Doorstop interview, Brisbane
JULIEBISHOP:I am very pleased to announce this morning the AustralianGovernment's Regional Health Security Initiative. The fact is that diseases in ourregion can impact heavily not only in the countries of our region but also inAustralia. And if there is a serious disease outbreak it has no regard toborders and can have a devastating impact on the economy and health of nationsincluding our own. This kind of disease outbreak or epidemic can impact ontrade and investment and travel and can slow economic growth and development.So the Australian Government wants to work with other nations in our region,with our governments, with other organisations, the public sector and theprivate sector to build the capacity of the public health systems in our regionso that they can manage these outbreaks of disease and that we can keep ourpeople, our citizens safe and secure. This funding will go to increase researchparticularly in drug resistant diseases; malaria, TB. It will also go towardsnew partnerships to ensure that we can leverage our funding and get the bestvalue for money in building capacity in regional health systems. We're alsoestablishing a new initiative – the Health Security Corps – where healthprofessionals in Australia will be deployed in countries in our region to helpbuild the capacity and capability of those health systems. This is the singlelargest investment in regional health security and health and medical researchunder Australia's aid program. It supports our region. Importantly, it supportsthe safety, security and wellbeing of the Australian people. Any questions?
JOURNALIST:Is this allocation of biggest funding in terms of the last budget or isthis the biggest ever?
JULIEBISHOP:This is the biggest ever in terms of health andmedical research under the aid budget for our region. And the focus isspecifically on health security. We saw with the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the MERSoutbreak in South Korea, the Ebola epidemic, that the capacity of healthsystems to cope is one of the most important issues in containing disease. Sowe want to be part of building the capacity of those health systems in ourregion through research, partnerships and our Health Security Core who will bedeployed to help manage this program.
JOURNALIST:Minister, you've outlined a number of measures this will fund. How isthis different from what we're already doing?
JULIEBISHOP:This is a focus specifically on building capacity inhealth systems. We've had research efforts in the past and this will build onthose research efforts. We've had opportunities to deploy volunteers overseasbut this will be building on that work bringing it all together into a regionalhealth security strategy. So it's building on work that's already been done butthis $300 million is specifically directed to health security in our region, andthe communicable diseases that threaten Australia – including TB and malariaand others such as Zika, dengue and the like. It is a really excitingannouncement as you've seen from the researchers and health professionals thatare here today including those that have come from other countries to supportour work.
JOURNALIST:Minister, speaking of regional security, Donald Trump says in relationto North Korea only one thing will work – suggesting that 25 years ofagreements and money have achieved nothing. Do you take his tweet to mean he'sadvocating military conflict?
JULIEBISHOP:I take his tweets to mean that the United States andthe international community are frustrated that North Korea has continued todefy numerous UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea's ballisticmissile and nuclear weapons programs. He's also expressing the frustration thatover many years North Korea has signed agreements with the internationalcommunity including the United States that in return for abandoning theirweapons programs they will receive aid and yet North Korea has broken everysingle agreement that it has signed and entered into. There are now 8 UNSecurity Council resolutions that have been violated by North Korea. This hasthe potential to undermine the authority of the Security Council and thestanding of the Permanent Five members including the United States and China ifNorth Korea is allowed to continue unchecked. If North Korea does realise itsaspirations then the authority of the Security Council will be undermined. Itwill have the potential for international disorder. The United States will haveno option but to increase military presence in the region. South Korea andJapan will feel that they are vulnerable and will need to increase theirdeterrence capability. What of other nations who have illegal nuclearaspirations? So we believe that the collective strategy of bringing maximumpolitical, diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea must beundertaken by all nations to ensure that North Korea changes course.
JOURNALIST:Minister, are these comments unhelpful though to the global effort tohalt Korea's weapons programs?
JULIEBISHOP:The President is highlighting the fact that NorthKorea is undertaking illegal ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programsthat not only threaten our region but present as a global security risk.
JOURNALIST:Minister, how are you feeling about the High Court citizenship hearingthis week with three of the Member's careers under threat?
JULIEBISHOP:Well the High Court is considering this matter. Wehave brought it before the High Court to gain clarity and we will await theHigh Court's outcome.
