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Joint Press Conference

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A 19-gun salute was performed—
The national anthem of Mongolia was then performed—
The Prime Minister of Mongolia then inspected Australia's Federation Guard—
The national anthem of Mongolia was then performed—
The national anthem of Australia was then performed—

Prime Minister Gillard: Thank you very much. It is a great pleasure to be joined here by the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Prime Minister Batbold. He is a very welcome visitor to our country. This is our first visit by a prime minister from Mongolia. We have had diplomatic relations for 40 years, and this is the first time we have had a visit here from a prime minister. This visit shows that we are strengthening and deepening the diplomatic relationship between our two democracies.
I have had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister this morning, and we have had wide-ranging discussions about shared interests. We are both great mining nations and we have talked about mining; we are both great agricultural nations and we have talked about agriculture; we share perspectives and concerns about our region and we have talked broadly about regional issues. We are also jointly engaged in the mission in Afghanistan and we have spoken about that mission today—we are doing some joint work there, including in the rifle-training facility, and we have had the opportunity to talk about that mission.
I wanted specifically to say a few words about the mining connections between our two countries. We share a great mineral wealth. Indeed, Mongolia has a rapidly-growing economy and some of the world's richest-known deposits of gold, copper, uranium, coal and rare earths. We have a long and successful history of using the mineral wealth in our grounds for the benefits of our nations, so we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship between our two countries in the mining sector.
There are around 30 Australian companies working in Mongolia today, and these operators are being joined by a growing number of other Australian businesses, including those that provide specialist services like geological services, drilling, mining software, environmental management and training providers. To help facilitate this growing economic relationship not only in mining but also more broadly we are announcing today that we will open an Austrade office in Mongolia to facilitate business-to-business links.
We have also talked extensively today about people-to-people links and the role that education plays in that; about educational exchanges between our two countries; and about how we can deepen those educational exchanges.
Today we have witnessed the signing of four new bilateral agreements. Importantly, one of those is on vocational education, to take a further step in deepening the people-to-people relationship. One is on cabinet processes, one is on agriculture and one is on science. They are priority areas for growing this friendship and relationship.
We have also talked today about how Mother Nature has not been kind to either of our two countries over recent times. We have had our summer of natural disasters, and in Mongolia they face devastating weather conditions with huge losses in agriculture. We have talked about that today. I have said to the Prime Minister that Australia remains committed to the development of Mongolia, and I am pleased to announce that we will contribute A$1½ million through UN agencies to assist. We will be expanding our scholarship program so that 38 more Mongolian students can come to study in Australia, and those new scholarships will start for the academic year 2012. The aid and assistance that we have announced will go to a variety of destinations, including assisting children with disabilities. This is a strong relationship but one we can take further. Having the Prime Minister visit is certainly a great opportunity to take the relationship further. So, Prime Minister, you are very, very welcome here and I invite you to make some remarks.
Prime Minister Batbold: Thank you, Your Excellency, Prime Minister and Australian friends. First of all, I would like to extend our warm gratitude for your kind invitation to visit your beautiful country and warm reception and wonderful hospitality you have extended to me and to my delegation. This is, as you have rightly said, the first ever prime ministerial visit since the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries.
We have discussed extensively issues of our bilateral relations with the Prime Minister, yourself, and with members of your cabinet. We had good talks also at the meetings with different people, with the business community and representatives from different communities. We had good discussions also with the Speaker of the parliament and other dignitaries and we shared, really, the common values in many areas. More importantly, we think that we have common values of democracy, although Mongolia has got still a young democracy, but we are very grateful for the support that Australia has afforded to our transition to build a democratic society in Mongolia for the last 20 years. We are very grateful for the support that Australia has extended during the difficult time with the disaster and during this process of building a society and a market economy in Mongolia.
We have enjoyed the meetings and visited many places and, most importantly, satisfied with the agreements we have signed today—important agreements which would be a good foundation for future cooperation in many areas like mining and agriculture, education and science. Those are the important areas. We put importance to our cooperation. We are very grateful for the support, again, that the Australian government is extending for the education of our youngsters and especially for the increase of the scholarship to Mongolian youth to study in your country. We think that we could learn a lot from your experience, especially building the important and developed mining country—not only mines in Mongolia but more importantly mining and country in my part of the world.
We offer our condolences to Australian government and people of Australia for the loss of life and damage caused by recent floods and cyclone and bushfires in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. We are very confident that Australia will recover quickly from this devastation and emerge even stronger.
