JULIE BISHOP:Good morning and welcome toCottesloe Beach in my electorate of Curtin. Yesterday evening the PrimeMinister left for Israel to represent Australia at the Centenary of the Battleof Beersheba and I became Acting Prime Minister. It isbusiness as usual. The Government is getting on with keyinitiatives. Ministers across the country are attending to events andmeetings and functions, and so it's business as usual. We'recontinuing to govern, just from Western Australia.
JOURNALIST: You get to take all of the curly questions aboutyour Leader's popularity – Newspoll shows that the satisfaction rating hasdropped again and there's been suggestions that that wouldn't hurt your appeal as possibleleader?
JULIE BISHOP:Giventhe events of the last few weeks, it's not surprising that theNewspoll is as it is. However, the Prime Minister remains preferredleader by a long way over Bill Shorten, and we have 18 months to thenext election. So we're making important decisions to create jobs,create wealth, about security and stability, all in the interests ofthe Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Could you get comfortable in this job?
JULIE BISHOP:I'm not fazed by being Acting Prime Minister, butI'm very happy in my job as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party andForeign Minister. There are many foreign affairs challenges that I am tacklingand I'll continue to do my job as best as I'm able.
JOURNALIST: There are some who say that it should have gone to theNationals with Barnaby Joyce out of the picture at the moment?
JULIE BISHOP:It's a question of precedence and in terms ofseniority, I'm the most senior member of the Cabinet after the PrimeMinister and Barnaby Joyce.
JOURNALIST: How is the relationship going with the Nationals?Because there's a bit of friction about? The Nationals aresaying they got the Liberals over the line, the Liberals are saying theNationals didn't do their due diligence on Barnaby Joyce? Isthere friction between the two?
JULIE BISHOP:We're a Coalition,we're a political family. We're the most powerful political momentumin Australian history, and so we're stronger together and that'swhy we're working closely as a Coalition. There will be issuesfrom time to time, but like any family, you get over them and youmove on. So we're working closely together and our focus at presentis to ensure that Barnaby Joyce wins the by-election in New Englandon 2 December, and I'm sure that's his focus as well.
JOURNALIST: Will the Government release the legal advice thatunderpins its decision to keep Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash?
JULIE BISHOP:It would be highly unusual. Governments generallydon't release such legal advice and I would follow precedent in thiscase and not release it. That's the standard practice.
JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce has alsoindicated he wants to bring a bulk package of referendum questions to Cabinet,do you agree with him that aboriginal reconciliation should be in a package ofreferenda?
JULIE BISHOP:I am not aware of the detail of what BarnabyJoyce is suggesting, but we have, for example, the questionof Section 44 has now been determined by the High Court. The decisionwill be analysed by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Mattersand if there are any recommendations coming from that inquiry, thenwe'll consider them.
JOURNALIST: Could the governmentreversal reconsider any legislation decided by one vote or ministerial decisionsmade by Joyce and Nash?
JULIE BISHOP:Thereseems to be a good deal of misunderstanding about this. The majorityof decisions are taken by the Cabinet on the advice of Ministers, soit's a collective decision making process, Cabinet has madethe majority of the decisions. Appointments, for example, are madeby the Governor-General and Executive Council, they are signed off bythe Governor-General on advice from the Cabinet. There may be afew decisions, the Attorney-General has said that we'll look at those,but the vast majority of decisions are made by Cabinet.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it was unwise for Joyce and Nash toremain in their positions in the Cabinet while this High Court challenge wasgoing on?
JULIE BISHOP:They took the advice of theSolicitor-General and based on that advice, they remained in theirpositions. The Government kept on governing, we managed to achieve a greatdeal in the last couple of weeks and most certainly over the last 12months since the election. So there's been stability, the Coalitionis working, and we've now had the High Court decision which of course werespect. The result of that is Barnaby Joyce faces a by-election. Thishas happened before over citizenship issues, so we'll have aby-election on 2 December and I'm looking forward to Barnaby Joyce re-joining theCoalition.
