Press Conference Jakarta

  • Transcript E&OE

Subjects: ASEAN meetings; North Korea's ballistic missile launches; Indonesia Australia Contaminated Medicines and Vaccines Program; Partnership for a Healthy Region; Hong Kong national security laws; Australia-China relations; UNCLOS; Japan and natural gas; Minister Bowen to visit Japan; Australian support for Ukraine; Situation in Myanmar.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Well, it's good to be here, and it's been a very productive couple of days here in Jakarta. This morning I attended the ASEAN meeting between Australia and ASEAN, and my message to our partners at the conference was Australia's continued and unwavering support for ASEAN's central role in the peace and stability of our region, and our strong and practical support for the aims and objectives of the ASEAN outlook on the Indo‑Pacific. As I've said to you before, ASEAN's contribution to our region is essential to our shared goals. We all want a region where we can have the capacity to both agree and disagree; we want a region where our agency is preserved, where we can decide our own destiny free from pressure or coercion.

I've also just had a meeting with Park Jin, my counterpart from the Republic of Korea. I want to say very clearly, Australia stands with the Republic of Korea in condemning North Korea's repeated ballistics missile launches, North Korea's actions threaten the security of our region, of our neighbours, of our partners, and in this undermines the security of the world, and we have to stand resolute in implementing the comprehensive sanctions against North Korea.  

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with counterparts from India, from Indonesia, from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and I look forward to further engagements today and tomorrow. I also had the opportunity to visit a health clinic to see how Australia and Indonesia are working together to track and provide vaccines to children.

In that theme, on that theme, I'm happy announce today that Australia is boosting our support for access to high‑quality safe and effective medicines here in Southeast Asia, and also in the Pacific. We are investing $13 million in new partnerships between the Therapeutic Goods Administration and governments in our region. That includes more than a million dollars to Indonesia for the Indonesia‑Australia Contaminated Medicines and Vaccines Program.

Behind all of the words, what this means is improved health outcomes. It's better regulation and better health outcomes for consumers. And it's part of the very substantial program that Australia has in the region, $620 million Partnership for a Healthy Region that Minister Butler and I have previously announced.

Happy to take questions.

Journalist: Minister, can you confirm that you will be meeting with China State Councilor Wang Yi, and will you be putting to him any of the concerns discussed yesterday about the Hong Kong bounties and Solomon Islands?

Foreign Minister: Well, first, we're looking to arrange meetings with a number of counterparts, including China, and I'm happy to talk to you about it when it happens. As you know, I don't ‑ I will be upfront with people after meetings about the ‑ some of the topics discussed, but I certainly don't propose to flag through the media what I will say in the meeting. On the issue that I have been very clear about our position on the national security law, and I've been clear about Australia's view about the importance of freedom of expression, and the government and the Australian people's commitment to safeguarding the rights of people in Australia, including Australian citizens to exercise their freedom of expression.

Journalist: Minister, you said this morning that ASEAN security is Australian security, so can you tell us now that some ASEAN countries are facing threats with China in South China Sea. What is Australia doing to help in that front?

Foreign Minister: Yes. And one of the things I ‑ thank you for the question ‑ one of the points I made today is that we believe rules and norms, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea are critical for our collective security, and we continue to support the application of UNCLOS and I echoed in the meeting the comments made by our friends from Vietnam and Philippines about the importance of UNCLOS.

Journalist: Minister, there's been some reports that the Prime Minister might delay the trip to Beijing. If that's true, that signals a slowing of the progress?

Foreign Minister: What I'd say about the Prime Ministerial visit, the Prime Minister's intention is to visit at an appropriate time, and of course we would want the most positive circumstances for such a visit.

Journalist: Minister, on the Japan and natural gas, and Labor's climate policy, an official in Tokyo was quoted yesterday saying if it's not resolved it could undermine the long‑trusted relations. Are you having discussions about that here with your counterpart, and what can you do to try and settle that down, or take the heat out of that?

Foreign Minister: Look, I have seen those remarks. I'd make a few points. The first point I'd make is I'm looking forward to meeting Minister Hayashi today, I think it is, and discussing with him our special strategic partnership. We understand that for Japan energy security is national security, and I will make that point again to him very clearly.

I understand Minister Bowen will be travelling in the very near future to Tokyo, and I know he will - he looks forward to discussing with Japan our commitment to being a reliable energy partner as well as our shared transition to net zero.

Journalist: Can you make any concessions to them, or you're obviously committed to your policy as well?

Foreign Minister: Well, we want to work with Japan to make sure that both of those objectives, that is our commitment to being a secure, reliable partner in energy provision, but also, and also our shared transition to net zero is something we work on together, and I know Minister Bowen is looking forward to doing that work with Japan.

Journalist: And just about the comment about jeopardising trust, what would be your reaction to that?

Foreign Minister: We are very trusting partners, and I look forward to a very open dialogue with Minister Hayashi, which is always the case in our meetings. We've met a number of times, both in the margins of these sorts of meetings, and of course, Richard, the Deputy Prime Minister and I had a very good 2+2 meeting in Tokyo that Japan's a very important partner for Australia.

Journalist: Minister, on the sidelines here, have you had the opportunity at all to rub shoulders with Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and put Australia’s position to him on Ukraine?

Foreign Minister: It's not my desire to rub shoulders with Mr Lavrov, but I would say, Australia is very pleased to have added to our package of support for Ukraine, 30 additional Bushmasters, which have been commended. The Prime Minister obviously spoke with President Zelenskyy about that at NATO. Our objective is to, alongside others, is to empower Ukraine to resolve this conflict on its own terms, and we continue to assert that here, and anywhere Australia speaks, that Russia's attack on Ukraine is an attack on all smaller nations and highlights why we are all protected by the UN Charter and highlights why we must protect that charter, including from its abrogation by Russia.

Journalist: Minister, this is one of those rare forums where North Korea is represented. I think in the ASEAN regional forum, you've been in there together. Would you engage at all with the North Korean rep, and what would you say?

Foreign Minister: Well, what I will say publicly is what I've just said, that North Korea's flouting of international law, its continued testing of ballistic missiles, its continued threats to the Republic of Korea is destabilising for our friends and partners, for the region and for all of us.

Journalist: Minister, what's your take on the Thai Foreign Minister’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi? 

Foreign Minister: Well, look, obviously that was discussed, I understand from reports, at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting. What I would say is the situation in Myanmar is a humanitarian crisis as well as a security crisis. We continue to support, as I said this morning, ASEAN's leadership on this, and the Special Envoys were, we hope that there could be progress made on the five point plan, and in the meantime Australia continues to provide humanitarian support for the people of Myanmar.

I think we're done, Thank you very much everyone.

Journalist: Thank you.

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