ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
FRIDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: US presidential election; Australia’s relationship with the US; democracy; democratic values; Australia’s relationship with China; trade.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks for joining me. Australia’s alliance with the United States was forged by the Labor Government under John Curtin during our darkest days in World War Two. It is our most important alliance and relationship. It is based upon our shared values, particularly our joint commitment to democracy. Our leaders should always speak out on the democratic values that we hold dear. Australia should consistently argue for free and fair elections, where every vote is counted. And Scott Morrison must do so consistently. Scott Morrison has a close relationship with President Trump. We saw that when he attended the de facto campaign rally in Ohio with President Trump. He should be contacting President Trump and conveying Australia’s strong view that democratic processes must be respected.
It is absolutely in Australia’s national interest that the United States remains a stable and a credible democracy. And what we’ve seen is the American people turn out in record numbers. That’s a good thing. And those very same people deserve to have every vote counted. America’s institutions need the space to complete this process fairly and lawfully. But those institutions shouldn’t be undermined by conspiracies. And that’s why the spreading of disinformation by a range of LNP members, including Joe Hockey, Matt Canavan, and George Christensen, should be distanced from by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. He has a responsibility to ensure that members of his caucus and his party behave responsibly at this time.
Americans have voted in record numbers, as I said. The democratic process does take time. Here in Australia, it is not uncommon for us to wait days for outcomes and indeed, counting is still taking place in the Queensland election that was held last Saturday. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, what possible could come from your intervention when Republicans can’t even bring the President to heel?
ALBANESE: Well, I would have thought that Scott Morrison has said that he has a close relationship with President Trump, and we saw that when he attended the de facto campaign rally in Ohio. You may well have even been there. And the fact is, that pressure needs to be bought by all people who believe in democratic processes. These are values which are universal. They’re not values, which in Australia, we regard as being owned by one political party or other. We all participate in the democratic process here. And we saw on Saturday night, with both Annastacia Palaszczuk’s acceptance speech, and Deb Frecklington gracious acceptance of her non-election, her concession speech, I think brought credit to our democracy. And it’s important that the Prime Minister speak out for democratic values at each and every opportunity, because it’s something that in a contested world, we regard as being one of the great distinctions between us and non-democratic regimes.
JOURNALIST: But you saw his speech today, Mr Albanese, it was not the speech of someone preaching protection of democracy. How would Scott Morrison’s intervention possibly change that?
ALBANESE: Well, Scott Morrison would make a difference here in Australia as well, given that members of his own caucus are speaking up in support of some of the conspiracy theories that are out there regarding this election. Scott Morrison, as a democratically elected leader, has a responsibility to support democracy. And I am calling upon him to do just that.
JOURNALIST: Okay, assuming that Joe Biden does declare victory in this election, what effect would the US have on things like the Paris Climate Agreement? What status would US involvement bring to that pact?
ALBANESE: Well, Joe Biden, of course, has committed to re-join the United States with the Paris Accord. He has also, of course, spoken out on a range of issues affecting climate change. And if he’s successful, I would expect that the United States will join the world in taking action on climate change. Climate change is a global challenge. It requires a global solution. Australia, since the Rudd Government ratified the Kyoto Protocol as one of our first acts on our very first day, has participated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and has continued to participate under the Coalition Government. It’s a good thing if the United States joins the world in taking action on climate change. And that will be a good thing for the globe because it requires a global solution.
JOURNALIST: There is more anxiety that China might be acting against trading relationships. Some exporters are being told to go to other destinations. What approach would you bring to this matter?
ALBANESE: Well, this is of great concern. Australia, of course, has a trade agreement with China. And it is extraordinary that these threats are being made, which will have an impact on Australian jobs and on the Australian economy. The Prime Minister needs to act like the Prime Minister, not the prime observer. And it would appear that the Government continues to sit back and watch events unfold without a plan for intervention. Australian jobs are at stake. And the Government needs to do more than just observe what is going on as the relationship continues to deteriorate with real consequences for Australian jobs and the Australian economy.
JOURNALIST: But do you see what’s going on as Australia being a victim of Chinese coercion?
ALBANESE: Quite clearly, China is acting inappropriately. But I have heard and watched the Prime Minister for a period of many months now, acting like the prime observer of these events rather than the Prime Minister. What we need is a plan of intervention. It’s not good enough to say, ‘Well, no one will take our calls’ whilst our trade continues to deteriorate. The Government needs a plan to deal with this issue, because it has real world consequences for Australian jobs, for Australian businesses and for the Australian economy.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there should be some intervention on a trade sense?
ALBANESE: I’ve spoken with Australian business leaders. And they’re desperate for the Government to actually step up here and stop just observing, but start to act and intervene with a plan to deal with these challenges.
JOURNALIST: I’ve got no more.
ALBANESE: Thanks, Andrew.