Australia, France sign agreements on military cooperation, cyberwar

Emmanuel Macron and Malcolm Turnbull have signed a series of agreements for closer military ties and cooperation on cyberwar, during the French leader's Australian visit.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has signed a number of agreements with Emmanuel Macron, as the French leader expressed support for an Australian-EU trade deal.

The two leaders, meeting in Sydney for bilateral talks, have agreed to the following: 

CANCER RESEARCH - A group of French research institutions will form a new international cancer research laboratory with Australia's Deakin University and the University of Tasmania.

QUANTUM COMPUTING - Australia and France have agreed to work together on ground-breaking research to develop a commercialised quantum silicon circuit in a deal between Australia's first quantum computing company and a world-leading French research organisation.

France's President Emmanuel Macron in Sydney.
Source: AAP

DEFENCE - The establishment of an annual Australia-France defence industry symposium, as part of a broader initiative between the two nations.

ENERGY - An agreement to develop, operate and supply renewable energy at a lower cost between French energy producer NEOEN and British-Australian renewable energy company SIMEC ZEN Energy.

TERRORISM - Australia has agreed to host the next international conference on terror financing in 2019, following on from a meeting in France last week.

CYBERSPACE - Co-operation on cybersecurity designed to combat threats to military and civilian networks.

EDUCATION - The University of Adelaide and France's ENSTA Bretagne will offer dual master's degrees in engineering, specifically in submarine and shipbuilding, under a new partnership between the institutions.

SPACE - A new partnership between the University of NSW and CNES to study a breakthrough hyperspectral remote-sensing satellite that will be capable of monitoring coral reefs in Australia and the South Pacific.

PACIFIC - Logistical support agreement between the Australian Defence Force and the French Armed Forces.

Macron backs Australia-EU trade deal

Australia's hopes of securing a free trade agreement with Europe have been boosted after Mr Macron expressed support for a deal. 

Mr Macron is in Sydney for a meeting with Mr Turnbull, who was in Europe last week meeting with other leaders to try to get the deal through.

Formal negotiations have yet to start on a deal which Australia hopes would remove tariffs on agricultural imports, but French farmers are opposed to such a move. 

France's President Emmanuel Macron at the Sydney Opera House.
Source: AAP

"We will keep a close eye on interests in the agricultural field ... but I have no doubt that we can find a mutually beneficial agreement," Mr Macron said at a joint media conference on Wednesday.

The pair also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Mr Turnbull said France is a Pacific ocean power that can work with Australia in building infrastructure and on humanitarian relief.

"We share the vision of a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific and will work closely to realise it, whether it is closer cooperation on maritime activities, support for our friends in the Pacific through humanitarian and disaster relief, support for infrastructure in the region," Mr Turnbull told reporters on Wednesday.

Reports that China was considering building a military base in Vanuatu had raised alarm bells, but China has since denied this. 

New Indo-Pacific axis

Mr Macron also underlined the strength of their partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, saying Australia and France were at the heart of a new Indo-Pacific axis to promote peace and stability in the region.

"I would very much like France, given it is the last European member of the EU being present in the Pacific after the Brexit ... to be at the heart of this project," Mr Macron said at the joint media conference with Mr Turnbull.

"This region is crucial for the stability of the world."

Mr Macron will travel to New Caledonia on Thursday to underline his commitment to the region.

Asked whether they discussed China's growing interest in the Pacific region, Mr Turnbull said further Chinese investment in the region was welcome.

But all players must be committed to maintaining the rules-based international order, whether they are "big fish, little fish or shrimps".

Emmanuel Macron and Malcolm Turnbull.
Source: AAP

Mr Macron said he had nothing against China, but there should be "balance" in the region.

"I think the Chinese rise is very good news for everybody," he said.

"What is important is to preserve ... necessary balances in the region and it's important with this new context not to have any hegemony in the region."

Vic Gov accuses PM of taking credit for deal on renewable energy

The Victorian Labor Government is upset at being left off the invitation list for a solar energy event attended by the two leaders, Fairfax Media reports. 

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Australia's Zen Energy and French renewable energy producer Neoen this morning.  

While the Victorian Government has been crucial to Neoen's business plans in Australia, offering it a major contract to supply clean energy to Melbourne's tram network, no representatives were invited to the ceremony.  

Victoria's Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D'Ambrosio told Fairfax: "Here is a government that is still talking about opening new coal-fired power stations, taking credit for a renewable energy project they haven’t put a cent into."

Published 2 May 2018 at 1:50pm, updated 2 May 2018 at 9:25pm