PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Abbott, Tony

Press Conference, Bali

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23027

Subject(s): APEC 2013

Location: Indonesia

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s good to be here in Bali. It’s good to see some familiar faces and thank you for the time and the effort you have made to be here.

Just a few points from me before I throw to questions. I want to start by saying that APEC matters. APEC is one of the very important forums that bring together the leaders of our region; a region of ever increasing economic importance to the world and to Australia. Australia, of course, was one of the founders of APEC and I am pleased to say that APEC has gone from strength to strength since 1989.

APEC has had tangible outcomes for the people of our region. Over the last couple of decades, on average, tariffs in APEC countries against each other have dropped from 16 to 6 per cent. Over the last three years it is estimated that the trade liberalisation which APEC has sponsored has created some $60 billion worth of additional wealth for the people of our region. Of course, one of the recent APEC initiatives – the APEC Business Travel Card – now held by about 90,000 people in the region including close to 20,000 Australians allows visa free access to nearly all of the countries of APEC to its holders.

So, APEC matters. It is an important regional institution. It is an important regional institution and Australia was there at its birth and it is important that we make the most of APEC, hence my presence here.

This APEC is all about trying to ensure that we do get genuinely freer trade as quickly as we can and I look forward to discussions, dialogue, consultations with regional leaders individually and collectively to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership and also the closer economic partnership negotiations which have been in train for some time.

Of course, it is also an opportunity for bilateral discussions. I have had a couple of those already. Most of you are aware that last night I had a meeting with President Xi of China. I think it was a good meeting. Australia has a strong relationship with China and it is in everybody’s interest that that relationship grows stronger and broader and deeper in the months and years ahead.

I was pleased to receive from the President an invitation to visit China in the near future. It is my intention to visit China in the first half of next year and because the relationship should be broader and deeper and stronger, I intend to go with a significant delegation not just of business leaders – although that is important – but I hope to take at least some Premiers because Australian government is not just the Commonwealth, it is the states as well. But as well as governmental officials and business leaders, I hope that this delegation will include the academe, science and culture because I want the relationship with China to be on as broad a basis as possible.

Finally, let me just say that it is important that we increase trade and investment in our region. The prosperity of each country in the region, including Australia, critically depends upon increased trade and investment. Our recent prosperity critically depends on the massive expansion in resource exports to countries in our region, particularly to China and we want that to continue, not to slow down.

The point I made on election night was that Australia is open for business and this is a message that I am very keen to repeat over and over again to our regional leaders. They have benefitted from doing business with us. We have benefitted from doing business with them. Australia must always be open for business and that's certainly the intention of the new Coalition Government.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, given the trade goals you have stated for this APEC summit, is it a disappointment to you that President Obama is not here and how likely do you think the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be of reaching conclusion by the end of this year?

PRIME MINISTER:

David, it is a disappointment that President Obama isn't here. America is, of course, ably represented by Secretary of State Kerry, but we have to understand that while President Obama is deeply committed to this region, while the American pivot to Asia is real, in the end, the President does have to be in Washington at a time of potential political deadlock. So, I fully understand that the most constructive way that America can engage with the world depends upon America being as strong as it can be at home and so naturally enough, President Obama has got some pressing domestic issues. I don’t think anyone here holds it against the President that he has very important business at home and it is certainly in no way inconsistent with the pivot to Asia that just at the moment because of this very important issue in Washington his place is at home.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] the TPP still be finished this year?

PRIME MINISTER:

I got a very good update from Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb on arrival here in Bali last night. Andrew advises me that the Trans–Pacific Partnership negotiations are going well. Inevitably, there are issues. There always are. There is always horse-trading in these negotiations but in the end if you can come to a deal, everyone is better off. Our objective is ever freer, ever more liberal trade – not just in goods but in services as well – around our region and in the wider world and Andrew is confident that we can finalise these discussions by the end of the year. That’s not necessarily to say that we will, but he is confident that we can.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, both you and President Xi spoke of a desire to accelerate a China-Australia free trade agreement. What does that mean? What is the best estimate for how this can be driven towards a conclusion particularly around, I suppose, your trip next year?

PRIME MINISTER:

It would be wonderful if a trip towards the end of the first half of next year was consummated with an agreement here. That might be a little too optimistic, but our intention is to move as quickly as we can and I have to say I would be disappointed if we can’t conclude a significant free trade agreement with China within 12 months.

QUESTION:

Is one of our stumbling blocks because of the zero threshold for state-owned enterprises investing in Australia? Are you willing at all to revisit that or is that a non-negotiable item?

PRIME MINISTER:

When you say, Simon, there’s a zero threshold, that doesn’t mean that state-owned enterprises can’t invest in Australia, of course they can invest in Australia and we want them to invest in Australia. It’s just that they face Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny from the first dollar rather than simply at the standard $240-odd million threshold. Now, I want to make it crystal clear here, as I did with the President last night, we welcome foreign investment, including foreign investment from China. The President made it clear to me how much foreign investment China hopes to make in coming years and I want Australia to get a fair share of that foreign investment because that foreign investment will be good for jobs, it will be good for economic activity. It should be good for government revenues and it will certainly be good for prosperity back home in Australia.

So, I want people to be under no doubt: foreign investment is good for our country. Without British investment, we wouldn’t have the agricultural industry that has been so important for Australia. Without American investment, we wouldn’t have the manufacturing industries which we place so much store by. Without American, Japanese and other investment, we would never have had the resources boom which has done so much to sustain us in recent years.

So, foreign investment is good for Australia. It’s important that it does pass the national interest test. That’s why we have the Foreign Investment Review Board to scrutinise investment under certain circumstances but it’s light-touch scrutiny because we know that in the medium and long-run, foreign investment is important for Australia’s economic development.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, in the Indonesian press today there were reports that 22 of the 28 survivors from the boat tragedy from late September are being deported. Do you find this an encouraging sign?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not familiar with those reports, Andrew, and what happens to people in Indonesia is essentially a matter for the Indonesian Government. So, look, I really can’t say any more than that.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, why do Coalition members think it’s ok to use taxpayer funds to attend weddings and are you confident that the wedding of Sophie Mirabella was the only one that you used taxpayer funds to attend?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll deal with that question in a sec but are there any further APEC-related questions? We’ll deal with that subject and then we’ll go onto general subjects. Karen?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, before you arrived yesterday, three Papuan activists scaled the wall at the consulate to make an APEC-related protest.  Your Foreign Affairs Department says that no threats were made to them to have them removed but they were carrying a mobile phone which had an open line. People who heard that conversation say they were told that if they didn’t leave, police and military would be called. Can you tell us what happened, what’s your view of that and what’s your view of the demands they made about greater press freedom there and freedom for political prisoners?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Karen, yes, there were some West Papuan activists enter our consulate, as I understand it, seeking to protest and to make demands. Consular staff, as I understand it, had a very lengthy discussion with them and after that very lengthy discussion, they agreed to leave. That, as I understand it, is the fact of the matter.

Now, I want to make two fundamental points – and I want to stress these points, I want to put them up in flashing neon lights, I want to underline them.

One: Australia will not give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia. We have a very strong relationship with Indonesia and we are not going to give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia – I want that to be absolutely crystal clear – and people seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please don’t look to do it in Australia. You are not welcome.

The second point I make is that the situation in West Papua is getting better, not worse, and I want to acknowledge the work that President Yudhoyono has done to provide greater autonomy, to provide a better level of government services and ultimately a better life for the people of West Papua.

The other point I should make is that Australia absolutely respects the territorial integrity of Indonesia and while I acknowledge the right of people to free expression, I acknowledge the right of people to fair treatment under the law, I should also make the point that the people of West Papua are much better off as part of a strong, dynamic and increasingly prosperous Indonesia.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you have meetings today with the Canadian and Malaysian leaders. On Canada, will you be pressing Stephen Harper to drop his boycott of the CHOGM Summit in Sri Lanka, and on Malaysia, will that be a difficult meeting given you and the Coalition spent two years being very critical of Malaysia’s treatment of migrants?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I am meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper later today. I’ve had a number of previous meetings with Prime Minister Harper who I think is doing an outstanding job leading a very strong and effective government. So, I’m looking forward to my meeting with him. Whether he attends CHOGM is really a matter for him, but certainly I intend to attend CHOGM and will do my best to make a constructive contribution to the deliberations there.

