SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG
LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Subjects: Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia; Australia’s relationship with India; Meeting of India’s Prime Minister and Ukraine’s President.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, what a scene. What a vibe. Thousands packing out Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney in an incredible reception for Indian PM Narendra Modi. For more, we’re joined by Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong in Sydney.
PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Namaste. Good morning. Good to be with you all. And you used the right word – it was energetic and vibrant. A wonderful celebration last night.
STEFANOVIC: What a reception. Yeah, it was an incredible reception.
FOREIGN MINISTER: It was an incredible reception, and a reminder of, you know, the vibrancy of our Indian diaspora. It’s our second largest diaspora, and as Prime Minister Modi described it, the beating heart of our relationship, the bridge between Australia and India. And that was really demonstrated in colour and movement last night.
STEFANOVIC: Brilliant. What business are we going to drive today? Will you play ball with the Indian PM’s wishes on Medicare recognising alternative medicines?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, look, you know, I’m not going to pre-empt the meeting, but I would say this: this is a really important relationship for Australia.
FOREIGN MINISTER: It’s a relationship that’s got a lot of momentum. We’ve got Prime Minister Modi here, which is really fantastic. Obviously Prime Minister Albanese went to India in March and they’ve just come back from the G7 and Quad meetings in Japan together. So I think Prime Minister Albanese said he’s met Prime Minister Modi six times since he was elected just over a year ago. So, you know, that demonstrates the importance of the relationship.
You know, we will look at all of the issues that are on the table. I’ve tried a bit of Ayurveda myself and found it very helpful.
STEFANOVIC: Oh, do say. Do tell. Not so much this morning.
FOREIGN MINISTER: No, probably not.
STEFANOVIC: I’ll call you later. I’ll call you later.
FOREIGN MINISTER: Yeah, yeah, okay. Maybe not on live TV.
STEFANOVIC: It’s good. It’s good. I’ve got you, Penny. Look, China’s not happy with all this, of course. The G7 meeting, calling it an anti-China workshop. Your response?
FOREIGN MINISTER: The G7 is an important forum internationally, a forum that goes to stability and peace, which is what all peoples of the world want. And we were pleased to be part of the group that was invited to the G7 and then, of course, to participate in the Quad meeting. So, look, I think this is a time where there’s a fair bit of competition in the world. Dialogue and engagement and agreeing to work together to support rules, open trade, openness, stability, prosperity, this is a good thing.
STEFANOVIC: Some sticking points, though, amongst the Modi lovefest. There are some challenges even with India. It’s gone soft on Russia.
FOREIGN MINISTER: There’s an historic relationship between India and Russia which, you know, we’re all aware of it. But I would note that Prime Minister Modi met with President Zelenskyy, and after that meeting, which was earlier this – just last week, President Zelenskyy welcomed India’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, which is the position Australia takes. We continue to stand with Ukraine, as do so many countries around the world.
STEFANOVIC: It wouldn’t have anything to do with coal, would it? I mean, why don’t they make more of our coal than Russia’s?
FOREIGN MINISTER: There’s an historic relationship which you’re aware of. But I think what’s important is the fact of and the meaning of Prime Minister Modi meeting with President Zelenskyy of the Ukraine. I think that sends a very important message, just as the continued support of Australia, other countries around the world and the whole of the G7 for Ukraine and its sovereignty against this illegal and immoral war that Russia is waging.
STEFANOVIC: Look, at the end of the day, the point is India does India and will look after itself on the world stage. Would you expect India to lend a hand if, say, we got in a stink with China?
FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, one of the reasons that this partnership is so important is that we are partners for peace and stability in the region. And, you know, we share those interests. I think countries look to their own national interests – Australia does, India does and China does, as do all countries of the region and the world. But what’s important here is we’ve got the world’s largest democracy, the world’s most populous nation – India – saying we want to partner with you and others to ensure an open and resilient Indo-Pacific – that is, an Indo-Pacific, a region, which is peaceful and stable. We share those interests, and India is such an important strategic partner for Australia, and we welcome Prime Minister Modi and his delegation to Australia.
STEFANOVIC: All right. Friday night, we’re going to have a date – we’re going to sample some Indian alternative medicines and watch some Bollywood films together.
FOREIGN MINISTER: There you go. Okay. Can’t wait.
STEFANOVIC: Thanks, Prime Minister, appreciate it.
SARAH ABO, HOST: Prime Minister. Well, you just elevated her.
STEFANOVIC: Elevating her, yeah. You never know what’s going to happen. I’ve just sampled already. Thanks, Penny. Good to see you.
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Authorised by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.