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2014 Brisbane G20 Summit Logo

Press Conference: Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott

G20 International Media Centre, Brisbane, November 16, 2014


First of all, could I say what an honour it has been to chair this G20 leaders meeting here in Brisbane. This meeting of the G20 leaders is the most influential and significant gathering that's ever been held in our country.

The thing about the G20 is that it is large enough to be representative of the wider world and it's small enough to be effective. That's why the G20 is now such an important element in the global governance architecture.

I guess the first thing I should do is to thank the people of Brisbane for their hospitality. It is an honour to host an event such as this, but it is also an inconvenience and I do want to thank the people of Brisbane for making all of the leaders and delegates and media and everyone else associated with this event so welcome.

Most of all, I want to stress that this year the G20 has delivered real, practical outcomes and because of the efforts that the G20 has made this year, culminating in the last 48 hours, people right around the world are going to be better off and that's what it's all about: it is all about the people of the world being better off through the achievement of inclusive growth and jobs. That's what it's all about.

This Brisbane summit, and indeed the whole year of Australia's G20 presidency, has not just been about bold ideas, it's been about strong execution as well. We set a goal, we developed a plan and we believe we have implemented it.

I want to say that I've been very heartened and encouraged by the very candid conversations that I've had with individual leaders and which leaders have had with each other. That's been a mark of this Brisbane summit: the quality and the candour of the exchanges that we've had.

I asked all leaders to attempt, as far as they could, to throw away the scripts and speak from their hearts and to a remarkable extent that's happened over this weekend.

There has been a spirit of collaboration from all of the leaders and all of their teams and I very much thank them for that.

When Australia's presidency began, we identified three key themes. First, boosting growth and employment; second, enhancing global economic resilience; and third, strengthening global institutions.

We believe, I think all of the G20 members believe, but I think we put it into practice this year, that we can do more for our people and for the wider world when we work together than when we work separately and in partnership, I believe that we have very substantially delivered on those three themes that we identified.

We've signed off on a peer-reviewed growth package that, if implemented, will achieve a 2.1 per cent increase in global growth over the next five years on top of business as usual. The Brisbane Action Plan contains over 800 separate reform measures and if we do all that we have committed to doing, the IMF and the OECD tell us that our Gross Domestic Product will be, as I say, 2.1 per cent higher than it would otherwise be. We've published these measures, we've published these growth strategies, so that the world can see what we are committed to and the world can hold us to account. The OECD and the IMF will be regularly reviewing our progress towards achieving these measures to keep us accountable.

We're focused on policies to increase competition, to unshackle the private sector from unnecessary regulation, and to increase female participation.

On infrastructure, very importantly, we're launching a global infrastructure initiative to address the $70 trillion gap in infrastructure needed within 15 years by 2030 and a key mechanism to drive this initiative is the Global Infrastructure Hub that will be located in Sydney. That will be funded by contributions from governments and also from the private sector.

We've had a 25 by 25 pledge by all G20 countries to reduce the gap between female and male workforce participation by a quarter to reduce the gap by 25 per cent over the next 10 years, and this has the potential to bring 100 million women into the global workforce an extraordinary achievement if we can deliver on this, but it is a clear aspiration and it is an achievable, accountable goal.

Now, we absolutely want companies to pay their fair share of tax and we want them to pay their tax in the jurisdictions where their profits are earned. This is particularly important for emerging and developing economies and we're taking concrete and practical steps to achieve this. It's about the countries of the world, the people of the world, receiving the tax benefits that are their due and it's needed so that governments can fund the infrastructure and the services that people expect and deserve.

Australia's also focused on four areas of financial sector reform to ensure that the circumstances that led to the 2008 global crisis can never be repeated. We're working to strengthen financial institutions, to protect taxpayers from having to fund bailouts if 'too big to fail' financial institutions run into difficulty, to address shadow banking risks and to make derivative markets safer.

It's so important to make the global institutions developed in the 20th Century relevant to the 21st Century.

The working session on trade was one of the most productive of this G20 weekend. It saw leaders unanimous in their view that expanding global trade will directly benefit countries and people right around the world. Trade is a key driver of growth, perhaps the key driver of growth, and we're focused on domestic reforms to facilitate trade as well as the importance of a strong global trading system.

