Press Conference - Kirribilli, NSW

08 Nov 2020
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Good morning everyone. There is no more important, no deeper, no broader, no closer relationship, no relationship more critical to Australia’s strategic interests than the one that we enjoy with the United States. With its government and its people. This relationship is bigger than any one individual and those who have the great privilege to serve in either the offices of the Prime Minister or President are the custodians of that enduring relationship. The United States is one of the world’s greatest democracies, alongside Australia and many others, and democracy is proven, not just in the times of still waters but when the waters can get choppy and, of course, we have seen that in recent times in the United States. But democracy is the process that they have always stood by to resolve such differences and to ensure that they can elect their leader and their leader can engage with the rest of the world, particularly with those countries with whom they share such deep and abiding interests, as we do with the United States.

Of course, there are processes that will still continue in the United States and the institutions that sit around those are important to their democracy and that is important and they will continue. But I join with other nation’s leaders around the world in congratulating President-elect Joe Biden and Doctor Jill Biden, together with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her partner Douglas Emhoff for their election at this recent US election. This is a profound time, not just for the United States, but for our partnership and the world more broadly and I look forward to forging a great partnership in the spirit of the relationships that has always existed between Prime Ministers of Australia and Presidents of the United States. I particularly look forward to this with President Biden because he comes to this relationship with a deep experience and a deep history, a history that has seen him come to Australia before. One that has involved many, many years of experience within the US system and one that deeply understands this part of the world. When he was in Australia, on-board the HMAS Adelaide, he said this, "Thank you for having America's back. And we will always have your back." During the same visit to Australia, he said America and Australia continue to look to one another for mutual support and he described our alliance with the United States as the core of the US's vision for the Indo-Pacific. That was true then and that is true now. President-elect Biden also has a deep understanding, I think, of the national security issues that confront not only the United States but those more broadly across the world, and a deep personal understanding obviously with his late son Beau having served in Iran. But you may not know that President-elect Biden had two uncles who served in New Guinea during the Second World War, one of whom he was killed in New Guinea and another seriously injured. So the relationship goes deep and it is personal and I think that is something that will bring a lot to an understanding of the people to people relationship and the depth and history of the relationship between our two countries.

I hope that he and Doctor Biden will join us here in Australia for the 70th anniversary of ANZUS. ANZUS has been the bedrock of our security foundations in Australia since that alliance was first established and I look forward to inviting the President-elect to join us next year in their formal capacities at that time and for us to be able to celebrate 70 years of peace and stability and security that has been established by this incredible relationship. And so, we look to begin a new chapter in this important relationship. We wish the American people all the very best. We are like minded. We share values. We share an outlook, a peaceful outlook on the world, and on life. A life where families can live together in peace and stability and pursue their own dreams and plan for their own futures with confidence. These are the values that we hold dear as two countries.

But as one chapter opens, of course, another chapter closes. And I want to thank President Trump and Vice President Pence, Secretary Mike Pompeo, Secretary Mnuchin and the many other members of his Cabinet with whom we have had a very, very good working relationship over the years of the Trump Administration and, of course, that will continue through the transition period. President Trump equally showed a great commitment to this part of the world and the relationship between Australia and the United States. This was also true of Vice President Pence, who I remember meeting for the first time in Papua New Guinea and spending some important time with him there as we discussed the challenges, particularly in the Southwest Pacific, and how we could work together and as we have been. Secretary Pompeo has also been a great voice for peace around the world and I thank him for his special relationship with Australia. And Secretary Mnuchin, who I had the opportunity to work with both as Treasurer and as Prime Minister.

This relationship is bigger than all of us and in the time we serve in the roles that we have the privilege to serve in, we share a custodianship of that relationship and I have every confidence because it is based on more than 100 years of successful partnership. That this partnership will only go from strength to strength under the new shared stewardship that President-elect Biden and I will share going into the future. Thank you very much.

Journalist: Prime Minister, with the President-elect so strong on climate change, how will that influence Australia’s commitment to climate change and especially to the net zero by 2030… by 2050?