In our talks with the Prime Minister, we have agreement on increase of many issues, especially in exchange of the high-level visit, expand the cooperation between the business communities and expand relations—people-to-people relations. We are very grateful for the consideration and support that the government of Australia is putting forward, especially also with the visa arrangement for the students from Mongolia. This is again a very important thing to develop our relations, especially the people-to-people area.
We are also very grateful that Australia is considering opening up your trade office in Mongolia, hopefully which will lead to the opening of an Australian embassy in the future in Mongolia. We have inaugurated our office yesterday in Australia. We are very proud to have our permanent office in the embassy in your country, which will help to boost and promote our bilateral relations in many areas. Mongolia and Australia share common strategic interests and objectives in our part of the world—the Asia-Pacific region—including regional security and cooperation. I appreciate Australia's commitment to supporting Mongolia in its engagement in the regional cooperation processes. It is my belief that our two governments will continue working closely in the regional and international arena for the cause of peace. By achieving these goals of shared interest and prosperity, Mongolia and Australia will surely and proudly elevate their level of partnership to new heights in the coming years. Thank you.
Prime Minister Gillard: Thank you very much. We are happy to take some questions, and we will take them in turn. I first invite one from the Australian media, and then we will ask the representatives of the Mongolian media if they have questions.
Journalist: Prime Minister, would you be able to provide an update on New Zealand, what assistance Australia is now providing and whether Australians have been caught up as casualties in this disaster?
Prime Minister Gillard: I can do that, and I have in my discussions with Prime Minister Batbold talked to him about the circumstances in New Zealand, and how people are anxious for news. I can confirm that a long-term Australian resident has died. When I spoke to you a little bit earlier today I indicated that early reports suggested to me that this was very likely to be the case, but it is now absolutely confirmed.
A man who is a New Zealander by birth but who has been a permanent Australian resident and lived here for a long time has lost his life. He has his family here in Australia—his wife and children are here in Australia—and he has a brother in New Zealand. Our condolences go to his family both here and in New Zealand. He lost his life in the earthquake as a result of being trapped in rubble. As I indicated this morning, a passer-by came to his assistance and was able to communicate with him for a period, but he lost his life in those circumstances. It is a dreadful thing for his family; they would obviously be in a great deal of shock today.
We are continuing to work through to confirm where Australians are. We have the 24-hour line open and we are continuing to take registrations and our consular officials are continuing to work through to ascertain where Australians are and that they are safe.
This morning I spoke briefly about a police contingent. I can now confirm that there are plans to send Australian police to New Zealand, including 50 Australian Federal Police officers. Likely numbers in total are around 300—that is including the Australian Federal Police officers. Those police officers will go to assist with community policing. They are not going for search and rescue purposes—the search and rescue is being undertaken by the specialist teams that we have provided—but they will be there to provide assistance and backstopping relief to New Zealand police, who are obviously very stretched at this particular time. They can assist with managing community policing and giving people a little bit of a break.
I can also confirm that the specialist medical team that we are sending comprises 25 people. This is the specialist medical team which will arrive during the course of today. The 25 people include six emergency department doctors, six emergency department nurses, six clinical nurses, a general surgeon, an orthopaedic surgeon and associated support staff. We are also working to get a field hospital across to assist with the medical needs that so many people have as a result of this devastating disaster.
As people would be aware, Prime Minister Key has said he now expects the death toll to rise above 75. This is a big disaster and is very pressing on the New Zealand people. There is so much work to do to ascertain that people are safe, for search and rescue, and for recovery, and we will be there supporting New Zealand at every stage.
Journalist: Prime Minister, this is the first ever visit of a Mongolian Prime Minister after 39 years, after establishing diplomatic relations. When do you plan to visit Mongolia?
Prime Minister Gillard: Thanks for that question. We have discussed this today, and I do very much thank Prime Minister Batbold for his kind invitation to visit Mongolia. We will discuss when that might be possible. I did indicate to him that a number of Australians had visited Mongolia very recently. The Speaker of our House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, has been a very recent visitor to Mongolia. I did share that our minister for regional Australia, Minister Crean, holidayed in Mongolia on a cycling holiday a couple of years ago and I explained to Prime Minister Batbold that he found the hospitality and reception very warm but he found some of the cycling quite hard.
Journalist: My question is about when you think it is possible to use procedures for our citizens in order to facilitate people-to-people relations.
