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Transcript of joint press conference: Parliament House, Canberra: 2 October 2013



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PRIME MINISTER

2 October 2013

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE RT. HON. JOHN KEY, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND,

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

Subjects: Prime Minister Key’s visit to Australia; Australia-New Zealand relations; visit to Indonesia.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

It’s great to be here in the prime ministerial courtyard with my brother prime minister John Key of New Zealand.

New Zealand is in many respects Australia’s closest relationship. We go back a hell of a long way together.

New Zealand is family in a way that probably no other country on earth is.

So, I am really thrilled that John has chosen to come to Australia to touch base with me so early in the life of the new government.

We have got our usual ministerial dialogue in February in Australia. I am looking forward to that very much.

John has invited me to go to New Zealand and sometime next year I would very much hope to do that because it is important to keep our relationship in the best possible repair. Just because we are family doesn’t mean that we should take each other for granted and I’d like to say how impressed I am with the way the New Zealand National Government has promoted economic growth, pursued very sensible, orthodox economic policies without in any way engaging in what has become known as austerity.

New Zealand has strong economic growth, reducing unemployment, reducing red tape, increasing trade. This has all been done while building a stronger and more cohesive society and I think that the Key National Government in New Zealand has provided the very model of centre-right government over the last few years and I am happy to learn from the example of John Key in New Zealand.

PRIME MINISTER KEY:

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Well, firstly, Prime Minister can I thank you for the invitation to be here, can I reiterate my earlier comments of congratulating you, can I wish you the very best and the people of Australia the very best.

This is a tremendously important relationship from New Zealand’s perspective. No relationship is more important and whether it is the number of tourists coming to New Zealand, the investment in New Zealand or the way that we work alongside each other in environments as foreign as Afghanistan through to Bougainville, New Zealand and Australia are there shoulder-to-shoulder.

It would be a great privilege to host you in New Zealand, so we hope we will see you next year.

We had very wide-ranging discussions. New Zealand and Australia have a great many issues where we are locked at the hip together but we are working in important places so we canvassed the obvious issues that you would expect. The issue of boat people which I know is an important issue for Australia, the economic issues that our countries face, New Zealanders who are residents here in Australia but not permanent residents and a variety of other issues.

I think it’s very fair to say that, in your government, Tony, we have a kindred spirit. So, this is a relationship where I believe the chemistry will be very good, very strong and it will be to the benefit of people of New Zealand and Australia, so we wish you the best. We’ll be seeing you in Bali on the weekend and in Brunei later in the week so we will be spending more time in each other’s company than we are in our in our own populations, maybe, but we wish you all the best. Congratulations.

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

Thank you so much, John, thank you. Now, we’re going to just take a couple of questions from New Zealand reporters and from Australian reporters. Does New Zealand wish to go first?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Abbott, how long will it be, or if it all, before your government removes the discrimination against New Zealanders living in this country and are you more sympathetic given that your wife is from Wainuiomata?

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

Well, I’m very conscious of the great debt that I personally owe to New Zealand. I’m very conscious of that. On the other hand, Margie says that she owes something to Australia given that Australia has been a good home for her over the last 25, 30 years now.

Look, New Zealanders have better access to Australia than the citizens of any other country and that’s right and proper. That’s as it should be. I’ve got to say that what I admire about Kiwis in Australia is their commitment to have a go. They are have-a-go people. I want everyone who comes to this country to work and pay taxes from day one and I’m delighted that that’s exactly what Kiwis have done. So, I’m happy to keep talking to Prime Minister Key and obviously I’m happy to have questions from New Zealanders on this subject but I’m very happy with the situation that exists right now which is that Kiwis coming here know that they are expected to work and pay taxes from day one, as so many of them do.

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

We’ve had one question from New Zealand. Now we’re going to have one question from Australia. Joe?

QUESTION:

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Mr Abbott, just on your recent visit to Indonesia. What can you tell us about this new bilateral cooperation? We don’t know very much about this. Is this just tokenism? What will the guidelines of this be? What will the substance of this be?

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

It was a very good trip and I was tremendously honoured to be welcomed so warmly by President Yudhoyono and indeed it was great that Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb and myself were able to sit down with the President and indeed with his whole Cabinet to talk through issues in our relationship and to talk about how we could make a very strong relationship even stronger. As you know, the President talked about a bilateral partnership under the Bali Process. Now, it was agreed that the operational details, the specifics of how this might work out, would be left to officials and ministers and officials and ministers will be talking together very, very soon indeed.

But what both President Yudhoyono and myself made crystal clear is that we are both the victims when it comes to people smuggling. We are both damaged when it comes to people smuggling and we are both determined to work together to stop people smuggling; in Australia’s case to stop the boats as quickly as we humanly can and I don’t think anyone in Indonesia is under any illusion about Australia’s resolve to stop the boats. This must happen. The boats must stop. Sovereignty is important to Indonesia and we fully respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and we will work with Indonesia in ways that fully respect Indonesia’s sovereignty, but for us, people smuggling is a sovereignty issue and that’s why we will stop the boats and we will work wholeheartedly with Indonesia to ensure that that happens as quickly as possible. A New Zealand question?

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, John Key mentioned that you talked about the boat issue. Have you asked New Zealand to provide any extra assistance, moral support for your stance on this issue?

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

We did canvass the commitment that New Zealand has previously made to help Australia in this respect and we are grateful for New Zealand’s help and if and when it becomes necessary, obviously we’ll call on it, but our determination is to stop the boats and one of the ways that we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat, you go not to New Zealand, but to Nauru or Manus and you never ever come to Australia and people ought not think that New Zealand is some kind of a consolation prize if they can’t come to Australia. The message that goes to the people smugglers and their clients is, you get on a boat to come to Australia, you will never stay in Australia. Even if you succeed in getting here, you will then go to Manus or Nauru and that’s where you will stay. You won’t ever come to Australia.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what can you learn from John Key’s Government about gay marriage and did this come up in your discussions?

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

Look, we didn’t canvass this particular issue, but my position on that particular subject is pretty well known. It was dealt with in the last Parliament. I don’t know whether it’s likely to come up in the new Parliament. If it does come up in the new Parliament, well then it will be dealt with in the usual way by our party room and by the Parliament.

Thank you.

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QUESTION:

Can I ask Prime Minister Key a question before you go?

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

Well, if Prime Minister Key is prepared to accept a question…

PRIME MINISTER KEY:

Ok, sure.

QUESTION:

Are you happy with the treatment of New Zealanders living in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER KEY:

Well, our view is that we want to preserve the free Australasian employment markets and every New Zealander has the option of coming to work in Australia and every Australian has the option of coming to work in New Zealand. So, sacrosanct to us is preserving that. We acknowledge the deal that was done between the previous Howard Government and Helen Clark and our view is that while we’ll continue to advocate for New Zealanders because we genuinely think there are some issues that would be best if they were addressed, in the end we totally respect the sovereign right of the Australian Government to make a decision how it will treat people who come and work in Australia. So, yes, we’ll always make the case for New Zealanders as we do around the world, but in the end, the ball is very firmly in the Australian Government’s court.

Thanks very much.

PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:

Thank you. Thanks, John.

[ends]