Interview with Bret Baier - Fox News

May 6, 2017
Transcripts

SUBJECTS: US Alliance; Immigration; North Korea; China; The Philippines  

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

The strength of our Alliance is enduring. It’s been built on millions of relationships, of connections between Australians and Americans over so many years. 100 years of mateship - ever since the Battle of Hamel 99 years ago, in every major conflict Australians and Americans have fought side by side.

Last night of course, we were commemorating the Battle of the Coral Sea, that moment in 1942 where brave Australian and American sailors and aviators turned the tide for war in the Pacific and saved Australia, and saved the Pacific for freedom. That was the turning point, the “hinge of fate” as Churchill described it.

BRET BAIER:

You’re very active with US forces, really all around the world.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep.

BRET BAIER:

In fact, military ties are one of the closest, with any other ally, that we have. So when that phone call happened and the coverage of it happened, it took people by surprise. When you saw that and heard that, what was your reaction?

PRIME MINISTER:

The call was courteous, it was frank and forthright as you would expect between very good friends. That’s how good friends should talk to each other, and the reporting was wildly exaggerated - as the President observed last night, and as he’s observed in the past. We are very close friends, Australians and Americans.

The President and I had our first meeting together in person, we have a lot of friends in common and we have similar backgrounds in business. We got on so well.

BRET BAIER:

The genesis of that phone call and the coverage of it had to do with the deal you struck with the Obama administration. The Trump administration is holding up to that deal.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, we thanked the President for his commitment to that.

BRET BAIER:

They didn’t like it. Clearly.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, clearly that’s right but we thanked them for their commitment to the arrangement we had with his predecessor.

BRET BAIER:

Some of the President’s supporters look at your immigration policy and say: “That’s what we want. That’s what we’d love to have” Your immigration policy essentially says if someone comes in illegally, they have to leave?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are a very, very multicultural society. We have achieved that with a remarkable degree of harmony. Now a foundation of that, is the public having absolute confidence that their government and their government alone, determines who comes to Australia, how long they stay, the terms and conditions on which they stay. That is our sovereign right and our sovereign responsibility. So we have a generous humanitarian program, but we say: “If you seek to come to Australia unlawfully, with a people smuggler, you will not succeed.” Full stop. That is absolutely, absolutely fundamental.

BRET BAIER:

You sympathise with the President on this issue? I mean he’s kind of selling it that way, as you talk about it.

PRIME MINISTER:

The proposition that the government elected by the people should decide who comes into a country and the terms on which they come, is fundamental. It’s a fundamental sovereign right of any nation.

BRET BAIER:

Your region is obviously a focus for the US, with all that’s happened with North Korea. Do you get a sense that the diplomatic efforts, economic pressure, diplomatic pressure, is having an effect in countries in your region, when it comes to North Korea? Is it moving the needle, especially with China?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Yes, I think it’s very clear that the North Korean regime’s reckless and dangerous provocation must stop. It is a real threat to peace and stability in the region and indeed in the world. The country with the greatest leverage on North Korea, by far, is China. The eyes of the world are on Beijing. Beijing has to bring that pressure to bear to stop this escalating threat to peace in the region.

And you have seen action on the part of China and you have seen the resentment, bitter resentment expressed by the North Korean government against China. I think that is actually a good sign, because it shows that China is bringing influence to bear on North Korea. ‘So far, so better’. There’s some progress being made but a lot of work needs to be done.

BRET BAIER:

It has always been, that getting China to move has been tough for the US, on this particular issue. Is this different this time?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well time will tell. I think it’s important to understand that North Korea is not a client state of China in the way say East Germany was of the Soviet Union. So the Chinese have found plenty of frustrations in dealing with North Korea over the years. They’ve endeavored to encourage Kim Jong Un’s father to follow the Chinese model of development. They didn’t have enough success there. They’ve had no success with the son.

Having said that, having said all of that, the reality is that the Chinese economic relationship is overwhelmingly the greatest with North Korea. It is, China has, the greatest leverage and therefore the greatest responsibility.

BRET BAIER:

You have a unique relationship with China, obviously do a lot of trade with them. Is China a partner or an adversary? Or both?

PRIME MINISTER:

(Laughs)

We have a very important economic relationship with China, but it’s a relationship that goes well beyond economics. It is built on thousands if not millions of people-to-people ties as well. Our largest, our most substantial economic relationship overall is with the United States. The United States is our ally. That alliance is the bedrock of our national security and it is vital, that alliance is vital for the security of Australia and the United States. So we have a good friend in Beijing and we have a strong, enduring ally in Washington.

BRET BAIER:

Your perception of President Trump? Do you think that he values personal relationships more than other world leaders?                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I wouldn’t like to compare him with other world leaders, but I would say that clearly he values personal relationships. He is a very warm leader, a very warm person, with a very personal approach. That’s been his business style, it’s something I understand very well. But we both understand the importance of trust and the importance of that personal human connection that is critical to strong relationships.

BRET BAIER:

When he invited the leader of the Philippines to the White House, Duterte, what was your take?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Philippines is a vitally important country, nation in our region, the Asia Pacific. We have strong ties with the Philippines on so many levels. Naturally the United States will be reaching out to and dealing with and connecting with all of the nations in the region. So of course.

BRET BAIER:

The criticism was that it wasn’t projecting, standing up for Western values in the region.

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter for the President to raise with his counterpart at the appropriate time, but the fact remains that it is in the national interest of my country, Australia, and indeed in the national interest of the United Sates to have strong engagement with all of the nations in the Asia Pacific. That includes of course, the Philippines.

BRET BAIER:

What keeps you up at night?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there’s plenty to worry about.

(Laughter)

I can tell you, it’s very important to give this advice to everybody, very important if you’ve got big decisions to make, to make sure you get your sleep. But no, in terms of the national security issues, the two that are most pressing at the moment are in my mind, the North Korean situation – which we’ve spoken about – and also the continued battle to destroy the terrorists in the Middle East and indeed, around the world. This struggle against terrorism, against this violent extremism, manifested not exclusively but substantially by ISIL or Daesh, the destruction of ISIL in the field is of vital importance for our safety at home in Australia, and here in the United States and right around the world.

BRET BAIER:

Mr Prime Minister, thanks for the time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ENDS]

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