Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News Live

28 Aug 2019
Prime Minister

TOM CONNELL: Prime Minister thanks for your time. We just met with Boris Johnson who seems to get along pretty well with Donald Trump, did you ask for any tips on how to handle the US President?

PRIME MINISTER: We all have our relationships with the United States. And I’ve now met with President Trump on several occasions and I’m pleased that the relationship is I think, in the strongest position that it’s been in a long time. That’s been building for many years now and I think we have a good understanding of where they’re coming from and what they’re trying to achieve and they’re an important partner for us not just globally but certainly in the Indo-Pacific region and the South-West Pacific and that’s where we’ve had a lot of our discussions in recent times.

TOM CONNELL: What was your message to Donald Trump in that meeting on his trade war with China?

PRIME MINISTER: Well first of all just seeking clarity about where they’re heading it’s fairly clear they’re seeking to come to a new arrangement with China and I’ve always been consistent in saying we’d like to see that happen sooner rather than later. Because while this rolls on- rolls out, I should say, that does have a fairly disruptive impact on confidence in the global economy. And that's why we’re all keen to see that resolved sooner rather than later but you can't just sort of brush it under the carpet, you can’t just pretend that all the issues that have led to the tensions in the first place all of a sudden aren’t there. So they do have to be resolved, they do have to be acknowledged, they do have to be addressed. Otherwise it won't- any arrangement won’t be enduring. So we want to see an enduring outcome. And that means to have the issues that are at the centre of this resolved.

TOM CONNELL: And you can. Do you feel as though you can be pretty honest with Donald Trump about the impact on markets on Australia? Our own market tumbling again this morning-

PRIME MINISTER: Sure. I mean he's not unaware of these things either. Whether in his own country or elsewhere. But equally we've got ourselves to a point now in the global economy where after decades of seeing countries like China and others grow and expand, develop, become very sophisticated economies. That the rules that worked for that period won't work so well for the next period. If it's going to be an even playing field. So it is important this now gets addressed. It is important that we see- that we see that we’ve sort of gone over that tipping point into, in a new era in global economy in which China in particular is an advanced economy, a developed economy indeed. In so many parts of its country.

TOM CONNELL: And so it needs to act more like one? Is it not playing by the rules?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the rules were different for back then because they were seen as a developing country. I mean their rules on emissions are completely different to what applies to Australia under the Paris Agreement. Their rules on trade and developing country status was different as well. So we need to move into a new phase. See we welcome China's growth, we think that's a good thing, Australia has been a big beneficiary from China's growth. But now having seen that growth, celebrated that growth, it's time for the system to catch up with where they’ve been able to build their economy too, but not just- not just China. We'll see that in many other countries around the world.

TOM CONNELL: And so when you spoke about emissions- obviously China’s agreement is just at some point by the end of this- next decade basically, to then start reducing emissions, do you think they should come to an earlier and more concrete commitment?

PRIME MINISTER: Well if- emissions don't have nationalities, so an emission from one part of the world has the same impact on the environment as an emission from another. And if it's about actually reducing emissions, then at some point in time we need to understand that, globally.

TOM CONNELL: But this old argument about well you know we've had years of industrialization, many more decades than China, that doesn’t cut it anymore?

PRIME MINISTER: Well is it about the environment, or it is about the economy? I mean emissions you know, don't negotiate, they have the impact they have and they all have the same effect. And so I think that it's just a matter I think of getting some balance into this on this over time and I think Australia’s doing its bit. So we'll hit our 2020 targets comfortably. There are countries who were at this summit who won't, and we'll exceed it, and we'll hit our 2030 targets as well. So we're doing our bit but on our own we don't change, we don't change the absolute outcome one way or the other. So we'll do our bit. We'll be responsible actors in this space, we'll take action on climate change. But we need to ensure that if we’re to avoid the impacts and consequences that people are concerned about, Australia's concerned about, then we've got to make sure it keeps pace with where the emissions are coming from.