I do think the Commonwealth is an important forum. It's amongst our oldest international associations. There is, I suppose, familiarity amongst members of the Commonwealth which doesn’t always exist in every other forum and I think it’s important that those friends we have, we should keep. You do not make new friends by rubbishing your old friends or abandoning your old friends. Certainly, the incoming Coalition Government will take the Commonwealth seriously.

As for the Prime Minister Najib, look, my argument was never with Malaysia. My argument was never with Prime Minister Najib. My argument was with the Gillard Government. I think in nearly every respect, the Coalition's argument with the Gillard Government has ultimately been vindicated. The policies that the Gillard Government put in place were ineffective to stop the boats. The Coalition is determined to stop the boats. I think that we have already made a difference and I'm looking forward to bringing that whole wretched issue to a much more satisfactory conclusion for our country and for our region.

QUESTION:

Just on that, the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has just announced more asylum seekers on bridging visas have been placed in detention after facing criminal charges and he has announced that mandatory behavioural protocols will be developed in consideration by the Government. What exactly have you got in mind there? Will they be something on top of the criminal code?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’m not going to elaborate on Scott Morrison's announcement today. What we are doing is methodically and purposefully putting in place the policies that we took to the election and that's what the people expect of us.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Scott Morrison says that you will still keep your full toolbox of election promises, including turning back boats, buying boats from Indonesia fishermen etcetera. How does that fit into your promise not to offend Indonesian sovereignty? And secondly, a people smuggler tells me would be better counter-bribing the police they bribe and you'd save more money in doing that than buying back boats, just interested in your thoughts on that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, we’ve sort of wandered off APEC and I’ll deal with this one but then we will try to go back to APEC again if there are any further APEC questions. We obviously stand by the policies that we took to the election but there was some misunderstanding of the policies that we took to the election. We were simply making available a modest sum of money that would be spent in cooperation with our Indonesian partners to try to combat this evil trade. That's all that was ever committed to pre-election and obviously we stand by it. Now, I’m very pleased to say that we have long had strong cooperation from Indonesian authorities at all levels here and I'm confident – particularly in the wake of the discussions that I had in Jakarta recently, that Foreign Minister Bishop had with Foreign Minister Natalegawa in New York recently, that officials have been having underneath those Prime Ministerial and ministerial discussions – I’m confident that we are going to get even stronger cooperation with Indonesia in the weeks and months ahead.

Let's not forget President Yudhoyono's statement in Jakarta just the other day that both our countries are ‘victims’ here and that we would have a new bilateral partnership against people smuggling under the Bali Process, something that we might perhaps describe in shorthand as Bali-plus. That's now being put into practice. I'm very pleased that it is and we are going to make a difference. We are going to stop the boats and stopping the boats is absolutely in the best interests of Indonesia and Australia.

QUESTION:

With respect Prime Minister, the question was about policies that Indonesia has labeled as violating Indonesia's sovereignty and you have promised not to violate Indonesia's sovereignty.

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not sure that language in quite those terms has been used by anyone at senior levels in the Indonesian Government. We absolutely respect the sovereignty of Indonesia. We respect and will do everything we humanly can to guarantee our own sovereignty. We respect Indonesia's sovereignty. We understand that Indonesia respects our sovereignty. The Lombok Treaty is all about mutual respect for both countries' sovereignty and, of course, for us, people smuggling is a sovereignty issue and I think everyone now understands that.

QUESTION:

With regard to the China FTA, do you favour a comprehensive trade-finance-investment type of agreement or are you prepared to look at some kind of stripped-back arrangement in order to get something done in 12 months?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want the agreement to be as comprehensive as possible, but I've always taken the view that you should take what you can get today and pitch for the rest tomorrow when you've got a strong foundation to build upon. One of the good things about the various free trade agreements, the various bilateral free trade agreements that have been negotiated between the countries of our region, is that it is helping to build preparedness to engage in a bigger and better the multi-lateral agreement such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So, we will get the best deal we can. I can't at this stage say it is going to include everything. If it doesn't include everything, that will be a disappointment but, still, whatever we can get, which is a substantial advance on where we are, is worth having.

QUESTION:

So the best you can do within 12 months, basically?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will get a good agreement. We will get a good agreement. I'm confident that we can get a good agreement within 12 months. Let's face it, the Kiwis, our friends across the Tasman, have had a series of agreements including one with China, which have been very good for their economy, particularly for their agricultural exports and they managed to go from start to finish much more quickly than we have been able to manage over the last few years under the former government and I think we can do a lot better than that.

Now, Alex, I’m going go to your question because that might be the end, if you don't mind, because I've got more things I need to attend to as part of APEC.

Look, when the controversy arose after the Michael Smith wedding, I remembered that some seven years ago, I’d been to a couple of weddings and so I went back and I checked. I was advised – because I sought advice on this – that the entitlement was unclear and so, in order to avoid doubt, I paid the relevant money back and, look, that's what people should do: they should act within entitlements, they should err on the side of caution and if there is any doubt, they should act immediately to clear the matter up. That's exactly what I have done.

QUESTION:

But why would you claim it in the first place, Prime Minister, to go to a wedding?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I was the Leader of the House of Representatives and the Leader of the House of Representatives has certain representational roles and I believed it was within entitlements. After the Michael Smith matter, I decided that I should check. I was advised that the matter was unclear and, in order to put the thing beyond doubt, the money was repaid.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23027

Review of Indigenous training and employment

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23028

In line with our election commitment, today I announce that the Government has commissioned a review of indigenous training and employment programmes.

The Government is committed to boosting job opportunities for indigenous Australians.

Too often, employment and training programmes provide ‘training for training’s sake’ without the practical skills that people need to fill the jobs that exist.

It is important that attention be given not just to skills training, but practical life education and ongoing mentoring to make sure jobs are lasting and careers are developed for indigenous Australians.

This review will provide recommendations to ensure indigenous training and employment services are targeted and administered to connect unemployed indigenous people with real and sustainable jobs.

It will consider ways that training and employment services can better link to the commitment of employers to provide sustainable employment opportunities for indigenous people and end the cycle of indigenous disadvantage.

Australians yearn to see practical and genuine improvement in the lives of Aboriginal people.

There is so much goodwill. The challenge, though, is to convert good intentions into practical change for the better.

The Review of Indigenous Training and Employment will be chaired by Mr Andrew Forrest with policy and administrative support from my Department.

My Parliamentary Secretary, the Hon. Alan Tudge MP, will guide and shape the Review process with Mr Forrest.

The Review will also work closely with the Government’s Indigenous Advisory Council and will report to me by 7 April 2014.

8 October 2013

Transcript - 23028

Press Conference, Bali

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23029

Location: Indonesia

Subjects: APEC 2013; border protection; CHOGM; Australia-Malaysia relations; Australia-Papua New Guinea relations; entitlements; Pollie Pedal charity bike ride; the Government’s review of indigenous training and employment programmes.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning everyone. Day two of APEC and I want to congratulate President Yudhoyono for the job he’s doing bringing people together and leading discussions. Some of you may have been at the APEC dinner last night and it was – I think everyone would agree – a magnificent spectacle and a tribute to the organisers of this particular conference.

One of the great things about APEC is that it gives leaders an unprecedented opportunity to talk to each other without the presence of squadrons of minders and this is one of the real advantages of an international gathering such as this.

It also gives national leaders the opportunity to talk bilaterally and I’m pleased to say that yesterday I had bilateral discussions with Singapore, with Thailand, with Canada, with Malaysia, with Mexico. Today I’ll be having bilateral discussions with PNG shortly and later on today with John Kerry, the US Secretary of State.

I think these are very important meetings for our country. I think they’re important meetings for our region and for the wider world. It’s worth observing that there seems to be universal enthusiasm for the New Colombo Plan. As all of you I’m sure would recall, the Colombo Plan operating from the 1950s to the 1980s was very good for our region. It brought many of the future leaders of our region to Australia to study. We had a great deal to offer. We still have a great deal to offer and that’s one of the reasons why so many students come from the region to Australia.

