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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 31853

Joint Doorstop Interview, RAAF Base Darwin

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: 12/07/2015

Release Type: Doorstop

Transcript ID: 31853

Subject(s): Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015; Northern Australia White Paper; US alliance; China; Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………
 
NATASHA GRIGGS:

It’s great to have the Prime Minister of Australia here in Darwin today to have a look at the Operation Talisman Sabre which has been wonderful.

We are very, very pleased that we’re hosting a large proportion of Talisman Sabre and of course our Queensland colleagues are also part of this very, very special exercise.

It’s great that the Prime Minister is here so soon after launching the Northern Australian White Paper and, as you all know, he’s a big, big fan of Northern Australia and I’m absolutely delighted that he’s here and I’ll hand over to you, Prime Minister, for a few words.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much, Natasha.

It is great to be here in Darwin. It is good to be in Darwin shortly after launching the Northern Australia White Paper, but it’s particularly good to be here to see – in operation – this massive Talisman Sabre Exercise.

This is perhaps the largest military exercise of its type in the world and it’s involving about 30,000 troops, mostly from Australia and the United States, but we’ve also got troops from some other countries as well.

It is a massive amphibious exercise and it’s helping to develop Australia’s native amphibious capability which obviously is going to be very significantly enhanced when the Canberra and the Adelaide are fully operational.

This morning, I started the day by doing some PT here on RAAF Base Darwin with some Australian and American personnel. Then I went out to the HMAS Choules to be briefed on its participation in Talisman Sabre. I then went to visit the personnel of the 2RAR which had come ashore largely from Choules the previous day, and finally I visited with personnel from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

So, I really do want to say a great big thank you from the Government and the people of Australia to all the personnel involved – both Australian and American.

Australia and the United States have a great partnership for peace and security. It’s a great partnership for peace and security in our region and around the world and obviously exercises like Talisman Sabre, they increase our professionalism, they expand our knowledge, and obviously they make it easier for Australian and United States forces to operate together. 

QUESTION:

Does it contribute to the economy at all in the Northern Territory, this Talisman Sabre?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously, to have something like 10,000-plus US personnel in and around the Northern Territory does indeed add to the economy and, obviously, the Marine rotations through Darwin add to the economy. They’re not fundamentally economic exercises, they’re defence and security exercises – but nevertheless there is an economic spin-off.

QUESTION:

What are you doing given the increased sensitivities – around the Spratly Islands, the South China Sea – between China and America? What are you doing to make sure that an exercise like this doesn’t ruffle the feathers of our most important economic trading partner?

PRIME MINISTER:

Talisman Sabre has now been going for many years. Yes, this is probably the biggest Talisman Sabre Exercise yet, but certainly the exercise itself has been going for many years and obviously it’s some years now since under the Gillard government we’ve begun these Marine rotations through Darwin, and they’re steadily building up and obviously as time goes by we’ll move up from the 1,100 or so Marines that are currently part of the rotation to about 2,500.

QUESTION:

Do you see a time in the future where US forces will be permanently based in Northern Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously, we have joint facilities already with the United States. We’ve had joint facilities with the United States for a very, very long time indeed. Not far from Alice Springs the Pine Gap joint facility is obviously a very, very substantial facility and it involves thousands of Americans.

So, look, joint facilities have been a part of Australia’s defence and security posture for a long time and let’s see what the future holds. I’m not saying there will be more, but certainly we have had them for a very long time and they shouldn’t shock or surprise anyone.

QUESTION:

But should China be concerned at all by these exercises that are going on and the increasing footprint?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want to stress that the US/Australian alliance is an alliance of very, very long standing. It’s been effectively operating since 1941. It’s been formalised since the ANZUS Treaty of 1951, from memory. So, the Australia/US alliance is an alliance of very, very long standing. The Chinese obviously appreciate that we are an ally of the United States, but our alliance with the United States has never stopped a very strong friendship with China. Both the United States and Australia are friends of China’s. We all are encouraged by the rise of China which has been so beneficial to our economy and so beneficial to economies right around the world.

QUESTION:

You mentioned developing Northern Australia. When can you say the Northern Territory will find out how much cash we’re going to get for dams and roads and when we’re actually going to get that cash so that industries can prepare to move to those areas?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, that’s a very fair question. There’s $700 million for roads in Northern Australia, including $100 million for beef roads. There’s $200 million for water storages in Northern Australia and then of course there’s money so that we can pilot better land use where indigenous land can be more of an economic asset, as well as a spiritual and cultural asset and where pastoral land can be more fully utilised than is always the case at the moment. So, we are proceeding steadily down these paths and now that we’ve made the money available, we’re waiting to see what proposals come forward from state and territory governments and indeed from the private sector.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, can I ask you about wind generation – the story around today. Does the opposition to wind generation damage confidence and investment in renewables more generally?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the changes to the Renewable Energy Target should give certainty to the renewables sector. I think that since the legislation went through the Parliament, there is new certainty and confidence in that sector. This is a Government which supports renewables, but obviously we want to support renewables at the same time as reducing the upward pressure on power prices. We want to keep power prices as low as possible, consistent with a strong renewables sector.

QUESTION:

Why does the Government want to stop CEFC from investing in wind farm projects when they pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy and create jobs?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know it is our policy to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation because we think that if the projects stack up economically, there’s no reason why they can’t be supported in the usual way. But while the CEFC exists, what we believe it should be doing is investing in new and emerging technologies – certainly not existing wind farms.

QUESTION:

But is it fair to cut all of that CEFC funding for wind farms before the Senate inquiry has reported and when all the studies so far have found no scientific link between any sort of human illness as a result of them?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want to stress that this is a Government which supports the renewable sector and that’s why we have given the sector certainty with the legislation that passed through the Parliament, but we also want to ensure that power prices are as low as possible. Now, we weren’t able to abolish the CEFC as we wished, but while it’s there, it really should do what the private sector won’t normally do and invest in new and emerging technologies.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, Labor says that you’re preparing the ground for a khaki election. What do you say? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m obviously wanting at all times to build a strong and prosperous economy, so that we can have a safe and secure Australia and that’s what we’re doing: we are building a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia. Everything we do is about strengthening our economy through lower taxes, through less regulation, through higher productivity, through better infrastructure, through trying to ensure that we’ve got a workforce which is as well-trained and well-educated as possible. So, what I think the next election is going to be about fundamentally is who is the best economic manager, but obviously it is important that we be a safe and secure country as well and that’s why this Government certainly hasn’t taken its eye off the ball when it comes to national security.

QUESTION:

[inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

The point is that this Government supports renewable technologies. We support renewable energy. We really do want to see appropriate use of renewables in our overall energy mix, and at the same time as supporting renewables, we want to ensure that power prices are as low as possible and that’s why I believe that the legislation that went through the Parliament just a few weeks ago is good legislation for our country.

[ends]

Transcript - 31853