Doorstop Interview - Chicago, USA

Home » Media Centre » Doorstop Interview - Chicago, USA
23 Sep 2019
Chicago, USA
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you for joining us here today and in this great city of Chicago. This morning I had the opportunity to set out in front of one of the longest running global foreign affairs institutions anywhere in the world about how we saw this great alliance we have with the United States impacting and playing out into the future, but as it all comes down to the important things for Australia and our national interests- and that’s our jobs. Whether it’s the investment we’re making in Australian businesses, in Australian technology, in Australian workers to ensure that they can be part of and benefit from the NASA space program. No cheques going to NASA. Cheques are going to actually support Australian businesses and Australian jobs so we can have that capability to participate to have benefit for Australians. As I said on the day some 20,000 Australians jobs we want in our space industry, and a 12 billion dollar industry and to do that you’ve got to plug in. And to be able to plug in you need to make the improvements and build the capability in our own businesses and in our own workforce to ensure that we can realise those opportunities. Because whether it’s in our technology relationship and here in Chicago having just been at the 1871 venture and seeing Australian businesses coming out here and putting in place new ground for them, growing their businesses back in Australia while extending their borders over here in the United States. When the scale, the sheer scale, of the investment relationship between Australia and the United States is 1.7 trillion dollars, it is the biggest investment partnership there is. So to be here, is about those jobs, it’s about the jobs that flow from that investment that goes into the United States. It's about our businesses that can then take what they’re learning as test labs in Australia and take it to the biggest market in the world - in terms of the size of the US economy.

So at the end of this day this stuff is always about jobs but you know, while we’ve been here, all of us, of course the issues of the drought in Australia continue to persist. And we’re going to continue to be there for our rural and regional communities in providing the support that has already seen our commitments of some 200 million or thereabouts in the farm household allowance program. 110 million going into the drought communities program investing into individual Shires. Money we’re putting in to supporting financial counselling, additional mental health counselling, ensuring we are supporting the charitable organisations. Getting that support into communities. All of these initiatives which were set out after last year’s drought summit. We are currently going through the process of working out, working through a second round of support for our drought affected communities around the country.

Later this week, the Treasurer, will be visiting some of those communities. The deputy Prime Minister is doing that over the next few days as well. As we work towards finalising the second round of our support. Those programs we put in, whether it was on the drought communities program, which was a million dollars to each local government area, we’ve also de-complicated to a significant extent how people can access the financial assistance that comes in the form of the farm household allowance. These are important ways of providing that support. We have always said cannot make it rain, but what we can do is both invest in the immediate income supports and needs that Australians in these communities have whether that’s their mental health or their children in school or just putting food on the table through income support or indeed looking at the longer term water infrastructure issues. I mean in the first round of announcements we had over 700 million for that, there was 50 million dollars that went into the grants and support for people that put on farm and water infrastructure projects in place. We got the drought fund of course we were able to get through parliament and we were pleased to do that which is providing ongoing commitments of over one hundred million dollars once that rolls into effect on the first of July next year, having gone through those consultations.

So, while we’re here talking about the economy, the alliance, the wonderful opportunities that come from that and the positive role Australia is playing in a very complex world at the moment, my thoughts are also very much about what’s happening in these drought communities in Australia. And I look forward to when I return the first thing I’m going to do is get out there and reconnect and speak with those communities as we put the final touches over the next little while on that next round of the drought system.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why have you chosen to come here, to Chicago, to speak to a foreign policy institute and not join other world leaders at the UN talking about climate change today?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is one of the oldest global foreign affairs policy institutions in the world. New York, there’s a lot of people there this week and so I had the opportunity here to speak through a different channel. World leaders have come from all over the place to speak at this august organisation. And I was pleased to have the invitation and I was pleased to accept it. At the forum this morning in New York, we will be represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne who’s got a speaking role on behalf of Australia today and Australia will be well represented there.  I’ll be there this afternoon as we engage in some issues around counter terrorism and the internet. I will be meeting with Pacific leaders over the course of this week. On Wednesday when I give the national statement at the UN General Assembly. I’ll be focusing very much on Australia’s response to the global environmental challenges. Which isn’t just climate change as I said today it’s about plastics, it’s about oceans, it’s about recycling. And one of the really exciting things about yesterday, about being in Ohio is that what the Pratt industries organisation is doing is bringing the common sense practical achievements and research and technological development they’ve learned in Australia, in paper recycling and they’re bringing it to the United States. I mean, they have very low levels of paper recycling here in the US so the opportunity for their business is great. So I was going to be- When Australian businesses are doing well, I want to be there to back them in and encourage them.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Australian for quite a long time have accepted that in climate change negotiations, there is a framework for which to make contributions. Does Australia no longer accept this framework and does China need to make a developed economic contribution in global climate change agreements?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I think when you look at the projections on emissions out to 2030, what you’ll see is Australia meeting its commitments, you’ll see the United States who aren’t even a signatory to the Paris agreement, their emissions are heading in the same direction they are flat lining. But, the emissions increase is actually happening in a lot of those countries, China included. If the goal is to reduce emissions then we have obviously got to focus on the places which have the largest emissions-that just seems like common sense to me.

