Press Conference Jakarta

  • Transcript E&OE
Subjects: Southeast Asia Economic Strategy; Qatar; Voice to Parliament; Lumpy Skin Disease; Air Services Agreements.

Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister: Well, I'm very pleased to be back here in Jakarta for my third visit to Indonesia as Prime Minister to attend the ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Forum hosted by my friend, President Widodo, this week. And I'm particularly pleased to launch today, Invested: Australia Southeast Asia's Economic Strategy to 2040. This is a significant document for Australia's future. And I want to thank Nicholas Moore for the extraordinary work that he has done in developing this policy including visiting every single country in ASEAN except for Myanmar, having hundreds of submissions, and hundreds of meetings that are detailed in the document that we're launching here today. This document provides a strategic policy for the government to shape policy of the government right through to 2040. It outlines short, medium, and long term initiatives that will be required. Southeast Asia is experiencing remarkable growth. It will be the world's next economic powerhouse, the world's fourth largest economy by 2040. In 2022, our two-way trade with ASEAN passed $178 billion, two-way investment was worth $307 billion. But as the report indicates, Australia's trade and investment with the region hasn't kept pace with the growth of Southeast Asian economies and we can do much more. We are determined to fix this and to maximise the opportunities that can exist for our region when we work together in the same direction, which is why I was so proud to launch this document today, and why we chose to launch it here in Jakarta. 'Invested' is a good title because it describes my government's goals, as well as our outlook. We're invested in this diverse and vibrant region, our shared region. And I do want to certainly thank Nick for this report. It shows that Australia must do more to seize the opportunities our region presents and identifies four priorities to help us do that: raising awareness, strengthening understanding of markets, sectors and emerging trends; removing blockages, addressing barriers to trade and investment; building capability, ensuring Australia and the region had the skills and knowledge to work effectively together; and deepening investment, supporting Australian investors to identify, develop, and finalise prospective deals in the region. The report highlights key sectors with the potential for growth, including agriculture and food, energy security and the clean energy transition, infrastructure and education and skills. And today I've announced $95.4 million to support three initiatives that go to the heart of the strategies priorities. We will form new deal teams based in Southeast Asia to identify opportunities for Australian investors and to support projects through to finalisation. We will also embark on a new Southeast Asia Business Exchange Program to boost two-way trade. And we'll set up an exchange program for young professionals, building enduring links between Australian and Southeast Asian businesses. The Foreign Minister and the Treasurer will ensure implementation of the strategy remains on track by having annual reports about the report's initiatives. We want this to be an action document, not something that sits on the shelf, something that drives our economy, and our interconnectedness with Southeast Asia right up to 2040 for our mutual benefit. Australia's economic future is with Southeast Asia. And that's why this visit is so important. I look forward as well to visiting Manilla on Friday, where I'll demonstrate how the strategy will deepen our economic relationship with the Philippines. We invested, engaged and committed to the region. This strategy will help deliver on the extraordinary promise of Australia's and Southeast Asia's economies and what we can achieve together. We will continue to prioritise our engagement with Southeast Asia. And I look forward very much to hosting ASEAN leaders in Melbourne, I'm announcing today, between the 4th and 6th of March next year for the special summit, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia dialogue relations. And I've written to every ASEAN leader inviting them to attend that forum. And I'm sure it, as well as a bilateral activity that will take place as well as business to business activity that will take place in Melbourne, and indeed, right around Australia at that time, that will be a significant event for Australia.

Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Prime Minister, thank you very much for that and thanks Nicholas Moore for your work and for being here with us. And it's fantastic to be here in Jakarta, as the Prime Minister said, to launch the Southeast Asian Economic Strategy to 2040. In Opposition, this was something we considered deeply and the challenge and the problem that any government has to address is how do we increase our engagement with, our economic engagement with, and our strategic engagement with Southeast Asia. We know that too much of what has happened in Southeast Asia has been underdone by successive Australian governments. In fact, direct investment in Southeast Asia by Australia is lower now than it was in 2014 - lower than it was in 2014. And we know, as you as you would have heard me say, this Asian region is central to our security. So that is why, as the Prime Minister has said, deepening engagement with Southeast Asia is such a priority for our government. By 2040, ASEAN will be the fourth largest single market after the US, China and India. It's a huge opportunity for Southeast Asia, it's a huge opportunity for Australia. And for our children it's critical that this generation of political leaders ensure that we are in a better place than we are now to take advantage of that opportunity. If not, we know that Australia there are risks for Australia's prosperity and security in the years ahead. So this means more opportunities for Australian businesses, more Australian jobs and boosting economic prosperity. It's also about resilience. The smart businesses know that reducing reliance on a single market, a single trading partner, is part of doing business in this time and beyond. It's a smart thing to do. It's not easy to get a foothold into new markets and we recognise this is just the start of a conversation about how we boost our economic engagement with the region. The government sees this is a very important part, not only of prosperity, but also assuring Australian security, economic strength, military deterrence, and diplomatic reassurance. These three aspects of Australian power work together to secure Australia's prosperity and security. Shared value is a critical incentive for peace and stability at a time of heightened geostrategic contest. I want to thank Nick. I went to see Nick and I said, I don't want a report that does another commentating analysis, as interesting as it is. I said, I want to report that it comes from the perspective of a business person. And obviously Nick, through his previous work and current work, has a deep knowledge of this region, deep history in this region. And I said to him what the Prime Minister and I want, what the government wants, is a report that actually looks at what business will need, where we can make a difference, how do we ensure we can shift the dial in the in the years ahead on Australia's economic engagement in Southeast Asia. He's done an extraordinary job. And I'm really grateful to him as is the government, and I think he's done the country great service, because if we could actually utilise the insights in this report to grow our economic engagement it's good for our security, and it's good for Australian prosperity. It's good for the next generation of Australians.

Nicholas Moore, Special Envoy to Southeast Asia: Well thank you, Prime Minister and thank you, Foreign Minister, for those comments, I'm delighted also to be here in Jakarta to be launching the report and particularly delighted the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister are here. The report is all about Australia's engagement the region, so no better place to do it here in Jakarta at the ASEAN conference. It's only since November 2022 that the Prime Minister asked me to take on this role. I was very honoured to do it. And since then, as you've heard from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, we've been very busy. When I say we, me and the team at DFAT and AusTrade, travelling around the region, travelling around the country, meeting with all the interested parties for trade and investment across the region. So as you've heard, there's big picture numbers that we can look at in terms of where our trade and investment has gone. As you've heard from the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister, our trade has been constant while the region has been growing, our investments actually gone backwards, as you've heard. So we met with over 750 different people, we had over 200 different submissions with suggestions about what we should do. And as you heard from the Foreign Minister, the instructions were to come up with a practical set of recommendations, recommendations we can put forward and that the government can work through and implement or not. In that context, I'm delighted to hear the government actually is adopting three recommendations this morning. So a very quick response to the report that we that we've prepared. In terms of the structure of the report, if you've had a chance to look at it, it covers some general packs at the beginning and then talks about the recommendations that we've made in four different categories. Number one was in terms of raising awareness of the opportunities in Australia and in the region, what can we do to actually increase the awareness across the region of what we can offer each other. And we believe there's a lot that can be done. And certainly all the meetings we had gave me great optimism that there's a lot of enthusiasm out there for increased trade and investment across the region. The second category was removing blockages, although there's been great work that's been done over the years, in terms of Free Trade Agreements and other architecture put in place, still a lot can be done in that area and we make a number of practical recommendations. The third one is talking about building capability and in terms of building capability, it's very much about the skills of the individuals, the skills of the organisation, the skills of the government, and how we can work together with the region. And finally, a deepening investment, which says, as both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister said, is where we're behind a behind the curve. So these are the recommendations. Hopefully, you'll all have a chance to read them.

Journalist: Can you tell us what your inclination is for some of the recommendations like streamlining processes, visas and the interesting proposal for risk insurance, political risk insurance. Do you want to do those?

Prime Minister: The reports already been considered by the National Security Committee and Nick came along to the NSC. And we've also given a consideration by our full Cabinet. This is a strategy for 2040, not a strategy for September-October. So there are 75 recommendations. We'll work them through in an orderly way. That's why Cabinet decided to have that 12 month timeframe of reporting back with Treasury and the Department of Foreign Affairs and tried to make sure that we're looking at where are we up to on these recommendations? How do we progress them? There are many recommendations here, of course, that don't require funding. They're recommendations that require, though, a shift in thought, if you like. And including in that is the recommendations around raising awareness, that is just about there being a consciousness. It strikes me, the first time I came to Indonesia, very early on, when I visited Jakarta here, I came with a business delegation. And for so many of those business leaders from Australia, it was their first visit to Indonesia that wasn't to Bali. We need to do much more. That's in part of what we do. And I thought it was very interesting that Nick had that there. I guess if I can frame it this way, we see this as a strategic policy for the government to shape the policy of the government. So, we haven't said all 75 recommendations. Obviously, some of these will be worked through in consultation with proper submissions and proper processes as well. But we are releasing the full report so people can see it and can make their determinations.

