24 September 2019




SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS SENATOR PENNY WONG: I was here just a short while ago with the Leader of the Opposition, the Labor Leader Anthony Albanese. In this visit, I met with the ASEAN Secretary-General; I also met with the Minister for National Development and Planning Bambang Brodjonegoro. I met with members of civil society, some women in politics, and I’m having a lunch with the business community shortly. As you might recall, on my last trip with the Leader of the Opposition, I met with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Obviously the speech today focused on the strategic competition in the region, and our view that it’s very important that countries like Australia and Indonesia are shaping the outcome and encourage a settling point between China and the United States, which is consistent with the sort of region we want.

I’m happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

WONG: Look, I was asked that question in there. And I think like-minded nations of the region can work with like-minded nations of the region on matters where we share views and we share our interest. And I see the quad in that way, just as I see cooperation between Australia and Indonesia and other nations in relation to illegal fishing to be important. I think the quad should obviously operate within the context of the existing regional architecture, in particular, ASEAN centrality. I think we would support plurilateral engagement in the region that is about shaping the sort of region we want.

JOURNALIST: Could you give a comment regarding China’s invasive actions in the South China Sea and how that impacts the stability in the region?

WONG: I think in the speech I spoke about matters around China’s behaviour that we and others have raised concerns about, they include militarisation, the unilateral actions in relation to the South China Sea. As you know, Australia doesn’t take a position in relation to the territorial claims, we have a bipartisan view, in relation to the South China Sea. We don’t take a position on the territorial claims. We urge that these matters be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.

We urge all parties not to engage in unilateral actions which pre-empts outcomes. We have also raised concerns, on a bipartisan basis, on the militarisation features in the South China Sea.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia, is there an opportunity or potential for a relationship in the midst of the crisis between US and China; for the two countries specifically?

WONG: I think the strategic competition between the US and China means cooperation between Australia and Indonesia, and other countries in the region, has become even more important and I think my speech went to that point. We can either navigate the consequences of strategic competition or we can try and shape the outcome; and we should try and shape the outcome as best we are able.

JOURNALIST: How can Indonesia and Australia work together to shape that outcome?

WONG: Well, I think a good starting place is the ASEAN outlook statement that I know Indonesia, and your Foreign Minister was very involved in, which talked about the nature of the region as well as architecture. I think that does give greater scope to more cooperation.

JOURNALIST: What is your view on the possible minilateralism between Indonesia, Australia and India? Because I think I heard from Mr Gary Quinlan, the Australian Ambassador – the Prime Minister already talks with Joko Widodo about this sort of potential.

WONG: I think that would be valuable. And I think those sort of minilateral arrangements in different constellations are precisely what I’m speaking about; cooperation around mutual interests, common interests to help shape the sort of region we want.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

WONG: Are you a journalist too now?

JOURNALIST: I didn’t get a chance. I want to know your perspective about the cyber security of things, because you mentioning about US-China (inaudible). You can see it very clearly in the 5G, and like technology adoption and internet, the openness and the freedom of the Internet, and how do you see it? For Indonesia – right? We are hoping that we can manage or keep our free and active foreign policy. So having to choose between the west and the east, US and China will make it quite difficult for us. But if you don’t choose the kind of like, the fears are not going to be (inaudible). We’re not going to have the smart cities. What do you think?

WONG: Well, first, Australia made its own decision relation to 5G and that has bipartisan support. But what you’re actually talking about is in part what I was referencing in the speech where I talked about the challenge around the difficulty with the notion of economic decoupling. The reality is that both nations are deeply integrated into global supply chains. China is deeply integrated into global supply chains. So the notion of decoupling is challenging. I think there’s a separate issue, which is around standards and behaviours. And our Government has been part of statements about cyber security, and the expectations and behaviours of all countries, in terms of ensuring that cyber security is observed.

Are there anymore journalists who want a question?

JOURNALIST: One more question, how does Australia and Indonesia navigate the ongoing trade war which has been going for more than a year? Indonesia and Australia are both located near to China, trading with China. So how do we manage it?

WONG: The first point is no one wins from a trade war and we should continue to assert that. There are consequences for Australian jobs, there are consequences for Indonesia’s economy, there are consequences for the regional and the global economies.

So we should continue to assert that to both the US and to China.

The second point I would make and this is an Australian point. We have our Prime Minister currently in the United States. I think a key performance indicator for his trip would be whether or not he succeeded in expressing concerns that Australia has about the trade war to the Trump administration. Whether he has encouraged the US administration to take an approach to the trade conflict, which is more conducive to Australia in the global interest. I think he’s failed on that. And I think he’s engaging in distractions at the moment when it comes to WTO reform, which we all support.

What I would say about what we can do together. We are both substantial economies, Indonesia will be amongst the world’s largest economies by the mid-century. So we both have a place we both have a place at the table, we should continue to assert that this trade war between these two great powers is not in our people’s interest.

Okay, thank you very much. Last one.

JOURNALIST: Do you see the US and China being strategic allies in the foreseeable future?

WONG: That would be nice to have more cooperation in the world, but I suspect we have to build that. Thank you very much.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.