Prime Minister of Australia

06/11/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/11/2024 01:43

Press conference - Parliament House, Canberra

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon. The Premier of the People's Republic of China, Li Qiang, will visit Australia as a Guest of Government from Saturday the 15th of June to Tuesday the 18th of June. This will be the first visit to Australia by a Chinese Premier since 2017 and represents another important step in stabilising our relationship with China. The Premier and I will hold the Annual Leaders' Meeting here at Parliament House in Canberra. It will be followed by a State Lunch here in the Great Hall, attended by members of the Government, the Opposition as well as business and community leaders. Premier Li will also travel to Adelaide prior to Canberra and then on to Perth. The Premier and I will engage with Australian and Chinese business leaders at the 7th Australia-China CEO Roundtable. This will make a valuable contribution to strengthening relationships between business leaders in China and Australia. As people know, China represents around about 25 per cent of our export in terms of a destination. We'll also acknowledge, of course, the deep contribution of the more than 1 million members of the Chinese Australian community to our nation's multicultural success story. Premier Li's visit to Australia follows my visit to Beijing in November last year. Welcoming the Chinese Premier to Australia is an opportunity for us to advance our interests by demonstrating our national values, our people's qualities and our economy's strengths. Australia continues to pursue a stable and direct relationship with China, with dialogue at its core. Our approach has been patient, calibrated and deliberate. Cooperate where we can, disagree where we must and engage in our national interests. And overwhelmingly, the impediments that were there to our trade have been removed in recent times and we're seeing the benefit of that trade through our export of our coal, our wine, our barley, our other products, including most recently, the decision when it came to meat here in Australia. Can I also make some comments before taking questions about Peter Dutton's rather extraordinary abandonment of any pretence of having a climate policy. His nuclear fantasy will result in higher power prices, a more unstable energy grid and rising emissions. No 2030 target means walking out of the Paris Agreement. That is very clear. And if you walk out of the Paris Agreement, you're left standing with Libya, Yemen and Iran. That is not the company that Australia should want to keep. We know that the consequences of that for our relationships in our region and around the world with our closest allies will be ones that are regrettable, to say the least. Peter Dutton, after that announcement, within minutes you had Senator Bragg out there saying something very different and it's clear that there hasn't been any proper process to determine the Coalition's policy on this issue. Peter Dutton is divisive, the Coalition are divided and there's no detail about what they would pursue. They're the three D's of the Coalition. Divisive, divided, detail, which gives them a big F for fail when it comes to climate policy. So, instead of chasing investment in new industries with new opportunities and new jobs, he's chasing them away. No action until 2040 means energy shortfalls, it means higher costs and it's something that Australia should not pursue. The Coalition had 22 different energy policies when they were in government and didn't land one of them. Now, they have a number of policies over recent days, but it's very clear that they can't be taken seriously on an issue that is important to Australians today, but which is particularly important as an intergenerational equity issue as well. It's important in terms of our international relationships, it's important in terms of our environment. But importantly as well, at a time where the entire globe is moving towards this economic transformation, it's an abandonment of the opportunity that are there for Australia to benefit from climate change action with new growth and new jobs and new industries. Peter Dutton is afraid of the future and therefore he can't seize the opportunities which are there. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said that projection from the Energy Department of getting to 42 per cent doesn't include the measures in the most recent Budget. Do those measures put us now on track to meet 43 or is it still leaving Australia short?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've said we're very much on track. I note Peter Dutton's absurd comments that were made in his press conference. What we've done is adopt as a parliament and as a nation, clear climate policies that put in place a legislated net zero by 2050, that put in place a legislative 43 per cent reduction by 2030 and have a process of accountability and transparency through the Climate Change Authority. That authority released information in December, which is available for you to have a look at, that projected that we're on track at that point to 42 per cent, given the policies that were implemented. Now, since then, we've had production tax credits for critical minerals, for green hydrogen. We, of course, will continue to look towards policies that make a difference, that makes sense for our economy, but also make sense for our environment. For Peter Dutton to walk away from any 2030 commitment, to be clear, is walking away from the Paris Agreement. He himself has said that in the past. Angus Taylor made it very clear, 'Well let me give Labor a bit of news, the Paris Agreement requires a 2030 target'. Then he said further on, 'You can't be in the Paris agreement without a 2030 target'. In Hansard, in parliament, 24 February 2021. The first quote was 19 October 2019. And it is quite extraordinary that there are people here who asked me day after day from the day I was elected leader of the Labor party in 2019, what our 2030 target would be. What we did was we went away, we did the hard work, we did the analysis, and that's why we have now legislated that target. Andrew.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Peter Dutton's calculation seems to be on the basis of growing anxiety about energy prices and cost of living. Do you concede that with greater ambition comes higher household costs?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. If we don't, what I would assert is that unless you take action on climate change, unless you address issues such as supply, then you will have higher costs under what Peter Dutton is proposing. Peter Dutton is proposing abandoning the targets, abandoning investment certainty, which will lead to less investment in the lead up to 2040, at some time when this nuclear fantasy will take place. The business community have been very clear, and when we announced our position, we did so standing with the Business Council of Australia and other business leaders, who all have been asking for certainty. That certainty that Peter Dutton is getting rid of.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Government will have to set its 2035 targets by February next year. The Climate Change Authority earlier this year was commissioned to advise the government and its initial consultation suggested a target of between sixty-five per cent and seventy-five per cent by 2035 could be feasible. Are you confident that Australia has the infrastructure in place to roll out the renewables needed should such a target be required?

