Speech and Q&A, American-Australian Association Reception

23 Sep 2019
New York
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much. Well look, thank you for that wonderful welcome Jenny and I are thrilled to be here. The roll has been called so I don't think I'll go through all that again, but I’ve got to say it is particularly good to have Marise Payne here with me together here at the UN Marise and I really enjoy working together particularly in the important work of Australia's international relations. And she's doing a great job so it's great to see her in action here at the UN as well and so Marise, tremendous, and particularly on this occasion because it's felt like a bit of a tour with Joe on this occasion. I want to acknowledge Joe again, and in this city. Having been able to do it in Chicago and of course back in Washington, but here Joe as well, thank you for the great job that you've done and to acknowledge Melissa as well. She's been a great, great support and partner to you in this, in this very important job that you've done here in the United States and you've just done a fabulous job. Can- Ross and Nick are here, is Ross Vasta here?

UNKNOWN SPEAKER: You’ve got him working.

PRIME MINISTER: I've got him working! Ross is at work. Fantastic. Well Ross and both- Nick [Champion] are here representing our parliament here at the UN and it's great to have them in New York and observing all that's going on and particularly travelling to New York which I'm sure they’re starting to get very familiar with. Craig thank you for having us here and thanks for the [inaudible]. That's great and that’ll always go down well with AAA people there's no doubt that. This is my third time at the AAA, last two occasions on addressing the AAA have been slightly more formal occasions when I spoke as Treasurer on several occasions on previous visits so it's a great pleasure to come back here tonight as the Prime Minister and to basically talk a little bit about what we've been doing the last few days and why all of that is so incredibly important. But before I do that I think it's important to acknowledge the important work of the AAA. AAA has been around for 70 years. When Keith Murdoch, journalist and entrepreneur and patriarch of that Murdoch clan founded it here in New York in 1948, America and Australia were not even formal allies at that point when the AAA was established. But we were already old friends having served side by side since the first of those conflicts back in the First World War, and in every single one since. This morning I told the story when I was in Chicago of how this all began with Alfred Deakin writing off then Teddy Roosevelt saying I really think you should include, you should really include Australia in the great tour of the Great White Fleet that went all around the world. And it was the Secretary of State who had advocated that he take up Prime Minister Deakin’s call because he could see how important it would be for America to have relations and have a presence right throughout the Pacific. That was understood by Alfred Deakin at that time as well. So you know where we are today and the relationship we have today stands on the shoulders of so many that have gone before. Who could always see the great potential and the great strategic significance of this partnership but it's always been underpinned, it's always been underpinned by those incredibly fantastic values and beliefs that bind our countries together. Those beliefs now could not be more important. In Washington the other night there was a few of us gathered at Blair House and those beliefs, it has been a great joy to be able to come and celebrate as part of the events that have taken place over the last few days. What am I talking about? Entrepreneurship. The value of enterprise. The importance of free markets, the rule of law, the great victories of liberal democracy over generations. You know, we can take all that for granted today. We can sit back and see the world in which we live in which peace has been secured at a great price and incredible great international institutions have been established as a dividend of that peace to preserve what was supposed to be all of those great freedoms and liberties that came at such a great price. I sometimes worry that we've become a bit too familiar with the peace that was so hard fought and so hard built upon after the Second World War. We can become a bit familiar with it and then we can lose sight of it, of the foundations that provided it. That's why this is important to reflect all these things through the AAA because the things that are shared most between Australia and the United States is not just $1.7 trillion in investment between both countries, of which Anthony Pratt is the great champion of now, and the most significant demonstrator of it - 27 states. Amazing. Incredible. 27 states. And his business now shared between the United States and Australia where he's taking the- he learnt it all in Australia. He's changing America in the same way that he's done that in Australia. It's not just 1.7 trillion dollars in investment. It's just not the best trade deal the United States has with any other country of anywhere in the world. Because they don’t pay tariffs on anything that comes to Australia so it’s the best deal they have, a trade surplus they've enjoyed since the Truman administration. It's not just all of that and the defence size, it is the beliefs that underpin our two great democracies and I think that's why there is so much engagement. You’re going to go invest. You’re going to go and participate. You’re going to go and be involved when you get each other and you understand each other and you believe the same things. So these ties that we have are constantly reinforced every time we do business with each other. Every time we do an exercise with each other. Every time that students engage or are engaged in a research project. 40,000 research papers published last year between Australia and the United States, 40,000. It's incredible. It's amazing, why? Because we think the same way, we look through the world- to the world through the same lense. And that's why you come along tonight, fighting the New York traffic to be here. To be part of the AAA and understand its significance. That's what was seen all those years ago when the AAA was brought together and that's what has brought us back here tonight. That's what was celebrated for those of us who had the great, great privilege to be in the Rose Garden in the White House the other night. And we could be overwhelmed with the moment and we could reflect on what is clearly a wonderful and early understanding that the President I've been able to establish. But it's not about that, it's actually far more than that. It's about what began back in 1908 and was continued all through time now by people coming and being part of this relationship as you have this evening. And that will continue into the future and more importantly it must. Because we know what we believe is the hope of the world, at the end of the day. It really is. And if we don't believe that then I'd be surprised. And we’ve got to stir that up you know. Between Australia and the United States. We've got to stir that belief up. We've got to celebrate it. We gotta acknowledge it because it is the light. It is the thing that has ensured this wonderful advancement that we've seen in the western world and what liberal democracy has brought. And we should showcase it and we should celebrate it and most importantly we should stand up for it and seek to profess it and encourage others to go down a similar path. As I conclude, and I’m happy to take some questions, I want to- is AB here tonight Joe?