Prime Minister Gillard: Prime Minister Batbold and I have discussed that matter today as well. This relates to the processing of student visas as to Mongolian students who are seeking to come to Australia to study and how they are dealt with by our immigration department, which of course has a risk rating system for how it assesses visas. Prime Minister Batbold has advised me that there has not been any problem with overstaying by students from Mongolia who have come here and consequently we will, through our minister for education and our minister for immigration, review that matter. We do want to facilitate people-to-people links and having Mongolian students come here is very important to that. Prime Minister Batbold has talked to me about members of his government and members of his cabinet who refer to themselves as 'Maussies' because they are people from Mongolia who were trained in Australia, so they have adopted the term 'Aussies' with an 'M' in front of it. We do want to create some more Maussies.
Journalist: Prime Minister Batbold, with the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, is Mongolia of the mind to allow or to consider Chinalco becoming a partner in that venture with Rio and Ivanhoe?
Prime Minister Batbold: Yes. I think the Oyu Tolgoi project is a very important project and, as we have already discussed with Prime Minister Gillard, this is one of the world's largest copper and gold projects and we very much welcome the interest of our partners and from our third neighbour. The Anglo-Australian group, Rio Tinto, is a major partner with the government of Mongolia. We would like this project to be very successful and we do want this to be successful with the interests of our relations and the interests of our partners and, as you have earlier described, those from our third neighbour. But we do have also very good relations and investments from our southern partner, China. We do enjoy very good relations and we do very much welcome their investment and cooperation in many projects. But on this particular project I think the agreement has been made between the government of Mongolia and particular investors so that I think it has to go through procedures. If we were to let in any third party it would have to go through the procedures that should be negotiated with the government of Mongolia.
Prime Minister Gillard: We will take a third question from the Mongolian media and then possibly one more from the Australian media, thank you. A journalist having asked a question in a language other than English—
Prime Minister Batbold: So this is about my first ever visit to Australia and what the benefits are and what you think is very important from this visit that I will be taking back home. This is a really important visit to give strong impetus to the development of our bilateral relations in many areas as have been discussed between the governments, between the business communities and between the peoples in many areas. We think that there are a lot of commonalities between our two countries. The most important thing is we are blessed with a good abundance of natural resources in both countries. We need to complement each other, we could have a common agenda in many areas and, more importantly, we would like to learn from Australian experience. As I have also told the Prime Minister, we are not building mines. We would like to build a mining country based on knowledge and on this experience and by sharing that experience and by learning from Australians. This experience would be very important. In that sense cooperation and support in education is key for the growth of our relations.
Journalist: Prime Minister Batbold, in the past Mongolia has changed or in some cases cancelled certain licences in relation to the mining sector so what are you doing to give companies who are investing in Mongolia security of tenure? Would you say that the mining legislation is now stable, or does it need further significant changes?
Prime Minister Batbold: I think this is a relatively young democracy and we have lots of achievements over the last 20 years of transition to the new system of market economy. The important thing for my government, the coalition government, is to provide a business friendly environment for investors. A stable and predictable and competitive business environment is key for attracting investment, so the government is fully committed to pursuing this policy and we have made certain amendments to the mining regulations. In the very early days of the nineties we took certain steps which we need to amend in the best interests of the people of Mongolia and in the best balanced interests of investors, so that is the issue as to what we are doing. But we know and bear in our mind that we need to provide a stable and predictable environment, which we will pursue.
Prime Minister Gillard: Thank you very much. We will be shortly proceeding to a formal lunch in honour of the Prime Minister's visit but perhaps I could leave with the suggestion that maybe some of senior Australian journalists—Michelle Grattan and David Speers—might take the opportunity to introduce themselves to our travelling journalists from Mongolia. Thank you all very much.

A live performance was given—
The national anthem of Mongolia was then performed—
The national anthem of Australia was then performed—
Master of Ceremonies: Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to please remain standing while we observe one minute's silence for our brothers and sisters from New Zealand who tragically lost their lives in the recent earthquake in Christchurch. Thank you.
One minute's silence was then observed—
Master of Ceremonies: Ladies and gentlemen, could I now please introduce Mrs Jannette Phillips, the Ngunnawal elder who will deliver a welcome to country. Thank you.
Mrs Phillips: Ms Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia; Mr Speaker; Senator Stephens; the Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Mr Tony Abbott; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen, I stand here before you a descendant of the Ngunnawal peoples. Welcome to this, the land of my ancestors. The spirit of this land welcomes you to this amazing country of ours. The spirit and my people extend to you the freedom to be here and enjoy your stay and be safe while you are here. And may those that you love and care for in your homeland, may they stay safe till your return. Great spirit, especially at this time, bless New Zealand and especially bless us here in Australia. Thank you.

