Press Conference - Beijing - People's Republic of China

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: I am very pleased to be concluding a very successful visit to China, the first Australian Prime Minister to visit since 2016.

Today, Premier Li and I had a very constructive dialogue, building on the relationship that we've helped to build with meetings in Jakarta and New Delhi. It provides an opportunity for us to move forward with common interests in the interests of Australia and in the interests of China has been stabilising the relationship and there is no doubt that this visit has helped to assist that process. The next step, if you like, towards stabilising the relationship, which is so important for Australia's economy and also important in terms of security and stability in the region. Dialogue is always a good thing. And when China represents more than one in four of our export dollars and more than one in four of Australian jobs depends upon our exports, this is an important relationship. Our meeting marked as well a recommencement of our annual leaders meetings.

And today I, of course, invited the Premier to visit Australia, a country he has visited on a number of occasions. We also enjoyed an informal banquet lunch, and I think the honour that China has given me as Prime Minister of Australia in being welcomed here to the Great Hall of the People banquet lunch as well, where the band learnt five Australian songs, including as ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ and ‘Click Go the Shears’ just shows the extent to which our hosts have gone out of their way to show us courtesy and respect and that is very much appreciated.

In our joint outcome statement, we also agreed some practical steps to advance dialogue in areas of common interests, including climate change, trade and people-to-people links. While there are differences between Australia and China, we agree that our differences should not define us. Dialogue was at the heart of my conversations and I used this visit to advocate for Australia's interests, including on trade, consular, human rights and global issues. I thank President Xi and Premier Li for hosting me. I look forward to continued engagement on areas of mutual interest and in support of regional stability and security. This is one of Australia's most important relationships and I'm committed to advocating Australia's national interest as we move forward. The truth is the world is facing serious challenges and economic headwinds and that's why a region that is peaceful, stable and prosperous matters at home. It strengthens our economy, it helps to support jobs and helps to support business and it sets our nation up for a safe and a prosperous future, and I look forward to further engagement.

And now, I will go to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in the Cook Islands. That will be important once again for engaging with the Pacific family about Australia's national interest in the region, but importantly, as well as a member of the Pacific family. Happy to take just a couple of questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, much has been said about Gough Whitlam during this trip. Obviously, you and the Foreign Minister went to the Temple of Heaven yesterday. We heard those comments from President Xi last night expressing a lot of gratitude to Mr Whitlam, what do you hope people will be saying about this trip in 50 years' time?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would hope that there's a recognition that this was a point where the relationship moved forward, where dialogue occurred in a way that was respectful, where differences were able to be discussed in a way that didn't define the whole relationship. I've said consistently that we'll cooperate where we can with China, we'll disagree where we must, but we will engage in our national interest. And I think people will look at this visit as well and see this as a culmination of 18 months of hard work by the Foreign Minister and by other members of the Government, as well as members of the Chinese Government, as one where our approach has been to be patient, deliberate and calibrated in moving the relationship forward. And I think this visit has certainly seen the result of that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, your next stop is the Pacific Islands Forum. China is building the stadium in Honiara for Solomon Islands, for the Pacific Games. It's also sending in a police force for security. How concerned are you about China's intentions in the region?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we will continue to have those discussions about the region. One of the things about the Pacific Island Forum is that we have recognised in last year's statement the importance of the Pacific family looking after our security interests of the region. But the Pacific family is also made up of sovereign states, so we respect the fact that sovereign states have a right to make their decisions. I look forward to engaging positively and constructively with Prime Minister Brown, but others as well. The Cook Islands is the host of the Forum. It will be an opportunity to engage with our nations. We have very positive relations with all of the nations who make up the PIF, and indeed I have hosted many of them, including the leaders of the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and other nations, since I've been Prime Minister. We have re-engaged very much with the Pacific that is in Australia's interest. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Premier said people in China think you're a very handsome boy. What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER: I think, I'm not quite sure how to respond to that, Will, but I think I'll let that one go through to the keeper. Shanghai is a wonderful city. It's just a glorious city, and the Bund opens up that city to what is an extraordinarily beautiful landscape and river. But importantly as well, my visit to Shanghai was a reminder for me of my first visit here last century, where I went up the very tall tower that's still there and looked across at the landscape on the other side of the river and essentially it was agricultural land. So, for me, it's a reminder of the extraordinary economic growth that has occurred here in China. It is undoubtedly an extraordinary achievement that so many people have been lifted out of poverty here in China over recent decades. And the growth has been quite extraordinary. And it is understandable how proud the Chinese people are of that growth.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you spoke about the global economy while you've been here, there's been a rate hike in Australia. What's your reaction to that? And do you expect there will be further rate hikes that Australians will have to prepare for?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the RBA, of course, are independent, but they have referred to in their statement that they're examining the impact on the global economy. We need to be engaged because we know that impacts of the global economy on energy prices, for example, feed through into the Australian economy. That's why a major focus of this visit has been on Australian job creation, on the benefit that we can get by dealing with the impediments to our trade, which have been there. We are very focused on Australian jobs and the Australian economy and Australian living standards, which is why we continue to have as our number one priority cost of living relief. Something that from the time I've come into Government, we have done, whether it be through targeted measures such as cheaper child care, the improvement to Medicare bulk billing that we instituted just this month, the tripling, our energy price relief plan we worked through last year with states and territories, or whether it be the fiscal consolidation that has turned around a $78 billion deficit into a $22 billion surplus. These are all measures together with dealing with supply chain constraints, which is why we also need to deal with the global economy. And through those supply chain constraints, we've been dealing with trade issues, but also dealing with skill shortages, fee-free TAFE, making a difference there as well. We'll continue to engage and continue to be focused on cost of living relief because we know that that is the number one issue facing Australians and we'll continue to provide that support. Thanks very much. Thank you.