JOE HOCKEY: He had to go back to DC.

PRIME MINISTER: He had to go back to D.C. Well AB Culvahouse is our new ambassador, in Washington it’s great working with him. It's great to have John Berry here tonight. He does a great job with the AAA. He did a tremendous job as the Ambassador to the United- from the United States to Australia, and we all got to know him quite well when he was there and really great Christmas events. I remember one night I had to chase a certain Senator down to one of the parties you ran down there because I needed their vote that night. And I secured it by the way. I heard, he’s at the US ambassador’s residence! So I jumped in a comcar and got down as quickly as I could where my spies told me he was very much at the buffet. Anyway. John thank you for the great work you do for the AAA. Like everyone in this room tonight John sort of has a bit of a foot in both camps. As a proud American but also someone who loves Australia very much. And I couldn't think of anyone better to be so thriving at the level you do, the partnership we have here, so all of those who are involved in the exchange programs also, we want to celebrate you and what you are doing. And we look forward to so many more coming in your footsteps. But for now I think that's really what I wanted to say here tonight. The commerce, the education, the science, the research, defence, all of that is the product of what we believe and we must constantly go back to what we believe and reinforce that to each other and celebrate it in doing things that we do. Thank you so much for your attention.


So do we have any questions for the Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Except for Nick- he gets that chance in Parliament.


QUESTION: So you were Treasurer and you know a bit about the banking system in Australia. I work a lot with the banks in Australia, they’ve been through a fairly rigorous process over the last couple of years. Do you think, are they coming out of it in a good condition do you think? Do you think the financial system is better off for it?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Well, what our banks went through was different to what the banks went through in the United States. But the non-financial factors were really drawn into question. There was no way, there was never any issue about the rigour and the soundness of our banking system. We have, I would argue, the best banking system in the world, the most resilient, the most the most strong. I mean that's a key factor. Leveraged a bit- quite substantially I’d say, on the Triple-A credit rating that Australia holds which we are only one of 10 countries that do hold. So there was never any question about the robustness of our banking and financial system but there were questions about some of the conduct and that conduct was obviously something that needed to be addressed and I think on the other side of what's been happening over many years now particularly the banking executive accountability regime and a range of other reforms that have been brought through and now flow through after the royal commission and there's a very extensive implementation process that we're now engaged in, and consultation with, and the Treasurer is leading that and that will be important. One thing we have to be careful of though is as important as all of that is, we need our banks to keep lending. We can't be scared of our own shadows in our economy and this is very important. The animal spirits of our economy and the role of the banking and financial system in, to extending credit and the role I think of a lot of the new financial players in Australia- as Treasurer I was incredibly excited about what was happening in the fintech space, Australia's a leader in FinTech and I think we're really quite ahead of the pack in so many ways in that area and some of the work that we did announce recently where we are putting two billion dollars into supporting the securitisation to broaden the market for a lot of the finance that some of the FinTech players could access for then, their new platforms for small businesses I think is really important. I mean, capitalism needs to be fuelled and it needs the support of a healthy and vibrant banking sector which can, you know lean into that. And while it's important to address those sort of conduct issues with the banks we must be very, very careful that we don't lead our banks into a place where they’re being overly sheepish and that can really cut off the opportunities that we would otherwise have. That's where the jobs are going to come from. We're in Chicago today and we're at that 1871 initiative, not for profit there, and there is a lot of great Australian businesses that were involved in that and plenty of good ideas but if they don’t get access to capital well they're just going to be a story in a bar saying I had this great idea and it didn’t really go anywhere. It goes somewhere when someone puts some money down and that's something that's so important so I'm, our Government is going to work very hard to ensure that we continue to encourage our banks not just to do the right thing but by their customers as they must and should, but also to make sure they continue to lean into the economy.

QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister thank you for joining us. My name is Kylie. Very glad to have you here tonight. What an amazing week you must have lined up. What topics are you most excited to tackle, and what do you think the biggest changes are going to come for us in the next year or so?

