Doorstop interview - House Of Representatives Alcove

  • Transcript, E&OE
19 October 2016

JOURNALIST: Do you know how much all thisbailing out, consular assistance, costs us every year and are there any plansto make some of these people pay for any of it?

JULIEBISHOP: There is a considerable cost to the Department of Foreign Affairs andTrade Budget. We of course reserve the right to seek to recover costs butoverall the Australian Government does foot the bill for our consular support.It's at a very high level compared with some other countries in particular.

Our consular officials are very professional but it does come at a cost.That's why our message today is Australians need to take responsibility fortheir actions overseas. They can do that by taking out travel insurance andchecking that they've got the right cover for the activities and the tripthey're undertaking, and secondly to look at the Australian Government traveladvice on Smartraveller so that they are aware of local circumstances orconditions that might impact on their travel.

But yes, it does come at a considerable cost but we have to get themessage out that the Australian Government cannot pick up your hotel bills oryour hospital bills, you've got to take out travel insurance.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Crown case, what arethe lessons here for Australian companies operating in China – are therelessons in terms of companies perhaps sailing too close to the wind?

JULIEBISHOP: My focus at present is to ensure the wellbeing of the Australiancitizens who have been detained and I don't think it would be productive for meto speculate on some of these matters while there are investigations underwayinto the three Australians and other Crown employees.

There is a period, I understand, under Chinese law of about 30 dayswhile investigations can take place into allegations into people detained soour focus at this stage is on ensuring that we are able to carry out consularvisits and that their wellbeing is looked after.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can you tell me about the circumstances in which they arebeing held?

JULIEBISHOP: Our consular officials have visited the Shanghai detention centre – itis adequate but it is a detention centre, somewhat like a prison, so theconditions are adequate but it is not comfortable at all. They are being lookedafter and they are in good health.

JOURNALIST: Are they being treated like common criminals?

JULIEBISHOP: Well I understand that they are being treated well, that they have nocomplaints about the way they are being treated and we've passed on someinformation to their families. But the consular visits are limited under ourconsular agreement but we will seek access as often as possible.

JOURNALIST: Minister, have you spoken directlyto James Packer about this, and what's been the nature of that discussion?

JULIEBISHOP: I've been in contact with Mr Packer.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you're going toIndonesia next week, can you give a preview of some of the issues that will beon the agenda during the bilateral talks thing or 2 + 2 meetings with yourcounterparts?

JULIEBISHOP: I will be going to Bali for the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Meeting.Indonesia is the host of IORA, as it's called, and that brings together about20 or more nations from the Indian Ocean Rim to discuss matters of mutualconcern, matters such as trade and economic opportunities but also issues suchas people smuggling, human trafficking, transnational crime, piracy, illegalfishing and the like.

Then I will remain in Bali for a meeting with my counterpart ForeignMinister Retno Marsudi and we have a very broad agenda because the relationshipbetween Australia and Indonesia is indeed very broad and deep and diverse andwe'll be focusing on economic ties and what more we can do to enhanceinvestment and trade between Australia and Indonesia.

We will also look at our counter-terrorism cooperation which isexceedingly important at present because with the Mosul Offensive in Iraq it islikely that foreign terrorist fighters from our region will seek to escape Iraqand come back to Indonesia and Australia. So we will be talking about our jointefforts to manage the return of foreign terrorist fighters as well as ourcounter-terrorism operations more generally and we will also be looking atother areas of cooperation such as in transnational crime, illegal fishing andthe like.

JOURNALIST: Will you be discussing the cohortof 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers who are registered with the UNHCR inIndonesia and are in limbo?

JULIEBISHOP: That's probably on the agenda, it's likely to be a subject of discussionbecause we are the co-hosts of the Bali Process. Indonesia and Australiaco-host the Bali Process and that is a group of countries, source countries,transit countries, destination countries, who seek a regional solution to theissue of people smuggling, human trafficking and the like. So, Australia andIndonesia have a common interest in discussing the Bali Process.

JOURNALIST: Is it likely that the ban onaccepting UNHCR registered refugees and asylum seekers from Indonesia could belifted?

JULIEBISHOP: These are not matters that I'll be discussing during the course of myvisit to Indonesia because we will ensure that those who paid people smugglersto try and come to Australia will not be re-settled in Australia. That is avery strong and clear message - those who pay people smugglers to try and cometo Australia will not be re-settled in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Just back on today's announcement,just on today's announcement again, in the case of people like the Budgie Ninewhere their own stupidity gets them in trouble, why shouldn't they pay for theconsular assistance they received?

JULIEBISHOP: Australia has always provided consular support to Australians overseas. It'sa very complex area to then judge when cost recovery should take place and whennot.

In the majority of cases Australians are in trouble overseas because ofcircumstances beyond their control but that's why we encourage people to taketravel insurance, to read the Smartraveller website and get as much informationas they can.

In circumstances of stupidity and ignorance it becomes a very complexarea so that's why we have a consular strategy, that's why we publish theConsular State of Play – to give a snapshot of the demands on Australianconsular officials. I think people need to be educated and informed before theytravel overseas and that's the role that the Department of Foreign Affairs andTrade undertakes.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us a sense of what MrPacker said to you or what you said to him about the employees?


JOURNALIST: The National Security Advisor,Andrew Shearer, said yesterday that the West hadn't done enough about Chineseexpansionism in the South China Sea, that kind of thing, do you agree?

JULIEBISHOP: I'm notsure in what context he said we hadn't done enough, what was his suggestion?

JOURNALIST: He was talking about the Obamaadministration hadn't done enough to counter Chinese influence in the AsiaPacific?

JULIEBISHOP: And did he have a suggestion as to what should've been done?

JOURNALIST: I think he was talking aboutfreedom of navigation, that kind of thing.

JULIEBISHOP: The Australian Government continues to exercise our rights of innocentpassage, freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, through the South ChinaSea as we've made clear. Two thirds of our exports go through the South ChinaSea so it is very important to us to continue to maintain the right underinternational law freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight. We exercisethat and we will continue to do so.

JOURNALIST: Just back on Crown though,do you have any detail about what theallegations that are against –

JULIEBISHOP: We don't have those details. There have been reports that it is relatedto gambling, the casinos evidently, but beyond that we don't have any specificdetails.

These matters are continuing to be investigated as we understand it. Ourrole at this stage is to provide consular support and assistance which we willdo.

JOURNALIST: Will you be updating the traveladvice to China? Any lessons to be learnt from other (inaudible)?

JULIEBISHOP: The Smartraveller advice isconstantly under review and the website is updated in response to advice fromour security agencies and our posts in the host country. And that's the bell sothank you very much.

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