Transcript of question and answer session following speech to the Japan National Press Club, Tokyo
Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013
Release Date: 22/04/2011
Release Type: Interview
Transcript ID: 17802
JOURNALIST: The Asahi Shimbun. Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging messages. I am greatly impressed. I think Australia should be regarded as a founder, or maybe co founder of the APEC, so may I have your views or future projections on the APEC? I think the idea of free trade zone could make sense for creation of prosperous and (inaudible) Pacific area. So related to the TPP, what kind of views would you have?
PM: Thank you very much for your questions and of course my first visit to Japan as Prime Minister was to attend APEC, which was led by Prime Minister Kan. APEC, I think, has still a lot of good work to do, particularly on behind the border barriers. APEC has had some remarkable achievements at driving average tariff rates down across our region, but there remains work to do with behind the border barriers and it was a focus of the last APEC meeting and I anticipate that that work will be carried forward to Honolulu under the leadership of President Obama.
We also did, at the last APEC meeting, bring together the nations in the Trans-pacific Partnership. Prime Minister Kan attended as an observer and we very much welcomed that. We believe that this is an important process to see further trade liberalisation, we ambitious for a high quality agreement and we do welcome Japan's interest in the process.
As I indicated in my speech, I very much understand that for Prime Minister Kan, the Japanese Government and the people of Japan, their focus first and foremost must be on recovery from the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis. But I do very much welcome Prime Minister Kan's restatement yesterday of his ambitions in this area of free trade, the basic policy ambitions and that he does want to resume free trade talks between our two countries at the earliest possible date. We do believe that Japan and Australia concluding free trade agreement would be a good demonstration to the region that Japan is very interested in regional economic integration and the liberalisation of its own trade policy.
JOURNALIST: Hi I'm Matthew Franklin from the Australian newspaper. Prime Minister Gillard, you mentioned in your speech that your government had put in place the major building blocks of a productivity agenda. Your critics in Australia would say you've talked a lot about it, but haven't done much except perhaps with education, so could you please expand on your comments and tell me what you - as in your Prime Ministership, under your leadership - you've done to enhance Australia's productivity agenda.
PM: Thank you very much for the question, which is obviously about Australian domestic policy. As Deputy Prime Minister and now as Prime Minister I am committed to leading in revolution in our human capital agenda, a very, very significant contributor to productivity growth is the skills and capacity of the Australian people. That matters for the adult workforce and increasing skills in the adult workforce and we have had a major reform agenda there, including our higher education reforms following the Bradley Review, but increasing future prosperity and productivity also very much depends on improving the quality of what is happening in schools and preschools today, as we educate the citizens who will be the workers of tomorrow.
In addition to that human capital revolution, where we've got a big reform agenda, the government has been investing in infrastructure, particularly the new infrastructure we will need for productivity now - the National Broadband Network. And as you would be aware Matthew, under my Prime Ministership we have achieved the structural separation of Telstra, an important microeconomic reform for our telecommunication sector, which will enable us to get on with the job of delivering the National Broadband Network and delivering competition on that network and that infrastructure is very important to productivity.
I also believe a seamless national economy is vital to productivity, it's why I've lead developments like uniform occupational health and safety laws nationally, and we will continue to deliver those kinds of changes for a seamless national economy.
And then too for our future of productivity and prosperity, the quality of services like our health services is important. People need to be able to get health care and we need to deliver it without unsustainable fiscal burdens, which is why the National Health Reform Agreement that I struck with our premiers and chief ministers a bit earlier this year is in its own right important to our future productivity and prosperity.
It's no mystery that the government is working on further reforms, particularly focussed on labour market participation, which are also vital to our future prosperity and productivity. Making sure we use this special time in our nation's economic development to leverage it into a permanent change in our participation arrangements, particularly for the most disadvantaged Australians.
JOURNALIST: Hello Prime Minister, my name is Akiko Kimodo and I'm a reporter for TBS, we're television here. I wanted to ask you, what made you decide to go to Minami Sanriku tomorrow will you be meeting people, the victims there, and will you visiting any evacuation centres? Just the basic reason why you've visiting.
