• Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Minister, when are you expecting to meet with the Russian Ambassador toAustralia?

JULIE BISHOP: I expect to meet with him sometime today.

JOURNALIST: What will your message be to him?

JULIE BISHOP: My message will be as we have stated publicly, and that isthat it is not acceptable for a military grade nerve agent to be deployed in anassassination attempt in the United Kingdom, and that Australia condemns theuse of chemical weapons any time anywhere by any country, and that inaccordance with Russian standing as a permanent member of the UN Security Council,it should be upholding peace and security around the world. This is a blatantbreach of international law and the behaviour that one expects of statestowards each other.

JOURNALIST: These diplomats havebeen declared as undeclared intelligence officers, in other words spies. The Ambassadorsays he only has career diplomats working in his embassy. Who should we bebelieving here?

JULIE BISHOP: I take advice from the Australia's security and intelligenceagencies and I have great faith in their advice.

JOURNALIST: Is there any indication yet what retaliation we could seefrom Russia?

JULIE BISHOP: Given that when the United Kingdom expelled 23 Russiandiplomats from Russia's London embassy, Russia then responded by expelling 23British diplomats from the Moscow embassy. I expect that Russia will respond.Indeed, the Russian Ambassador said on television last night that they wereconsidering a response, but it would be a matter for President Putin.

JOURNALIST: Is the governmentputting in place preparations for that occurrence?

JULIE BISHOP: We have contingency plans in place.

JOURNALIST: Just on the issue ofthe cricket, what do you make of Cricket Australia's decision to send backthose three players?

JULIE BISHOP: Given that the three culprits confessed to cheating it isentirely appropriate that they be sent home and that Smith, Warner and Bancroftnot take part in the rest of the Test. I understand that there is an ongoinginvestigation into what other penalties will apply.

JOURNALIST: Have there been anycomments made through diplomatic channels to Australia about this incident?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I am afraid so, many, in fact. I have had commentsfrom ambassadors and high commissioners here in Canberra about the matter. Ithink people are stunned and they are astounded that elite sportsmenrepresenting our country could behave in this way.

JOURNALIST: What are they saying toyour Minister?

JULIE BISHOP: Some of them are asking how could this happen, what didthey think they were doing, it's just not cricket. There have been a number ofcomments.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it willdamage our reputation long term?

JULIE BISHOP: I think it has in the sense that these were elite sportsmenrepresenting our country. Australia is seen as a country that plays fair, thatplays by the rules, and abides by the rules. Any attempt to gain an unfairadvantage by carrying out an unlawful act, essentially cheating, is a surprise,and I think people were taken aback that this could occur.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on China just briefly, a group of Chinascholars has written a letter this morning saying that the current debate onforeign interference is crucial, and that racism or accusations of racism couldbe used by the CCP to stifle debate. Do you welcome this intervention?

JULIE BISHOP: I think that our foreign interference laws are absolutelyappropriate and it is not directed at any one country. What we want to do isensure that Australian democracy is open and transparent and free from foreigninterference, so I think these laws are quite appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with the academics though that the CCP is essentially usingthis accusation of racism to stifle a healthy debate in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: I haven't seen a particular letter or article to which yourefer. So I can't put it in context. I won't comment. These are laws that theAustralian government believes protect our national interest, are in ournational interest and that's why we are pursuing them.

JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify, the Russian soccer World Cup, can you clarify whetherthere is any suggestion of any sort of person not going or boycotting that?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is not considering a boycott ofthe World Cup. When I was asked about it yesterday, I was referring to the factthat Britain, for example, pursued an option of announcing that the Royal Familywould not be attending the World Cup, but Australia is not considering aboycott.

JOURNALIST: Does that mean, would there be maybe a decision not to send anyofficials but still send the team?

JULIE BISHOP: The team of course will go. We are not considering aboycott.

JOURNALIST: But some officials mightnot go instead?

JULIE BISHOP: We are not considering a boycott.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask why you are not considering a boycott?

JULIE BISHOP: We are notconsidering a boycott. We have taken what we believe to be appropriate action,and that is that collectively, with 26 other countries around the world, wehave announced that two diplomats will be expelled. This is a significant stepand it sends a very powerful message that Russia's actions and theresponsibility that Russia must take for this use of a chemical nerve agent inLondon will not be tolerated. That is the appropriate action for us to take.

Media enquiries