Leaders also began a discussion a very important discussion which I know will be taken forward over the next 12 months by Turkey, about how the World Trade Organisation could work better to deliver the growth we need. There will always be political differences about the global trading system, but we can do better and we made a very good start towards WTO reform this weekend.

For the first time, G20 leaders have had a session dedicated to global energy issues. Leaders agreed that the issue of energy requires a significant ongoing focus. We endorsed landmark energy principles which will ensure access to affordable and reliable energy for all. They will ensure that energy institutions are more inclusive of emerging and developing economies, they will strengthen energy markets, enhance energy security, phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and, importantly, they will support sustainable growth and development. Energy, I am pleased to say, is now at the heart of the G20's agenda and G20 Energy Ministers will meet for the first time early next year to take this work forward.

We agreed to work together to develop better approaches to energy efficiency. The G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan identifies six areas where increased global action will have real benefits for all. They are heavy vehicles, appliances linked to networks, building, industrial processors, more efficient electricity generation and, importantly, access to finance to fund that more efficient electricity generation.

Obviously, it goes without saying that G20 leaders all of us support strong and effective action to address climate change. Our actions will support sustainable development, economic growth and certainty for business and investment and, of course, we will all work constructively towards the climate change conference in Paris next year.

There were a number of other important international issues that were dealt with. Leaders expressed deep concern about the humanitarian and economic impact of Ebola and discussed practical measures to tackle the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. We support the international response and have committed to do all we can to sustain and respond to the crisis.

It has been a weekend of achievement. Our focus has been the economy and how we can achieve inclusive growth and jobs. I believe that the G20 this weekend has shifted a gear from responding to events to setting an agenda for growth.

Our message to the world is that governments can deliver; that governments can, under the right circumstances, agree; that the world can be better; that governments can do better and that there can be higher growth and more jobs.

That is what the world expects of us. That is what our people want. They want higher growth and the jobs that higher growth will deliver.

So, what we have seen over this weekend is cooperation, accountability and concrete plans. I absolutely believe that the economies of the world, that the countries of the world, that the people of the world, will be better because we have met this way in Brisbane this weekend.

We all know as we look around the world that there are many problems and we spend so much of our time enumerating them, but my message to the people of the world from Brisbane, Australia is that there is hope that things can be better. There is a plan that's been endorsed by the leaders of the 20 largest and most representative economies that will be so much better than what went before at delivering the growth and the jobs that the people of the world want and need.

Our challenge, of course, is to fully implement our agenda.

Australia looks forward to working with Turkey over the next year and it is my very great pleasure to announce that China will be the G20 host in 2016.

Before calling for questions, I have a few important 'thank yous'. I want to particularly thank my friend and ministerial colleague, our Treasurer, Joe Hockey. I've been leading the G20 agenda for a weekend; Joe has been leading the G20 agenda for a whole year and the work that we conclude this weekend is the product of the work that Joe has been doing over the last 12 months.

There are many others that I should thank many, many others that I should thank. The one person who I must single out, though, is Australia's G20 Sherpa, Dr Heather Smith. She has been an inspiration, an exemplar and a real credit to the ultimate professionalism and effectiveness of the Australian public service.

Ok, let's take some questions.


Hi PM. Phil Coorey from the Financial Review. On tax evasion, the multinational tax evasion, we now have agreement to tax at point of earning. Do you have an estimation or would you like to put a time on how long do you actually think it will take before that becomes a reality?


Look, the key to all of this is information sharing between the jurisdictions. That is the key to all of this, and my understanding is that it starts now and it will build up over the next couple of years. But I just want to say to everyone watching right around the world we are absolutely determined on two things: if banks get into trouble, taxpayers shouldn't be bailing them out and big business must pay its fair share of tax and it must pay its fair share of tax in the jurisdictions where it earns the profits.


Prime Minister, Ross Greenwood from Nine News. You did mention that trade you considered to be the most important driver of growth into the future, could you just put that into context with the broadly reported free trade agreement that Australia will perhaps agree to with China this week and how that sits with the relationships with the United States and with Japan?


Well, interestingly, Australia has always been a great supporter of free trade and wherever you can advance the cause of free trade, you should do so. All of our bilateral free trade agreements have resulted in freer trade with particular partners, but none of them have involved less free trade with anyone else. So, all of them have made global trade more free than would otherwise be the case.