Master of Ceremonies: Ladies and gentlemen: the Honourable Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia.
Applause was given—
Prime Minister Gillard: Thank you very much. To Prime Minister Batbold; to his wife, Mrs Otgontuya; to the Leader of the Opposition; to the ministers who are here; to members of parliament; to our friends from the diplomatic corps: a very warm welcome. Prime Minister, can I say to you, this is a remarkable day in the annals of Australian diplomacy: the first visit by a Mongolian prime minister in the history of our Commonwealth. It is a remarkable day, and a day that finds you among friends—friends who welcome you, who honour you and who in turn feel very honoured that you are here with us today.
Prime Minister, you have come a long way, from a faraway country—a country that most Australians seem to view as a place of wonder, a place of legend and of poetry, a place rich in our imagination. Of course, all those things are true. Mongolia is a land of extraordinary history, a nation whose achievements are indelibly imprinted in the pages of world history. But we think, too, of Mongolia as it is, and of the Mongolia it can become.
This year marks 100 years since your people first claimed their independence. For long decades, the potential of those early aspirations was deferred and denied. But, since 1990, Mongolia has rediscovered the freedoms and opportunities that belong rightly to her people, beginning a journey of renewal that will uplift and enrich your nation. And Australia is proud to share that journey with you. Since our establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, we have shared relations that cross the barriers of distance, culture and ideology. The connection between our two countries has grown into a warm friendship based on the shared values of democracy and human rights. The friendship of two is stronger than strong walls.
But while we celebrate all that our nations have to be thankful for, the last 12 months have reminded us of our very common exposure to the forces of nature. Last year your country suffered its harshest winter drought in decades, causing massive losses of livestock and threatening your agricultural economy. Australia was pleased that we could provide humanitarian assistance to you at that time. And we will continue to assist, with the upgrading of water and sanitation facilities to those who fled from such devastated rural regions. But Australia was very touched by your government's message of condolence and the generous donation you made, despite your own problems, when our nation faced its own challenges over the summer.
Prime Minister, the calamities that have hit our countries are a reminder that our peoples both inhabit harsh and unyielding lands. In an analysis written in the early 1970s, our Department of Foreign Affairs noted that, in both our countries, 'distances between peoples and harsh conditions have been major determinants in the evolution of national character and the development of the economy'. Yes, our lands are tough, but so are our people. Our people are strong, and they are resilient. We are not diminished by adversity. Instead, we face the future with courage, seizing opportunities when they present themselves and creating new ones.
Today our nations have taken some steps forward to increase agricultural cooperation. The Australian Trade Commission's Mongolian Mining Projects Report 2011 was launched in Your Excellency's presence on Monday, and it charts new opportunities for the years ahead. Your country has some of the world's richest mineral deposits, and we know that Mongolia seeks partners in foreign investment and technical expertise to help realise that potential. Australia has such expertise, and we offer it as friends. That is why I have announced to day a project to help improve the analysis of potential environmental, economic and social impacts of mining sites in Mongolia.
Prime Minister, as leaders we are responsible not only for the present but also for the future. I am pleased that Australia and Mongolia have today agreed on new steps to strengthen your country's mining sector by drawing on Australian vocational education and training expertise. As is known by the Australians in the room, I am a passionate advocate for education as the foundation stone of opportunity. I know Your Excellency also believes in education as the pathway towards a knowledge economy and that it is the greatest asset of any nation—because the asset is the nation's people.
That is why I am delighted that more than 300 Mongolians have studied here in Australia, including one of your current ministers, a deputy speaker and three serving members of your parliament. As we have discussed today, they proudly call themselves 'Maussies'—taking the word 'Aussie' and putting an M in front of it. And each one represents a very, very personal bridge between our two nations. They have lived here, they have friends here and this country will, for them, always be a second home.
Today I am very proud to announce that we will expand our bilateral scholarship program from 28 to 38 students every year. And we will be receptive to any plans by your government to focus these places into new fields, such as engineering. While the ties between our governments are crucial, the strong friendship between our nations rests on the links between citizens. Our people share a strong bond and a desire for peace and stability in our world. That is why we both share membership of bodies such as the World Trade Organisation and the ASEAN Regional Forum. We want to foster cooperation and understanding.