I think it’s now certainly true that the region has a great deal to offer us and that’s why it’s so important that we don’t just bring the best and the brightest from our region to Australia, but that our best and brightest goes to our region. If we are to be a truly Asia-literate society, this is the course we need to embrace and this will be good for us, but it will also be good for our region.

So, I think that we can say that as well as being a triumph for President Yudhoyono, so far at least, this has been a good APEC for Australia.

QUESTION:

Can you explain the tardiness of your arrival at your first Leaders’ meeting and whether that was embarrassing?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I was in discussions with Prime Minister Harper of Canada and we got a message that there was no-one there. Then we got a message that everyone was there. So we rushed in as quickly as we could.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott did you claim travel entitlements to attend and Ironman event in 2011 and if so will you pay it back?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll deal with non-APEC issues in a minute. Are there APEC issues and we’ll deal with them now?

QUESTION:

Can I ask about your meeting with Mr Harper? We asked you yesterday about CHOGM. Did you discuss with Mr Harper, his decision on CHOGM at all and did you attempt to persuade him to go or have you left it as you said yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I explained to him that I think the Commonwealth is important and that’s why I’ll be there. Obviously, Australia has some significant bilateral dealings with Sri Lanka over people smuggling as well. I’d be there anyway, but look, for his own reasons, he thinks that it’s important that he make a stand and that’s why he’s not going to be there, but I accept that different countries have different national priorities and in accordance with their national priorities, they may or may not attend certain international conferences. Karen and then Jim.

QUESTION:

With Prime Minister Najib from Malaysia, did you discuss the former government’s Malaysia solution? What is the status of that arrangement now?

PRIME MINISTER:

We did talk about people smuggling issues and in all candour I have to say to you that I said to Prime Minister Najib that it was rather unfortunate that Malaysia had got caught up in a rather intense party political discussion in Australia and I made it very clear to Prime Minister Najib that our Opposition was never to Malaysia, it was to the former government. Our criticism was never of Malaysia, it was of the former government. I guess, you might say that in my own way I offered an apology, because I appreciate that this was a difficult situation for Malaysia and it was only in that difficult situation because in its own way, it had tried to help out a friend and I indicated to Prime Minister Najib that I appreciated that Malaysia was trying to help Australia at the time. I still think what I thought then that it was not a very good deal, but nevertheless, Malaysia to its credit was trying to help Australia out.

QUESTION:

Did he raise that point?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I raised that with him. Now, the problem with the Malaysia deal is that it was ruled illegal by the High Court and nothing’s changed. Jim?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, on that bit, what was Mr Najib’s response to your apology and secondly, back on the meeting with Stephen Harper, was the reverse the case? Did he explain to you why he thought it was a bad idea for CHOGM to be going ahead in Sri Lanka and in any way suggest that Australia might like to consider following the Canadian example?

PRIME MINISTER:

We didn’t go into this in any great depth or detail because I know where he stands, he knows where I stand and I think there’s just an acceptance, as there ought to be between friends, that at different times you‘ll take a difference approach. So, no, he didn’t attempt to persuade me not to go to CHOGM and I certainly – beyond saying that I valued the Commonwealth and thought it was important to support the Commonwealth – I didn’t attempt to persuade him.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you’re about to meet with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. What will you be seeking in those talks, in particular on Manus Island? You did express some concern prior to the election about the arrangements, the lack of detail, the guarantees. What are you after?

PRIME MINISTER:

As we said at the time, we thought there were problems with the way the former government presented the arrangement, but we thought there was considerable merit in it, fundamentally and that we would – I think the phrase was salvage what we could from the arrangement. Now, I’ve indicated to Prime Minister O’Neill that I am grateful for the assistance that he’s giving to Australia in its hour of need, like this. I’ve indicated to him that we certainly want to take full advantage of PNG’s offer to host, if necessary, very significant numbers of illegal arrivals by boat in Manus and that’s what we’ll do. We will take advantage of this but nevertheless, we are extremely grateful to PNG for the assistance that it is giving to Australia and obviously in return we are happy to boost our assistance to PNG. For instance, there will be 50 Australian Federal Police officers serving with their PNG counterparts by Christmas and there are discussions about additional police and other support for PNG and that, again, as it should be, between friends. They are helping us out with the boat people issue. They have certain domestic issues that they believe we can assist with and we are.

QUESTION:

You did express concern along with Julie Bishop though about how aid money, our aid money that’s spent in PNG, giving them, you argued, more control over how it’s spent. Are you going to wind that back?

PRIME MINISTER:

My understanding is that the aid budget has always been spent on a cooperative basis. PNG would put up proposals to us, we would assess them and if we were happy with them they would go ahead. That’s a perfectly good arrangement. That’s the kind of arrangement that should apply between friends and that arrangement will continue.

QUESTION:

Further to Jim’s question, I don’t think you answered it entirely as to whether what Prime Minister Najib actually said in response to your apology, but also on top of Adam’s question, can I ask whether you routinely claimed travel entitlement for the Pollie Pedal?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let’s deal with APEC issues and then we’ll deal briefly with travel allowance and travel entitlement issues. Look, with Jim, I don’t propose as a general rule, to try to put words in the mouths of my counterparts and I’ve told you that I offered an act of contrition, if you like, to Prime Minister Najib for the way Malaysia got caught up in what was a very intense and at times somewhat rancorous debate in Australia. He knows that we play our politics pretty hard in our country and I think he understood but look, we had a very good discussion. We had a very good discussion about a whole range of issues and I am confident that our friendship with Malaysia is strong and it will get stronger and more collegial and more consultative over time.

QUESTION:

Did he express any concerns about Scott Morrison’s visit to Malaysia [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. No, he didn’t.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister I think we need to deal with the entitlements. I know you’ve got an appointment and we’ve got some questions.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure. Ok, well look, I think I’ve been asked about ironman. Look, I believe that all of my claims have been within entitlement and let’s not forget that Port Macquarie was a marginal seat effectively and I want to assure you that I don’t go to marginal seats simply for sporting events although the sporting event in question was a community event. I think you’ll find that there were quite a few other community events involved in those visits.

Now, on the question of Pollie Pedal, I’m not sure whether anyone here has been on a Pollie Pedal with me, certainly there are quite a few journalists who normally do accompany me on Pollie Pedal and as – Tim Sweeney, thank you Tim for volunteering! Look, Pollie Pedal is a very intense engagement with the community. I mean, the great thing about Pollie Pedal is that it takes me to towns and communities, sometimes hamlets, that very rarely see a politician. I suspect that most of the places that I visited on this year’s Pollie Pedal would not have seen a politician other than their local Member in decades, let alone a Leader of the Opposition. I will do Pollie Pedal next year as Prime Minister. I am looking forward to it very much. It is a perfectly legitimate thing for a Member of Parliament to do and, yes, to the extent that it involves being away from home, I will claim travel allowance.

QUESTION:

Kevin Andrews was on that Pollie Pedal with you on a number of occasions and hasn’t claimed, so is it possible that you have been cavalier with your travel expenses?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it’s not. It is absolutely not possible. Look, every Member of Parliament makes a judgment about his own role in these events and I lead the Pollie Pedal. I attend numerous community events as part of the Pollie Pedal. Not all of my colleagues do – not all of my colleagues do. Now, sometimes they do, but they certainly don’t always and Kevin may well have made a judgment that he was insufficiently involved in the community events associated not to claim. As I said, I invite every one of you to go back to look at the programme for this Pollie Pedal, previous Pollie Pedals and ask yourself the question, is this a frolic or is this a very serious act of community engagement? And I think you would have to conclude if you are fair dinkum that this is a very serious act of community engagement.

QUESTION:

You pursued Peter Slipper very vigorously on the issue of misuse of taxpayer funds. Is it a bit hypocritical of you to use taxpayer funds yourself to attend this wedding

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, I was in Queensland for Consilium. Some of you may actually have been to Consilium in one or other capacity. It is an important annual event. I have been to quite a number of Consilium events. Usually, I make a speech at Consilium and so I attended his wedding on the way back from Consilium. Now, when attendance at weddings became an issue I looked again and the TA associated with the Slipper wedding – as opposed to the trip to Consilium – I thought, to avoid doubt, I should repay and I have done that.

