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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 40604

Transcript - Doorstop

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: 19/11/2016

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 40604

Location: Lima, Peru

PRIME MINISTER:
Good morning. Well, the APEC meetings begin in force today - 21 economies, 60 per cent of the world’s GDP and our largest trading partners here assembled.

So, these are important meetings as we discuss the free trade, the open markets, the engagement that’s so important to drive the economic growth and the jobs, the opportunities for employment and investment in Australia.

These are vital economic discussions and I’m looking forward to engagement with all the other leaders over the next two days.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister, is Australia in negotiations with Malaysia for a refugee resettlement?

PRIME MINISTER:
We engage with many countries, we engage on resettlement matters with many countries that are part of the Bali Process but we don’t speculate on those discussions. When agreement is reached, we make an announcement – as we recently did with respect to the United States.

JOURNALIST:
Will you be discussing refugee resettlement with the Malaysian Prime Minister today?

PRIME MINISTER:
I just answered that question a moment ago.

JOURNALIST:
Mr Turnbull, you have a meeting with TPP partners today. What’s the point when all prospects are for that being a forlorn agreement?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well you seem such an optimistic young man, really you should be more upbeat - don’t be downcast. Look, free trade is a long game, it really is a long game. There have been other American administrations, both in terms of the Presidency and in terms of the Congress that have changed their mind. Barack Obama was not a supporter of the TPP when he became elected and he’s leaving office as one of its greatest advocates. Bill Clinton, casting one’s mind back even further, was a great critic of the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, but ended up becoming a defender of it.

So, the important thing for me as Australia’s Prime Minister is to defend Australia’s interest, that’s my job. My job is to stand up for what I believe is right for Australia and what we know is that the TPP and the values of open markets and trade, the opportunities that creates - particularly in - services, are good for Australia. They’re good for Australian jobs. So, it’s my role to make the case for that continued commitment to free trade and other nations, and in this case the United States, its leaders will have to consider that in due course and the new Congress will form its own judgement on it. But it is a long game – it’s very important to remember that people and indeed governments and indeed congresses and leaders do change their minds over time.

JOURNALIST:
Are you optimistic then perhaps that Donald Trump could change his mind about free trade, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:
The reality is that Mr Trump has said that – he’s never said that he’s against free trade. He has criticised a number of agreements on the basis that they’re not good enough deals. So he’s entitled to that view, and it may well be that over time the TPP is re-embraced by the United States, by the Congress or indeed by the President, perhaps in the same form it is today, perhaps in a different form.

The important thing is to maintain the commitment to the arrangements, the free trade, the open markets that are delivering jobs in Australia. You know, this is not a theoretical exercise, I’m not trying to win an economics prize here. What I’m seeking to do is advocate in Australia’s best interest and the truth is we are a medium-sized developed open market economy. We have a vested interest in our goods and our services being able to access as many markets as possible. Free trade has delivered jobs in Australia, it drives jobs in Australia - right across the board - in services, tourism, education, professional services and of course in all of the goods exports. We are a massive exporter, massive trading nation, so we have a vested interest in opening up more markets. That’s why our farmers are so delighted to see the access that the Coalition has been able to deliver to those big markets in China, Japan and Korea among others.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister, I understand why you wouldn’t discuss specific countries in terms of asylum negotiations, while negotiations are still on. But can you tell us as a matter of principle how important to you is it that countries observe fully human rights treaties before you would negotiate with them – any countries, on sending asylum seekers.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well human rights is a global concern and of course it’s something that Australia is very committed to. In all of our discussions with other countries, human rights always features as part of that engagement.

JOURNALIST:
Is it not hypocritical for the Coalition to be considering the idea of sending refugees to Malaysia given the song and dance that Tony Abbott made back in 2011 when the Gillard Government wanted to do a people-swap with Malaysia?

PRIME MINISTER:
What we’re seeking to do is to not make a political point but to achieve durable resettlement options for people that are currently on Nauru and Manus who were put there by the Labor Party.

Let’s not forget - I know the Labor Party wants to distract and they want to turn all of this into a political issue. Let’s just look at the facts. Under the Labor Party, their neglect of Australia’s borders saw 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, courtesy of the people smugglers, at least 1,200 deaths at sea and as a consequence, rendered the integrity of our borders, destroyed the credibility of our borders, our borders became porous under the Labor Party.

The Coalition was elected in 2013 and we restored the integrity of our borders. Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison stopped the boats. We were left with a number of people, as you know, that Kevin Rudd had put on Nauru and Manus and we have been seeking to encourage them to return to their country of origin if they’ve been denied refugee status and to find resettlement options for them - which of course cannot involve coming to Australia. That is absolutely – that is fundamental.

Now, we have had success with Cambodia, we’ve had success with the United States and we talk to other countries and we’ll continue to do so – that’s what we’re seeking to do.

