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Transcript of joint press conference: Australia / Malaysia links; visa initiatives; Afghanistan teacher training; FTA; G8; UN peacekeeper training; Five Powers Defence Arrangements; climate change; Asia Pacific community.

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Prime Minister of Australia


Joint Press Conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi

10 July 2008

Subject(s): Australia / Malaysia links; Visa initiatives; Afghanistan teacher training; FTA; G8; UN peacekeeper training; Five Powers Defence Arrangements; Climate change; Asia Pacific Community


BADAWI: I must say that I am happy to welcome Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd to Malaysia and of course this visit is important. It’s the first opportunity that I have to discuss with him on matters of bi-lateral relations. Australia and Malaysia have very long years of diplomatic relations and many activities and many areas of common concern.

Many programs that have been doing very well within Malaysia and Australia and I like to therefore touch on a few to highlight some of the points and programs that we have agreed upon.

We agreed at our meeting to establish a formal link at the diplomatic level. That is to insist on regular meetings begin of Foreign Ministers of Malaysia and Australia. This mechanism is to ensure there is regular consultation on matters of common concern to both Australia and Malaysia.

We have also agreed to work and holiday visa program. We should be signing a memorandum of understanding after the discussions have been held between the officials of both Australia and Malaysia.

The focus of this program is to enable the young people particularly University students from both countries to visit Malaysia and Australia for extended holidays and to be allowed to take temporary employment during such visits.

I have also enhasised the importance of, I regard it as important, that Australia also send their students to study in Malaysia. We have Australian students but thousands of student studying in Australia from the Columbo plan days and we have benefited the higher education in Australia. And I think its about time we should receive Australian students coming to Malaysia and we are looking into the possibility of setting up what we call a twin sister universities between Australian and Malaysian universities.

We have also agreed to establish a pilot sister schools program. Which will involve at the start of the project 6 schools in Malaysia and 6 schools in the State of Victoria in Australia. I think it’s a very exciting program that will involve young people to get to know one another, to get to know of our respective countries. It is exciting and it is a beginning of the linkage. Talking about linkage we must provide more opportunities for the young people to get to know one another.

Because Australia and Malaysia in the years to come I’m sure will become closer and closer in the many cooperation, because the many cooperation programs that we are engaged in not only at ASEAN level but also at other levels, other forums.

We agreed to pool our resources on a joint Malaysia-Australia program to train teachers from Afghanistan. This I believe is a project that will usher in a new chapter of cooperation within Malaysia and Australia that involves a third party. This institute certainly will be our first experience in helping Afghanistan to provide the teaching of teachers and at the same time the teaching of teachers of teachers. Is that how you put it?

The teaching of teachers and it is a program that certainly will come within the scope of our duties, peacekeeping under the banner of the United Nations.

We discussed other areas of cooperation including agricultural, including cooperation, collaboration in the field of R&D, biotechnology and other fields too.

We discussed the Malaysia-Australia free trade agreement. We have agreed to revisit the subject and to put new emphasis in the negotiations. However we are aware at the moment that is also going on in discussions within ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand FTA.

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Malaysia would certainly prefer that we pay more attention, we focus on this negotiation first, after which then we can proceed with what we can do bilaterally.

We discussed a number of international issues but time did not permit, I was very keen to talk to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the subject of the G8 Hokkaido Summit. I certainly would like to know some of the decisions that have been made. Especially that concerns the increasing price of oil and of course the world food prices.

It was a good meeting I must say, very good meeting. We have no problem at all about discussing any subject that we want and the result has been in my view very productive and constructive in terms of developing and widening bilateral relations between Malaysia and Australia.

The Prime Minister

PM: Thank you Prime Minister Abdullah. Thank you for your warm hospitality in receiving me as the Prime Minister of Australia here in Malaysia today on this my first official visit.

Whenever Australians visit Malaysia we feel as if we are among friends, because so many Malaysians have studied at Australian universities and the people to people contact between our two countries is vast.

