Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC Brisbane

Prime Minister

Why is the city of Ipswich involved in a major arms deal? The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese is there today. Prime Minister, why is the city of Ipswich involved in a major arms trade?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Because it is about jobs and it’s about manufacturing right there in Queensland. It’s a part of our plan for a future made in Australia. When I was in Germany last year, we signed an agreement with the German government for 100, or more than 100 Boxer Heavy Weapon Carrier Vehicles to be built by Rheinmetall at its Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence, which is there in Redbank. This is 600 direct jobs alone, but many more than that, of course, when you apply the multiplier impact and it’s a part of a very important industry for Australia. This export agreement that has now passed through the German parliament follows the signing of the agreement last year. These are highly advanced military vehicles using state of the art technology.

AUSTIN: So, let me interrupt there Prime Minister, help me understand this. So, a German company has Rheinmetall, their German facility here in Ipswich. We’re making the stuff and selling it back to the people that own Rheinmetall.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s exactly right. And it is worth more than 600 jobs, direct jobs of course, there in the Ipswich region there west of Brisbane. But there’s many more than that through the multiplier impact as well. It shows that Australia can compete, and we are good at manufacturing, and these direct jobs will be more than matched by jobs through the supply chain. And this is good news for Australia. It’s a part of the creation of more than 1000 jobs every single day that we’ve been in office, which is more than have been created, many more than by any previous government in Australian history.

AUSTIN: All right, well that’s, so you say Australia can compete. Let me ask you about something else that you’ve announced. Explain to me the logic of investing $1 billion of taxpayers money to build solar panels with AGL and Sundrive in Australia. Why are we going up against, say a country like China, which even according to the former ACCC head Rod Sims, says it’s a real serious question as to whether we can even make them competitively priced compared to what China can build them for?

PRIME MINISTER: We can make them competitively. It isn’t just for Sundrive. This Solar Shot Program will be a national one to provide incentives. And I’ll tell you why we should –

AUSTIN: Are you building any in Queensland?

PRIME MINISTER: We are open to suggestions and open to partnering and providing that support with manufacturing businesses right throughout Australia.

AUSTIN: So, the answer is not yet?

PRIME MINISTER: This is, well, not yet, but we’re open to it. Just like Queensland businesses will benefit from our National Reconstruction Fund. One of the things, Steve, we need to do is to recognise that we need to be more resilient as an economy. It’s not whether we produce solar panels, it’s how can we afford not to. How can we be dependent when one in three Australian households have solar panels on their roofs, not to have some national resilience here? We have produced the –

AUSTIN: So, we’ll be competing head on with China?

PRIME MINISTER: We will be competing and we can compete. These will be the most efficient, Sundrive have used their innovation to produce the most efficient solar panels in the world and make an enormous difference. And one of the things that’s happening, Steve, is that with the use of new technology and productivity gains, labour as a proportion of the costs of production are less and less. What that means is that Australian businesses can be more competitive because issues like transport, for example, are going to be more and more important in the future so we’re certainly –

AUSTIN: Okay, all right. Who or what will be the customers for these solar panels? If these Australian, these are taxpayer subsidised, Australian built solar panels, who will the customers be?

PRIME MINISTER: Your listeners, Steve.

AUSTIN: Well, my listeners tend to buy on price, and if they can get a Chinese solar panel at a much cheaper price than an Australian taxpayer subsidised one, wouldn’t they be more inclined to go for the cheaper priced one? Which is what’s happening at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER: No, Australian businesses can compete. If you look at what’s happening around the world, whether it’s Inflation Reduction Act in the United States, whether it be, China, of course, has subsidies through state owned enterprises. You need to recognise that we need to be more resilient. And we make no apologies for wanting a future made in Australia, for wanting manufacturing brought back here. Now, in the 1970s and 1980s, we saw a flight of capital, we saw jobs all going overseas. We have all the resources to power the twenty-first century. We have the copper and the lithium and the nickel and the vanadium – all of these essential resources. What we need to do is continue to export, but where possible value add here. And we have the best solar resources in the world in terms of the sun up above us, which of course, is free. We also have enormous space, so that as the world moves towards carbon tariffs, which the European Union is doing, and other nations, we will be incredibly competitive. We can not only produce solar panels here, we can produce things like green aluminium there in central Queensland. We can produce green steel. We can be a manufacturing powerhouse again if we’re smart and if we have faith in ourselves.

AUSTIN: My guest is Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. He’ll be in Ipswich today to look at the Rheinmetall facility that’s exporting defence equipment back to Germany. Steve Austin’s my name. It’s coming up to a quarter to nine. A couple of listeners have sent me some questions I’d like to put to you, so I think that’s important that I do that, Prime Minister.


