Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Minister is there anything more the Federal Government can do for Cassandra Sainsbury?

JULIE BISHOP: Currently we are providing consular assistance to an Australian woman who has been detained in Bogota. That consular assistance has included providing the names of local lawyers to her, but also visiting her and also ensuring that she has some personal hygiene goods and also relaying information to her family. We are of course providing consular assistance to her as she requires.

JOURNALIST: Does it appear that the evidence that has been made public doesn't look good for her?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't think it would be helpful for me to speculate on the nature of this matter and for privacy considerations I won't go into details of it, but it is a stark reminder that when you leave Australia you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. In the case of Colombia, the Australian Government's Smartraveller advice has indicated that Australian visitors should exercise a high degree of caution, abide by the laws of the country and notes that many offences relating to drugs carry very severe penalties.

JOURNALIST: Minister can you comment on a meeting in Perth the other day, in regards to a Chinese delegation that seemed to be quite upset with the Taiwanese delegation that was there. What happened?

JULIE BISHOP: This was the Kimberley Process, and Australia was chairing it for the first time. It was set up under a United Nations resolution to regulate the rough diamond trade against conflict diamonds. It's important that all entities, Governments, NGOs and the trading entities that are involved in the rough diamond trade are part of the Kimberley process. In accordance with past precedent, the Australian Government invited a Chinese Taipei rough diamond trading house to the Kimberley Process meeting as a guest of the Government. It appears that the delegation from China took exception to the presence of the delegation from the Chinese Taipei trading house and interrupted proceedings. It was regrettable. There is a time and place for making political statements and I did not believe this was the time or the place.

JOURNALIST: Is what you're saying Cassandra Sainsbury's on her own now? Her and her family don't have any more help from the Government to get?

JULIE BISHOP: No I didn't say that at all. I said I would provide consular assistance, as we would provide for any person in that situation, but Australia can't intervene in investigations or in legal proceedings. We have provided her with the names of local lawyers for her to choose and we've certainly maintained contact with her family, but Australia is constrained from what we can do in relation to the rules of another country. It's a warning we give constantly. When you leave Australia you leave our laws and systems behind and you are subject to the laws and systems of the country you are visiting.

JOURNALIST: Have you had personal contact with Cassie's parents?

JULIE BISHOP: This has been conducted through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at a consular level.

JOURNALIST: New Zealand's Foreign Minister will soon visit Australia and has flagged that he will raise concerns about how the Government's university fee changes will impact New Zealand students. Would the Government consider making an exception for New Zealand students?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that we have taken into account the concerns of the New Zealand Government and I will discuss this with Gerry Brownlee when I meet him tomorrow in Sydney. What we're trying to do with our changes to higher education is ensure that our system, which is very high quality, one of the best in the world, is sustainable into the future, that it's fair, and that it ensures that people can continue to receive a degree from a high quality university in Australia. The system has to be sustainable.

JOURNALIST: Has the department provided assistance to Baxter Reid who was detained in America for overstaying his visa?

JULIE BISHOP: I'm not aware of the details of that case, I've heard it in the news but I'm not aware as to whether or not he's sought consular assistance from our representatives in the United States.

JOURNALIST: I believe that the Indian Prime Minister has raised concerns with our Prime Minister about changes to 457 visas, do you know what those specific concerns are?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Turnbull had a very constructive and warm conversation overnight. Prime Minister Turnbull spoke about the changes to the 457 visa system and that is to put integrity and efficacy back into the 457 visa system. They will be replaced with other visas with a focus on skills shortages to ensure that Australian workers are able to obtain opportunities to work, but also that Australian businesses can have access to the skilled workers they need if there are Australian workers is unable to take those positions.

JOURNALIST: Do you know what India is concerned about?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I wasn't privy to the conversation but I understand that it was very warm and constructive.

JOURNALIST: Those sanitary items for Cassandra how important is it for Australians to get that sort of help when they're in prisons such as those in Colombia?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides a very high level of consular support for Australians who find themselves in trouble overseas. The point I'm making is that there are limitations on what we are able to provide. We have announced that we will have an Embassy in Bogota, we don't yet have one so we are providing assistance from outside Colombia and our diplomats are there to assist her in any way we can. But I must stress there are limitations to what we can do once you're subject to the laws of another country.

JOURNALIST: What is the main purpose of the Prime Minister's meeting with Donald Trump?

JULIE BISHOP: Well the United States is our most significant strategic ally and it's one of our most important economic and trading partners. The United States is our security guarantor. It's absolutely essential that the leaders of our nations, strong allies, meet as soon as possible. It's also a moment to pay respects to the Australian and US servicemen and women who gave their lives during World War Two in the defence of our country.

JOURNALIST: Can you understand that university students here today would have been upset seeing you accept an Honorary Doctorate the day after your Government flagged funding cuts to universities and potential fee cuts?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I can assure you the appointments were not planned this way. I have been offered this honorary degree for many months now and so the timing of this was not intended.

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