MARY DOYLE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR ASTON: I'm Mary Doyle, and I'm the Labor Candidate for the multicultural electorate of Aston here. We have such a diverse population here in Aston, including a large contingent of people with Chinese heritage. And that's something I'm incredibly proud of. Everywhere I go in the electorate, people, regardless of where they come from, are raising cost of living pressures with me. But people also say that they are seeing the Albanese Government making a difference for households in managing their budgets, through cheaper childcare, and cutting the cost of prescription medication. But you know what else? People, especially those who might be first or second generation migrants, also tell me that since May last year, it feels like the adults are back in charge. There's an audible sigh of relief to have a competent, sensible government leading the nation again. I want to be part of the Albanese Labor Government, which has restored Australia's reputation on the world stage. Particularly with key trading partners like China, opening up opportunities for local businesses, strengthening the local and global economy, and bringing people together. I'm thrilled to welcome the Minister and the Prime Minister here to Wantirna to meet with Aston's amazing Chinese community today.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Mary, and it’s great to be back here in Aston with Mary Doyle, our fantastic Labor candidate for the by-election. Not a newcomer, she was the candidate who ran last time and she's kept running ever since, because she is determined to give Aston the representative in government that the people of this community in Melbourne's East need. It's great to be back in Melbourne on this beautiful, beautiful day, I've got to say, and to be here with Andrew Giles also, also our Minister for Multicultural Affairs. And it's good to be doing an event with the Chinese community here. I spoke at Box Hill, not too far from here, on Lunar New Year. A celebration of some 100,000 people that day, on that fine Saturday afternoon celebrating the multicultural community that makes Australia what we are today - a modern, vibrant, multicultural community. We're sending a message to this community that we represent as a government every community, regardless of where you are from. That we understand that Australia's diversity is a strength. It's a strength in terms of being a microcosm for the world, showing that people of different backgrounds, different faiths, can get on and strengthen our whole society as a result. But it's also an economic asset, because people in multicultural communities engage in business activity with the countries of their birth. And that is one of the strengths that comes to the economy here in Melbourne, but indeed, for the entire nation. We're determined to make a difference as well. I welcome today’s labour force figures that show a drop of 0.2 per cent in the unemployment rate, and more than a quarter of a million jobs being created since we came to office less than a year ago. In that year, what we've done is turn around the way that Australia is perceived in the international community. We're a trusted partner, we want to trade with our friends, we want to trade in the region. We are making a difference here to the local community as well with cheaper pharmaceuticals from January 1. Cheaper childcare comes in on July 1. The fee-free TAFE will make a difference to this community as well. Building a stronger community and a stronger society, and I want Mary Doyle to be a voice in a Labor Government doing just that to represent this local community.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken with Paul Keating since his comments yesterday on the AUKUS deal?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of his comments and should he apologise for any of them?
PRIME MINISTER: Paul Keating is a big guy, he's entitled to put his opinion. I think on those issues he's wrong. I'm acting in the national interest. I'm acting in the national interest by investing in Australia's capability, but I'm also investing in our relationships. That's why I spent time in India as a guest of Prime Minister Modi. That's why I called in on Fiji and spoke to the newly-elected Prime Minister there just yesterday as well. That's why I've engaged in ASEAN, in the Indo-Pacific. Australia is back in the international community around the table. Of course, the entry fee for credibility is action on climate change and that is why my government's position on climate change has been so important in transforming the relationship that we have with our Indo-Pacific neighbours.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what’s your response to Mr Keating’s comments that China hasn’t posed a threat, doesn’t pose a threat, and won’t pose a threat to Australia in the future?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we act on our own basis. We want a peaceful region and our actions are aimed at ensuring there is stability and security in the region.
JOURNALIST: Did Paul Keating cross a line with how personal (inaudible)?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s not up to me to make comments on Paul Keating. He's entitled to put his views, he's put them. They're not views I agree with in this case. But Paul Keating was a great Treasurer, a great Prime Minister, he has my respect, and I have no intention of engaging in a public argument with Paul Keating. The Labor Party, we praise our heroes for the contribution that they've made. But my responsibility in 2023 is to give Australia the leadership that they need now, not what they might have needed in the 1990s. And I am determined to make sure that we do just that.
