ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: I’m very glad to have concluded my first day at the NATO Summit, although we have the dinner coming ahead this evening. And today we’ve had successful meetings with NATO leaders, and of course, their partners. This Summit meets in the context of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.
And the ongoing trauma that has caused the people of Ukraine is the most important issue. But it also had an impact on the global economy, an impact that has reminded us that we’re not immune from international events that in today’s interconnected world, Australia must be engaged.
We must be a shaper of the future rather than just accepting it, which is why we’re engaged here by participating at the NATO Summit, including with the Indo-Pacific Four meeting that we will be held tomorrow morning, and then I will address the full NATO members as well as having a meeting with President Zelenskyy.
But today, we firstly met with Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO. He welcomed our ongoing commitment to the effort in Ukraine, the fact that Australia has been such a substantial supporter, including, of course, yesterday’s announcement about our support for a reconnaissance aircraft to be based in Germany with 100 Australian Defence Force personnel. And that comes after as well our announcement just weeks ago, opened an additional $110 million package, including humanitarian support there.
In addition to that, I had a successful meeting with the US Congress people and Senators. The relationship with the US is very important. And we discussed AUKUS and the need to ensure that technology transfer can happen in a seamless way between the United States and Australia. And that was something that was warmly received by the US representatives and I was heartened by that. There will be a need for legislation support to go through the US Congress and Senate in coming months. And this support was very much welcomed. And indeed, there are at least three delegations of US representatives coming down to Australia, including to participate in the Australian American Leadership Dialogue in coming months. But I was very heartened by the unanimous support for Australia having access and for the removal of the impediments so that Australia is treated the same as Canada. This will also have benefits for Australia, and in response to the Inflation Reduction Act as well. So, these are all issues in which Australia has a strong interest going forward.
In addition to that, I met with Mette Frederiksen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, where I signed a strategic partnership agreement. We have a good relationship with Denmark and increased cooperation, particularly in climate following on from our decision to join the Climate Club and the agreement we reached with Germany over the coming days adds to that support.
Antonio Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal as well, we had our first bilateral meeting. That was very productive as well. Portugal has been a strong supporter of the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement. And I thank Prime Minister Costa for that. He will continue to put the case.
I met with President Macron of France as well. We had a lengthy meeting about the range of issues confronting us, including a follow-up to the ‘two and two’ meeting that was held with our Foreign and Defence Ministers in recent months, the progress towards greater cooperation between Australia and France. And I also raised, of course, the issue of the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement and put to him Australia’s case, which is we want a better deal than what’s currently offered on beef, and on sheep meat. And we’ll continue to argue the case for a free trade agreement in the interests of both Australia and Europe. But we won’t just sign up to a deal for the sake of it, what we want is a good deal for Australia and we’ll continue to do that. We also had discussions about future events coming up, including the commemorations for D-Day, and other activities in France, but also his upcoming visit to New Caledonia, and also to Papua New Guinea, and the role that France sees in ensuring that we have an end to deforestation around the world of some of our pristine forests, that are a major issue in dealing with climate change. But also, of course, France’s role in the Pacific is an important one going forward. And I again, reiterated my open invitation to President Macron to visit Australia and we’ll work through dates in which that could occur.
In addition to that, I had a meeting with Rishi Sunak, where we talked about the implementation of the trade agreement which is an example of where you can get benefits, and we are seeing benefits already from the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement that was finalised, of course, when I was in the United Kingdom, for the Coronation. We also discussed issues about security, in showing support for Ukraine, and we also had some light-hearted banter about the ashes going forward, as well.
Tomorrow will be an important day with the IP-4 meeting. And then I hope to have a meeting with President Zelenskyy as well. I’ll obviously have more to say after that occurs. But this is an important forum for Australia to be represented. And it’s a great honour to be here at my second NATO Summit. And I look forward to the discussions tonight as well. Inevitably, at forums like the dinner tonight, you get to meet a range of people, as you do. I’ve had an informal discussion with Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and a range of other leaders today in the leaders’ lounge that is established to encourage that dialogue. And I look forward to further discussions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you offering President Zelenskyy any new support and has any been requested?
