Turnbull talks ASIO warning, whaling in Japan

Turnbull talks ASIO warning, whaling in Japan

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has arrived in Tokyo for bilateral talks with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has arrived in Tokyo for bilateral talks with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

They are expected to focus on issues around trade, economic ties and investment.

And Mr Turnbull is also using the meeting to raise Australia's concerns about Japan's whaling plans.

Zara Zaher reports.

Malcolm Turnbull has hailed the start of his Japan tour, pointing to the opening talks with the country's corporate leaders and their focus on what he refers to as the "innovation agenda."

In a speech before meeting with his counterpart Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister also expressed Australia's disappointment over Japan's decision to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Japan had suspended the annual hunt after last year's International Court of Justice ruling that its actions do not qualify as scientific research.

Mr Turnbull says Australia is not alone in its disappointment at the change now.

"There is a very strong, very principled opposition in Australia and, indeed, in many other countries -- in New Zealand as well, in Britain, in the United States, in Brazil, there's a very long list -- there is very principled opposition to whaling, and it's important that we make that very clear. It is one of the few points of disagreement between Australia and Japan."

But Mr Turnbull's address to the press in Tokyo has largely focused on whether he asked the head of ASIO to request some Liberal MPs cool their language on terrorism and Islam.

Media reports have suggested the Director-General of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, had warned some remarks were potentially endangering national security.

The resulting criticism of Mr Lewis from some Coalition MPs and some media centred on accusations he may be interfering with the political process.

Mr Turnbull confirmed Mr Lewis spoke to two MPs, but he said neither had complained about being contacted.

The Prime Minister says he did not ask Mr Lewis to give advice to anyone in particular but has encouraged him to speak to as many people as he can.

"The reality is that we face a very big challenge on the terrorism front, and all of us -- prime ministers, ministers, members, senators, all of us -- have an obligation to keep ourselves informed. Nobody tells MPs or senators what to say. They can say what they like. That's their responsibility, right? They've got to make up their own mind. But we all have an obligation, I think, to make sure that we're well-informed."

He says Duncan Lewis has the authority to speak on national-security matters.

"He has actually fought against terrorism. He has led soldiers against terrorism. He is defending Australia today. He knows what he's talking about, and his advice should be heeded. When I say heeded, I mean listened to, respected. If people think that they know better, fine, let them do so. It's a free country. But from my point of view, as the prime minister, I rely on the advice of my security chiefs. And Duncan Lewis is ... in the counter-terrorism area and domestic security, his agency is the lead agency, ASIO."

Mr Turnbull was asked about a recent Australian air force flight over disputed maritime territory in the South China Sea where China is reportedly constructing military facilities.

He says Australia had no claims in the dispute.

"Whatever the merits of individual claims may be -- and Australia does not take a position on them -- our point is simply we all have a strong vested interest. Every single country, large or small, whether they're a claimant or not, we all have a vested interest in disputes being resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, and all claimants and all actors should aim to ensure that whatever they do does not exacerbate tensions and/or raise the risk of conflict."




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