Abbott Arrives In Davos For World Economic Forum

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has arrived in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.


Founded in 1971, the WEF is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Geneva. On its website, the organisation says: “The World Economic Forum is a membership organization. Our Members comprise 1,000 of the world’s top corporations, global enterprises usually with more than US$ 5 billion in turnover.”

The annual meetings held in the mountain resort of Davos is made up of around 2,500 business leaders, politicians and others.

At his press conference following his arrival, Abbott spoke at length about Australia’s role as this year’s president of the G20, the organisation representing the world’s 20 largest economies.

  • Listen to Abbott’s press conference (in progress – 7m)

Transcript of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s press conference in Davos, Switzerland.

ABBOTT: It is good to be here at the World Economic Forum because the people of Australia expect their government to be working for a stronger national economy and a stronger global economy, because a stronger national economy and a stronger global economy means more jobs for the people of Australia.

That is essentially why I am here, a long way from home in one respect, but very close to home in another respect, because nothing is more important to the people of Australia than jobs and my mission here is to showcase the Australian economy, to let the world know that Australia, since last year’s election, is under new management and once more open for business, and to highlight our agenda for the G20.

We are determined that this year, under our Presidency, the G20 will be about real actions. It will be about specific outcomes. It won’t simply be just another international talkfest. So it is very good to be here. Today, I met in Zurich with the world CEOs of some of Switzerland’s biggest businesses, with the World CEO of UBS, with the World Chairman of Credit Suisse, with the Global CEO of Glencore, with the Global CEO of Zurich Insurance. I’ve just come from a meeting with Professor Schwab, who is the founder of the World Economic Forum here in Davos and later on today, I’ll be meeting with the Australian businesses who are here as part of the Australian B20 delegation. So this is an important event for Australia, given that we are the President of the G20 this year, and it is now an established tradition that the Head of Government of the G20 President come to Davos to outline that year’s G20 agenda, what the G20 Presidency hopes to achieve.

I’m very pleased to be here, and as I said, the bottom line of my presence here in Davos is to strengthen our economy, to help to strengthen the global economy, because that means more jobs for the people of Australia.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, you say you don’t want Brisbane to be another talkfest. I mean, how do you judge its success, what do you want to take out?

ABBOTT: Well, the interesting thing about the G20 this year is that in a couple of months, every member will be presenting a national growth plan for consideration by fellow G20 members. This will be an opportunity for all of the major economies of the world to have the kind of candid and in-depth discussion about national economic policies which I suspect has been lacking for many a long year, if ever. And what we’ll be doing as the G20 Presidency, is stressing that if we are serious about higher economic growth, if we are serious about getting more jobs, we have to boost the private sector. That means getting taxes down, that means getting regulation down in our national economies and internationally it means freeing up trade, it means trying to have less leaky national tax systems, it means trying to get more transparent and more usable arrangements for infrastructure financing and it means making sure that the world banking system is as safe as it can be, given that inevitably there does have to be an element of risk in all market economies.

QUESTION: So essentially, what you want to do at home is what you want to achieve at G20 and internationally?

ABBOTT: We are operating by word and by deed here Lane. We have a good story to tell and I am confident that certainly, by the time of the G20 Leaders’ Meeting in Brisbane in November, I am confident we will also have some very important runs on the board in terms of deregulating and boosting growth back home in Australia.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, you’re concentrating on the G20. At the World Economic Forum, some of the reports already produced have indicated a slightly different line to Australia, particularly on climate change and carbon pricing. How much of an influence with the WEF have on your thinking going into the G20?

ABBOTT: I have just come away, Dennis, from a discussion with Professor Schwab and without wanting to put words in the Professor’s mouth, it certainly something which has been a constant preoccupation for the World Economic Forum that we need to get our economies more competitive. It is, in fact, the World Economic Forum’s international competitiveness index which, apart from this annual conference, is the World Economic Forum’s principal contribution to the economic debate. So the World Economic Forum absolutely understands the need for greater competitiveness and if our economy is going to be more competitive, we have got to get taxes down, we have got to get regulation down, we have got to get productivity up, because if we do all those things, we will get growth up and that means more jobs and more prosperity for every Australian.

QUESTION: Mr Prime Minister, another preoccupation has been the lack of female representatives here, and they’re using the picture of Julia Gillard to represent that minority. Could you respond to that, do you think that anything could be done to increase representation?

ABBOTT: Obviously who attends the World Economic Forum is a matter for the World Economic Forum, but as far as I am concerned, it is very important that we boost female participation. That is why, back home, we have a fair dinkum paid-parental leave scheme that is coming up and we have now got underway our childcare inquiry to try to ensure that our childcare systems are fully responsive to the real needs of the modern Australian family in a 24/7 Australian workforce and workplace. We are very eager to get female participation up. We are very conscious of the fact that particularly with an aging population, if we are to continue to boost our productivity it is important to get our participation up as well.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, could you tell us a little more about the meetings you mentioned with key CEOs before coming here, and what was your hope in spending time with them? Have you managed to enlist their support, for example, in some respect to the G20 or not?