JOURNALIST: Has the Government made any decision on how itwould treat the entitlements that were given to those Members who had noright to be elected to the Parliament?
JULIE BISHOP:Our entitlements are a matter for theRemuneration Tribunal.
JOURNALIST: Is it likely that, or will the Government block anymoves to claw back what they were paid in their superannuationcontributions?
JULIE BISHOP:The RemunerationTribunal is an independent statutory authority and it makes its owndeterminations.
JOURNALIST: Is it open for them to take back what they werepaid?
JULIE BISHOP:That would be a matter of advice fromthe Department of Finance and that would be a matter for theFinance Minister.
JOURNALIST: It would be a harsh penalty though wouldn't it?After so many months?
JULIE BISHOP:I'm not even considering that matter. Whatwe're focusing on is continuing to govern, continuing to makedecisions in the interests of the Australian people. There's work to bedone, whether it's done from Perth or Canberra, and the Ministers aroundthe country are working hard. Barnaby Joyce is focused on winningthat by-election in New England.
JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce says he canspeak his mind against Liberals who leak against him now that he's not inparliament. How do you respond to that?
JULIE BISHOP:I thinkanybody can speak their mind if there are anonymous sources. Peopleshould always put their name to a source and if journalists want topublish unnamed sources, well then that's a matter for the media. Butwe can always speak out, I don't think there's any restrainton people from speaking their mind.
JOURNALIST: Doyou think Ian Britza's a good chance to beat Barnaby Joyce?
JULIE BISHOP:I know Ian Britza, he was a Member of our StateParty of course. He's obviously going to take his chances in the seatof New England, but I believe Barnaby Joyce has been doing a greatjob for the people of New England. He's passionate, he's a fighterfor them, he raises their concerns on every occasion. So I would hope thatthe people of New England would back Barnaby Joyce so he can returnto continue the good work that he's been undertaking as the DeputyPrime Minister and Minister for Agriculture.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the PM lostsome skin from being so definite about the legality of Barnaby Joyce being inparliament?
JULIE BISHOP:We had the advice from the Solicitor-General,it was the Solicitor-General's opinion, but of course with all mattersbefore the courts, the courts make up their own mind, their owninterpretation. The High Court has spoken, we respect that. TheSolicitor-General gave us an opinion on the postal vote and the HighCourt upheld that position. So this is what happens with legal cases,as anyone who's been involved with one would know. At the end of theday, the court makes a determination.
JOURNALIST: On the postal vote do youintend to vote for the Dean Smith bill?
JULIE BISHOP:I amassuming that the yes case will get up. I'm reading what the mediaare saying about the responses. Most certainly in my own electorate,I think the yes case will get up and if the yes case gets up, then Iwill facilitate the passage of a bill. Whether it is Dean Smith'sor a variation, it's too early to say.
JOURNALIST: You'llvote yes?
JULIE BISHOP:Of course, if the majority of the Australianpeople vote yes to marriage equality, same-sex marriage, then of course weshould facilitate that. It's the will of the people. That was thewhole idea behind the plebiscite which, had Labor backed it, theplebiscite could have been held last February and this matter wouldhave been done and dusted. But Labor blocked the plebiscite, blockedpeople having their say, so we then went ahead with a postal survey,which from all accounts is extremely successful in terms of people'sresponse, and then should the response be yes, well thenthe Government will facilitate the passage of legislation.
JOURNALIST:With energy supply and the price so problematic onthe east coast the government's awarded, we're learning today, thegovernment's awarded a contract to examine a pipeline from thenorth-west shelf to the east coast. Do you think that'sreally viable?
JULIE BISHOP:Well, that's why we're undertaking a feasibilitystudy. We have plentiful gas here in Western Australia, we're blessedwith abundant resources, we don't have the same challenges in terms ofgas supply. So an obvious answer may well be transferring gasfrom Western Australia to the east coast, but of course, it's early days. We'll undertake a feasibility andsee if it stacks up.
