Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – 2SM The John Laws Morning Show

Prime Minister

: Well, the Prime Minister yesterday announced the Future Made in Australia Act, which, according to the Prime Minister, will be a package of new and exciting initiatives to boost investment, create jobs and seize opportunities and make the most of them. A lot of people are asking how Australia can possibly compete with countries like China, not a bad question, I mean – where the cost of manufacturing is considerably lower. Anyway, there’s also concern that the plan could result in a call of business that is reliant on government subsidies. I don’t know about that. Anyway, to do the sales pitch – somebody’s got to do it – we’ve got to leave it to our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. He joins me on the line. Prime Minister, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good to be with you again, John.

LAWS: Well, it’s nice to have you on the telephone, Prime Minister. It always is.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, John. It’s always good to talk with you and to be able to share views with your listeners.

LAWS: Well, they’re pretty important. There’s a hell of a lot of them out there.

PRIME MINISTER: There sure are. And yesterday was a really exciting day with the Future Made in Australia legislation announced. I want Australia to make more things here. We need to do that in the interests of our national security. We need to do that in the interests of job creation and to create opportunities. This isn’t about the old protectionism, this is about the new competition that’s underway as our economy changes.

LAWS: Okay, but we’ve got to be competitive. And it would appear that we can’t be competitive.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we can be competitive, John. That’s the point. We can be competitive because of the way that production has changed. It used to be that we lost jobs in Australia because of the variant labour costs, because labour was cheaper in our north, in particular in China and Taiwan and those countries. Now, because of increased mechanisation, new technology, the truth is that these days, for every unit of output, there’s far less labour involved. So, it is less as a proportion of the cost of production, if you like. What is now a greater proportion is things like transport and access to the resources that go into producing that product. Now, here in Australia, we have everything that will power the world in the 21st century. An abundance of copper, vanadium, cobalt, nickel, lithium, all of these new critical minerals as well. We have, of course, the best solar resources in the world up above us, with the sunny continent that we live in. And with new products like green hydrogen, that need to be used increasingly to produce green steel and produce green aluminium, it’s very difficult to transport. So, instead of having the tyranny of distance, we have the proximity of opportunity. The fact that the green hydrogen, when it’s produced, needs to be put into, used to power manufacturing closer to where it’s produced and that changes the whole competitive dimension, John, and means that we are in such a strong position going forward.

LAWS: Okay, but you’ve got to accept the fact that your Future Made in Australia received the thumbs down from your own hand-picked productivity commissioner in Danielle Wood. She’s concerned that the plan could divert valuable resources away from other more productive parts of the economy. That’s, obviously, that’s got to be a risk. Have you considered that risk?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve certainly considered the opportunity that is there. And with the new competition in the United States – we have the Inflation Reduction Act – that we’re not trying to compete with, because it’s a much greater scale than what we have, but every country in the region, Japan has its Economic Security Act, Korea has a piece of legislation, the Europeans are doing it as well. Now, we can sit back and watch the whole world go past us, or we can take up the opportunities that are there. And I’ll give you just one example, John – to our north, you would recall the debate over a long period of time about Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley.

LAWS: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER: Now, the former Government said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be kept open’. Of course, it was never going to be kept open because it reached the end of its life. Now, we have a company not far from here, solar, that is producing the fastest or the most efficient solar panels in the world. They’ve announced a deal between them and the AGL Company that have control of that site there at Liddell, to produce solar panels there. We know one in three Australian households have solar panels on their roofs. Highest uptake in the world. But only one per cent of them have been made in Australia. We need to be better than that. We need to be able to stand on our own two feet. Because the other thing that the pandemic reminded us of how vulnerable we are with disruption to our trade. So, it’s not just in things like metals manufacturing green steel that’s going to be produced in Whyalla, green aluminium that will be produced in Gladstone. It’s issues like pharmaceuticals. Now Moderna have set up an operation in Melbourne to produce mRNA vaccines. We remember back, John, when we were so vulnerable and desperate to get access to pharmaceuticals when we needed them.

LAWS: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if we make them here, that strengthens our national resilience and it creates jobs at the same time. And that’s why this is a national security issue as well.

LAWS: Okay, but one of our major problems is the cost of labour. How can our manufacturing industry, complete with countries like China, where the cost of labour is much, much, much lower?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are competing because of the lower costs that we have in terms of transport, the lower costs that we have in access to resources. Last week, John, I was in Ipswich in Queensland, at the Rheinmetall factory. Now it is about to expand to employ over a thousand people. This is a German company, that produces military vehicles, that have just signed a billion dollar deal, was signed when I was in Germany with Chancellor Scholz. To manufacture these military vehicles in Ipswich, just outside of Brisbane, and export them to Germany, as well as they’re used by the Australian Defence Force and other defence forces in our region. Now that’s an example of a German company choosing to manufacture in Australia because of the quality of what can be produced here, and because it is commercially viable. We can do these things. We produce buses here, we’re going to produce – through Volvo, are going to be producing electric buses here as well. We have enormous opportunity if we seize it, John. And this is not an either-or, because we can’t just stand still because the world will just go past us. And I, as an Australian Prime Minister, I want to see a future made in Australia. I want to see us making more things here because it strengthens our economy, it creates jobs, it helps with our national security, as well as lifting living standards, particularly in our regions.

LAWS: Okay, all these critical minerals you say we have, how are you going to make sure the minerals, which are important, stay in Australia for use by Australia only? How are you going to manage that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s the point. By giving them a use here and working with the private sector that is willing to invest. So, take, for example, Whyalla. You remember a few years ago the suggestion from Mr Abbott that Whyalla would be wiped out? Well, Whyalla is thriving. And I was there last year. The coal-fired furnace was turned off at the steel making facility there. What they’re looking at doing is using the solar, essentially solar power, producing green hydrogen which then feeds into powering the making of steel there in Whyalla. Now, that will be an enormous jobs growth. Not only is Whyalla surviving, it’s going to thrive there in the Upper Spencer Gulf region. Now, that region has the best quality magnetite in the world. And that’s one of the advantages that we have, John. I’m optimistic about Australia’s future. We can sit in the corner and do nothing has happened for a decade of the previous Government pretending that the world wasn’t changing, pretending there wasn’t a shift to clean energy. Or we can seize the advantages that we have. And that’s what I want to do.

LAWS: Okay. You’ve been generous with your time, because I know you haven’t got any, but nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed talking to you as I always do. And have you got a date for the wedding yet?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t, John, not yet. It’s a busy life I lead. I’m about to just go down to Hyde Park there to the war, the Anzac Memorial that’s there. And something you’d be interested in is that James Blundell is releasing a new song, ‘Almost Anzac Day’, which will be a fantastic thing that I will have the honour of doing in a short period of time. So, I thank you very much for having us on the program again.

LAWS: Look, it’s always a pleasure. You know that I like talking to you. It’s like talking to an old mate. It’s not like – you don’t act like a Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I regard you as a friend and an icon of radio, John. And it’s always such a privilege for me to be able to talk with you.

LAWS: You’re very kind, Prime Minister. Very kind. I hope you have a good weekend. And I look forward to talking to you again.


/Public Release. View in full here.