Australian Prime Minister Television interview – Today Show

Prime Minister

Talking of studs and great genetics and big belt buckles, the Prime Minister joins us now from Rockhampton. PM, good morning to you.

SARAH ABO, HOST: He couldn’t help himself.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: I’m not sure about that intro, Karl, but I’m in your hometown.

STEFANOVIC: No, no, Rocky’s a great place. Look, there’s a bit on. We’ll get to Rocky in a second.

PRIME MINISTER: It is a beautiful day.

STEFANOVIC: But first, this flare up between Canberra and Beijing this morning, this Chinese fighter jet dropping flares dangerously close to an Australian navy chopper. Have you picked up the phone yet and spoken to anyone?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve made the appropriate diplomatic representations, as you’d expect. We regard this as unprofessional and that it is unacceptable. And we’ve made clear, that view to Beijing, both through Beijing and also through Canberra.

ABO: The trouble is, PM, you’re coming up against China, a Government that really doesn’t actually care what we think. I mean, this, they were in international waters. You can’t get more brazen or more toxic, this behaviour from China.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s why it’s completely unacceptable. You have Australian Defence Force personnel engaged in work importantly for the international community. They’re in international waters, international airspace, and they’re doing work to ensure that the sanctions that the world has imposed through the United Nations on North Korea, due to their intransient and reckless behaviour, are enforced. And that is the work that Australian Defence Force personnel were engaged in. And they shouldn’t have been at any risk while they engaged in that behaviour.

STEFANOVIC: Sorry, go on.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve just made it very clear to China that this is unprofessional and that it’s unacceptable.

STEFANOVIC: This was a close thing and it was aggressive. Is it not appropriate for you to pick up the phone and say what it’s doing?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve made it very clear, Karl, through all of our channels, at all measures at our disposal, including here publicly. I’ll give you the big tip. China will be very aware about this interview. And they’ll be very aware of what our views are.

STEFANOVIC: And so they should be. I mean, how can we as a country have any kind of relationship with China when they show such scant regard for the safety of our soldiers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s important that we speak out when events like this occur. It’s important that we make clear our position, which has been done at the diplomatic levels, at government to government, but also defence to defence as well. And all of those avenues have been made clear. This issue, we have made public in order to be able to speak out very clearly and unequivocally that this behaviour is unacceptable.

ABO: All right, so what’s China’s response been to what Australia said? Is there any word from them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they haven’t responded publicly at this point in time. I expect that they will do so. But I think the Australian public would expect some form of explanation about how this could occur, because it was not behaviour that we expect when Australia is going about playing a role, as we do, an important role, as good international citizens. That’s what we’re doing here in helping to impose the sanctions that have been put in place by the United Nations.

STEFANOVIC: Does this put in any jeopardy the Chinese President’s visit to Australia later this year?

PRIME MINISTER: The Chinese President isn’t visiting later this year. Xi Jinping, I would expect to have some face-to-face engagement with him at the G20 meeting that will be held later this year. There’s the G20 and then the APEC meeting, which are back to back meetings in the meeting season of this year, which will be around October/November.

ABO: PM, the Budget next week. The Treasurer seems he’s going to war with the RBA. The trouble is, you do have to help those who are struggling at the moment. But whatever is given out during the Budget, the RBA will only take back in interest rates.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll be handing down a Budget next week. It will be Jim Chalmers’ third Budget. And our last one turned a $78 billion deficit into a $22 billion surplus. That’s an example of just how responsible we have been, how determined we’ve been for budget policy to work in partnership, hand in hand, with monetary policy. And next week’s Budget will be the same. It will be a responsible Budget. There will be tax cuts for every Australian taxpayer because we know that Australians are doing it tough with the cost of living. If you look at the measures we’ve announced already, including the $3 billion off student debt, the targeting of support to encourage people to do teaching and nursing, they have been targeted measures. We will have in next week’s Budget three priorities. Cost of living, addressing those issues. Doing so in a responsible way that doesn’t put pressure on inflation. And thirdly, our Future Made in Australia. How do we build our future economy going forward by being more resilient as an economy.

STEFANOVIC: All right. You’re in Queensland today. It’s just terrific, Rockhampton. I needed to get your thoughts on South Sydney. Do you think the great Queenslander Wayne Bennett should be coaching South Sydney as of next year or what?

PRIME MINISTER: We all bow down before the great Wayne Bennett. I’m lucky he’s not in politics because I reckon he’d be elected Prime Minister. He’s a great coach. He’s the super coach. The man’s an incredible manager of people. And I’m sure that any club would welcome Wayne Bennett. Souths have been doing it tough. There’s a few South Sydney supporters. I’ve seen a random Souths guy around here already in Rocky. There always is one. But we’re doing it tough. But we’ve done it tough before, Karl.

STEFANOVIC: I know what we do. We send Wayne Bennett to China to sort it all out. We’ve got to go, PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Wayne Bennett would be able to manage anyone. Thanks, guys.

ABO: Enjoy your day.

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