PRIME MINISTER: Well let's be very clear, that target has not been set and the Climate Change Authority have not given advice to the government. What we have is a very clear 2030 target. We have policies, including the Capacity Investment Scheme, the Safeguard Mechanism, the policies that we have in place to drive that investment, to drive that certainty through the economy. And that is what we are focused on.

JOURNALIST: On the China visit next week, will you be using the opportunity to raise the plight of Yang Hengjun? And whilst the Premier is in South Australia, which has a sizeable lobster industry, would you like to see an announcement on that final trade sanction being lifted from the Chinese?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I certainly would like to see that any impediments to our lobsters and crayfish, our magnificent seafood, being removed. Australia has an interest in trade with China. China has an interest in receiving our magnificent goods because of their quality. So, this is a win-win. So we will continue to put forward our arguments there, as we will continue to pursue Australia's interests, including Yang Hengjun. As you say, we always raise those issues, informal discussions which will take place. They'll take place here in less than a week's time now, but we will raise other issues of Australia's national interest as well.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister, just also on the China visit. US and Canada, the governments are both considering in terms of TikTok, potentially banning it. They cite serious concerns about democracy. Is our intelligence the same? And if so, why aren't we going down the same path? And if we're not, why not?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't, I'm surprised you asked me to reveal what our intelligence should be at a press conference.

JOURNALIST: No, I'm asking for the government's position on TikTok.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, our position hasn't changed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what will your message to Premier Li be about the recent incidents involving Australian military personnel in the South China Sea and elsewhere and also on Taiwan?

PRIME MINISTER: On the former, the message will be that they were inappropriate. And he, of course, will be very aware of Australia's position, which is that Australia was engaged in legitimate international activity and that that should never have occurred because it was dangerous and it shouldn't have happened and it should not happen again. So we will certainly be putting that forward. And the second, Mark, was?

JOURNALIST: Taiwan.

PRIME MINISTER: Taiwan. Our position is to support the status quo when it comes to Taiwan. That is in the international community's interests for that to occur.

JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, regarding religious discrimination, are those reforms dead? Where are they at?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Coalition have received a copy of the draft legislation. We await a response.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, last week the bipartisan moment in Parliament about certain types of protests. Your comments were directed particularly at protests that block electorate offices. However, for people who weren't following the speech closely, you obviously spoke about justice for Palestinians. But for people who weren't following it closely and they saw how that bipartisan moment rolled out might have interpreted as a broader message about pro-Palestine protests more generally. Will you have any message today to people in the broader Australian community who are concerned about the suffering of Palestinians? And secondly, will you affirm that the majority of pro-Palestine protest activity in Australia for weeks has been peaceful.

PRIME MINISTER: In a democracy peaceful protest has an important role for people to be able to demonstrate their views. And there is a great deal of concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. It's one that the Australian Government shares. It's one where the Australian Government has clearly voted for ceasefires in UN processes. I've issued media releases myself along those lines, together with the Prime Minister of Canada and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It is important as well, as I said in Parliament, that how people conduct themselves will reflect on the cause which they wish to pursue. And people being blocked, blockaded from visiting their local Member of Parliament with Greens senators in, people will have seen the footage which they themselves have posted, such as Senator Faruqi and others outside offices encouraging that blockading. I don't know how stopping someone getting assistance on Medicare or social security or immigration. People who turn up to electorate officers are an important part of the democratic process that we have. But importantly as well, they tend to be the most vulnerable people. You don't turn up to an electorate office to get support, you're not there for a political purpose, that's not the role that they play - that's what elected members of parliament do. And those people, whether it be that or throwing bricks at windows or whether it be painting of offices or the US consulate or other buildings, do nothing to advance the cause.

