ABC AM, Canberra, Interview with Michael Brissenden

  • Transcript, E&OE
10 November 2016

JOURNALIST: For more on the implications on Australia and the region I was joined a short time ago by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Julie Bishop good morning, thanks for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning, Michael.

JOURNALIST: Obviously there are some serious and far reaching implications for Australia on trade and regional security given what Donald Trump has said in the past. Are you all just crossing your fingers and hoping that was just rhetoric and that will be put aside?

JULIE BISHOP: The American people, or a majority of them, voted for significant change but the detail of the foreign policy, for example, will take some time to be articulated. We have a number of common interests that align very closely with the United States, including the fact that we have deep defence engagement and that will continue. Australia is committed to an increased defence budget - that was one of the issues that Donald Trump raised during his campaign. We will be working very closely with the new Administration to ensure that there is a focus on our region and that US presence and leadership continues in the Asia Pacific. There are other areas where we coincide in our interests such as the fight against terrorism, the US increase in its military spending, a focus on the Middle East.

And so in trade it's early days to see what this will mean. Australia has a very robust free trade agreement with the United States. It's over 10 years old. It's been a benefit to both countries and I don't envisage any circumstance where the Australia US Free Trade Agreement would be set to be renegotiated.

JOURNALIST: Sure but we've all heard, we've all followed what he's been saying over the last few months and we know what his position is, and what the people who supported him, their position is on free trade as well. Many of those people are-

JULIE BISHOP: Well, Michael their position is they want free trade agreements that benefit the United States, that grow the US economy…

JOURNALIST: Well he says he wants to dismantle NAFTA as a start.

JULIE BISHOP: …that is good for US jobs. Now we have the same view. We want free trade agreements that are good for the Australian economy that create jobs and opportunities for Australians. So we'll work with the new Administration to ascertain the detail on what that will mean. As far as the Trans Pacific Partnership is concerned, there is still is an opportunity for the Obama Administration to seek to pass that into law during this transition period - although it would have been more likely with a Clinton win than a Trump win.

JOURNALIST: Exactly. On trade generally, though, it is hard to separate the rhetoric of a campaign and what might actually happen but we do know he's called for the dismantling of NAFTA - which doesn't necessarily affect us directly but it is an indication of his anti-free trade stance. He's called for slapping of a 45 per cent tariff on goods from China. He's going to rebuild American industry which has basically been moribund in some places for 30 years. This is a message that is very much an anti-free trade message. Again, are we hoping that the rhetoric is just simply that and that the world hasn't changed overnight?

JULIE BISHOP: The rhetoric is focused on more jobs and more job opportunities for Americans and rebuilding American industry is something that I think any president would seek to do. The question is at what cost? And of course we will be working closely with the new Administration. We've got very good connections already with the Trump transition and campaign teams and we'll be working very closely with them to put forward and advance our interests, which of course are backed by free trade. But the sentiment that they want more jobs for Americans is one that most countries share for their own interests.

JOURNALIST: Of course, of course. But we are, perhaps more than many nations we are a free trading nation. We are reliant on free trade. Any inward movement by the United States on this issue will inevitably have a big effect on us won't it?

JULIE BISHOP: Any change in US foreign policy and trade policy of course has implications, not just for the United States but for our region. And as the United States is our largest direct foreign investor, our second largest trading partner, of course changes in trade policy will be of interest to us. But we are determined to work very closely with the Trump team and we will see opportunities to advance our interests and we will certainly do so.

JOURNALIST: Let's look at some of the security issues which are equally pressing, I'd imagine, for any people trying to formulate policy here in Australia. He also says he's going to tear up some of the fundamentals that have underpinned East Asian security since the Second World War - I mean, he's talked about Japan and South Korea to pay for their own defence. He says they should invest in their own nuclear programs rather than rely on US protection. These are big challenges for the region, aren't they?

JULIE BISHOP: Certainly issues on nuclear proliferation are of deep concern, but Japan is a very peaceful nation. Japan is one of the leading advocates on nuclear non-proliferation, and so of course sovereign nations will make their own decisions. We will encourage the Trump Administration to maintain the strong alliances that have served our region so well. And of course the United States is our security alliance partner and has been the guarantor and indeed the defender of the international rules based system that has underpinned so much of our economic prosperity and security.

JOURNALIST: And of course our alliance is very important. Have we put too much emphasis on it when something like this happens?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't believe so. I think that this is an opportunity to refresh renew, reinvigorate the alliance. We have a real opportunity to ensure that our interests are taken into account by the new US Administration.

JOURNALIST: Let's look at the rest of the world as well. Here's a man that holds Vladimir Putin up as a model of a good leader, in the Middle East he's been very positive about Russia's role in Syria. We've had discussions before about Russia's role in Syria and certainly your view and the Australian Government's view has been flattering about that. He's publicly canvassed the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS. This is someone who's completely outside the normal paradigm for these sorts of things isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: He certainly is a figure of change. I note that world leaders overnight have welcomed his presidency, they have congratulated him, I believe that there's a will on the part of world leaders to work constructively with him. Most certainly Prime Minister Turnbull publicly congratulated President-elect Trump. And like other countries we will see opportunities to shape US policy to advance our interests and to remind the US that is has a role as the security guarantor, particularly for our region.

JOURNALIST: Let's turn to the politics just quickly what are the political lessons here because many people have pointed to this as a victory for the politics of fear and anger and certainly anger was one of the motivating factors in the American electorate during this. Are there lessons for Australian politics?

JULIE BISHOP: I think each country's elections have unique features. There are not easy comparisons to make with Australia of course because we have compulsory voting. But in the United States, they have to mobilise people to actually register and come out on the day to vote, on the Tuesday to vote, and the composition was different, it seems that the number of African Americans who voted for Obama were not voting for Clinton. And it also seems that traditional Democrat blue collar workers came out to vote for Trump and presumably they are voters in states where industry has declined, where jobs are scarce and they would be angry about the lack of opportunity. And Donald Trump has promised them hope and opportunities.

JOURNALIST: We saw this in the Brexit vote as well.

JULIE BISHOP: Yes we did.

JOURNALIST: There aren't direct parallels with Australia obviously, we haven't had a recession, we haven't the same sort of industrial collapse on the same sort of scale that the US has had but we do have some of the same problems here don't we? We have some of the same sort of concerns about globalisation and the impact on vulnerable communities? Is that a lesson that you take from this?

JULIE BISHOP: I think there are some vast differences. The global financial crisis hit the United States very hard and I believe the impact of that is still being felt. You're right, we haven't had a recession in Australia, in fact, we've had 25 consecutive years of economic growth. The unemployment figure is trending down. We are building new industries, we are exporting more goods and services. We're welcoming more tourists to Australia so the tourism dollar is up. Our exports are doing exceedingly well. So it's a different economic scenario here in Australia. But of course…

JOURNALIST: But we have Pauline Hanson cracking the champagne outside the front of Parliament. She certainly sees it as a…

JULIE BISHOP: …but of course there are also issues about people movement and that's why the Australian Government has been so strong on border protection.

JOURNALIST: Nonetheless do you look at this and think well the world's changed?

JULIE BISHOP: The impact of a US Presidential Election is always profound and this one I believe will be momentous.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop thanks for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

- Ends -

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