JULIEBISHOP:Welcome to another beautiful day here in Perth WesternAustralia. Overnight the Prime Minister has landed in Israel for the purposesof attending the 100th Anniversary of the commemoration of theBattle of Beersheba. This morning herein Kings Park there was also an event marking the charge of the 10thLight Horse. In fact the 10th Light Horse Brigade was the only onerecruited from Western Australia during World War I. Overnight we've also had some very good news from China. A ban on someAustralian beef exports has been lifted. This is welcome news for the beefproducers here in Western Australia and across the country. There were someissues regarding labelling regulations that have now been resolved veryquickly. Given the strength of the trading relationship between Australia andChina - of course China is our largest trading partner - and the fact that wehave a high quality and comprehensive free trade agreement between our twocountries - it's very pleasing that this matter has been resolved.
The beef export industry is worth about$670 million to the Australian economy each year. I'm pleased to be able tobring this good news for Australia's beef exporters, one of the largest exportsin Australia's economy.
JOURNALIST: What was the ban in place for?
JULIEBISHOP:It was in relation to labelling regulations in Chinaand the matter has been resolved within three months and I understand that thatis a quick resolution for such issues. The good news is that our beef exportscan now continue to be traded in China.
JOURNALIST: Given that the SAS is in your electorate, do you have any concernsabout the ongoing inquiry into operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
JULIEBISHOP:I understand that this was an inquiry set out by oneof the independent assessors and I am very proud to have the Special AirService Regiment in my electorate. They are a fine fighting force. They havecarried out magnificent work in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have aninternational reputation as some of the finest and I certainly support them andI work very closely with their families and they do a great service to ourcountry.
JOURNALIST: So will this inquiry sully that reputation?
JULIEBISHOP:This is a matter for the independent inquiry and asit's on foot it would not be appropriate for me to comment.
JOURNALIST: Have these constituents reached out to you in any way?Are you aware of any concerns that the families have and have passed on to youas their local member?
JULIEBISHOP:I'm in constant communication with members of the SAS andwith their families and often take up matters on their behalf. Within myelectorate the Campbell Barracks are at Swanbourne Beach within my electorateand I certainly take on board their concerns, but it wouldn't be appropriatefor me to talk about that given that there is an investigation underway.
JOURNALIST: During next week's regional summit can MalcolmTurnbull guarantee he will meet with President Trump and if so will he urge anexpedited resettlement of refugees?
JULIEBISHOP:The APEC meeting brings together leaders from all theAPEC member countries and it is an opportunity for world leaders to meet. I'mnot aware of the specific details of the Prime Minister's schedule or that ofPresident Trump but I'm sure they will have an opportunity to discuss mattersof great concern, great interest between our two nations. The United States isour closest security partner, it's our defence ally and one of our mostimportant economic partners, so I imagine that the President and the PrimeMinister will have an opportunity to speak.
JOURNALIST: Has the Government made any contact with PNG to urgeagainst the (inaudible) during the closure of Manus Island centre?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is in constant communicationwith our counterpart ministers and departments within PNG and we are there tosupport PNG. Today the regional processing centre on Manus Island will beclosed and the PNG Government has made alternative accommodation arrangementsfor those who are found to be refugees and also for those who are not refugeesand are not owed protection and who should leave and should go home.
JOURNALIST: Will refugees and asylum seekers be removed from theManus Island centre be given the same level of health care, food and securityat their new accommodation?
JULIEBISHOP:I understand that the PNG Government has madearrangements for all essential services to be available at the alternativeaccommodation - food, water, electricity and medical services.
JOURNALIST: Will they be allowed to work in the community?
JULIEBISHOP:That's a matter for the PNG Government.
JOURNALIST: Will you be meeting Jacinda Ardern when she's in Australia next week?
JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the New Zealand Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern is visiting Sydney just for one day for a prime ministerialmeeting with Prime Minister Turnbull, and as appropriate, they will be meetingto discuss matters of mutual interest. I will be in Perth on the weekend onSunday, I'm the keynote speaker at the Asia Pacific regional conference that isbeing held here, and I have a number of meetings with my counterpart foreignministers including the Foreign Minister of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, whowill be here in Perth on Sunday.
JOURNALIST: The ministerial vacancies created by Senator Nash, who should that goto?
JULIEBISHOP:At present the Prime Minister has allocated SenatorNash's responsibilities between Mitch Fifield and Darren Chester and at somepoint the Prime Minister will make other arrangements but that's a matter forthe Prime Minister and a discussion with the National Party.
JOURNALIST: But you would also have some - would you contribute to that discussion?
JULIEBISHOP:The Prime Minister takes counsel from various peoplefrom time-to-time. I've spoken to the Prime Minister about Cabinet appointmentsbut ultimately it's a matter for the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see it go to a woman?
JULIE BISHOP: I think that Cabinet appointments should be based onmerit. There are a number of very capable women in the Coalition and if a womanis chosen I would be very pleased about that, but my first priority of coursewould be to ensure that the right person is chosen for those portfolios onmerit, on capabilities, on experience.
