PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. As you know last night, the G20 leaders have agreed for the first time very clearly that the rule of law must prevail online as well as offline.
In the lead up to this summit, as you know, I’ve been talking to other leaders about the importance of ensuring that the internet is not used as a vehicle for spreading terrorist propaganda and recruiting people to the Islamist cause. But also that the encryption basis of the internet’s messaging and communications platforms are not used as a means of enabling terrorists to hide in the dark where the law cannot reach them.
And so obviously as you know, this is a complicated issue and contentious in some respects. But it’s good to see that as a result of the arguments that we’ve placed and the unanimity that we’ve built up with other leaders and other nations, that you’ve seen strong language that now enables us to go forward and say to the tech companies, say to Silicon Valley and its emulators, ‘you’ve got to work with us to solve this problem. We cannot allow the internet to be an ungoverned space’.
And so you see that in paragraph 20 of the statement on counterterrorism, it’s very strong language and I’m very pleased that Australia’s been able to play such a leading and influential role in ensuring that we get that, bringing together with one mind, standing together to defeat terrorism.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what’s your understanding of the language on climate, its understood that it will allow for fossil fuels and technology around fossil fuels to be advised to G20 members, is that your understanding?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I won’t comment on the language until it’s published. But fossil fuels are going to be part of the energy mix of the world for a very long time, nobody disputes that.
The object of climate policy is to reduce net emissions; it’s not to eliminate the burning of all fossil fuels. It’s an obligation to reduce your emissions overall.
Can I say though – thank you for raising climate – because one of the matters I discussed with other leaders yesterday and had some very productive discussions, both in the plenary and in the various discussions around it, was about the importance of storage and the significance of our Snowy Hydro 2.0. There is a lot of interest in that, and the scale of it and the importance of pumped hydro as a means of storing huge amounts of electricity.
I mean just to give you an example the battery that has been announced for South Australia, which we welcome by the way, it’s late, storage was obviously required in South Australia a long time ago, but I’m pleased to see that it’s making that commitment. But that will store about 120 megawatt hours of power, Snowy Hydro 2.0 will store 350,000 megawatt hours, so it gives you an indication of the difference in the scale.
But storage is clearly a very very big part of it, and there is a lot of interest in what we’ve done. In fact I’ve shown the drawings of Snowy Hydro 2.0 on my iPad to quite a few people here who are very interested in it.
JOURNALIST: Just on the South Australian battery, do you congratulate Jay Weatherill on this, do you encourage other states to go down this path?
PRIME MINISTER: Well look yes I’m certainly pleased that he’s made the commitment to do it.
I gave a speech as you may remember in February talking about the importance of storage, plainly that was the big factor that was overlooked again, and I’ve said this at the G20 here.
Energy policy in Australia – national energy policy – is guided under my leadership by engineering and economics, not by ideology and politics, they’re a very poor guide. And South Australia of course has suffered from the very ideological approach to power where they allowed a lot of wind power to be built without taking into account that the wind doesn’t blow all the time and backing it up.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of banning all petrol and diesel cars, France has set a date by 2040.
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve read about that, I’ll be interested to see if it’s achievable. But again, the object has got to be a policy based on engineering and economics and in terms of emissions reductions talking about net reductions in emissions. So that doesn’t mean not burning fossil fuels, I can assure you.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister have you spoken to President Xi?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I have spoken to President Xi, yes. I had a good discussion with him since we last met, last night about North Korea and repeated my very grave concerns about the situation there, and why I believe that China has a particular responsibility given the considerable leverage it has.
I’ve also discussed North Korea as you know, further with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and of course with President Trump, who I spent some more time with last night.
JOURNALIST: And what was his response to your concerns? Are you worried that this request is falling on deaf ears?
PRIME MINISTER: No it’s not falling on deaf ears. I won’t go into the – I’m happy to say what I said but I won’t go into what President Xi said. But I think you can assume that the Chinese position is that the situation is not as straightforward as others assert and that their influence over North Korea is not as great as others assert.
But the fact is, I mean again, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before. We all know North Korea is not a compliant client state like East Germany was to the old Soviet Union. We all understand that. But the fact is, the truth is that China has overwhelming leverage over North Korea. It has the ability to, if it were to impose the economic sanctions thoroughly and greater sanctions, it would be able to put the economic lock on North Korea and that is one way that that regime could be brought to its senses without conflict.
