ABC 730 interview with Leigh Sales

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: The Deputy Liberal Leader and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joined me a short time ago and we kicked off on the Foreign Policy White Paper. Julie Bishop, thanks for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Good evening Leigh.

JOURNALIST: Is this Foreign Policy White Paper going to mark any sort of change in the nation's foreign policy?

JULIE BISHOP: Leigh, this is the most comprehensive report ever of the intersection between our national interest and our international engagement. It sets out our interests, our values and our priorities, underpinned by a set of guiding principles for our international engagement, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. So I believe that it will receive widespread support because it clarifies our foreign policy and it certainly adds weight to my view and the view of the Government that Australia can have ambition when we seek to shape the external environment and maximise our influence in our region.

JOURNALIST: But is it more of the same? Is there anything in it that would lead to any sort of departure from the path that we're on?

JULIE BISHOP: It is a re-emphasis of our commitment to the international rules-based order that is currently under strain – indeed, under challenge – it embraces the fact that we'll be facing a more competitive and contested world, it acknowledges that there will be significant change over the next decade. So it's a framework to guide our international engagement over that time, so whatever the threats and risks and challenges and opportunities, we will have a guiding framework for our international engagement and I think that's a very important statement for us to make at this time of uncertainty and greater competition.

JOURNALIST: Among the threats and risks that the paper outlines, what is the single thing that most leaps out at you?

JULIE BISHOP: The undermining of the international rules-based order, that web of alliances and treaties and institutions, backed up by international laws and rules and norms and conventions that has been established and is still evolving over the past decades.

JOURNALIST: Who's undermining it, according to the report?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, some states are seeking to pursue short-term gain, some states are egregiously undermining it – for example, North Korea – but also I'm concerned about those who are promising the false hope of protectionism and isolationism as a way of boosting economic growth and jobs. I mean, that is just a false hope. So the paper is a very robust defence of open market economies and the opening trading system.

JOURNALIST: If I can ask you about another foreign policy issue, the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island and now their removal from the detention centre. What do you think that policy is doing to Australia's international reputation for human rights?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, first, the people who are remaining on Manus in the processing centre must abide by Papua New Guinean law. They must abide by the directions of the local authorities and abide by PNG's laws. Secondly, they should go to the centre, the alternative accommodation that has been set up for them, that has food and water and electricity and health services, and there are many people there now, but also we are sending a very strong message that we will not resettle people who have paid people-smugglers to try to come to Australia. So it's a very strong…

JOURNALIST: But do you think it's helping or harming our reputation for human rights internationally?

JULIE BISHOP: We have just been elected onto the United Nations Human Rights Council. It's the first time Australia has stood for election to this position and we received an overwhelming endorsement of over 170 votes to serve on the Human Rights Council.

JOURNALIST: On other matters, there was a leak out of Cabinet this week about the possibility of a banking royal commission. Let me ask bluntly, were you the leaker?

JULIE BISHOP: No I was not, absolutely not.

JOURNALIST: Have you ever leaked details of any Cabinet meeting?


JOURNALIST: Have you ever been aware of any of your advisors leaking details of a Cabinet meeting?

JULIE BISHOP: Certainly not. Leigh, leaking from Cabinet is a serious criminal offence. I'm very well aware of it. I've been in public office for 19 years and a Cabinet minister for many years, I'm well aware of the consequences of leaks out of Cabinet.

JOURNALIST: Why then, given, as you pointed out, the consequences, do you think that clearly somebody is leaking out of Cabinet?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it's a concern, but I'm focussing on the policy development, for example our Foreign Policy White Paper. I'm focussing on my job of promoting Australia's interests overseas.

JOURNALIST: But doesn't your ability to do your job, isn't that undermined by Cabinet leaks? Because how can you have a frank discussion in Cabinet if you have to be conscious that somebody might leak it?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's self-evident.

JOURNALIST: So what can be done about it?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it's not helpful. The journalist who wrote the article knows it was not me.

JOURNALIST: Should there be some sort of investigation into who's leaking from Cabinet?

JULIE BISHOP: That's a matter for the Prime Minister. Successive governments have held formal investigations, I recall the Labor Government holding a Federal Police inquiry into leaks. So previous governments have done it, it's a matter for the Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: But you're his deputy. What would be your advice on that question?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, clearly a strong message has to be sent to whomever thinks it's being helpful to leak Cabinet material that it's not, it's unacceptable.

JOURNALIST: They probably don't think it's helpful, they probably think it's unhelpful. Is there somebody from within attempting to sabotage the Turnbull Government?

JULIE BISHOP: I would hope not.

JOURNALIST: How else would you explain why somebody would be leaking?

JULIE BISHOP: I have no idea, Leigh. You'll have to ask them. Get them on the program and ask them.

JOURNALIST: The Turnbull Cabinet is leaking, you have backbenchers who are openly defying the Government on various policies. Given the lack of unity, what is holding the Turnbull Government together?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't accept that. I think the Prime Minister has shown extraordinary leadership over recent months, particularly as we face a number of challenges: the citizenship issue, and the Prime Minister's dealing with it; the rising electricity prices, and the Prime Minister has a plan to provide affordable and reliable energy. We're passing legislation through the House and the Senate in difficult circumstances, given the composition, and we're getting on with the job of governing for all Australians, and I think the Prime Minister is showing extraordinary leadership.

JOURNALIST: Well, if that's the case, why does there seem to be, you know, the team is not all falling in behind him?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I believe that the majority of the team are, and that's why we're getting things done, that's why we're getting policies out there, and that's why we're able to announce initiatives and deal with some of the challenges that are facing the Australian people. The economic indicators show that we've increased jobs – at least 800,000 new jobs since we came to government. These are the kind of issues that the Australian people are concerned about, and people are sick of politicians talking about themselves, so I don't intend to.

JOURNALIST: The other day on television you said that if there were a Liberal MP who was unhappy enough to quit the Party and sit on the crossbench, could they please get in touch with you and have a chat so you could reassure them. I'm just curious to know, did anyone get in touch?

JULIE BISHOP: [Laughter] No, they didn't. No, they didn't contact me and say, oh, by the way I've been talking to the media about how unhappy I am. But of course, my door is always open.

JOURNALIST: If Malcolm Turnbull loses 30 Newspolls in a row, will his leadership be terminal?

JULIE BISHOP: No. The only poll that counts is the one on election day, and we've got 18 months until the next election.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop, thank you very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Leigh.

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