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Australia-UK ministerial dialogue (AUKMIN) press conference

Read an excerpt of the transcript for the Australia-UK ministerial dialogue press conference which took place on 18 January in Sydney, or download the full transcript in PDF format.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Stephen Smith, William Hague, Liam Fox and Kevin Rudd at AUKMIN 2011

KEVIN RUDD: I’d like to take this opportunity publicly to welcome the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and of course the British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox.

It’s good to have you here in Australia. And as I said in our private session just before you are genuinely welcome guests in our country.

William confessed earlier on it had been something like 20 years since a British Foreign Secretary had been to Australia. That has by any man’s reckoning been somewhat long between drinks. But we’ve made up for it today in a very good and substantial way across a very wide-ranging agenda, and we look forward to these AUKMINs continuing into the future.

Many have said in the past that this relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom is one based purely on idle sentiment. Can I simply say, that is wrong.

This relationship is based on common values, common interests, and common sense. And it also has so much of its life-force in the ties that bind our two people’s together. And that is why we’re here today - to discuss and agree on common courses of action in the complex agenda we face in the international community at present.

In our discussions today we have agreed that this AUKMIN meeting will now occur on an annual basis into the future - either in Australia, or in the United Kingdom, or in third countries depending on where we happen to be at a particular time, being a people who know one another well - peoples who know one another well, we’re fairly relaxed about questions of venue, the importance of the regularity of the engagement.

We’ve also agreed on a common work program for the future which reflects very much the content of our discussions today, covering the future of our regional architecture here in the Asia-Pacific region, the future engagements of us both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the common challenges we face in terms of cyber-
security and in counter-terrorism, the common challenges the international community faces in the Middle East, and our continued quest for a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and Palestine.

And of course the particular challenges we face today in the international community in the recently concluded referendum on the future of southern Sudan.

From Australia’s point of view, the United Kingdom is an important partner intrinsically. The UK is the sixth largest economy of the world. The UK is a member, permanently so, of the UN Security Council. The UK together with ourselves are members of the G20. And also we are common members of the Commonwealth which will meet here in Australia, in Perth at the year’s end.

Bilaterally the economic relationship is extensive and significant for both of us, and of course our bilateral Defence engagements, our bilateral security and intelligence relationships go back a long long way and are of vital relevance to our respective national interests.

Also, given that we will be attending again as Foreign Ministers the Commonwealth meeting at the end of this year, both the Foreign Secretary and myself will look forward to particular proposals about how we continue to reform and invigorate the Commonwealth into the future - an institution which is doing much good in the world.

Finally, the Australian Government is pleased to accept two specific offers of assistance, which the British Government has provided in terms of flood recovery in Brisbane, my own home town. And I’m very pleased to have been able to invite William to visit Brisbane with me to inspect some of the flood recovery work tomorrow morning.

I’ll ask William to go to the detail of those particular offers of assistance which the British Government has made to us.

I conclude by saying this has been a good and substantial discussion. We have agreed on common courses of action for the future, a common work program between us, as well as an agreement for the first time that this AUKMIN gathering will now occur on an annual basis.

I conclude by saying that our British ministerial colleagues are very welcome guests in Australia. We look forward to meeting tonight over dinner with the Prime Minister.

And we look forward very much to our continued contact with our British friends in what will be a very challenging year in the international community in 2011.

SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much. Well ladies and gentlemen, Liam and I are delighted to be here in Australia with a delegation of senior officials from the United Kingdom. This is, taken together, the most substantial British Government visit to Australia in many decades, and I want to begin by thanking Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith for all their hospitality today and the long discussions that - and very productive discussions that we’ve had.

We are indeed much looking forward to dinner this evening with the Prime Minister where we can continue the discussions we’ve been having through the day. And any British visitor to Australia would want to say, first of all, how saddened we have been by the floods in Queensland.

British people on their televisions have watched this very very closely, have watched an appalling [Audio skip] very closely, and their hearts have gone out to those who have been involved. And our thoughts - and the thoughts of everyone in Britain - with those who have lost family members, with the thousands of people who have had to evacuate their homes.

Kevin has invited me to Brisbane tomorrow to see the relief operation at first hand, and I think the bravery of the men and women who have been leading that rescue effort has been exceptional.

We do want to assist in any way that we can. And we are able to do so in a small way - Australia has accepted the offer of our assistance to the Queensland task force of UK experts in flood recovery management who’ve helped communities recover from the effects of floods, and of experts in advanced flood forecasting methods, from our UK Flood Forecasting Centre which brings together meteorologists and hydrologists to forecast river and tidal and coastal flooding.

And I hope their expertise is going to be of assistance.

It’s hard to believe that the British Foreign Secretary hasn’t been to Australia for more than 17 years - and this visit should be taken as a clear signal of the determination of our coalition government in Britain not just to reach out to new allies, but to renew and deepen relations with closest friends, and that is what we’ve been engaged in doing today. The UK enjoys, continues to enjoy an extraordinarily close relationship with Australia, one that runs well at the level of government, but also at the level of so many individuals and businesses and families.

And we’ve had an excellent round of talks today. Sufficiently excellent that we have agreed to do this on an annual basis as Kevin has explained. We’ve enormously valued the insights of our Australian colleagues. We have agreed to [Audio skip] operation on cyber security. We’ve shared our analysis of Afghanistan. We’ve discussed international terrorism where we already cooperate closely. And we’ve considered ways to maximise the impact of our counter-terrorist effort.

We’ve talked about the dangers of weapons proliferation, including the direction in which Iran is travelling. We’ve talked about the changing power balances in the Asia-Pacific region. And we have indeed discussed the Middle East peace process and our joint belief that the parties involved should return to direct talks and refrain from acts that undermine confidence such as settlement building.

And on all of these issues, and many more, I’ve been struck by the commonality of interests between our nations. Though separated by thousands of miles we see eye to eye on all of the major issues affecting our security. And we’re both fortunate to have diplomatic, defence and intelligence communities which we’re prepared to use in defence of our joint, shared interests.

We look forward to the Commonwealth conference, the Heads of Government Meeting, in Perth later this year and to advocating steps to reinvigorate the Commonwealth in the future, something I’ve believed for a long time. So now I hope is the time that the common understanding between our nations will come ever more into its own and I’m convinced that the best days in the UK Australia relationship are still to come in the future.

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Published 19 January 2011