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Transcript 18470

Transcript of press conference, Seoul

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 27/03/2012

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 18470

PM: Good evening. Today I was pleased to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit here in Seoul. This summit has been dealing with a pivotal question for our world, which is nuclear terrorism. Of course, the consequences of a terrorist act, a nuclear terrorist act,are almost unimaginable. When we remember how much 9/11 changed our world, if you imagine how the world would react if a nuclear device went off in a major city, it leads you, takes you to conclusions that you don't want to think about. It wouldn't only be the immediate loss of life, thoughthat would be grave, but also the consequences for the whole world's perceptions of its security. So consequently, this summit has been dealing with issues that are of importance to Australians, of importance to humankind.

As President Lee has said, the host of our summit, during the course of it, if a terrorist organisation were to acquire or build a nuclear weapon, they would show - his words - neither mercy,nor compromise. And we would all be victims in those circumstances. So it's been important to be here in Seoul as leaders met, and renewed our political commitment to addressing nuclear security issues - political commitments first made in Washington two years ago. And of course, that commitment add up to saying we will do what is necessary to safeguard nuclear material so that it does not end up in the wrong hands.

Firstly, this summit has taken stock on progress over the last two years,since the first summit in Washington. And collectively, nations working together in the two years in between, have achieved a great deal.

Countries have been ratifying the relevant conventions on nuclear security and nuclear terrorism. They've been removing excess plutonium and highly enriched uranium. They've been securing radioactive sources to guard against the possibility that terrorists could build a so called ‘dirty bomb'. And they've been securing nuclear materials in transit.

To give you just some examples of what that all adds up to and what was reported on by nations today: the Ukraine,for example,has just completed the return of all of its highly enriched uranium to Russia. Sweden has returned all of its separated plutonium to the United States, the first operation of its kind. Mexico has converted its research reactor from highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium,in a joint project with the United Statesand Canada. And Finland,the UK and France have completed rigorous IAEA reviews of their domestic nuclear security arrangements.

As I indicated this morning, we have made progress in Australia too, since the Washington meeting; we have recently completed our ratification of the Nuclear Terrorism Convention. We are continuing to outreach to the countries of our region on nuclear security,and we will be hosting a regional seminar and we have agreed with the IAEA that it will conducta review of the security arrangements of our nuclear science facility and research reactor at Lucas Heights and that will take place in 2013. One of the strengths of this process though, isn't just that you reflect on what has been achieved, but you look forward. And you say, on the basis of what has now been achieved, what more can we do to further nuclear security.

So during the course of the meetings today I have made three suggestions for further work, between now and the next security summit in 2014. Those suggestions are, further empowering the International Atomic Energy Agency to continue this important work beyond 2014. We don't want to have a process of summits with energy around them only to see the work not endure for the long term. We want to make a long term difference. Secondly, I suggested establishing an accountability framework on nuclear security that builds confidence. For example, we could consider regular peer reviews of domestic nuclear security arrangements. And third,I suggested fostering the strongest possible cooperation between government and industry. At the end of the day, many nuclear facilities are run by private companies, by private enterprise, and it is one thing for governments to come to meetings, and think and discuss. It is another thing to make sure that those with hands on control are actually doing what is necessary for nuclear security, and that takes partnership.

It's my hope that when we go to the next summit, in the Netherlands in two years'time, that we will see that there has been further national action on nuclear security. And we'll be able to agree on a range of measures that will take us to our ultimate goal, which is to entrench nuclear security practices that endure and keep us safe forthe long term.

I'm very happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST:Prime Minister, was it disappointing that this summit didn't resolve a firm timeframe of when countries should move away from highly enriched uranium? It's a voluntary aspect of the communiqué, but there's no set deadline. How can this summit make progress if action is (inaudible)?

PM: Well, progress has been made from Washington til now, and that was on the basis that people were voluntary stepping up and agreeing to do things. The whole process of having these summits catalyses change. You bring leaders together to get the political focus and drive and direction that brings change. And then that change is obviously implemented by officials in a range of governments. So we've already seen change, I mean, we've changed. We've moved to not have highly enriched uranium for purposes that we can have low enriched uranium. The technology is changing around the world to mean that there's less need for highly enriched uranium and that's why you can see countries who are voluntarily retiring their stocks to places that they can be safely stored.