ABBOTT: Without again, Tim, wanting to put words into other people’s mouths, the anxiety right across the board is that global business at the moment is very risk adverse and why wouldn’t you be risk adverse, given the experiences that so many global businesses had in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 – 2009. One of the key factors in addressing the risk aversion of business is to provide certainty and stability in government. If we want business to start to invest more freely, if we want businesses – large and small – to start to invest and spend the cash stockpiles that they have got as a result of post-GFC deleveraging, they have got to feel that there is a stable, secure and certain regulatory environment. That, I am afraid to say, has often been lacking right around the world over the last few years, but certainly under the former government of Australia.

QUESTION: You want to attract the business investment to Australia. Did you get the sense that there is that interest in Australia in your meetings so far?

ABBOTT: Absolutely. All of the four major businesses whose global CEOs or Chairmen I met with this morning have massive investments in Australia. Glencore, obviously, has a multi, multi-million dollar investment in Australia and employs some 25,000 people along with Rio and BHP, it is our biggest miner. So these companies do want to invest and employ in Australia. Again, without putting words into their mouths or blowing the new government’s trumpet, I think they are all encouraged by what has happened in Australia over the past few months. I think in Glencore’s case in particular, there is a satisfaction that a government which introduced an absolutely, completely misguided mining tax has been punished by the Australian voters, so I think that there is an enthusiasm for Australia on the part of these businesses. Switzerland is, I think, the fifth or sixth largest direct foreign investor in Australia.

QUESTION: What do you say to people who are cynical about these types of conferences? Two and a half thousand delegates, 85 per cent of them men flying into a resort like this, to talk about gender and economic equality?

ABBOTT: Well I will leave different individuals to talk about what is important to them. What I am here to talk about is how Australia is under new management and open for business. And I am here to talk about the fact that Australia, as G20 President, wants the G20 process this year to be less about talk and more about outcomes. We want to ensure that we don’t just have good intentions because good intentions there are in abundance. But we have better outcomes, more jobs and more prosperity for Australians and for people right around the world.

QUESTION: Does that mean we can expect some policy announcements in your speech on Thursday?

ABBOTT: Certainly what you will get from me on Thursday is a concise description of what the new Australian government is determined to achieve. Importantly, you will get our account of the economic fundamentals that every nation needs to adhere to, and then you will have a degree of specificity about what we are hoping to achieve in this G20 year.

QUESTION: Do you believe you will have the mining tax and the carbon tax repealed by the G20?

ABBOTT: I certainly do, Dennis. The election last year, if nothing else, was a referendum on the carbon tax and to the extent that it wasn’t a referendum on the carbon tax, it was a referendum on the mining tax. The people spoke unambiguously. They want these toxic taxes gone. Now, we have had a bit of talk from the Labor Party about it wanting to say ‘yes’ to sensible reforms. Well, I say to the Labor Party and its leader, if you are serious about cooperating, if you are serious about strengthening our economy and delivering on jobs- show it. Don’t just talk about it – show it. And the best way to show it is by allowing the carbon tax and the mining tax repeal legislation to pass through the Senate.

QUESTION: It helps your argument for investment in Australia if they are gone by the Brisbane.

ABBOTT: And what they know is that the new government is utterly determined to deliver on its commitments. We absolutely will deliver on our commitments. Now, we will be returning these pieces of legislation to the Senate early in the New Year. That will give Bill Shorten and the Labor Party a chance to demonstrate whether they are serious about constructive cooperation in the national interest, whether they are serious about abandoning their coalition with the Greens. And of course, there will be a new Senate in place come the middle of the year.

QUESTION: What’s your reaction to Mr Shorten’s suggestion that you would only be a one-term Prime Minister?

ABBOTT: I am just not going to engage in that kind of speculation. He seems very cocky, doesn’t he, for somebody who has only been in the job a few months?

QUESTION: Mr Abbott, which foreign leaders do you hope to spend some time chatting with tomorrow and might I ask if any chance they could include Mr Netanyahu?

ABBOTT: I am not going to enumerate at this stage precisely who I will be seeing, but all of you will know exactly who I have seen once those meetings have taken place. I expect that every day that I am here I will be talking to you about who I have been talking to.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, Australia is an observer in the Syrian Peace Talks if they get off the ground tomorrow. What’s the Australian Government’s position on those particular talks?

ABBOTT: Now, I would just like to finish World Economic Forum and G20 questions first and then I will take some other questions. Are there any more?

QUESTION: On Thursday, you’ll be speaking directly after the President of Iran. If you did happen to have two minutes backstage where you bump into him, what would you say to him, if anything?

