Television Interview - CNN State of the Union

01 Aug 2022
Prime Minister
Climate change; NATO; national security; China; January 6 investigation; gun control; Indigenous Australians

JAKE TAPPER, HOST: The death toll in Kentucky flooding is rising again this morning. The number now is 26 dead, as the effects of the climate crisis continue to wreak havoc around the world.

In Australia, the new Prime Minister has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But is the rest of the world on board?

Joining me now, the prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese.

Thank you so much for joining me.

The climate crisis is here. And I guess the question I have, by the time world leaders, including India and China and the United States, all get together and agree to do something significant, won't it be too late?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, I certainly hope not. And I'm very optimistic.

At the Madrid NATO Summit, I had discussions with world leaders and also, of course, at the Quad Leaders’ meeting. And I regard people as being very prepared to take much stronger action.

There's a greater recognition now as well that dealing with the challenge of climate change represents also an economic opportunity. We will see the greatest transformation that we have seen in our economy since the Industrial Revolution with the shift to clean energy.

And clean energy will, of course, see jobs being created at the same time, something that the Biden administration recognises, something that our European friends certainly recognise as well.

TAPPER: Let's turn to national security, because China, as you know better than I, is increasingly flexing its military muscle in your part of the world.

A recent survey found that three-quarters of Australians believe that China could pose a military threat to your country within the next 20 years.

How are you preparing for that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we're preparing for is strengthening our alliances.

We want to have good relationships with China and cooperate where we can, but we will stand up for Australian values where we must. And that is my approach to the relationship with China. Clearly, it's changed in recent years.

Under Xi, China has become more forward-leaning, more aggressive in the region. We have strategic competition.

TAPPER: The CIA director, William Burns, recently said that it's not a question of if, but when and how China will try to invade Taiwan.

If China attacks Taiwan, would Australia defend Taiwan militarily?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we're not dealing with hypotheticals, as have Australian governments taken that position in the past.

Australia supports a one-China policy, but we also support the status quo when it comes to the issue of Taiwan, that people respect the existing structures which are there. I believe that clearly is in the interests of all parties.

And I have taken the view as well that it is not in the interests of peace and security to talk up those issues of potential conflict.

TAPPER: I want to get your outsider's perspective on some things going on here in the United States, especially the Congress' January 6 investigation.

I want you to take a listen to what one of the witnesses in the most recent hearing, a former Trump national security official, said about the impact of the insurrection on January 6 on America's standing in the world.


MATTHEW POTTINGER, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: January 6 helped feed a perception that I think emboldens our adversaries.

I heard from a lot of friends in Europe, in Asia, allies, close friends, and supporters of the United States that they were concerned about the health of our democracy.


TAPPER: Are you concerned about the health of our democracy here in the United States?

PRIME MINISTER: Democracy in the United States remains strong. The United States remains a beacon for the world in terms of democratic nations. I firmly believe that.

And whilst the assault on democracy that we saw on January 6 was of real concern to all those who hold democratic processes dear around the world, the fact that you're having an open and transparent process -- these hearings are being broadcast to the world - indeed underlines, in my view, the strength of U.S. democracy, the strength of those institutions.

TAPPER: In 1996, after 35 Australians were killed in a mass shooting, your country's Government took immediate action. You implemented a gun buyback. You banned semiautomatic rifles. You passed strict new gun regulations.

What has it been like to watch the United States struggle to address our all-too-frequent mass shootings and gun deaths from an outsider's perspective, especially given your country's experience?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, every one of these tragedies is heartbreaking.

And every one of these tragedies keeps reinforcing, as an outsider, the fortunate position Australia's in of having these strong gun controls and the tragedy for the families affected by these crimes.

In Australia, we had a bipartisan response to the Port Arthur massacre, and we haven't had one since. And I would just say that people should look at our experience. It's up to the United States, as a sovereign nation, what direction it takes, of course, but the truth is that Australia's experience shows that less guns, particularly less automatic weapons, the less crime occurs and the less tragedy occurs.

TAPPER: Before we go, and on speaking of sovereign nations, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Platinum Jubilee last month.

At the time, you praised her leadership, but you also stressed that the relationship between the U.K. and Australia is now one of equals. You have previously voiced support for removing the queen as Australia's head of state and becoming a republic.

Now that you're prime minister, are you going to make that happen?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I do support a republic, but that doesn't mean I don't respect the Queen, who has presided over the Commonwealth for 70 years. It's quite an extraordinary achievement.

Our priority this term is the recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution. Our history didn't begin in 1788 with the arrival of the British First Fleet. It goes back some 65,000 years with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the oldest continuous civilization on the planet.

It should be a source of great pride. And my priority is getting that constitutional change done first.

TAPPER: Prime Minister Albanese, thank you so much.

And, again, congratulations on your victory.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Jake. Good to be with you.