AUSTIN: Brad, of West End has asked, the news is today that there’s been fourteen months of property price rises in Australia, in spite of 13 interest rate rises. And Brad says, isn’t this the result of demand created by your government’s record high and apparently still unskilled immigration rates into Australia? Can I get you to address that, Prime Minister? Many of my listeners are worried about the high levels of immigration, the extraordinarily high levels of immigration and the evidence of the damage to my listeners is the absolute unaffordability of housing, and it’s still getting worse.

PRIME MINISTER: Our population is lower than it was anticipated to be before the pandemic. And what you had –

AUSTIN: Sorry, what was? What was. I’m sorry, we missed that.

PRIME MINISTER: Population is lower than it was anticipated to be prior to the pandemic and the figures have shown that that’s the case. What happened? Because all the borders were shut for the period of time, there has been a higher than normal influx of students, in particular, temporary migration. We are putting in place through a migration strategy, a plan to lower the numbers, because we recognise that that is needed as well. But we need to get on top of the system –

AUSTIN: We’ve now that 14 months of property price rises and the average price of the house in Queensland now is $800,000 for a house, and that’s the average, I will admit. But it seems like we’re still extraordinarily very high numbers of people from overseas that’s creating this massive pressure build up in the Australian economy and demand for housing.

PRIME MINISTER: With respect, Steve, you’ve been broadcasting for a while and I’ve been a member of parliament for a while and there have been property increases, price increases over a long period of time in Australia. Not just 14 months.

AUSTIN: Nothing like this, though. Nothing like this. It is extraordinarily damaging to both renters and people wanting to buy a home at the moment. Or do you not agree? Do you not think, do not see it that way, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: No, we recognise that there is a need to increase housing supply and that’s why we have 17 different measures, with more than $25 billion of commitments from everything, including increased rental assistance, a Build to Rent incentive for the private sector, increased funding for social housing, our Housing Australia Future Fund –

AUSTIN: So let me change my question to make it easier or clearer. Do you see no link in the high levels of immigration in Australia and property prices at the moment, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: What I see is that population figures are less than they were going to be, and that we need to lower the migration numbers, which is precisely what my government is doing by putting in place measures, for example, to weed out some of the rorts that were there with people coming to do courses, allegedly, that simply didn’t stack up. We are getting on top of these issues, which is why we have had a migration strategy to clean up the mess that we inherited. But it’s not surprising that after an economy opens up, which was closed, that you have an increase in the number of students, for example, which is the major reason why you’ve had that spike in numbers was always going to occur after there was a reopening up of what was closed borders.

AUSTIN: My guest is Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Prime Minister, stay with me for a moment if you would, please.

AUSTIN: My guest is the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, heading to Ipswich this morning to have a look at the Rheinmetall facility. Prime Minister, prior to the federal election you announced the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation Program to rebuild and modernise the grid. Where is that happening in Queensland today? Is there any modernising of the grid happening yet?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, there is. It is being rolled out right around the country –

AUSTIN: Where would I see it in Queensland. Do you know?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you’ll see it right around the country in terms of that investment happening. And in Queensland, of course, the Miles government have a plan as well to make sure that there are significant renewable energy projects there, particularly in regional Queensland. And we need to make sure that the grid is brought up to the twenty-first century so that it can benefit from that.

AUSTIN: Ok. I just want to clarify though, that $20 billion pre-election announcement, has any of that replacement of the grid or upgrading the grid started? Do you happen to know off the top of your head, I probably should have given you notice on this so that you could ask one of your advisors. But has it started in Queensland here?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, it has happened around the country. This is a national rollout that was identified. If you look at the Australian Energy Market Operators integrated systems plan that was there for a long period of time but wasn’t acted upon. And what it’s about is making sure that the grid is fit for purpose for the twenty-first century, so that when projects come online they can be connected up and add to the national energy source.

AUSTIN: There’s something I’ve never understood about our energy policy. We won’t build any new coal fired power stations, but we are opening up new coal mines and exporting our coal to our trade competitors. We won’t build a new nuclear, we won’t build a nuclear power station, but we’re exporting our uranium to go to our competitors nuclear power stations. You’re at Rheinmetall today. Why is it ok to make military gear for export, but not develop our own nuclear capability in some way?

PRIME MINISTER: Because the market is what is indicating, Rheinmetall aren’t building these boxes in Ipswich because they like the western suburbs of Brisbane. What they are doing is doing it because it’s commercially a sensible thing to do. They’re doing it because of the skills and capacity of the Australian workforce –

AUSTIN: But my question was we’re exporting our uranium for other people’s nuclear power stations, but we won’t look at that ourselves. We’re exporting our coal to our competitors but won’t allow the building of coal fired power stations.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s not true. Steve, there is nothing to stop someone building a coal fired power station but it hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened. It didn’t happen under the former government. It hasn’t happened because the market is directing the investment towards the cheapest form of new energy, which is renewables. That’s what’s happening. And in spite of the rhetoric of the former government that used to speak, for example, about keeping Liddell open, the site where solar panels will be manufactured there in the Upper Hunter, it didn’t happen. It shut on their watch. And on their watch there wasn’t a new coal fired power station built. Indeed, there were subsidies, including at Collinsville, you might remember, in Queensland. A substantial subsidy for a study to go for with millions of dollars spent for something that hasn’t gone anywhere because it doesn’t add up economically and nuclear does not add up in Australia. Which is why you have no investors coming forward, putting their hand up, saying that they want to build a nuclear reactor.

