Speeches by Prime Ministers Rutte and Abbott

Rutte Abbott
Australian PM Tony Abbott and Dutch PM Mark Rutte discuss flight MH17, Aug. 12, 2014 (Photo: Karel van Oosterom/Twitter)Australian PM Tony Abbott and Dutch PM Mark Rutte discuss flight MH17, Aug. 12, 2014 (Photo: Karel van Oosterom/Twitter)

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte travelled to Australia Thursday after meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak in Kuala Lumpur. He is meeting with Australian PM Tony Abbott. Discussions with both leading politicians are focused on the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which departed Amsterdam en route to Malaysia, but met with catastrophe in the skies over eastern Ukraine. Dutch casualties neared 200 in the July incident, and significant numbers of Malaysians and Australians were also on the flight that left 296 dead.

The fights against ISIS, terrorism, and jihadism are on Thursday's meeting agenda, along with talks on international relations and cooperation. Prime Minister Rutte is also scheduled to meet with Dutch entrepreneurs working in Australia.

Remarks by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott:

I’m really thrilled to welcome Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, here to Parliament House and to Australia.

Mark and I have become very good friends over the last 12 months. Our friendship has been forged in some difficult circumstances, but it's become close and deep through the work we did together on MH17 and I suspect we will be working together in the future, not just on that, but on some national and international security issues as well.

Australia and Holland go back a long way – almost 400 years in fact – to Dirk Hartog's landing on the west coast of Australia.

In more recent times, we worked very closely together in Uruzgan Province. Australians, let's face it, were based at Camp Holland in Tarin Kowt. We were then thrown together to respond to the MH17 atrocity and I want to thank Prime Minister Rutte for the leadership that he has shown, particularly in coordinating the ongoing criminal investigation into this particular matter.

We are both wrestling with the difficulty of extremism – potential terrorism – at home and abroad. Holland, like Australia, has too many of its citizens fighting with terrorist groups in the Middle East and the Netherlands, like Australia, is an active member of the coalition to disrupt and degrade the ISIL death cult in Iraq.

So, there's much else that I could say. We have a strong economic relationship. The Netherlands is one of the largest institutional investors in Australia after the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, perhaps by some measures the largest institutional investor in Australia.

So, it's a good relationship; it's getting stronger all the time. As Mark said to me earlier today, physically we are many thousands of miles apart, but emotionally and spiritually we're next door neighbours. I think that is a very good description of the strength of the relationship between Australia and the Netherlands.

Remarks by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte:

Thanks, Tony. Let me also stress the fact that we started to work together earlier this year when we met in Davos and we met again in Normandy, but nobody could have expected the fact that we would work so closely together since the terrible tragedy of MH17.

Many Australians were lost in this flight – in this terrible tragedy. Also, the Dutch community in Australia was hit hard. A considerable number of the Dutch victims lived here in Australia, and I think this is also testament to the close bond between our two countries and I would like to take this opportunity to again express my appreciation for the very close cooperation between our two countries, our services, the two armies, the police people, the forensic experts who have worked together on this with Malaysia and as we said earlier, it's still an early stage, there's still a lot to be done in terms of bringing those who did this to justice.

Last week and this week, luckily, conditions allowed a small team to visit the crash site and that will mean that we can again transfer to the Netherlands the found remains of victims following the usual ceremonial protocol that will take place on Saturday. We also stress as you said, Tony, that we work together on many areas – culturally, economically, but also on this very difficult issue of foreign fighters.

We are together active in the fight against ISIL in Iraq but we are also fighting this phenomenon of the foreign fighters, some of them coming back to our countries and how we deal with this issue and here also we have discussed at length what we can learn from the approaches we both are taking.

Again, thank you so much for taking time and having this wonderful friendship.