JOURNALIST: Just more broadly on submarines, can you confirm that all six Collins Class submarines will be going through the life of type extension?
PRIME MINISTER: What we're doing is making sure that we receive, first of all three, but up to five Virginia Class subs so that we fill that capability gap which is there. But we're being very modest about our proposal, very conservative. If we can do things quicker, then we will do so. But it's quite clear that we will need the Collins Class submarines to go through refurbishment, if you like, to make sure that their life can be extended, because we lost a decade. And during that decade what we saw was a whole lot of media releases but not much in terms of increased capacity. We're making sure that we deliver just that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minster, can the French offer Australia an alternate submarine deal?
PRIME MINISTER: We have discussions and one of the things that my government does is we engage in diplomacy, and we engage in interaction with our allies and our friends and we engage in good faith, that's what we do.
JOURNALIST: So was offer made to the previous government?
PRIME MINISTER: What we do is we engage diplomatically with our friends and neighbours. We don't go out, and you haven't seen text messages leaked from this Prime Minister or private discussions leaked. We engage, we have a good relationship with France. I have a good personal relationship with President Macron. And our Defence and Foreign Ministers had a two by two meeting recently.
JOURNALIST: What about the relationship with China, does AUKUS place an extra strain on that relationship?
PRIME MINISTER: No, the relationship with China is improving, and that's a good thing. We're about building, investing in our capacity, but we're also about investing in our relationships. I had a very successful meeting with President Xi. Our Foreign Minister visited China at the end of last year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of relations between Australia and the People's Republic of China. I look forward to continuing to engage on China. We'll cooperate where we can, we will disagree where we must, and we'll engage in our national interests.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe you can win in Aston?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, history tells us that it's pretty tough. History tells us that it's tough. What I do know is that Mary Doyle deserves to get an outstanding result in Aston. She isn’t someone who shopped around for a seat. She's someone who wants to represent this area. Someone who wants to represent this community and someone who would be an outstanding representative. But no government has won a seat off the opposition for a century during a by-election. So the opposition, the Liberal Party start as very strong favourites. In 2019, they received 54.7% of the primary vote. But the truth is that the modern Liberal Party are too busy fighting each other to worry about fighting for the interests of the people of Aston. And we saw with this by-election caused, I don't know why Alan Tudge ran again and went on the frontbench. He didn't ask a question the entire time as Shadow Minister, he just sat there occupying the space. He's now resigned causing a by-election. And Mary Doyle has continued to be an outstanding advocate for this community, in the lead-up to the last election, but beyond as well since. And this is an opportunity for the people of Aston to do two things. One, to have a voice in government who can make a real difference. But the second thing is also to say to the Liberal Party they need to do better. They need to do better than have a leader, a bloke who told Melburnians that they weren't safe to go out at night. Who attacked Victorians during the pandemic consistently, and he doesn't like Victorians. He doesn't like the culture here, he doesn't like the community here. And Mary Doyle will be an outstanding representative. The Liberal Party need to do better. They’ve been a mess at the state level and at the federal level they’ve been a mess as well.
JOURNALIST: To the nuclear subs, former Labor Minister Peter Garrett says while he doesn’t agree with Keating’s view of China or current ministers, he does think they’re a huge cost and a loss of independence, what’s your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: When the Australian flag is on any submarine, or ship, or aircraft for that matter, Australian sovereignty is assured. Full stop. Exclamation mark. That's what happens. This debate about sovereignty is absurd. The F35 aircraft that we have, are we not in charge of them because they were built somewhere else? We will determine our sovereignty with all of our assets, and that is very clear. I respect people's views who've served in the Parliament in the past, but I'll make this point. There is no disagreement amongst anyone who's received any of the national security briefings in my team. There is no disagreement amongst anyone in my Cabinet. This overwhelmingly has received our support. When the announcement was made originally about AUKUS, I as Labor Leader not just put it through Shadow Cabinet, I put it through a full caucus meeting on that day and received the total support of the Labor team. The Labor Party is determined to give Australia a government that’s as good as the Australian people themselves. That's what I'm determined to do, and I want Mary Doyle to be a part of that. Thanks very much.