JOURNALIST:This is also about the eastern states refusingto you know investigate their own resources, to look at fracking andthose sorts of gas sources isn't it? JULIE BISHOP:Ibelieve that State Premiers have a responsibility to utilise theirresources in a way that drives their economic growth, and that's whyWestern Australia utilising our resources in the way that we dodrives so much GST revenue. That's why Mark McGowan should get on tohis State Labor Premiers in Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland andDaniel Andrews in Victoria and Jay Weatherill in South Australia andget them to focus on utilising the resources of their state so thatthey can contribute to state growth and national growth.
JOURNALIST: If you're going to look at a gas pipeline to theeastern states, would you maybe hold an investigation about a waterpipeline from the Ord River down to Perth?
JULIE BISHOP:I think that's been thought of before.
JOURNALIST:Well it has, you knowyou're piping gas to the East -
JULIE BISHOP:Josh Frydenberg is the Minister for Energy andthe Minister for Environment and I'm sure that these proposals crosshis desk all the time…
JOURNALIST:Do you think they have merit?
JULIE BISHOP:…it is aquestion of feasibility and the engineers, the economists and theexperts will no doubt assess it and come up with recommendations for theGovernment.
JOURNALIST:Astate election has been called in Queensland. How do you think, what's yourreaction to that happening yesterday and there'stipping that Palaszczuk won't hold on to power?
JULIE BISHOP:I know Tim Nicholls, the Leader of the LNP,he's a very measured, clever, focussed person. I think he would makea fine Premier of Queensland and I hope the people of Queensland givehim an opportunity to show that he's got the ideas and the policies thatwould drive growth. Queensland is a great state. It has enormouspotential in resources, in tourism, it needs a government to drive thateconomic growth to ensure that the people of Queensland have jobs andhave security, safety, prosperity.
JOURNALIST:Has Premier Palaszczuk mucked it up?
JULIE BISHOP:I think she's been a do-nothing Premier, and that'swhy they need a change and I think Tim Nicholls would make a fine Premier ofQueensland. It's a matter for the Queensland people, but I know himwell and I've always found him to be a very measured, thoughtful andconsidered person.
JOURNALIST: There's also a thought that One Nation willgarner a lot of support in this election. Do you expect that to be thecase if people are looking away from the Liberals and the establishedparties, the Labor Party, to One Nation?
JULIE BISHOP:Idon't want to run a commentary on the state of Queensland, just asI wouldn't expect Queenslanders to run a commentary on the state ofWestern Australia, but obviously, there are minor parties…
JOURNALIST: AsPrime Minister though?
JULIE BISHOP:(laughter)As Acting Prime Minister, I'll havea say. A number of minor parties do attract votes away from majorparties but that puts the focus on our ability to win the hearts andminds of the people, in this case of Queensland, with betterpolicies, policies that will do more to drive economic growth. That'sthe best thing a State Government can do for their state ensure thatthey've got policies in place that don't hinder growth, but drive growth.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Western Australian result has ruledout Liberals ever doing a preference deal with One Nation ever?
JULIE BISHOP:Eachelection we consider the preferences at the time, so I wouldn't ever make ageneral rule about these things. We should do it on a case-by-case basis.
JOURNALIST:PapuaNew Guinea's Immigration Minister has suggested that refugees who don't whodon't want to resettle in PNG are Australia's responsibility, do you agree? JULIE BISHOP:In fact we are working with PNG to ensurethat those who are found to be refugees can be resettled either inPNG or in other countries, and we have a number of negotiations underway including as you know with the United States. Those who arefound not to be refugees should go home. They've been found by the UNHCRnot to be owed protection, so they should return to their homes.
JOURNALIST:How does it feel to be thefirst woman in the Liberal Party to hold the position of Acting Prime Minister?
JULIE BISHOP:I've beenappointed Acting Prime Minister because I'm the next most senior inCabinet, not because I'm a woman.