If you look over the spread of time some 300,000 Malaysians have studied at Australian universities. Many have chosen to make Australia their home, many more of course have come back here to make great contributions to this country. But what I find each time I have come to KL in the past is as you walk around and meet people you are among friends. And I have felt that very much here today, as the Prime Minister of Australia visiting here for the first time in that capacity.

If you look at the breadth of the Australia-Malaysia relationship it covers the field. If you look at our long standing defence ties, they go back almost to the beginning and their have been since the Second World War some 35,000 Australian servicemen who have served in either Malaya or Malaysia in the intervening decades. And the fabric of our defence cooperation continues, our armed forces continue to work closely together and the Prime Minister and I have explored ways in which that could be expanded into the future.

On the economic front we are among each others top ten economic partners and therefore this relationship of mutual economic significance and mutual economic benefit. That is why our discussions have focussed also on the future of the Australia-New Zealand ASEAN free trade agreement and the negotiations which are still underway in that agreement and our aspiration to have any outstanding differences resolved as quickly as possible.

The people to people ties I’ve spoken about. Such large contact between our two countries not just historically but today some 15,000 to 20,000 Malaysian students studying in Australian universities, all making a huge contribution to the fabric of what for us is a very important relationship.

On the specific matters which the Prime Minister has raised. The first I would draw attention to is the common project we’ve embarked on together to help the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have gone through an extraordinarily difficult period in recent time and of course the security of that country is still very much a matter which is being contested.

Australia has been committed there for some time. What we’d like to do with our friends in Malaysia is this, through our universities, work together to train teachers and principles to work in the schools of Afghanistan. Therefore the proposal we have now agreed upon is that we will embark conjointly on a program to train the trainer. That is the training to be done here in Malaysia, assisted and supported by Australian universities. Assisted and supported in turn by Australian Government through our development assistance program.

Security is one part of Afghanistan’s future and it is core. But development and education is equally important long term. In our own experience in Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan the security task is enormous. But beyond that, beyond that and the loss of lives that we in Australia have suffered in recent times as a consequence of that action, it is important through provincial reconstruction, getting economic development going and building the education infrastructure of Afghanistan that so much of the hard work is still to be done.

In Malaysia we have an extraordinary exemplar Muslim society and Muslim country in the world. A country which can comfortably partner with the particular needs of the education system in Afghanistan and we look forward therefore to partnering with our friends in Malaysia to together help these people in their path to development.

The second area I would draw attention to is the agreement we have reached as two countries on the conjoint training which we will provide as Australia and Malaysia of forces to be dedicated for peacekeeping purposes around the world. Malaysia has already made an extraordinary contribution to peacekeeping operations under the United Nations going back to the days of the Belgian Congo. And Australia has been engaged in peacekeeping operations since the inception of the United Nations in 1945.

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Together we’ve worked out that we’ve probably been engaged in some 100 plus peacekeeping operations around the world. And today Australia relies heavily upon Malaysia’s contributions still in East Timor and of course Malaysia continues still to make a strong contribution in other theatres including (inaudible) in a highly challenged and difficult operating theatre.

But here’s the practical challenge for the future. Many countries wish to put up their hand and say they wish to contribute to peacekeeping operations in the world but may not have the specific training and expertise to do so. What we’ve agreed today as Prime Ministers is conjointly Australia and Malaysia to provide joint training platforms, programs and expertise between our two armed forces for regional countries wishing to participate in UN peacekeeping operations around the world.

If I can find two characteristics, a common characteristic which comes out of these two projects, that is the one in relation to Afghanistan and teachers and education and the others as it relates to UN peacekeeping operations around the world, I believe this points to a new phase in the relationship between Australia and Malaysia. Not just expanding the cooperation between our two countries but our two countries together working in common operations around the world.

