Doorstop - Washington, United States

Transcript
23 Feb 2018
Prime Minister
United States visit, growing the economy, gun laws, refugee resettlement deal, Barnaby Joyce
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:

Every meeting I have on this visit, including of course with the President tomorrow, will be reminded of and celebrate that 100 years of mateship, which has given us 100 years of security and prosperity. But it will also set the course for the next 100 years of partnership, of mateship, of the commitment that Australia and America have to each other.

Shared values, shared vision, a shared destiny.

The United States is our most important strategic partner. It is our most important economic partner. Our relationship is critically important and so we work to strengthen it and to defend it. Every meeting is focused on that.

This morning with the Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Just a little while ago with the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Admiral Rogers, the Head of the National Security Agency, and others talking about cyber-security.

But perhaps no event more poignantly will remind us of that 100 years of mateship, than when Lucy and I pay our respects at the Arlington National Cemetery, to America’s war dead. Those men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice, as have so many Australians, to keep Australians and Americans free.

JOURNALIST:

PM, you talk about there being a strategic partner in the United States, yet in two documents the United States have now said that China is a strategic competitor with them. So how does that fit with Australia’s national interests?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well China is a rising power and China’s economic rise has been of enormous benefit to the whole world and to the region. We have a very strong relationship with China, as you all know, economically and in every other respect. Our concern and our commitment is to ensure we maintain in our region, and of course elsewhere in the world but particularly in our region,  the rules-based order upon which has been the foundation for that economic rise, both in China and elsewhere. It’s the foundation of that prosperity and the strong and committed presence of the United States in our region has been the sheet anchor for that rules-based order and for that prosperity.

JOURNALIST:

It’s reasonable to assume Prime Minister that the President may be asking you about Australia’s gun laws. What would you tell him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Australia’s – the first thing I want to say Mark, is that I will express to the President our deepest condolences on the latest tragic shooting in Florida, as I have done publically already. It’s not for me to get involved in a contentious domestic political debate here, but Australia’s experience in gun law reform, of course undertaken so courageously and effectively by John Howard more than 20 years ago, is a very powerful demonstration of the success of our policy. Of course, they’re often citied in the debate here, but we’ll leave the domestic political debate to the Americans.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be talking to Donald Trump about the refugee agreement and would you be offering him any appreciation, I guess, for the cooperation of the United States on accepting some of those refugees? Will you be taking those talks further?

PRIME MINISTER:

The resettlement arrangements are progressing as you know and we do acknowledge and thank the United States and the President for continuing the arrangements that had been previously agreed and are being carried out as we speak.

I should also say that we’ve just come from, just behind us in the Treasury Building with Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury. As you know, President Trump has succeeded in making massive tax reforms here. The most significant in well over a generation. Company tax has been reduced to 21 per cent from 35 per cent, a very big reduction. The Secretary of the Treasury Mr Mnuchin expects that this will add nearly one per cent to American GDP and that 70 per cent of the benefit from those tax cuts for businesses, will flow to workers.

Now this is precisely the same argument that we have been presenting in Australia in respect of our own company tax cut program. The reality is, the experience here in the Untied States is they’re seeing stronger economic growth because of those tax cuts. It underlines the importance of completing our tax reform program. It underlines the benefits that flow to workers and employees from having more investment and more jobs and better paid jobs. And of course there is a big competitive factor, because while we are the best of friends and the strongest partners, the reality is that Australia and the United States are competitive locations for investment. Australian businesses and Australian investment opportunities will be at a disadvantage relative to those in the US if our tax rate is so much higher.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister many here actually think that fiscal stimulus might be a bit too strong and it’s going to push up global interest rates too quickly and aggressively. Are you concerned at all about global interest rates rising too much because of that and hitting Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s not for me to make forecasts about interest rates, any more than it would be about currencies or the stock market.

JOURNALISTS:

Globally?

PRIME MINISTER:

I just want to say the concern you expressed is not one that is widely shared.

