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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 40602

Doorstop - Lima, Peru

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/11/2016

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 40602

Location: Lima, Peru

PRIME MINISTER: Well, good to see you and what a great example of Australian entrepreneurship - young Australians here in Peru establishing some of the pillars of civilisation, you might think. Chocolate, beer, coffee, the finest restaurant in Cusco, established there by an Australian restaurateur - great examples of the growing links between Australia and Peru, great examples of the people to people links and we’ll be seeing more of those over the next few days.

Peru of course is a great success story of the benefit of open markets. In a decade, in only 10 years, you’ve seen poverty levels have halved, the middle class has increased to 16 million. Foreign investment, annual levels of foreign investment, has increased by 10 times. That is the consequence of the economy being opened up, getting rid of excessive regulation and red tape inside Peru and then opening it up with free trade agreements around the region.

That’s really the story of free trade and open markets, that’s why billions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the region, that’s why APEC is so important as a forum for promoting the importance of free trade and its importance in changing for the better, the lives of millions, indeed billions of people.

So I’m very pleased to be here and look forward to discussing all of these issues with other leaders, including of course the President of Peru, who I’ll be seeing later today.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister if those benefits are self-evident, why such a turning tide against free trade in many western countries?

PRIME MINISTER: This is one of the biggest issues of our times, it really is. We have to remember that protectionism is not a ladder to get you out of the low growth trap, it’s a shovel to dig it a lot deeper. And we have seen this before going back to the 1930s, what happened when countries started returning to protectionism. It’s really important, vitally important for leaders - not just politicians but also leaders in the media, leaders in business - to make the case for free trade and make the case for open markets. A lot of the anxiety that you see at the moment in the world is the consequence of this rapid change in which we live. The pace and scale of change we’re living through is quite without precedent.

Much of this is the consequence of technological change as opposed to free trade. Every generation of manufacturing technology is more automated and so of course jobs are affected. But that tide of technological improvement can’t realistically be held back. That’s why you need to couple that technological advance with strong economic growth – because what that does, is as jobs in some sectors cease to exist, new jobs in other areas grow and arise. And that’s why we’ve been able to maintain in Australia, despite this high level of technological change, we’ve been able to maintain strong economic growth and indeed strong jobs growth.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minster you’ve been conspicuous in your efforts to engage the President-elect Mr Trump. On the way to APEC Shinzo Abe was able to call in to Trump Towers and had a meeting. Have you been exploring further engagement and meetings with him before inauguration?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I certainly look forward to seeing the President-elect, whether it’s prior to his inauguration, or certainly look forward to seeing him afterwards. Clearly he has got a very, very busy schedule on his hands and indeed so have I. Parliament as you know is sitting next week.

We had a very good conversation, as you know, and our links and connections with the new administration as it is forming are very good.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just to follow up from Greg’s question, did you make any efforts or were any efforts made to try and come to Peru or on the way back via the United States?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve certainly had discussions about having an early meting and in fact you may recall that I said that when I spoke to Mr Trump, he urged me to, that we should get together soon and talked about having an early meeting but it hasn’t been possible to schedule one on the way to and certainly not on the way back because I’ll in fact be missing a day of parliament in any event and I think that’s one day enough if not one day too many.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there’s been some broad talk within your government about learning from the Donald Trump victory, protections – some of the work has maybe left behind globalisation. What does that mean in a practical sense, is it about looking more carefully at future free trade agreements for example?

PRIME MINISTER: The free trade agreements we’ve done have all created jobs in Australia. I’ll leave it to Mr Trump when he’s President of the United States to advocate the interests of the United States. My job as Prime Minister is to look after Australia’s interests. So I’m here as Australia’s advocate, I’m not here speaking on behalf of anybody else, I’m speaking on behalf of Australia. And I can say without any hesitation that the big free trade deals that we have already done have created thousands of jobs in Australia, particularly in regional Australia. Go to Tasmania if you like and you can see there the consequence of just the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement alone. Look at that strong growth in tourism, particularly Chinese tourism. This has been massive growth because of those free trade agreements. Other countries have got to follow their own advice, it’s not for me to tell them what to do, other countries what to do. But the objective reality is, as you see it here in Peru, is that free trade and open markets have considerably lifted living standards. But in terms of my own advocacy – I’m here for Australia, that’s the country I’m Prime Minister of, that’s the interest I’m advocating and I’ll advocate that interest to other leaders, whether they are leaders of great and powerful countries or smaller countries.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is there any clear indication after the meeting with Prime Minister Abe and Mr Trump about the future of the TPP. As we all know that was one of the issues that was hoped to be discussed during that meeting. Have you managed to have discussions with anyone that has a clear idea of what was discussed in that meeting?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll be seeing Prime Minister Abe here in Lima shortly, and I spoke to Prime Minister Abe just a few days ago. So, the position that he will have advanced is the same that I’ve put to President-elect Trump which is that we believe the TPP is in the interests of all of the nations, including the United States of course, but it’s up for Mr Trump to make, and the Congress actually, to make that decision. We believe it represents a very important strategic commitment by the United States to the Asia-Pacific region. But you know, that’s – but we think it’s unequivocally in our interests in Australia. Mr Abe thinks it’s unequivocally in Japan’s interest, but it is a matter for the American Congress and the American President to determine whether it’s in their interests.