The Labor Party are the last people to be able to make a credible criticism of anybody on the issue of border protection. They failed Australia - that is a fact. They failed Australia, they failed the people that are on Nauru and Manus, they’re there because of the Labor Party’s failed policies. And of course above all and most tragically of all, they failed the people who got on those boats, those unsafe boats with the people smugglers, and tragically died at sea.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister you said yesterday that it wasn’t free trade but automation that is the cause of a lot of job losses. What policies do you have in place to avoid a lost generation, an unemployed generation?

PRIME MINISTER:
Again, it’s important not to oversimplify this. The point that I was making was that where you’re seeing jobs being lost in industries or industries if you like shrinking in terms of their employment, it is largely, very largely, a function of technological change. And you see this in your own industry. You’re there, a journalist with a video camera, you’re doing it yourself. When I was a young television journalist, I had a cameraman and a sound recordist as well. Now, they’re not there anymore, that’s technological change. So that’s a very good practical example of the industry, you’re experiencing it.

What you need to do is to ensure that as businesses fail and of course most businesses that fail, fail for reasons unrelated to technology or indeed trade. They just don’t succeed for whatever reason - a competitor does better or the business plan was misconceived – but as jobs are lost you’ve got to have new job opportunities arising and that’s why you need strong economic growth.

The answer to the disruption caused by technological change, caused by automation in some areas, is not to say let’s hide under the doona, let’s stop the world, we want to get off, let’s stop modernity. That is a road to more grief. What you need to do is yes recognise that growth must be inclusive, recognise that nobody should be left behind, recognise that government’s role is to ensure that there is a strong safety net, that people who are adversely affected by change of this kind are looked after and are given the opportunity to make another start in another job, in another industry – but underlying all of that is the need for strong economic growth. I cannot stress that enough. Strong economic growth is the key. And you’ve got to ask yourself - has trade, have open markets delivered Australia strong economic growth? Yes. It’s clear – we have economic growth that is the envy of the developed world. It’s not an accident and the policies that my Government follows and that governments have followed in the past in Australia have contributed to that strong economic growth.

What is very disappointing is that the Labor Party under Mr Shorten is going in precisely the opposite direction. Not just the opposite direction to the Coalition, but the opposite direction to previous Labor Governments, particularly the Hawke and Keating Governments which drove strong economic growth, which drove engagement with Asia which, indeed as I mentioned yesterday, Bob Hawke founded APEC. So what Mr Shorten is doing is he is heading in the opposite direction of growth.

You know I talked about protectionism not being a ladder to get out of the low growth trap but a shovel to dig it deeper. Well, Mr Shorten has got that shovel and he’s digging deep. And what he will end up doing is burying thousands and thousands of Australian jobs. He is being wooed by the siren song of populism. He thinks he’s picked up something from the American election and he can tap in to that, but it is the road to ruin for Australia.

Whatever the propositions may be in other countries, that’s for others to judge, but we know what works in Australia and it’s opening up those big markets for Australian exporters. That’s what’s been driving jobs in Australia.

JOURNALIST:
Susan Rice of the Obama administration says that China’s alternative trade pack, the RCEP, offers lower standards and lower protections. Perhaps unsurprisingly that that’s her view – what’s Australia’s view on that deal?

PRIME MINISTER:
RCEP, which we are party to and which we certainly support, is a more traditional free trade deal. It’s a more traditional trade deal – reducing tariffs on goods and services, it’s not as far reaching as the TPP, it’s not as ambitious but it still would be a very good step. I mean you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good and from our point of view, from Australia’s point of view, the more markets, the more access we can get to more markets for our exports, the better.

So we’re not going to – some trade deals are more ambitious than others but wherever we can open the door for Australian exports and create more Australian jobs we’ll do it.

JOURNALIST:
Just a domestic question Prime Minister – it’s just on the paid parental leave scheme. There’s reports this morning in the Telegraph that a compromise is close with the Senate crossbench. I think it’s combining the 20 weeks with the government employer leave. Can you give us any light? Is there a deal that’s close, could we see one struck in the final two sitting weeks of the year.

PRIME MINISTER:
There’s always negotiations with the Senate and the Minister – in this case Mr Porter – is handling those negotiations and we’ll find out on the floor of the Senate how successful they are. But I don’t want to run a commentary on them any more than he would.

JOURNALIST:
Prime Minister just on that, you don’t normally list bills that you don’t expect to pass. You’ve shown a tendency to withhold them and yet both the industrial relations bills that were the triggers for the July election are listed for next week. Do you know something about the Senate numbers that none of us know or is that a forlorn hope?

PRIME MINISTER:
So much pessimism on this beautiful day. We started off with a gloomy question and now we’re finishing with another one. Well look, I think with the Senate, again it’s a long game and we work away, we respect every single Senator. They are all elected by the Australian people, they all have a vote and we’re working hard to achieve a majority on the floor to get our program and the bills we took to the election passed.

Thanks very much indeed and see you soon.

Ends

Transcript 40604