Australian Prime Minister Television Interview – Sky News

Prime Minister

Prime Minister, thank you for your time. In broad terms, do you see this plan, the future made in Australia, is this your plan to underpin what you hope is a second term agenda?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It certainly will be a part of an ongoing Labor Government agenda. But it’s an agenda for the nation, not just for an election. This is something that does need to happen. It’s not about the old protectionism, this is about the new competition. And Australia must be in it to win it. There’s a race for opportunity, a race for jobs on, and Australia must be in it to win it, we must participate. Because the alternative, given what is occurring in the United States with the Inflation Reduction Act, with similar legislation in Japan, in Korea, in Canada, in Europe, is that the world will just go past us. But if we seize the opportunities which are there, we can make more things here in Australia. We can prosper as an economy, particularly here in Queensland and in the regions.

GILBERT: It’s bringing together a number of announcements already made or programs already up and running, like the National Reconstruction Fund, like the Solar Sunshot Program. I’m guessing there will be more significant announcements in the Budget under the umbrella of the future made in Australia. You seem to be hinting batteries will be one of those. Is that what you’re thinking, particularly given our competitive advantage when it comes to critical minerals?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have everything that goes into a battery for storage and to power this century. We have copper, we have lithium, we have nickel, we have all of these products. And one of the things that’s happening, Kieran, that is making Australia more competitive, is that the nature of production is changing. Labour is less as a proportion of the cost of production, and we saw in the 70s and 80s, manufacturing, a lot of it leaves Australia because of cheaper labour costs in the region. What’s driving change now, because technology is ubiquitous, it’s available everywhere, is innovation and is comparative advantage. Now, here in Australia, we have massive advantages under the ground with our resources, but also in the sky with our solar resources. That will enable us to develop a green hydrogen industry for example, that can then be used to drive green metals manufacturing in areas like aluminium and steel. We have enormous opportunity here to value add, and the theme today is pretty simple. Which is we’ll continue to be an exporting nation, we’ll continue to export our resources. But where possible, value add here, create jobs here, create value here, create that economic prosperity here. That is what we need to do, and we need to seize the opportunities that are right before us.

GILBERT: When you talk about, though, just to pick up something there, you mentioned labour is less as a percentage in terms of the overall production. So, where do the green jobs fit in here?

PRIME MINISTER: Green jobs certainly fit in with the creation of new industries and old industries transforming so that they’re more sustainable, so they’re more competitive with what the demands will be in coming decades. So, areas like steel manufacturing in Whyalla, aluminium manufacturing in Gladstone, making sure that we value add wherever we can so that industries are transformed, but also new industries emerge, like in battery manufacturing. We were at Liddell just a couple of weeks ago and there the prospects of solar manufacturing, using the most advanced manufacturing for solar panels that will be the most efficient in the world, being produced there in the Upper Hunter, employing more people than were employed at the former Liddell Power Station all those years ago before it closed. Now we can shut our eyes to what’s going on in the world and do what the former government did. They used to stand up in question time and speak about keeping Liddell open. Of course, it shut on their watch. It didn’t have a future. It reached the end of its life. The question is, how do we use that facility, that capacity, that workforce as well that we have. One of the things I speak about today is the advantages that we have with our population. We have a great university sector that’s been terrific in innovation. How do we commercialise those opportunities that come out of that research and the capacity of our intellectual strength that comes out of universities? How do we train people through TAFE has been a big concentration of my Government as well. Identifying what are the skills that we will need in five-ten years’ time and how do we train Australians up for them? And that’s why we’ve created Jobs and Skills Australia to give us that advice.

GILBERT: Yeah, but that automisation that you’re talking about, that makes us competitive, that won’t preclude, that won’t block the creation of jobs. That’s what you’re saying?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. What it will mean is that compared with older manufacturing processes, there will be less jobs created per output. But what you’re comparing it with here isn’t an old form of manufacturing or a new, more efficient, more productive form. It’s whether we produce that new productive form of manufacturing here in Australia, or it’s offshore, it’s as simple as that. Not just in our region to our north, but also in places like the United States of America through its Inflation Reduction Act. Because the other thing that today’s speech is about is the link between economic security and national security. One of the lessons of the pandemic is that economies need to be more resilient. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet, if you like, in simple terms. And that is one of the things that we learnt from the pandemic. We’re making sure that that happens. Other countries are doing exactly the same thing. So, whether it’s working with the United States and other advanced economies, or working as well through the work that Nicholas Moore did with the Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, that we advanced as well at the ASEAN Summit that was held in Melbourne just last month. How do we work with those growing economies to our north? We have a range of advantages – what’s in our resources sector, our human advantages that we have, including our multicultural society, with links to every country on the globe. Or whether it be the fact that we’re located in the region of the world that’s fastest growing in history provides us with enormous opportunities. You’re going to have substantial growth in markets, you’re going to have substantial growth in use of new technologies. We need to be a part of this. We need to be in it to win it, rather than observers watching the world just go past us.