As you all know, in the last few months we have successfully concluded free trade agreements first with Korea, then with Japan and we hope very much that we will be able to announce something rather special in the next few days. But that builds on a sustained and consistent Australian agenda. We have a free trade agreement with the United States. We are working on even freer arrangements with the United States through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. One of the early model free trade agreements was the Closer Economic Relations Agreement with New Zealand back in the 1980s.

So, I think Australia is an exemplar of free trade. What we want to move towards and what there was unanimity about this weekend is the multilateral trade agenda and that's why such an important piece of the G20's work next year is going to be moves towards reforming the World Trade Organisation so that we don't have to wait another 20 years for the next multilateral trade agreement.


Prime Minister, Dennis Shanahan from The Australian. The Communique makes particularly reference to climate change and a commitment for members to give their determined contributions well in advance of the Paris meeting and also to supply funds where possible to the Green Climate Fund. As host, to what extent will you commit Australia and when to new targets for Paris and will you be contributing to the Green Climate Fund?


The first point I want to make, Dennis, is that Australia has always believed that climate change is real, that humanity makes a contribution and that strong and effective action against it should be taken. This Government has just passed through the Parliament legislation to put into effect our Emissions Reduction Fund a $2.5 billion fund. So, we aren't just talking about taking action against climate change; we are cracking on with the job. And, yes, we've got a five per cent on 2000 by 2020 target that we will achieve but that is actually a 19 per cent reduction on business as usual. So, Australia is a high performer when it comes to actually delivering on real action to tackle climate change.

We will be making further decisions at the right time. That is what we will be doing. We will be making further decisions at the right time and what we want to do is take effective action against climate change which is consistent with continued strong economic growth, continued jobs growth and continued development, not just for the already developed countries but for the whole world.


Paul Osborne from Australian Associated Press. You have $2 trillion worth of promises in this statement. How do you, or can you guarantee that they can be delivered given the understandable political problems with the Senate in Australia, Congress in the US and other domestic political challenges? Did you have a discussion on the floor and did anyone come up with any solutions there?


Well, Paul, as a former journalist, the last thing I want to do is to be sceptical towards my former colleagues. But if I may say so, 12 months ago people thought that this G20 would never come to an agreement. We have come to a series of very important agreements, so the next objection is to say, "Well, they will never actually implement them". Well, can I say what the difference between this G20 and quite possibly just about every other international economic conference has been is that we haven't just committed ourselves to aspirations, we have committed ourselves to specific measures specific measures to make those aspirations a reality. Not only that, but we have set up an accountability mechanism because the OECD and the IMF will be constantly reviewing our performance against the published commitments that we have made. So, there's an accountability here that I don't believe has ever really been present in the sorts of communiques, in the sorts of decisions, which conferences of this nature have made in the past.


[Inaudible] I am sorry, let me confess I am guilty I have got two questions. The first one is a follow-up. You are talking about two or even 2.1 per cent of additional growth. But it would be growth to the baseline. The baseline, the problem is that the baseline right now is going down and at least according to the IMF they are constantly keeping their prognostication of the global growth and they upgraded to the lower side. Aren't you concerned about that? And my second question is the Russian President Putin, about an hour ago, he was asked about the Summit and he said that it was very excellently organised. He called you an effective chairman who let everyone express his or her opinion but at the same time kept the discussion concentrated on the main topics and he said there are some issues we disagreed but Mr Abbott is a good partner. What do you think about that?


I am happy to be on a unity ticket with Vladimir Putin on that subject. Look, all of us want stronger growth and certainly growth will be much stronger than it otherwise would have been as a result of the agreements that were made at this G20 conference. I should also point out that we worked very closely all year but including at this conference over the weekend with the B20. I don't believe there has ever been such close partnership between the G20 and the B20. And there was a very good reason for that because, in the end, if we want better communities and a stronger society, as we all do, we need stronger economies to sustain them and we won't get stronger economies without stronger and more profitable private businesses.

I think it's that partnership with the B20 which has helped to make this G20 a success. I really do. And at the beginning of the very first session we were addressed by Richard Goyder, Australia's B20 chairman, and Richard pointed out that right around the world there are cashed up businesses. There are many, many cashed up investors, they want the confidence to invest and this G20 is all about giving them the confidence that will unleash that capital, unleash that investment and then unlock the growth and the jobs, which have been eluding us for the last five or six years.


It's been reported that there was bit of a barney over some of the climate change discussions in there. Is it correct that Barack Obama argued forcefully against your position on fossil fuels and are you happy with the wording of the climate change section in the communique?


