Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, could I just ask you, as we speak US media are saying that Rex Tillerson is going to be the next US secretary of state, can I just ask - I mean people are saying it will bring the US closer into line with Russian policy, but he is also very pro-trade. Do you have thoughts on what it might mean?

JULIE BISHOP: I do not want to pre-empt any announcement by the Trump elect administration and I will wait until there's a formal announcement made but of course I look forward to working closely with whomever President-elect Trump chooses as his secretary of state. Rex Tillerson is known to us as the head of ExxonMobil and there are many Australians who have worked with him and he is well-known to us. But there are also a number of other people whose names have been put forward in recent days so I will make a more formal comment when the Secretary of State appointment is actually made.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned in your speech that you wanted the white paper to talk about the resourcing of DFAT as well, what do you think of the prospects of DFAT getting more resources given the constraints on the budget at the moment particularly ahead of MYEFO?

JULIE BISHOP: Well resourcing is about how we deploy what we have as well as what more we need. But as I also pointed out, if there were any new policy proposals they would, of course, go through the budget process but we're always looking for more efficient and effective ways of delivering on our international engagement.

JOURNALIST: Minister, is there - are you taking a risk by launching a white paper at a time of so much change and does Australia risk offending some players by putting it - stating a position at a time of so much change?

JOURNALIST: This is precisely the time when we should be developing a white paper. What we're looking for is a comprehensive strategic framework so that we are able to positively shape and have some influence over our national interests and shape things for the better. Rather than reacting to events once they have occurred. So if we have this framework that sets out our priorities, our interests, underpinned by our values, then I believe there is a consistency and a coherency about Australia's international engagement. And that will stand us in very good stead with the rest of the world. Indeed I believe this will be very welcomed and I do say at this stage I am very pleased to have received the support of Senator Penny Wong and the Labor Party, who have welcomed the foreign policy white paper process today.

JOURNALIST: There's a meeting I think scheduled for next week, a two plus two with Japan and Australia. Can you say whether that meeting is going ahead and where it will be because of Ms Marise Payne's illness there is not really any clarity about whether she will be going is that known yet?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, it is. We will need to defer the meeting until early in the New Year and the Japanese understand that because of Minister Payne's recent illness, she has been advised not to travel. She is getting better but she has had advice she shouldn't travel at this time. And we have spoken to our Japanese counterparts and they are looking forward to rescheduling in the New Year.

JOURNALIST: Minister, does Australia share any of the concerns expressed by Donald Trump on cost overruns with the Joint Strike Fighter project?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia is committed to the Joint Strike Fighter program but, of course, President-elect Trump is entitled to question costs. Australia, of course, doesn't accept things unquestioningly and I'm not going to make a running commentary on everything that President-elect Trump says. I think it is important for us to focus on post-inauguration what are the foreign policy changes, if any, of the new Trump administration and how will they impact on Australia and our region? So I think it is more productive and useful for us to make comment once the Trump administration has been sworn in, the President has been inaugurated and we are dealing with realities, not hypotheticals.

JOURNALIST: Trump has obviously heightened diplomatic tensions in Asia over his comments about Taiwan and China and particularly on the One China policy recently and China's reacted by threatening to cut off diplomatic ties if that policy isn't sort of followed. What is Australia's advice there? What is Australia's position there?

JULIE BISHOP: Well Australia's position, as it has that been since 1972, is that we support a One China policy. That is Australia's position. That is our foreign policy position. It will be a matter for the United States and the new Trump administration to determine its foreign policy positions. But we have a significant and deep relationship with China as we do with the United States and our position has not changed since 1972. We recognise a One China policy and have acted accordingly ever since.

JOURNALIST: Is his position threatening peace though, is his sort of rhetoric and that sort of thing…

JULIE BISHOP: Well I think that's rhetoric to even post that question. The fact is the Trump administration has not been sworn in. There has been no inauguration yet. That occurs on 20 January. So I will deal with the realities of any changes in foreign policy position if and when they occur. President Obama remains the President of the United States until 20 January and he has full executive and constitutional authority until that time so we are dealing with the Obama administration at present. Of course we are focusing on likely shifts in foreign policy but I think it would be more productive for me to make any comments once they were reality not a hypothetical.

JOURNALIST: As the white paper process rolls out would you like to see the DFAT budget quarantined from any cuts or efficiency dividends?

JULIE BISHOP: Well I spend a great deal of my team ensuring that the DFAT budget is appropriately resourced and I will continue to do so but it's…

JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be appropriate to try and sort of have a freeze on cuts while you're doing this?

JULIE BISHOP: No, we are talking about a foreign policy paper. If there are separate policy proposals requiring additional funding it would go through the usual budget process.

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting cuts to the budget?


JOURNALIST: One of the big issues with the US at the moment is the asylum seeker settlement negotiation, have you been talking to your counterparts in the states or members of the incoming administration with Mr Trump about that issue? Are you confident that asylum seeker deal will go ahead?

JULIE BISHOP : Well my last answer, but one, would have indicated that we are dealing with the Obama administration because President Obama has full executive and constitutional authority until about midday on 20 January and our agreement is with the Obama administration and we have every expectation that an incoming administration would honour the agreement that was reached. But, of course, we are reaching out to members of the new administration. There are a number of vital positions yet to be filled but once those appointees are known we will certainly be making contact.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister could I ask you - you said Mr Tillerson is well-known to Australia have you had dealings with him yourself?

JULIE BISHOP: Not personally but he has certainly been well-known in our business community in particular through ExxonMobil. Okay.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just one more question, with the boats being turned back to Vietnam and the MOU are you - how confident are you that there are no human rights abuses after people are returned to Vietnam?

JULIE BISHOP: These are the assurances that we receive from the governments and we have always sought those assurances, they have always been given and I have no evidence to suggest otherwise. Thank you.

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