GILBERT: You have mentioned today and previously, I know when you announced the Solar Sunshot, putting this lack of commercialisation, that as a nation we come up with great ideas, we’re great innovators, but haven’t commercialised. And I guess you look at this massive financial system we’ve got in this country, massive banks, superannuation, trillions of dollars. But often the investment goes to major corporations, not to those SME’s that are the innovators. Is this trying to fill that gap from the Government?

PRIME MINISTER: It is. It’s about, look, we recognise that the drivers of this growth will be the private sector. But sometimes what they need is support in the initial stages for a new startup with a new idea to commercialise those opportunities. And certainly it is the case that Australia has been amazing at innovation. Everything from the black box to Wi-Fi to of course, solar panels. Every solar panel in the world will have some intellectual property produced, usually at the Australian National University or the University of New South Wales. But Australia was ahead of the world in PV solar, we didn’t commercialise those opportunities, we actually lost that industry. Now, what this is about is how do we provide an environment where companies don’t just have the good ideas and the good startups here, before moving offshore. How do we keep them here in Australia? And we’ll see, with use of new technologies including artificial intelligence, all of the pace of change is getting faster and faster. How do we make sure that we can participate in that? That Australia gets the economic benefit from that innovation. Rather than having these great ideas, we export our resources, we wait for someone else to value add, and then we import them back at high cost. That makes no sense. Just as it didn’t make any sense for us to allow the car industry, or in the case of the former government, they encouraged it to leave. And that had a flow on impact in complex manufacturing in particular. One of the things, industries that are going to be important, of course, is our defence industry as well. But also agriculture and food. How do we increase yields? How do we increase productivity? All of these things provide opportunities for a future made in Australia to be one where we continue to see our living standards increase, where we continue to see good, secure, high paid jobs being available in this country and growing into the future, particularly in our regions.

GILBERT: I know you’ve got a busy day. It’s a big day, with this keynote address coming up shortly. A few other matters before you go. Julian Assange, you’ve said enough is enough on this. I know you’re close to President Biden, his comments overnight, do they give you a sense of optimism that this could be close to being dealt with?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they’re certainly encouraging. And we have raised the case of Mr Assange at all levels of government, and we’ve used all of our diplomatic efforts at every level to communicate that it is time that this was brought to a close. Enough is enough. There’s nothing to be served by the ongoing incarceration of Mr Assange, and we want Mr Assange to be able to return home. These are complex issues because of the separation of powers that’s there between the political system and the judiciary, and in this case, the Department of Justice in the United States. But we continue to use all avenues at our disposal, as we do in speaking up for Australian citizens, where we’ve been successful in the cases of Sean Turnell and Cheng Lei, and we continue to make representations on behalf of Australians.

GILBERT: And do the public comments reflect what you’re hearing behind the scenes?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m increasingly optimistic about an outcome, but one certainly has not been delivered yet. We’ll continue to argue the case at every opportunity that we have, through every forum that we have and through every level of personnel that we have as well. Whether that be political, whether it be diplomatic. We’ve worked and engaged very closely with Julian Assange’s legal team over a long period of time and this is something I spoke about in Opposition. I said enough was enough. I’ve had exactly the same position as Prime Minister and have raised it at every opportunity.

GILBERT: On Palestine, your critics are saying that the Albanese Government’s rewarded terrorists by floating the idea of recognising Palestine before a negotiated two state settlement. What do you say to that criticism?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, just more negativity and more angry rhetoric from Peter Dutton. There’s enough anger around these issues and he must have been completely unaware of comments of people like President Biden, of David Cameron, the UK Foreign Secretary, and other leaders as well, who all know that we need a long term solution to the conflict in the Middle East. That that solution has to involve two states, one that recognises Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, one that sees Israel recognised by its neighbours in the Middle East and that gives it that security as well, and justice for Palestinians and self-determination that does not involve any role whatsoever for a terrorist organisation like Hamas. There’s nothing new about my Government supporting a two-state solution. It’s perfectly consistent with what we’ve said from the very beginning. And indeed, Mr Dutton voted for a resolution in the parliament after the October 7 atrocity by Hamas which condemned Hamas unequivocally and condemned that attack, that called for the release of hostages, but also called for justice for Palestinians and for the protection of civilian life whether it be Israeli or Palestinian.

GILBERT: Just finally, you said there’s nothing new. I guess the new bit is the fact that the Foreign Minister floated the idea of recognition before a final settlement. Would your government consider recognising Palestine as a state before agreed boundaries are agreed to by the protagonists, Israel and the Palestinians?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we support a two state solution. We think that there’s a role for the international community and that is one of the discussions that is taking place from the world. During our entire lifetime, Kieran, this has been a source of conflict and division. And what is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, and the region, and indeed the world, is for a settlement here. And leaders that I have spoken to across the board of like-minded countries, we have all had discussions about a two state solution and how that can be advanced because we want to see peace and security in the region adding to peace and security for the world. It seems to me that that is a pretty sensible proposition going forward and that is precisely what Penny Wong has envisaged. Just what David Cameron spoke about weeks ago. It’s what a range of leaders around the world have said. It’s what our joint statements have said that I’ve issued with Prime Ministers of Canada and New Zealand. Conservative Prime Minister of New Zealand has joined with me in two public statements along these lines.

GILBERT: Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Appreciate your time as always, thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Great to talk with you, Kieran.

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