MINISTER PAYNE:  So good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you very much for being here today. It's been a very productive Fifth Foreign Strategic Dialogue here this morning in Beijing and following from our joint press conference earlier, this afternoon State Councillor Wang Yi had further discussions on some of our shared regional strategic concerns, particularly including the DPRK and progress towards a de-nuclearisation and our shared support for the multilateral trading system, which is subject of some discussion, as you'd be aware, and how we can further our cooperation in that area.

As part of what have now been some hours of discussions, which have been I think very productive and very constructive and really built on the meeting that we had in New York earlier this year.

We have also realistically acknowledged today that in a relationship as dynamic as ours, and countries which come from quite different cultural and political backgrounds, there will, from time to time be differences in any relationship. But what is important about that is how we manage those, and we are focused on managing them respectfully, mindful of the tremendous opportunities the relationship presents to both of our nations.

I also had a meeting this afternoon with the chair of the recently established China International Development Cooperation Agency, Chairman Wang Xiaotao. He has only been in the role since April of this year and it's a relatively new agency. So a good opportunity for me to derive a deeper understanding of some of the aims of the agency and how we might look to work together on shared priorities, including opportunities for trilateral cooperation, potentially.

So it's been a very productive day, it hasn't stopped yet. There's still more to do. A round table this afternoon and the 45 years reception this evening hosted by Her Excellency Ambassador Adams, which is a great opportunity to, also acknowledge the depth of the people-to-people history that that our two nations share, and I would be happy to take a couple of questions.

REPORTER:  Minister, Wang Yi said this afternoon that Australia and China agreed to a trilateral approach in the Pacific. Can you elaborate on that, on what was agreed to today?

MINISTER PAYNE: Sure. We think there is some powerful opportunities for us to share skills and experience if you like. And we already have a tangible example of where that is working well.  That is a project which we do trilaterally with Papua New Guinea on malaria and in terms of delivering health outcomes it's reflective of both of our focuses. Australia obviously makes a very significant contribution in international development support to Papua New Guinea.

I've most recently been focused on the polio outbreak that is widely reported, in fact Australia made a small additional contribution to their response efforts in that recently. So I think there is enormous room for us to work together in that regard and the malaria project itself provides us with a good template.

REPORTERWould it likely include infrastructure projects? Neither yourself or Minister Wang Yi mentioned the term Belt and Road Initiative, but is this what we are talking about, trilateral cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative, Australia's new Pacific fund and specifically Pacific nations.

MINISTER PAYNE:  I think what your question answers, in some ways, is the breadth of opportunity that is available not just in infrastructure, but more broadly.  Which is why I used a health example. So certainly we have both been responsive to what is a very significant infrastructure need across the Pacific, and we know that ensuring that we have established solid infrastructure support in the Pacific leads to prosperity, leads to stronger economies for those countries, and we're very focused on that.

But it is much broader than that. And so the potential we think, crosses a range of sectors, health is one example. The Chair of the International Development Cooperation Agency this afternoon referenced education as another example, and we know that educating a community, if you like, and the opportunity to derive internationally accredited standards in training and education is something Australia has been very focused on for a long time.

We used the older Australian Council for Technical Education and now the Training Coalition, the Australia Pacific Training Coalition for that.  So a lot of room to work together and a lot of room to use complementary skills.  

REPORTERMinister, did the Chinese side raise the recent blocking, for example, Huawei from 5G and more recent case with CK?  Did the Chinese side raise these as concerns and what sort of discussion did you have around that issue, more specifically around sensitive Chinese investments in Australia?

MINISTER PAYNE:  Well, I think I've already answered your question once today, but it's similar answer to the one I gave you before, which is our strong welcoming of Chinese investment in Australia and that is confirmed by the numbers, again, some of which I spoke about earlier.  We spoke about CK particularly because of today's statement by the Treasurer.

REPORTEROnce again, I'd like to repeat an earlier question, you said you raised the situation in Xinjiang.  Can you give us any more specific details?  Did you raise up those cases, previously of Australian citizens temporarily being held in detention centres there? Do you have anymore detail?

MINISTER PAYNE:  I have said earlier when you asked me that question that we did discuss the issue and we exchanged views on that. I'm not going to go into the details of the discussion, but I will refer you to the statement we've made in relation in relation to the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council and the public statements that I've made before.

REPORTERDid the Chinese side raise the CK issue, or the CK decision, or did Australia proactively explain their decision.

MINISTER PAYNE:  I'm sorry. I'm not going to go necessarily into the details of who did and said what.  I think that could take us a very long time, but suffice it to say that I have reinforced our interest in and support for Chinese investment in Australia. I've also said in response to the statement that was made by the Treasurer today, that it's an assessment made about aggregation, it's an assessment made about the size of the business that was the focus of this potential investment and I think the Treasurer has set out his reasons very well.

REPORTER:  Is it true that Beijing has asked Australia to reconsider the Huawei decision?

MINISTER PAYNE:  I'm not going to go into the details of conversations of that nature, but we have been very clear about the way in which we made our decision around 5G.  Clear in terms of its focus on Australia's national interest and the expectation that I think all Australians would have, that when we invite companies into our systems, and particularly into a communication system, their first priority should be Australia's national interest because that was most certainly the Government's first priority. I continue to reinforce that message and that position hasn't changed.

REPORTERWhen you met the Chairman of the International Development Agency which I think is the oversight agency for the Belt and Road Initiative.  Did he talk to you about international standards or required any reassurance to Australia about concerns about debt burdens on other countries?

MINISTER PAYNE:  We had a very good conversation and a range of discussions around where we see our focuses in development assistance.  I've been fairly clear, I think, about what I expect to say delivered from Australia's engagement in development activities in our region and more broadly.  My focus is on three key issues; on security, on stability, and on prosperity. And we should be ensuring that whatever way to deliver in terms of development assistance addresses those three factors plus the broad of international standards and transparency for which are the expectations of development assistance.  I would say that not just in relation to Australia, but in relation to any country engaged in those activities, they're views that I've reinforced in all of my conversations in recent months.

REPORTERMinister, it has been acknowledged many times that there have been strains in the relationship. Obviously the fact that you're here means things have changed substantially. Is there a mechanism or have you talked through what's to stop another issue coming up and it causing problems? People have different views, is there a mechanism you've got for talking it through or what's to stop something else coming up that could cause a problem?

MINISTER PAYNE:  Well I think that's a really interesting question, Glenda, because effectively you could insert name of country here.  No two countries have the same identical views on every issue for all time. So there are from time to time going to be issues that rub are in relationships and this one is no different.  But what both the State Councilor Wang and I have said today is that effective and strong communication between ourselves and between our governments and the opportunity to work through those issues. Whatever they might be. From a premise of mutual respect is a very good place to start and I'm not being glib when I say that that could apply to any country.  It's the reality we have differences with our allies, our partners, our counterparts, our neighbours.  That is the case in the annals of history and in current terms and what we must make sure that we do is address those constructively, courteously, respectfully and as I say, from a premise of mutual respect and I think the State Councilor and I are absolutely agreed on that position today.

Thanks, everyone.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555