Now, I’ll take one more question on this. Ok, Alex.

QUESTION:

Given that you have paid the money back, surely you concede that this area needs to be reformed. Do you support the Greens’ call for integrity?

PRIME MINISTER:

Fair question, Alex. Very fair question. Look, whenever entitlements become an issue there are calls for change. It doesn’t matter what the rules are, there is always going to be an argument at the margins. The point I make is that people should be careful and cautious when they claim entitlement. If there is any doubt, they should resolve the doubt in favour of the taxpayer and that is exactly what I have done.

Now, there is one final point I want to make on another subject before I go to meet Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. As you might remember during the election campaign, I went to the Cloudbreak mine in Western Australia with Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest. There I announced that we would be reviewing indigenous employment programmes and that Andrew Forrest would lead that review on behalf of the Government. I am pleased to say that that has now been confirmed and finalised, Andrew Forrest will be leading a review of indigenous employment programmes. I think this is very important. I want to congratulate all of the Australian businesses that have been involved in the Australian Employment Covenant. I think this does offer a new beginning to indigenous people who want to have a serious career in the private sector and I want to thank Andrew Forrest for the commitment that he has shown.

[ends]

Transcript - 23029

Australia to co-fund innovative project to tackle the growing infrastructure needs of APEC economies

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23030

Australia will contribute $3million towards a pilot Public Private Partnership (PPP) Centre in Indonesia to help address the growing infrastructure needs of the APEC region.

The PPP Centre that we will co-fund will make use of the private sector’s expertise to find new ways to facilitate investment and deliver critical infrastructure.

The Centre will help the Indonesian public sector identify and target their infrastructure problem. It will build their expertise in designing and managing Public Private Partnerships to deliver the infrastructure quickly and more affordably.

The pilot Centre will be established in Jakarta and will be supported by an expert panel from APEC member economies, business and development banks.

Australia’s $3 million contribution will be sourced from an existing AusAid Asia Development Bank Trust Fund, which supports infrastructure in Indonesia.

If successful, it could be the first of several PPP centres throughout the region.

Building infrastructure builds economies. More than $8 trillion worth of infrastructure has been identified within the APEC region that needs to be development by 2020 and Australia can play a role in turning this backlog into economic opportunity.

This will provide opportunities for Australia’s education, engineering, construction and finance sectors to help in developing the APEC region.

The infrastructure needs of the APEC economies are simply too large for stretched government budgets to afford on their own. Finding ways to encourage stable private investment will be critical in delivering future projects so that our cities move faster and are more productive.

I want to be known as an infrastructure Prime Minister by building vital projects that Australia needs, including the roads of the 21st century. By addressing the infrastructure needs of our region we can create more opportunities for Australian trade and investment that can help our economy grow even stronger in the years ahead.

8 October 2013

Transcript - 23030

Assistance to victims of overseas terrorism

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23031

Location: Bali, Indonesia

Since September 2001, hundreds of Australian families have been impacted by major terrorist events in New York, Bali, Jakarta, London, Egypt, Mumbai and Nairobi.

We should stand with victims of terrorism in the same way that we stand with the victims of crimes committed in Australia.

They were targeted because they were citizens of a country where people are free to choose their own way of life. They suffered because they are Australian.

In 2012, when the previous Government agreed to my proposal to provide financial assistance to victims of terrorism, it only did so for future victims and not existing victims. The new Government has now rectified this anomaly.

Some of the victims of terrorism have been bereaved. Others have lost their sight, their hearing, their jobs and the expectation of a comfortable retirement.

The victims of terrorism still face obstacles – both physical and emotional.

I recognise that compensation of up to $75,000 is not a lavish amount. Nevertheless, it is an important acknowledgement of the pain and suffering that these victims of terrorism have suffered.

Applying the scheme to these past events will benefit about 300 individuals and families and will cost about $30 million. Payments under the scheme will not replace existing support and benefits available to victims.

The Department of Human Services will administer this payment and will set up a system to receive applications from claimants.

Claims can be made from 21 October 2013.

More information is available through the Department of Human Services on 1800 040 226, or at www.humanservices.gov.au.

9 October 2013

Transcript - 23031

Joint Doorstop Interview, Bali, Indonesia

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23032

Subject(s): Bali Memorial

PRIME MINISTER:

I feel honoured and humbled to be able to lay a wreath on this monument here in Bali in the presence of Peter Hughes, one of the survivors of that tragic night back in October of 2002. I know for Peter this is an emotional moment. I think it’s hard for any Australian to pass this spot without feeling pangs of emotion, knowing what happened to so many of our countrymen and women and knowing what happened to so many of our brother and sister human beings on the terrible night in 2002 when the suicide bombers and others struck here.

So, I think it is fitting and appropriate that the Australian Prime Minister in Bali for APEC should take some time out to attend this spot, this spot sacred to the memory of so many people, to honour the dead, to commiserate with those who were injured on that night and who still bear the scars, physical and mental, and to acknowledge all of their loved ones who bear the pain of that terrible day to this moment.

I should also announce that the long campaign to provide a measure of justice to the victims of terrorist atrocities overseas is coming to a close. As you know, as a member of parliament, as an opposition leader, I campaigned to try to ensure that the Australian victims of overseas terrorism received assistance, commensurate with that of the Australian victims of crime back home and I am pleased to say that one of the first acts of the new government has been to make a retrospective declaration so that from the 21st of October those who were injured and the next of kin of those who were killed will be able to apply for up to $75,000 worth of assistance.

This is a modest enough acknowledgement for those who have suffered by virtue of the fact that they were Australian; those who were singled out as targets because they were westerners and their way of life was an abomination to those who wished us harm.

Today is not simply a day to acknowledge the Australian victims of the terrible atrocities that we have seen right around the world, including here in Bali, today is a day to acknowledge everyone who has suffered at the hands of terrorists because while the terrorists were targeting Australians and other westerners, their victims included many local people – Muslim, Hindu, of all faiths and none – and this is the tragedy of what happened here on that terrible night.

So, it is, as I said, an honour to be here. It’s good to have the chance to acknowledge those who suffered but also to celebrate the spirit which has kept the survivors of that terrible night going and I particularly want to pay tribute to my friend Peter Hughes who through his foundation has done so much to bring good from what would otherwise have been simply an atrocity.

Now, Peter, did you want to say anything? Ok mate. Thanks so much.

PETER HUGHES:

I would just like to acknowledge Tony. Tony has been a champion for the last four or five years with this. I know that Tony has a very good friend, Paul, and I know that myself, Paul and Tony have all thought about this compensation. It is not the money. What’s the price of $75,000 for a life? It is really nothing. It is about recognising the people, that it did happen eleven years ago, it did happen in 9/11 and I guess that we just want to acknowledge the fact that we are Australian people. We do also care about ourselves. We do look after others before ourselves. We are a country that does that. We are acknowledged for that. I think, Tony, by you bringing it to this point where you said you would do it and you’ve done that when you became Prime Minister and I acknowledge you for that, mate, and the Liberal Party and to everybody who is a victim, to everyone who has lost a loved one, just go and enjoy it because you will never bring back somebody that is close to you, that’s family, and I still have my son Leigh and to cherish that, it’s not about money it’s just about being recognised.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok. Do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you were here in 2005 [inaudible]. What are your memories of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Margie and the girls and I were in a hotel up the road, the Bali Mandira at Legian. The phone went a couple of times during the night and I thought to myself these were probably prank calls and then in the morning the phone went at about 5 o’clock. It was my sister who was a travel agent and she said “are you alright?” and I said “of course we are alright” and she said “well, there has been a bomb go off” and I was incredulous. I didn’t think lightning ever struck twice but it did and I ran down to the heart of Kuta where one bomb had gone off just because I knew there had been Australian victims. I had no other information. I was the Health Minister at the time. I thought that as a member of the Government, one should do something to be of assistance. The casualties had been moved by that stage, the police had the site sealed off. I ran back to the hotel, quickly got dressed, jumped in a taxi to Sanglah Hospital and I spent the rest of the day with some remarkable people. The consul, Brian Diamond, some remarkable people, the friends and relatives of the Australian victims who basically were there to render assistance and eventually we got all of the foreigners who were injured that day, we got them evacuated to various places. Some were evacuated to Singapore, some were evacuated to Darwin. But, you know, I want to just say that it was a remarkable team effort. Team Australia worked very effectively that day.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, there have long been plans to turn the site over there that’s now a car park into something that’s a bit more fitting memory of the victims. Do you make it…are you going to make it a pledge to see it done?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’ve just been talking to Peter about this and I think there are a lot of people who would like to see some further commemoration of the tragic events of that particular night. Yes, it would be good to see this turned into a peace park. There are some disputes over the ownership. There will inevitably be some, I guess, contention over the cost. We’ve got to sort out the ownership issues. Then we’ve got to talk about the cost but this is something that we would like to see happen and obviously the Commonwealth will do what it can to bring that about.

