PRIME MINISTER:

I’m here with the Foreign Minister to make some remarks about the South China Sea arbitration that was - the judgement of which was released last night, but before I do that, I want to report to you in case you've missed it that the Member for Herbert Ewen Jones has taken the lead in the count for the seat of Herbert. Now of course it's too early to be entirely definitive about the final outcome but we are confident, optimistic, that Ewen's lead will grow as the final thousands of votes are counted, which would mean that we would have a majority of 77 in the House of Representatives. We are very, very confident of having a majority of 76 and if Ewen succeeds involving the seat of Herbert which it appears he will do, we will have 77 which is a very solid working majority in the House of Representatives. And so I want to – on that note, once again, thank all of our candidates, all of our colleagues, especially my Deputy, Julie Bishop, and the thousands of volunteers that worked so hard to contribute to our election win in this very long campaign and indeed very long count. Nonetheless, the result has been the return of the Coalition Government, the return of our Government and it is the first time since 2004 that an Australian Government has been returned with a majority. So it’s been quite a while since that occurred.

Now the Senate count is of course ongoing and will take some time to be completed, as it always does. As you can imagine with the new voting system it will probably take a little longer than usual particularly in the larger states. While we do have a majority or will have a majority in the House of Representatives we will work openly and constructively with all of the crossbenchers in both Houses. This is going to be a very constructive Parliament, the 45th Parliament – we’re committed to ensuring it is constructive – we’ll engage with all parties, all Members and Senators in the national interest. We are determined to ensure that the Parliament works for all Australians.

Now in terms of this week we’re back in Canberra. On Monday I met with Martin Parkinson, as you saw, to get down to work on implementing the policies we took to the election. He of course is the head of the Australian Public Service and the Secretary of my department. The execution, the implementation of our national economic plan is absolutely critical to secure Australia’s security, to secure Australia’s prosperity. On the matter of security yesterday the National Security Committee of Cabinet met and we received situational updates from our Defence National Security and Border Protection officials. This was important to do following the end of the caretaker period especially given the current uncertainty and significance of many events in the world today.

In the course of the week and today, I’ve been meeting with the National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Julie and I and Barnaby and Fiona Nash will be meeting later today as we discuss the arrangements between the Coalition and how we’re working together in the new parliament to pursue our legislative agenda.

Now let me now move to the decision of the arbitration decision announced last night. This Tribunal, as you know, is established in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is a codification of international maritime law. It was established so that countries can resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law. The UN convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Arbitral Tribunal are absolutely crucial elements of the international rules based order which underpins peace, stability and prosperity around the world but especially in our part of the world for decades. All of us, all countries large and small have benefitted enormously from this system which facilitates trade and enables disputes to be resolved in accordance with rules rather than by coercive means.

Now as Julie has said and we have both said on many occasions we have no position on the competing claims for sovereignty. We have no claims of our own. But we insist that it is absolutely vital that all countries abide by international law, settle disputes peacefully and in the context of this particular dispute, that has been the subject of the decision last night that both countries abide by the decision of the tribunal. It is an important test case for how the region can manage disputes peacefully. It is an opportunity for all parties in the region to come together and for claimants to re-engage in dialogue with each other based on greater clarity around maritime rights.

So both of us have been urging claimants to refrain from coercive behaviour and any unilateral actions designed to change the status quo in the disputed areas. As I have said many times, every nation in our region has benefitted enormously from the many, many decades of relative peace and tranquillity in this region. It is vital that that is maintained. There is so much at risk in the event of conflict, in the event of heightened tensions, so this is an important decision, it is one that has been made in accordance with international law and it should be respected by both parties and indeed by all parties and all claimants. Julie do you want to add to that?

FOREIGN MINISTER:

Yes thank you Prime Minister. As the Prime Minister indicated Australia has consistently said that we take no position on the competing claims. On the issue of sovereignty of course this decision did not relate to sovereignty, it's about maritime rights. We do however have a deep interest in the peace and stability of the South China Sea and it is an important trade route for Australia. It is also a very important maritime route globally and so we urge all claimants - because there are a number of competing and overlapping claims in relation to the South China Sea - to resolve their differences peacefully, to negotiate and in the case of the Philippines arbitration, for both parties, China and the Philippines, to respect the outcome of that decision. It is final, it is binding and it now gives deep clarity on the international law as applicable to the South China Sea.