So I think from Washington to here,we have seen progress so there'sno reason to assume that there won't be further progress out of today's summit and based on the actions in the communiqué.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what of the countries that are looking to embark on this journey in terms of the nuclear industry,how much is being done to try and discourage some of those countries from doing that, and is that what your objective is?

PM: I don't think it's the role of this summit to discourage nations that may chose to get their energy supplies from the nuclear industry. The question here is about the security of nuclear material. We have a well established nuclear safety regime-International Atomic Energy Agency for-the peak body, deals with these questions, and it's very clear internationally how nuclear safety questions are dealt with. What I'm pointing to in the three things that I've talked about particularly the first two, is actually having the same type of rigourin the nuclear security side that we see in the nuclear safety side, that is, it being very clear who is responsible for what and what needs to be done. To give you a practical example of that, it is routine,indeed mandatory,for people to have peer nuclear safety reviews. I'd like to see the same degree of rigourtaken to peer nuclear security reviews.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on that, those ideas, the peer reviews and the clearer and more permanent role for the IAEA. What response feedback did you get from other leaders? Did you feel that those ideas were embraced, and it's going to happen at the next summit, or was there some resistance?

PM: I felt the ideas were listened to and well received, and what will happen from here is that the experts whowork between the summits, so sort ofcatalysedby the discussion between leaders and with a mandate that is resolved as leaders meet, so the topics that leaders have raised are the ones that will be pursued, that the experts that meet between now and 2014 will work on those ideas.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, after listening to the last two days what these countries are doing, who are you most concerned about, who needs to be doing more to secure these nuclear materials?

PM: Look, I don't think it is for me to start naming countries, but I do think across the world, we need to see the best possible rigour and the best possible cooperation to prevent nuclear material falling into the wrong hands. So I, you know, progress has been made. I think you genuinely can say that as a result of President Obama calling for a process of change, then there being the Washington summit leading to this summit, I think you genuinely can say out of that the world is a safer place than it otherwise would have been when it comes to nuclear material. But that doesn't mean that there's room for complacency, or that there's nothing more that can be done which is why this summit is there, getting the next bout of energy together for the further progress that we need to make.

JOURNALIST: Was there a push though for a tougher deadline to stop using highly enriched uranium in reactors? Was that something that you supported?

PM: The communiqué was adopted unanimously around the room. There was not a debate within the room about the timing ofmoves from highly enriched uranium. But clearly, the contributions around the room were about what more needs to be done. So there was a genuine spirit of engagement,a genuine understanding that this is a problem for the world. Many people made statements comparable to President Lee's or made the observation that radiation doesn't respect national borders or boundaries, that a problem for one is a problem for all, which is why this kind of collaboration is so important.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there is a move obviously internationally to produce lower carbon emission sources of power, which means that more countries are looking towards nuclear energy, is there a danger of kind of chasing the tail, thatthere's going to be more and more materialthat is out there, either used as nuclear weapons or just simply (inaudible) making this difficult over time.

PM: I think you could have said chasing the tail if we had never embarked on this process, if the world had never embarked on this process, so if we were if you like, seeing more countries worried about energy security and energy supply determining that part of their energy that would come from nuclear energy, and the world wasn't working on nuclear security at the same time. But the world is working on nuclear security, working on it through this summit, having worked on it at Washington, responding to President Obama's call, so I think you can see this process to drive nuclear security forward as some countries determine that their future energy mix will have nuclear in it; of course,that's not happening everywhere - you know we for example, have an abundance sources of energy and access to clean and renewable energy, so we are in a different situation. Some nations have actually determined to turn away from nuclear energy generation having become concerned particularly following the incident of Fukushima, but you know, countries will make their own decisions on their energy sources what we can do, is be pushing nuclear safety - and there is a clear nuclear safety system and through this summit,pushing nuclear security which means that as a by-product of people engaging in energy generation or whatever that you don't see a risk of more material falling into the hands of people who shouldn't have it.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) is this right, somehow have more of a policing role of the nuclear security problem. How would that work, would it be mandatory? I mean, in an ideal world, how would it work?

