Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – 2SM Mornings

Prime Minister

: I think we are lucky enough to have our Prime Minister on the line. Prime Minister, are you there?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: I am indeed. John. Good to be with you.

LAWS: Good to be able to talk to you. You called me. How nice is that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we haven’t had a chat for a while, and I was thinking about it last night and I said to my team this morning, “can we get on to John and just see he’s available?” I like our regular catch ups and I hope this finds you very well.

LAWS: It does. And congratulations on your engagement. I think that’s wonderful, and you look wonderful together.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks so much, John. We’re really happy and I’ve got to say, that the warmth that we’ve had from family and friends, obviously, but also just the general public – it’s a great privilege to be in my position, but it’s extraordinary that I found personal happiness at this stage in my life. I’m very excited and so is Jodie. I chose Valentine’s Day for the big proposal, and I was so happy that she, of course, said yes. And we’re looking forward to getting together at some stage and being able to plan a wedding now.

LAWS: Well, I’ll tell you what, she looks happy, and she looks wonderful, and you look good together.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, John. We have found best friends at this stage in life. We only met four years ago, and we met through our love of South Sydney Rugby League Football Club. Of course, I was at an event in Melbourne at a dinner and gave a shout out – are there any South Sydney supporters here? And Jodie did an “up the Rabbitohs” shout back, and we got to meet that night and then we caught up for a beer a few weeks later, and we really got on from the very first time that we caught up. So, I wasn’t really looking for a relationship at that time and nor was she. But it’s blossomed and we’re very happy together.

LAWS: Well, I’m delighted for you and delighted for her. Tell her that we all send best wishes. We hope it works for you, because you look good together. I think it’s going to be a wonderful relationship.

PRIME MINISTER: We get on so well. We have very similar interests in music and rugby league, and we enjoy each other’s company. Of course, I’m a bit busy running around the country, but it’s just wonderful to have someone to have a chat with at the end of the day, and to relax with, and just be able to be ourselves. She’s got a wonderful family up there on the Central Coast of NSW, and they’re all very pleased as well. She’s from a very big catholic family, I’ve got to say, so if we invited all the cousins, we’d have to hire out the SCG, I think. But we are looking forward to planning the big day at some stage. But at this point in time, we’re very happy and we are really heartened by the warmth of the messages we’ve received.

LAWS: Yeah, I think it all sounds very good. And I know that Australia is happy for you, because there’s something, you seem like a very ordinary bloke and I think Australians like that. There’s no nonsense with you, and I think Australians like that very much. I know I do. It doesn’t mean I vote for you, but it means that I respect you, and admire your attitude to the job you’ve got, which is a hell of a big job.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s all I can ask, John, is for that respect. I think in politics, too, we’re seeing a lot of polarisation and a lot of anger. I don’t want us to go down the American road. And one of the nice things was that across the chamber, I received congratulations from everyone, regardless of what side of politics they were on, and we need a bit more of bringing the country together, in my view.

LAWS: In my view, too. But how do you do it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we’re trying to do is to make sure that people aren’t left behind – with our tax cuts, what we did was make sure that everyone will get a tax cut, not just some people. We had some really good news this week with real wages increasing throughout 2023 – that was the first time for many years, that was positive news. We had yesterday the news that the gender pay gap is down to 12%. That is the lowest it’s been ever on record. They’re the sort of things that, giving everyone a stake in a positive outcome for our nation, that are good. We know there are still cost of living pressures out there that we’re working on, but so many things about Australia are positive. I was at a local Medicare Centre yesterday, a doctor and dental surgery in Leichhardt, in my electorate – we should be very proud that we have universal health coverage in this country.

LAWS: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER: And, unlike many countries in the world, that’s a great thing. And there is so much that we can be positive about. Our fee free TAFE is being extraordinary, giving people a trade, giving people skills that they need. Over 300,000 people enrolled last year in fee free TAFE, giving them a good start in life, or perhaps retraining. So, there’s lots of positive things happening out there. We need to celebrate what a great country we live in.

LAWS: I agree.

PRIME MINISTER: Work every day, of course, to make it even better.

LAWS: That’s the way we’ve got to go. I’ve been told that your car emission reform could be disastrous for the motor car industry. Have you engaged with the industry? You’ve talked to them? I recently had a conversation with somebody, I won’t name them, who said, you’re just moving a bit too fast on that.

PRIME MINISTER: Now, well, have a talk with Toyota, or have a talk with all of the companies that are out there supporting this proposal. It’s out there for consultation. But you know this, John, there are two countries in the industrialised world, only two, that have no emissions standards – they’re Australia and Russia, and I don’t think Vladimir Putin’s Russia is an example to us on anything. Certainly not this. All we’re talking about here is a draft proposal that would bring us up to the standards that the United States has, in 2028, that they have now. They’ve had standards since the 1970s, and this is just common sense so we don’t become a dumping ground for the vehicles that the rest of the world doesn’t want. There’s no compulsion here, there’s no banning of any vehicles. This is just a common-sense proposal to bring us into line with the rest of the world.

