Address to the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce London, UK

Speech
14 Jun 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Thank you very much George and thank you also to all the staff here at Stoke Lodge for looking after us this morning. We greatly appreciate that and George thank you to you and your team for the tremendous job you're doing here in the UK. The relationship we have with the United Kingdom is about as long as any relationship we care to mention of all of our great partners around the world and I appreciate the Chamber coming together again here today.

As George is right, this is the third occasion I've had the opportunity to address you, and so a very warm welcome to all of you for being here on what is an absolutely gorgeous London morning. Particularly to Sir Lynton Crosby, a great friend of mine over many years.

I know this is the third speech he's had to listen to from a Chamber event. It's great to be here with you, Lynton and Dawn, and congratulations on your tremendous success here in the UK.

There are a couple of things I wanted to mention. I had some prepared remarks today, but I really wanted just to share a couple of views. The first of these is the relationship we have with the United Kingdom. It is strong for many, many reasons. I was remarking last night about my own family’s history in going back to the First Fleet and I had the opportunity to go and visit - very briefly - the little village from which William Roberts came from, over 230 years ago. He didn't come of his own volition to Australia at the time, it was the compulsion of the state, but he never returned. Those family links are obvious to the United Kingdom and that's always obviously been a part of the relationship. But Australia's diversity and multiculturalism, we are the most successful immigration, multicultural nation on Earth. And this is a great statement that we make, full of pride actually, that social cohesion in Australia, across such a broad multicultural community, I think is a great model, and it's something I appreciate being able to talk about with other nations. But the real bond that occurs between the United Kingdom and Australia is the basis of our liberal democracies and the export of the UK model in the Westminster system and so many aspects that have underpinned Liberal democracies all around the world. That is the basis. That is the platform. That is the bedrock of the relationship that we have between the UK and Australia. That has played out over the centuries, as time and again that is the platform upon which we've fallen again and again, and that is what has sustained us through some of the most difficult times and that is of course even true now.

On the weekend I had the great privilege to join the G7 Plus Dialogue in Cornwall, the third invitation I'd received over the last three years, to be participating in a grouping of liberal democracies and advanced economies. Coming from the Indo-Pacific, I was able to report on the situation there and how important it is that liberal democracies actually work together across a number of key platforms. The first of those, of course, is our defence and strategic partnership, which with the UK and Australia we are seeking all the time to take that to another level, to the next level, in concert with our partners like the United States and others we work closely with on those Indo-Pacific challenges - Japan, India.

The second area is, and I'll say a little bit more about this, ensuring that we deal with the reinforcement of our economic strengths between our economies. Now, that takes many forms - it's investing in our critical supply chains, in critical technologies and ensuring that the economic strength and advantages that we have in our partnership go further, go higher to reinforce the jobs and the success of our economies in what is a very, very challenging period.

The third area is to ensure a collaboration, a cooperation when it comes to our engagement with the many multilateral institutions, whether they be smaller ones, like our Five Eyes-type relationships, which we could loosely describe in those terms, through to the G20 and our engagements with the United Nations, the ITU, and the many other bodies that run the rules-based order. A rules-based order, which I stressed on the weekend, was based on liberal principles. That's what underpinned the world order that was created after the Second World War. And I quoted - or paraphrased is better to say - Benjamin Franklin, when speaking to the other leaders, when he said 'a world order that favours freedom, if we can keep it', as Benjamin Franklin spoke about the Republic at that convention, constitutional convention, many years ago. So we have to tend that garden of the liberal democracies of the world and we have to stand up for them in a way that ensures that we demonstrate that they work and that they do bring peace and they do bring prosperity, and they do improve the wellbeing of people all around the world.

And so we have that job together, the UK and Australia, probably more so than any other partnership potentially that we have. The UK, as the custodian of those principles that have been exported all around the world, I think for the world's great benefit. And in each of our liberal democracies we’ve got to show that they work. They work at home, with the services and the quality of life that we're able to afford to our citizens. That they work in the regions where we live, and for us in particular the Indo-Pacific. And that they work more broadly, when we deal with the big challenges that the world is facing, be it Covid-19 or dealing with climate change. And so that is the challenge that we have, speaking particularly about reinforcing each other's economies. There will be other occasions where I can speak about our defence partnerships which are growing, partnerships on the Hunter Class Frigates and things of that nature, which are very big commercial elements of the relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom.

But reinforcing our trade relationship is a great opportunity for this moment. Of course we have to get the right deal. But it is important, I think, that we work as hard as we can to get that right deal. And as the United Kingdom moves into a completely new generation of their trading relationships with the world, who better to start that journey with than Australia? Who better understands the challenges of moving in that environment, where Australia has blazed quite a trail when it has come to securing positive effective trading relationships with so many countries around the world? Because at the end of the day there will always be hesitancy, always be hesitancy when any country enters into a trade arrangement with any other country - that is quite normal. We have quite a lot of experience in that, we've been able to secure many of these arrangements. And of course, you need to explain them to your populations, but the ultimate explanation is jobs. We either are passionate about growing the markets in which we can operate, providing opportunities for our own producers and suppliers and services, or we will stay in a situation of being unable to take up those opportunities.

