6PR, Mornings, interview with Tim McMillan

  • Transcript, E&OE

TIM MCMILLAN: Well the ink is barelydry on that Free Trade Agreement signed yesterday between Australia and Japan.Japan's PM Shinzo Abe is here in our fair state of WA today, he's heading up toa mine site in the Pilbara, a Rio Tinto site, he will be getting a guided tourthere this afternoon. This dual lifestyle of course has caused some concernsthough, particularly how it might affect our relationship with China. I want towelcome our next guest, the Foreign Minister to the program, Julie Bishop joinsus on the line.

Minister, thank you for your time this morning. It looked like a great day, atriumphant day to be in Parliament yesterday?

JULIE BISHOP: Well itwas a very historic day in a number of respects. There was a joint sitting ofboth the House of Representatives and the Senate and Japanese Prime Minister Abeaddressed the audience. It was a very powerful speech - gracious, generous,positive - and it was a message from Japan not only to that audience but to theAustralian public more broadly and so it was a very heartfelt speech. The PrimeMinister spoke in English and he's not a natural English speaker, and heobviously worked very hard to ensure that he could deliver his speech inEnglish, so that was deeply appreciated.

Then there was the signing of the historic Japan-Australia EconomicPartnership Agreement, and it's the first such agreement that Japan hasundertaken with a developed economy. And it's very good news for Australiabecause it means that this huge economy and huge population in Japan will betrading more closely with us. It will mean our economy will grow and that willmean more jobs in Australia because so many of our export goods will now havepreferential treatment, or zero tariff treatment into Japan. That means ourexporters, our service providers, our businesses in Australia will have moreenhanced markets, greater opportunity to sell their goods into Japan and ofcourse that means more jobs in Australia.

TIM MCMILLAN: I've got to ask youabout the elephant in the room, China, our major trading partner. There's beensome concern expressed that this new cosy relationship with Japan is going tohurt our relationship with China. Would you agree, even in a small part, withthat statement?

JULIE BISHOP: No, Idon't agree, because China is a sophisticated nation, we have a very open lineof communication with China. We talk to China all the time about ourrelationships in the region and we embrace China as being one of the mostimportant players in our region and we want China to be engaged regionally andinternationally in the peace and prosperity of our region. So as long as we keeptalking to each other and advise each other what we're doing, then there's nochance of misunderstanding.

So I believe that China and Australia's relationship is as strong as it'sever been, yes China is our number one trading partner, but Japan has been ourmost important trading partner for decades and it's now our second mostimportant two-way trading partner, and that it's our third largest investor inAustralia. So these are important economic relationships, they're also importantsecurity relationships and Australia's view is that we can all work together forthe greater peace and prosperity of our region.

TIM MCMILLAN: There has been somecomment though that this alliance with Japan and also the US is largely for thepurpose of keeping tabs on China, is that just completely wrong?

JULIE BISHOP: I don'tbelieve that that's a fair way of characterising it. Australia's securityalliance with the United States goes back to the 1950s and all countries in ourregion have benefited from the United States security umbrella over the AsiaPacific region. This has enabled economies, including China's, to grow in a timeof relative peace and so while the United States has been our alliance partnersince the 1950s, our economic relationship with Japan commenced in 1957 when theMenzies Government signed what was then a very significant milestone ininternational relations. That is embracing Japan as a trading partner, and Chinamore recently - we had resumed diplomatic ties in the 1970s - we have increasedour trading relationship more recently so that China now is our number onetrading partner, but we're also more engaged with China in security matters. Forexample, China recently took part in joint defence exercises, it was calledRIMPAC, with Australia and so we do engage with China in military exercise andwe have to keep engaged with China. It is a significant powerful nation in ourregion, and it's in our interest to maintain the very best relationships withChina, Japan, the countries of South East Asia, the United States and beyond.Australia is about making friends with people, not making enemies.

TIM MCMILLAN: Is it possible to bemates with everyone? It seems like almost school playground politics at playhere. Some say that we can't be friends with US, Japan and China all at once.We've chosen the US and Japan over China, is that a massive simplification ofhow it really is?

JULIE BISHOP: We're notchoosing and nobody has asked us to choose and I think it was John Howard thatalways said that you don't have to choose between your history and yourgeography. Well I agree, we don't have to choose between nations, and nationsaren't asking us to choose. So I think it's a bit of a false debate that goes onin Australia and we pontificate over this, when in actual fact, in the realityof things, we get on with the business of trading, of engaging, of communicatingand that's what my job as Foreign Minister is. I'm the relationship manager forAustralia and so I'm determined to ensure that our relationships are in asstrong and positive position as they can be.

TIM MCMILLAN: The Japanese PrimeMinister on his way to a Rio Tinto site up in the Pilbara today, is that anindication that investment in major projects, particularly in the mining sector,here in WA in particularly, very much on the agenda. What are you hoping willcome from this new alliance with Japan?