We will be discussing this matter at the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum which has been convened for the 25th and 26th of July. I intend to attend that meeting or that series of meetings where this discussion will take place. In the meantime we urge all parties to de-escalate tensions, not take any action that would provoke or increase tensions.

I am rather surprised to hear Stephen Conroy talk about military action at this point. That is in stark contrast to the statements of the Shadow Foreign Minister and the Shadow Attorney-General. Quite frankly if the claimants were to follow that advice they would be further apart from negotiating a solution rather than doing what the Australian Government urges and that is bringing the parties together to negotiate an outcome.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister what is your message to Australian businesses and consumers who feel a bit shaken their confidence shaken by both the China situation and by Brexit?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the economy is strong and the stability and the prospects for our economy are very good. But there are, as I've said many times during the campaign, always the prospect of shocks, some anticipated, some not. That is why it is important to have a strong and resilient economy in Australia that is able to respond to that effectively. That's why it's important to have strong economic leadership. We do have that now our Government has been returned with a majority - that's very important - and we have a clear economic plan that we will now implement and work with the whole of the Parliament to deliver.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you're now confident of having 77 seats. Since July 2 there's been a lot of discussion competing claims about who has got a mandate. What mandate do you claim after this election and what are the priorities that you want to get on with now that caretaker government has finished?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I know that Mr Shorten's attempt at a victory lap might have misled you but we have actually won the election. That's the mandate. We’ve won the election. We have a majority in the House of Representatives.

JOURNALIST:

And priorities?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well our priorities are as we have set out. We have a Budget we went to the election with the Budget. We also have of course, I remind you of the commitment we made to amend the Fair Work Act, to ensure that volunteer organisations like the CFA in Victoria, can't be subordinated to unions in the way that is being proposed or pushed by the Andrews government in Victoria. But the priorities are of course the Budget and the economic measures that are contained therein.

JOURNALIST:

You've said that you have a mandate for your economic plan and for the Budget. Does that mean you will countenance no changes to the Government's superannuation policies?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will be presenting our Budget, our Budget measures in the same manner that we took them to the election. And obviously we don't have a majority in the Senate and plainly, as you know there is always debate and sometimes compromise in this place, but we took a very clear set of policies to the election, we campaigned on it very clearly and that's what we'll be presenting.

JOURNALIST:

What attitude will you bring to the shaping of the ministry next week or maybe there after when it comes to for example including Richard Colbeck when the decision in Tasmania is still? And secondly can I ask a separate question to Julie Bishop about what Australia is doing to bring home the body of Jamie Bright who's body is still, has been stuck in northern Syria since the end of April?

FOREIGN MINISTER:

In relation to the Syrian matter you will be aware that we do not have an embassy in Damascus. It is very difficult for Australia to provide any sort of consular support in Syria and we've made that very clear through our Smart Traveller advice and to anyone travelling overseas - we warned people not to go to Syria so there is a limit to what Australia can do, however we are working with other authorities in other nations in the region to assist where we can but I can assure you that our consular staff are well aware of this matter and we're doing what we can.

PRIME MINISTER:

In terms of the ministry, we have party meetings on Monday and I expect to announce the new ministry, shortly thereafter.

JOURNALIST:

Will they be subject to the result in Tasmania?

PRIME MINISTER:

You'll have to wait until the announcement.

JOURNALIST:

When you had the briefing from Dr Parkinson or before, has there been any update on the likely revenue projections and I ask this in the context of Standard & Poor’s ratings and the question of whether the Government will chase down any decline in revenues in terms of its Budget bottom line?

PRIME MINISTER:

The briefings that I’ve received - the incoming Government brief - is obviously confidential. Perhaps the best way to describe it, we are in a volatile global economic environment, I have no reason to doubt the revenue forecasts that were with set out in the Budget not very long ago and confirmed in the PEFO but plainly there are a lot of factors in the global environment which impinge upon Australia's economic performance and indeed revenues of Government both for good or ill.

JOURNALIST:

On the numbers that you mentioned 77, do you agree that the Nationals are entitled to two more ministers?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, as my esteemed predecessor and mentor John Howard said, politics is governed by the iron laws of arithmetic and plainly the Nationals have a larger percentage of the Coalition party room after the election than they did beforehand and the answer to that is yes. But all of those details will become available when we announce the ministry. But we have a very strong, very close relationship with the Nationals - it is a very, very tight Coalition. I won't foreshadow those announcements.

