Aus-UK Chamber of Commerce, Doorstop

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Minister talking about Brexit andopportunities post-Brexit, and you also spoke about challenges – whatchallenges do you see as facing Australia in terms of getting the most out ofthe opportunities presented by Brexit?

JULIE BISHOP: Almost certainly the timing of afuture free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, which is one of thebiggest opportunities I see for Australia post-Brexit, will depend upon thetransition of the United Kingdom out of the European Union. So we will watchthat very closely. We have a working group with the United Kingdom in relationto a potential free trade agreement, but of course, negotiations can't beginuntil Britain has exited from the European Union. So that's probably thebiggest challenge at this stage, the timing.

JOURNALIST: Were you alarmed at the lack of negotiationsor progress between Britain and the EU in recent weeks?

JULIE BISHOP: I have always assumed that it would be a challenge, that there would bemany elements to it but I feel confident that with the right will, focus andleadership, there will be a resolution.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, the US and Australia havean E3 visa relationship. Post-Brexit would you like to see something verysimilar to that negotiated here in Britain? And if Britain says no, they won'tgive Australia any more visa access, would you be disappointed by that?

JULIE BISHOP: We certainly want to see greater visa access between Australia and theUK post-Brexit, and you're right, we do have with the United States an E3 visawhich enables professionals from Australia and the US to spend time in ourrespective countries – it's a reciprocal arrangement. It's not part of theAustralia-US free trade agreement – it was a complementary arrangement. And so,when we come to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, whichI'm very hopeful we will, then that is a matter we would most certainly pursue.The reciprocal arrangement for enhanced visa access is something we would bevery keen to achieve.

JOURNALIST: Would the E3 be a model though because it'snot a pathway to citizenship and it is still, it gives a lot of flexibility forpeople who are highly skilled?

JULIE BISHOP: It is one example of greater visa access but we would pursue whateveropportunities we could and there have been some very positive messages so thatis something that we would want to negotiate when we get to a time to negotiatea free trade agreement.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just on the TPP, you said it wouldpotentially be open for the UK. Do you think that the UK being in the TPP wouldmake it more attractive for the US to join?

JULIE BISHOP: The TPP11 is open to all nations who are prepared to accede to theterms of the TPP11 - the guidelines, the standards, the benchmarks, beingnegotiated between those 11 nations. Obviously Britain is a significant globaleconomy and if Britain were to join the TPP 11, it would enhance the standingof the TPP11 and the opportunities and the benefits for the members. I'm surethat the United States will continue to be interested in the evolving nature ofthe TPP11, given President Trump's comments at Davos.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Neil Prakash is in court in Turkeytomorrow. There is a suggestion that perhaps the charges in Turkey may bedropped. What preparations is Australia making behind the scenes to have himextradited or what are the scenarios that could play out after that?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia has already made an extradition request and that extraditionrequest would be considered once the legal proceedings in Turkey have beencompleted, how ever they are completed. So Australia has the option of pursuingour extradition request. He is of course subject to financial sanctions that Iimposed in 2015 in relation to terrorism financing. So, the Australiangovernment has a number of legal avenues open to it.

JOURNALIST: He is a pretty big priority, isn't he? You'dlike to get him home?

JULIE BISHOP: We are most certainly focused on ensuring that returning foreignterrorist fighters are monitored and those the subject of extraditionproceedings, returned to Australia to face proceedings in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Would it concern you if the charges in Turkeyare dropped?

JULIE BISHOP: It would depend on the circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Your meeting with the Visegrad group on yourtrip over here. The European Union has serious concerns that Poland is going tobreech the rule of law because of some changes made to its court system, areyou going to raise that at all?

JULIE BISHOP: I am aware of those developments in Poland and I will have anopportunity when I visit Budapest later this week to meet with representativesof the Polish government and yes, I will raise that with them. Australia hasthis year taken up a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for thefirst time and we are committed to the rule of law, to good governance aroundthe world. And so if there are concerns, I will most certainly have theopportunity to raise them with the representatives from the Polish government.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the German Foreign Minister on theweekend had a few words to say about Turkey about 'one belt, one road'. He saidit was not that China was offering its money not in the interests of democracyand freedom but was seeking influence and trying to divide the EU amongstthemselves. Do you share his concerns about the 'one belt, one road'initiative?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian government is acutely aware that we need significantinvestment in infrastructure, particularly in our region in the Indo-Pacificand One Belt, One Road is one option whereby nations can access more funds forcritical infrastructure. China is our largest trading partner – we want to workclosely with China on a range of options to build more infrastructure in ourregion, as well as with other countries.

It's early daysfor the One Belt, One Road initiative, and we are obviously monitoring itclosely. We are already working with China on a development project in PNG, sowe hope that we'll be able to work more closely with China in driving economic,sustainable economic growth in our region. Our concerns are to ensure thatPacific nations are not burdened with debt they cannot repay, that alltransactions are transparent and that there's an appropriate level ofgovernance. So we hope to work with China to ensure that infrastructure in ourpart of the world, particularly in the Pacific, adds to the sustainableeconomic growth of those countries.