JOURNALIST:

Just on tariffs, when you met Mnuchin last year you were given an assurance that Australia could expect that any tariffs that are presently in place on steel and aluminum. Have you received a reassurance this morning and will you be speaking on this to Mr Trump?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll certainly look forward to discussing that with the President tomorrow.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister how can your government proceed with a clear message next week with Barnaby Joyce as your Deputy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can we deal with the issues here and we’ll take a couple of questions about Australian domestic matters.

JOURNALIST:

What about Russia and interference in democracy by state actors, is that something you’ll be raising with the President in terms of the Five Eyes alliance and concerns in relation to Australian experience and similar interference?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we’ve just come from a cyber dialogue where we’ve been discussing the issue of cyber-interference, cyber-warfare and of course the actions of state actors. As you know, the spread of the Petya virus has been attributed to Russia and of course the WannaCry ransomware was attributed to North Korea. Ensuring that our connected systems and networks, which extends from huge supercomputers to the smartphones in your pockets, are protected from cyber-interference, is absolutely critical. We’ll been cooperating more closely than ever before. It’s an issue I raised at the G20 last year and secured agreement from the 20 leaders there to concerted action. The cybersecurity dialogue that’s going on at the moment in Washington is one that was set up at my initiative several years ago. Australia is taking a leading role on cyber-security.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister does Barnaby Joyce have your support to remain Deputy Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you’ve asked me about Barnaby Joyce, I’ve got nothing to add to what I’ve said already in Australia about that. Now is there anything –

JOURNALIST:

So you’re not supporting him to remain your Deputy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Barnaby Joyce is the Leader of the National Party of Australia. As Leader of the National party of Australia, in a Coalition Government, he is my Deputy Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST:

Do you want him to remain so as Deputy Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well David, these matters, the leadership of the National Party, is a matter for the National Party. I’ve been at great pains to stress that I have not, nor has my Party, sought to influence in any way, the deliberations of the National Party, any more than I’d expect the National Party to seek to influence deliberations of the Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister there’s a big delegation here from premiers and from business leaders. Can you tell us, how would Australian people feel the direct benefit of this, what’s in it for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you and that’s a great last question. It’s very good, from Chris. America is, as I said earlier, our largest and most important economic partner. It’s by far the largest foreign investor in Australia. America is by far the largest destination for Australian foreign investment. You have Austal Ships building ships for the US Navy. You Have Anthony Pratt’s Visy with businesses operations, in 30 states. You’ve got Lendlease with operations across the country. You’re familiar with it. Our two economies are very, very closely linked and the economic relationship is critically important.

Also of course, we’ve talked about the strategic relationship. I’m going to meet with intelligence chiefs in a moment. It’s the most intelligence relationship, defense relationship and so forth. But America is a very big country as is Australia of course. It’s a very big country and one of the priorities that we have here -and our ambassador Joe Hockey is doing an outstanding job leading the charge in this respect – is to ensure that our engagement is broader and deeper and goes beyond Washington, New York and Los Angeles, and reaches in to every part of the United States to create more opportunities for Australian investment and partnership in America and of course, American investment in Australia.

So, what we have happening this weekend in Washington is the National Governors Association, which is like a COAG meeting but without the federal government. It seems to be just the Governors and they’ve invited me to give the keynote address. We’ve invited the Premiers and Chief Ministers over and other than two that are fighting elections, they’re all here. There’s a big business delegation, the largest ever. So this is an opportunity to broaden and deepen that engagement. And what does that mean? It means more investment and more jobs.

Do you know, our job record last year 403,000 jobs in the last year, if that were translated into American terms, that would be five million jobs in the US pro rata. So this has been a massive increase in employment in Australia. As you know, you’ve got 16 months of continuous jobs growth, the largest annual jobs growth in our history. We need to do more and so what we’re working on is every angle, you know, whether it’s a free trade deal with Peru, whether it’s the TPP11, whether it’s over here making the case for Australia in Washington with all the Governors. My Government is relentless, tireless in doing everything we can to ensure there’s more investment, more growth and more and better-paid jobs in Australia.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]