Australian PM's ABC Perth Breakfast Radio Interview

Prime Minister

: There's no doubting the importance of the relationship. China is Australia's biggest trading partner and three quarters of Australia's exports to China come from here in WA. Chinese Premier Li Qiang flew into Perth overnight, alongside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and today the pair will discuss trade and tariffs, meet with local business leaders, visit a lithium refinery and a green hydrogen research facility. Prime Minister Albanese joins me now. PM, good morning.

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

GIBSON: You're playing host and travel guide this week. Is it all happy families or are you having some uncomfortable conversations about Chinese tariffs and Australians who remain locked up in China for fairly vague reasons?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we have differences and we raise them very directly, but we raise them in a respectful way and in a constructive way, and China puts its position directly to us as well. That doesn't mean that dialogue is a bad thing. You need to have discussions when there are differences and where there's agreement and there's much, of course, that we agree on and there's much complementarity in our economies. As you've said, China is not just our major trading partner. It's the same size as second, third and fourth when it comes to the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea. And 75 per cent of our exports come from this great state of WA to China. So, that's why the meeting today, for example, with the Business Council of Australia hosting, we'll have Rio Tinto, BHP, BlueScope, as well as Chinese businesses. And that will be an important roundtable before we have a gathering of the diaspora here as well, the Chinese Australian community, that's 1.4 million strong. And that will be an important gathering to pay tribute to the contribution of Chinese Australians to our nation.

GIBSON: Most of the punishing tariffs have been lifted. Is there more though that you'd like China to do to support Aussie businesses?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we want the impediments to lobster and seafood lifted. We've been successful in lifting the impediments that were there on goods including coal and timber, meat products, when it comes to wine, of course, was a biggie because there's been bumper seasons in the wine industry. The Chinese market was so important, it was worth well over $1 billion when the impediments went up and the good news is that in the last month we have exported more wine to China than we had in the previous three years. And so that's why the relationship is important for Australian jobs, for the Australian economy, for revenue here. But it's also, of course, in China's interest to receive our magnificent products that are so good.

GIBSON: Prime Minister, there was a slightly awkward moment at your media event in Canberra yesterday with Australian Sky News reporter Cheng Lei, recently spending three years in a Chinese jail, and she appeared to be blocked from view by members of the Chinese contingent. Does that concern you when it's an Australian journalist in Australia doing her job?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, it does. And our officials have followed up with the Chinese Embassy to express our concern. When you look at the footage, it was pretty clumsy attempt, frankly, by a couple of people to stand in between where the cameras were and where Cheng Lei was sitting. And Australian officials intervened, as they should have, to ask the Chinese officials who were there at the press conference to move. And they did so. And indeed, when I held my press conference, Cheng Lei got the first question to me. And I met with Chang Lei after we helped to secure her coming home. She visited me in Parliament House, in my office, and she's a very decent human being and a very professional journalist. And there should be no impediments to Australian journalists going about their job. And we've made that clear to the Chinese Embassy.

GIBSON: You're listening to the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on 720 ABC Radio Perth. PM, we've rattled through some of the things you'll be up to today with the Chinese Premier Li Qiang. You'll be up at Kings Park, won't you? Do you get the big official photo, the big money shot looking over Perth, is that part of the plan?

PRIME MINISTER: We will. And the good news about that is it will be broadcast back to a billion people and encourage them to come down to here, to Perth, as part of the tourism sector. One of the Memorandum of Understanding that we signed yesterday was about promoting tourism, two way, to Australia, but also Australians going up to China. But of course there are more people in China than there are in Australia, so it is certainly in our advantage. And Chinese tourism is coming back, that's a good thing. We'll have further announcements today about an increase in direct flights between Perth and China. And that is also about jobs in the services sector, in tourism and hospitality, is so important, and Perth has so much to offer. And that view from Kings Park, I think is unparalleled, really. Like it's just a beautiful spot.

GIBSON: It sure is, you can come back and say that anytime. I want to know, do you put any silly outfits on the Chinese Premier? You know, you guys go overseas and you have to wear some pretty ridiculous outfits. Does Premier Li get an Akubra hat and some Blundstones or something for the official photo?

PRIME MINISTER: No, we're a bit, we're a bit more chilled here in Australia, so we will just be in our normal clothes, probably a bit less than we were in yesterday. We had big overcoats on. It was minus four, I think, yesterday morning in Canberra. So, it was pretty frosty.

GIBSON: A very balmy 19 for you today. You'll be right. You'll be right. Prime Minister, just before I let you go on one other matter, if I might, and that is the cost of living, because it is the number one issue in the nation, as you're well aware.


GIBSON: I just wonder, are you worried that come July 1, when your tax cuts kick in, along with a raise to the minimum wage, that inflation could be further fuelled and mortgage rate relief gets pushed even further and further away?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I'm not, because Treasury and the Reserve Bank have both taken that into account and have said that they won't be inflationary. But it's a good thing that we're addressing cost of living pressures by having tax cuts for every single taxpayer, a wage increase for everyone on the minimum wage and on award wages. We'll also have cheaper medicines, $300 off power bills, and making an enormous difference out there. And we designed our cost of living relief very deliberately to, at the same time, put that downward pressure on inflation. It's important to remember that what we've done is halve inflation from that which we inherited. We inherited inflation with a six in front of it. It's now got a three in front of it. And unlike those in the Coalition who are talking about the need for austerity Budgets like we saw in 2014, that really hurt people, what we've done is create 880,000 jobs, and we are providing increases in real wages as well as tax cuts. We want to make sure that we put inflation down without punishing people. And if we can come through what's been a difficult global period with living standards rising, then that will be a very positive outcome.

GIBSON: You wouldn't want cost of living to get worse, though, would you? When I just noticed yesterday, one opinion poll has come out, don't tell me you don't look at the polls, which put Peter Dutton, one point in front of you as preferred Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we want to do is to do our job, which is to make sure that we're addressing cost of living pressures without putting pressure on inflation. We're doing that and it stands in stark contrast to our opponents who opposed all of those cost of living measures. Remember when we changed the tax cuts to make sure they went to every single taxpayer? The Coalition said they'd reverse it, then Peter Dutton said we should have an election on it and then they voted for it. So, they haven't had any constructive plans. They opposed our energy price relief. They opposed cheaper child care. They opposed cheaper medicines. What we need is a government that is prepared to make decisions to deal with cost of living pressures, not just stand on the sidelines and shout when we're trying to solve the problems that were created under the former Government that we inherited. As I said, we have halved inflation and one of the ways that we have put that downward pressure on as well, remember this, we inherited a $78 billion deficit. We turned that into a $22 billion surplus and we produced two Budget surpluses in a row, something that our predecessors never did.

GIBSON: Prime Minister, enjoy Kings Park, enjoy Perth and thank you for your time this morning, I appreciate it.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Mark.

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