Transcript of press conference, Los Cabos
MON 18 JUNE 2012
Subject(s): G20 summit; Eurozone crisis
PM: I have just finished the G20 opening session and of course the leaders’ working dinner as well.
These discussions at the G20 have already afforded leaders an opportunity for a comprehensive and frank exchange of views on circumstances in the global economy.
It would be no surprise to anyone that there was a particular focus on circumstances in the eurozone and recognition that the European Union is meeting in 10 days time.
Amongst the discussions about the eurozone circumstances, and more generally, it was acknowledged by many in the discussions that growth and austerity are not polar opposites that they are strategies that need to be combined.
That is, we need to see in the eurozone and beyond a focus on jobs, a focus on growth and by focusing on jobs and growth with fiscal discipline you can achieve fiscal consolidation; that this is not a question of fiscal consolidation alone but a need for growth and jobs and investment.
There was also some discussion about the imbalances within the eurozone itself and a recognition that there is things that need to be done within the eurozone including recapitalisation of banks, further integration in the banking system, further fiscal integration and there was a recognition of action taken to date but the need to keep building on this action that has been taken to date.
There was also discussion about the IMF and its role in the global economy. Steps were taken towards more resources for the IMF and this is a good outcome.
It’s a good outcome to see extra resources available to the IMF for a global firewall and increasing IMF resources was certainly a feature of the advocacy that Australia engaged in at the last G20 meeting.
Tomorrow at the G20 the sessions will focus on trade and on IMF governance reform.
I’ve also had the opportunity today to meet with Prime Minister Monti of Italy where we focused on issues in the eurozone.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Christine Lagarde of the IMF, where she thanked Australia for its support of the IMF and our funding increase and reflected on the strength of the Australian economy, particularly the fact that we have recently been upgraded at a time when so many other nations are facing downgrades.
We of course hold a AAA credit rating from all of the major credit ratings agencies for the first time in Australia’s history.
I had the opportunity yesterday too, so since the time that I last spoke to the media, to speak to Bob Zoellick the leader of the World Bank.
Bob is shortly to leave that position at the expiration of his term but it gave me the opportunity to thank him for the work that he’s done at the World Bank.
One of the great features of the G20 is given its size it affords an opportunity to have one-on-one formal discussions with leaders and I have been able to do that during the course of today and I’m looking forward to more discussions tomorrow.
I’m happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Head of the European Commission says that he’s not here to receive lesson in terms of the democracy of how to run an economy. Do you think you were one of the leaders he was having a swipe at?
PM: I had a conversation with President Barroso today and advised him that he was running strongly in the Australian media. That came as a complete surprise to him given he hadn’t had anything to say about Australia.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on protectionism do you expect that the final communiqué will include a commitment not to introduce any more new protectionist measures and that can be extended to 2015?
PM: We have been a very fierce advocate of not lapsing onto protectionist measures.
We’ve been advocating the standstill that has been in G20 statements in the past and we will be advocating tomorrow during the course of the discussion on trade that the standstill should be continued.
What of course that means is that people give a commitment to not engage in any further measures.
There’s always a temptation for leaders when economic circumstances are tough and unemployment is high and many people are anxious about fiscal consolidation, which ordinary people understand to be government cutbacks, it can be very tempting in those circumstances for leaders to lurch for protectionist measures.
So I think it’s important that we do see a further standstill and I’ll be advocating that tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given that Mr Barroso said that this morning that he wasn’t prepared to take lectures from other leaders. Who do you think he was actually referring to?
PM: Well he was answering a question from a Canadian journalist who was asking very explicitly on behalf of the people of North America.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said yesterday Europe could learn some lessons from Australia. He said today that we’re not going to learn lessons from nobody – basically slapping down your suggestion that they could learn lessons from us.
PM: As I’ve just explained to you, President Barroso is amused at the suggestion that anything he said anywhere would be reported in the Australian media as about Australia.
We were laughing about it a little bit earlier today so he’s obviously crystal clear on that in his own mind, and I’ll finish answering your question.
What I have done in the lead up to the G20, both in the letter that I co-authored President Lee of South Korea, in the remarks I made yesterday at the B20, is I have acknowledged the work that Europe has done – you know, things have been done in the eurozone which have made a difference, there has been action on banks, there have also been by individual countries action on structural reform. But it is clear that more needs to be done and it’s in Australia’s national interest that more be done.
