2GB - interview with Deborah Knight

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop joins us on theline. Good afternoon, good morning to you in Brisbane, Julie.

JULIE BISHOP: Goodafternoon Deborah, how are you?

JOURNALIST: I am well. Look,we want to talk spies in a second because there's plenty of detail we want togo through there, but first up, Sam Dastyari. He's finally gone, it's been asaga. How damaging is this for Labor?

JULIE BISHOP: Well SamDastyari has finally acknowledged that he's unfit to represent the Australianpeople, but Bill Shorten should have sacked him weeks ago. His resignationtoday should take effect immediately; he shouldn't be receiving a salary, notanother cent from the Australian taxpayer. I think tellingly, Sam Dastyariexpressed no regret for letting down Australia, his only regret was lettingdown the Labor Party, and he didn't put Australia's interests first. For weeksBill Shorten has tried to protect him and today he's thought to resign but hewasn't sacked. Why? Because Bill Shorten refused to sack his numbers man, so Ithink it has been very damaging for Bill Shorten's credibility as a leader.Interestingly Deborah, he now needs to say who is going to replace Sam Dastyariin the Senate, and be honest with us. He has to confirm whether he's haddiscussions with Kristina Keneally replacing Sam Dastyari in the Senate, yes orno.




But look, in terms of the issue ofChina and Chinese donors, the Prime Minister has been very strong in rejectingChinese influence in Australia. Is that doing damage to our relations withChina?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't believeso. Australia and China have a very robust and mutually beneficialrelationship. We have a free trade agreement with China, one of the highestquality and most comprehensive free trade agreements. We have what is called a'Comprehensive Strategic Partner' with China, where there is huge and broadcooperation in many other forums. Inevitably there are differences of opinionfrom time-to-time on a range of matters, as that regularly occurs betweennations, between partners. However the Coalition Government always strives tomanage the disagreements through open and respectful and constructive dialogue,and that is what has been happening with China and with other countries. We canhave disagreements but as long as we are consistent and principled in ourapproach, then these relationships flourish.

JOURNALIST: The ChineseGovernment though and Chinese diplomats have been very strong coming out intheir criticism of Australia in the wake of these comments by the PrimeMinister, and we know that in the Chinese media as well, there's been lots ofcriticism of Australia and its stance on the issues of Chinese influence. Is itgoing to make your job harder?

JULIE BISHOP: The whole issue of foreign interference isn'tdirected at one country, one nation. It is an issue that each country has as apriority and…

JOURNALIST: How big of a problem is it?

JULIEBISHOP: It is a significant issue in terms of the foreigninterference legislation. What we have now is the most significant overhaul offoreign interference and political donations laws in decades. Foreign powersare making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influencethe political process, both here and overseas. So what we are doing is ensuringthat Australia's national interest is our priority, we've got to ensure thatour parliament is strong enough to withstand attempts by foreign powers tointerfere or influence. That's why we are acting to improve transparency in ourpolitical system and strengthen penalties for any breaches of our nationalinterest.

JOURNALIST: So attempts, you say they are attempts. Have there beenactually cases of countries like China or other countries – Russia being onesingled out – influencing our affairs here in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Sam Dastyari is the case in point. He wasasking for a foreign benefactor to pay his personal bills and then he wasstanding up and reading talking points that could have been prepared by thatgovernment, because it contradicted Labor's foreign policy on the South ChinaSea, it contradicted the Australian Government policy on the South China Sea.So what you had with Sam Dastyari is someone who is actually being bought topeddle the lines of another government, which was totally contradictory toAustralia's national interests. That's why he had to go, he should have beensacked weeks ago but Bill Shorten didn't have the courage to do it.



JULIE BISHOP: The issue isn't about the Chinese people inBennelong. They are in the main Australian citizens who are dedicated tofocussing on life here in Australia and acting in Australia's nationalinterests. What we are talking about in the Sam Dastyari matter is about hispersonal behaviour and his inability to put Australia's interests first, andthe fact that he utterly compromised his position as a senator.


JOURNALIST: He's got a tough fight on his hands though, doesn'the?



I am out there thisafternoon, we're visiting a local exporter that has huge opportunities to growbusiness, employ more people in Bennelong because of the relationship we havewith China. The free trade agreement that we negotiated with China providesenormous opportunities for Australian exporters, particularly small businesses,to get into one of the largest markets in the world.

JOURNALIST: Alright, well let's talk about this issue of spies, and Iguess most people have never heard of ASIS for obvious reasons because it'ssecret for good reason.

JULIE BISHOP: That's right. Nota lot of people know about the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, but infact it is one of the most important agencies in the government. Ourintelligence officers gather intelligence and information to advise thegovernment on our national interest, and it was established about 65 years ago– it's the equivalent of Britain's MI6 or the US's CIA – and because it issecret it is not always easy to recruit. So we've come up with a rathercreative recruitment campaign to attract the right people. We obviously wantpeople who are intelligent and resilient and curious, but they have to be ableto develop relationships, be prepared to be deployed overseas and utterly loyaland devoted to serving Australia's national interests.

JOURNALIST: Sam Dastyariprobably wouldn't be on your top list of people to apply then, I imagine?

JULIE BISHOP: No, he has failed that test,he failed that weeks ago. But it is probably the most interesting job interviewpeople will ever undertake. It starts with an online application, you take thistest at morehumanintelligence.com.au – if people log on to that they can go tothis rather interesting test to see if they have got the qualities to be anASIS officer…

JOURNALIST: It's prettytough though, only one in every 100 applicant actually gets through and getshired.

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's right, it's a verychallenging job, it's not a desk job. It requires people to be overseas,deployed overseas gathering intelligence and information to advise government.Some of their work involved – I can't go into detail of operations – but theywork in the area of counter-terrorism, in countering people smuggling, trackingpeople who are a threat to Australia. They work with other intelligenceagencies overseas on some of the biggest challenges that Australia faces. So weare looking for special people, but I think the point is that people might bein a whole range of jobs and not appreciate that they have the skills or thebackground or the aptitude to be an ASIS intelligence officer…

JOURNALIST: Well it would bean interesting role, adding 'spook' to your name, to your job title. JulieBishop, it is always good to talk and good to get your insights in the wake ofthe Sam Dastyari resignation as well. Thank you so much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure, Deborah. Cheers.

JOURNALIST: Foreign MinisterJulie Bishop there.

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