Television Interview - Sunrise

26 May 2022
Prime Minister

NATALIE BARR, HOST: Anthony Albanese has returned home from his first international trip as Prime Minister. Mr Albanese says he has strengthened Australia's alliance with world leaders after a series of high-level talks with fellow Quad nations.

DAVID KOCH, HOST: The PM's commitment to climate change was a major point of discussion. But it was China's growing influence in the Pacific that took centre stage. Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister, joins us now. PM, welcome back.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, good to be back.

KOCH: Mate, your first full day at the office. You flew to Tokyo, you hung out with the three most powerful leaders in the world. How did you feel? Were you nervous? Were you intimidated? I reckon I would have been.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it was a good way to start. It helped that I had met President Biden before when he was Vice-President. But it was an important moment in my life, but an important moment in my life, but an important moment, I think, for Australia as well to make sure that we were represented at the Quad Leaders’ meeting. I, frankly, was surprised that the election was on 21 May because I was made aware by some of our friends of the date of the Quad Leaders’ meeting. So, I thought that the Prime Minister would call the election at the latest for 14 May, for a week earlier. But it meant that we got sworn in in record time. That's never happened before. But we simply couldn't afford, given the geostrategic challenges that are occurring in our region, to not be represented at the Quad Leaders’ Summit.

BARR: So, did you take off on that plane after such a whirlwind six weeks and go, “Oh my gosh, I'm here”. Was there that moment when you think, “I'm it now”?

PRIME MINISTER: It was a bit like that. But it was a bit like that on Saturday as well. I made sure that, in spite of what the polls were telling us, our internal polls were pretty spot on, I've got to say. They didn't shift much at all during the election campaign. We were around about 52 for a long time in terms of the two-party preferred vote and that's what we got. It was a moment whereby I wasn't able, in order for my own mental health apart from anything else, I didn't want to feel disappointed with an outcome. I knew that I had done everything that we could. So, I was comfortable with what we had done during the election campaign and, indeed, over the three years. But it really hit home when people start to call you Prime Minister and you realise that you are not looking around for someone else, it's actually you.

KOCH: I love your honesty. There's a shadow of the Bill Shorten issue in the previous election. It would have been nerve-racking, I reckon. Mate, let's focus on your agenda, though, the big issues, climate change. A major topic of discussion. How was your policy received at the Quad meeting? And how are you going to cut emissions by 43 per cent by 2030? That is only eight years away.

PRIME MINISTER: It was welcomed by all of the Quad leaders. They know how important it is. And, in particular, President Biden and I had a very good discussion about how we can work together, not just on our domestic emissions respectively, but how we can reach out to our Pacific island neighbours and others to provide support for them to cut their emissions. This is the number one challenge for our Pacific island neighbours. And if we're going to step up and re-engage and increase our influence in the context of China trying to extend its influence into the region, climate is absolutely critical. And it was welcomed as well, of course, by Prime Minister Kishida of Japan and Prime Minister Modi of India. We have a plan that we set out. It is fully costed. We released it in December last year. We did the most extensive economic analysis of any policy by any Opposition ever since Federation. We spent a marginal seats budget in order to do that. And what it showed was that we can do it, we can do it while growing the economy, creating 604,000 new jobs, $52 billion of private sector investment. And that's why it was welcomed by the Business Council, by the Australian Industry Group, by the National Farmers’ Federation. People have had enough of the climate wars. This is a sensible, pragmatic policy that will deal with the environmental challenge but grow jobs at the same time.

BARR: The other big challenge—China. I know you got a congratulations from one of their leaders. They now look like they're flying around and trying to increase their presence in the Pacific. What's your strategy to deal with them? Will you back America in a war against China if they invade Taiwan?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one is to use diplomatic language and not to go down that route. We need to respond positively with our neighbours. We need to be partners. And that's why we've set out a very comprehensive plan on the Pacific. An increase in aid of over $500 million, an Australia-Pacific defence training school, increased support for maritime security. Their fishing stocks are being raided by illegal fishing vessels in the region. Action on climate change, increased migration both temporary and permanent so that we increase that people-to-people relations. A step-up of parliamentary associations between our respective parliaments that was cut when Malcolm Turnbull was replaced as the Prime Minister. We need a comprehensive plan of engagement. Penny Wong will be flying to Fiji. She's probably in the air right now on her way to Fiji. And we need at senior levels—I'll attend myself the Pacific Island Forum when it is held and meet with our neighbours. It's very important that we engage. President Biden is also going to increase his presence and the US presence in the region as well.

BARR: Just quickly, Tanya Plibersek's comments against Peter Dutton. She said he looks like Harry Potter villain Voldemort and people should be afraid of him. If someone said that against a woman about her appearance, there would be hell to pay. Are you going to pull her into line?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, she has already apologised for those comments. There are a few comments made by the former Prime Minister about my appearance, you might recall, as part of the election campaign. We should not refer to people's appearance. Let's discuss policy differences. I want to change the way that politics operates in this country.

KOCH: Good.

BARR: That is why we were surprised.

PRIME MINISTER: I am dead serious about it. I am dead serious about it. But, you know, people when they make a mistake, they should apologise, and we move on. That's one of the ways that we can change the way that politics operates. And Tanya has done the appropriate thing here.

KOCH: Looking forward to it. Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.