Doorstop, Canberra

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: ...same sex marriage… would a no vote mean that freedom of speech and religious freedom is protected and would stop political correctness in its tracks?

JULIE BISHOP: That's not the way I would put it. What we are seeking to do is give the Australian people their say on the question of changing the law to allow same sex marriage. Of course we had hoped that the Labor Party and the Greens would support our plebiscite legislation that we put up last year that they blocked. Otherwise, we could have had a plebiscite in February this year and the matter would have been resolved. The Labor Party has itself to blame for this situation.

When they were in Government for six years under Julia Gillard no less, their policy was that there would be no change to the law, there would be no same sex marriage. Now that they are in opposition they say that their policy is to support same sex marriage but they have taken every step to block the fastest way to achieving that which would be to support the plebiscite legislation.

JOURNALIST: How much of a distraction is this for the government given the postal vote is already facing High Court legal action?

JULIE BISHOP: We can blame Labor for this. Had Labor supported the plebiscite legislation last year the plebiscite would have been held in February and the matter would be over. It's because Labor are playing politics with this that they are putting every obstacle in the way. If they truly believed in same sex marriage they would have backed the plebiscite legislation and we could have held a plebiscite in February.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to people who want to boycott it and also would you vote yes?

JULIE BISHOP: This is the opportunity for the Australian people to have their say, that's the whole point of the plebiscite, the Australian people get to have their say.

I'll be talking with my electorate, with the people in my constituency, and I'll be encouraging them to lodge a postal vote.

JOURNALIST: On North Korea, have you been in contact with Tillerson since Trump made the comments and who is the Australian people to believe, Trump or Tillerson?

JULIE BISHOP: I have been in constant contact with Secretary Tillerson in fact I spent a day with him on Monday in Manila. We spoke about North Korea. our policy has not changed, our collective strategy has not changed and that is to bring pressure to bear on North Korea through diplomatic and economic means to force it to change its behaviour.

That continues to be our collective strategy.

JOURNALIST: You talked about bellicose and provocative language, should Australians be worried about what they are hearing? I mean, there is a lot of talk about nuclear armageddon, there's talk about existential threat, should Australians be sleeping at night?

JULIE BISHOP: The fact that there are reports that North Korea has a acquired the ability to develop a miniaturised nuclear device, which could be placed on an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would have the capacity of reaching the United States is of course, deeply concerning. And that is why if left unchecked North Korea presents a global security threat. That is why the Australian Government is working with partners and allies in the region to bring pressure to bear on North Korea so that it will stop its illegal actions.

The tensions, the instability, is being created by North Korea's refusal to abide by international law and abide by numerous UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to stop it's illegal activity of developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

So North Korea is the cause of the instability and the tension, North Korea must change its behaviour.

JOURNALIST: If President Trump is speaking in the only way in which Kim Jong-un understands as Secretary Tillerson says he is, doesn't that mean that we are destined for a military confrontation that diplomacy is not working?

JULIE BISHOP: I believe that North Korea can be deterred if the international community has the determination and the resolve to ensure that it does.

We had a breakthrough on the weekend when all members of the UN Security Council including China and Russia agreed to impose the toughest, most comprehensive set of economic sanctions against North Korea.

All countries are being urged to implement those sanctions and I say that any country if it has a diplomatic or economic relationship with North Korea must use that leverage to force the nation to change its illegal behaviour and stop its ballistic missile testing and its nuclear weapons testing.

JOURNALIST: Cassie Sainsbury's plea deal has been rejected in Colombia. Will she be offered any support from the government?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that this situation is evolving. She has legal representation and the Australian government has offered and provided consular support as we would to any Australian in these circumstances and we continue to offer that support.

Australia's consulate officials are present at the court hearing.

JOURNALIST: Would you just make clear, in there you were talking about provocative language, are you talking about Trump's fire and fury threat?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm talking about the language that is being used generally in relation to this latest outburst from North Korea. North Korea has a long history of making and breaking promises. The last six party talks were held in 2008 and the dialogue was broken off because North Korea doesn't keep its side of the bargain. They agree to stop their nuclear weapons testing and yet they won't allow for there to be independent verification. They kick out the independent international experts and yet they expect the United States to continue to provide them with support and a security guarantee.

North Korea should keep its side of the bargain, its side of the dialogue and cease its illegal behaviour. It is in flagrant violation of six UN Security Council resolutions and countries around the world must uphold and respect the actions and the authority of the Security Council.

JOURNALIST: Is it reaching a stage where the world should just accept a nuclear North Korea?

JULIE BISHOP: A nuclear-armed North Korea is not an acceptable outcome. The country is making threats and has continued to make threats against South Korea, against Japan, against the United States, and that is an unacceptable state. You cannot have a nation like North Korea with nuclear capability that is threatening not only our region but the globe.

JOURNALIST: Is there enough – in terms of the talks and prospect of talks you've previously been quite negative of the prospect of that – what's the status of that and should we instead be focusing our energies on getting China-US and North Korea to the table?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't believe that I have been negative about the prospects of talks, certainly not from the side of the US, or China, or Korea, or Japan. North Korea is the one that has broken off talks and I would certainly encourage any opportunity to continue negotiations with North Korea and indeed Secretary Tillerson said over the weekend that the United States is not looking to change the regime, the United States is not looking for an excuse to put troops north of the 38th parallel, the United States is not looking to impose re-unification. The United States wants North Korea to behave in a way that is not a provocative security threat to the rest of the world. They want North Korea to obey the law and that's what we are seeking as well. We're part of the collective strategy to force North Korea to change its behaviour.

JOURNALIST: North Korea has been pretty consistently provocative though, doesn't President Trump's move to harsher language meant that the risk has escalated?

JULIE BISHOP: As Secretary Tillerson has said, the President is speaking the language they hope Kim Jong-un will understand, but as I said, North Korea has a long history of coming to the negotiating table, seeking demands from the United States and others and then breaking its side of the bargain. Another opportunity must be pursued but the difference is now we have significant sanctions that are being imposed by nations including China and Russia and we call on all nations to uphold the authority of the UN Security Council and apply as much diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea as we are able to.

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