Journalist: One thing I think that people in Indonesia were hoping for today was an announcement on visas. It's kind of low hanging fruit. It's a thing that Nicholas Moore has said that he's heard most about when he's gone the region in terms of access to Australia. We can't hope to raise awareness of the region if we won't let the region in. And right now there's a very big problem for Indonesians trying to access Australia. I note that you've made some recommendations today and I think the new deal officers will be very welcome. But why did you choose not to make any announcement on visas?

Prime Minister: We have a migration review taking place. It's comprehensive. Clare O'Neil has addressed the National Press Club on it. My government works issues through in a methodical, orderly way to make sure that we get decision making right, so we're not making ad hoc decisions based upon the 24 hours media cycle, but based upon Australia's national interest. And that is the way that we'll consider these recommendations.

Journalist: On the report, Joko Widodo said yesterday at the ASEAN summit that he didn't want ASEAN to descend into an arena of rivalries. How confident are you that this strategy won't create rivalries within ASEAN nations for investment within Australia in pitting them against each other? Or also potentially putting side other broader countries within the Indo-Pacific region who might feel like they not necessarily as included for investment and trade going forward to 2040?

Prime Minister: I think this is a positive report that will be seen positively by all of the nations in ASEAN.

Moore: I agree with the Prime Minister. All the countries in the region would welcome more investment from Australia.

Journalist: The Chinese market has had obvious appeal to Australian exporters. High demand, good profit margins on high end profits. In a sense, simpler. And you're dealing with one major market. Are you confident that Australian businesses will learn from the cautionary tale of the last few years as relations destabilised? Or are you worried they'll rush back in where those connections are maybe a bit stronger and they know that there's a guaranteed return if they can access the market?

Prime Minister: Well, China, of course, is our major trading partner. We support trade with China, and we've been working through some of the issues which have been there. But we know that it is in Australia's interest too - there are two themes that I've said consistently about Australia's economic interest going forward as a nation state. One is diversification of our trade and our economic relationships. It makes sense, particularly when you look at this economy here alone, potentially, it will be at some stage the fourth largest economy in the world. In a few days time we'll be together in India which will be the third largest economy in the world. We have enormous opportunities because of where we're positioned, because of where we are geographically, as well as our resources, both those in the ground but more importantly, those above the ground in the form of our human capital, to take enormous advantage of the growth that is occurring in this region. And I'm confident that businesses get that that is in our interests. So, trade is in our interest. One in four Australian jobs depends on trade. But also another theme is a future made in Australia. We need to look at and this report and some of the discussions I'll have here as well are about making more things in Australia as well.

Journalist: Senator - you spoke with the Prime Minister of Qatar on Monday. Why did you make the call? And why were the 2020 strip searches raised? Were you seeking some kind of reassurance that wouldn't happen again? And was that the real reason behind why those additional flights weren't allowed?

Minister Wong: I initiated the call to discuss a range of bilateral matters. One of those, obviously, is in relation to the Hamad Airport incident. That's something I spoke about in Opposition. Obviously it was a very distressing event for the women concerned. I also wanted to raise some multilateral issues ahead of UNGA. As you have flagged the bilateral air services agreement was not discussed in the call.

Journalist: INAUDIBLE

Minister Wong: I think the Qatari Government has already made some public statements in fact under the previous government on that.

Journalist: Do you think a Yes vote in the Voice referendum would boost Australia's engagement with Southeast Asia? And conversely, would a No vote undermine that? Or do you think it has absolutely no bearing on our international relations?

Prime Minister: I'd rather not get into, as you know, I'm happy to discuss those issues back in Australia on Monday. I have made my views clear and I refer you to previous comments as well as comments of anyone who is engaged in international relations.

Journalist: I presume you are meeting with President Widodo while you're here in Indonesia?

Prime Minister: I am indeed.

Journalist: What are you intending to say to him regarding Australian cattle yards and the barriers put up against them relating to allegations of lumpy skin disease?

Prime Minister: I will meet with my friend President Widodo while I am here. And I very much thank him for hosting us. This is a big event for Indonesia, coming off the back of Indonesia hosting the G20. President Widodo is a good friend of Australia, and I was very pleased to host him in Australia just a short time ago. I'm pleased, when it comes to LSD, that Malaysia has lifted the restrictions on its trade. I'm pleased that Australian and Indonesian officials are working through these issues. We have provided the evidence going forward that we remain free of lumpy skin disease. It is an important issue for Australia and officials will continue to engage with it. But I will also respectfully put forward my views.