QUESTION:

What can it do, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well first we’ve got to have the ownership issue sorted out and I know that Governor Pastika – who, at the time of the bombing, was called in to lead the police investigation – Governor Pastika of Bali is very keen to try to progress that but in the end we have to let the local people sort out those local issues and then once that’s sorted out we can do what we can to ensure that the land is secured and then it’s turned into an appropriate peace park.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, on the compensation, why are victims of terrorist attacks deserving of money that perhaps other disaster victims are not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because the terrorist attacks that we’ve seen since September the 11th 2001 have been aimed specifically at westerners and the two Bali bombings, the two Jakarta bombings, were aimed specifically at Australians. Now, when someone has suffered simply by virtue of being an Australian, I think our nation has a special level of duty towards them and that’s why I think it’s important that this should happen. I mean, if you go overseas and you get hit by a motorcar, that’s a terrible thing but the car hasn’t hit you because you’re an Australian, it’s just the sort of accident that happens from time to time, wherever people might be. But if you are injured in a terrorist attack that has in some way been specifically directed at westerners, at Australians, well, then I think the nation does have a level of duty to you and that’s what this scheme to assist the overseas victims of terrorism will do.

QUESTION:

Mr Hughes, do you have a view on that?

PETER HUGHES:

Look, I guess when you come to a holiday destination like Bali you wouldn’t expect to get blown up. I’m guessing that, especially overseas, I note if they came to Australia and something like that happened in Australia, there’d be an outcry. So, this has been a long time coming. This didn’t just happen. This took eleven years of, you know, talking to people and working out whether we should do it. It got a bit embarrassing at times because we felt like we had to ask. You know how embarrassing it is for an Australian to ask for anything? Pretty hard, I’ll tell you. So, really, I think it’s overdue and what’s happened and what Tony’s done and the Government’s done is fantastic and I think that, you know, we were targeted as westerners and it wasn’t fair.

QUESTION:

Can I ask Governor Pastika a question?

PRIME MINISTER:

Governor, would you? Only if you wish, Governor.

QUESTION:

I’d like to ask the Governor if the Peace Park is realistic. It’s been now 11 years that that site’s been vacant and we’ve seen a lot of, as Mr Abbott said, disputes over the ownership and what the owner wants to do with it. What can the Bali Government do and what is the Bali Government doing?

GOVERNOR PASTIKA:

It is still our hope to make this memorial park become true but however we are still, again, still negotiating because it’s not easy to get the land. Sometimes people who own the land give a very unrealistic price and we cannot do anything. But however, we stop any license to that area. So nobody can build anything. That is what we can do now, as the Government.

PRIME MINISTER:

If there’s one more question, I’ll take another question. Any other questions? Ok, thanks so much everyone.

Before I go, I should say pay a further tribute to all of the Australians who were the victims, all of the Australians who were the helpers, all of the Balinese people and Indonesian people who were the victims, all of the Indonesian and Balinese people who were the helpers on that night and indeed, on the night of the second Bali bombing as well. Dr Adam Frost, for instance, the amazing Newcastle GP who did so much to stabilise the victims, along with the medical staff at Sanglah Hospital.

I pay tribute to Governor Pastika for his work as the chief Indonesian police investigator which brought the perpetrators of the atrocity to justice. When people do something like this, sure, they might be targeting Australians or westerners but in the end they are attacking humanity. That’s what they’re doing. They’re attacking humanity and that’s why it’s so important that we stand resolute against that kind of thing, as every Australian Government always will.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23032

Press Conference, Brunei

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 10/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23033

Subject(s): East Asia Summit 2013

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s good to be here in Brunei for the East Asia Summit, following on from the presence in Bali for the APEC meeting. These are two very important meetings for Australia. The first is about trade. This one is about security. Trade and security issues are very important for our country because, in the end, it all comes down to jobs: jobs for Australians – that's what these meetings are all about. If we have more trade, we have more jobs, and if we continue to have strategic stability in our region, we will have more trade. So, both of these meetings are essentially about trying to ensure that we have the right environment to create more jobs for Australians – that's what it's all about.

Now, both of these meetings, I think, have been very encouraging. There is a real momentum for freer trade, as was obvious at the APEC meeting in Bali. Yes, there is momentum for bilateral trade deals to be concluded, but there is also quite a push for plurilateral trade deals. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is making real progress and that’s good for all of the potential Trans-Pacific partners, but here in Brunei it’s obvious that there are encouraging signs of a development of a code of conduct for relationships in the South China Sea. We know that there are some longstanding disputes in the South China Sea. Australia's position is that these should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, and in the meantime, this code of conduct for the parties to these disputes is very important.

Yesterday, I met with three of our important trading partners – with China, with Korea, with Japan. This morning I met with Vietnam. Shortly, I will meet with the Prime Minister of India. Then of course we have the East Asia Summit plenary session. I think these have all been good meetings. I think the collective meetings and I think the individual meetings have all been good and productive.

The final point I want to make is that Australia always has been a good international citizen. We are a country which has promoted trade. We are a country which has tried to stand as strongly as we can for decency and good values, for friendship between nations. That’s the way it has been in the past, and as far as I'm concerned, that’s the way it will be in the future.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, can you just expand a bit on what you told the Japanese Prime Minister in terms of Australia's relationship and what you were driving at with your comments about Japan’s increasing strategic role in the region?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the phrase I've used on a number of occasions now is that Japan is Australia's best friend in Asia, and that doesn't mean that we don't have other good friends. Obviously, China is a good friend of Australia and I hope in the years to come China becomes an even better friend of Australia. India is a good friend of Australia, and again I hope in the years to come, we'll have a more developed relationship with India than we do now, but we've had a very good and strong relationship with Japan going back pretty close to 60 years now. We have had very strong trade relationships with Japan from the late 1950s thanks to the trade treaty negotiated by John McEwen under the Menzies Government. When Britain went into the European common market, Japan very much filled the place that Britain had occupied in Australia’s trade. Japan is a fellow democracy. Japan is a fellow member of the US alliance network. So we've got a very good relationship with Japan, and I think as time goes by and as Japan puts the wounds and the scars of World War II increasingly behind it and other countries put the wounds and the scars of World War II increasingly behind them, Japan is going to play a more important part and, dare I say it, a more normal part in the life of the world, and that's encouraging. Japan – it’s a democracy, it’s been a stable democracy for 60-odd years now. There is no question that Japan is going to continue to be a stable democracy. It’s a democracy which has now had alternations in government. It is a democracy which has liberal pluralism very much at the core of its being, and that’s why I think Japan has much to offer the wider world.

QUESTION:

Did you broach the subject of whaling and if so what was the nature of that discussion?

