part of your question, yes, indeed, there were talks within NATO yesterday and last year we've seen severe cyber attacks on members of the Social Democrats of the SPD party in Germany and the Federal Government under the auspices and the leadership of the Foreign Office just concluded a national process of attribution. And today we can say unambiguously, we can attribute this cyber attack to a group called APT28, which is steered by the military intelligence service of Russia. In other words, it was a state sponsored Russian cyber attack on Germany. And this is absolutely intolerable and inacceptable and will have consequences.

Minister Wong: If I may just also add to that, can I say that Australia shares Germany's deep concern about the increased scale and severity of malicious cyber activity by state actors. And Australia is deeply troubled by the new activity that Minister Baerbock has referenced today. I want to emphasise Australia stands in solidarity with Germany in calling out states that act contrary to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. And I would make the point that we have previously joined the United States, UK, Canada and New Zealand in attributing malicious cyber activity to APT 28 as well. We'll go to a question over here.

Journalist: Sophie Holder from ABC News. Senator Wong, three people have now been arrested following investigations about the missing WA brothers in Mexico. Do you have any comments to provide on that?

Minister Wong: My first and most important point is I want to emphasise that my personal thoughts and the thoughts of all of us are with the families of the missing men. We are obviously deeply concerned, deeply worried. I can indicate that our embassy in Mexico, as well as the Australian Federal Police, are working in support of local authorities. That my Department is providing consular support to the families concerned.

Journalist: Thank you. And a question to both of you. The UN General Assembly is expected to vote later this month on Palestinian statehood. Was this discussed in today's meeting?

Minister Wong: We've had a brief discussion amongst, but it is not the only discussion we've had, obviously, about the Middle East. This has been a topic for discussion on a number of occasions and I'd acknowledge that Minister Baerbock has visited the region on multiple occasions.

Both Germany and Australia are deeply concerned about the loss of life, about the humanitarian catastrophe, about what is occurring in Gaza. We note that we still have hostages that are being held and all of us are seeking to add our voice for the cause of peace.

Journalist: [spoken in German] Thank you. Daniel from Germany. Madame Foreign Minister, you underlined the issues of security. What repercussions will this have in the budget, and what demands are your demands to the Finance Minister?

To Minister Wong. We see a growing German effort to take part in the security measures in this region. You already talked about it, but it's, of course, a comparatively fairly small scope. So, from your perspective, is this a symbol or is it more than a symbol? And if I may, a second question: You're bidding for COP31 here. Germany is supporting you from what we know, but there's also a lot of criticism from other countries regarding fossil fuels and your financial pledges. How do you respond to those critics?

Minister Baerbock: Maybe to the first one. I will answer it in English anyway. So, it was about budget, national budget discussions we are having currently. Yet, we are at the starting point of our budget discussion and therefore we are discussing it internally and not at press conferences.

Minister Wong: First, on climate, we were elected with a very clear mandate to try and seek to transform our economy, to take advantage of the opportunities that net zero by mid-century creates, to take advantage of the renewable energy resources that Australia has. We have been a fossil fuel dependent economy and this transformation is a challenging one, but it's one we're committed to. And what you have seen since we came to government, and will continue to see, is a government that recognises the scale of the challenge of transforming this Australian economy to a clean energy economy, but a government that is absolutely committed to doing so. The point I often make, and I made when I was Climate Minister many years ago, is that this is not only important for climate and for future generations, it's also important for our economy, because increasingly the world is valuing clean energy, renewable energy, goods and services that are needed for a net zero economy. And Australia needs to continue to transform our economy to gain the benefit of that. It's important for our economic prosperity and our stability, as well as for the climate.

On COP31, we are committed to hosting that COP. And the reason is, apart from our own commitment to action on climate change, we are also committed, as a member of the Pacific family, to elevating Pacific voices. And in fact, I was at Copenhagen as Australia's Climate Minister. It was a difficult COP, as people who were old enough to remember might recall. And one of the things that I tried very hard to do, and the Australian delegation tried very hard to do, was to work with Pacific Island countries to reflect their perspective in the Copenhagen Accord. We want to continue to do what we do with our friends in the Pacific multilaterally on climate and we see a Pacific COP as very important part of that. Mr Starick.

Journalist: Hello, Ministers. Paul Starick from the Adelaide Advertiser. Was the AUKUS security pact discussed as part of your talks today, and particularly to Minister Baerbock, what is Germany's view on AUKUS and particularly nuclear powered submarine construction here in Adelaide?

Minister Baerbock: Well, as we said, we discussed intensively security issues and also how we can cooperate. Yet, it's the decision of every country individually where they proceed with their different industry and also what kind of submarines or other materials they are using.

Minister Wong: I think Germany understands the position Australia has, which is this is a very important capability, very important technology sharing arrangement with AUKUS. And I did take the opportunity to ensure that the Foreign Minister was briefed on where we have got to in operationalising, particularly Pillar One, in the period since the announcements. And Paul, you were at Osborne with us and I think the Minister will be visiting the precinct again today, which is obviously very important.

Sophie, I don't think we answered the second part of your question about recognition, so I will respond to that now. You might recall that I gave a speech a few weeks ago where I outlined the fact that this was a discussion that was occurring internationally. It is a discussion that our international community is focused on. It was discussed, obviously, if you look at the Republic of Korea's, the joint statement there was referenced as well there. Obviously we will continue that discussion today and have done so. I think we all understand that the only path out of this cycle of violence that we see in the Middle East at such great cost, is one that ultimately ensures a two stage solution. And there are different views within the international community about how that will be achieved. But it is an important discussion. It's not an abstract discussion and it's not actually a deeply political discussion, despite what some might say. It's a discussion about how it is we assure peace in a region that is so troubled and in which we have seen so many lives lost.

Thank you very much.

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