Prime Minister: Australia's commitment to addressing climate change will continue. We are signatories to the Paris Agreement and that is something we hold fast to and not only held fast to, we have a strong story to tell about our achievement when it comes to commitments on the global stage. Whether it is exceeding both the Kyoto one and the Kyoto two targets and now being able to confidently meet our 2030 commitments and should the United States, which I assume they will under President-elect Biden, join the Paris Agreement, we welcome that. Australia never left, Australia was always there meeting and keeping commitments. I also particularly welcome the comments that were made during the campaign by Vice President Biden, at the time, when he showed a lot of similarity to Australia's views on how technology can be used to address the lower emissions challenge. We want to see global emissions fall and it's not enough for us to meet our commitments. We need to have the transformational technologies that are scalable and affordable for the developing world as well because that is where all the emissions increases are coming from in the decade ahead in the next 20 years. We need to ensure that those economies can successfully and commercially and prosperously transform through these technologies. I believe we will have a very positive discussion about partnerships we can have with the United States about furthering those technological developments that will see a lower emissions future for the world but a stronger economy as well where we don't say goodbye to jobs we don't have to say goodbye to. OK, thank you very much.

Journalist: In the event that President Trump refuses to leave, what circumstances would Australia and other firm allies need to be to ask him to respect the vote of the American people?

Prime Minister: I have great confidence in the institutions of America’s democracy and I have been expressing those consistently. I have taken a similar tone to many others and that is to express patience and respect for the US system. It is in fact, I think, a sentiment President-elect Biden has also expressed. This is a time for those processes to finalise and for us to move on with the important work because there are so many important challenges, whether here in the Indo-Pacific when it comes to world trade, when it comes to dealing with the global pandemic and the global recession that has followed from the pandemic. There is much work for like-minded countries like Australia and the United States to get on with and those processes in the United States will come to their conclusion and the transition will proceed as we always understand it to be. This is not a new process, this is a time honoured process and a time established process and I have confidence it will resolve itself in time.

Journalist: Prime Minister, what is Mr Trump’s legacy...

Prime Minister: Sorry, I couldn't quite hear you over the birds.

Journalist: What is Mr Trump’s legacy in the Indo-Pacific?

Prime Minister: There has been a tremendous commitment by the Trump Administration here in the Indo-Pacific and we have seen, importantly, the Quad come back together again. Together and the Malabar exercise that has been under way recently, I think, is a very good example of that. The bringing together of like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific to work to one simple goal and that is to see the prosperity of all countries and peace within the Indo-Pacific region. Whether that is here or in Indonesia, whether that is in Vietnam, in China, throughout Japan, South Korea, there has been an integration and I think an effort to try and bring people together in that regard and we will continue that work because it's very important for Australia's interests. We want to see all of these countries succeed. When they do succeed we can live together peacefully and prosperously.

Journalist: Prime Minister, it is likely that President-elect Biden would rejoin the Trans Pacific Partnership, perhaps in a more protectionist way than in 2016. What changes would you allow to the TPP if it were to enable the US to rejoin?

Prime Minister: We are one of the many partners in the TPP and we are obviously champions of the TPP and particularly in its resurrection after the Trump Administration's election four years ago. And we are very pleased that we are able to keep the door open for the United States and many others to join as well. Now, the terms of how that would occur is one that would have to be done collectively with the other partners to that relationship. It is true that there are many similarities in the trade outlook of both sides of politics in the United States and I think we have seen that but we would welcome the re-engagement of those trade forms. Because, you know, coming out of the COVID-19 recession, the way out is not to withdraw. The way out is not to fall back in. The way out is to reach out and the way out is to engage in market-based trade, fair trade, under the proper rules through the World Trade Organisation, and that's something we are committed to. We would welcome a commitment to that objective as well. That is going to help the world recover from the COVID-19 global recession and we are very committed to that course and we welcome all other countries doing the same.

Journalist: Are there any changes though that you wouldn’t allow, that are non-negotiables?

Prime Minister: I think it would be very early days to speculate on those matters. I would simply say to the United States, the door has always remained open on the TPP. It is open now. It will be open in the future and you are welcome any time. Thank you very much.