Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – 3AW Mornings

Prime Minister

: Joining us on the line now is the other big political master in our lives, the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Tom. Good to be with you. And good to be back in Melbourne where the sun’s just come out.

ELLIOTT: Yes, well, it’s a rare thing at this time of year, I can tell you. Now, your policy about picking winners, about investing in Australia, are you confident that as a Government you know the right industries to invest in?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, because what this is, isn’t government doing things by ourselves. This is government using the power that we have to give support to the private sector which is working its way through in terms of investments. Take for example this week we announced a loan, $400 million, for a high purity alumina facility in Gladstone in Queensland. Now, that is money that will be paid back to the Government that will produce the best quality pure alumina in the world. That’s a product that goes into things like LED lighting, it goes into lithium ion batteries, it’s really a high value critical mineral. And because of where it’s positioned, right next to the Rio Tinto aluminium facility, because it’s also next to Orica that produces ammonia, what you’ll have is a loop on one side, effectively a very large site, it must be said, the size of a few suburbs in a capital city. You’ll have high value product going into the facility, which will be the largest in the world. It will produce it in a competitive way, the best quality, and it will create literally hundreds of jobs, both in construction, but then ongoing more than 200 jobs directly. This is an example whereby government providing that support in the initial stages can get an industry over the hump and can make sure that we make more things here, that we’re more resilient here, which is what we need to do. Like the Moderna factory here producing mRNA vaccines in Melbourne will be really important as well.

ELLIOTT: But you’re committing a lot of money to build solar panels. And I mean, China builds most of the world’s solar panels right now. There’s a glut of them. I mean, do you think consumers will pay extra to buy an Australian made solar panel?

PRIME MINISTER: No, because they won’t be extra. These will be the highest quality products they have developed by using copper instead of aluminium, in this case at SunDrive producing on the old Liddell power site in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. They’ll produce products that are the best in the world, that are competitive in terms of pricing as well. They have a deal with AGL there on site. It will produce more jobs than formerly worked in the old power plant there. They’ll produce it using renewable energy made there in the Hunter as well. And so, this is a commercial product. And we have to ask ourselves this, Tom, whether it’s pharmaceuticals, whether it’s solar panels, whether it’s the sort of products that we use here in Australia, and we have the highest rate of solar panel use per capita in the world.

ELLIOTT: All right. Well, let’s hope it works.

PRIME MINISTER: For all of them to be produced in one country offshore, what happens if there’s a disruption to trade? We need to be more resilient here. Australia can compete with the world and we can win. And there is a race on. And we’re in it to win it.

ELLIOTT: All right,. Now, can I turn your attention to immigration? We had some figures out yesterday, I think it was in February alone, we had net immigration of 105,000 people. The annual running total is around 600,000. At the moment. You’ve promised to cut immigration. When does that happen?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s happening between now and the end of the next financial year. We’re determined to do that. We inherited a system that was a mess, Tom. And what we’ve been doing is making sure that in areas such as vocational education, for example, some people were coming here doing courses that were, frankly, Mickey Mouse courses, using that to stay here for a very long period of time. What we’re doing is putting integrity and rigour back into the system. Now, students coming here is an important source of economic income. It can also be a good thing for our neighbours as well to get the value of an Australian education. But the system wasn’t working properly. We’re making sure that it does work properly.

ELLIOTT: So, what is the correct number? I mean, if it’s not 600,000 or 500,000 people a year net, what do you believe is the correct number of annual immigrants into Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it depends upon the economic cycle, of course, but what we want to do is to lower that number significantly to around about half of what it has been.

ELLIOTT: So 250,000 to 300,000?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re not going to just pluck a figure out of the sky, but what we are projecting is that the NOM, the net overseas migration, is projected to come down to 250,000 in the coming financial year in 2024-25.

ELLIOTT: All right. Can I ask you a question about multiculturalism? And, you know, you come from a multicultural background, of course. We had a terrible incident in Western Sydney the other night when a young Muslim man, I think he was 16 years old, went into an Assyrian Christian church, stabbed, I think it was three people in the end. One was a bishop, one was a priest. He’s now been charged with a terror related offence. Do you think multiculturalism is failing in Australia now?

PRIME MINISTER: I think overwhelmingly multiculturalism has been a part of modern Australia and that people overwhelmingly in cities like Melbourne and Sydney live in peace and harmony and are enriched. On recent visits to Melbourne, I’ve attended a Greek festival there in the main street, there in Lonsdale Street. I, in the eastern suburbs, have attended a Sri Lankan New Year event attended by some 10,000 people. And I’ve attended a Sikh event as well in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, out in Casey. Overwhelmingly it is a success and we’re enriched by the diversity that we have here. But there’s no doubt that this is a terrible event and that we need to, like most things that are important in life, we need to make sure that we nurture our multiculturalism, that we at all times show respect for each other. Now, clearly this was a terrorism event. The response as well, I must say, as a Sydneysider, was very disappointing with police being attacked, they should be treated with respect at all times. Our police do extraordinary work in order to keep us safe and they shouldn’t have been subject to the attacks to that happened on that evening. And there have been charges done because of that as well.

ELLIOTT: So, just quickly, I mean, here in Melbourne, I think a lot of members of the Jewish community would disagree with you about how successful multiculturalism is. They ring me and say that they’re spat at, they’re abused, that they feel afraid of being openly Jewish.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, and there’s no place for that in Australia. And there has been a rise of anti-Semitism. You had the event at Caulfield, which was a provocation. That was outrageous. And I’ve spoken, including at the synagogue here, about those issues. But overwhelmingly, what we need to do is to show kindness and compassion and respect for each other, including, regardless of what faith people have or whether they have none at all.

ELLIOTT: Well, I agree with you. I just hope what we want to happen is actually what happens. We will have to leave it there. Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister of Australia, thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Tom.

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