PRIME MINISTER:

I didn't broach the subject in this particular meeting. When I was in Japan as Opposition Leader a few years ago, I did raise the subject of whaling then and I made it clear that Australia had a very strong view about whaling. We would much prefer that Japan didn’t continue whaling but on this particular subject, I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, is it Australia’s view that China is being a bit too assertive in the South China Sea?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I wouldn’t want to see happen at a meeting like this is any sense that countries are ganging up on anyone; wouldn't want to see that. That said, I think it is important that we do have a clear and understood code of conduct for the conduct of parties in the South China Sea. It’s in everyone's interests. There was a declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea back in 2002. What we now need to see is a code of conduct based on those principles, so that in the event of any tension it can be dealt with before it gets out of hand.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, in your view, after your discussions with the various leaders here, what is the level of risk, as you see it, of the potential of conflict in the South China Sea and what would you see for Australia in the context, the strategic partnership with the various countries involved?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is some risk – no doubt about that – but I think it is a risk that is reducing because of the kind of work that is happening at a conference such as this. I do want to make it clear that strategic stability in this region – in particular, strategic stability in the South China Sea and in the China Sea – is very, very important. It's very, very important. It's important for the whole world, not just for the countries which border on the South China Sea. It’s important for Australia. Almost 60 per cent of our trade goes through the South China Sea, so strategic stability is very important, and I think everyone realises that. I don't think there is a country represented at this conference that isn't very conscious of the need for continued strategic stability in the South China Sea, and that's why I'm very encouraged by the move towards the establishment of a code of conduct.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, in Bali you put a 12-month timetable on the China FTA. Does that timetable also apply to the Japan and Korea FTAs? And also the East Asia Summit next year is being held in Myanmar. Do you think that's appropriate given the ongoing human rights struggles there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the working target that I've got for these free trade agreements is 12 months. Now, it would be better to get them in 18 months than not to get them at all, but nevertheless, if you don't set some kind of a target, you don't have the incentive to get things done, and in the case of the China agreement, that's been meandering along since 2005, and it's very important that we accelerate it, bring it to a conclusion. The Japan and Korea free trade agreements have similarly been in train, but unresolved for a similar length of time. So, yes, let's give ourselves 12 months to bring these agreements to a satisfactory conclusion.

On Myanmar, or Burma, look, I accept that there have been some human rights issues in that country. I think the human rights situation in Burma is much better now than it has been. Aung San Suu Kyi is now a part of the process in a way that she wasn’t for many, many years. We had a visit from the President of Myanmar to Australia in the last 12 months or so. I'm confident that things are moving strongly in the right direction inside Myanmar, or Burma, and I think it's perfectly appropriate for this meeting to be there next year.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Clive Palmer has announced this morning that he is forming a voting bloc with the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, Senator-elect Ricky Muir. He says he wants more resources in order to pass legislation. Are you worried about this situation and can you work [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, have we dealt with EAS and APEC-type issues, and then we will come back to that?

QUESTION:

Just one thing briefly, you met the three leaders of our biggest export markets yesterday. You said you hoped for 12 month target. What about them? What did they say to you when you broached this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks, Rowan. Look, one thing I won't do is put words into the mouths of my interlocutors, but I think I can say that they were all pretty receptive. I think that all of our significant trading partners are very conscious of the benefits of both of us of freer trade. Look, the universal refrain around the APEC leaders' table was the importance of freer trade for the prosperity of all our peoples, and notwithstanding the differences on other issues that are occasionally apparent, notwithstanding the fact that every country does tend to have a certain self-interest in these negotiations, by the same token everyone accepts that, in the end, everyone is better off the freer trade can be.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, just on that, there have been some concerns raised about whether individual free trade agreements are the best way to go. Why is your government intent on signing individual FTAs?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of us would prefer a swift and satisfactory conclusion of the Doha round, but if you can't get a multilateral agreement, better to get a plurilateral agreement, and if you can't get a plurilateral agreement, better to have a series of bilateral agreements. It’s better to take small steps in the right direction in the absence of large steps and my philosophy is that if you can't get what you want today, take what you can get and go for the rest tomorrow. So, as far as Australia is concerned, we will always be working towards freer international trade and if we can get multi-lateral or plurilateral deals, let's take them. If we can't, let’s get the best bilateral deals that we can, let’s get as many bilateral deals as we can and the fact that there have now been quite a few bilateral deals that have been beneficial for both sides – not just Australian bilateral deals, but bilateral deals around our region – I think, is driving much of the momentum behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you generally, before we get onto domestic stuff, what is your overall takeout having had a series of meetings over the last week or so? Australia has had a number of prime ministers in recent times, so what is your general sense of the reception you’ve received and the attitude of the leaders that you've met?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Australia is well regarded. I mean, I'm not here to canvass domestic politics and there is not much domestic politics canvassed. Obviously, people like John Key and Stephen Harper are political allies in a way that might not be true of some of the other leaders, but generally speaking, I’m not here to canvass domestic politics and I think that when you are abroad, you’re here to represent your country and not simply to represent a political party and Australia, as I said, will be a good international citizen under the current government. We've tried to be a good international citizen by our lights and in accordance with our judgments under previous governments.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, just further to that, I think it's fair to say that foreign policy has never been one of your main passions. Have you enjoyed…

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that's a phrase that belonged to a former Prime Minister, isn't it?

QUESTION:

Nonetheless, have you enjoyed yourself at this summit and how do you think you’ve performed on the world stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to run a commentary on myself. I will leave that to distinguished people before me and others, but this is an important part of the prime ministerial role. You get a different job, you get a different role, and the challenge is to grow as quickly as you can into the different role that you have when your job changes and, as I said, I will leave others to judge how that might be going.

QUESTION:

Have there been benefits, do you think, in having such a quick immersion into international affairs and also to have met in such a short time after you became Prime Minister with key trading partners, allies and so on, or has it been more difficult than you had imagined?

PRIME MINISTER:

Jim, I suspect that it probably is a good thing to have a quick immersion, but the point I want to stress is that, in the end, this is all about better government for Australia; this is all about a better deal for the Australian people. Australian leaders don't go abroad for the benefit of other countries. Sure, we do want to do the right thing by other countries, but we go abroad for the benefit of Australia and Australians and that's why I stress that the APEC trade and economic meeting was all about Australian jobs in the end and the EAS security meeting is all about strategic stability in which trade can flourish. So, again, it all comes back to Australian jobs and prosperity.

QUESTION:

And, Prime Minister, do you think you have a better understanding of Asia and the region now?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I've had a pretty fair understanding of our region for a very long time. I’m not sure about the details of school syllabi these days, but when I was in Year 11 and 12, I studied East Asian history. When I was a student in England, I studied sub-continental history. I've travelled – not vastly, but a little – in Asia. I spent three months in India back in 1981 when I was on my way to be a student in England. I've had a couple of family holidays – for what that’s worth – in Bali, so I'm not a complete stranger to the region and obviously as time goes by, the engagement will only deepen, because the point I've been making for a long time now is that when it comes to foreign policy, Australia has to have a Jakarta, not a Geneva focus, because we need to be concentrating on that part of the world which is of most immediate relevance to our country and where we can make the most difference for the good and that, obviously, is our region.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, did you raise human rights concerns at either of your meetings with the Chinese Premier or the Vietnamese leader today?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sam, look, again, the short answer is no, but both the government of China and the government of Vietnam are aware of the fact that Australia strongly supports the rule of law. We support the rule of law internationally. We support the rule of law domestically, but, look, I'm a new prime minister. We will say our piece when there are major human rights abuses taking place, but generally speaking, it's not the job of the Australian Prime Minister to stand up and give lectures to the wider world. Ok? Domestic issues, Alex. Ok.

Look, I'm aware that there been this development and my view about the entitlements of minor parties and independents is that there is a standard convention and we will adhere to the standard convention when it comes to staffing for minor parties and independents.

QUESTION:

Are you concerned though that Clive Palmer is saying now that he will have, well his party will have effectively four votes in the Senate. He is threatening to hold up legislation on this point and a range of others. How concerned are you of the power that he is going to have?

PRIME MINISTER:

The public want to see a constructive parliament. Particularly after the difficulties of the last parliament, I think the public wants to see a much more constructive parliament this time. I am going to be working as constructively as I can with everyone in the parliament. My view is that I will treat all members of parliament with courtesy and respect including minor party and independent members of parliament and I am confident that everyone in this parliament will want to see a different spirit this time than last time and I'm confident that everyone in this parliament very well understand that the new government has a clear mandate to get certain things done: we've got a clear mandate to repeal the carbon tax, we've got a clear mandate to repeal the mining tax, we've got a clear mandate to stop the boats, we've got a clear mandate to build infrastructure, to reduce red tape and I’m confident that minor parties in the Senate understand that and we will support that.

