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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 20801

Address at the Asia Society Luncheon, Peninsula Hotel, Manila

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/07/2003

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 20801

Thank you Ambassador and thank you Mr Washington Sycip, Doris Ho the Chairman of the Asia Society, numerous Cabinet secretaries, diplomatic representatives, ladies and gentlemen.

It's very much a highlight of my visit to Manila and to the Philippines to have the opportunity of addressing the Asia Society and to share with you some of my thoughts on the regrettable challenge of our time and that is the challenge of terrorism and the need for like-minded free peoples to work together to tackle the challenge to our way of life represented by terrorism.

I do want to start however by emphasising the particular warmth of the bilateral relationship, and as is the case with close bilateral relationships there is always something new that one can learn. I've learnt two things and that is that somebody who I first met in the Philippines, namely Cesar Virata, I met the Finance Minister of the Philippines more than 20-years ago. I was then the equivalent in the Australian Government which is Treasurer, he has ended up as the landlord for the Australian Embassy here in Manila and I've only ended up as Prime Minister. But I do very much welcome renewing that acquaintanceship and I remember it with particular affection all those years ago when I first came to Manila.

The other thing that I've learnt is that the Australian Government funded the preparation and printing of the first ever English-Tagalog dictionary, which was in fact written by an Australian Father Leo English. Now that is something else that I've learnt with very great interest. Now none of that, of course, impinges directly on what I have to say to you today. But it's those recollections that of course illustrate a very warm and very important relationship. I had the chance earlier today to open the new Australian Embassy premises and to recall that we first had a Consulate Generalship here in 1946, we were partners in the South-East Asia treaty organisation, we were partners in the military conflict in Vietnam and we are now, of course, partners in the war against terror. And can I say upfront how much I appreciated as Prime Minister of Australia the forthright support given by the President and the Government and the Republic of the Philippines for the coalition of the willing in Iraq. There is no shortage now, as there was then, of critics of my Government's decision, I remain as resolute now as I did then about the wisdom of what Australia did, the justification for what Australia did and I remain appreciative, as I expressed to your President yesterday of the very strong support that your country extended to the coalition of the willing.

But the greatest challenge we face in our region today is, of course, the challenge of terrorism and whilst inevitably my remarks will be directed towards the measures one takes in the shorter immediate term to deal with the threat of terrorism, you cannot talk about the challenge of terrorism without recognising the need to address the fundamental challenge of poverty and economic development. And unless that is understood at the very beginning, all of us will find that our efforts to deal in a day-to-day sense with the challenge of terrorism will fall short of the mark and will be undermined.

And it is important that countries whose economic development is way behind that of others are given an opportunity to sell more of their product. And I have this particularly in mind as I think of the struggle going on to make something meaningful out of the current DOHA round of the World Trade Organisations talks. And I';d like to particularly commend to you, as I sometimes do in other contexts, the front page of the Asian Wall Street Journal which has a very very interesting bar chart which compares the level of subsidies of certain areas of the world in relation to farm product, and you can see something at the top which is described to the level of subsidy to the European Union, and you can';t see something at the bottom which of course is the minuscule subsidies that are provided by Australia to our farm products. And the point I want to make is that one of the most valuable things that the developed world could do is to open up greater access to the developing countries. I talk here, much and all as I would obviously from Australia';s point of view like to see those subsidies reduced or disappear, in terms of crying need the need of the developing countries is much greater and there';s nothing the developed world could do more that would be of value to those nations than to do something about the appallingly high level of farm subsidies that have existed for far too long for many of the developed countries.

But the challenge of terrorism is something that, the reality of it is something of which all of you are very conscious. The people of the Philippines have suffered, your citizens have died and been maimed, and some very recently. The citizens of Australia have died and been maimed in the terrible outrage in Bali last October. And of course it is a challenge that all of us must face together, it';s a challenge that has to be tackled on two fronts, we do need to address issues of poverty and depravation and alienation, and I know that is very much in the mind of your government. But we also of course through our co-operative measures between our agencies and between our governments, we also need to tackle the day to day security and policing and other challenges which are part of the ongoing fight against terrorism. We live in a globalised world community which has both its blessings as well as its curses. The blessing of globalisation is that if the world follows the right trade and economic policy the benefits of globalisation can be made available to even the poorest nations and they can have the prospect of lifting themselves out of their current poor state and condition. One of the curses of globalisation is that it means that borders are inevitably more porous, communications are more rapid and the capacity of terrorists to fill the vacuums left by poor governance, failed states, poor policing methods and poor security methods generally, the opportunities for terrorists and other international criminal activities to take advantage of those vacuums is all the more real.

The security and the prosperity of your country and the security and the prosperity of all of the countries of Asia will always be of enduring significance to Australia. As a western nation in this part of the world with a strong historical association with North America, Australia inevitably has linkages with all parts of the world. But none is more immediate to our destiny and our security and the linkages we have with the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region. And that is something that I have emphasised in my discussions with the President of your country, and it';s something that I will emphasis in my discussions with the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of South Korea later this week.

Together Australia and the Philippines share of course the common democratic values. And the first thing that we must understand about terrorism is that it is an attack upon countries like Australia, not because of what we have done but because of who we are. Terrorists hate countries like Australia and the Philippines because we are open societies, there is a foolish notion abroad, there';s a foolish notion entertained by some people that if some how or other you wrap yourself into a tiny ball and you say absolutely nothing about terrorism and you never say anything that is the least bit offensive to the activities of terrorists somehow or other you will escape their wrath and somehow or other you will be spared of the impact of their terrorist activities. The experience of the last few years disproves that proposition, and it is very much of a piece with the idea that if you feed the crocodile enough he will pay the privilege of eating you last. Because in the end it a way of life that terrorists despise and it';s a way of life that terrorists seek to bring undone.

