Prime Minister’s Transcript From New York City

17 September 2016

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good, good morning.

Lucy and I were very keen to visit the 9/11 Memorial this morning, we’d not been to the Museum before.

As you know it is a very moving place. It reminds us of tragedy and loss. It reminds us of a day 15 years ago which changed the world – an attack, an Islamist terrorist attack, which changed the world. But it did not change the resolute solidarity of free people, of freedom-loving peoples. It did not change the solidarity we have with the people of the United States and all our allies around the world in this battle against terrorism.

Now the nature of terrorism, as I said in the Parliament just a few days ago, has evolved. It continues to mutate. The 9/11 attack was an elaborately planned attack many months in the ma king. We have to ward ourselves against attacks like that in the future as well.

But we also face the threat of these lone actors and rapid radicalisation, often preying upon people with mental illness or other vulnerabilities, as we’ve seen around the world and of course in Australia too.

So that’s why we have to be relentless in our defence of our freedom and our citizens security and safety – and we are. One of the themes of the meetings this week whether it’s here or in Washington, will be focussed on international collaboration in the battle against terrorism. It is a real, evolving threat and we have to be ever-vigilant, ever-agile – and we are. Australia’s security agencies are the best in the world and we work with their counterparts all around the world, but particularly here with the United States.

So this week, Leaders’ Week for the UN General Assembly, is the most important summit on the summ it calendar around the world. I’ll be taking our case here to the General Assembly, our case for free trade, for open markets, for the reforms that have driven the extraordinary prosperity we’ve seen over the last generation, and for maintaining them in the face of cries for protectionism that you’re starting to see around the world, the consequence of which is only poverty. So as I’ve said before, protectionism is not a ladder to get us out of the low growth trap, it’s a big shovel to dig it ever deeper. We have to resist that.

At the same time Peter Dutton and I will also be at the migration conference, the American Immigration Conference, the refugee discussions here, because we are facing an extraordinary challenge of refugee movements, of unauthorised movements and migrations of peoples around the world, greater than at any time since the Second World War. We need to have the right responses, we believe in Australia we have set out the right responses and the results make the case. Strong borders, a commitment to strong borders – demonstrating that the Australian Government is in command of who comes into Australia – and at the same time one of the most generous humanitarian programmes in the world and the two go together.

So a lot of big issues here in New York and later on in Washington. But this morning, very moved by the 9/11 Memorial, very moved by those events 15 years ago. As we mourn and honour all of the victims and we mourn and honour the first responders. In particular those men from the Fire Department, the Police Department, and other security services here in New York, who rushed to the aid of those victims, heedless of their own lives. It is a moment, a place of great contemplation, of great respect for the way in which the human spirit and the power of love and freedom will always triumph over the hatred of terrorists that seek to undo our good fortune and undermine our freedoms.

fiji-aus-pm

JOURNALIST: 

Just on the issue of refugees, the Immigration Minister described Australia as a migration superpower. In 2014 the Human Rights Migration Envoy said that Australia was manifestly violating international human rights law. Just last month they called on Australia to resist and desist from offshore processing. Who is wrong, Peter Dutton or the United Nations?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well let me say to you that our policy on border protection is the best in the world, we have established and maintained control of our borders. Now we know in Australia – as you know – we know exactly what the consequence of abandoning those strong policies is. That’s what Mr Rudd and the Labor Party did. So this is not a theoretical matter, we know exactly what the consequence is; 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, 800 boats, tragically 1,200 deaths at sea.

So we have one of the most generous humanitarian programs, over 13,000 coming in through the humanitarian channel at the moment, rising every year substantially. It’s substantially increased up to 18,000 plus 12,000 from the Syrian conflict zone. So we have a very strong record. But you cannot do that and frankly public opinion will not accept a generous humanitarian program, a substantial migration program, unless the government is seen to be in command of its borders. You’ve seen around the world, the way in which uncontrolled migration flows start to destabilise countries and undermine support for migration, undermine support for multiculturalism, undermine the mutual respect which is the foundation of a successful multicultural society like ours.

JOURNALIST: 

Would that be your central message to the other nations?

PRIME MINISTER: 

We don’t tell anybody else how to run their country. All we can do is attest to our own experience. The scale of the irregular migration flows, refugee flows, at the moment is the largest since the Second World War, by some measures it’s even larger in fact. But it’s very substantial, it’s having impacts all around the world and we need to have a stronger global response to it and a key part of that is border security.