QUESTION:

Are you happy to negotiate with all four of them as a bloc or will you still try [inaudible] get legislation through?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, we will deal with everyone with courtesy and respect. That's always the way I try to do things and that's been so in the past and it will be even more so in the future.

QUESTION:

Can you rule out any changes or review of the entitlements system once you return home?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, the point I made the other day and I don't want to get into a long discussion of this, because I think there is a sense in which there has been a debate about it already and we don't want point to fixate on this, but the point I make is that whatever the system is, there will always be arguments at the margins. There always will be. It doesn’t matter what the system is, there will always be arguments at the margins. People should act within entitlements and if there is any doubt, the doubt should be resolved in favour of the taxpayer.

QUESTION:

Wouldn’t a simpler system enhance public confidence both in the system, and also in politicians?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not sure that there is any great issue that is not going to be there regardless of what the system is. I mean, politicians are entitled to travel when the travel is reasonably related to their office and that’s what all of us do and occasionally there is an argument over a particular use. One way or another, it’s always resolved and the point I make is that people should act within entitlements. If there is any doubt, the doubt should be resolved in favour of the taxpayer.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, some of the entitlements were actually wound back in recent times in exchange for higher salary. Do you think that’s a possible avenue once again to wind back some of the travel entitlements if the pay goes up?

PRIME MINISTER:

Andrew, this is going to be the last question I take on entitlements. I’m not proposing to change the system. I'm not proposing to change the system. If people want to make suggestions, they’re welcome to make suggestions, but I’m not proposing to change the system. I think it is important that members of parliament, ministers, prime ministers, opposition leaders, be able to travel pretty freely around our country in order to do their job and in the end their job is to engage with the people of Australia for the peace, order and good government of our country. You don't want members of parliament to be prisoners of their offices. You don't want members of parliament to be shut up in Canberra. If we are going to do our job of representing the people of Australia, we’ve got to be able to move freely amongst the people of Australia and if anything, I think that it’s too easy to become a prisoner of your desk in Canberra and so I think that it’s important that we should have a reasonable ability to travel for the purposes of properly representing the people of Australia.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, have you taken any steps with your own team to ensure that there aren’t any other stories like this that will come out? Have you called for an audit of your own side of politics?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Mark, I said I wasn't going to take any more questions on this subject. So, are there any other questions that people would like to ask? Ok, thanks so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 23033

Operational Launch of Cape Class Customs and Border Protection Patrol Vessel

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23035

Today’s launch of the Cape St George vessel at HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin marks a new era in Australia’s maritime security and border protection.

The Cape St George is the first of eight high-tech Cape Class vessels that will take a lead role in Operation Sovereign Borders to combat people smuggling and illegal maritime arrivals.

The Cape Class vessels are bigger and faster than the current Bay Class patrol boats; they span twice the length and have three times the volume which will allow for greater capacity and range during operational patrols. The boats will be able to sail 4,000 nautical miles without refuelling.

They are equipped with the latest generation in marine technology to ensure quick detection of illegal boats and can carry up to 50 passengers.

The patrol boats have been purpose-built by Austal in Western Australia and will be able to operate throughout Australia’s 59,000 kilometre coastline. They have undergone five months of testing, including in rough sea conditions with wave heights of up to 6 metres.

The rollout of the eight Cape Class patrol boats will be complete by late 2015. They will join the Armidale Class vessels and other Royal Australian Navy ships in protecting our borders.

The Bay Class vessels will continue to be operational for another two years but will be phased out as the rollout of the Cape Class boats is complete.

Protecting Australia’s waters is a full time responsibility for our Customs and Defence Forces.

The addition of the Cape Class to the existing fleet of Customs and Navy vessels will provide a strong, visible presence around our coastline to deter illegal activities and stop the boats.

11 October 2013

Transcript - 23035

Doorstop Interview, Darwin

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23036

Subject(s): Operational launch of Cape St George Customs and Border Protection patrol vessel

Location: Darwin

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s good to be here in Darwin. It’s good to be here at HMAS Coonawarra at the commencement of the first operational deployment of the Cape St George, the first of the new Cape Class of vessels which will be deployed increasingly by the Customs and border protection service under Border Protection Command over the next two years. It's great to be here with the Commander of Border Protection Command and senior representatives of the Customs and border protection service as well as Natasha Griggs, my parliamentary colleague, because this is an important escalation in our ability to maintain border security in the seas around Australia.

Australia has almost 60,000 kilometres of coastline. We are responsible for safety in 11 per cent of the earth's oceans. This is a massive responsibility and we need the right personnel, the right equipment and the right will to do it properly.

The new Cape Class of vessels obviously have a much higher capability than the Bay Class that they're replacing. It's, in some ways, a more capable vessel then even the Armidale Class patrol boats deployed by the Navy. It's about 100 tonnes bigger, it has a 4,000 nautical mile range, it has much more endurance, much more sea-going capability than the vessels that it's replacing. So, we've got the right personnel, we've now got the right equipment and under the new government, we have the right will to properly protect the borders of our country.

So, I'm very pleased to be here, as I said, with the Commander of Border Protection Command and the senior representatives of the Customs and border protection service today to mark this important escalation of Australia's border protection capabilities with the advent of these Cape Class vessels.

We'll take questions on border protection issues and then we might lose the officials and if you’ve got other questions, we'll take them.

QUESTION:

So will this boat be used to turn the asylum seeker boats around?

PRIME MINISTER:

The questions about operational matters, to the extent that they can be dealt with, will be dealt with by the Minister for Border Protection at a briefing in Sydney shortly, but these vessels do have significantly greater capabilities than the Bay Class vessels that they are replacing. One of the interesting features of these vessels is that they have the capacity to keep in relative comfort 50 persons onboard who are not part of the crew and that means that we will have the capacity to keep people, to transfer people, to transport people if necessary, which will be much enhanced with this new vessel.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, where would they be transported to?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there are a whole range of options, as you know, but the point we make is that if you come to Australia illegally by boat, you will go to Manus or Nauru. You can never expect to come to Australia and people who have come illegally by boat, whose status is yet to be determined, even if they are found to be refugees, can never expect to stay permanently in Australia.

QUESTION:

But PM, isn’t it in international convention that seeking asylum is legal? So it’s not actually illegal to come to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is not illegal to claim asylum but it is illegal to come to Australia without proper authority and without proper documentation and that’s what these people are – they are illegally seeking to enter our country, they are seeking to enter our country via the backdoor, without our permission, rather than through the front door with our permission. It’s wrong. It shouldn’t happen and it won’t happen under this government.

QUESTION:

A couple of weeks ago a group of asylum seekers were brought ashore to Darwin on another Customs boat under the cover of darkness and extreme efforts were taken to stop the Nine News cameras capturing any images of that. Are you trying to hide the boats, as the Opposition says?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are trying to stop the boats. We are trying to stop the boats. That’s what we were elected to do. That’s what the public expects and we don’t apologise for any operational decisions which are reasonably made by Border Protection Command and by our other authorities in the course of stopping the boats. That’s our objective.

QUESTION:

Is stopping the people from knowing about the fact that a boatload of asylum seekers is coming in, is that intended to stop the bad publicity?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our job is to stop the boats. It’s not to provide sport. It’s not to provide copy. It’s not to start an argument. We can have all the arguments in the world and that’s great but the job of the Government is to get things done. The job of the Government is not to provide copy fodder. The job of the Government is to get things done and what we want to get done as quickly as we humanly can is this urgent national imperative of stopping the boats.

QUESTION:

Don’t Australians deserve to know when a boat’s arrived and when people have come in, as you say, illegally, shouldn’t Australians have a right to know that information?

PRIME MINISTER:

As Scott Morrison has made clear, our job as a government is not to provide shipping news for people smugglers. Our job as a government is to protect our borders and that means stopping the boats. Now, once a week there will be an operational update from the Minister and from the Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders. From time to time, it may be desirable to release other information but people will get regular, thorough, comprehensive updates on what has happened but it will be designed to serve our national interest – which is to stop the boats.