PRIME MINISTER: I had a discussion with President Zelenskyy at the G7. We also had our Defence Ministers have a discussion on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue. We’ll have a discussion tomorrow. I’ve said very clearly that Australia stands with Ukraine and will continue to provide support. The announcement yesterday is I think a very significant one as well.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister we just witnessed President Zelenskyy here at a rally. It’s obvious the groundswell of support among average people that he has in this region. I know you say that the membership of NATO is quite rightly a matter for the NATO members. But you also say equally rightly that what happens here affects us as the war in Ukraine has. So, the decisions of NATO affect Australians. So, what effect do you think it would have on international security and life for Australians if Ukraine were to be admitted as a member of NATO?
PRIME MINISTER: I think, quite rightly, that’s a decision for NATO. And just as I wouldn’t expect, people who aren’t a part of the IP-4 tomorrow discussion to seek to impose their will, I will respect obviously, any decision that NATO makes. I think it is very positive that NATO has reached out to Australia and now we’ve been invited to the last two summits. It’s a constructive thing to happen. And I’m participating constructively.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you are a great supporter of President Zelenskyy, do you support his criticism of NATO for failing to provide a timeline for joining the Alliance because he said that could lead to more Russian terror?
PRIME MINISTER: President Zelenskyy of course, is someone who is a strong advocate for his people, and such an extraordinary leader. He is an inspiration to the people of Ukraine. But I think far greater than that, he’s an inspiration to all those around the world who believe in the rule of law, who believe in national sovereignty, who believe that a small state such as Ukraine should not be brutalised by a large neighbour against all international law, such as has occurred with Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion. So we will continue to stand with Ukraine. The NATO membership is, of course, a matter for NATO. And we’re not a participant in those discussions, we will continue though, to play a constructive role in providing support for the people of Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister when it comes to the Free Trade Agreement with the EU do you walk away from discussions with the French President with` any greater confidence that they’re willing to provide Australia with better access for our agriculture?
PRIME MINISTER: France is a great friend of Australia. What I walked away with was, again, a reaffirmation of the closeness between our two great nations. We spoke, for example, about the commemorations that will occur of World War Two, but we spoke as well about the history that we have Villers-Bretonneux, and that warm history that comes from Australian troops who shed blood to defend the people of France and their sovereignty. Australia has a great history of standing up for what is right. Whether that was World War One, World War Two, or whether it be right now, with our support for the people of Ukraine. President Macron is a good friend. And I regard the personal relationship that we’ve been able to deliver as being very positive. President Macron invited me to come to France this week, that hasn’t been possible, because of the prior commitment that I had in Germany with the announcement that we had of the reconnaissance aircraft and other announcements and then being here. But we continue to engage, we talk regularly. And I’m very confident that we can work together to try to resolve outstanding issues.
JOURNALIST: You quite rightly Prime Minister say that it’s important for Australia to turn up at events like these and we’re on the right side of history. When you meet tomorrow with President Zelenskyy and he asks you why Australia unlike most other major economies and countries have reopened their Embassy in Kyiv, what would you say to him?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, that’s a decision that we have made based upon the advice that we receive. We are open at some stage, obviously to opening the Embassy. But we take advice. Mine is a government that gets advice, acts in an orderly way, and in an appropriate way. And I think when President Zelenskyy, can I say this, I’ve had a number of meetings with him. He has not once raised that as an issue, not once. Because his priority is the support that we are giving to the people of Ukraine and to his Government. And I’m sure that one of the things that we will discuss tomorrow is the additional assistance that we have announced since we last met.
JOURNALIST: Just on IP-4, what have you come here to say? What don’t the NATO members already know?
PRIME MINISTER: What we’ve come to say is that our nations based in the Indo-Pacific, believe in the rule of law, that we support national sovereignty, that we support multilateral forums. Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia have been invited now to our second summit, to engage and then to engage with NATO members. What happens in one part of the world has an impact in our part of the world. And our presence here is a reflection of that. It shows that the NATO members understand that and we certainly understand that as well. The impact on inflation that has occurred globally. And the economic consequences, the consequences for food security around the world as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a timely reminder that we can’t be isolationist, that we have to be engaged. And the best way to be engaged for Australia is to have a seat at the table and to have a say. Thanks very much. See you tomorrow.