91.7 ABC, Northern Tasmania - Interview with Leon Compton

  • Transcript, E&OE
29 April 2016

LEON COMPTON: There are 80 diplomats in Tasmania from around the place, around the world, and Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister is leading them and showcasing Tasmania. She joins us on the program this morning. Foreign Minister, good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, great to be with you.

LEON COMPTON: And thank you for talking with us this morning. Look, before we find out a little more about what you're doing here and where you're taking them, there's a couple of issues around today that we'd like to run through with you first if that's okay.

The Papua New Guinea situation and their Supreme Court ruling that Manus Island is to close, what's the latest as to what will happen with the people that have been housed there?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia will work with the PNG Government to assist them in responding to their Supreme Court decision. This decision relates to those individuals who are on Manus Island whose applications for asylum have not yet been processed by the PNG Government. So those who have been found to be refugees can be resettled in Papua New Guinea. Those who are not refugees and not owed protection should then return home. But there is a group of people whose applications have not yet been assessed. So we will work with the PNG Government on that. It doesn't alter our border protection policies - no one who pays people smugglers will be resettled in Australia - we certainly won't allow a return to the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd days when 50,000 people paid people smugglers to try to come to Australia, and 1200 people died at sea. So we will work with the PNG authorities in relation to this group that the Supreme Court decision related to.

LEON COMPTON: So up until now they've been behind fences built for- built and funded by Australia. Now the Supreme Court has said they have to be released, they are not Australia's problem in your view?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, what the Supreme Court indicated is that those whose applications have not yet been processed should not be detained. So of course the option is to have the centre as an open centre, like we've seen in Nauru. Of course Australia will continue to play our part as a regional partner. We are part of the Bali process for example, which is a regional forum to deal with these issues of people smuggling, people trafficking, illegal arrivals and the like. So Australia will continue to play our part with PNG.

LEON COMPTON: Can you confirm that you're in talks with New Zealand at the moment about taking some of the asylum seekers off Manus Island?

JULIE BISHOP: We have been in discussion with a number of countries, so have PNG in relation to resettlement in third countries. Those who have been found to be refugees can be resettled in PNG, there's nothing to stop them being resettled in PNG, but of course other countries, particularly those in the Bali Process, can also be involved in the resettlement of those found to be refugees.

LEON COMPTON: With respect Minister, I was going to use the word life expectancy, but let's describe it this way: it is incredibly dangerous to try and start a new life as an outsider in Port Moresby, it's one of the most dangerous places in the world, and we're going to put people who have sought asylum on Australia's shores in that as an environment to start new lives, really?

JULIE BISHOP: These are people who are fleeing persecution from other countries, and they are able to be resettled in a number of countries, including PNG, who have offered, as one of the regional countries involved in trying to stop the people smuggling trade, they've been offered a place in PNG. Now there are a lot of …

LEON COMPTON: Minister there is no - you've been there more than I have, but there is no …

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I've been to PNG many times.

LEON COMPTON: … there is no Australian that I know of that lives there who doesn't do so behind cyclone fences topped with wire, and with armed guards looking after them.

JULIE BISHOP: Well that is not the case. I've been to PNG many times, and that is not the case, but if they don't …

LEON COMPTON: There are people who don't live in compounds there.

JULIE BISHOP: I'm sorry?

LEON COMPTON: There are new arrivals there who don't try and make their way by living inside compounds for safety.

JULIE BISHOP: And if people who are seeking persecution and who have been found to be genuine refugees refuse to be resettled in PNG, then PNG and Australia and others are looking for other countries where they can be resettled. That's the process that's been underway, and that's what the Bali Process is all about, trying to ensure that there's a regional response to those who have paid people smugglers to try to come to this part of the world, including Australia.

LEON COMPTON: Look, in other news this morning, can you confirm a female Australian aid worker has been kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan by a group of armed men in what are described as being military uniforms?

JULIE BISHOP: We are seeking to confirm the details of those reports that an Australian citizen has been kidnapped in Jalalabad in Afghanistan. We are in close contact with the family, we are working with the Afghan authorities, but at this stage there's still a number of matters that need to be confirmed before I can say anything more publically about it.

LEON COMPTON: Is there anything you can tell us about that aid worker and the organisation that she represents, or the situation around this alleged kidnapping?

JULIE BISHOP: We are seeking to confirm the details and we're working very closely with the Afghan authorities, but at this point it would be counter-productive if I went into any more detail.

LEON COMPTON: On ABC local radio around Tasmania, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in town, taking 80 diplomats from, I'm assuming, around the world with her. What are you showing them, Minister, in Tasmania?

JULIE BISHOP: I am hosting over 80 diplomats who are based in Canberra, and they therefore represent 80 different countries from around the globe. So we have Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Charge d'Affaires from all around the world.

I'm showcasing Tasmania as an important investment destination and a very important trading partner for many of these countries. For example, we are visiting the advanced manufacturing sites at Incat and Liferaft Systems Australia to show the advanced manufacturing that goes into the building of ferries, of these liferaft systems, and there's been a considerable deal of interest in that.

We are also focussing on Tasmania's research and science capability. We are visiting the Australian Antarctic Division. Yesterday Environment Minister Greg Hunt and I confirmed that a new icebreaker for Australia's scientific and research endeavour in Antarctica will be commissioned and housed here in Hobart. Also we are promoting Tasmania as a tourism destination; last evening we visited that cultural icon, MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art.

LEON COMPTON: What did you think, Minister? Some people find it confronting. What did you think?

JULIE BISHOP: I thought it was extraordinary, and it received enormous feedback, positive feedback, from the diplomats. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Quartet also played, so it was very culturally focussed, four female principals of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra played, and that was superb. We will also be sampling the quality food, and of course under the new free trade agreements that the Government's entered into with China, Japan, South Korea, there are enormous opportunities for fresh Tasmanian seafood and other dairy products and quality goods to be exported to those countries and beyond. We are also focussing on education, and last night we had an alumni program launch for the New Colombo Plan in Tasmania – that's the Government overseas student study program, and over 200 young Tasmanians from the University of Tasmania have taken part in the new Colombo Plan, living, studying and working in countries in our region.

LEON COMPTON: Good to talk to you this morning. Thanks for being part of Mornings.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.

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