Television Interview - Weekend Today

20 Nov 2022
Prime Minister
Summit visits; Relationship with China; Cost of living; Russian invasion of Ukraine; Energy.

CHARLES CROUCHER, HOST: Prime Minister, six days, three summits, three countries, a significant period for you, for the country, particularly when it comes to China, can you give everyone an idea of where the relationship stands right now?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's moving in the right direction. We've had no contact between the leaders since 2016. So having a meeting in itself is a positive thing, it follows engagement between our defence ministers, between our foreign ministers. There of course remain a range of issues which are outstanding, but I'm positive that we can work through in the interests of both Australia but also in the interests of China.

CROUCHER: Are they the biggest threat to the region at the moment, an expansive giant?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we're dealing with in the region is strategic competition between the United States and China. That's just a fact. That's the backdrop that we have to deal with. So we need to deal with that sensibly. We need to promote stability and security in the region. And security is enhanced when people, even if they have differences, are able to have dialogue. And that's why this week's meeting was so important.

CROUCHER: But what's next for the relationship with China? How do you get to the phase where we were, or where we can be?

PRIME MINISTER: I take very much at face value President Xi's comments which were constructive about improving the relationship and stabilising the relationship between Australia and China. And I do so because it is in China's interests, just as it's in Australia's interests to export our wine, our meat, our seafood, our mineral resources, it's in China's interests to receive them. We have good quality products. So Australia's economy, of course, we know that China is our largest trading partner. We trade more with them than we do with the US, Korea, Japan. So it is very important that that be improved. But the dialogue is a start, we now will have contact between officials. And the way that the Chinese system works, of course, is that they would have been paying very close attention to the fact that we've had this constructive dialogue and that President Xi has made positive comments since the meeting.

CROUCHER: These summits can seem quite removed from people in Australia at their kitchen tables. Is there anything that's been learnt here you can take back to Australia that will help with the biggest issue of all for most Australians, cost of living?

PRIME MINISTER: That's right. Well, one of the context of these summits is that in today's globalised world, when something happens anywhere in the world, it floats around. So the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had an impact on the price of groceries at the local supermarket. That's the truth of the matter and that's why we need to engage. I'm very optimistic going forward, much more optimistic than I was 10 days ago before these summits took place. You had a real consistency in the message about the need to get markets to operate properly, about the need to have proper trade based upon the WTO rules, on the need to act on climate change and transform our economies in a carbon constrained world, on the need to have greater cooperation and dialogue on economic, social and environmental goals. And that's a good thing that leaders have, over the last 10 days, come out with as well, leaders' statements, both at the G20 and APEC that's just concluded here in Thailand, quite strong leaders' statements as well as here in Thailand, a very important green goal initiative, as well.

CROUCHER: You mentioned green goals, is there a solution to the energy crisis in the short term back in Australia that you've derived here or that you're working on?

PRIME MINISTER: We're working on these issues in Australia and they've been continued to be worked on by our officials as well as the Treasurer in Australia. Look these issues are complex, and one of the issues that strikes me is that when I speak to the German Chancellor, he was speaking about gas prices in excess of $200 US. That is more than around five times what some of the peak prices have been in Australia. These are global issues as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But its impact on Australia as well, because we've been vulnerable, because over the last decade, we've seen four gigawatts leave the system and only one gigawatt of energy come in.

CROUCHER: Can we expect some action before Christmas?

PRIME MINISTER: We've committed to taking action before Christmas. We understand that this is a priority, and we've been working very hard on it back in Australia. We'll be having discussions again this week, including, we've had discussions of course with the energy sector itself about how we can meet these challenges. 

CROUCHER: PM, thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Charles.