JOURNALIST:How confident are you that the Deputy PM will remain in that role bythe end of the week after the hearings?
JULIEBISHOP:Well, I've read the legal advice that we received fromthe Solicitor General and the Government is confident and that's why wereferred the matter to the High Court so there could be clarity for futuremembers of parliament in relation to citizenship issues.
JOURNALIST:Minister, what's your views on Senator Xenophon going into SouthAustralian politics – it is a blow to the Liberals there?
JULIEBISHOP:Well it would appear to me that Senator Xenophon willback the Labor Party so it's quite clear in the upcoming State election that ifyou want to get rid of an incompetent Labor government that saw a first worldeconomy undergo the most extraordinary blackouts - and failures of electricitygenerations is one example – then don't vote for Senator Xenophon because hisvote will only deliver another term of an incompetent state Labor government.
JOURNALIST:Has DFAT been able to ascertain whether any Australians were involvedin the most recent incident in London?
JULIEBISHOP:We have been looking at this matter very closely. Weunderstand it was a traffic incident, if you mean about the vehicle mountingthe curb it was a traffic incident and at this stage we have no information tosuggest any Australians were involved.
JOURNALIST:Just on your travel expenses issue, Minister – do you plan your worktrips around birthdays?
JULIEBISHOP:Absolutely not. In fact, that was such a ridiculousarticle. My sister is devastated. She has all these friends ringing her andasking her why they weren't invited to her party – she didn't have one! And Ireject absolutely the suggestion that for me to attend a Chinese New Year event– the 25th Anniversary of the Australia –China Medical Association –that that somehow is not official business. There were several hundred peoplepresent. I was a keynote speaker. I was present with other Members ofParliament including the State Labor Health Minister and to suggest that that'snot official business, I reject it absolutely.
JOURNALIST:Do you catch up with your sister when you are there?
JULIEBISHOP:This is nothing to do with my sister's birthday. Thisis utter nonsense. It's complete rubbish. If you knew my sister you'd know thatshe doesn't talk about her birthday. So this is a complete unsubstantiatedbeat-up. I take my job very seriously and my claims for travel expenses arewithin the official guidelines for parliamentarians.
JOURNALIST:Are you able to tell us what other events you attended on the otherthree occasions that coincided with your sister's birthday?
JULIEBISHOP:Every single claim I make for travel expenses relatesto official business and the very nature of my job means that I meet a wholerange of people on national security issues, on international engagement and asDeputy Leader of the Liberal Party I travel the country promoting theGovernment's policies, meeting with members of community and meeting with businessorganisations, NGOs. Today I'm in Brisbane on a Sunday morning promoting aregional health security initiative for the benefit of the Australian people.Yesterday I was in Adelaide at two events relating to business and communityengagement. On Friday I was in Adelaide giving the Sir John Downer Oration,supporting the Joanna Briggs Research Institute, speaking at a New Colombo Planevent. All of my claims for travel expenses relate to official parliamentarybusiness.
JOURNALIST:Minister, is the Government prepared for a bi-election in the seat ofNew England possibly to be ordered as soon as next week?
JULIEBISHOP:Well clearly the Government will await the outcome ofthe High Court decision.
JOURNALIST:A young woman passed away in Fiji – are you aware of that, can youprovide any further comments on that? That was a young nurse that passed awayfrom septicaemia in a Fiji hospital?
JULIEBISHOP:I'm not aware of the details of a nurse in a Fijihospital. I'm sorry.
JOURNALIST:This Institution is something of an institution in Brisbane – you'vehad a look around this morning. Can you just give us your views of what you'veseen?
JULIEBISHOP:I was delighted to be here at the Queensland Instituteof Medical Research Berghofer - the QIMR Berghofer - because this is aprestigious health and medical research institution. They're doing remarkablework particularly in relation to the elimination of malaria and we spent sometime this morning looking at some of their specialist labs and the mosquitosthey are breeding within them so that they can carry out what will belifesaving research in relation to malaria and other communicable andnon-communicable diseases. Queensland has every reason – and Australia hasevery reason – to be proud of the competency and the remarkable work and theprofessionalism of our medical research institutions and this is an example ofthat. And I'm very proud that we were able to announce our Regional HealthSecurity Initiative here and recognise the work that this Institute is doing.