Doorstop interview - Hiroshima

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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Prime Minister of Australia

Doorstop interview - Hiroshima

19 May 2023
Prime Minister
Visit to Japan; G7 Summit; Quad Leaders Meeting; South Korea; Brazil; Ukraine; China; Stan Grant

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It is good to be back in Japan for my third visit as Prime Minister. And I thank Prime Minister Kishida very much for the invitation to attend the G7 as one of the associated countries who are here over the next three days. My first visit is here to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It was important that I visit to pay my respects. August 6, 1945 is a day in which over 200,000 people lost their lives just on that day. The consequences for the health of the citizens and those people who were here in Hiroshima on that day of the dropping of the first atomic bomb continued to reverberate for decades after. Australia is deeply committed to a world without nuclear weapons. And I am personally very committed to that task as well. We know the consequences because we see them right here. And in recent times, with Vladimir Putin's irresponsible threatening of the use of nuclear weapons, it's a reminder that the world has to be vigilant and we have to step up the campaign against nuclear weapons. This is an important meeting over the coming few days. The G7 is a critical body of the seven of the world's largest democracies coming together at a time in which we have global instability. We have global instability on security issues with the ongoing illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have tension in our own region, but we also have global instability - in part as a result of that Russian illegal invasion of Ukraine and ongoing atrocities being committed - in the global economy. We've had a lowering of economic growth, a rising of inflationary pressures, a rising of global interest rates that are having an impact on the world's citizens. It's a reminder that none of us, even those island continents like Australia are islands when it comes comes to dissociating ourselves from the global economy and from global events. It's why Australia has a particular interest, as a medium sized country, an important country in this region and indeed in the world of engaging with our partners. One in four jobs in Australia is dependent upon international trade. Japan is our second largest trading partner and the relationship with Japan is very important going forward. So the tasks are working with our partners here to shore up peace, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, to deal with the issues of economic security, building resilience to future shocks, but also, of course, an issue that is a national security issue for all of the countries attending here, which is the issue of climate change, which will have an impact particularly in our region. I note the Cook Islands, Prime Minister Brown, has been invited and will be here as well, and I look forward to having discussions with him. They will host the Pacific Island Forum meeting later this year. A seat at the table means that Australia can have our say. And Australia, as a country whose word can be trusted, whose deals that we make on economic issues can be trusted as well, a trade nation that respects the rule of law, that respects our international obligations. Over the next few days I look forward to having a range of discussions at the G7. I look forward to the discussions, as well, when I sit down with our Quad partners here. But in addition to that, I have a range of bilateral meetings, including with President Yoon of South Korea this afternoon and with Lula, the leader of Brazil, one of the rising economies in the world. And of course, Brazil has an important role to play as well in the international environment as one of the lungs of the world.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you have details on when that Quad meeting will take place? And what do you hope to get out of it, given it will be a shortened format, what would have happened?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it will be a shortened format, but a lot of the work that has been undertaken with President Biden with Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Modi, we've been having discussions in the lead up to what was going to be next week's meeting. We will have, I think, a successful meeting as well as successful bilaterals. Just a couple of weeks ago I attended, virtually, the Major Economies Forum which all of the Quad leaders participated in, it was convened by President Biden. And there, which was late at night Australian time, we were able to talk about some of the things that will lead into the discussions both at the G7 and at our discussion between Quad leaders.

JOURNALIST: You're meeting with South Korea's President. Our Defence Review was talking about more long range missiles, fewer land-based machinery. Will this change any defence contract you have with South Korea? And how will you address concerns from South Korea that we might not be reliable?