PRIME MINISTER: Great question, Kylie that’s a great Australian name. It's, well the topics we've already been into over the last few days, and that's everything from the indo-pacific to what we're doing in the Southwest Pacific strategically as part of our alliance and we’ve spent quite a bit of time on our Defence partnership. Critical Minerals and the supply chain, that we want to be able to establish with not just the United States but other key partners whether in Japan or Europe or other places. It’s important both for our minerals industry but it's important strategically. Frontier technologies, AI, and the future of frontier technologies and ensuring again that we're part of that process and what's happening in quantum computing at the moment. We had Michelle Simmons with us at the White House the other night in the Rose Garden a former Australian of the year. She was the smartest person in the room, there was no doubt about that, no one sought to contend for that position against Michelle Simmons. Those issues and ensuring that Australia is at the forefront and working with the United States and other partners to see those sectors develop, very, very significant. But as we come here, I mean the issues I'll be highlighting on Wednesday when I speak at the General Assembly is both the environmental and commercial issues that sit around a circular economy. Australia is taking action on climate change, as we should, we’re a country that meets our commitments, makes commitments meets them, has the programs in place and has had a lot of success in meeting our climate emissions reduction targets- 2020 next year. Kyoto targets we’ll smash it, three hundred sixty seven million tonnes. We will exceed the targets that have been set but there is a lot of incredibly urgent, immediate and short to medium term issues, which we also must address and that is in particular in the area plastics recycling and Anthony and I were having a great chat about this yesterday. Down at his new plant and we had a great chat about the cost structure of the supply chain of plastics recycling and there are a lot of challenges in all that. And we have to be able to try and smooth that process out so we can do with plastics what Anthony is doing with paper. In Australia what's 80 per cent- 80 per cent of recycled paper into cardboard in Australia you know what it is for plastics? 12 per cent. So you know we’ve got to get that number up. And that requires technology. But the other thing that's going to require is a commercial industry that actually does it. This shouldn't be a government industry. I mean it’s not with Anthony, it certainly not a government industry in your case, and it can be a viable, sustainable, big job creating, employing industry where it’s our waste, our responsibility and we can make that happen and where there is some further research that needs to be done into technologies then let's bring our best minds through our research institutions and others in CSIRO and the universities and Dan Tehan was just on the phone to me today talking about another project that he's been able to identify through the grants process that we’re already doing, how some of this could be converted into fuel and to energy. This shouldn't be, it doesn't require government in the middle of this and run all this with all sorts of committees and all those sort of things which we often see at the buildings a bit further down the road, what it just needs is industries that have the opportunity to invest as Anthony's business has done to transform the sector and I have every confidence that that can happen and I want Australia to be at the vanguard of leading an industry-led approach to a circular economy, not a government regulatory approach to that. I mean industry has the wit and the capital to do it and to make a dollar out of it, and once we’re making a dollar out of it, you won’t stop us.

QUESTION: Hey my name’s Will Marshall, I'm from Planet Labs. We build satellites. I was really excited to hear about your announcement just about NASA and taking part in the moon mission. I do firmly believe we should be spending most of our energies taking care of this planet but I think it's pretty exciting to inspire the next generation with plans to do science and exploration on other planets too. I know a lot of exciting stuff is happening in the commercial space sector now. It's really quite a Space 2.0 as we call it. And in some senses that could lead some of those efforts or at least be a strong partner. Have you thought about how Australia might capture some of that or help bring innovation in space to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'm so pleased you asked me that question. We made the announcement when we're in Washington that we're going to invest 150 million dollars in the Australian space industry. This is I think for some been a bit misunderstood back in Australia when we made this announcement. We're not sending a cheque to NASA. NASA doesn't need a cheque from Australia. The American government does not need a cheque from Australia. What this is about is getting in on the ground floor. And Joe was saying this to me today, I mean imagine if Australia had been on the ground floor of the iPhone, had Australia been on the ground floor of any of the major technologies that have come out of Silicon Valley and places like that. And made sure we were just right in there, ground floor. That's what we're doing on this. We're investing 150 million dollars through our own space agency in businesses and in people and technologies and capability in Australia. So Australian businesses and Australian scientists and others, can be part of what's going to happen here. And you know we’re going to look after this planet. We’ll learn things about what's happening other places about how to do that. And you know we don't know what we don't know, when it comes to these things. That's the great excitement of space exploration. So what this is about is jobs. It's 20,000 jobs. We're going to have in our space industry by 2030 and a 12 billion dollar industry by 2030. So that's worth investing in. Now we know there are a lot of challenges in our economy with jobs right across from one end of the country to the other. And we know we've got a lot of challenges like with drought at the moment. We're investing to help our farmers to deal with drought and our rural and regional communities, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars directly going in support. But we've put aside 150 over the next five years to ensure that we can get in on this. And just like the Honeysuckle project of many years ago beaming those- the most famous images of all human history I would say, went through Australia and went- and inspired humanity for generations and people like Dr Andy Thomas ended up in space himself as a result and I suspect the same will happen now and we're to see that- we're gonna see the first woman on the moon, and that's going to be exciting and Australia wants to be part of that and we want to create jobs as part of that, in Australia.