JOURNALIST: From which party?
JULIEBISHOP:Well that's again a matter for the Prime Minister todetermine which portfolios will be allocated between the parties and he will nodoubt do that at some appropriate time. JOURNALIST: Premier McGowan this morning said that should the Federal Governmentnot immediately implement the blueprint for the GST set by the ProductivityCommission he would like to see the Federal Government top up WA's shareimmediately to the next lowest state which would be 88 cents in this case NewSouth Wales. Would the Federal Government entertain such request?
JULIEBISHOP:The single biggest impediment for Western Australiagetting a fairer share of the GST is Mark McGowan. As a Labor Premier of thisState he should be contacting his Labor counterparts in Queensland, in Victoriaand in South Australia and discussing with them how there can be a fairerdistribution of the GST. It's up to the State Premiers. Now what we have doneas the Federal Government is commissioned a Productivity Commission report thathas made quite clear that the distribution of the GST is a matter of nationaleconomic importance. It's not just one state versus another. That's why it isso important for the State Premiers to come together and work out a way tofairly distribute the GST. There have been a number of proposals put forwardbut the Federal Government cannot and will not impose it from on high. TheState Governments – and I point out in particular Mark McGowan – are the singlebiggest impediment to coming to another arrangement. So I call on Mark McGowancontact his Labor Premiers, pick up the phone to Annastacia Palaszczuk andDaniel Andrews and Jay Weatherill and sort it out.
JOURNALIST: Agreement by the states is not required for a different distribution bythe Commonwealth Grants Commission, they're subject to the federal Treasurer'sdirection.
JULIE BISHOP: That would be a parallel universe for a GST, a taxwhich is a state tax, to be dealt with only by the Federal Government. In afederation, in a commonwealth such as ours of course you need the support ofthe States in order to implement such a change.
JOURNALIST: So the Federal Government will not act unilaterally on the ProductivityCommission's recommendations?
JULIEBISHOP:The Federal Government will need the support of theState and Territory Governments to make a change to what is a state andterritory tax. The GST, the Goods and Services Tax, is a state tax.
JOURNALIST: Politically that's never going to happen. No state leader is going toagree to a lower share.
JULIEBISHOP:Well politically it can't happen without the Statesand Territories.
JOURNALIST: Why should the Citizenship 5 keep the money they got while they wereineligible to sit in Parliament?
JULIE BISHOP: This is matter that is considered on a case-by-case basis.There have been previous examples where because the member of parliamentconcerned, the member or senator carried out their duties in good faith anddiligently a decision has been made to waive any return of funds. I think it'sappropriate for these matters to be considered on a case-by-case basis, as hasbeen done in the past.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it should be waived?
JULIEBISHOP: Well these are matters for the Special Minister ofState on advice from the Department of Finance. There are a whole number ofsteps that must be gone through before a decision is made but clearly themembers and senators involved carried out their duties diligently, in goodfaith and there is a powerful argument that they shouldn't have theirentitlements (inaudible) waived as we've seen in the past. This is done on acase-by-case basis.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree that New Zealand Labour is not responsible for BarnabyJoyce being kicked out of Parliament after finding out he was a Kiwi as JacindaArdern said this morning?
JULIEBISHOP:I've never made that proposition.
JOURNALIST: There is a lot of talk in the eastern states about you auditioning forthis job as Prime Minister, Acting Prime Minister?
JULIE BISHOP: Not at all, this is precedent. In the past whenever thePrime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have been unavailable the DeputyLeader of the Liberal Party is called upon to carry out the duties of ActingPrime Minister. There is nothing unusual about this. It happened under MalcolmFraser I'm informed. John Howard as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party acted asthe Acting Prime Minister in the absence of the Prime Minister and the DeputyPrime Minister and also Peter Costello on quite a number of occasions, I recallhe was Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister and the Deputy PrimeMinister were not available. It's a matter of convention. It would be unusualfor it to be otherwise.
JOURNALIST: But why should there be so much chatter about you looking socomfortable in this role?
JULIEBISHOP:It's just chatter. I'm not hearing it. Geoff youobviously move in different circles.
JOURNALIST: Well it's being written about extensively on the east coast.
JULIEBISHOP:Well here we are in Western Australia where we have avery pragmatic view of life.
JOURNALIST: Do you support a new regional forum between the US, Japan, India andAustralia as has been discussed?
JULIE BISHOP: This has been an issue that the four nations havecanvassed in the past. Indeed there was a quadrilateral forum set up duringJohn Howard's time as Prime Minister and that was abandoned by the incomingRudd Government. There has been discussion that we are likeminded democracies,we are all committed to regional stability and security and already Australiahas regular meetings through the Foreign Ministers and Secretaries of State -with Japan and Australia and the US. So it's natural that we should continue tohave such discussions, but there is nothing formal. There has been no decisionon that.