Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

Transcript
21 Sep 2016
Prime Minister

KEIRAN GILBERT:

Prime Minister thanks for your time, you spoke of the risk of a proxy war when you think about Iran and the Saudis, you think about the US and Russia, are we on the brink of a new Cold War?

PRIME MINISTER:

No we’re not, nothing like it. The critical thing in Syria is to find a political settlement - there are warring parties within Syria, and of course they all, or almost all of them, have sponsors, supporters from outside. That’s why the diplomatic challenge is both for the external parties – you mentioned some of them – to reach agreement and then to be able to ensure that they bring the players on the ground to the table as well.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in his speech to the General Assembly, slammed the Security Council. He says they’re at risk of undermining their relevance and their standing in world affairs. He says they, the UN Security Council, have not lived up to their responsibilities on Syria. Do you agree with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

There has certainly been a failure on Syria. I think John Key is right – or it’s a fair comment.

You’ve got to judge political actions by their outcome, and all of the resolutions, all of the efforts have failed to produce the settlement that we need in Syria. But of course the Security Council is an institution, the real challenge is for the particular powers – and, of course, the two leading powers in the Syria conflict, the United States and, of course, Russia, have to reach agreement . Then of course there are a number of other parties, you mentioned Iran, you mentioned the Gulf States and there are others that are providing support to the various warring parties fighting in Syria.

It’s a very complex area. We haven’t even mentioned Turkey’s role. So it is a very, very complex situation, but the scale of the tragedy is so immense, the consequences are so widespread, so far-reaching, the impact on millions of people so tragic, that a resolution has to be reached.

KIERAN GILBERT:

On the issue of refugees, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they’ve accepted 25,000 in the space of just a few months with no security checks. Is this irresponsible?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to comment, let alone critique the policies of another country, particularly Canada with whom we have such great ties at every level. However, the approach that we have taken, the approach which, as you know, we’ve taken 12,000 additional refugees from the Syrian conflict zone, from persecuted minorities and families-

KIERAN GILBERT:

And they undergo extensive security checks.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes they do. Absolutely, very extensive and about 3,500 have come to Australia. There is another 4,000 or more that are well on the road to reaching the point where they can come to Australia. We make no apologies for being very thorough and very painstaking about it.

KIERAN GILBERT:

You’ve said that the Australian story is a model essentially for the rest of the world to look at and you know, you don’t want to give advice, but you obviously believe it’s the strongest border protection regime in the world. There is a blight on it though and I know you say it’s the Labor legacy, but it is still there. Does that weigh on you, as Prime Minister, to resolve that? The fact that there are genuine refugees, hundreds of them, still in limbo.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me be quite clear about this, we do everything we can to encourage those whose claims have been rejected, to return home, which is what they should do. We encourage the countries from which they came to accept them back, whether on a voluntary or an involuntary basis. As you know we’ve had issues with Iran in that regard, which presently will not accept back involuntary returns of its own citizens, and in many cases won’t accept back voluntary returns.

KIERAN GILBERT:

What about genuine refugees?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are seeking to find alternative modes of resettlement there, but of course they have the opportunity to settle both in PNG or in Nauru where they’re located so both of those countries are offering safe havens for people who are judged to be refugees through the process that PNG and Nauru are administering within their countries.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Organisations like Amnesty International have called on Australia to take refugees from Latin America for decades, what’s changed now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s an extension of the approach that we’re taking, it’s a multilateral effort and I think it’s important to play a part, to cooperate. The more collaboration there is in dealing with the challenge, the refugee challenge, the better.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Republican candidate in the US election has a very real chance of winning. One of the things he’s said he is going to do is pull out of the Asia Pacific and the pivot to Asia would essentially be dead. Would you see it as your responsibility to argue the case within the alliance, for the United States staying engaged in our region if Mr Trump does win?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let’s put Mr Trump to one side, I’m not going to buy in to American Politics, that’s a matter for the Americans. But regardless of who the President is, regardless of the times, regardless of the political environment, I will always advocate for the United States to play a leading role, to continue to play a leading role as the guarantor of peace, security and stability in the Asia Pacific. The more than 40 years of stability, relative stability that we’ve seen in the Asia Pacific, has seen the greatest run of prosperity in the history of the world and that has been underwritten by the presence of the United States, the Pax Americana.

KIERAN GILBERT:

What if the US doesn’t support it though?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, Kieran, you’re the commentator, as I said, I won’t commentate on Australian politics let alone American Politics.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The President said, and you’ve quoted him as well, saying in his speech yesterday: walls and prison, only the countries that build them they imprison their own people. The President talking about a wall in this country is the man we’re talking about, Donald Trump. I know you’re not going to comment on that specifically but on protectionism and trade, whoever wins, there seems to be a protectionist sentiment there. What’s driving it in the United States and elsewhere?

PRIME MINISTER:

I talked to Mike Bloomberg about this yesterday. It’s pretty clear that the pace of change is very unsettling for many people. There’s no doubt that the rising tide of prosperity has not lifted all boats to the same extent, and some people feel and some industries feel they have been left behind. It’s important to remember, however, that job losses, particularly in areas like manufacturing, are not driven by trade as much as they are by technology. So it’s the pace of technological advancement as much as anything else that is causing these disruptions. Now the view that we take in Australia is a much more positive and open one than in other countries. I mean we recognise that Australia has been a massive beneficiary of free trade and if you look at the jobs that have been created, the businesses that have been enabled and supported by the China Australia Free Trade Agreement alone, let alone the Japan Agreement, the Korean Agreement or even the enhanced Singapore Agreement, you can see the benefits that have come from that, particularly, in regional Australia.

The onus is on me and other leaders to make the case for trade. What we’ve got to do – we can’t just treat it as some sort of, you know, ideological virtue that you just have to state as though it is self-evident. We have to demonstrate and show, and people have got to see it and feel it, that open markets that trade is delivering jobs and greater opportunities but it is uneven and there are always people who will feel, often rightly, that their business industry has been left behind and that’s why it’s so important for the new opportunities to be available so that as we move, so that as businesses or industries decline, new opportunities arise. That’s been the great story of the last generation that we have seen a lot of economic change, a lot of technological change but overall, we’ve seen very strong jobs growth.

KIERAN GILBERT:

My last question relates to a few of the issues that we’ve been talking about, on the issue of migration and the globalisation impact. Is this – we’re seeing a sweep in many societies, like in the UK for example with the Brexit vote between the globalists in city areas and what we can describe as nationalists in different parts of the country. If you look at the vote in Brexit, there’s a huge disparity between those who wanted to stay in London and those that wanted to get out of the EU elsewhere.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that’s certainly how it’s perceived in Europe. The view of the Brexit from the continent is very much that it was a judgement on the inability of the United Kingdom within Europe to control its own borders. It is now - obviously there are many facts and, as you know, people vote on any issue for a range of reasons, so we often – we always overgeneralise but there is no doubt that that theme of what we call border security, was a very, very live one but there’s also - and the sense that I think the Brexit vote occurring at the same time as there was this extraordinary flood of refugees in to Europe - it underlined in the minds of many people in Britain that their Government was not in control of its borders. Because we, you know – Britain is part of, still is, part of the European Union and there is freedom of movement within the EU. That has been a great driver of growth and investment and economic advancement of course, but it’s also provided a source of considerable anxiety and there’s no question that played in to the Brexit vote.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Mr Turnbull, thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much.

[Ends]