JULIE BISHOP: PrimeMinister Abe, accompanied by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is on his way to thePilbara and he will be going on a site visit to a Rio Tinto mine and this ofcourse harks back to the fact that it's been growth in the Japanese economy fromthe 1960s onwards that initiated the mining industry in WA. Arguably the wholedevelopment of the North West of our state is due to Japan's demand for our ironore back in the 1960s and Rio Tinto of course was one of the first companiesthat Japan traded with back in those years of the 60s and 70s, so it's anhistoric moment for Prime Minister Abe to be visiting a Rio Tinto mine.

He has come to Australia with a very high powered business delegation, theheads of Mitsui and Mitsubishi and other companies that have had long standingrelationships with Australia and I think this is a sign of the commitment ofJapanese companies to invest in Australia for the long term. Over many decadesthey've invested in iron ore, in coal and now LNG and so it's an evolvingtrading relationship and I hope it endures for many decades to come.

TIM MCMILLAN: Can I ask you as wellabout whaling, has that popped up in discussions at all?

JULIE BISHOP: Wellwhaling hasn't been a focus of this visit, because there has been anInternational Court of Justice decision. Both Australia and Japan are abiding byit and we consider that issues about whaling should be discussed in theInternational Whaling Commission. This has the primary responsibility for theconservation and management of whales and we think it's the appropriate forum toaddress issues relating to whales and whaling.

The Abbott Government remains opposed to all forms of commercial whaling andlike many other countries, we support the global moratorium, so issues ofwhaling should be dealt with and discussed within the International WhalingCommission.

TIM MCMILLAN: I note that theJapanese Government has made some noise about possibly relaunching a whalingprogram, a scientific whaling program as they call it. That hasn't popped up atall? You're not concerned about that, that that may raise some sort of tensionbetween the two countries?

JULIE BISHOP: Well asPrime Minister Abbott has said our bilateral relationship is much bigger thanour disagreement over whaling. Australia and Japan are close friends and this isa dispute in a much larger dynamic and strong relationship.

That said, the Australian Government is disappointed at Japan's approach tocommercial whaling, but we are pleased that Japan has committed to respect theInternational Court of Justice, as we would expect them to do, and we willcontinue to engage with Japan and other states in the International WhalingCommission to advocate for non-lethal alternatives to whaling. And we believeall the scientific data necessary for the conservation and management of whalescan be obtained through non-lethal means. So it's a matter that we will continueto engage with Japan on, but as I say, I think the place to address these issuesis the International Whaling Commission.

TIM MCMILLAN: So you can saycategorically and absolutely there has been no undertaking for Australia tosoften its opposition to Japan's potential whaling programs as part of thisagreement?

JULIE BISHOP: No, weremain opposed to all forms of commercial whaling, and we support the globalmoratorium. There's been no change at all in that.

TIM MCMILLAN: All right, there is afree trade agreement hopefully in the pipeline with China as well, a projectedsigning date has been put some time towards the end of the year. Is that stillon track?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, Iunderstand that our negotiations are proceeding exceedingly well. You mightrecall that we went to the last election in September promising the Australianpeople that we will put a focus on concluding free trade agreements with SouthKorea, Japan and China and Prime Minister Abbott hoped that we will be able toconclude those agreements within our first 12 months in office. Well I amdelighted to confirm that we have concluded a free trade agreement with SouthKorea, that's particularly good news for our agricultural producers, beef andseafood in particular, getting those products into South Korea at competitiverates and now we've concluded one with Japan, and so that leaves China and we'reworking very hard to conclude that agreement.

Maybe we will be able to sign such an agreement when President Xi Jinpingcomes to Australia for the G20 meeting in November in Brisbane, that would be amilestone that we can aim for. But of course we won't just sign any agreement,it's got to be in Australia's interests for us to do so. But the feedback that Iam getting from my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb,is that negotiations are proceeding well.

The previous government was very half hearted about free trade agreements,they wanted a multilateral agreement that included all countries around theworld, well of course that would be a wonderful option, but a multilateral freetrade agreement has stalled and in the meantime we're getting on with thebusiness of ensuring that Australia doesn't stand still, that we're notovertaken by our competitors and that we are concluding agreements that open upnew or enhance existing markets for Australian businesses.

TIM MCMILLAN: Minister, on a muchmore trivial note, I'm curious to know what's on the menu when you'reentertaining, wining and dining the Japanese Prime Minister and his delegationthere. Do you serve him up the very best of Australia's Japanese style cuisine,or do you serve him up something that is very Aussie?

JULIE BISHOP: Well infact it is always Australian cuisine, wine and food. On a couple of occasionsthere's been a little Japanese twist to it……

TIM MCMILLAN: ….a little fusion….

JULIE BISHOP: …but lastnight for example, beautiful Australian beef was on the menu and Australianwines and at a lunch time meeting I noticed that there were West Australianwines on the menu, so that's good news.

TIM MCMILLAN: Fantastic, Ministerthank you for your time this morning, I really appreciate it.

JULIE BISHOP: Mypleasure.

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