AUSTIN: My guest is the Prime Minister of Australia. Prime Minister, while we’re on defence, you’ve signed on to the AUKUS nuclear submarine project. I understand that every other nation with nuclear powered submarines has one or more real nuclear reactors, not computer simulators onshore, used for training. This is for engineering, testing and other things. Where will Australia’s land based submarine training reactor be, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re doing training right now –

AUSTIN: Where will, every other nation has onshore nuclear powered real reactors, not computer simulators.

PRIME MINISTER: No, we’re doing it with real reactors. That’s the point of AUKUS, is that you have the Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States adding in different aspects but cooperating through interoperability, so that there are Australian submariners right now training in the United States. There are Australian workers there at Barrow as well, in the United Kingdom. I’ve met some of them already –

AUSTIN: So if there are no plans for a land based training or test reactor here, why not? Is it a political decision or a technical engineering decision? If there are no plans for a land based training or test reactor in Australia, is that for politics or for technical reasons?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s the whole point of AUKUS, Steve, is that you get more than one plus one plus one equals more than three sometimes because you increase the capacity. You don’t have to do everything everywhere.

AUSTIN: So you don’t think Australia needs a training reactor for our AUKUS program?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Steve, I will leave the details of the training to our defence experts. And what is occurring now, as I have said to you, is that Australians are being trained in the United States right now. Our submariners, our people. What we are doing here in Australia is establishing courses that are being established not just in South Australia and Western Australia, but at other universities as well, to train people in the skills that will be required for this industry, including for manufacturing. This will be a jobs boom for Australia, as well as very much being in Australia’s interests of our national defence.

AUSTIN: Is that why we gave $5 billion to the UK for their Rolls Royce facility to build our reactor?

PRIME MINISTER: Well yes, that is, I made it very clear our reactors won’t be built here. They will be inserted, essentially, into the submarines, but built overseas.

AUSTIN: My guest is Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese. I want to bring it locally here to state politics. The Queensland state election is on October 26th. Will we see you actively campaigning for Steven Miles and the Labor team here in Queensland in the lead up to October, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. I’m a Labor loyalist and I hope that Steven Miles is successful in the election. I’ll always support Labor candidates.

AUSTIN: I’m intrigued to know, as you know, the Olympics has been a bit of a shemozzle here in the way it’s been planned, changed, planned, changed again. Will the Federal Government put any extra cash into upgrading the Queensland Sports and Athletic Centre or the Suncorp Stadium for the 2032 Games?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, these are issues that are currently the subject of discussions between Anika Wells as the Minister, Catherine King as the Infrastructure Minister, as well with the Queensland government, given the recent changes that have been made.

AUSTIN: All right. Prime Minister, another quick question that’s not related to Queensland, but forgive me, I just want to put this one to you. At least five employees from the World Central Kitchen, which is a non-governmental organisation, including one Australian, were injured or killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza, the Hamas run Gaza government media office has apparently said. Have you been briefed on this situation? Do you know if it’s accurate or not?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are urgently investigating these reports which are there and they are indeed very concerning. I’m very concerned about the loss of life that is occurring in Gaza. My government has supported a sustainable ceasefire. We’ve called for the release of hostages and there have been far too many innocent lives, both Palestinian and Israeli, lost during the Gaza Hamas conflict.

AUSTIN: Have you been briefed on the World Central Kitchen matter where apparently an Australian was injured or killed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I just told you that Foreign Affairs and Trade are seeking further investigation of that, and I’ve been briefed that that is what they are doing.

AUSTIN: I’m sorry I missed that. Thank you very much for clarifying. Final question, how is the wedding planning going?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I lead a busy existence, so we will continue to try to find a period in which we can do that in an orderly way. But I probably will, am unlikely to announce the details on the Steve Austin program on ABC Brisbane. We’ll continue to talk with each other, most importantly. Weddings, of course, are not easy things to plan and when you have my diary, it makes it even more difficult. But I am looking forward to when it happens.

AUSTIN: If you’re looking for a good honeymoon destination, I’m sure Queensland tourism have got some suggestions. Thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure they have. And Queensland is always a wonderful place for people to visit and of course, a great place to live as well.

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