Doorstop - Canberra

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Wehave set aside $10 million over three years to provide grants to communityorganisations in Australia who are working overseas in our region to alleviatepoverty, improve livelihoods, lift the standard of living. There is a greatdeal of expertise and skills and resources that Australians are deploying tosupport prosperity and stability in our region. So these Friendship Grants willbe assistance from the Government to ensure that these groups that are notnormally within the aid program are given this opportunity to expand their workand make a significant difference in the life of people in our region. It is anexciting new initiative that I know has been welcomed across Australia by Membersand Senators here but also with the more traditional aid groups who see this asan extension of the Australian Aid program.

JOURNALIST: Are you planning on visiting East Timor laterthis year? I don't think there has been a ministerial visit since 2013.

JULIE BISHOP: YesI am. As soon as the President and the cabinet have been put in place I willcertainly be visiting Timor-Leste. Yesterday, we released a statementcongratulating the people of Timor-Leste on their successful election and oncethe government is in place then I plan to visit Timor.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on Michaelia Cash, it has now ofcourse been revealed that she will have to attend court as part of that processin August. Labor is calling for her to resign and for the Prime Minister toconsider taking that step. Has she become now become so enmeshed in thisscandal around the AWU that her position is no longer tenable?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely not. There have been a number of ministersover many years who have been required to attend proceedings and they complywith that requirement.

JOURNALIST: Why wasn't Michaelia Cash at the Senate Estimatestoday. Where was she?

JULIE BISHOP: Iam a member of the House of Representatives, I don't follow the activities ofevery Senator in the Senate. It is a question to be directed to Senator Cashobviously.

JOURNALIST: But if Senator Cash is unable to perform herduties as a Senator, representing the relevant portfolios, does that bring intoquestion her capacity?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutelynot. You are making an assertion that is not borne out by the facts.

JOURNALIST: On MH17 – therehas now been calls for diplomats to be expelled and that sort of thing. What isyour position on that? Do you have a response to the latest development in theNorth Korea talks between the US and North Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: LastFriday the Australian Government joined with the Netherlands in asserting stateresponsibility on the part of the Russian Federation for its role in the bringingdown of Malaysian Airlines MH17. That is a process of asserting Stateresponsibility that leads to a request for negotiations. We have now made thatrequest of the Russian Federation. Those negotiations would include focusing oncompensation for the families of the victims. In parallel, there is a Dutchnational prosecution under way, that will await the finalisation of the work ofthe Joint Investigation Team, which includes Australia, and we have allocatedfunding in the most recent Budget - over $50 million - to support thatprosecution and to enable the families of the victims from Australia to takepart. So, these processes are proceeding in parallel. In the meantime, we callon Russia to fulfil its responsibilities as a permanent member of the UNSecurity Council, and as a nation, to fully comply with United Nations SecurityCouncil Resolution 2166, that was passed on the 21st of July 2014, thatrequires all States to comply with efforts to establish accountability for thekilling of 298 passengers and crew aboard MH17. We also call on theinternational community to join with Australia and the Netherlands and othernations, grieving nations, who had citizens aboard that flight, to condemn theacts of the Russian Federation for its role in the bringing down of thispassenger plane. We will continue to work international partners, including theother grieving nations, on options available to us.

JOURNALIST: But it is too early to consider chucking outdiplomats or ambassadors?

JULIE BISHOP: We are working with our internationalpartners, particularly the Netherlands, because there are proceedings underway.There is a Dutch national prosecution and then there is the assertion of stateresponsibility under international law. So we have a number of optionsavailable to us, and we are working closely with our international partners. Youraised another question about?

JOURNALIST: North Korea – what's your response to thelatest on those talks?

JULIE BISHOP: We are hopeful that the summit will go aheadbetween President Trump and Kim Jong-un. North Korea presents a very real securityrisk to our region. It is in complete defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutionsbanning its nuclear program and ballistic missile program. We want to see stepstowards denuclearisation - but they have to be genuine steps, verifiable, concreteaction taken by North Korea, that it is serious about denuclearising andserious about a long-lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: On the North Korea question, can I just ask,there are some reports that North Korean ships have been evading the sanctionsregime in the Sea of Japan, offloading cargos. Just given Australia has a rolein monitoring that process? Is that something that we have monitored? Have weseen them there, close to home?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is involved in the enforcement ofthe UN Security Council sanctions, and that is why a while back I confirmedthat an Australian Defence plane had been deployed to be part of thesurveillance activities in the Sea of Japan, and we are working with otherpartners to enforce the sanctions. Sanctions against a country like North Koreawork when all nations abide by them. The UN Security Council have imposed thetoughest set of sanctions against North Korea, in meetings last year in Augustand September. They are sector wide sanctions, which means they are having animpact on the North Korean economy, particularly the North Korean elites. Thatis one of the reasons why we have seen Kim Jong-un be prepared to come back tothe negotiating table, because the sanctions are working and Australia istaking part in efforts to reinforce enforce them.

JOURNALIST: Daniel Andrews has criticised Australia'srelationship with China saying: 'It is not good'. He has urged MPs to take adifferent tone. Are his remarks fair? Does this add more fuel to the fire?

JULIE BISHOP: I have no idea to whom he is referring. TheAustralian Government manages many bilateral relationships and we get thebalance right. We work hard with our relationship with China because China isone of our most important economic, trade and investment partners. We work hardwith relationships throughout the region. Our Foreign Policy White Paper thatwe released last year set out the priorities that we have for our foreignpolicy agenda over the next decade and beyond. So there is a great deal oftime, effort, resources and energy dedicated to managing our bilateral and regionalrelationships. That is what a Federal Government does. That is what a competentDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade does. That is what I certainly focus onin my role as Foreign Minister. In my recent meeting in the G20 with ForeignMinister Wang Yi, I underscored the importance that we attach to a strong butrobust relationship with China.