JOURNALIST: On the Premier's visit, he's going to be going to Western Australia, there's probably going to be a critical minerals component to that. What is the Albanese Government's approach to Chinese investment in critical minerals?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have an approach consistent with our foreign investment rules. Foreign investment has a role to play in Australia, we do it on a case by case basis considering the national interest. Certainly Chinese engagement, including with the resources sector, has been important for growth in not just Australia, obviously, with the benefit of those resources, particularly from Western Australia, but other states as well. That has played an important role in what has been a remarkable uplifting of people out of poverty in China over recent decades as well.

JOURNALIST: What is the Government doing to fix the problems riddling the ABF Cape-class fleet, given it's basically affecting the ability to patrol the borders?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the ABF have made very clear they continue to engage. Operations Sovereign Borders is in place. We continue to ensure that people who arrive in Australia on an unauthorised basis won't be allowed to settle here. And that's precisely the policy that my Government has put in place. And I note as well that the people involved with Operation Sovereign Borders have confirmed that funding has never been higher than it is now under my government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when the Premier heads to Adelaide, are you expecting any announcements about two well-known residents in Adelaide, Wang Wang and Fu Ni? Will there be a permanent panda presence in South Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: If I answered that, then there might be a pre-empting of what may or may not occur. I repeat what I said in Shanghai when I was asked, my government is pro-panda. We like panda bears and so do, I reckon, Australians. But there's been no announcement on that, but I think that the presence of those pandas at Adelaide up to now has been something that's brought a great deal of joy to families who've been able to visit, and it's also been a major attraction, of course, for the Adelaide Zoo.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Noel Pearson has described the management of government funds established in the wake of Mabo to assist Indigenous people dispossessed of Native Title as neglectful. Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus last week announced a review into Native Title, referring it up to the Law Reform Commission. But should that be looked at more broadly, given that some analysis suggests that a significant amount of money, Indigenous people lost out a significant amount of money from these funds over the past 30 years because of the way that they were managed and the restrictions placed on them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you've answered some of the question yourself by indicating that some of the information's been referred off by the Attorney-General for further inquiry. I say this about Native Title is that it has brought considerable resources and benefit and employment to Indigenous communities.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, we keep hearing, and I am sure that you do too, that cost of living is absolutely the top issue for people. Do you think that Australians really want a 7th election fought on climate change?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think they do. I think that Australians at the last election voted for Labor candidates and for other candidates who said that they would take climate change seriously. It is, quite frankly, a lost decade that we had under the former Government, with 22 policies announced and none of them landed. Australians want government to get on with the business of dealing with climate change because they know that whilst it's a challenge, it's also an opportunity. They also know that climate change is real. They've experienced it with bushfires, with floods, with increased numbers of and intensity of extreme weather events, which is what the science told us would happen here and around the world. And what's more, they also want Australia to engage in a constructive way because that's in our national interest, with our Pacific neighbours and with our friends and allies. It is remarkable that the lesson that Peter Dutton appears to have got from the last election is to be worse on climate than Scott Morrison was, is to double down and to continue to want to engage in these issues in a way that doesn't look for any sensible way forward. If you take Peter Dutton at his own word, he speaks about nuclear reactors somehow being the solution, when we know that that won't happen. Even if everything went his way, couldn't happen before 2040. And we know is eight times the cost of the renewables which are firmed. This is not a sensible policy, this is an abandonment. And it's because he's incapable of taking any decisions which are against the elements in his own party. And it would appear that he's one of them who remained climate change deniers. Well, the people on the south coast from here know the consequences. That, of course, we've always had extreme weather events in Australia, but we know that they're more intense than they've ever been, and we know they're more frequent. And we know as well that we need the whole world to engage and to act. For Peter Dutton to put this position and to put us outside the Paris Accord is an abrogation of the responsibility that mainstream political leaders have in Australia in 2024. Thanks very much.