Press Conference – Bali, Indonesia – Prime Minister of Australia

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: I do want to begin by congratulating President Widodo on hosting a very successful G20 meeting. Countries, the 20 largest economies in the world, have come together at a difficult time to issue a declaration moving forward to meet the challenges which are before us. This G20 took place post-COVID and with the COVID recovery being a real focus, with the themes of ‘Recovering Stronger’. It also took place with inflationary pressure being global, energy security issues, and also food security. And countries came together to declare that we needed to cooperate and use all of the tools available to deal with these challenges.
And I’m proud that Australia has played a constructive role at the G20 meeting, both in the Summit itself, but also in the bilateral meetings leading up to the Summit taking place. We indicated our view, which was reflected in the communique, that we need to transform our economies to deal with the challenge of climate change, we need to move to a carbon constrained future. In the communique, it also indicated support for the Paris Agreement was confirmed, as well as calling upon countries to increase their Nationally Determined Contribution, something that Australia has already done. I also spoke today in the forum about digitalisation and the important role that it will play in economic growth, but also that process of digitalisation had important equity components as well. We need to make sure that people get access to that new technology. And we also need to be conscious, as we are in Australia, in recent times, that cybersecurity remains an issue that needs to be dealt with by countries, but also by individual companies as well. The statement also refers to tax havens and the need to take action, as part of ensuring that governments can move forward with a fiscally sound position, including preparing for potential future shocks. On Ukraine, the statement recalls the UN vote, it calls out, of course, that those UN votes called out Russian aggression, and demanded Russia’s complete and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine. And I believe that was a very positive statement.
In addition to that, I held a range of bilaterals today. With the European Union about our Free Trade Agreement, which we’re hoping to progress in the coming year. With Italy, and its New Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, I was able to congratulate her on her election and we spoke about trade, but also, we spoke about the people-to-people relations that are so important between Australia and Italy. With France, we spoke about the roadmap that has arisen from the previous discussions I’ve had with President Macron. It has three elements to it. One element of cooperation on defence and security. Secondly, on climate change and energy. And thirdly, on culture moving forward as well. And I am hopeful that President Macron will visit Australia next year. And we discussed the potential of that as well. I also met with Prime Minister Modi of India, where we discussed the finalisation of the closer economic cooperation agreement between Australia and India, which we regard as being very important for expanding the economic relationship between Australia and India. I will visit India in March. We’ll take a business delegation to India. And that will be an important visit and an upgrade in the relationship that we have between our two nations. And of course, Prime Minister Modi will visit Australia next year for the Quad Leaders’ meeting. And then I will return to India later in the year for the G20 Summit. We also spoke about the details of the Quad Leaders’ meeting that will take place next year. With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, we spent a lot of time together over the last few days because we sat next to each other in the Summit. But we had a formal bilateral as well, where we discussed AUKUS and the timetable there, which we’re looking towards March of next year. We spoke about the Free Trade Agreement, which has been ticked off by the parliamentary committee today, and that we’re hoping to come into force in the first quarter of next year. We also spoke about AUKUS and the importance of those arrangements as well. And it was a very constructive meeting. All in all, I think the last couple of days has been extremely successful for Australia being able to put forward our position on the challenges which the global economy faces, on the need to deal with climate change, on the need to have inclusive economies going forward as well. It has cemented personal relationships that I’ve been able to develop in the under six months that I’ve been Prime Minister with our important allies as well as, of course yesterday, we had a constructive dialogue with President Xi. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned AUKUS in your remarks. And obviously, you’ve met President Biden, you’ve met Prime Minister Sunak, you’ve met Emmanuel Macron. Did any of the conversations that you’ve had between Cambodia and now canvas options for what the Government will do in the interim, before the submarines are due to be delivered? We’ve got such a long delivery time. What can Australians expect the Government to do in the interim?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, yes, what we’ll be doing is producing, of course, our defence strategy document that’s been developed by Angus Houston and Stephen Smith. That was upgraded from being a defence force posture review into a defence strategic review, because we want to talk about not just where we place our defence assets, but what those appropriate assets are. So, we did have some discussions about that. Obviously, some of those matters are things that I won’t go into publicly, but they’ll be the subject of the defence strategic review that you will see before March of next year.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is there anything that came out of this Summit that made you think Vladimir Putin can and will be stopped when it comes tom Ukraine?
PRIME MINISTER: What I saw come out of it was the declaration today. That was quite extraordinary that President Widodo noted in his closing remarks. That’s the first time you’ve had a statement like that come out of a body like the G20, which, of course, Russia is a member of. I think it was a very clear statement in those circumstances. And in that context, Russia is increasingly isolated. That is what the G20 showed. And Australia, I said earlier today, but I’ll say it again, Australia stands with Ukraine and its people. We saw overnight 80 missiles fired into Ukraine. We’ve seen reckless use of force that has consequences for the region. Our condolences go to Poland, with the loss of life that has occurred there. There’ll be an investigation, of course, into those details, and then a further response, and appropriate response, once those investigations are determined.
JOURNALIST: You said you discussed defence and security issues with President Macron. Can you go into more detail of the potential cooperation with France in that respect?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m not going into the specifics of equipment and those issues. But France, of course, is an Indian Ocean power and a Pacific power as well. France has territories. New Caledonia, he has spoken about, President Macron, if he visits Australia, will also visit New Caledonia. And we spoke about how we could have an increased engagement and cooperation in defence and security matters. And I look forward to that.