I think all of us are painfully aware of the terrorist challenge in our region. The attacks in Bali last October, the attack in Davao earlier this year and many smaller attacks in the Philippines and in Indonesia show that the threats from Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups remains extremely high. We have made some gains and I want on this front to express my appreciation in particular to the co-operation of the Indonesian Government in tracking down the people responsible for the outrage in Bali. But in the process of making gains on that front the investigation reveals that Jemaah Islamiyah';s network is more extensive than first thought, and there';s still a great deal that we don';t know that JI and other groups are still likely to have capacity to mount further terrorist attacks. That JI leaders such as Hambali and key bombers makers such as Dr Azahari are still at large. And obviously the escape of the three terrorists yesterday here in Manila is a serious setback and it underlines for all of us the need to be vigilant and to strengthen our institutional capacity to deal effectively with terrorism. We continue to receive reports of terrorists planning in the region, and I emphasise again the importance of improved co-operation and I';m pleased to note the extensive co-operation between the Australian Federal Police, and I acknowledge the presence of our police commissioner Mr Mick Keelty, and also the police and other security agencies of the Philippines and of Indonesia and other countries in the region.

The ultimate success of our response to the terrorist threat will be measured by the degree to which our police and security agencies can effectively co-operate because it is at that working level where the great gains can be made, and the great dividends won. Political agreement is important to set the framework and to provide a guide and a lead, but it';s the working police and security level which is so important. In March of this year we signed a bilateral agreement in relation to counter-terrorism with the Philippines, we have similar agreements with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Fiji. And Australia has also been active in cutting off flows of funds to terrorists and we jointly hosted with Indonesia a anti-terrorist financing conference in Bali last December. Australia acknowledges the heavy burden that the Philippines has had to carry in fighting terrorism, there';s been many bombing incidents in your country over a long period of time. And we';ve sought to work with you, to help where we can and we';re very proud that federal police officers, and five more of them arrived two days ago, have been able to help the Philippines in investigating the two Davao bombings earlier this year.

Yesterday, as you know, I announced a $5 million package of bilateral counter-terrorism assistance for the Philippines Government, and that package is going to focus on law enforcement, border control and port security capacity. And it will help facilitate working level law enforcement and border control co-operation between officials in southern Philippines and counterparts in the neighbouring regions. We will give substance to the bilateral counter-terrorism MOU and it also reflects the importance that Australia attaches to working with the region to build counter-terrorism capacity. And it will build on existing bilateral arrangements in areas of security and defence. And to augment that yesterday we signed a memorandum of understanding between our respective police services and that will formalise and strengthen further police co-operation with the Philippines on both terrorism and also transnational crime. At a region wide level Australia is working closely with the Philippines in implementing APEC security trade in Asia Pacific region counter-terrorism initiates. And these measures will help to secure the movement of goods and people in the region.

Of course the security of our region is also threatened by yet another challenge, and that is the challenge of North Korea. And it will inevitably be, as it has been with your President, a focus of my discussions with the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of South Korea. North Korea is in open breach of her obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, North Korea';s regime is something is an ideological relic from an earlier period, but it does not alter the potency of the threat, indeed it adds to the dimension of that threat. It is important that we respond to the challenge of North Korea at two levels, we need to engage fully and energetically in patient diplomacy, but we also need to recognise the need for those nations most likely to influence the behaviour of North Korea, for those nations to speak in a firm and united fashion.

And yesterday the President reminded me of a speech he had made recently which identified the five countries most likely to influence North Korea, namely South Korea, Japan, Russia the United States and China. And the need for all of those countries, particularly China, to be communicating a strong and consistent message to North Korea, and that message was that for her to remain in breach of those obligations and to continue to pursue the nuclear ambitions of which North Korea has spoken so frequently is something that in the end the rest of the world will find unacceptable.

This issue is, of course, very important to your country as it is to Australia. It is very much in our region and it is very much a challenge for all of the countries in this region in particular and the challenge is made all the more difficult by the reality that we are dealing with a regime that does not operate even for a country that has a more authoritarian approach to Government in a manner with which we are either comfortable or a manner to which we are either accustomed. So it does represent, along with the challenge of terrorism, it does represent yet another ingredient that is creating a degree of instability and a degree of tension in our region.

Ladies and gentlemen, your society has for a long time been a wonderful forum, not only here in the Philippines but in different parts of the world to enable world leaders and others to engage in dialogue on international affairs and the challenges of our time. The times that we live in now is quite extraordinary. I don't think 10 or 20 years ago we would have contemplated that the biggest challenge of our time would be that of terrorism. But I don't think that 10 or 20 years we would have contemplated also on the brighter side, many of the economic opportunities that are available to the world and are available to our societies.

Globalisation is often blamed for many things for which it is not responsible. Globalisation is wrongly seen as the instrument by which the poorer nations of the world are left impoverished. The reality is that the benefits of globalisation provided the barriers to more open trade are progressively dismantled, but the benefits of globalisation can become available to all of the peoples of the world. And if we look at the experience of the last 30 years, we find the economic history of the world replete with examples of countries that have benefited from opening up their economies, side by side with examples of countries that have not succeeded because they have either been denied the opportunity of selling their product to more closed, more prosperous societies or have turned their back on economic expansion and economic liberalisation.

Can I thank you for the opportunity of talking to you today and of sharing some of my thoughts with you about the challenges for our two societies. This visit of mine has been a chance to reaffirm at the highest political level in both countries the importance of the bilateral relationship, of the values that we share in common, and the future that together we can build for successive generations in both the Philippines and Australia.

[ends]

Transcript 20801