The education sphere when it comes to Afghanistan, the peacekeeping sphere as it applies to the requirements of the United Nations. And this is the sort of cooperation which is possible between existing close friends and partners.

The other matters as the Prime Minister has indicated - a sister schools program between Malaysian junior secondary schools and those in Victoria, a principle that we’ve embraced to embrace the working holiday visa program between our two countries and our commitments to establish a regular Foreign Ministerial forum between our two countries with the ambition it translating into a joint Ministerial commission over time.

Prime Minister Abdullah thank you very much for having me in this country. This is a vibrant democracy and I congratulate you and the people of Malaysia for the way in which you’ve handled democratic transformation of this country. It is great to be here in this the administrative capital of Malaysia and see these marvellous boulevards, these great buildings all which have been developed really in the matter of the last decade. Its an extraordinary sight to see.

When I look at the evolution of Canberra, our nations capital over 75 years and what has occurred here in the last 10 years. I’ve got to say from an Australian point of view this is a remarkable achievement.

Prime Minister thank you for your hospitality and we’ll take questions from the ladies and gentlemen of the press.


PM: This is to me, yeah and sorry could you repeat the question.

JOURNALIST: inaudible

PM: Oh the Five Powers Defence Arrangements. I will answer and I’m sure Prime Minister Abdullah will have something to say about that as well.

The great thing about Five Powers Defence Arrangements is it provided a framework for cooperation between our militaries going back decades and as a consequence I can only speak on behalf the Australian defence force. We have benefited from that cooperation enormously.

Australian soldiers speak very highly of their Malaysian counterparts and I believe we have benefited enormously from the joint training exercises in which we have engaged and also the other exchanges of personnel which have been associated with that.

From an Australian point of view the FPDA therefore and the cooperation specifically with Malaysia which that permits, enhances the security of our wider region and certainly from an Australian national interest point of view is an agreement we would wish sustained into the future. Prime Minister

BADAWI: We did discuss on the subject of FPDA and are views are almost the same. So there’s no such thing in my mind as the FPDA is irrelevant. It is relevant, it provides excellent opportunities for our forces to meet and to undergo various training and operational exercises and it has benefited Malaysia in many ways. This engagement that leads to cooperation among the defence people.

JOURNALIST: I have a question for both Prime Ministers. Its about the G8 Summit. Mr Badawi first of all the G8 (inaudible)

BADAWI: Well we had a chance discuss very briefly on the subject of the G8 meeting of Hokkaido. I was telling Prime Minister Rudd that we should discuss this at dinner tonight. But however we did touch a little bit on the subject of the

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climate change. But I have always had the view the developed countries should do more, should be greater contribution. And the failure to do that of course is regrettable but what else can we do they have so much interests, and their interests are so big. But I know that the there are certain difficulties among members. Some on our side China and India have a, very strong position on this. Of course they have very persuasive, very strong arguments but still it does not help us to deal with the subject of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

PM: Thank you Prime Minister and we will continue our conversations about the G8 both on climate change, global oil and food security over dinner tonight and I look forward to that opportunity.

I think on the question of climate change as I said in Hokkaido. The challenge for the world both developed and developing countries is to fashion a grand consensus, a grand bargain on the future of climate change involving the responsibilities of both developed economies and developing economies.

We understand where the Bali road map has left us, which is a principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. For developed economies that is commitment to targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For developing economies that is a commitment to ensure that measurable and verifiable actions are undertaken by those economies.

Here’s the challenge. For us all, prior to we get to Copenhagen at the end of next year to indicate to each other what action is possible on both parts. The grave danger we face is that if we reach Copenhagen and we do not have a transparency among us that the negotiators at Copenhagen conclude that they don’t have a mandate to go forward.

That I think would be a loss for the planet. It would be a loss for the developed world, it would be a loss for the developing world and the planet we all share. And this challenge that we all face, which affects our economies, which affects our environment and affects the next generation of Malaysians and the next generation of Australians is something which is too important for us simply to become bogged down on.

