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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23569

Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today, Nine Network

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/06/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23569

Subject(s): Visit to the USA

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has met with the US President Barack Obama for the first time since being elected. Let’s bring him in live now from Washington. Prime Minster, a very good morning to you, how was the meeting at the White House?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a terrific meeting Karl. It was a warm, it was a genial meeting. It was a meeting that was very likeminded on a whole range of subjects, particularly economic and security subjects. I'm very confident that as a result of this visit the already very deep economic and security partnership that Australia has with the United States will be further deepened.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The President came out of the blocks very hard on Iraq this morning I noticed, indicating, he said something along the lines of all options are on the table. Also to back that up US Secretary of State John Kerry said the President is prepared to make key decisions in short order. What does that mean exactly?

PRIME MINISTER:

It means that there is a very serious situation unfolding in Iraq and obviously America is very concerned. America liberated Iraq. Australia was there with America at that time and it now seems that al-Qaeda type people are in some – there is some real risk of a serious insurgency controlling wide swathes of Iraq.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's a terrible situation over there at the moment. If we're called upon, will we be part of any intervention?

PRIME MINISTER:

We routinely talk to the Americans when situations like this develop. Those sorts of conversations are now happening, but there's been no indication from the Americans at this stage that they would like us to help.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It's certainly something we won't rule out though?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a serious situation. It would be a very serious and critical development for the world generally if a large chunk of Iraq was to fall into the hands of al-Qaeda type terrorists. It would be a very serious situation and no-one can be blasé about this. No-one can think that this is just a matter for people on the ground in Iraq. This is a very serious situation and the President and the Secretary of State are right to be taking it extremely seriously.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Moving on, we know that you and the President have differing views on climate change. Any friction over climate change? Was it even raised in the meeting?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was raised and we had a very good discussion because Australia is taking serious action on climate change, Karl. We've put $2.5 billion down over four years to plant more trees, to get more carbon captured in soils, to clean up power stations and use smarter technology. In an American context, given their bigger economy, that would be the equivalent of a $40 billion programme.

We've also got heavy taxes on fuel. They don't have those sorts of taxes here in the United States. So we are taking serious action. We believe that by the time the 5 per cent reduction kicks in in 2020 we'll have an overall reduction of some 22 per cent in our emissions off a business’s usual model. So this is serious action about a significant problem.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Democrat Henry Waxman doesn’t think it’s serious enough as you probably are aware. He’s described Australia as a ‘behind the scenes lagger’ when it comes to climate change. The President and Ban Ki-moon also want support on carbon dioxide emissions – your support on that. Are you going to give that support?

PRIME MINISTER:

The interesting thing is that in Australia taxes on petrol are about $1.50 a gallon. In United States taxes on petrol are about 40 cents a gallon. So we are doing far more, if you like, to reduce at least those emissions than the United States. And I think we can say that we are doing the heavy lifting.

We've got a 22 per cent reduction as against business as usual by 2020. We've got $2.5 billion on the table to promote direct action to reduce emissions. These are very serious policies that show that we are treating this issue with great seriousness.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

It sounds like you and Barack Obama are besties all of a sudden. He's talked about being in foxholes with us and all that kind of thing. There is all sorts of love in the room, they said you guys didn't get on and you've had your issues in the past, it sounds like you've come around a bit?

PRIME MINISTER:

But Karl, that's not true that we have had issues in the past. This is not true. Sure there is media, or elements of the media spoiling to create a fight, just as the media was spoiling to create a fight, or some elements of media spoiling to create a fight between Australia and Indonesia on occasions.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You had a decent crack at him.

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a bit of ill-judged commentary which I hope I've grown beyond, Karl. This is a charismatic and at times inspirational President. Sure, lots of people will have lots of disagreements because we live in a party political system, but this is a person who did not get to be President of the United States readily. He got there because he is a man of very considerable leadership abilities and he's a man that we can work with and work with very successfully.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Sounds like it went well. Just one final message for our Socceroos who begin their World Cup campaign...

PRIME MINISTER:

I think he liked the surfboard, Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

What did he say?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think he's looking forward to getting on it sometime. He said ‘I might be Hawaiian, but that doesn't mean that I'm the world's greatest surfboard rider’ but he said ‘that's the kind of big board that will help me, that will help me hone my surfing skills’. Let's hope surfboard One is a common sight off Waikiki Beach.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Surfboard 1 – that’s a cracker. Did you think about throwing in Clive Palmer as a bonus just to, sort of, smooth things over?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll plead the London Convention on that one.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Just quickly before we go because we’re out of time, I know you've got to go. Our Socceroos play tomorrow in the World Cup. A message for our Socceroos?

PRIME MINISTER:

Go the Socceroos! We will be willing you to succeed and there’ll be lots of Australians bleary eyed the following morning as we've stayed up to watch.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

If they win we'll all get a day off, I hope. Thanks very much for that Prime Minister and safe travels.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Karl.

[ends]

Transcript - 23569