And so it is an important time, and we are very respectful of the process that we know the UK will be going through at this time. It is a different world to move beyond, where the UK has been a part of the EU for all these many years. We remember in Australia very vividly the impact of the UK going into the common market back in the early 70s. That had a devastating blow on Australian producers. The Brexit that has occurred is an opportunity for us to pick up where we left off all those many years ago, and to once again realise the scale of the trading relationship that we once had. And who better to do it than with Australia at this time.

Who better that would understand the various sensitivities and issues that have to be worked through. Who better to be able to partner in managing those together to ensure that, in both countries, the benefits of doing this are well understood and can be well advocated and managed and shared together. So, that is a special opportunity, for what the UK often referred to in other contexts as ‘special relationships’. This indeed is a special relationship, and one of course that I think would be greatly enhanced by these additional steps, but we will be patient for them, as I'm sure the UK will be as well. We must be patient to ensure that we get these things absolutely right and I'm looking forward to those discussions with Prime Minister Johnson this evening, as I've already had discussions as Trade Minister Dan Tehan has.

Can I make a couple of other points before I finish though - about Covid and about the challenges of confronting climate change into the future.

Firstly, on Covid, Australia has had relatively great success, and this was repeated back to me, very often, in the last couple of days, meeting with other world leaders, where in their own countries they have experienced, including here in the United Kingdom, a calamity and a devastation that has just been absolutely heartbreaking, and Australians felt for the rest of the world. Particularly here in the UK as we saw those rates climb, and we saw the terrible fatalities that were occurring here. It really did break our hearts, as I have no doubt it did here as well. As we've learnt and as we've progressed through Covid our economy is now bigger today than it was before Covid hit. There are more people employed in Australia than before Covid hit. Our AAA credit rating from S&P's has been upgraded after our interventions in the economy, which have demonstrated that in Australia we always understand growing your economy is the best way to guarantee the essential services that our citizens rely on. If you grow your economy, which means expanding your trade, keeping your taxes low, building the infrastructure that’s necessary, ensuring that you have a workforce which is trained and skilled for the industries both of now and for the future, that you have workplace arrangements that enable the workforce and the manager to get on and get things done, and you build that infrastructure that enables.

If you grow your economy, then your economies can support important social services systems, whether it's here with the NHS in the United Kingdom or in Australia with Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. These worthy, world-leading services that we provide in liberal democracies to our citizens depend, not just on our good intentions, not just on our compassion - they absolutely depend on our ability to run strong economies. And so, if someone tells you they support the NHS here in the United Kingdom, then supporting a strong economy in the United Kingdom is what is necessary for it. Just as it is in Australia, and I use that by no means of criticism, no means at all, but in Australia it is the same. So getting these economic fundamentals right, making sure the world trade system works, making sure these trade arrangements are in place, that is the best guarantor of ensuring the essential services all of our economies, all of our countries rely on, and our citizens rely on, can be achieved.

So we will work through the Covid crisis, and we will do it by ensuring, not that we should just save lives, but we save the livelihoods of our citizens as well. And that is the twin goals that Australia set out to achieve when we confronted Covid some 18 months ago.

On the issue of climate change, I made a parallel yesterday between tackling Covid and addressing climate change. The way we needed to attack Covid was to find a vaccine, and to ensure that that vaccine can be rolled out as quickly and efficiently across our population as possible, and there has been great success here in the United Kingdom. That success has obviously been supported by the dire health situation, which provided a very potent motivation for that vaccination program here.

In Australia with virtually no cases most of the time, it's a different challenge, but we're getting through that challenge and our programme is really lifting off now. But the vaccination was the solution, those vaccines will need to continue to evolve as new variants and strains come into being. But it was focusing on the scientific solution that was the key to addressing that problem. And our view in Australia is climate change is the same thing. We’re all heading to the same place. We all understand the importance of a net zero, carbon neutral economy. That's all we want to get to. The 'if' is not the issue, the 'how' is the issue. Just as you need a vaccine to deal with Covid you need energy technologies, and other carbon neutral technologies to drive our industries, keep our regions open, keep the trade flowing, we need to keep making things and we need to keep the lights on, and to do that requires significant technological breakthrough.

And that is why Australia has taken the technology not taxes approach to dealing with climate change. We want to find those solutions and we want to lead in finding those solutions. We want to deliver them with our partners around the world. We have announced agreements with Germany, with Japan, with Singapore, we're very close to announcing one here in the United Kingdom. These partnerships are about finding the solution to live in a Net Zero carbon neutral economy around the world. It is certainly coming, the financial markets have already determined that. Australia understands that and that's why we have a history of being one of the most successful energy exporters up until now, we intend to be the same in the future, but that will be about hydrogen and many other technologies that will support that economic approach in the future. Rio, BHP, Fortescue, all of these companies are already making these changes with the technological advances that they're making. We will keep backing them in, particularly when it comes to hydrogen and I think across the spectrum of what I mentioned today, our partnership, our cooperation, from defence, to science, to technology, to trade and to a world order that favours freedom, that's a great partnership to be part of. And I'm very pleased to be sharing with you an update on where that great partnership is at this morning. Thank you very much for your attention.