Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
24 August 2017

JULIE BISHOP: I'm delighted to be joined by Andrew Forrest today. Andrew is not only the founder of Fortescue Metals but also he is the founder of Walk Free Foundation and together we have appeared at a forum put on by Perth USAsia Studies Centre and Walk Free Foundation to focus on the topic of modern slavery and how it appears in global supply chains.

Everyone is affected by this insidious criminal practice of the abuse of people's human rights in supply chains. We're all consumers, we're all taking part in the global economy yet there are dark corners in global supply chains where people's human rights are trampled, where there are appalling labour practices and we are working, government and business together, to eradicate modern slavery.

It's a term that one shouldn't hear in the 21st century but it exists, so we've had this public discussion today specifically on the topic of eliminating modern slavery in global supply chains, and tomorrow Australia will co-host the Bali Process Government and Business Forum on eradicating modern slavery.

This is a world first, to have government Ministers from 45 countries in our region together with business leaders from those countries, coming together to discuss ways to eliminate the practices of human trafficking, forced labour, modern slavery. I am delighted that this is happening in Perth, Andrew Forrest's home town, my home town, because we want to be regional leaders working with countries in our region to stamp out these practices.

Tomorrow's event, as I said, will be a world first but I believe it is part of the Government's overall strategy to be a global leader in the campaign against modern slavery.


ANDREW FORREST: Thank you Foreign Minister.

Ladies and gentlemen it is historically without precedent for a intergovernmental organisation as large as the Bali Process to focus on modern slavery - I think is of great credit to the Australian and Indonesian governments, and then simultaneously to reach out to the business sector where we've had example after example of slavery in supply chains including in my own, but represented here we've had businesses which account for some 3 quarters of a trillion dollars of supply chains annually to speak and speak bluntly about slavery which they've discovered in their supply chains and what they want done about it, the help they need from governments across the Indo-Pacific region on a co-ordinated basis, on a regulated basis, so that we as two-thirds of the world's population in the Indo-Pacific, can take charge and get rid of slavery out of our supply chains and get rid of slavery out of our history.

JULIE BISHOP: Ok, any questions on slavery?

JOURNALIST: Just looking around the region, China's One Belt One Road initiative clearly has the potential to transform supply chains all around, is that the real big opportunity to make some inroads on this?

JULIE BISHOP: China is one country that is focusing on this issue. We had a Chinese business leader address the forum this morning about the efforts that they're taking to ensure that there is integrity in their supply chains, but there are many countries in the region where this issue is rife – in fact no country is immune and as Andrew indicated, he had found it in supply chains servicing Fortescue.

We have many opportunities to focus on the issue, raising public awareness, raising consumer awareness is part of it but it's also the reputational risk that countries and companies will bare if they don't focus on the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery.

It can come in very many different forms but by shining a spotlight on the supply chains I think will go a long way to eliminating some of the worst forms of modern slaver. But the One Belt One Road initiative is new, it is about infrastructure support for our region and at the same time as we're raising awareness about this debate, I feel confident that those engaged in some of these new initiatives will be very conscious of the need to ensure integrity and ethical behaviour within supply chains.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just wondering what role you believe the financial sector can play in this to sort of support organisations that are trying to detect problems in their supply chain?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is currently considering the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act, in fact we announced last week that we will work in consultation with stake holders to implement legislation. That legislation will involve reporting requirements for large businesses, the financial sector obviously has a role to play in terms of the standards that they set for the businesses that they work with. So a Modern Slavery Act along the lines of that introduced in the UK in 2015 will go a long way to raising public awareness and reporting an audit standards for large businesses. We hope to be able to support small to medium businesses to ensure that they likewise can comply with, what is respect for fundamental human rights, the fundamental human rights of workers who deserve decent conditions and a decent wage.

JOURNALIST: Minister, is it appropriate for – is the Australian intelligence community currently working with the government in the Philippines and is it appropriate for the Head of ASIS to be doing fist pumps with the President of the Philippines when he's authorised extrajudicial killings?

JULIE BISHOP: The Director-General of ASIS meets with leaders around the world, where Australia is working in cooperation with those countries to, in this instance, counter-terrorism.

There is a significant issue in Southern Philippines involving ISIS foreign terrorist fighters, who are carrying out urban warfare in Marawi and Mindanao in the southern Philippines. This conflict which combines ISIS foreign fighters, militants, rebels, criminal networks, has the potential to be the Southeast Asian headquarters for ISIS. So we take this conflict very seriously and we are providing support to the Philippines Government to assist the Armed Forces Philippines to end this conflict and to eliminate the ISIS influence in our part of the world.

We're also working very closely with Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries in the region. The Director-General meets with leaders from time to time. I understand that the action, the fist pump, was not the Director-General's idea.

JOURNALIST: Not a good look maybe?

JULIE BISHOP: He was responding to a request from the President of the Philippines.

JOURNALIST: Does it concern you that he didn't have the foresight to see how it might be interpreted by some and that he didn't say no?

JULIE BISHOP: I am not aware of the particular circumstances of how it occurred. I have met with President Duterte on two occasions now and you are a guest of the President in his presidential premises, and I am not aware of the specific circumstances as to how it came about, but I am confident that it was not the Director-General's idea.

JOURNALIST: While we're obviously very keen to fight Islamic extremism there, as part of these meetings do we also raise human rights and our concerns about extrajudicial killings?

JULIE BISHOP: On both occasions I've met with President Duterte I've raised the issue of human rights and the extrajudicial killings. Our Embassy in the Philippines also makes repeated representations. I've also met with the Human Rights Commissioners in the Philippines to discuss our concerns and also work through UN agencies in that regard.