JOURNALIST: Just back to Brexit, what's your message tothose in the UK pushing for the UK to stay in the customs union?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Australia is very keen to pursue negotiations for a free tradeagreement with the United Kingdom and I think that would be precluded if theUnited Kingdom were to join the customs union. So, our national interest and our priority would be served by negotiating afree trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

JOURNALIST: Are you trying to stiffen their spinessomewhat when you're over and say to them, c'mon do this, if you're going toBrexit then properly Brexit?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't actually spend my time giving advice to other foreignsecretaries and ministers. I enter into positive dialogue with them and I'mhoping to have a very positive discussion with Secretary Boris Johnson tomorrowabout this and many other matters where Australia and the UK share a commonpurpose, and we're very like-minded in many ways, including on liberalisedtrade and investment.

JOURNALIST: Are you committed to contesting the nextelection?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Just on domestic politics, Australiatypically only makes global news when there is a shark attack or somethingsimilar, but for the past week Barnaby Joyce's extra-marital affair has been onhigh rotation. Would it better if he just quit as leader of the nationals.

JULIE BISHOP: I have spoken about this matter in the media and I'm of the view thatenough commentary has been made about this issue so I don't intend to add to itin the future.

JOURNALIST: There does seem to be some uncertainty thoughabout the leadership issue? Even within the National Party, would you preferthey did it sooner rather than later and settled it?

JULIE BISHOP: The National Party is responsible for electing its leaders. The politicianswithin the National Party are uniquely positioned to elect their leader – it'snot a matter for me or for the Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask a policy question about thecode of conduct. For your whole political career, you've stood for personalliberty, small government – getting government out of people's lives - and yousaid last week you were worried about moral police being involved in personalrelationships. Do you still hold that view in light of the new code of conduct?How is the government's new code of conduct going to be policed, will there becameras, heat sensing devices or are we simply going to be trusting ministersto say if they're having these sorts of affairs?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it's certainly not open season for the media if that's what you'realluding to. I believe there are aspects of politicians' lives that are privateand should be kept private. What the Prime Minister is seeking to do with theministerial code of conduct is make explicit the kind of behaviour that willnot be accepted and that brings it into line with many workplaces in Australia.And I said yesterday, the critical test is whether there has been any improperinfluence over a minister's decisions, whether there is a conflict of interest,or whether there has been any misuse over taxpayer's funds.

JOURNALIST: What use if the code of conduct if it's notpoliced? Surely there must be some way of finding out if there is somethinggoing on, otherwise you can say what you like but not-one is attesting it?

JULIE BISHOP: At the end of the day, it comes down to the responsibility of eachminister – and our code of conduct already sets high standards and it's theresponsibility of each minister to meet the standards set out in the code ofconduct.

JOURNALIST: But do you think the code of conduct likethis would have prevented this happening, I mean from the outside it looks likeBarnaby Joyce has broken what may not have been the formal code of conduct, butcertainly it doesn't pass the sniff test does it?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe there's been more than enough commentary on the circumstancessurrounding the Deputy Prime Minister. He is currently on personal leave and Idon't intend to add any more to the commentary about his circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident that Malcolm Turnbull andBarnaby Joyce can get the band back together for the 3rd time or 4thtime and work together closely again?

JULIE BISHOP: Both men have said that they're committed to work together.

JOURNALIST: I know you're going to see Boris Johnstontomorrow. I can imagine the winter Olympics is as big over here as it is inAustralia, I think Great Britain is struggling as much as we are though – Ithink we've got 3 medals. Do you think we're putting enough cash into winterOlympics and giving our elite athletes at that level enough of a chance to dowell on a world stage?

JULIE BISHOP: Without a doubt,the focus has invariably been on the Summer Olympics and Australia has anational sports institute that supports elite athletes and yet I'm finding thatwe seem to be exceedingly well, in my view, in the winter Olympics. And so,it's a question of getting the balance right and Australia is renowned in somesports and not so much in others. We are making a mark in the Winter Olympicsas well.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask one more about Boris Johnstonahead of tomorrow? He has said he'd like to see his family, by that he meansAustralia, New Zealand and Canada in particular, to have much, much greatervisa access across a range of fields. Will you push him on that and do youthink he's likely to have enough influence to get a new visa over the line?

JULIE BISHOP: I have spoken with him about this before and he's said publicly howenthusiastic he is for more visa access, in particular with Australia, and Ishare that enthusiasm. I hope that when we commence negotiations for a freetrade agreement, when the circumstances are right, that we'll be able to havethis discussion as we did with the United States when we entered into a freetrade agreement with them. There were complementary discussions about greatervisa access. So we have a precedent, awe have a model, an option, that we canuse in our discussions with the United Kingdom.

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