It's interesting that you should ask that question because the very first draft of the communique, which Australia prepared, talked about climate change. All the way through, we've been talking about energy efficiency and climate change. And the very best way to reduce your emissions is to achieve more efficient energy use. The best way to reduce your emissions and at the same time strengthen your economy and to create more jobs is to have more efficient energy usage because you can't have prosperity without energy, if we want to have clean prosperity we've got to have efficient energy use. So, I just want to make that absolutely crystal clear, that from the very beginning, climate change was in the draft communique. People who have worked on communiques for several G20s say that this was a remarkably smooth process. I don't say that there weren't, at different times, discussions about what is the mot juste, but it's certainly been a very harmonious, constructive and collegial process and not only was the communique drafting process constructive and collegial, but the discussion in the room today was very constructive and collegial very constructive and collegial. And sure, different people had different emphases, but all of us want to take strong and effective action against climate change and all of us want to do that in ways which build our growth and particularly strengthen our employment because that in the end is what it's all about happier people living in better countries in a better world.


Prime Minister, Ellen Whinnett from the Herald Sun. Just to clarify, can you please tell us what is the current status of your relationship with Mr Putin and do you think Australians will be glad to see that he's gone?


Look, I had a very candid and very robust discussion with President Putin in Beijing, as I said I was going to. And I suspect there have been some pretty robust discussions between the Russian President and quite a number of leaders over the last couple of days. One of the reasons why conferences like this are so important is because it does give the countries of the world's leaders an opportunity to speak candidly with each other. It gives them the opportunity that might not otherwise arise to talk constructively about their differences. Now, I have some differences with the Russian government, obviously. I don't particularly approve, in fact I utterly deplore what seems to be happening in Eastern Ukraine. I demand that Russia fully cooperate with the investigation, the criminal investigation, of the downing of MH17 one of the most terrible atrocities of recent times. So, these are clearly on the record and I had a very robust discussion about MH17 with President Putin, other leaders have had very robust discussions with President Putin in the last 24 hours or so about Ukraine. But when all is said and done, President Putin was a guest in our country. President Putin is a member of the G20 and I was happy to treat him with respect and courtesy while he was here in Australia.


The new President, President Jokowi, is very upbeat about infrastructure. Has there been any talk about Australia assisting Indonesia on this field, on this sector?


Again, not only did we have very constructive discussions about infrastructure at the G20 itself, not only are we committed to getting a very large amount of private sector finance into addressing the infrastructure gap that all of us have and that the globe has, but we have also had very useful bilateral discussions and, as you would expect, I have had a bilateral discussion with Pak Jokowi and it touched on a lot of subjects because it's a very strong and broad relationship between Australia and Indonesia. But supporting Indonesia's particular infrastructure requirements is something that has been on the agenda between our two countries for quite some time now.


I believe you actually put forward Australia's plan to upgrade submarines to the US and the Japanese leaders earlier today. What did you offer or what did you ask those leaders, please?


It's well known that Australia is in the process of commissioning the next generation of submarine. It's well known that at some point in the medium term future, our existing subs will come to the end of their useful life. That is what happens to ships, eventually they all come to the end of their useful life and you have got to decide if and how they are going to be replaced. And we have decided that we will replace our submarine fleet and we are having discussions with a number of partners about how that is best done. That is what you would expect. You would expect a country like Australia to have discussions with a number of partners about how this best can be done because we have a duty. We have a duty to our country, we have a duty to our friends and partners right around the world to have an effective defence force. That's what countries do.

I should also stress, though, that Australia, the United States, Japan, everyone, is full of admiration and respect for the peaceful rise of China. I want to make it absolutely crystal clear here, as I always do, that the transformation of China, the lifting of hundreds of millions of people from poverty to the middle class is perhaps the most extraordinary advance in human welfare in all of history and it's been done peacefully. Isn't that extraordinary? Isn't that absolutely extraordinary and isn't that a magnificent tribute to the Chinese people and government, that this amazing advance has been achieved in this way and it has been an advance not just for the people of China but for the people of the world? Australia does $150 billion worth of trade with China every year, we did about a quarter of that 10 years ago. China is not only Australia's biggest customer; China is Japan's biggest customer. China I think is America's biggest customer. So, the point I keep making I made it in Tokyo, I made it in Seoul, I made it in Beijing, I made it in the Parliament, I make it here again, is that when it comes to security we will all advance together or none of us will advance at all.