JOURNALIST: Are you expecting to engage with Taiwan at APEC? And what is your attitude towards that in terms of that can be achieved?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m engaging at APEC. I look forward to it. I have, as well as participating in the APEC Summit, at the moment, there are a couple of bilaterals scheduled, one of which is with Thailand. I look forward to engaging in APEC. APEC is an important forum. I look forward to promoting Australian business, economic activity and investment in the region.
JOURNALIST: Just back on AUKUS, the UK obviously wants to build us a submarine. But the speculation is that we’re seeking a US boat. If they don’t get to build us a submarine, what role is there for UK?
PRIME MINISTER: That is a hypothetical question. You will have to wait until March. And we will release the documentation. And we’ll make announcements when appropriate. But we won’t deal with our national security procurement at media conferences.
JOURNALIST: News has emerged that the explosion in Poland may have been result of Ukrainians air defence system responding to that missile attack from Russia. How concerned are you that this could have been the case? Is Russia’s aggression overnight going now beyond just targeting Ukraine? What’s your position on that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we know is that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is having devastating consequences for the people of Ukraine, but it’s also creating instability throughout the region. We’ll await the investigation. And the details and then the world will make a judgement based upon that. At the moment, what we know is that Russia initiated a major attack overnight on economic infrastructure in Ukraine with no regard whatsoever to human life or to the consequences of its actions.
JOURNALIST: There were reports this afternoon that Australia’s Ambassador in Iran has been pulled in for a ‘please explain’ over comments that you have made. Can you confirm what you know about that situation and what comments the Ambassador has been told you made that have been brought into question by the Iranian Government?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I confirm that I stand by all of the comments I’ve made about the human rights abuses that have occurred in Iran, arising from Mahsa Amini’s murder, and then the subsequent actions that have occurred. We will stand up for human rights. We will stand up for Australia’s position, consistent with our values.
JOURNALIST: Did you raise comments on that at the G20? Is that where it’s come from?
JOURNALIST: At the resumption of this afternoon’s session, before you sat down, you were on camera for about 10 or 12 minutes having a very in-depth discussion with Olaf Scholz. Can you give us some detail about what was said?
PRIME MINISTER: I had a very constructive discussion with Olaf Scholz. I have now met him on a couple of occasions. We were going to have a bilateral or formal sit-down. Instead of that, we had a couple of chats about our common positions. We talked about the energy crisis in Europe. Germany has been particularly impacted by Russia’s actions and the issue of secure energy supplies. So, we talked about that. We talked about the challenge of dealing with that and climate change. And a common theme that we had over the last few days, but in the international engagement that I’ve had, is how do we ensure that economies are more resilient? We know that it’s having a significant impact on inflation. The price of gas, which we talked about in Germany, arose to being many times what the price is in Australia, over $200 US. I spoke about the pressure that our system was under due to the rising inflation.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, we have seen a great deal of engagement on the multilateral forum here, in Cambodia, also at COP in Egypt from the US President Joe Biden. Would you have any concerns if Donald Trump, he put his hand up today, will be returned to the presidency? Do you see a total reshaping of the order again?
PRIME MINISTER: Joe Biden’s the President of the United States. And I look forward to continuing to work with him.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you invited Joe Biden to address the Parliament when he comes here for the Quad Leaders’ Summit. Did you extend an invitation for Prime Minister Modi?
PRIME MINISTER: I extended an invitation for Prime Minister Modi to enter into discussions. He would be very welcome to either address the Parliament. Or perhaps something that he might also want to do is to address the diaspora in Australia is what he spoke about. So, if Prime Minister Modi, who will be at the Quad Leaders’ Summit being held in Australia, he wants to engage with the diaspora community in Australia, we very much would welcome that as well. But we’ll engage with that. He’ll be a very welcome visitor.
JOURNALIST: On your discussions on trade with the EU leaders and I think as well with the Italian Prime Minister, have you got any sense of whether those last few sticking points in that EU deal can be resolved and how quickly that might happen?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m very hopeful that they can be. And I must say that Ursula and Charles were both very positive about the prospect of success. These things, though, need to be worked through and they also need to be ratified by each individual country, which is why I’ve sought out, and with all of the European leaders who were here, be they Pedro Sanchez of Spain, Olaf Scholz of Germany, the Italian Prime Minister, the French President, with all of them, I also reiterated the importance of the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Europe. There’s a link, of course, between economic relationships and free trade and national security. Democratic nations need to engage with each other. We need free and open markets that support trade, that support prosperity. And that is the basis of the discussions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, we saw two very significant juxtaposed events here. In this hotel, the Foreign Minister from Russia, Sergey Lavrov, blamed the West, Ukraine and NATO for the war and then hightailed out before the last day of the meeting, before leaders could get the chance to walk out on him. At the same time, we saw President Xi gently starting to reconnect with major democracies, America and Australia included. I would take from that, that President Xi may see some responsibility now and becoming something of an honest broker with Russia. Will he, do you think, try to exercise some leverage with Vladimir Putin to at least talk about peace?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I used the opportunity of the bilateral with President Xi to encourage him to use his influence to promote peace and to pressure Russia into withdrawal from Ukraine. That’s the solution here. The solution here is that this is an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that has had devastating consequences for the people of Ukraine. But it has also had consequences for the global economy with rising inflation, rising energy prices, with a threat to food security. This is a global issue. It is a reminder of how interconnected our modern world is, which is why Australia needs to engage at forums like this, which is why I participated so strongly in forums like this, which is why I was at the East Asia Summit and why I’ll be at APEC tomorrow. And I very much look forward to seeing you all then. Thanks very much.
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Prime Minister of Australia
We acknowledge and pay respect to past and present Elders and Traditional Custodians of Country, and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.



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