PM: Thank you. One of the things I wanted to do by physically coming to Japan was to say through my personal presence that Australia's with you, with the Japanese people at this very difficult time and I wanted to therefore personally take my greetings and expressions of goodwill to the most affected regions.
I'm particularly focusing on that region, on Minami Sanriku, because our search and rescue team worked there. Of course it is a very hard hit area and our search and rescue team were deployed there and so I thought it was the right place for me to go and take Australian's direct sympathies and greetings.
I am hoping to be able to meet with people who have been personally affected, including those who are now living in evacuation centres. I understand, I think every Australian understands, that this is a disaster of such proportions that it's almost beyond our ability to comprehend the scale of the numbers of people who have been hit by this natural disaster.
But even as we struggle to comprehend the scale of it, I did want to be out there personally showing Australia's best greetings and best sympathies and goodwill to the people who have been most affected by the natural disaster here.
PM: Thank you very much for that question and just as I responded to the last question, this is a disaster of this huge size and scale. I mean unimaginably big, we understand that in that context the Japanese Government and Japanese people to also address the nuclear crisis at Fukushima has been an additional and very heavy burden for the government and the people of Japan.
I very much welcome the information that Prime Minster Kan and his government have made available to me and the Australian Government and he reiterated in our meetings yesterday that that information would continue to flow and we very much thank him for that. And we intend, as Japan does, to participate through the International Atomic Energy Agency, in a review of nuclear safety which I think should be properly done following this natural disaster and induced nuclear problem here in Japan.
For our own nation we do not have nuclear energy and we do not plan for it to be part of Australia's future energy mix. We are a country that has abundant energy resources and we are very focused now on the clean energy sources of the future. We are a country blessed with a lot of sunshine, a lot of ability to use wind power, tidal power, the emerging technologies such as geothermal and so we intend to place a great deal of focus on the development of a clean energy economy.We are already making record investments in solar and other renewable sources of energy and we intend to accelerate the movement to a clean energy future by putting a price on carbon from the first of July next year.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, last night you said that you and your Japanese counterpart would discuss the presence of China, its growing influence in the region and your views on that. What was discussed and is there some concern within the Japanese leadership about the growing assertiveness of China in the region?
PM: Thank you very much for the question Kieran. My second stage of discussions with Prime Minister Kan focused very much on our engagement in multilateral institutions, particularly with a focus on the East Asia Summit, with APEC and on the G20.
Of course, as we talked through issues in our region, issues that impinge on the East Asia Summit and APEC, inevitably we talked about China's important role in the region and important role in regional affairs. Australia's perspective is that we have a comprehensive and constructive engagement with China, our relationship is a positive one, obviously from time to time we have differences and when we have those differences we put them clearly and we deal with them, but Australia's perspective is that a prosperous China, engaged in the region's affairs, is good for Australia, good for the region and it follows therefore good for Japan.
So, these are the perspectives that we bring to discussions, but the discussions last night focused very much on regional engagement at the East Asia Summit, regional engagement through APEC and also our engagement through the G20.
PM: Thank you for that question. In what is a comprehensive, longstanding and deep friendship between Australia and Japan, there are some occasional differences of view and we obviously have a difference of view about whaling. The Australian position on whaling is of longstanding and is well known - we are opposed to commercial and so-called scientific whaling. And due to that opposition we have initiated the proceedings you refer to in the International Court of Justice and we do intend to continue with those proceedings.
On the conduct at sea, we have consistently said that everyone needs to obey the rules of sea, which are predominantly there for people's safety. We are obviously talking about a large, remote and inhospitable part of the world, where you can pursue if someone got into trouble, a rescue effort could be successfully mounted. So in those circumstances our consistent view has been that everybody should abide by the rules of the sea and have safety first and foremost in their minds, so that's the perspective that we bring to actions by anyone in the ocean, including by the Sea Shepherd.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Simon Benson from the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. You've made quite an emphasis on security relationships and defence ties and one of the issues that is clearly the significant one for the region is information security; we've (inaudible) with our policing in Australia. You mentioned that you had wanted to develop and share a protected classified information system; I'm assuming that you are referring to cyber security, security information and communications, ICT. Have those issues been raised in your meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and Defence Minister in Japan and was China raised in that context?
