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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41587

Doorstop - Villers-Bretonneux, France

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 25/04/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41587

Subject(s): ANZAC Day, US Ambassador, Sir John Monash, NATO

PRIME MINISTER:

100 years ago, just as today, the streets of Villers-Bretonneux are filled with Australians. But 100 years ago those Australians were fighting and dying to secure the freedom we all enjoy today and to secure, 100 years ago, the freedom of France and the promise that the people of Villers-Bretonneux and France made, we will never forget the Australians, is one that they have kept as you've seen from the warm welcome that we have had.

The sheer intensity of the friendship and the engagement with the French people. This has been a moment for all of us to reflect on the extraordinary deeds the extraordinary sacrifice that was made by my grandparents’ generation. Many of these younger people here their great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, but it is all real today.

It is as real today as it was then because everything we enjoy; every freedom we enjoy, that you enjoy in the media, that we enjoy as citizens and as members of parliament was secured by that generation and has had to be hard won then and hard held.

Again and again, every generation right up to our own requires young men and women to put on their nation's uniform and stand up for their nation's values and interests.

And so we honour them all here today at Villers-Bretonneux. This has been a very, very moving occasion and I think all of us from the French Prime Minister, Australian Prime Minister and all of our fellow countrymen and women have reflected on those extraordinary days and those extraordinary ideals that we now must always live up to.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, just to events elsewhere, can I ask for your reaction to the Harry Harris decision by the USA, are you disappointed?

PRIME MINISTER:  

Well look I've known about it for some time, since the beginning of the week, in fact.

I'm disappointed that Harry's not coming because he is a really good friend and I think Harry will be disappointed that he is not coming to Canberra too because he loves Australia.

But look he is a guy of enormous experience and ability and given the situation on the Korean Peninsula, given the tensions there I can well understand why the President has decided that the admiral's expertise and experience is going to be put to better use in Korea than in Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Kevin Rudd says that it shows that Australia is second-class ally.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that tells - I think it says something about Mr Rudd.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have any indication when President Trump might make a replacement announcement?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I haven't spoken to the President since the announcement was made. But I'm sure they will move on to another to another announcement, but I have to say the charge d'affaires, Jim Caruso, I think you all know is doing a fantastic job.

You know the relationship between Australia and the United States, as you well know as well as I do, is so deep it's so intense it operates at so many levels. The absence if you like of an ambassador as opposed to a charge d'affaires is not really troubling the very strong relationship we have whatsoever.

JOURNALIST:

You’re yet to explain publicly your decision not to entertain a rise in rank for Sir John Monash. Can you tell us why you have taken that decision and do you think it could happen at a future time or is it something that we’ll never see?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think we've paid immense and appropriate honour and recognition to Sir John Monash, not least yesterday in opening the of the museum at the Australian National Memorial named after Sir John Monash.

He was a most extraordinary Australian the finest general on the Western Front as Field Marshal Montgomery said and also a man of immense intellect and ingenuity and innovator came to France as a citizen soldier at the age of 50 - he wasn't one of the young men who came here. And he rose up through the ranks through sheer ability and was and was able to save lives and turn the tide of war.

Now he was a lieutenant-general the appropriate rank as commander of a corps. After the war he was promoted to general, to a four star general. So his honours have been immense and Monash’s story is there it is told it is one to be written about and commented on.

We do not have a tradition of or a practice of posthumous promotion in Australia and for all of the reasons the Chief of the Defence Force and others have set out, it's not a precedent that we want to create or need to create. Monash’s legacy speaks for itself and we recognise it and honour it in all of its magnificence and complexity.

JOURNALIST:

In your discussions with NATO and European leaders do you get a sense of the continuing spirit of cooperation between Australia and European leaders?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh very much so yes. Both in the discussions with Theresa May, discussions with Angela Merkel the discussions with Prime Minister Philippe and of course with NATO with Jens Stoltenberg the partnership between Australia and NATO is very, very close.

And of course nowhere more so currently than in Afghanistan and indeed in the middle in the rest of the Middle East in Iraq where NATO is considering stepping up its role to do more of the same work that we're doing, of course, of mentoring and training the security forces of Iraq.

So thank you all very much and wish you all a safe journey home.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41587