PM: Well the idea I'm putting forward which is looking at the empowerment of the IAEA, it is well established what the IAEA's mandate is in relation to nuclear safety, I would like it to be equally clear what is the mandate in relation to nuclear security, so it wouldn't be the subject of potential disputation, whether they've got to mandate, how much they have to mandate, what they're empowered to do, what they're not empowered to do, but it would be understood and known. Now that's something that's going to take a lot of work and a lot of discussion and so, you know, we've sent that idea, I raised it and that idea will now go from this summit into the expert processes that work to bring finished proposals back to the next summit.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you and other leaders have issued warnings to North Korea at this summit about its plans for next month, (inaudible)responded today saying (inaudible) won't be told what to do (inaudible) can you tell me what your response would be?

PM: I was saying yesterday and I'm just going to recap I suppose, we've seen a pattern of behaviour before with North Korea,where you see something that looks like a positive sign happen, only to see a completely contradictory negative sign and we've lived through that again over the last few months, a positive sign at the end of February - with entering an agreement with the US, now a very negative sign with the sort of belligerence around the plans for the so-called satellite launch and the use of missile technology. What I think has been made clear through the statements of leaders in and around this summit, so it wasn't squarely before the summit, but people have been talking about it as they have been here, is that that kind of pattern of behaviour,wanting to do something positive, then do something negative, then seek to be rewarded because you take the something negative off the table - but the game on that is up, that there won't be further rewards for that kind of conduct. President Obama has made that very clear and I think, leaders here have made itclear, that the consequences for North Korea is even further isolation for a regime that is already isolated and for whom basic obligations to its people,including supplying them with food,are not met.

JOURNALIST: Well why wait for next month, why not take steps to isolate it further now in advance of this?

PM: Well, I think the pressure has to be kept on North Korea at this time to take a step back from what they have announced. I think the statements that have been made here by leaders are part of putting that pressure on.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister there's a pattern here of North Korea launching ballistic missiles and calling them actual nuclear tests, is that likely to happen this time round, and if so (inaudible).

PM: Oh look, I'm not in the business of trying to predict the conduct of the regime in North Korea. You know, I don't know how you would anticipate that I would be able to do that, this is an unpredictable regime and as we've seen in the past, capable of pursuing quite contradictory directions. Trying to pretend there's some consistency in them publicly but they are clearly contradictory directions as they have done in the last few months - so I'm not going to pretend I have a crystal ball which enables me to read the minds of the regime in North Korea, but, you know the pressure does have to stay on, to take a step back from this missile launch.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister there's a story in today's Washington Post which suggests that Australia and the US may extend their military agreement and offer the US some bases (inaudible) Cocos Islands. Can you comment on that?

PM: I can draw your attention to comments made my Defence Minister Smith last November on these questions. Clearly the alliance we have with the United States is pivotal to our security, it's of long, long standing, and we took the next natural step; in my view, in the evolution of that alliance last year, when I agreed with President Obama that we would host marines on a rotational basis in the Northern Territory for exercising. So the next step.

Our focus since President Obama and I made that announcement in Australia, when President Obama visited, has been the implementation of that new arrangement with marines and we will work our way up to it being a rotational deployment of 2,500 marines. Around that time, Minister Smith on television was asked about other aspects of the global force posture review and our discussions with America and I'll draw your attention to this, it's from the 20th November last year,and he talked then,having talked about the marines, he talked then about the prospects in the longer term - the prospects in the longer term, of enhanced ship visits and submarine visits through the Indian Ocean rim; and he talked then too, about the prospect of greater utilisation of Cocos lsland. So, you know, that was outlined by Minister Smith last November. In terms of, you know, progress on any of those matters since Minister Smith outlined them last November - there has not been any substantial progress, they continue to be the subject of discussions at officials' levels, but our focus has been on implementing the arrangement that we struck about the deployment of marines.

JOURNALIST: We understand you had quite a lengthy, long chat with Barack Obama. Is that something you can talk to us about?

PM: Look I did have a chat with Barack Obama, it certainly didn't go to any global force posture review matters. We talked about what had happened in the summit. We talked about prospects for further action on nuclear security and just had a personal chat as well.

JOURNALIST: We had a report from the US which talked about flying drones from the Cocos Islands. Is that something you would be comfortable with?

PM: Look, just to be clear about all of this, the status of all of this is, as Minister Smith indicated last November there are a range of matters that are being discussed at officials' levels as a result of the global force posture review by the United States. The thing for implementation has been the Marines. No further advances have really been made since Minister Smith indicated that there were these ideas last November.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) you are not opposed to that?

