SABRA LANE: For more about that and other issues I was joined earlier by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne.
Marise Payne, thanks for joining AM. Do you share John Howard’s view about the Hong Kong protesters? He says they’re inspirational.
MARISE PAYNE: Well I think first and foremost, I would say that we are very concerned by the increasing riots and urgently encourage restraint on both sides and that’s something that I said in recent weeks. It’s so important for the viability of the one country two systems approach which I suspect John Howard was referring to and many of us have noted in recent weeks, that these tensions be resolved peacefully. It does give Hong Kong its very special character, its autonomy, and we, as Australia, have a substantial stake in Hong Kong’s success and we really value those unique advantages and freedoms that the system gives us. Most importantly-
SABRA LANE: [Interrupts] Mr Howard- I was going to say, Mr Howard says he thinks that the world is seeing here a glimpse into the future in the face of an increasingly authoritarian regime under President Xi. What do you think?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I think that every circumstance is different to be frank, and we’ve been watching this develop over some weeks. We’ve observed the authorities in Hong Kong withdraw the bill that was of initial concern, but these issues continue. So in terms of their resolution, we’re very focussed on encouraging them to be resolved peacefully. We are also very careful in ensuring that Australians are exercising their own safety precautions as they travel and certainly using common-sense when they’re visiting Hong Kong.
SABRA LANE: What is your message to the demonstrators and to Chinese Australians who might be involved?
MARISE PAYNE: Well we, again, as I said, we have such a substantial stake in Hong Kong – there are about 100,000 Australians who are part of a very large diaspora there and our message is to, I guess, acknowledge the importance and the value of the one country, two systems approach and to ensure that in actions that are being taken that that is being preserved. But also that those who are, on both sides of this divide, are working with restraint and are trying to resolve tensions peacefully, that is obviously a far preferable step.
SABRA LANE: More than $36 billion was wiped from the Australian share market yesterday as China devalued its currency. It says because- it’s done that in face of the new tariffs imposed by Donald Trump. How rough could this trade war become?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, it’s no secret that the US-China trade tensions are very serious. And we have been concerned in talking with both sides, again, of that engagement to encourage a resolution in a way that is WTO consistent. For us, it’s very important that we’re reinforcing the open rules-based trading system, which has stood by us so well for so many years. And ensuring that it doesn’t undermine the interests of others, including Australia. There are legitimate concerns expressed by the United States, and I reinforced this on Sunday with Secretary of State Pompeo, particularly around IP theft, around forced technology transfer, around industrial subsidies. That’s not to say that the rules-based system, the WTO system is perfect. There are aspects which need to be updated, which need to be able to adequately respond to changing technologies, the rise of large emerging economies and changing patterns of trade. But our prosperity, and that of all of our partners in the Indo Pacific, that depends strongly on the maintenance of an open, global economy and a rules-based trading system. So very much encourage the parties to resolve this in a way that is consistent with the rules and then we will be working on the rules as well that need changing.
SABRA LANE: China was pretty miffed over the talks that Australia held with the US on the weekend. The embassy here issued a statement saying that the US carried our groundless attacks and slanders and that it’s sowing the seeds of discord in the South China Sea, and also had a go at Australia about the anti-China innuendo in that joint statement.
MARISE PAYNE: Well I absolutely stand by the joint statement and I think for those who have an interest in these issues, it’s an affirmation of the basis of the Australia-US alliance across so many areas of endeavour. And that was absolutely also the basis of our talks in Sydney all day on Sunday, both mine and Senator Reynolds, the Defence Minister’s engagements with our counterparts, Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper, and also the Prime Minister’s discussions with both Secretaries. What it showed for us was that it’s very important that when Australia is speaking, we are speaking and acting in our national interest, and that means we have to be transparent with the Australian public about our foreign policy. So there will be issues on which from time to time, we disagree with China. From time to time, frankly, we disagree with the United States. But it’s how you handle those differences that is important and we’re very focussed on both of our relationships, it’s not a binary choice. We’re very focussed on working together, where we are engaged with both. But the US alliance underpins our security, has for decades, is the cornerstone of our security. And in a very challenging strategic environment, and you’ve raised some of those issues already is very important for us to have this strong, open communication between the two of us.
SABRA LANE: Minister, thanks for your time this morning.
MARISE PAYNE: Thanks very much Sabra.
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