Mongolia has also been a valued participant in international security operations since joining the UN 50 years ago. I warmly acknowledge Mongolia's valuable contribution of 400 troops to the International Security Assistance Force and also to the Afghan National Army's artillery school. From very different backgrounds, our soldiers uphold a united cause. We stand together for freedom. We stand together for peace. We stand together for the future. Prime Minister, with these thoughts in mind and with deep personal regard, I say on behalf of my government and the people of Australia: welcome to our parliament, welcome to our capital, welcome to our nation. Thank you.
Thank you very much. I now invite the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, to make some remarks.
Mr Abbott: Prime Minister, excellencies, distinguished guests, but above all Prime Minister Batbold, on behalf of the opposition, I extend to you, to your wife and to your delegation a warm welcome to Australia and the Australian parliament. I congratulate you, sir, on Mongolia's still relatively recent transition to democracy and hope that, in this respect, you might find your stay in this country instructive. In Australia, opposition leaders have never been kept under police supervision. Instead, opposition leaders are detained in the parliament and subjected to state-sponsored torture every day in question time!
I observe, sir, that our two countries have much in common. We are both lands of sweeping plains. Australia and Mongolia were both settled by pioneers on horseback. Australian lamb is almost as famous as the Mongolian variety. And, rightly or wrongly, we both have governments that can safely be described as well to the left of Genghis Khan! And, of course, Prime Minister—as our Prime Minister has acknowledged—our military forces are serving side by side in Afghanistan in the cause of freedom and security.
Your country, sir, has emerged into freedom from the Soviet empire without falling under the economic domination of another giant neighbour, in part because of your development of mineral resources. No country on earth has more expertise than Australia in the intelligent management of resources, and the outcome of this visit, sir, should be very strong links between Australian mining companies and Mongolia as well as much stronger bonds between our two peoples.
Master of Ceremonies: Ladies and gentlemen, His Excellency Mr Sukhbaatar Batbold, Prime Minister of Mongolia.
Prime Minister Batbold: Your Excellency Prime Minister, dear Australian friends, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of my delegation, I wish to extend to Your Excellency the Hon. Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, and the government of Australia sincere gratitude for the warmness of the reception extended to me and to my delegation in your beautiful country. Also, I would like to thank you for the kind and warm words of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and also the Hon. Tony Abbott about my country, about our relations, about the present and future relations between our two countries.
The people and the government of Mongolia are most grateful to the Australian government and to its people for the valuable assistance and support extended to Mongolia during its difficult time of social and economic transition to democracy and free market. Yes, Mongolia has got a relatively young democracy—for about 20 years—but we are very proud that we have achieved a lot, and for these achievements we are very grateful to our friends and partners. Most importantly, we appreciate the valuable intellectual investment provided by our friends and particularly by Australia. Since the early nineties several hundred Mongolian students have obtained outstanding knowledge and skills through Australian scholarship programs. Many of those people who, as the Prime Minister mentioned, very proudly named themselves 'Maussies', became high-ranking officials, including ministers in my cabinet, state secretaries, the Deputy Speaker of the Mongolian parliament and members of parliament. They drive changes and contribute to the development outcomes of Mongolia, serving as a bridge between our two countries. I was glad to learn that the Mongolian private sector has also started to apply to scholarships in Australia.
I express our profound gratitude to Your Excellency for the decision to increase the number of annual scholarships for Mongolian students to study in your universities. I am also so pleased to note that today we discussed important issues with Your Excellency in a friendly environment marked by mutual trust and understanding. There are commonalities between Mongolia and Australia which allow us to be natural partners, and to identify good opportunities and a mutual desire to boost our economic trade and investment cooperation, especially in the mining, education, agriculture, environment and other sectors.
Australia is our key partner in the Asia-Pacific region, and Mongolia's third neighbour. It is my strong belief that this first-ever visit of the Mongolian Prime Minister to Australia will make a contribution in advancing our efforts to further bilateral relations, cooperation between our two countries and the spirit of extended partnership. Mongolia and Australia have a strong tradition in taking comparable positions, backing each other and collaborating on a number of key international issues. I am honoured to confirm that based on this fine tradition Mongolia is committed to further develop close cooperation with Australia on a regional and global level, and to make its contribution to maintaining peace and stability around the world.
Your Excellency Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, in Mongolia we have a proverb: 'Better to see once than to hear 100 times'. Indeed, as part of my official visit to your beautiful country, I had an opportunity to visit New South Wales and Sydney, and coalmining in the Hunter Valley, learning from your valuable development experience and introducing my country to Australia. I would like again to extend my sincerest gratitude to Your Excellency and the government of Australia for the opportunity extended to us to see your beautiful country and your people's great achievements and prosperity. Thank you.