It’s in our national interest to have the most resilient and strongest global economy that we can and at a meeting like this, where leaders come together to talk about the global economy in a grouping that was born out of the Global Financial Crisis, after the events in Greece and Spain and ten days before a major meeting in Europe, I don’t think it’s going to come as any surprise to anyone that people are here talking about events in the eurozone, me included, and many other leaders.
But I would refer you to what I’ve just said to Dennis. The particular remarks of Mr Barroso that you are referring to were given in answer to a Canadian journalist who was making a reference to why the people of North America should care about or support or assist the people of Europe.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Mr Barroso’s statement to The Australian the night before was in direct reference to your letter and he did suggest through a spokesman that you should acknowledge what the Europeans have already achieved.
Do you feel that you could have made more of what the Europeans have achieved in your letter?
PM: Well I did refer to what the Europeans have achieved in the letter that I co-authored with President Lee and I did refer to it in my speech yesterday.
If Mr Barroso that any concerns about anything, and I’ve said given I’ve spoken to him on several occasions today, I think he probably would have expressed them and he did not.
All he’s done was express some surprise that his name is being bandied around in Australia. But of course he’s always welcome in Australia, we were very pleased to host him when he came.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, any response to the result of the Greek election, and one of the leaders you had some informal words with today was Barack Obama. Can you give us a flavour of any discussions?
PM: Look, I have not discussed directly with President Obama the circumstances in Greece or the elections in Greece.
What I said yesterday remains true today, which is it’s in Australia’s interests, it’s in the interests of the world to see stability in the eurozone. Karen.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, following up from Mark’s question, we did see you though with President Yudhoyono chatting with President Obama. Can you give us an idea of what you talked about?
PM: We were actually referring to the fact that President Yudhoyono is very shortly to visit Australia and that he will be in Darwin.
And of course when President Obama came to Australia he visited Darwin.
JOURNALIST: Did you talk about American troops being based in Darwin?
PM: President Yudhoyono and I have on a number of occasions talked about the marines who are training in the Northern Territory, and as you may recall at the East Asia Summit there was a suggestion about the use of these marines in training exercises in our region for disaster relief.
For all of the obvious reasons, obvious and far too tragic reasons, when the East Asia Summit comes together disaster relief has been a focus because we’ve needed to go to each other’s aid so many times.
President Yudhoyono is very enthusiastic about that suggestion.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, when the three of you were talking, did you speak about the marines?
PM: Only insofar as noting that of course that President Obama was there at the time that he announced the – I announced with President Obama the rotational training in the Northern Territory. It wasn’t a comprehensive discussion.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Wayne Swan has said that Gina Rinehart’s bid on Fairfax is a threat to our democracy.
Is that something that concerns you?
PM: Well I think it’s very important that there is freedom of expression in our media, and that there is the ability for journalists to tell stories their way and for there to be editorial independence.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what gives you confidence that there is the political will in Europe to deal with the current crisis, and second related question, what’s your message to the markets coming out of here?
Given there’s still quite a lot of market jitters.
PM: The G20 will be in session tomorrow and a communiqué will be issued, so in terms of what the G20 will say to the world including those on our – who trade on markets, that will come out tomorrow and be clear from tomorrow.
What I would generally say of course about Australia, I’d say there’s every reason for optimism about our economy when you look at our underlying strengths, our strong growth, our low unemployment, our prudent public finances, our strong banks and the list goes on.
On the eurozone, European leaders including Chancellor Merkel, have been very clear about their determination to see the eurozone continue, to see the integrity of the eurozone continue, and so I think their words are valuable words and speak of their very clear intention to work together on the current stresses and strains in the eurozone.
As I've said to you tonight and, you know, in the letter and in the speech and Wayne Swan and I have said on a number of occasions, actions have been taken and those actions are, it’s been good to see those actions.
They were important actions, but it is transparent to all that more needs to be done.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned your meetings with your Italian counterpart.
One of the things you discussed, we understand, you talked about the detention of Melinda Taylor.
Senator Carr’s been in Libya and has issued a statement with some requests for Libya.
Can you give us any update, has there been a response from the Libyan Government, is there anything you can tell us about the situation involving Melinda Taylor?
PM: I’m not in a position to take things beyond Senator Carr’s statement from earlier today, so I’ll have to refer you domestically to Senator Carr on that.