So that challenge we face is for both sides in this argument, both sides in this debate, both sides in these negotiations to honour the principles that we committed to at the Bali roadmap. But to translate those into real negotiating positions by the time we get to Copenhagen.


PM: I haven’t seen those comments which you attribute. I assume from Foreign Minister Mukherjee is that correct? But I did have the great opportunity of spending an hour and a half or so with Foreign Minister Mukherjee in Canberra only a short time ago.

And I was able to build on that conversation yesterday with a number of good conversations with Prime Minister Singh of India. On the question of the ARF which in part Prime Minister Abdullah and I discussed today as well as part of our regions architecture. It is good that ASEANS original concept among itself which is to ensure peace and amity and cooperation among the participating States is a principle to then be extended to the wider region which gave birth of course to the ASEAN regional forum. Which is a basis for dialogue on common security concerns across the region.

Of course the membership of the ARF is wide and it is large. But that proposal of course from the Indians is something which should be considered further. From my point of view I think its important that the region continue to discuss among itself its future arrangements. ASEAN has played such a vital role in stabilising South East Asia and if we we’re to look back over the last 30 years or so where ASEAN was and where it has come to, this is a remarkable achievement.

As I said to the Prime Minister before think back in time. We had the challenges of the time of the insurgency, the challenges with (inaudible), we had the Vietnam war, we have the conflict in wider indo-china and in the evolution of ASEAN what we have seen is these internal conflicts effectively dealt with and instead a culture of security cooperation and dialogue among the now expanded member states.

I think there is something for the nations of the Asia Pacific region beyond ASEAN’s membership to learn from ASEAN’s achievements in this respect. One of the reasons why I’ve advanced into the international debate myself a long term goal of an Asia Pacific Community is so that APEC in the future may have a capacity to evolve in that direction and of course that’s one of the reasons why I’ve dispatched an envoy Richard Wolcott a former senior Australian diplomat to begin discussions with our friends and partners in the region on the possibility of that concept becoming a reality by 2020.


BADAWI: Well we do not impose any limit what type of subject that can be brought up in our discussions. I think I have a very good discussion with Prime Minister Rudd on a wide range of topics. What I have just informed you of was just some of those very (inaudible) points of our discussion.

I look forward to continuing cooperation with Prime Minister Rudd and I think this stage of Malaysia-Australia cooperation I must say that this stage of our cooperation has benefited us more than it has before. And we wish to continue to use this

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space so that we can expand and deepen cooperation.

Although we have a long history of cooperation in the area of education, but today we are talking about the younger students, the students who are in secondary school. We have the 6 sister school arrangement with their counterpart and at the same time we are also encouraging more Australian students to study in Malaysia and that’s important.

It’s about time that we see Australians coming here, we have been going to Australia for education since before independence in the 50’s when the Colombo plan was introduced. We have benefited a lot but I think now we must think in terms of cultural benefit, cultural exchange and that’s important to begin with the young people and their established contacts at an early age. And that will stay with them and I hope that this is a good for the future of Australia and Malaysia.

PM: The Australian Government places high importance on the Australian-Malaysia relationship and it’s not just because of the friendship about which I spoke before and it’s not just because of the interests we have in common. What we want to do is take this good relationship between Australian and Malaysia to a new level and that is the expanded cooperation about which Prime Minister Abdullah has just spoken. And a new level not just what we do with each other bilaterally but a new level in what we can do together in partnership in the region and the world, and that I think is important.

On the question of the strength of this relationship and the robustness of the Malaysian democracy. What has been great for us all to see in the councils of the world is the strength of Malaysia’s democratic processes and the fact that these democratic processes have been tested and applied in recent elections and that democracy is not just alive and well in Malaysia but flourishing. And that I think is a great testament to the political wisdom of the people of this country.

Thank you very much.

BADAWI: Thank you, thank you very much.

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