Journalist: Prime Minister, on China, there's been obvious progress in easing tensions in that relationship, particularly around trade. Is it disappointing you won't get the chance to meet President Xi on the sidelines of the G20 this weekend? And will you get the chance to meet Premier Li, either here at ASEAN or in India?

Prime Minister: Well, it's a matter for nation states who they send to these events. My position on the relationship with China remains a consistent one, which is we'll cooperate where we can, we'll disagree where we must, and we'll engage in our national interest. And I'm sure that over the next period, both here and at the G20, Premier Li will be present. We will certainly be in the same room during those meetings.

Journalist: You're meeting with the East Timorese PM today. And he recently characterised his post about Woodside as Australia being ready to finalise the project for the first part of next year. What's your view of whether or not that is the correct characterisation, and this is a chance for Australia to make amends?

Prime Minister: I am very much looking forward to meeting with Xanana Gusmão soon, this morning. I have met with him before and I have known him for a long period of time. He is a friend of Australia and Australia is a friend of Timor Leste. I have, together with the Foreign Minister, we've been working with Steve Bracks, playing a role in sorting through these issues and I'm sure we'll have a constructive discussion about that.

Journalist: One of the recommendations in the report increased air links between Australia and Southeast Asia. Is that a priority for the government to get more Asian airlines flying into the country? And maybe Mr. Moore could also comment on what would be needed to get that to happen.

Prime Minister: The report, one of the recommendations, it's an important one. We have air services agreements with more than one hundred countries. We have, as I've said, the most open aviation system in the world. And because Australia is an end point destination, we're not a stop on the way to somewhere, then Australia's aviation system plays an important role in engagement. And certainly, air services agreements are currently being negotiated with a number of countries, including Vietnam, for example. The recommendation that is there is for reciprocal open skies agreements where that is in our national interest. So Australia has open skies agreements with a few countries, including with the United States. We don't have open skies agreements with Europe, with most countries. So there are limits on where Australia can go and limits on countries coming to Australia. But if you look at at our region, it is it is very important. Garuda, for example, have recently, when I had a discussion with the Indonesian Transport Minister this morning, who pointed out that Garuda has recently made a decision to come back to Melbourne and to Sydney. So some air services agreements are coming back post COVID that was suspended. But they used to fly to four destinations as well, including Perth. And obviously that is prospect of importance because people to people relations between Australia and ASEAN nations are part of what's identified here, both in terms of the diaspora as well as Australia. We're a multicultural nation, that's a great strength. That's an asset for us, with people with the knowledge of culture, language, and familiarity with the region. And one way that you can obviously do that is by having more people to people exchanges with the region.

Journalist: So, obviously this is an economic strategy to 2040, but how much of this is also about regional security and offering trade and investment opportunities to countries in this region at the same time as China is stepping up what it offers?

Prime Minister: There's a complete link between the economy and economic relations and national security. That's why this report's been considered not just by the Cabinet, but also by the National Security Committee of Cabinet. So our engagement is important, and we do think there's an obvious link between the two issues and the context in which this report is being handed down and considered by the government.

Journalist: Do you have any kind of rough timeline or deadline to consider all 75 recommendations? You touched on it before, but is this months or years to consider all of them. And as you've already kind of looked at the report, you mentioned the NSC has already considered it, are there any recommendations that have been ruled out?

Prime Minister: We'll give proper consideration to it. We received a briefing from Mr. Moore. I invited Mr. Moore to come along to brief the NSC. I thought that was appropriate that that occurred. We don't have many guest speakers, I've got to say, at the NSC, I think it's fair to say I can't think of another one who wasn't a member or one of the agencies. But we thought that was important going forward. Look, we have responded, I think, pretty quickly to the report with three recommendations. It's there for consideration. And what will occur, why we've set up a structure of the Treasury and Foreign Affairs and Trade examining and having annual reports on the status of the recommendations, the consideration, is so that we can have a considered, orderly way of dealing with what's in here. There's a lot here. This no doubt will continue to shape the way that the government responds to the whole range of issues in the region. And that's why I was completely rapped, to be frank, when I received a draft the report, which wasn't that long ago. The fact that such a substantive report is handed down - even the way the format, when you get to see it, of a couple of pages identifying the issues with each country in the ASEAN region - it's readable, it's digestible. And that's why I think Nick was a pretty good appointment because he's someone who knows business. He's someone who knows the region. He's someone who the region's businesses know him and Australian businesses know him as well. And I really thank, and I'll conclude here, I really thank Nick for being someone a leader of the business community who has done this out of his commitment to the national interest. That's his contribution. And it's fantastic that someone who has been very successful in the private sector wants to put something back to the public of Australia. And that's what this report does.

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