We’ve just had the honour of hearing President Barack Obama deliver his last address to the United Nations General Assembly as the President of the United States. He gave a powerful and impassioned defence of liberal democracy. He made the case for freedom around the world, he made the case for the rule of law, he made the case for open markets, he made the case for free trade and he described the dead end that protectionism represents. He described the way in which we must not allow fear of open markets, fear of the world in fact, to take us backwards into poverty, to turn back the economic progress that he described so eloquently. He summed it up beautifully I think when he said: “countries that seek to build a wall imprison only themselves”. That is why Julie and I, here and wherever we are, around the world or at home, make the case for our economic plan which has at the centre, open markets and free trade. Because we know that has provided continuing economic growth in Australia, the envy of the developed world, 3.3 per cent. It provides that continuing economic growth, and leaders like Barack Obama and those at the G20, here at the United Nations, understand that we have to make that case, and we have to do a better job of explaining it and selling it and promoting it too. Barack Obama challenged us all to do that, but it’s absolutely critical.
Now in terms of the Summit later today, which I’ll be attending with Peter Dutton, who is here in New York as well of course, on refugees, let me say that you can see that our ability to deliver a generous humanitarian programme – the third most generous humanitarian programme in the world, the third largest in the world – our ability to do that is underpinned by secure borders. Because we are able to say that we decide who comes into Australia and how long they stay, because we have control of our borders, we are able to deliver that generous humanitarian programme. We’re able to deliver that with the support of the Australian people.
This morning I attended the International Syria Support Group meeting co-hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. There was a unanimous view in the room that the ceasefire must hold in Syria. There was an acknowledgment that there are spoilers, there are those in Syria who want to see this ceasefire fail. However there was an absolute resolve of all present that we must do whatever we can to cease hostilities in Syria so that the humanitarian work can be undertaken. Australia’s position is that all options should be on the table to ensure the cessation of hostilities and that a ceasefire must be in place so that the humanitarian relief can be supplied.
We have adjourned the meeting for a couple of days, it will reconvene possibly Thursday afternoon or Friday morning at which time we expect to have a plan in place to ensure that in Syria, the parties to this conflict can deescalate, and the humanitarian work - which of course is leading to the outflow of displaced people and those who are seeking to flee this conflict – can come to an end. So, there was a determination to resolve the Syrian conflict. It will not be easy, but Australia is part of finding a solution to ensure there can be a negotiated path to peace in Syria.