Matt Cranston from the Financial Review. You didn't mention, in your summary, corruption. What sort of progress is made at this G20 meeting on cracking down on corruption?


There is universal agreement that this is essential and there is a range of measures that will deal with it, some of them are in the communique. But it is absolutely essential if we are to have growth that it be clean growth. It's absolutely essential if we are to have a private sector-led increase in growth that government be clean because no-one wants to invest in a place where you can't be confident that the official you are dealing with is straight, when you can't be confident that the investment you make will be respected. So, obviously this is critical and that is why it was so much a subject of work that officials have been doing over the last 12 months.


Prime Minister, Andrew Probyn from the West Australian. Just back on climate change, firstly can you tell us exactly what you did say in defence of energy derived from fossil fuels? And, secondly, with regards to the communique on the green climate fund, the fact that it's there, is Australia obliged to contribute towards it or is there a possibility that some nations might choose a free pass and I refer to your somewhat unflattering references to the fund in the past.


That was a rather elliptical observation, if I may say so. Look, this is one of the funds that G20 countries are interested in contributing to. It's not the only fund, but it certainly is one of the funds and that's why it's there in the communique. There was another aspect of the question, Andrew?




Yes, yes. We are all going to approach this in our own way, obviously, and there's a range of funds which are there and the fund in question is certainly one of them. Look, as for coal, without going into the details of who said what to whom and exactly what intervention was about what subject, I should remind everyone that right now there are 1.3 billion people right around the globe who have no access whatsoever to electricity. I want to repeat that because it's so significant 1.3 billion people right around the globe who have no access to electricity. Now, how can those people have a better life, have a decent living standard without access to electricity? A fifth of the globe don't have access to electricity. We've got to give them access to electricity and coal is going to be an important part of that for decades to come coal is going to be an important part of that for decades to come.

I welcome the agreement that President Obama and President Xi made, but my reading of that agreement is that 80 per cent of China's power needs in 2030 will be provided by coal. So, coal is going to be now and for the foreseeable future a very important part of the world's energy needs. It has to be because if it's not we are never going to provide energy to the 1.3 billion people who don't have it. What we need to do is to ensure that the coal fired power stations that we need are as efficient as possible. Again, I get back to the importance of our session on energy efficiency because the only way to tackle emissions while maintaining growth is to be more efficient in the use of energy.


One of the policy areas canvased in the communique and also in the Brisbane Action Plan is labour market reform, which sometimes means different things to different people. What does it mean to you in terms of what you will do in Australia to deregulate the labour market possibly or take forward other initiatives? And a related question we are yet to see, or possibly it's being released this afternoon, the Australian commitments under Brisbane Action Plan. Can you explain what those commitments are and how many of them will need Senate support to get them through?


Well, look, you raise the question of parliamentary support for the commitments that the executive government makes and plainly this is an issue. But as we've seen in Australia, there are lots of things which crossbench senators and Opposition senators say they don't initially support and then eventually support, if not entirely, at least in some way, and the Australian Government is determined to put what we believe is good policy into practice as quickly as possible and, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. In the same vein, there was some discussion at the G20 about IMF reform and President Obama quite properly recommitted to getting the various changes required through the Congress. Is there a guarantee that this will happen? Of course there is not. But we can be confident based on what's been said this weekend that there will be best faith efforts made to have a very good go at it. And that's the same with all of the measures that we have committed ourselves to. We will do everything we humanly can to make them happen we will do everything we humanly can to make them happen. If they don't happen next month, there's always the month after. If they don't happen this year, there's always next year. But we are determined to do the right thing by the people of our world and increase inclusive jobs and growth.

Now, on labour market measures, I want to refer you to what I think is the principal commitment that we made and that is: to increase female participation. Because if we can get female participation closer to male participation in every country of the G20, you will unlock billions if not trillions of dollars in additional growth. So, this is a very, very important commitment. Also, we want to try to change our various systems across the globe that make it harder for people to participate in the labour market. Now, you all know what the policies of the Australian Government are in this respect and we haven't agreed to any new policies but the policies that we've already got out there on the table, our fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme, our welfare changes, our employment services changes. All of these are designed to make it easier for people to find work and to keep it.

Source: Official website of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia

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