TOM CONNELL: The situation or the issue with Iran, will you still support at least in theory that- the nuclear deal that is basically in a bit of a state of disrepair now, the best way to keep it alive according to a lot of analysts would be to somehow soften the blow of sanctions on Iran. Would Australia consider helping in any way in a trade sense in that regard?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we're not parties to the JCPOA, there are others who are parties to that. We, I initiated a review of this arrangement after I became Prime Minister and we concluded that we would maintain the position that we had held, now I can’t say though that this was an agreement, and a deal that is wildly successful, but it's the best save for all the others. So we’ll maintain a constancy on this. But we have to be realistic about the threats that this poses and we want to make sure that we don’t end up in a situation where a country like Iran has nuclear weapons.

TOM CONNELL: It seems though that the more Iran is struggling economically, the more perhaps it will try the other thing, and go nuclear, for want of a better term.

PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s the view that some put forward, but I think it's important we take all steps to ensure that that capability is not realised.

TOM CONNELL: is one of those steps Australia- I understand not being a part of the agreement, but Australia in any way helping soften the sanctions via trade?

PRIME MINISTER: No. We support the sanctions.

TOM CONNELL: So Australia wouldn’t consider-

PRIME MINISTER: No, we support the sanctions.

TOM CONNELL: Okay. Is it a no go zone because of Donald Trump's threat over Europe over the same potential issue?


TOM CONNELL: Donald Trump previously having threatened European countries if they perhaps helped Iran bypass those sanctions does that make it a no-go for us as well?

PRIME MINISTER: No it's a simple proposition. You need to maintain the sanctions. We maintain the sanctions there, we maintain the sanctions when it comes to North Korea as well. And Australians are involved in enforcing those sanctions. And Australia will continue to do that.

TOM CONNELL: I just wanted to ask you finally about the Amazon fires, which has been a big discussion here, there could be an agreement at this G7 and already talk of money being provided including by the UK, would Australia help out?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'll be listening carefully to what’s put forward, particularly today I mean it’s very distressing. It’s often been described as the lungs of the world, and they’re on fire. There is a very big level of capability particularly in the Americas. And from those who sit around the table, at a the G7, to be able to address that. Australia has a lot of expertise when it comes to fighting fires as we know, and the season where this has come, becoming apparent and becoming quite serious is also coming into our own season when it comes to fires and likewise, so we'll carefully consider what requests are made and we’re concerned like everybody else is and we’d look to see what sort of arrangements are put in place. But we also have a lot of our own challenges to deal with in Australia. If there’s the capability to meet the challenges that are there, well then I would hope that would be the case but let’s just see what they, what requests they make.

TOM CONNELL: From what you’ve been told and briefed, what do you make of whether there’s some fault that lies with the Brazilian Government for the current situation?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh look I don’t think it helps to be getting into those sorts of commentaries and it’s a matter I think to address the environmental hazard that’s there now and I don’t think these issues are helped by Australia buying into any commentary on this. And I don’t intend to. 

TOM CONNELL: We’ve had the French President obviously indicating he might- that there’ might be some responsibility with the Brazilian government and hope it puts pressure on them not to do similar actions in the future, not to- perhaps increase the number of fires. Is it not worth, if you do you think that could be the case putting Brazil on notice?

PRIME MINISTER: I think Australians always take a very practical view about this. Where there’s a problem, where there’s a challenge, where there’s a need, if we can play a meaningful role, then we’ll obviously consider that but we won’t be in the business of running around offering countries lectures.

TOM CONNELL: It’s an interesting issue I guess, because you’ve got sovereignty but also the lungs of the world, as you spoke about. There’s an onus on Brazil guess to look after it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I would hope that they would be taking that responsibility seriously. And I'm not about to offer a commentary on that, one way or the other. We all seek to do manage things within our own borders. I mean Australia has its own challenges and we're very focussed on those.

TOM CONNELL: And you are at the G7 and have a very busy schedule so we appreciate your time. Prime Minister Scott Morrison thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Tom good to be here.