Doorstop Interview - Sydney

28 May 2022
Sydney, NSW
Prime Minister, Member-Elect for Bennelong
Seat of Bennelong; Post-election; becoming Prime Minister of Australia; Federal election campaign; Quad Leaders’ meeting; Biloela family; importance of Australia’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific region; climate change; Ukraine; tennis

JEROME LAXALE, MEMBER-ELECT FOR BENNELONG: Hi, everyone. And welcome to Bennelong. I'd like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, the Wallumedegal People of the Eora Nation, and pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. And everyone, we did it. We got over the line. Thank you so much for your support. And thank you to the Prime Minister for convincing everyone, and for his support. We know it's very difficult for Labor to win Bennelong, but we put up a really good challenge here. We had good ideas and a strong local campaign. We would not have been able to get over the line without support of the community here in Eastwood, in particular, but also right across Bennelong. So, a huge thank you from me, and I'm sure a huge thank you from our Prime Minister. Winning Bennelong means we're that much closer to majority Government. And I think that'll be good for the nation. But you know, we'll get there. Three years to go. But for now, welcome the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Jerome. And thanks for agreeing to take your outstanding representational leadership from the council into our national Parliament. I have no doubt that you will be a fantastic local Member for Bennelong and that you will secure an increased majority at the next election, with all of your help. It is just one week since the election. It seems like a bit longer. And forgive me for saying that. But it's been a very big week indeed. But I said on Saturday, last Saturday night, that I didn't intend to just occupy the space, I intend to be a Prime Minister who made a difference each and every day. And we have done that.

We were sworn in with an Interim Ministry on Monday morning. And within two hours, we were off to Tokyo to the Quad Leaders' Summit with Penny Wong. Penny Wong then came back from that meeting and headed off to Fiji. We need to re-engage with our Pacific Island neighbours. The truth is that the former Government had a submission from Foreign Affairs and Trade, backed by the Foreign Minister at the time, Marise Payne, for increased aid in the Pacific. And they ignored it. And they dropped the ball when it came to that engagement. We won't drop the ball. We are engaged in our very first week. And the meeting that we had with President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Modi was extremely successful as well. I was able to outline Labor's commitment to peace and security in the region, but also to action on climate change, which people have been crying out for. I've spoken to other world leaders. And all of them have expressed support for what Labor has said, the incoming Government, that we will join the global efforts to combat climate change, that it is a national security issue, and we need to act.

In addition to that, yesterday, I wrote to the Fair Work Commission, indicating we would make a submission to ensure that those people who are on minimum wages, in our view, should not see a real wage cut. I don't see this as a radical position that someone on $20.33 an hour shouldn't get a real wage cut. They're struggling to get by. And I believe that some of the rhetoric of the former Government showed that they were out of touch with how tough many people are doing it out there. And in particular, for those people on the minimum wage, many of them were the heroes of the pandemic. They're our cleaners. They're essential workers in retail. And they're people who deserve a Government that is prepared to speak up for them. And I will lead such a Government.

I'll convene the Caucus meeting on Tuesday in Canberra. And we'll have a swearing in of the full Ministry on Wednesday. But we've already had substantial meetings with significant departments, including my own, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Defence and other security agencies, and other meetings have taken place this week to make sure that we set about implementing our agenda. We have a good agenda. It is an agenda for change. It is an agenda for safe change. Making a real difference to people's lives. Making child care cheaper. Making medicines cheaper. Lowering power bills by dealing with climate change and supporting renewables. Making more things here in Australia. Having more secure work. This is an agenda that I believe Australians will be proud of over the coming years. And I intend to implement our agenda, and to be able to, at the next election, say we did what we said we would do. In the last week, we have certainly done that. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister in the Solomon Islands said at a press conference that China is considering a proposal to build a new training centre in Honiara. Is this concerning for the Government? And secondly, would Australian troops and police stay in the Solomons if there's a large contingent of Chinese troops there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I've said is that Australia has put forward a comprehensive plan, my Government, for the Pacific. That includes an Australia Pacific defence training school. It includes increased support for maritime security. It includes an increase in our aid budget of over half a billion dollars. Re-engaging on climate change. More permanent migration from Pacific Island countries to Australia, but also an improvement in the temporary work program as well for the Pacific. Increasing engagement between our parliaments and person-to-person links, as exemplified by the visit of Foreign Minister Wong to Fiji this week. That is very important that we engage in that way. I intend to attend the Pacific Island Forum meeting myself. We will engage. We've known that there have been issues in the Pacific for some time. And the former Government's response was to send a very junior representative after the deals had been done. We will be proactive in the region. We want to engage. Australia has been the partner of choice for a long period of time in the Pacific. And we intend to continue to be that.