But it is a very grave problem on the Korean Peninsula and China has to step up and take more responsibility.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you’re off to Paris, can you tell us what your hopes are for that meeting?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes well again we’ve had some very good discussions with the new President of France, Emmanuel Macron and indeed with his wife Brigitte already. The focus will obviously be, all the issues we will be discussing here; trade, counterterrorism, but of course the big defence deal we have with France. The partnership that we’ve entered into to build the future submarines and that will be a major topic of the discussion.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister how significant do you judge the developments between the Russia or US President’s meetings to be, particularly the fact they manage to dodge the common ground on the ceasefire, at least in part in Syria.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think it is significant, but how significant only time will tell. But again I had the opportunity to have a good review of both the North Korea situation and the progress of discussions with President Putin when I met with President Trump last night.
Look it is a fiendishly complex situation in Syria as everyone here understands. But it will require very intense collaboration between Russia, the United States and indeed the other players in that field who are including of course Turkey, who’s President is also here.
JOURNALIST: PM with the meeting with Mr Trump in the car-
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah – in the beast.
JOURNALIST: What was it like?
PRIME MINISTER: I felt very safe. (Laughter)
JOURNALIST: I understand you’re meeting with President Moon today as well, did you make it or was it apparent to Mr Trump that you’re now in lock step with the US on the North Korean situation and is that a point you will be making today with President Mood?
PRIME MINISTER: Just ask that question-
JOURNALIST: Is it the case we’re now in lockstep with the US over the Korean situation and is that a point you will be making to President Moon today?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, my position, Australia’s position on the North Korean situation is the same as that of the United States. Which is that the reckless conduct - illegal conduct in fact - must stop and that this escalation is continuing to threaten world peace.
JOURNALIST: But what’s President Trump going to do about it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well again, this is a developing situation and I’ll let you address that question to him.
But clearly everybody wants this matter to resolved in a peaceful and diplomatic way, and I think you will see clearly an increase in sanctions. But the country with the ability to impose the most severe sanctions and hence the greatest influence on North Korea is obviously China.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us more about the ride in the beast?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the ride in the beast, this is the President’s special car.
Well no look, it was very kind of him, we went from a reception to the concert theatre and he and Melania invited Lucy and I to ride with him in the car and it was the opportunity to have a good private discussion about a number of these issues. So look we get on very well, so that’s-
JOURNALIST: And what were those number of issues other than North Korea that were discussed with Trump?
PRIME MINISTER: Really we talked about a number of things including some old mutual friends. So look, President Trump and I get on very well, which is good, I think as is apparent. One more and then I’d better run.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, President Macron has a strong economic reform agenda, he wants to overhaul labour laws in France because of the really stubborn unemployment rate there.
PRIME MINISTER: Sure.
JOURNALIST: Is workplace law reform something that you can take some advice from other leaders do you think to bring to back to Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think a lot of people, the French would love to have workplace laws that were approaching ours, France’s workplace laws are very very inflexible and one of the reasons why they’ve had such stubbornly high unemployment.
One of the other things that President Macron is seeking to do is to reduce company tax, so I’m sure we’ll discuss the progress we’ve had. I mean my government has reduced company tax for companies up to $50 million in turnover as you know, their tax rate is coming down and has in fact up to $25 million it already has come down, and will come down further. So that’s very important part of our economic agenda which is to encourage more investment and hence more employment and Macron-
JOURNALIST: So they can take some advice from Australia, France
PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s not a question of taking advice but you know we all learn from others’ experience. And the truth is that around the world countries are seeking to reduce business tax because they know if you reduce business tax you increase investment, if you increase investment you increase employment.
Everything, every element of my Government’s policy is focused on giving Australians the security they need. We talked about national security a lot this morning and also energy security, but also to provide the economic opportunities they need. And a big part of that is providing incentives for business to invest because if they invest more, they grow more and they employ more and they export more.
So you know whether it is talking about tax reform, whether it’s talking about energy security, whether it’s talking with President Jokowi yesterday about, you know enhancing the free trade relationship with Indonesia to create more opportunities for Indonesians and Australians to do business together, this is all part of what I’m doing here, defending and advancing Australia’s national interest.
Thanks very much.