JOURNALIST: So China has to take responsibility as a developing nation?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, all nations have to take responsibility, and Australia is taking our responsibly seriously. We set our targets, we meet our targets. I mean, the 2020 Kyoto target commitment that we will meet next year has been a significant achievement for Australia. It has been achieved through many, many different initiatives. A profound part of that has been just the scale of technological change that has occurred in Australia over that period as well as the specific initiatives we have put in place. So we will exceed our commitments by 367 million tonnes. Now, that is Australia backing up its action, backing up its commitments and so we do that and other countries, I would hope should do the same thing.

JOURNALIST: At the Pratt factory yesterday both Donald Trump and Mr Pratt sighted the company tax cuts by Mr Trump as responsible for that investment. I know you ruled it out in the immediate term but sometime in the distant dark future do you think Australia could revisit a lower corporate tax rate?

PRIME MINISTER: Well look, I will keep the commitments that I made at the last election and that’s what I’m doing. But as you know, my view has always been that I want people to keep more of what they earn and I want to see investment in Australia and there are many ways to achieve that. I meant what I said, when I [inaudible] about corporate tax at the last election and I’ll be keeping that promise.

JOURNALIST: The investment environment that Donald Trump has created in America has allowed him to expand his business so company tax cuts aside [inaudible] did you learn any lesson that might make our investment environment better?

PRIME MINISTER: A, our first lesson is there’s a great alignment I think, in the economic policy settings of the United States and Australia and that’s largely what the President and I were saying yesterday and the job performance record of both countries I think speaks to that. One of the urgent issues though that we have to address more, is the competitive price of energy in Australia for commercial industrial users and to make sure we can get cheaper energy and particularly gas feed stock into our Commercial industrial users in Australia and that’s why for many years now I have been one of, in the biggest cheer squad for ‘let’s get the gas out from under our feet’. Why has America actually got a trajectory on emissions which is one that is not dissimilar from Australia despite the fact that we are in Paris and they are not? One of the biggest reasons for that has been the gas revolution here in the United States. Now, we are not short of gas either. That’s why accessing our gas is really important for Australia’s competitive future and for jobs in Australia and that is why we have to keep pressure on to get the access to that gas and ensure that we can produce the lower cost energy which is needed for industries in Australia and to be able to do.  Now I think that has been a big take out for the United States but I have to tell you it is no different for when I was here as Treasurer and I was in Texas at the beginning of last year. Their gas revolution down there is putting their industries and their businesses on a very solid footing and I am very keen to get us on a similar footing.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on re-tooling the trade environment for the 21st Century, what would like to see around that, have you got other countries support on that? Specifically talking about China just basically no longer being seen as a developing nation, rather as a developed one.

PRIME MINISTER: Well I think you’ll see the latter start to immerge in new arrangements that are put in place. I think you’ll see some encouraging signs of that. I’ve talked about the work Australian is doing with the WTO at the moment on e-commerce rules which is basically just writing new rules because that obviously wasn’t in place when the organisation was formed and then you’ve got agreements like we have that we are putting together with Singapore which really do, sort of, provide a lab if you like, for how those rules between those two nations can be more broadly applied. So look it’s a painstaking process with the WTO, like it is with any multilateral organisation, there seem to be a lot more brakes than accelerators in these organisations. That’s why I don’t raise my expectations too high about these sort of multilateral forums or summits. We participate in it, we take our responsibilities, when there is an opportunity to speak with a clear voice here in the United States and focus on that alliance which has been the reason for my visit to the United States. That’s why I’ve come here.

JOURNALIST: Donald Trump said yesterday that you won the election in part because you believe in a lot of the same things as him and he thought you would go a long way, would you similarly endorse him for a second term?

PRIME MINISTER: Well look, it’s not the job of the Prime Ministers of foreign countries to involve themselves in domestic politics. But as you can see we do share a lot of the same views. We do believe that people can keep, should keep more of what they earn; we do think the best form of welfare is a job; we do think that if you can stimulate and ensure that your small business entrepreneurs, like we’re seeing this morning, it was great to see so many Australians there as part of that lab, getting out there and creating jobs, and that’s the way you can pay for the hospitals, pay for schools, ensure that the aspirations and standard of living that your people look forward to, that that is how it’s achieved. He clearly has tremendous support for that and I think you could see that on display as we made our way to the Pratt plant.

JOURNALIST: One of the things that the President spoke to you on this morning is religious freedom, how confident are you that you are going to be able to get that religious freedoms bill passed in Parliament and that there won’t continue to be fractions within your own party?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re not having any of those fractions that you have alluded to and so I’m very appreciative of the very mature way that my colleagues have worked together to fashion a draft bill, which is the starting point for those consultations outside of the government, and I think that’s going really well.  I think that’s going really, really well. And we’ve been I think quite patient as we’ve sought to take this bill forward, and we will keep doing that and we’ll listen very carefully in consultations that we are having. And if there are further amendments that are necessary before the bill is introduced into Parliament then we will make those judgments, as a Cabinet. I have said from the outset on the Religious Discrimination Act that I want this to be a process that is actually bringing people together, not forcing them apart. I think there is a broad level of agreement here and I think we are achieving that. I am encouraged particularly whether it is the role that the Attorney General has played or others to keep this agenda very much in the mainstream of the Australian community.