PM: Look I'm not going to play a rule in, rule out game about something that is being discussed at officials' level.

JOURNALIST: Could you just give us an update if you can on the condition of the Australian aid worker who was injured in Afghanistan and the circumstances of that injury?

PM: I have been further briefed on the circumstances of this dreadful incident involving an AusAID worker. It is the first time we've seen an injury to an AusAID worker in Afghanistan. So this is very sad, very concerning, and for the man involved and for his family, incredibly distressing news and a very difficult time for them. We are working to support the family. The man involved is receiving medical attention in Kandahar and should it be necessary to get him forms of medical attention that aren't available there then of course he will be medically evacuated. We take people from Afghanistan to Germany, so should that be necessary, that will be done.

My understanding of the incident was that he was outside the wire, he was outside the base at Tarin Kowt. He had been in the Chora valley to attend a community meeting. He was returning from the Chora valley and there was a suicide attack. And it was that that caused the injury. When our AusAID workers go outside the wire they are protected by our Defence personnel, they do not go alone. They go with Defence protection and there was Defence protection with this man for the purpose of attending the community meeting and then the return to Tarin Kowt.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Look I can't give you all of those details I'm afraid. This is the briefing I have just received with the details that I can confirm for you now. Inevitably in these circumstances the first focus of the people on the ground is making the necessary arrangements to look after the person who is hurt so as some more time goes by we'll get some more details through.

JOURNALIST: Is he the only one who was hurt?

PM: He is the only one who has been hurt according to my information.

JOURNALIST: A question about China policy?

PM: Yes you can and then we'll go to David Speers.

JOURNALIST: There was a head of one of the main think tanks in Beijing said, a few weeks ago, said that there was a disconnect between Australian security policy on China and its economic policies on China and that this was no longer sustainable, or words to that effect. Is that true and also what do you think of (inaudible) view at the Lowy Institute that Australian analysts on China tend to bureaucratic analysis (inaudible) to their Washington counterpart.

PM: On your first question, no I don't agree with that view. And there is a public policy debate in our nation on questions concerning China and there would be Australian experts who would put the same view that you have quoted from the Chinese think tank. But I don't share that view. I think our security arrangements are well understood by China. We didn't just invent the alliance with America, it's six decades old. China knows we are in a long term defence arrangement with America and I think we can, whilst continuing to be a staunch ally of America, also have a good, constructive, robust relationship with China, including an economic relationship of considerable breadth and depth. Now I know that there are some analysts who come to a difference strategic conclusion than that, but that is my conclusion. And the evidence available to me, as Prime Minister, as I work on these questions, is that it is possible for us to have that kind of strong robust relationship with China, including a strong economic relationship, whilst we maintain our traditional closeness to the United States on security questions. The second - just remind me the second part?

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Once again, people who study these questions and write for the various journals will come up with different views and perspectives. It is obvious that we get all sorts of advice, different sources of advice, different perspectives. Our job is to sort and sift that advice and to come to the best possible conclusion. So I think that calibration we have about our relationship with China is the right calibration.

JOURNALIST: Just on the nature of this summit where President Obama managed to get more than 40 world leaders together. This is the second summit, there will be another one you said in a couple of years, to deal with an issue of global security. Do you think it would be also a good idea on another issue of global security, climate change, to get the ball rolling on international agreements among world leaders?

PM: Well there's - the purpose-specific process on climate change which is the periodic meetings to talk about climate change questions. So obviously, in Copenhagen, a very celebrated meeting, but there have been meetings since, and meetings that have made achievements.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Depending, I mean, certainly at Copenhagen there were many leaders there. At the most recent meeting in Durban, people were represented in different ways, certainly some nations at leader level. But that is the long-term process for dealing with - when I say long term, it's been established over a long period of time - the process for dealing with climate change questions.

Of course, climate change also gets discussed when we meet in other meetings and summits. So for example, there's been climate change discussions in the meetings in our own region. APEC focused on green growth to give you one recent example. So, climate change gets a lot of focus from leaders of nations in different formats. But I don't think it would be wise to upend the current arrangements for negotiations and discussions on carbon pollution reduction between nations.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: No he did not.

Thank you.

Transcript 18470