Mr Abe advocates for Japan, I advocate for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’re going to meet Barack Obama in coming days. Are you going to seek a specific time frame for refugee resettlement in the US?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, all of that is in hand but the matter will certainly come up. The people from, officials from Homeland Security are in Australia right now in fact and they will be going to Nauru shortly.

JOURNALIST: So how soon will people be leaving for the States?

PRIME MINISTER: That will be determined by the American officials.

JOURNALIST: You’ll be back at APEC again next year when President Trump will be. Do you believe that he represents any existential threats to an organisation which was founded on free trade, will its character change?

PRIME MINISTER: The change, it’s good that you’ve mentioned change. You know, there was a time when leaders of the Australian Labor Party supported free trade and backed in open markets and stronger economic integration with our region, particularly with Asia. It was Bob Hawke that founded APEC and yet its Bill Shorten now who is running around the country banging a protectionist drum, an anti-free trade drum, trying to actually drive jobs out of Australia by putting up the barriers to the trade that is actually creating the employment that is ensuring that we have strong growth, notwithstanding the wind-down in the mining construction boom. So the real change, I have to say, is in the attitude of the leadership of the Australian Labor Party.

There was a time when the Labor Party was led by leaders, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, who were committed to free trade and greater economic integration with Asia, just as my party is and indeed was then in those days. But, we remain committed to that because we know it delivers jobs and growth.

Mr Shorten’s playing a very cynical, very political game trying to whip up some short-term political advantage on his own behalf by trying to stoke up anxiety and fear and his current thing, fear of foreigners, that’s what he’s trying to whip up at the moment.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how dangerous is this sentiment of protectionism for our country?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it is, as I’ve said, it is the way to poverty. We know - we have seen this film before. The world did this in the 1930s after the Great Depression and in fact made it much worse. And so the fact is that open markets, free trade – obviously free trade agreements have got to be fair and you’ve got to make sure that the concessions and the advantages are properly balanced. I mean they are negotiated agreements. This is an important point you know, it’s not for me to speak for Donald Trump but what he has said is he wants America to have better trade deals, well he’s entitled to argue for that and no doubt his trade negotiators when he’s President will do so. But the idea that there is something, that there is a disadvantage from Australia’s point of view in greater economic integration with the fastest growing markets in the world, is completely misguided. And what Bill Shorten is doing is actually for a short-term political sugar hit, a cynical short-term political sugar hit. He is putting Australia’s jobs and our economic prosperity at risk.

JOURNALIST: Yes, but Prime Minister if you describe Bill Shorten that way, how would you describe Donald Trump with his rhetoric during the campaign? Surely if Shorten is bad, Trump is worse.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m the Prime Minister of Australia, my job is to talk about what’s in the interests of Australians. I’ll leave the Americans to manage their own affairs.

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull, you just mentioned a fear of foreigners, your Immigration Minister has said that Malcolm Fraser was wrong in letting in some people including the Lebanese in the 70s and 80s. Is that a correct view?

PRIME MINISTER: Look I haven’t seen the interview, I’ve seen some reports on it. But I’d just say to you that we are the most successful multicultural society in the world and that success is founded on mutual respect. And it is -

JOURNALIST: Surely we shouldn’t be demonising groups though?

PRIME MINISTER: Again I can’t comment on an interview I haven’t seen, I’m sorry.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, your key mission for APEC? What do you expect to leave or hope to leave Lima having achieved above all?

PRIME MINISTER: A continued commitment, a recommitment to stronger economic integration in the region and stronger openness, economic openness and a recommitment to free trade.

You see, the fact of the matter is that every one of the economies in the region has benefitted from open markets, including Australia, including China, including Peru as I just noted. So that’s what APEC – that was the vision that Bob Hawke had when he founded APEC. This was – APEC is an Australian idea. It was Bob Hawke’s idea and full marks to him. And it tells you a lot about what has happened to the Australian Labor Party that an organisation committed to economic integration, committed to trade, committed to open markets, was founded by a leader of the Labor Party and his successor Bill Shorten is now demonising that free trade and those open markets.

Another interesting contrast too, I’ll just leave you with this to ponder on, on industrial relations. Bob Hawke, former leader of the ACTU, as Prime Minister, deregistered the Builders Labourers Federation. He deregistered that rogue union. Bill Shorten as leader of the Labor Party is going to the wire to defend the CFMEU whose criminal conduct, whose defiance of the law, whose absolute recklessness in the way they ignore all the fines and rulings from courts, that is a mirror image of the old BLF, which of course was one of the components of the CFMEU.

So, Bob Hawke stood up for the rule of law in the building sector. Bill Shorten is defending those who defy it.

Thanks very much.

Transcript 40602