Nov 8, 2020







SUBJECTS: US presidential election; Australia’s relationship with the US; democracy; democratic values; climate change; Australia’s relationship with China; trade.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, the people of the United States have had their say in that great democracy and they have elected Joe Biden as the President-elect and Kamala Harris as the Vice President-elect. We congratulate both of them on an extraordinary victory. We also note that President Biden – or President-elect Biden will have been elected by more people than any President in the history of the United States. We acknowledge the fact that Kamala Harris will not only be the first woman elected as Vice President of the United States, but also the first woman of colour.


They have a big challenge ahead to unite the United States once again, to overcome the challenge that the world is dealing with, with the global COVID-19 pandemic. But also in terms of the challenge of climate change, the challenge of uniting the United States after what has been a divisive period, particularly on issues including race relations. But I have every confidence that they’ll be able to do so. I have met Joe Biden and he is a friend of Australia. The United States alliance is our most important one. It was forged in the wake of World War II by John Curtin as Prime Minister when the United States responded to assist Australia in our hour of need. Ever since then, we have been partners. Partners on security issues, partners on the economy and the trade relationship which is important, partners as well we look forward to being in the future on climate change.


It is a good thing that President-elect Biden has said that the first act of his administration will be to bring the United States back in to the Paris Accord and, of course, President-elect Biden will also bring the United States back in to multi-lateral organisations including the World Health Organization. It’s critical that the US play the leadership role that it has historically played since the Second World War as a critical democracy and I congratulate both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and look forward to working with them into the future.


Happy to take questions.




ALBANESE: Well, I think one of the things that I said earlier this week was that it was up to world leaders to assert the importance of democracy. Those of us who hold democracy so dear. Our alliance with the United States is based upon our common values and that includes the value of our democratic principles. It is critical that happened, the fact that Scott Morrison, along with other world leaders, has welcomed the election of President-elect Biden is a good thing. And you have that being welcomed by not just the leader of Australia, but other democracies as well – the United Kingdom, India, Germany, France and others have all welcomed this election outcome which is very clear in favour of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.




ALBANESE: What I suggested was that Scott Morrison needed to stand up for democracy. He’s done that in acknowledging the election of President-elect Biden. The other thing that needs to happen – and this is the context here – is that Scott Morrison needs to dissociate himself and his Government from government members who are questioning the democratic process and continue to do so. Members of his party. The fact is that these conspiracy theories do nothing to advance our common interest of standing up for democratic values. It’s good that Scott Morrison has accepted the election outcome, has congratulated President-elect Biden and that was what I was calling for – for Scott Morrison to stand up for our democratic processes. I pointed out at that time that we had an election a week ago in Queensland where in contrast to some of the things that we’re seeing, both Premier Palaszczuk and the opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, both gave speeches accepting the democratic outcome.




ALBANESE: No, I have said very clearly – I have said very clearly that what Scott Morrison needed to do was to stand up for democratic values and to make that publicly. He’s done that. He’s done that today. That’s a good thing. The second thing he needs to
do is to dissociate himself and his party from members of his Government who are sending two sorts of messages. You can’t have the leader of the Australian Government saying one thing and members of his own party saying something very different.




ALBANESE; I think that Scott Morrison should make comments publicly, that’s the way that you can do these things. You can make comments publicly standing up for democratic processes. That’s happened. It wasn’t happening earlier in the week when you had Joe Hockey and a range of, a former Ambassador to the United States, a former Liberal Party Treasurer of this country, and other sitting members of the Government make comments that are entirely inappropriate suggesting that there had been fraudulent activity in the United States where there is no evidence that that has occurred. The clear evidence is that people have been able to express their view through the ballot box and that they have made a clear decision indeed that Joe Biden has received more votes than any presidential candidate in the history of the United States of America.




ALBANESE: Well I note the comments of Scott Morrison this morning once again about the Paris accord. The fact is that Australia went to the last international forum that was held in 2019 and continued to argue that Australia should be able to count Kyoto credits from the period essentially when the former Labor Government was taking action on climate change, in order to meet its targets. What Australia needs to do is to reduce our emissions, not to engage in accounting tricks. And I’m very confident that just like the rest of the industrialised world, like the European nations rejected that move by Australia, I’d be confident given the position taken by President-elect Biden that he will also reject any accounting tricks and wants there to be real action. The fact is that Australia when it was last at a climate change conference was effectively sitting with Saudi Arabia and some other recalcitrant nations and arguing for less action, not more. The truth is now we will have international leadership returned from the United States just as we ad under the Obama and Clinton administrations.




ALBANESE: Australia is now isolated on climate change and was at the last international conference. Scott Morrison pretends that black is white. Pretends that he can count Kyoto credits – something that is not acceptable to the rest of the global community. You have a Minister in Angus Taylor who engages in a whole lot of rhetoric but no real action. We still don’t have an energy policy in this country. We’ve had twenty-two separate announcements and no clear policy direction, no framework and last year we saw a considerable decline in new investment in renewables.




ALBANESE: Well one of the things that the Biden administration will do is to be much more engaged in multilateral institutions, it will be involved much more in processes including United Nations processes rather than undermining them. I think we will see a very different role for the United States. Historically it’s played such such a critical leadership role and I think we will see a role on issues like trade that is far more consistent with Australia’s position of support for trade, our partnership with the United States is something that is enduing. It is something that goes that beyond relationships between individual presidents and individual prime ministers here in Australia. Scott Morrison had a close relationship with President Trump. He attended the defacto campaign rally, people will recall, in Ohio. Something that I think was unwise. But I have no doubt that Australia’s strong relationship with the United States will grow into the future and in my view will be strengthened because of what a new administration is likely to do with regard to respecting multilateral institutions.


Thank you.