JOURNALIST: The Herald Sun is reporting an Australian man, a 47 year old Australian man, was killed this week in Ukraine. He was there providing humanitarian support. Were you aware that an Australian had died this week? And what are the next steps for the Government? Will you provide support to his family in Tasmania?

PRIME MINISTER: This is a tragedy. And I want to give my condolences to the family of the person involved. The Australian authorities, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are providing consular support to the family. The family has requested that their privacy be respected. And I'd ask the media to do that.

JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to Fiji signing up to the US Indo-Pacific Framework? Is that a big dent to China's ambitions in the region?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we want to engage. And it's a good thing that Fiji have signed up. We are friends with our Pacific Island neighbours. We know that they are sovereign nations and have a right to determine their own future. We want to be partners with them though. All of our engagement in the Pacific will be no strings attached. It will be one that respects the sovereignty of those nations, but one that also understands the role that we have historically played since the Second World War. It's unfortunate that in recent times, there's been not a step-up so much as a stuff up in terms of the relations with our Pacific Island neighbours. My Government intends to engage in a cooperative and respectful way.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you that Labor can secure a majority? And why do you think Labor's primary vote is so low?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, a number of people, I reckon there's more than six per cent of Labor supporters in Kooyong for example. And we have a preferential system. People understand it. And some of this analysis is rather strange. We got 52 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. We, by the time counting is finished, we'll end up with around about a four per cent swing to Labor at this election. In a range of seats, where people felt that Labor was unlikely to win, like Kooyong was not on our target list, Bennelong was, we had a circumstance whereby Labor's vote was lower than it normally would be. And that's just a fact. But the truth is that we have increased our representation in the Parliament substantially. I'm very confident that Labor will have at least 76 seats on the floor of the House of Representatives. And that represents a majority Government and an outstanding result for the Australian Labor Party at this election.

JOURNALIST: On the Biloela family, have you spoken to the Biloela family? When do they return home? And would you consider granting a permanent protection to them?

PRIME MINISTER: Those issues will be worked through. We wanted to make sure that the family were given, very early, the security of knowing they could go home to Bilo, which is what they wanted to do. Once that visa is granted, then other issues can be worked through in terms of their security. But I visited Biloela in 2019 as Labor Leader. I visited there. I met with the community leaders. This is a much loved family. And Nades works at the meatworks. We have temporary labour being imported in for meatworks around the country because we struggle to get workers who are prepared to do that work. He was someone doing it, contributing to the local economy with these two beautiful young girls who were born here in Australia. We are a generous country. And when I grew up, the way I was brought up, you don't treat people like that. And we're better than that. We've intervened. We'll continue to treat this family with the respect that they deserve. One more.

JOURNALIST: Just on Queensland now. The Greens have just claimed victory in Brisbane. Does that mean you will be willing to renegotiate or reconsider your emissions target?


JOURNALIST: Just a quick one. Did you win tennis this morning? Is tennis something you will continue to do while you are Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I've been in a tennis comp for some time, the Sydney Badge Tennis Comp. I play for Marrickville, which is my local club. And I think we're in round six or seven. I haven't been able to keep up with it. But funnily enough, I haven't made a contribution to the team up to now. We had a home game today versus Royal Sydney. And I'm pleased to report that Marrickville won six sets to two, which gives us eight points on the competition table. It's a good bit of fun. It is played in good spirit. And Royal Sydney played in good spirit as well. I'm now a member of Royal Sydney as well, because every Prime Minister gets automatic membership at the club, which is probably the only way I was going to get in there, to be frank. So, I've got in there the hard way, but I'm there. And anyone who knows Royal Sydney, there is a bit of a difference between Royal Sydney and Royal Marrickville, as we jokingly call it.

JOURNALIST: Do you hope to keep playing?

PRIME MINISTER: I do hope to keep playing. Obviously, my timetable is difficult. But I want to keep it real. I want to continue to engage with real people. At Marrickville, I'm just Albo, at the tennis club. Even today, no one was addressing me formally, as people have here at the press conference. That's a good thing. They're my friends. It's my local community. And it's a very good thing that happens. They have every sort of beer on tap at Marrickville Tennis Club. You can have light beer or dark beer. There are two beers on tap. And we get sausage rolls, or what have you, heated up in the microwave is what you get for afternoon tea. It's a great experience. And the team from Royal Sydney were great as well. They were very generous. It's unusual to turn up to just play a bit of not all that serious a tennis, even though it's a competition, and have snappers taking your photo, which is what occurred today. So, I will turn up when I can. The great thing about tennis, unlike when you do other things, is that it's a really simple sport. Hit the ball over the net between the lines. You can't think about other things like what's going on in the world, or climate change, or the decision-making processes that you've got to do. So, I find, for my mental health, it is a pretty useful use of my time. So, thanks very much, everyone. And thanks everyone for coming for coming out.