ABBOTT: Well, if I was to bump into him, and it is a pretty crowded conference and you never know who you are going to bump into, I would be stressing the importance of nuclear non-proliferation. I would be stressing the importance of enforceable undertakings not to further proceed with the development of nuclear weapons, because I cannot imagine anything more destabilising for the world.

QUESTION: What if you had one possibility of getting something concrete from the G20, what would that be?

ABBOTT: Well, where do we begin? But at the very top of our agenda is a continuing, global commitment to freer trade because freer trade is at the heart of the wealth of nations. Wealthier nations are nations where citizens have more jobs and more prosperity so freer trade has got to be at the heart of everyone’s agenda. Obviously, the G20 is not a trade negotiating forum as such, but certainly every nation involved in the G20 does have a deep, deep interest in a freer global trading system.

Now, Syria?

Obviously we want to see a more peaceful, more just, more democratic Syria. Obviously, we think that the Assad regime has acted in monstrous ways towards its own people. The difficulty in Syria is that, as I famously, perhaps infamously said during the election campaign, it often seems like a struggle that involves baddies versus baddies. I guess the best way for all of them to demonstrate that at least some of them are goodies is to lay down their arms, and to try to ensure that the conflict which is currently devastating that country and its people starts to subside.

QUESTION: How confident are you that there can be any sort of tangible outcomes from these talks when there has been such conjecture about just getting to the table if that happens later this week?

ABBOTT: I think whenever countries and representatives go into these kinds of discussions, you have got to be hopeful but I do not think that any of us have any of us a have a right to be overly optimistic because the history of conflicts such as this does not give us too much ground for optimism.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, can I ask you a slightly parochial question, sorry? Does the South Australian government have any chance of getting the $2.8 billion that it’s very keen to get to help Holden workers transition?

ABBOTT: Well, Tory, we were very swift out of the blocks here committing $60 million in federal money towards the sorts of initiatives that will help in the areas where Holden workers live. I am pleased that Premier Weatherill has finally announced a South Australian package to help. But what we are doing for the South Australian economy is trying to produce better economic conditions overall. We are trying to get taxes down, we are trying to get regulations down, we are trying to get productivity up. In the end, South Australian businesses and South Australian workers are operating in a national economy and the freer and more prosperous that economy is, the better for those businesses and the better for those workers. As well, though, as the $60 million that we pledged towards a specific Holden package, we have also got a number of major initiatives underway or in the pipeline for South Australia, such as the Darlington upgrade of the north-south road and we are talking to the South Australian Government and indeed to the South Australian Opposition about the Torrens upgrade as well.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, just on Nauru. The top two legal officers have been expelled from the country. Are you concerned about that? What can we do about that?

ABBOTT: In the end, this is a matter for the Nauruan Government, but obviously as a friendly – a large and friendly neighbour – we are making very clear that the rule of law is very important. It is important in our country. It is important in all countries, and certainly it is important in Nauru.

QUESTION: Are you still happy and confident about sending refugees to Nauru?

ABBOTT: Well, we are sending people who arrive illegally by boat to Nauru, as part of the range of measures that we have put in place which, just at the moment, seems to be very effective in stopping the boats. Nauru remains an important part of a range of policies, which are proving to be much more effective than the policies of former government in stopping the boats.

I make no apologies whatsoever for the absolute determination of the Australian Government to secure our borders and to stop these boats. And the message I give to the people smugglers this day and all days is that the way is shut. The way is shut. You shall not pass. And I say to anyone who would be a customer of people smugglers, you are wasting your money. You will never get to Australia if you seek to arrive illegally by boat.

I will take one more question.

QUESTION: In line, Prime Minister, of the latest incursions into Indonesian territorial waters, is there any way that Australia can reconcile that relationship that already been significantly damaged?

ABBOTT: It is a very important relationship, as I have made abundantly clear at every opportunity, both in opposition and in government. It is a very important relationship. I said it on numerous occasions in opposition; I have said it on numerous occasions in government. Taken in the broad, Australia has no more important relationship. It is, in the broad, our most important single relationship. And while, at different times in the past, there have been difficulties, think of the difficulties over East Timor, think of some of the tensions that arose under the former government over live cattle, over the Oceanic Viking standoff. There have been difficulties in the past. I dare say our two countries being what they are, there will be difficulties in the future. But I do want to stress that President Yudhoyono has been a great president of Indonesia. He has been a very good friend of Australia. I have enormous personal respect and admiration for President Yudhoyono. I am looking forward to my next meeting with President Yudhoyono. I hope it is sooner rather than later. As far as I am concerned, I want nothing but good in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia.

All of that said, for us, stopping the boats is a matter of sovereignty and President Yudhoyono of all people ought to understand, does understand, just how seriously countries take their sovereignty. So we will continue to do what we are entitled to do to secure our borders.

And again I reiterate: the way is shut for the people smugglers and their clients, or would-be clients as far as I am concerned. No illegal boats can expect to get to Australia. Simple as that.

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