JOURNALIST:

You've said that the Budget has a mandate and you're putting that to the parliament. What about non-Budgetary matters such as the ABCC and the plebiscite on same-sex marriage?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of our policies that we took to the election we will deliver and obviously those that need legislative approval we will seek to obtain that from both houses - we won't have a majority in the Senate obviously. The ABCC and registered organisations bills under the section 57 mechanism first have to go back to the House of Representatives - then to the Senate. And then if they are not passed in the Senate, then they go to a joint sitting of the House and the Senate. If they're passed in the Senate then there's no need for the joint sitting. Of course that was the reason you all endured an eight week campaign, as indeed Julie and I did, was because of the need to comply with the deadlock breaking provisions of section 57. That's what the double dissolution was all about and the same applies of course to the plebiscite.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask the Foreign Minister - just to clarify the Australian Defence Force has carried out freedom of navigation exercises quite frequently through the South China Sea but we have not gone close to the artificial structures that China claims? Stephen Conroy's urging you to do that. Is there any chance you will actually do that?

FOREIGN MINISTER:

Stephen Conroy is urging an escalation of tensions. What he is urging would inevitability lead to an escalation of tensions were it to be followed. I think that's a highly irresponsible call at this point. The decision was handed down yesterday. A number of nations are absorbing the detail of it and analysing what it means more generally. It was a very clear decision but the Australian Defence Force will continue to exercise the international rights of freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight as we have done in the past but other than that I wouldn't go into the details of ADF operations. We don't do that and we're not about to start.

PRIME MINISTER:

Stephen Conroy is steaming in a direction all of his own. Everybody else in the region is calling for calm, consideration. I think one our ASEAN neighbours called for sobriety in the way in which the decision was absorbed and considered. Only Senator Conroy appears to be calling for an escalation of tensions. I'm relieved that Mr Shorten and the Shadow Foreign Minister are not taking the same approach.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have an expectation of how your relationship with Theresa May will be?

PRIME MINISTER:

In anticipation I congratulate Theresa May on becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Julie and I both, we are delighted that she has succeeded in this process. We are sad that David Cameron has chosen to resign. He's done an outstanding job for Britain and for the world. He has been a great leader for the United Kingdom and a great world leader.

JOURNALIST:

Do you see a good working relationship?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. We will have a very strong working relationship - yes, absolutely. The ties between the United Kingdom and Australia are as close as any two countries could be really. We have very close ties in every single respect. There is a lot of work to be done in the negotiations of a range of particularly trade arrangements and others arrangements following the consequences of Brexit but I'm very confident that that will be - all of those things will be put in train as you know, we'll be discussing this with our friends in New Zealand. I'll be meeting with John Key shortly, once John is back from the Northern Hemisphere and it is - the British people have made a momentous decision, it's a momentous and historic decision. I believe that Theresa May will be, will do a great job, an outstanding job in leading Britain through this process, which they will find challenging from time to time but it's one the people have taken and which everyone respects both the British Government and their friends and allies around the world.

JOURNALIST:

Does the same-sex marriage plebiscite remain part of the Coalition agreement? And also, why should the Australian public trust you, if you and Barnaby Joyce won't make the Coalition agreement public?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just say to you the agreement between the National and the Liberal Party’s is all about process and the practical working arrangements between two parties. Our policies are in the platform we took to the election. So if you want to know what our agreement on policies are, you look at our election platform - please let me finish - look at our election platform. Any changes to policy or any policies are made in the normal way by the Cabinet and then endorsed by the Coalition party room in the normal way. So we have a - it is a very close collaborative arrangement and Julie and I and Fiona and Barnaby have a very close relationship, as we do between all the Liberal and all the National Members and Senators.

JOURNALIST:

So will Barnaby Joyce’s Regional Investment Corporation get off the ground and will that be funded by and administered by his own Department of Agriculture?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of our election commitments will be delivered. That's our commitment. Where they need to be legislated we'll obviously require the support of the Senate but I can assure you that we have a very, very comprehensive, and very complete and well considered election platform, if you want to know what our policies are - there they are. That's what we took to the election. They're our policies. Any changes and of course new policies will be developed as time goes on as they always are. They are made by the Cabinet, Nationals and Liberals in the Cabinet together, and then endorsed by the Coalition party room. So thank you all very much.

E&OE…