JOURNALIST: One of the goals today at the United Nations is to get leaders to commit further to cut emissions. What is your position on that and one of the other ideas is net zero emissions over the long term, do you think net zero emissions is even possible?

PRIME MINISTER: I am committed to what I took to the Australian people. That was 26% by 2030. That is what we will achieve, that is what I promised we will do, and that’s what I told the Australian people we will do.

JOURNALIST: And after that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we are making our commitments to 2030, that’s what we are doing. And we’re going to meet them. See, we keep meeting the targets, we keep setting them, and we keep meeting them.

JOURNALIST: But don’t you feel you need to say something further in the long term?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at this point.

JOURNALIST: Do you think [inaudible] at the Pacific Islands’ forum to do a 2050 strategy next year?  

PRIME MINISTER: We’d certainly look at that as part of the communique.

JOURNALIST: A rugby league question. Israel Folau apparently wants to play for Tonga. Tonga wants him to play for them as well, but the Australian Rugby League are trying to oppose it. What’s your view?

PRIME MINISTER: I leave the NRL’s management to the NRL. I don’t pretend to give them any advice, other than the odd courteous suggestion for the Prime Minister’s XIII, which will be up playing in Fiji in a little while.

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see him play?

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t think it needs my input frankly.

JOURNALIST: Back on China for a tic, In your speech you talked about great powers having great responsibility, what exactly do you want China to do that they are not doing or abiding by at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER: I think it is fairly plain. What I have been arguing for is just a simple recognition that the purpose of our effort over three decades or more has been to see the economic development and growth of China, which has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, I mean, that is fantastic, I celebrate that. I said when I was in Washington, that we celebrate the economic success of other nations, because it means that we can go and trade with them and that brings more growth, so I celebrate that and I just want to see it keep happening. But obviously, as nations progress and develop then the obligations and how the rules apply to them also shift. We have not seen the emergence of a nation economically like China since the United States frankly, and at a pace which has even outstripped that. So that obviously is going to impact on how the global institutions and rules work.  So mine is a fairly obvious point, that this was an inevitable point that we would arrive at, because of the objectives and purposes of the policies and the enthusiasm with which we pursued them over all of that time. So similar rules will apply to countries of similar capabilities, whether it is your obligations on environment or obligations on trade, and to do it transparently with other countries, and certainly when it comes to debt arrangements and things of that nature, that should apply to us, it should apply to the US and should apply more broadly. And what does that produce? It produces a more certain, more prosperous, more positive future for all of us.

JOURNALIST: On the Pacific Islands - Have you talked to Donald Trump about the US investing more in the Pacific Islands so that China does not win over their allegiance?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s not necessarily the purpose. You would have seen in the document that was released and the agreements that we were able to come to involved having a closer coordination on investments we are making in the southwest Pacific together. So we have discussed these issues very, very directly about how we can partner more in the programs that we are running in the southwest Pacific. That is in a broader context of the same conversations I have had with Great Britain and with Japan and India and other nations that have got an interest in the area. We welcome the same from China.

JOURNALIST: But more money, more investment?

PRIME MINISTER: We are there. If we are all doing it, I think it is a good idea to coordinate it and align it and not be running off in different directions. That is the way it can be of most effect. Australia invests significantly in our overseas development programme in the southwest Pacific. And as you know, I have focused that program on the southwest Pacific, I have made it the priority. That is where we can do the most good, have the most help, and I think do the most in promoting Australia’s national interest. Whether it’s our strategic or economic security. That is where our focus needs to be.

JOURNALIST: Did you feel like you were at a Trump rally yesterday? Was it a concern to you? And on this trip, have you also played part diplomat? Have you reached out to the other side of politics at all?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I have been here to see the President, that was the intention. We had a magnificent night the other night. What was more important was that we reaffirmed the very foundations of this relationship. While I have been here today, particularly in this city, is I wanted to stress the economic side of that relationship. Yesterday, we were in Ohio, because I wanted to highlight the economic dimension of our alliance and partnership with the United States. And that’s what we are there to do. That’s what we are here for. Earlier in the day, the President was with Prime Minister Modi [inaudible] He spoke Hindi at his rally, and I didn’t. it was there to be the opening of Australian business. Pratt Industries they are in twenty-seven states. That’s an impressive growth and expansion they’ve had here taking their business model that has been so successful in Australia. I don’t know if you picked it up when we were upstairs. I talked to the guys from Coates. Australia is in so many ways for a lot of new technology and a lot of industries, is very much a tester for larger economies like the United States and throughout Europe and other places. And that puts us in a real positon of advantage, so we were in Iowa- in Ohio, we’ll go to Iowa the next time, we were in Ohio on this occasion to celebrate a great Australian business that has been incredibly successful. And I’m into backing Australian businesses, there’s one that succeeded. Thank you.