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Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Press conference – Berlin, Germany

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: This morning, Australia and Germany have signed an agreement to deliver more than 100 Boxer Heavy Weapon Carriers from Australia to Germany. This is a deal worth over $1 billion, it is one of Australia’s largest ever defence export deals in history. These will be produced in Queensland creating, of course, the 1000 jobs that are there at Rheinmetall in Brisbane. This is good for our defence, this is good for our national sovereignty, but it’s also good for our economy. These jobs will make a difference for Australia, and of course, these arrangements are a part of the productive relationship that we are developing with our German friends. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, I’m sure you’ve seen Paul Keating’s statement. He says Jen Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General is a supreme fool. How supremely awkward does that make your scheduled meeting with him?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. Jen Stoltenberg is friend of Australia, I have met him on a number of occasions. And we need to remember the role that NATO is playing – there is a land war in Europe. This is a war about the international rule of law, about whether a large nation can seek to impose its will on a smaller nation. This is about national sovereignty. This is about the people of Ukraine struggling to defend their democracy and their sovereignty. And Australia stands with the people and government of Ukraine. But we also support the extraordinary effort that NATO is showing, because this is a struggle that has implications for the whole world.

JOURNALIST: Should he be making comments like that though? 

PRIME MINISTER: I’m interested in looking forward. My constructive engagements with NATO, I’m very proud that under my Prime Ministership this is the second NATO Summit that’s been held, it’s the second time that I’ve been invited to participate in the Indo-Pacific Four. But also to participate and give a presentation to the NATO Summit as a whole, which I will do on Wednesday. This follows my keynote address to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to outline Australia’s position on international relations and defence issues, but also on showing solidarity that the Australian Government has with NATO and in particular with the people of Ukraine.

JOURNALIST: Can you give some sort of idea about the opportunities you’ll be discussing with Chancellor Scholz on clean energy, particularly green hydrogen?

PRIME MINISTER: There are enormous opportunities that Australia has, particularly on green hydrogen. This has been priority of the German Government under Chancellor Scholz, but it’s also been a priority of my government. And it’s no accident that we put in a $2 billion fund to support the hydrogen industry in Australia in our Budget in May. I have had a number of discussions with Chancellor Scholz on the phone and, of course, we met at the G7 as well and laid the groundwork for our meeting that will take place in just a couple of hours. I see enormous opportunity for Australia to benefit from the shift to clean energy that’s occurring, including in countries like Germany. And we know that there has already been substantial discussions between the private sector in Australia with their counterparts here in Germany looking at the transition and the opportunity that it creates in green hydrogen and in other new industries.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how influential is the Chancellor on the EU when it comes to our Free Trade Agreement negotiations? And what would that agreement mean for household bills in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: The Chancellor has been a big supporter of the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations and I thank him for the constructive role that he is playing. Australia have made it clear that we want an agreement, but it’s not any agreement. We want one that’s of mutual benefit for Australia and the European Union. We’re confident that we’ll be able to get there, but we won’t sign up to a deal that’s not in Australia’s interests. Chancellor Scholz has been very supportive and I thank him for it, and I will be having further discussions with him today about how he can assist to get this agreement across the line.

JOURNALIST: Does NATO have a role in the Indo-Pacific and should they open an office in Japan?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s a matter for NATO, of course. NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and Australia is participating at this Summit constructively for the second year in a row. And NATO will make, of course, its own decisions as a result of its members.

JOURNALIST: How much has the war in Ukraine added to a sense of urgency to get this deal done here in Berlin? And is there the prospect of it being expanded further?

PRIME MINISTER: The war in Ukraine  has reminded us of a couple of things, unfortunately. One is that we can’t take for granted international rules and multilateral systems. One would have thought that the land war that we’re seeing taking place as a result of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine was something that was of the past, but we know now that it isn’t. We’ve also been reminded of the interconnectedness of our globalised world. The war on Ukraine has had an impact on inflation right around the world, particularly through energy prices, but not exclusively just for that as well. It’s led to food security issues, it has had an impact right around the world, and that’s why Australia needs to be engaged in the world, be a constructive player. And I’m very pleased that under my leadership, we’ve been invited to the G7, we’ve been invited to participate in NATO, and we will continue to play a constructive relationship.

JOURNALIST: Does Australia have a position on whether Ukraine should be given membership to NATO after the war ends?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s a matter, of course, for NATO. And what NATO have said is that they’re dealing with the immediate issues which are there. This is something that the people of Ukraine are confronting each and every day. The sirens for air raids that are occurring, whether by plane or by drone, the attacks on Kyiv, on other cities right around Ukraine, the attacks on infrastructure deliberately having an impact on citizens as well. Russia’s behaviour in this war has been reprehensible, has been an attack on the rule of law, and just common decency. Housing areas, when I visited Kyiv, are clearly what were high density and medium density housing communities had been bombed and attacked. You had tanks rolling down the street of suburban streets just outside of Kyiv. You have had atrocities committed across Ukraine. We stand with the people of Ukraine, that’s the priority at the moment, and I’ll have more to say in just a few hours. Thanks very much.

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