Channel News Asia, Singapore - interview with Yvonne Chan

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: And the Australian Foreign MinisterMs Julie Bishop is in studio and she joins me now. Good morning and welcome MsBishop. Let's get to it. Now you said last night that the US is obliged to useits power and influence to provide public security in the region, but yetDonald Trump has said that the US cannot be the world's policeman and that itsallies must play its part. Are you concerned that the US will not play thegreater role that we hope for?

MINISTER BISHOP: The United States has a number of treatyalliances in our part of the world – about five in fact – and under thosealliances, and more generally, the United States has provided these publicsecurity goods – peace, order, freedom of access – and I believe that theUnited States will continue to play that role. Of course, alliances and thetreaty allies have always been obliged to share the burden. In fact SouthKorea, Japan and Australia are all increasing their defence budgets, but I'mreassured that the United States will continue to play that role in our region.Indeed, on a recent visit to Washington I was informed, by the USAdministration officials that I met, that the United States will continue toplay that role in our region.

JOURNALIST: So these were the assurances theygave you during your most recent visit?

MINISTER BISHOP: Most certainly, and I know that DefenseSecretary Mattis has been to South Korea, Japan, that the Vice President andSecretary Tillerson will be coming into our region shortly. And, of thealliances that are in place, they're all part of the network that the UnitedStates has around the globe, but most specifically in South and North Asia andI believe the role that the United States plays, as the defender and guarantorof the liberal rules-based order, will continue.

JOURNALIST: Now, Ms Bishop, if the US – in theevent that they don't really live up to those assurances – what else can we, inthis region, do then?

MINISTER BISHOP: Well I believe that the United States will,but of course all allies must take care of their own defence budgets and we'veseen that. We will continue to advocate the benefits of a liberal rules-basedorder, that is, countries playing by the rules that have been in place, andhave been upheld by the United States since the Second World War. So we'recertainly very strong advocates for the rules-based order, whether it comes totrade or security issues.

JOURNALIST: Now, you called on ASEAN as well tolead on championing democracy in this region. In what ways do you think thatASEAN is not doing enough of that right now?

MINISTER BISHOP: I believe that ASEAN can be a constructive andpowerful voice, particularly when it's united in its advocacy, and ASEAN iscommitted to democracy in its own charter. I believe it can be a verysignificant voice in championing the benefits of the liberal rules-based order.

JOURNALIST: Now what role will Australia play inmaintaining a regional order? Is there any possible joint patrols withIndonesia in the South China Sea?

MINISTER BISHOP: We cooperate with friends and partnersthroughout South East Asia and beyond., and with Indonesia, as with othercountries, we have agreements to cooperate in maritime issues, but not jointpatrols in the South China Sea. That hasn't been a matter raised. But we willcontinue to advocate, as I have been in my visits and speeches that I've givenin the region about the benefits of the liberal rules-based order, on ensuringthat countries work together – large, small – to cooperate on the challengesthat we all faces.

JOURNALIST: Now speaking of visits in thisregion, you're due to go to Malaysia and the Philippines next. What's on theagenda, Ms Bishop?

MINISTER BISHOP: I will be meeting with my counterpart foreignminister in Malaysia. We have a strategic partnership with Malaysia looking atsecurity issues, counter-terrorism issues, but also enhanced trade andinvestment. Likewise in the Philippines I'll be meeting with President Duterteand talking about not only the bilateral issues between Australia and thePhilippines, but also the regional challenges that we face. And the Philippineswill be hosting the ASEAN meeting later this year and I'm certainly urgingPresident Trump and the US Administration to ensure that they have a strongpresence at the ASEAN Meeting that is going to be hosted by the Philippines;the East Asia Summit, where the leaders of our region, including Russia, China,the United States, Australia and others, will be present, and I hope that's anopportunity for the United States to reaffirm its existing commitment to ourregion.

JOURNALIST: You're right. Well let's talk a littlebit about China. In your speech last night you did urge China to embracedemocracy. Now how realistic is that and how far will it help ease what youcall the 'strain on the regional order'?

MINISTER BISHOP: China is yet to realise its full potential, andhistory shows that high-income, wealthy, advanced economies most commonly occurin democracies. And that means embracing the principles of negotiation andcompromise, commitment to the rule of law, and I believe that there is anopportunity for China to reach its full potential.

JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, you are also recallingall overseas Australian ambassadors to return to Canberra later this month towork on the new Foreign Policy White Paper. Why the urgency and what can weexpect from that?

MINISTER BISHOP: In fact this was an election promise that wetook to the last general election in Australia, in July 2016, and that was toproduce a foreign policy white paper. The last one was in 2003, and so I thinkit's timely that we should focus on a blueprint, a framework, for Australia'sinternational engagement for the next decade or so. These are challenging timesof great anxiety. The rules-based order is under challenge. We're seeing risingprotectionism and economic nationalism in some countries around the world. Soit's an opportunity for Australia to put on paper our values, our interests,our priorities in terms of our international engagement. Our diplomats overseasare some of our most experienced people. On the ground they are our eyes and earsaround the world, and so we are bringing them home. They come back to Australiaon occasion anyway, so we are bringing them home at the same time so we canhave the benefit of their input, their insights, and their perspectives.

JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, I have to ask you aboutthe Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement. And Singapore being Australia'slargest trade and investment partner in South East Asia, what are the areas ofcooperation, do you see, between the two countries? And are there any furtherdevelopments in these areas of cooperation?

MINISTER BISHOP: We now describe our relationship as a ComprehensiveStrategic Partnership, and under that we are enhancing our defence and securitycooperation. There are more opportunities for Singapore to train their defenceforces in Australia. We're also enhancing the trade and investment ties,freeing the movement of people between our countries, recognisingqualifications between our two countries, and also focussing on more innovationand scientific research collaboration. Yesterday I opened a Landing Pad, herein Singapore, which is an opportunity for Australian start-ups to gain thebenefit of the high-tech ecosystem that occurs here in Singapore.

JOURNALIST: Alright. Thank you so much forsharing your thoughts with us and allowing us to pick your brains today, MsBishop. And that was Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking to usin studio.

Media enquiries