QUESTION:

What do you anticipate is going to come into the large immigration detention facilities that already existing in Darwin? Are they going to be sitting empty and worthless soon?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I hope they do. I really do hope that they don’t need to be used. We don’t have these facilities to fill them up. We have these facilities to use at need and I hope, I expect, that within a relatively short space of time our policies will have worked to stop the boats. Now, we still have a very significant number of people who have previously arrived in Australia whose cases are yet to be heard and if the cases are heard and they are found not to be refugees, they will be returned to detention before leaving this country. So I suspect that for quite some time to come, these detention facilities will be used but eventually the boats will be stopped, the facilities will be empty, but I suspect because of the very large number of people who came illegally by boat under the former government they will be used for some time to come.

QUESTION:

How much did this boat cost and does this signal further investment in the Defence forces?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this of course is a Customs vessel. It’s part of the official family obviously and these vessels do great work under Border Protection Command which has a range of assets, Customs assets, naval assets, air force assets, under its authority. This is a $300 million project. Each of these vessels costs towards $40 million.* All eight of them will be operational within two years.

QUESTION:

What do you think needs to happen to the Defence and Customs contingent in Darwin? Do we need to stretch that? Do the numbers need to increase?

PRIME MINISTER:

We need the right numbers to stop the boats and once the boats have been stopped we’ll need the right numbers to maintain appropriate maritime surveillance, appropriate maritime supervision, appropriate control over Australia’s economic and environmental interests and that’s what we’ll do.

QUESTION:

Does that mean the Top End will decrease in importance after a couple of years?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it means that the Top End will continue to be a very important part of our country and it will continue to contribute very significantly to our overall Defence effort. As you know, we’ve got 1st Brigade headquarters here in Darwin. We’ve got a significant naval base. That's not going to change. I mean, regardless of what happens to the people smuggling trade, Darwin will continue to be a very important Defence city. It is, if you like, a garrison town, so it's a very important city when it to the defence of Australia; a very important area when it comes to the defence of Australia. As you know, within 12 months Government will be releasing a White Paper on northern development and I think we can be confident that as time goes by Darwin will loom relatively larger, not smaller, in the affairs of our nation.

QUESTION:

Do you have any plans, or have you chosen a location for the week in a remote community that you spoke about?

PRIME MINISTER:

As I said when I was at the Garma festival during the campaign, I do intend to maintain my previous practice of spending about a week a year in a remote community and I did ask Galarrwuy Yunupingu, one of our greatest indigenous leaders, whether he would be happy to have me do my first week as Prime Minister in a community, in his particular community, and he did indicate that he would like that and we're talking to them about when it might be and how it might transpire. Now, I think if we're off border protection issues I might dispense with the officials. Thank you, Admiral. Thank you so much, Ian. Thank you very much. Do we have other issues?

QUESTION:

Yes, Prime Minister. What basis is the Commonwealth challenging the ACT's same sex marriage laws? Will you release the advice?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a matter that's been handled and handled well by the Attorney-General. It is pretty clear, under our constitution, that it is the Commonwealth which has responsibility for the rules regarding marriage. We think it's important that there be a uniform approach to marriage throughout the Commonwealth and that's what we are going to do our best to ensure.

QUESTION:

Won't this be exploiting the constitutional weaknesses, though, of the ACT similar to the Northern Territory's position on euthanasia?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's simply a question of the constitution. The constitution provides that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to marriage. Now, that's a provision that's been in our constitution since 1901. There's no proposal to change that and it is important to ensure that the constitution is adhered to.

QUESTION:

If you do take this action in the High Court, what message does that send to the gay and lesbian community?

PRIME MINISTER:

The message that it sends that we want to uphold the constitution. We want to adhere to the constitution. Now, there's nothing to stop the Commonwealth Parliament considering matters. As you know, in the last parliament there was a consideration of the question of marriage and, by a fairly decisive margin, the proposal to change was defeated. Now, future parliaments may want to revisit this but the point is that it is the Commonwealth parliament which is responsible for making laws with respect to marriage, not the state parliaments and not the territory legislatures.

QUESTION:

So will you allow a conscience vote of your party?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I've said is that if this matter were to come up again it would be dealt with by our Party Room in the usual way. If it comes up we'll look at it and we'll decide exactly what's going to happen.

QUESTION:

What is your preferred site for a second Sydney Airport?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is something which has been talked about uphill and down dale, so to speak, for 40-odd years. I can remember before I was even old enough to vote, looking at car stickers that said, "Birds not Boeings at Galston” – that was the first proposal for a second Sydney airport back in 1973. It is time to resolve this issue one way or another. In the short term we need to boost the infrastructure surrounding Sydney Airport so that we can maximise the capacity of Kingsford Smith Airport, but we will – well within the life of the current parliament – make a decision as to the site of the second Sydney airport.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you said you would be guided by what the experts say. You would be aware that just about every report that has gone to the Government on this issue has nominated Badgerys Creek as the preferred site, so what further expert advice will you be requiring before you make a decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, these are reports that went to government. They’re not reports that went to the Opposition. We were the Opposition until about a month ago. We're now the Government. We will carefully study these reports. We'll talk to the experts, we will consult with the community and we’ll make a decision. We're not going to procrastinate. Well within this term of government we will make a decision, we will get cracking with it, but we do have to properly study the reports, properly consult with the community before we make a decision – but a decision will be made.

QUESTION:

Are you at odds the Deputy PM over this?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. All of us absolutely understand that we do have a responsibility not just for this year and next year and the year after, but we have a responsibility to plan for our country's future a decade, two decades, three decades ahead and when we’re talking about major economic infrastructure like this, we do have to try to anticipate future demand and that's what we'll do and that's what we'll meet.

QUESTION:

The calls from business for you to act to relieve penalty rates are growing louder. Will you listen to those calls?

PRIME MINISTER:

I appreciate that there are issues which need to be dealt with but they can be dealt with within the system. That's not to say that the existing system can't and shouldn't be improved but what we will do is strictly adhere to the policies that we took to the election. We are going to be a government of no surprises and no excuses; a government which keeps its commitments and a government which is straight and candid with the Australian people and that's what we intend to do.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, just back to Darwin now, the biggest rotation of US marine troops coming next year. Will the Federal Government pay for that accommodation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, that’s a good question. The former government welcomed the US rotating marines through Darwin. It's important that we ensure that these rotations are properly catered for and that does mean providing the necessary infrastructure on the ground to enable the rotation to be of benefit to us and of benefit to the marines and of benefit to the region. So, yes, we will do what's necessary to ensure that this rotation is as effective as possible. One of the difficulties, I understand, under the former government, was – having agreed to the rotation – it wasn’t necessarily prepared to put the resources in to make it work. We will make this work for the benefit of our country and for the benefit of the wider world.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23036

Address to HMAS Newcastle Welcome Home Ceremony, HMAS Kuttabul, Sydney

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/10/2013

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 23037

Location: Sydney

It is an honour for me – on behalf of a grateful and respectful nation – to say thank you to the men and women of the HMAS Newcastle.

And particularly to say thank you to you, their friends and family for the support and encouragement that you have given to your loved ones.

As the Admiral has just reminded us, this is one of 55 Australian Naval deployments to the Middle East area of operations.

This is the fourth time HMAS Newcastle has deployed to the Middle East.

The work that the HMAS Newcastle has done is important work for our country and the world.

Your loved ones have been protecting our interests, upholding our values and supporting our citizens.

Your loved ones have been in a great tradition of Australian military commitments to the Middle East: the Light Horse in Palestine, the second Australian Imperial Force in the deserts of north Africa and more recently our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our forces go forth to do good, and HMAS Newcastle has done well in the Middle East over the last six months.

We are proud of the men and women of the HMAS Newcastle.

We are also proud of you – their families and loved ones.

Our military forces can only go abroad with the support of the people of Australia and no one supports our military forces more than their families and friends.

It is always difficult when your loved ones are away.

As the Admiral has pointed out – you, too, have served our country.

You, too, have made sacrifices for our country.

They also serve who wait for their loved ones to return.

Thank you so much on behalf of our country.

[ends]

Transcript - 23037

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