JOURNALIST: The citizenship High Court directions hearing obviously started today, are you still confident that your colleagues will keep their jobs?

JULIE BISHOP: This is obviously now before the High Court. I am not going to give a running commentary on the High Court proceedings but I hope there will be clarification as soon as possible, and we need to ensure that there isn't a double standard operating here. If people are being required to produce proof of their citizenship, then that should apply across the board and if there are any doubts, then obviously the High Court is the place to clarify this, the High Court as the Court of Disputed Returns.

JOURNALIST: Could there be any problem with Cabinet decisions taken between now until then?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I do not envisage any problems. Barnaby Joyce is entitled to be a Member of Parliament. As a Member of Parliament, he is entitled to vote, he is entitled to be appointed to the Cabinet. So I do not see any difficulties at all.

JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten's coming to Perth tomorrow and over the weekend and the GST is obviously going to be an issue, Western Australia's share. Do you think he should have an announcement of policy while he is here, on distribution?

JULIE BISHOP: Bill Shorten should have a policy. He has not announced any, he is very glib in his responses to questions but he doesn't actually come up with anything substantive. Now he will be in Western Australia, there is an issue about Western Australia's share of the GST. That's why the Turnbull Government has commissioned the Productivity Commission Review to look at this as a national economic issue, not just a state by state issue. This is a national economic concern and that's why we have asked the Productivity Commission to look at it in that light. I would expect that Bill Shorten should say what he would do if he were elected Prime Minister of this country, what he would do to ensure Western Australia got its fair share of the GST. So far, he has just avoided giving answers in any detail to any policy questions. All very glib, all very shallow, but he needs to say what he would do. Western Australians will judge him on that.

JOURNALIST: Will it be fair for him then to wait until the outcome of that Productivity Commission inquiry?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, he is very critical of the Coalition, so what's his answer?

JOURNALIST: There's currently some friction in the WA Liberal Party about… there's a push for grassroots members to have more of a say in electing candidates and there's a concern that certain players have too much control over selecting candidates. Would you like to see grassroots members have more of a say in getting to say who goes to Canberra and sits in Parliament?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I certainly would. I think Liberal membership should have say, I think the broader the representation of those who able to choose Members of Parliament, the stronger the Liberal Party will be. Yes, I support that, but there will be a debate at our State Conference on that very issue.

JOURNALIST: So do you think that certain factional members have too much factional control at the minute?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's not the way I'd put it. The way I see it is the broader the preselection base I think the better the outcome. I mean that's what democracy is all about, getting people to have their say and so if people join the Liberal Party then they should be entitled to have their say on who represents the Liberal Party and its candidates in elections. They've been trying it elsewhere in other states and I think that Western Australia is certainly ready for a broader cross section of people to preselect our candidates for election campaigns.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Mathias Cormann went too far in likening Bill Shorten's policy to the Communist East Germany in the speech he gave last night?

JULIE BISHOP: I think Mathias Cormann was absolutely spot on with the comments he made about Bill Shorten's approach to economic management of this country. I've never known such a left-leaning Labor Leader, I challenge anyone to name one in living memory – Arthur Calwell might be the closest but that is not in the living memory of everybody in this room. But he is most certainly a dangerous politician in that his economic policies, such as we have seen, would take Australia back decades. What he is proposing in terms of higher taxes, less support for small business, would drive a stake through the heart of Australia's growth.

JOURNALIST: Were you disheartened to see wake up and see what is happening in the Netherlands at the moment with another possible attack?

JULIE BISHOP: I was deeply concerned to learn of the details of the potential attack in the Netherlands. It's clear that these terrorist cells have much broader reach than just the boundaries of one country and that is why it is so important to Australia to work in close cooperation with countries around the world, to share information, to share experiences, to focus on how we can work together to eliminate these terror cells from our countries, and that will take a global effort and Australia is one of the leading contributors to the global effort to eliminate ISIS.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on the matter of human slavery, today it was revealed by your colleague Michael Keenan that $36 billion moves through Australia in the form of organised crime funding every year, the financial sector is very good at spotting normal predicate crimes like drug dealing and that sort of thing. Would you like to make a suggestion or an appeal today to the financial sector to be more aware of human trafficking and human slavery as a predicate issue that they can trace?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that's the whole point of today's discussion, our public discussion today, the Bali Process tomorrow co-hosted by Australia and Indonesia. I'll be joined by the Indonesian Foreign Minister and we are bringing in business leaders from not only Australia but from around our region and discussing across business, across industry, across government, ways that we can focus on the scourge of modern slavery and what we can do to eliminate it. I am expecting there to be a regional plan of action and also a business led work plan that will emanate from tomorrow's Bali Process Government and Business Forum.

JOURNALIST: Just one more about the photo, you said it wasn't his idea, Nick Warner, do you find it regrettable?

JULIE BISHOP: I haven't spoken to the Director-General but I am confident that it would not have been his idea and I do not know the details of how it came about or who released the photograph, but of course, Australia's Secret Intelligence Service is called our Secret Intelligence Service for a reason. So preferably, the work that ASIS does is below the surface but there are instances where it becomes public, but I am very proud of the work that ASIS does and it's an indispensable tool in our fight against terrorism and it is indispensable to keeping Australians safe, both at home and abroad.

JOURNALIST: Are you aware of six men that are reportedly being extradited from Dubai back to Sydney, reportedly at a cost of about $1.5 million?

JULIE BISHOP: I wouldn't be aware of the details of that but if it's occurring, I am sure the relevant Minister could answer questions on it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think, is that the most cost effective way do you think?

JULIE BISHOP: I am not aware of the details of this but clearly, if it's a matter to do with Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton could answer those questions for you.

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