Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC Brisbane Radio Mornings

Prime Minister

Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, joins me at a time where Australians are being told not to attempt to travel at the airport. Prime Minister, good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Steve. Good to be with you.

AUSTIN: Do you know, or does the Australian Government know, when the French gendarmerie expect to have the situation under control?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we know that the situation there is deeply concerning. We’re doing everything possible to help Australians on the ground. We are working with the French authorities. They’re advising at the moment that the situation on the ground is preventing flights. We continue to pursue approvals because the Australian Defence Force is ready to fly when it’s permitted to do so.

AUSTIN: Does Australia have a rapid response unit to deal with these sorts of events when Australian citizens are in danger overseas?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, we do. And, quite frankly, Australia’s response over a period of time, both the official response of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our authorities, as well as the support that we receive from our airlines like Qantas, is, I think, amongst, certainly equal to, anywhere in the world. I did a press conference yesterday about this. We have a 24 hours consular emergency centre and people concerned can ring 1300 555 135 or from overseas, +61 262 613 305 we know that the situation on the ground is difficult. The international airport remains closed, roads have been damaged, there are blockades in place. And we provide those regular updates for people, both through social media and through the website and directly contacting people. There are 300 Australians who are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade there on the ground in New Caledonia.

AUSTIN: Yet our consul general is closed there. What is the point of having a consulate when the Australians who need it most can’t speak to anyone there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s just not right, Steve.

AUSTIN: Well, the consulate is closed. The consulate is closed. DFAT says it’s closed.

PRIME MINISTER: It is not right that people can’t speak to people. I just gave you a 24 hours number which is available, in which people can be spoken to.

AUSTIN: Here in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I just gave the number to you for your listeners. I’m not aware of the circumstances of the consulate and where it is and I suspect neither are you, Steve.

AUSTIN: No, I’m not having a go, Prime Minister, don’t misunderstand. I’m not having a go at you. But I guess what we learned was this morning that Australians had to organise a meeting themselves, amongst themselves, to try and determine what they were going to do on the ground there, because, in part, the consul there is closed. And I’m just wondering whether there’s, given that New Zealanders were apparently contacted within 24 hours by their Foreign Affairs staff, whether we’re doing the best we can in this sort of scenario.

PRIME MINISTER: People were contacted, Steve, and I’m not aware of the precise circumstances and nor are you. It could be that people were out there on the ground rather than sitting in the office. I’ve given you the numbers that are available for people to have contact. I just think our Foreign Affairs and Trade people, my experience, whenever there is a crisis internationally, my experience, regardless of, this isn’t a comment on who’s in government, this isn’t a political comment, I think that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade do an extraordinary job. That is my experience with them. And on the ground I know because I had a discussion with the Minister, Penny Wong, on Saturday about this. I know that 24 hour emergency support lines were put in place and I know that in addition to that, we have had Defence on standby to provide assistance when they are able to get into the country. I know as well that, you won’t be surprised by this, that Australia and New Zealand cooperate and work together for the interests of both of our citizens at times like this.

AUSTIN: So, is New Zealand giving Australians advice as to what they should do there at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER: No, we’ll be talking with each other, giving each other advice.

AUSTIN: I just want to clarify your answer. I’m trying to clarify your answer now. You’ve purchased two new Boeing jets, apparently. Will they be used to fly stranded citizens out of New Caledonia at all?


AUSTIN: Apparently, you’ve purchased two new Boeing jets for the Australian Government. Are they being used or will they be used to fly stranded citizens out of New Caledonia?

PRIME MINISTER: No, because we don’t have them. I’m not quite sure where that information has come from.

AUSTIN: Is it not correct?

PRIME MINISTER: No. The former Government purchased some Boeing jets some time ago when they were in government. I think actually it goes back to the Turnbull Government and they are yet to be delivered. We have Air Force aircraft that are available and are awaiting to be able to provide assistance.

AUSTIN: So, they are coming, but they’re not here yet.

PRIME MINISTER: Steve, I’m not sure what…

AUSTIN: Sorry. I understood from my producers that the Government was expecting two new Boeing jets.

PRIME MINISTER: We are. We’ve been expecting them. We were told they’d be delivered some time ago. They haven’t been. We do have aircraft. We have Air Force planes. And as you would expect, those Air Force planes are on standby to provide support and Defence is on alert, ready to take action to support Australians. At the moment, the airport is closed. So, the planes can’t get in. But Air Force have been on standby for the last 48 hours and they remain ready to provide that assistance to evacuate Australians who wish to leave.

AUSTIN: Thank you for clarifying. Now, the Iranian President’s helicopter and Foreign Minister looks like it’s gone down in the Middle East. How serious is that, given the situation in the Middle East at the moment, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve seen the reports, Steve. There’s little more that I can add to those reports at this time. The reports indicate that a helicopter carrying the Iranian president and the Foreign Minister has not arrived at its destination, is missing. That is the information that we have at this time. We certainly, when it comes to Iran, we’re very much focused on de-escalation. We want to continue to work, as we have been with the international community, to increase pressure on Iran to cease its destabilising actions, whether it be its support for Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the Houthis as well. We have been very much focused on wanting to see the conflict in the Middle East, to stop it from spreading and to see de-escalation occur in the region.

AUSTIN: My guest is Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. I know you’re a busy man. Will you be coming to Brisbane later on this week, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I will. I’ll be there on Thursday and Friday. It will be, I think, my 6th visit to Queensland in the last seven weeks. I always enjoy coming to Queensland. And for your listeners, I’m sure there’s no better time to have been in Queensland than on the weekend for Magic Round. It looked like another huge success.

AUSTIN: I’m surprised you weren’t here.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I was in Melbourne, which was much colder than Brisbane. My poor old Bunnies had another loss. We haven’t been terribly successful during Magic Round, but it is a great concept and adds, of course, substantial amounts to the Queensland economy as well. So, well done to everyone who was involved.

AUSTIN: Prime Minister Albanese, thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Steve.

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