PM: Thank you for the question Simon, somewhat disturbingly from my eye line it looked like you had a halo around your head there, which isn't something we'd necessarily expect. But on your question - yes, we are working through with Japan to conclude an information security agreement, which would enable us to better share information between our two countries as a part of our longstanding defence cooperation and as I indicated when I spoke at the press conference with Prime Minister Kan, we have asked defence and foreign ministers at the next 2 + 2 meeting to work on a vision for future defence cooperation.
I did not, in my discussions with Prime Minister Kan, directly speak about cyber security, but you are right to identify that cyber security is one of the transnational challenges that we do work through, transnational challenges like organised crime, transnational challenges like proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Clearly one of the focuses of discussions with Japan has been the conduct of North Korea, so like those transnational challenges, I would anticipate that we could have discussions with Japan on cyber security questions, but it wasn't directly raised in the course of discussion last night.
JOURNALIST: John Garnaut from the Sydney Morning Herald. Prime Minister, you talked a lot about security in the North East Asia region, and you mentioned North Korea (inaudible). I wonder if firstly, if you think that security links with South Korea could be elevated at some stage to the same high level that they are with Japan and secondly, what was your (inaudible) of North Korea with negotiations that seem to be about to come together with this whole Washington (inaudible). Is there any chance of a breakthrough in the next few months on nuclear weapons, (inaudible) nuclear weapons program?
PM: Thank you for the question. We have a defence cooperation with South Korea at the moment and we intend to continue that defence cooperation in its current form, so that's our future outlook for defence cooperation there, that we would continue as we are at the moment with the linkages that there have been between our two militaries.
I know that there has some speculation, indeed in your own writing, about potentially some changes to a quadlateral security arrangement, we've got no plans in relation to that, so that's (inaudible) perspective.
On North Korea, as I think everyone would be aware, there has been a significant step up over the last 12 months in unacceptable and aggressive conduct from North Korea. The Six Party talks have been the forum for discussing issues associated with North Korea and South Korea. The Six Party talks will continue to be the forum to do that, and how those talks resume and when they resume is necessarily a choice for the six countries involved, but I understand that there is no point in having talks for talks sake and that North Korea does really need to establish that it's on a path for change in order for those talks to be able to strike a meaningful outcome and a meaningful agreement.
This would be something that I will talk about, obviously, when I'm in South Korea and also when I'm in China, to gather the news and perspectives and sitting here today I can't say to you that I am optimistic for (inaudible) on change in the circumstances that we (inaudible).
JOURNALIST: (inaudible), back to (inaudible) the TPP if I may. US President Barak Obama has made a big goal to conclude the TPP negotiations by the time of the APEC Summit meeting in Honolulu in November this year. Prime Minister, do you believe it achievable? Also do you believe it's possible for Japan and Australia to reach an agreement on a bilateral FTA or EPA before November, given the very slow progress made up until now between the two countries after years of negotiations with companies, and also given the fact that Japan will need to focus on recovery and reconstruction in the coming months and years.
PM: Thank you, on the free trade agreement, the EPA between Australia and Japan, we do want to see progress made, one of the things that I've been consistently pressing in my trip is that we do believe it's in the interests of both of our countries - Japan and Australia - to have freer trade between us, it's in the interests of our two countries and in the interests of economic prosperity and therefore in the interests of our peoples. So we are keen to press on and to conclude a high quality and comprehensive agreement between our two nations, but I do understand that now is a time when the focus of all of the instrumentalities of government is properly on recovery from the natural disaster. But I am very welcoming Prime Minister Kan's statement last night that our free trade talks should resume at the earliest possible opportunity, so we understand the present focus, but we do look forward to those talks resuming.
On the TPP, I think it is appropriate to set a level of ambition to keep driving countries as we move toward the Honolulu meeting of APEC, to keep driving our negotiators and those who participate directly in the talks, I'm sure we can work through as quickly as possible. I am ambitious to see very substantial progress that can be reported at the APEC meeting, in Honolulu led by President Obama.