We can bring you a bit more now on Scott Morrison’s Japan trip, now that the transcript of his late-night doorstop has lobbed.
As you will see from the following exchange, the prime minister has been unable to clarify exactly what the two sides have agreed in order to get around a major sticking point in years of negotiations on the defence agreement: whether Australian Defence Force members may potentially face the death penalty if convicted of serious crimes such as murder while in Japan.
(Australia and Japan have agreed to a mechanism to resolve the issue on a case-by-case basis, the ABC reported. But precisely how this mechanism will operate has not yet been disclosed.)
JOURNALIST: Prime minister, under the Reciprocal Access Agreement, the in-principle agreement signed today, will Australian troops be subject to the death penalty in Japan?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we’ve been able to achieve is that Australia will meet all of its obligations under its international agreements in relation to that matter.
JOURNALIST: It’s a yes or no question – what’s the answer, sorry, I’m just not clear. That’s always been the hurdle in this over the death penalty.
PRIME MINISTER: No, we’ve been able to resolve it by ensuring that Australia could satisfy all of our international obligations in relation to that matter. And that has been a key factor for us as we work through this issue. And we’re pleased that that was able to be worked through with the Japanese government. And I thank both prime minister Suga and his predecessor, prime minister Abe, for getting to that point.
JOURNALIST: So there has been progress over the issue of the death penalty?
PRIME MINISTER: The progress of ensuring that Australia is able to meet its commitments under its international obligations, yes.
JOURNALIST: Can you just explain what that is?
PRIME MINISTER: That’s exactly what I just explained to you.
JOURNALIST: I’m not clear how the document sets that out?
PRIME MINISTER: It is satisfied in the series of documents which are now finalised as we move to the conclusion of the agreement, which we hope to be able to put in place next year.
JOURNALIST: So Australians won’t face the death penalty?
PRIME MINISTER: Australia will comply with all of their obligations in relation to the death penalty.
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