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27 November 2013

Subjects: Australian-Indonesian relations; GST; school funding reforms. E&OE. PRIME MINISTER: Overnight, President SBY made a statement and I want to say that I welcome that statement. It was a very warm statement. It was a statement that was very positive about Australia. It was a statement which was about building a stronger relationship between Indonesia and Australia, which of course is my absolute objective too. What the President is proposing is that trusted envoys should meet in the next few days to resolve any outstanding issues in the relationship. I think thats a good way forward and Im going to reflect on the statement over the next day or so and then well be responding more fully but my objective, as always, is to have the strongest possible relationship with Indonesia. All in all, Indonesia is Australias most important relationship. President Yudhoyono has been a great President of Indonesia. Hes been a very good friend of Australia, and I look forward to continuing to work together with him to ensure that we bring something positive out of the difficulties of the last week or so. QUESTION: The President said youve promised not to do anything that disadvantages Indonesia or damage relations. Does that mean Australian authorities arent tapping his phone any longer? PRIME MINISTER: Well, what weve been obviously concerned to do is to ensure, as we always do, that Australian citizens are protected, that Australias interests are upheld, that Australias values are upheld, and a very important part of our interests and values is doing the right thing by Indonesia and theres been very close co-operation over quite a few years now in counterterrorism, more recently in people smuggling, and obviously, that
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relationship does depend on a great deal of intelligence sharing and I want to deepen and extend that in the weeks and months ahead. QUESTION: Would you support a code of ethics? PRIME MINISTER: Its very important that we bring a positive out of the difficulties of the last week or so, and thats my objective: to ensure that the relationship with Indonesia emerges stronger from this than it previously was. Weve had a very, very good relationship with Indonesia going back for many years; it was particularly strong under former Prime Minister Howard. Im determined to build on that and, as I said, to bring something positive out of the difficulties of the last week or so. QUESTION: What do you hope that behaviour protocols govern? PRIME MINISTER: What Id like to see in the future is some kind of a security round-table where we are more open with each other; where we build even stronger relationships of trust. I want Australia to be Indonesias trusted partner, just as I want Indonesia to be our trusted partner. QUESTION: The Presidents been calling for calm amongst the people of Indonesia today. How long do you want this to fester on? PRIME MINISTER: Obviously, I want this to be resolved as quickly as possible, but I want it to be resolved on a strong and lasting basis and thats why I want to reflect, for a short period of time, on the statement that the President made last night. Then the trusted envoys do need to sit down and work through some of these issues but as a result of this ongoing dialogue I want our relationship to be put on an even stronger and better footing in the future than its been in the past. I want Indonesia to be our trusted partner; I want Australia to be Indonesias trusted partner and while obviously this has been a stressful week or so, in all relationships there are difficulties as well as strengths. The important thing is to turn any difficult period into a stronger and more substantial relationship for the future. QUESTION: Just on your relationship with Indonesia, including the behaviour protocols, could that risk our bilateral relationships with other countries, like the United States? PRIME MINISTER: Oh, absolutely not. Ive always said that you dont make new friends by jettisoning the old ones. One of the things that Australia brings to all of its individual relationships is the strength of its other relationships. One of the reasons why Australia can be such a good partner of countries, like Indonesia, is because we have such other good partnerships such as our partnership with the United States.
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QUESTION: What does this mean with beef exports and the asylum seekers deals, are these no longer threats? PRIME MINISTER: Indonesia buys our products because theyre good products at the right price and nothing thats happened over the last few days will change that. So, Im very confident that our beef exports, amongst other things, will go from strength to strength in the years ahead because we are the obvious country to supply Indonesias growing middle class with the diet that they are increasingly going to demand. QUESTION: Dr Yudhoyono said that your letter pledged not to take any action which might damage or interfere with Indonesia. Please correct me if I'm wrong but that seems to leave the door wide open for phone tapping? PRIME MINISTER: I've never gone into the operational details of intelligence matters. I don't go into our details, the Americans don't go into their details, the Indonesians don't go into their details. No country does. The important thing is to use the difficulties of the last week or so to build something positive to build a stronger, more lasting and viable security relationship and that's what I'm determined to do. There's already an enormous amount of cooperation in this area but I think it can be even stronger in the future than it has been in the recent past. QUESTION: Just on another matter, your government, will you approve the state's push to lower the GST threshold? PRIME MINISTER: This is a matter for the states. The GST is essentially a state tax. My understanding is that the state treasurers are meeting together with Treasurer Joe Hockey today and let's see what comes from that meeting. My understanding is that the states are concerned to ensure that the retailing sector remains strong, that jobs in retail are protected. I think they're very important objectives. We do want a stronger retail sector, we do want to protect jobs in retailing and let's see what emerges from this meeting today. QUESTION: On Gonski, you said before the election that you were on a unity ticket. Is this statement a backflip? PRIME MINISTER: Just a couple of points on schools funding. It's become increasingly apparent that the former government utterly mismanaged this issue. They hadn't signed deals that they said they'd signed. They were treating some states very unfairly and it now turns out that they had ripped $1.2 billion out of school funding just before the election, in the pre-election fiscal outlook statement. So what we're determined to do is to absolutely honour our pre-election commitments. We will absolutely honour our pre-election commitments and we will have a school funding system which is both national and fair. QUESTION: Mr Pyne said in August you can vote Labor or Liberal and you will get exactly the same funding for your school. You're honouring that?
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PRIME MINISTER: We are absolutely honouring our pre-election commitments. In fact, we're going to do a little bit better. What we said before the election was that there would be the same quantum of funding the same quantum of funding under us as under the Labor Party. Now that we know that Labor ripped $1.2 billion out of school funding just before the election, we're going to put some of that back in. We're going to put an extra $230 million into school funding that wouldn't have been there had Labor won the election. QUESTION: Given you've said that you will honour your pre-election commitments and Mr Pyne said you will get exactly the same funding for your school, you're guaranteeing that no individual school will be worse off then? PRIME MINISTER: No, what we're saying is that we will absolutely honour our pre-election commitment and our pre-election commitment was that there would be exactly the same quantum of funding under the Coalition as under the Labor Party. What's now clear is that Labor had ripped $1.2 billion out of school funding in the pre-election fiscal outlook statement. This is Shorten's shambles, if you like. He hadn't signed the deals, he hadn't put in place a system that treated school students in different states the same and to top it all off, he ripped $1.2 billion out of the system. So we're going to put some of that money back in. There will be $230 million more under the Coalition for schools than there would have been under the Labor Party. QUESTION: Given you have said that you will honour pre-election commitments and he said that every school will get the same funding, but you're saying that it's the overall pot, I mean, if that's not a backflip how do you characterise the policy? PRIME MINISTER: The point I make is that we will keep our commitments. We will keep our commitments. One of the hallmarks of this Government will be that we keep our commitments. Now, the commitment we made was that there would be the same quantum of funding under the Coalition as under the Labor Party. I said to the voters of Australia before the election, "Vote for us and you will get the same quantum of school funding as you will get if you vote for the Australian Labor Party." Now it emerges that the Labor Party had ripped $1.2 billion out of schools in the pre-election fiscal outlook statement. We're going to actually do better than the Labor Party. We're going to do better than the Labor Party by putting an extra $230 million in so that not only will schools get next year what Labor promised them, but the schools that were ripped off for next year by Labor will have that funding restored. Thank you. [ends]

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