Prime Minister – Transcript – Doorstop – Coldstream, VIC

Liberal Party of Australia

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I thought it was very important, given the events that you will all be advised of now regarding the PLA Navy Ship that has been spending a fair bit of time off the Western Australian coast. I’m advised, it’s now up on the north-west shore heading in a north-easterly direction. First thing I to be, make very clear, is this is freedom of navigation. I mean, they are able to be in these places they’re they’re not in our contiguous zone, they’re not in Australian waters or anything like that. But it is unusual for a PLA Navy Ship to be coming particularly that far south around Exmouth and to be tracking where they’re tracking. It’s clearly a ship that is an intelligence gathering ship. They’re looking at us and we’re keeping a close eye on them, and that’s what we always do. I think what these events highlight is the serious times in which we’re living. And Australia, I mean, the very reason I’m here today is to highlight the fact that we’ll be extending our Wine Export Partnership Program because of the coercive trade sanctions that the Chinese Government has put on Australia. So we’re supporting our wine exporters to be able to find and diversify new markets. And so when you look at this event in the context of the many other acts that the Chinese Government has undertaken towards Australia, and that is obviously concerning and it only continues to highlight why it is so important. Of course we remain calm about these matters and that we continue to remain confident in the ability of of our defence forces and our surveillance capabilities and the work we particularly do with our partners and allies throughout the region, as we always will. And Australia, we together with other countries regularly engage in freedom of navigation sails up through the South China Sea and all the way up through to Japan. So these are things that we do and we’ll continue to do those. But I think we just have to highlight this is obviously an issue of concern. But as we’ve done on other occasions where this has occurred, it’s not the first time, it won’t be the last time, I suspect we’ll see many more times. They’ll keep a close eye on us and I can assure you, Australia, acting in our national interest, will always be keeping a close eye on them and ensuring [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Peter Dutton has described it as an act of aggression. Do you agree with that terminology?

PRIME MINISTER: I certainly don’t believe that when you take it together with the many other coercive acts and the many statements that have been made which have been attacking Australia’s national interests, you could describe it as an act of bridge building or friendship.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, because it happened off the coast of WA.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes.

JOURNALIST: West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has this morning described Peter Dutton’s comments as preparing for, to preserve peace, you have to prepare for war. He’s described those comments as grossly irresponsible. Do you agree with Mark McGowan or Peter Dutton?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I addressed those comments this morning at our press conference earlier today and of course everything we do is about ensuring that we can provide peace and stability within the region.

JOURNALIST: In light of this event though.

PRIME MINISTER: And that’s, and that’s why we do it. I mean, this event is of no surprise to us. That’s why we have been taking the actions we have since we first came to Government to ensure that we’ve been building up our defence capability, we’re building up our cyber technology capability. We’ve been building our alliances and partners, the AUKUS agreement, the most significant defence agreement we’ve seen signed in this country since ANZUS 70 years ago. So this is why we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing. This is why this is a very significant time in Australia’s history and for our region and why having a Government that does understand these issues deeply and has been taking consistent action over a long time to ensure Australia’s resilience and able to deal with these threats and challenges, while at the same time building the alliances and partnerships within our region –

JOURNALIST: So Mark McGowan’s wrong?

PRIME MINISTER: … which keep Australians safe. Now, I’ve discussed these matters with Mark on many occasions. You know, I work closely with Mark McGowan. We know each other well. But Mark has always said in these circumstances that he understands that it’s a Commonwealth responsibility to deal with these issues. The Premier of Western Australia is not responsible for looking after our defence and our foreign interests.

JOURNALIST: He did say it’s grossly irresponsible.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, he’s entitled to his views, but he’s not responsible for Australia’s defence and national security. Peter Dutton and I are, and Australians expect us to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep Australians safe, to keep a close eye on these issues and be always prepared. So while this in particular, this particular voyage that has been undertaken by the PLA Navy down the West Coast of Australia is something we are keeping a very close eye on, it is just a reminder of the times in which we live and why it’s very, very important that we continue to keep a very strong approach when it comes to boosting up our defence forces, boosting up our capabilities to deal with these types of threats, and at the same time working with our partners and allies in the region, the United States, of course, Japan and India through the QUAD. And that meeting is coming up very, very soon. But in addition to that, we were the first country to have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreed with ASEAN, with all the Southeast Asian nations. So we have been positively working with countries in our region, as well as our QUAD partners, to ensure that we are providing for peace and stability in the region for a free and open Indo Pacific and that’s what we’ll always do. Thanks very much.

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