LAWS: Okay, from what I’m hearing, and as you would know, I know a lot of people in the industry, I think the feeling I get is that they’re worried it’s going to be all happening too quickly.

PRIME MINISTER: No, well, nothing will happen quickly. We haven’t even made any decisions, John. What we’ve done is put out a proposal for consultation with the industry. I was speaking to some people last night, I was at a function from the industry, there were two people there – one of them was completely supportive of the proposal, the other said, needs a little bit of tweaking. That’s why you consult, to listen to people. But to be very clear, this is a very modest proposal. As I said, every country in the world has had these emissions standards for a long period of time. And when I was the Minister, way back more than ten years ago, we were consulting on these issues. It wasn’t progressed. Josh Frydenberg, when he was the Treasurer, and Paul Fletcher, when he was the Minister, put out a proposal as well. Again, it was deferred and the can kicked down the road, as often happens. We’re a country that needs to get things done, so we are consulting about this. We’ll get it right, and we’re very confident that what it will mean is people saving money, not costing them money. And that is precisely what Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher said it would do when they started off this process under the former Government.

LAWS: Okay. Hasn’t the US slowed their progress down a little bit? That’s my understanding.

PRIME MINISTER: No, they’ve slowed – they’re advanced way past where we are. We’re talking about bringing up the standards to standards that they’ve had, as I said, since the 1970s, John, since the 1970s. There’s a few big vehicles floating around, this is about new car purchases in the future, with no compulsion whatsoever. People can buy whatever car they like, they can drive whatever car they like. We’re not talking about any mandating here that will tell people what they can drive or what they can do. And so, that is why this is a very modest proposal indeed, and why a company like Toyota – that, by the way, is the biggest seller of cars across a whole range of vehicle types in Australia. The real tragedy, John, is, as you recall, that the former Government, when Joe Hockey was the Treasurer, essentially told the car industry to leave. I think that was a tragedy because there was so much multiplier effect across industry by having a car industry here. We don’t have one, unfortunately. We have got a bus industry, a trucking industry. We, indeed, are Boeing’s second largest manufacturer when it comes to components for aviation, is right here in Australia, particularly in Victoria. We can make things here, and we need to make more things here. But unfortunately, the car industry is gone. But we can look towards components in the future, but I think this is a really sensible proposal that we’re consulting on.

LAWS: I believe a spacecraft is about to land on the moon with a bit of help from Australia, from Parkes, I think. Do you know about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Parkes, of course, plays a critical role in the space industry globally. And I know that they play a role with, because of where we’re located in the world, in things like aircraft landing on the moon. It’s a wonderful thing that we should be proud of. I mean, there is a facility there in WA that plays an absolutely critical role as well in the space industry, whether it’s on the East Coast or the West Coast, I visited a manufacturing plant on the Gold Coast, which has been very successful in making components for the space industry. There’s so much that we can do if we’re just prepared to be bold and ambitious.

LAWS: That’s what we should be, and that’s the reputation that Australians have had. I mean, during wartime, we were bold, we were brave people. We seemed to have gone a bit quiet.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, exactly, which is why too many times, John, when proposals come up, there are fear campaigns run, which is what we’re seeing with these emissions standards, rather than a, okay, how can we get this done? How can we move forward as a nation? Well, I’m not prepared to just stand still, because if Australia stands still, the rest of the world doesn’t, and they just go past us, which is why we need to invest, why we need new industries, why we need to seize opportunities, which are there. To our north, of course, we have the fastest growing region of the world in human history. Huge markets, huge growth in the middle class in places like Indonesia and the Philippines and Vietnam, and what that represents is a huge opportunity for Australia.

LAWS: That’s true. Are you going to see Taylor Swift tonight?

PRIME MINISTER: I am going to see Tay Tay tonight. It’s a bit of a phenomenon here in Sydney, I’ve got to say, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

LAWS: Tay Tay!

PRIME MINISTER: She’s big, John! I’ve never seen anything quite like the phenomenon. And I’ll tell you what, it’s been pretty good for the Australian tourism industry. It’s been very hard to get a hotel room in Sydney over the next four nights.

LAWS: Oh, yeah. It’s been very good for the Australian tourism industry. All right, well enjoy Tay Tay.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, John. It’s been wonderful talking with you.

LAWS: Okay. It’s always nice to talk to you. I enjoy it very much, and I hope we have the opportunity again, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, John. We’ll talk again soon.

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