JOURNALIST: Minister, SKY News has been told that yourpartner David Panton is effectively your permanent plus one in the QantasChairman's Lounge and he can only have that because he is listed as your lifepartner. Is that accurate?


JOURNALIST: It is not accurate that he is a permanentplus one?

JULIE BISHOP: The facts that you have just put to me arenot correct.

JOURNALIST: Is it the permanent plus one that's notaccurate?

JULIE BISHOP: Please, I am discussing the Chineserelationship. The facts are not correct. When you get the facts right, come andsee me.

JOURNALIST: On China, it has been revealed today thatChinese officials grilled a UTS academic about John Garnaut when they detainedhim last year

JULIE BISHOP: I am having difficulty hearing you over this.Would you come forward and say it again? I am sorry.

JOURNALIST: On John Garnaut, you probably saw the reportthis morning that when a UTS academic was detained in China, they asked himquestions about John Garnaut and his role in the ASIO review. Are you aware ofthis fact, that Chinese agents specifically asked about the Prime Minister'shand-picked adviser?

JULIE BISHOP: I am aware of reports. I am also aware ofreports that Senators Kenneally and Kitching have been asking questions in Estimatesthat have been drafted by Bob Carr. I am aware of those reports.

JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to them asking questionson behalf of Bob Carr?

JULIE BISHOP: I find it extraordinary that Senators wouldhave their questions drafted by a former Labor member who has clearly adifferent view of the national interest than I would think the Opposition herein Canberra does.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Bob Carr has become completelycompromised about his ties to China? I mean, as you say, he is a former Labormember, but he is also a former-Foreign Minister.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, that is a matter for Mr Carr to answer -who he is paid by, what contractual arrangements he has. I am not aware ofthose details. I know that he heads up some centre. In fact, I was invited toattend the opening of that particular centre at the University of Technology inSydney, but it is a matter for Bob Carr to answer what contractual or financialarrangements he has with organisations. It is not a matter that I couldpossibly answer.

JOURNALIST: Papua New Guinea has announced it is going toban Facebook for a month. They are also considering potentially launching theirown national equivalent of Facebook. Both of those measures are just likeChina's. Do you see any Chinese influence here? Do you have concerns aboutfreedoms in Papua New Guinea?

JULIE BISHOP: PNG is one of our closest partners andAustralia and PNG have a long and deep history going back many years. We arenatural partners in so many ways. We work together very closely in defence, insecurity. We are their largest aid partner and that will continue to be thecase, but PNG is a sovereign nation and of course, as a sovereign nation itconducts its own affairs and if PNG wants to set up a PNG Facebook, well surelythat is a matter for PNG.

JOURNALIST: Just back on John Garnaut briefly. Do youthink the fact that Chinese officials specifically grilled this academic aboutJohn Garnaut speaks to Chinese unease about our moves to crack down on foreigninterference?

JULIE BISHOP: John Garnaut doesn't work for me. They arematters you should direct to the Prime Minister's office.

JOURNALIST: Is the militarisation of the South China Seaa decision for China? What is your reaction to the US exclusion of China fromupcoming RIMPAK naval exercises?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia's position has been consistent andwhat we say publicly we say privately, and that is Australia is not a claimantin the South China Sea. There are about 8 claimant states claiming territorywithin the South China Sea. What we urge is that the claimants settle theirdifferences peacefully, that there be no coercion, that if they are unable tosettle their differences then they are free to resort to resolving it througharbitration or conciliation as Australia did with Timor-Leste pursuant to theUnited Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We oppose the militarisationof features in the South China Sea and we look forward to the ASEAN nations andChina concluding a code of conduct. That has been our consistent position andit remains our position.

JOURNALIST: Steven Ciobo said that the matter ofmilitarisation, particularly the Bombers was a matter for China. You'vecriticised Labor for not being consistent on South China Sea. What is yourposition-

JULIE BISHOP: I have just articulated the AustralianGovernment's position in relation to the South China Sea.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on Russia and the World Cup – hasAustralia taken any more consideration of what further steps we might take toexpress our displeasure towards Russia during the World Cup? Are we looking,for example, at some sort of boycott of some, for example, officials fromtravelling to Russia?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is not interferingin matters that are the responsibility of the Football Federation of Australia.

JOURNALIST: So there will be no symbolic gestures made byAustralia or by the Australian football team as far as you are concerned at theWorld Cup?

JULIE BISHOP: I am not aware that the Football Federationof Australia has any such activities planned but we will obviously maintaincontact with them in the lead up to the World Cup.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Barnaby Joyce's partner VickiCampion says she was pressured by people inside the Government to abort herchild. How do you think that will be received by half of the population onSunday night? It is a fairly unsavoury accusation.

JULIE BISHOP: I think that quite enough has been said aboutthis issue and I do not intend to add to the commentary.

JOURNALIST: The US is trying to lock China into long termcontracts on agricultural products and that sort of thing in their latest roundof negotiations over trade. Could this impact Australia and Australian goods?That has been suggested. I guess, what is your position on that?

JULIE BISHOP: At the G20 Meeting last week in Buenos Aires,the representatives from both China and the United States spoke very positivelyabout their recent negotiations. There had been fears of a trade war betweenthe United States and China, but clearly the most recent negotiations have beenconstructive and positive, and both sides spoke of their desire to settle tradedifferences and indeed to utilise the global architecture, the World TradeOrganisation to settle disputes and that is certainly a position that Australiahas been encouraging. We support open liberalised trade and investment and weurge countries to settle any trade disputes through the World TradeOrganisation.

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