I did raise Melinda Taylor’s case and the detention of the other ICC personnel with the Prime Minister of Italy given the ties that there are – ties of history between Italy and Libya, I thought that that was an important thing to do and certainly the Prime Minister understood why we would be so concerned about an Australian national in that position, and why more broadly people would be concerned about the detention of people who work for the ICC.
JOURNALIST: And we heard that President Obama and his Russian counterpart had discussions about Syria.
Did you talk about Syria with anyone today? Do you have any confidence that things are going to change in Syria and that there will be moves to stop the violence there?
PM: Look, in the margins of the meeting I've talked to people about Syria.
I’m aware that Presidents Obama and Putin have put out a joint statement today.
Australia’s position continues to be as we've articulated it to date.
I think it’s good to see the statement from Presidents Obama and Putin, the horrific violence in Syria would break anybody’s heart, certainly the violent scenes we've seen involving children in particular would break anyone’s heart.
We want to see an end to that violence. We want to see the Kofi Annan peace plan work. We want to see the end of the Assad regime.
And President Obama and Putin I think put it well in their statement today when our aspiration for the people of Syria is that they get a democratic choice about who rules them, and they get the opportunity to live in a peaceful nation.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, back on Europe, President Barroso this morning also made a reference to the US and the fact that Europe’s problems at the moment were not entirely Europe’s fault; it started in the US. It was quite a pointed reference.
Do you agree that the European problem is partially a problem from the US that they inherited, and perhaps the US have to cooperate with them more rather than, as he said today, give them lessons in how to fix it?
PM: Well, we’re all here working together at the G20 and I think that’s the appropriate response.
Let’s remember the G20 is an organisation that has two roles.
It was born of crisis, no doubt about that, the Global Financial Crisis, born of crisis and is still playing a role in responding to difficult circumstances in the global economy.
It does of course have another role which is in a changing global order with such new and significant players as China and India.
It is important that the most major economies of the world are round the table to talk more broadly about how we will work together and cooperate together, what, if you like, the accepted norms should be as we seek to grow the global economy.
But as for any statements by President Barroso, he can speak for himself on the statements.
Just take the last two and then I’ll go.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said your letter yesterday was a talking point among the other leaders.
From speaking to the other leaders today, what’s been their response if any to your Australian way speech and have they heard your Australian way speech?
PM: Look, I haven’t been wandering around today talking about my speech from yesterday.
It was a speech to the B20; it was intended for business leaders.
The letter that I co-authored was referred to by some leaders when I spoke to them and it was also directly referred to in the discussions in the room.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there’s talk that the communiqué will be a roadmap for the global economy.
Is a roadmap enough and what does the roadmap look like to you?
PM: Well I’m not going to pre-judge what’s in the communiqué, but for the global economy we need to see balanced growth in the global economy.
Now that does mean that we need to see a resolution of the problems in Europe. But it means more than that as well.
It means standing firm against protection and increasing trade, and the freedom of trade, which is why I think the trade facilitation area is an important piece of work for this G20 meeting, making sure that we can trade more freely between countries.
We need to see countries deal with imbalances. We’ve got surplus countries and deficit countries.
We’ve got countries that need to increase their savings and engage in fiscal consolidation.
We've got countries that need to increase their domestic demand.
Of course we need global institutions and global architecture to be robust, which is why the resourcing available to the IMF is an important question.
And right around the world countries need, within their own domain, to be focussing on structural reforms which will enhance their ability to provide for their people jobs and growth.
Now inevitably when we come to forums like this we talk a lot of economic talk.
That’s to be expected, that’s what we’re here for, but put at its most simple what we’re talking about here is people in the nations of the world having the opportunity to have a job, get a good job, provide for their families and have a decent life, and we know as we meet today that millions of people including 75 million young people don’t have that opportunity because of circumstances in the global economy.
We’d all wish better for them, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you give us a sense of what the tone of the references were to your letter in the session today, and why you actually took the step of having an open letter in the first place?
PM: Well open letters are a very commonly used way of leaders communicating views, so I think you’ll find this G20 and other G20s a number of open letters have been issued, and obviously I’ve issued an open letter.
You do that to make your views known. You come here to make your views known. And what’s my job here, it’s to make my views known because the views I’m putting here are in Australia’s national interest.
The letter was referred to in the meeting by, I think, Colombia, and you know obviously as I’ve talked to leaders and it’s been referred to by others.