JOURNALIST:

On that, on security issues Mr Turnbull you’d be seeing the Defence Secretary Mr Carter in Washington. Will you be talking to him about the alliance and also the rotation of the US marines through Darwin?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes on both counts, as you know the alliance has never been stronger. It gets deeper all the time and indeed one of the focuses of the visit to Washington of course is the Cyber Security Dialogue. That is really of growing importance every year. That theatre of conflict, potential conflict, competition, disruption, is beco ming more important all the time, as our economy becomes substantially a digital economy, ensuring that we can maintain our cyber security is greater than ever.

JOURNALIST:
On the marines?

PRIME MINISTER:
On the marines, yes, as you know the negotiations are continuing on the cost-sharing and I expect them to be resolved. But that is a negotiation that is going on between officials. The Secretary of the Department of Defence Mr Richardson has recently been in Washington and he’s been following up on those discussions.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister you mentioned the strength of the alliance at the moment and it’s hard to argue with. But the Republican candidate has again raised the spectre of violence against his Democratic rival, he said yesterday I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. “Let’s see what happens to her, take their guns away. Okay , it’ll be very dangerous,” he says. Are you worried about the implications of such a volatile individual in the White House for our alliance with the United States?

PRIME MINISTER:
I’ll leave the commentary on American politics to you. I try to avoid being a commentator on Australian politics, let alone politics outside Australia. I have no doubt the American people will make a very wise choice in November.

JOURNALIST:
But Hillary Clinton is an old friend of yours, so surely you’d be keen to see her in the White House?

PRIME MINISTER:
That’s a good attempt to draw me into it but I’ll decline the invitation to become a commentator on US politics.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister just back on your visit this morning, there have been dozens of meetings on September 11, on the issue of terrorism and how to counter it, it seems that acts of terror on the streets though in the Western world have increased particularly in the last couple of years. What’s the realistic outlook? Is this something that can be defeated or are we just going to have to live with it, is there an end in sight at any point?

PRIME MINISTER:
Terrorism is a technique. What we’re talking about at the moment is Islamist terrorism. We’re talking about an extreme perversion of Islam, that blasphemes Islam, that blasphemes the faith of the vast majority of Muslims around the world and in Australia and the United States. So we’re talking about a specific type of terrorism for the most part, though as I said terrorism is a technique has been used by different organisations and groups at different times. In terms of the principal actor at the moment, which is Daesh or ISIL, they are being defeated in the field. Australia is making, as you know, a very substantial contributi on to that defeat. But as they are rolled back, as their so-called caliphate is undone, their efforts to promote acts of terror around the world, we expect, will increase. But what we’re seeing for the most part are these lone-actor attacks – as we’ve seen in Australia, as we saw in Nice for example – and this is something we are very focussed on.

My Coordinator of Counter-Terrorism, Greg Moriarty, now my senior international advisor, started a thorough review of all our techniques, our counter-terrorism techniques, in light of this. That’s being completed by his successor and will inform our policy responses. But every time there is a terrorist incident, wherever it is, we examine it with great care to make sure that we learn from it. The terrorists evolve, they are adaptive, they use technology in a very sophisticated way, particularly social media. We have to be as adaptive and responsive as they are.

JOURNALIST:
But can you see an end to this? 

PRIME MINISTER:
I’ve discussed this with leading Muslim leaders in very recent times, including President Widodo of Indonesia, President Erdogan of Turkey, President Sisi of Egypt to name just three of them. I think President Widodo sets out the answer in the most succinct way, and he says that Indonesia demonstrates that Islam, moderation and democracy are compatible. That is the message that we need to succeed, so that in the Islamic world, all people understand that Islam is not those people like ISIL or Daesh or al Qaeda – the group that brought down the Twin Towers and attacked the Pentagon – that their message is a fundamentally blasphemous one. It’s an abomination of Islam and that’s why there is a critical need for Muslim leaders, and of course there are none more influential than national leaders, to make sure that they do. President Widodo does that especially compellingly. Islam, democ racy, moderation are compatible, that’s the critical message. 

JOURNALIST:
What was the subway ride like?

PRIME MINISTER:
Oh it was good. As you know I’m a great fan of subways generally and I’ve travelled on the New York Subway many times. It’s a very old system. Its obviously got new parts of it, but some of it is very old and that station we got on at Fulton Street is one of the oldest. Lots of old iron columns there and it’s a cut-and-cover, just under street level. Very interesting if you’re interested in public transport, I am probably more interested than most of you, you’ll all start to peel off if I start talking about it. But it is the key. There they go. He’s leaving already.

[Laughter]

But it is the key, you can see actually in this city how important a good metro system is to enabling people to live with the type of density and amen ity that you have here. Otherwise it’s impossible to move around. 

Thank you.