PRIME MINISTER: We honour our contracts. And there is no more reliable partner than Australia when it comes to our economic relations. I've had a very good relationship with President Yoon. I look forward to the bilateral that we'll have this afternoon. The AP Four, as it's known, the Asia Pacific Four of the South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia - we've been invited to participate at the NATO summit which will be held in Lithuania in July. And there we'll have yet another meeting as well. NATO has a focus on security. It's just one of the focuses that are here at the G7.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Brazil has been a large recipient of Chinese loans for a number of years, and is one of its major economic partners in South America. Will you have any message for President Lula about Chinese economic coercion?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, President Lula has been recently reelected and I congratulated him on his election. I look forward to building a relationship. We haven't met before. One of the things that I find about these meetings is that, just like dealing with domestic politics, you've got to build relations. And to do that you've got to get to know people. We haven't met before. Brazil will host the G20 next year, so it's an important partner and I want to build a relationship with him. I'll have an open and frank discussion about the challenges which are facing the region. But Brazil is one of the economies that we know is on the rise. Our industry, in some areas such as resources, are in competition. But we also have, I think, very common views when it comes to the need to act on climate change and the need to also make sure Australia's view about lifting people out of poverty, about development, is something that we've had such a consistent role in. And we're doing that in the Pacific. I'd like to see Brazil and other South American countries play a greater role, as well as the United States, in the Pacific. And that's one of the things that I'll be raising with the President.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Zelenskyy, we understand, will be here. And he will be there to presumably ask for more help from G7 nations. Have we got anything more that we can offer Ukraine?

PRIME MINISTER: We're continuing to provide assistance to Ukraine. We are a very large contributor, and our Bushmasters have been particularly well received. But the other support that we've given as well in cyber, in some drone technology, in other support that we're continuing to give. The struggle of the Ukrainian people is a struggle for the international rule of law. It's a struggle about whether nations' sovereign borders will be respected. And the people of Ukraine are making enormous sacrifices us in order to preserve their nation state, their democracy. And it's important that the world stand with Ukraine. My message to President Zelenskyy will be the same as the message that I've given him when he addressed the Parliament virtually in Canberra. The same message that I gave when I visited Kyiv, one of the first international leaders to go to Kyiv to express first hand, face to face, our support for the people of Ukraine. We'll continue to liaise with them about what further support we can give.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any more visibility on when you might visit China given the Chinese Ambassador's comments yesterday? And will you take up his request that Australia does consider China's application join the CPTPP?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, on the first question, I have been invited to visit the People's Republic of China. I've always said that we would warmly welcome engagement. On the relationship with China, our position has been very consistent: we'll cooperate where we can, we'll disagree where we must, but we will engage in our national interest. It is important that any of the impediments to trade between China and Australia be lifted. It is in Australia's interest to be able to export our wonderful barley and wine and other products to China. But it's in China's interest to receive them as well, because they're the best in the world, the best seafood, the best agricultural products, and I reckon the best wine as well, although the French might disagree, and I know President Macron is here. We've repaired that relationship and I don't want to start another argument. But with China, our relationship is one which is on the improve. I think everyone can see that. We'll continue to liaise with them. On trade issues, it's important that China show that it supports trade and any impediments don't head in that direction. So, that's important that China show the world that it does believe in trade according to the international norms which are there. On barley, we have suspended the action that we had taken there and we hope that that provides for a win-win situation. That's what our objective is.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly, Stan Grant has just announced he's stepping away from the ABC saying he's been subjected to racism and not enough support from the ABC, do you have any immediate response to this?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I'm not aware of those details. I would just say that Stan Grant is someone who has my respect and I wish him well. I think we need to be really cognisant, in the lead up to the referendum that will be held in the fourth quarter of this year, about some of the hurtful comments that have been made. You only have to look at one of my social media feeds to see some of the comments that are, quite frankly, completely out of line. We can have respect for different views without engaging in vilification and that's important.

JOURNALIST: Chinese party state media and Foreign Ministry said very similar thing, that the G7 Summit is a pseudo multilateralism, unlike their 'true multilateralism' like China's 'Central Asia Summit', which Xi Jinping is hosting right now. What's your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the G7 is a gathering of democracies. And that's important, that democracies get together. We get together on the basis of our common values, and it's important. The big multilateral forums that cover the whole globe include the United Nations. The Labor Party has long had a three pillars policy when it comes to international relations. One is that we engage in the region, that is really important. The second is that we engage in multilateralism, in multilateral forums. And the third is that we engage in a way that is respectful and we'll continue to do so.

JOURNALIST: Has a meeting time actually been confirmed for the Quad meeting?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm very conscious of making announcements when all countries have agreed they've made announcements. That's the way that these processes work. So, yes is the answer, but you'll hear from that at an appropriate time. It's pretty narrow, the window.

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