Television Interview - SBS World News

20 Nov 2022
Prime Minister
Summit visits; Russian invasion of Ukraine; Relationship with China; Bilateral meeting with Philippines; AUKUS

ANNA HENDERSON, HOST: Prime Minister, thanks for joining SBS World News. 
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good to be with you from Bangkok.
HENDERSON: Now, you've had worldly meetings back to back throughout this week, with people at home watching on, what's going to change in their lives as a result of these engagements?
Well, what we know is that in today's globalised world, the issues of security, issues of the global economy, and issues of climate change mean that you need action beyond nation states. The Russian war against Ukraine has shown that that's had an impact on inflation, on grocery prices. That's why international security is important. It's had an impact on our economy. And also, one of the themes of the last week has been that we need concerted action on climate change. We all need much more cooperation, because we now live in a globalised world. And that means we need global responses.
Can I take you to the declaration of the APEC and G20, statements most members condemning the war in Ukraine, not all. How can they be affected to it in reality? Is there anything that these statements can actually do to change Russia's position?
PRIME MINISTER: They're a declaration of the world's intent. And during the conferences, the East Asia Summit, the G20 and APEC, members made strong statements condemning the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. President Zelenskyy addressed the G20 meeting on two occasions. I met with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister earlier this week. All of this is about putting pressure on Russia. And we need Russia to withdraw from this illegal action. Russia was isolated at these events. But of course, we couldn't expect Russia to sign up to a condemnation of its actions. The fact that they signed up to a strong statement saying that most states had this view, I think really emphasises how isolated they were.
HENDERSON: In your meeting with President Xi, were you ever invited to actually travel to China and given that's on the agenda now for the New Zealand Prime Minister, should that be interpreted as a snub to you?
PRIME MINISTER: Not at all, that's been on the agenda for New Zealand for some time. And New Zealand hasn't had the breakdown in relations which saw no contact between leaders from Australia since 2016. I think it was a very positive step forward. We need to step forward together in Australia's interests, but also in China's interests.
HENDERSON: Do you think it's important to make a visit as soon as possible? Do you see yourself being in China in the next year, for example?
PRIME MINISTER: I am focused on those first steps, not so much just a visit that might or might not occur in the future. We need to recognise that we've made significant steps. The Foreign Ministers have met, the Defence Ministers have met, now the leaders of our country have met, now that I've met with both the President and the Premier during the last week. And our officials will continue to have contact with each other. What we need to do is to continue to see improvements in the relationship, I want to see the barriers that are there to Australian trade lifted. What I've said is that it is in Australia's interests to export the wonderful products that we have, our meat, our wine, our seafood, our barley, and, and other products, including mineral resources, but it's in China's interest to receive them as well. This is a win-win on the table. That is what we are pursuing.
HENDERSON: A lot of lofty ambition, but is there any timeline you can provide, particularly to those lobster fishermen, to the wine industry, to know when they will have that reprieve?
PRIME MINISTER: Well it's not the way that the Chinese system works. The way that the system works is that the bureaucracy in China will have seen the different change in relations, the fact that there is now contact between Australia and China, those messages will go down through the system. So it's not like a discussion between Australia and New Zealand where you walk out of the room with an agreement between leaders and it changes instantly. This developed over a period of time, and it will take a while to see improvement in concrete terms going forward.
HENDERSON: Do you think you can take President Xi at face value?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I respect the fact that he was prepared to have the meeting. It was a constructive dialogue. And all you can do is engage with people in a positive and constructive way. It is in China's interest to have good relations with Australia. Next month, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Australia and the People's Republic of China, on the 21st of December. In the lead up to that event, it's an opportunity to improve and stabilise the relationship between Australia and China.
HENDERSON: Are you prepared to make any concessions at all on Chinese investment into Australia on a two-way basis?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we of course allow Chinese investment and other investment into Australia. We've been a nation that relies -
HENDERSON: There are thresholds though, Prime Minister. 
PRIME MINISTER: That relies upon foreign investment. But we do so on a case by case basis, when it is in our national interest. So we'll continue to have an attitude towards China, which is we'll cooperate where we can, we'll disagree where we must, and we will always pursue Australia's national interests and our values.
HENDERSON: I just want to very briefly take you to your bilateral meeting with the Philippines this afternoon, where there were questions raised with you about Australia's security pact in the region. What role will the Philippines play? What did you tell the leader of the Philippines?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, President Marcos and I had a very constructive bilateral meeting today. It followed a range of discussions that we've had informally over the last week. He wanted to be informed about AUKUS and its arrangements. So I spoke with President Marcos about AUKUS, which is really building on our traditional relationships that we've had. The United States is our most important alliance, and the United Kingdom, of course, those ties go back for more than two centuries. So it's not surprising that now, what we're seeing is cooperation on issues of defence and security. The AUKUS arrangement is about making sure there's more technology available in a consistent way between our three nations, in the interests of each individual nation, but also in the interests of our collective security as well. I also spoke about the Quad, that we'll host the Quad meeting with the United States, Japan, and India next year. I'm really looking forward to it. The Quad has been an important vehicle to engage not just on security issues, but on our economy as well.
HENDERSON: And how shocked were you to hear Emmanuel Macron, the French President, say that he thought that the AUKUS deal constituted provoking nuclear confrontation?
PRIME MINISTER: No, look, I think President Macron is entitled to put forward his views, but we have a terrific relationship and that was cemented over the last week.
HENDERSON: Prime Minister, thank you so much for your time.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Anna.