Doorstop interview with Liberal Candidate for Bennelong, John Alexander

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: I am absolutely delighted to be back here inBennelong with our candidate John Alexander, and we are here in the innovationcapital of New South Wales – John would say Australia – here visitingAstraZeneca Australia. This is a biopharmaceutical company based here inBennelong that employs over 900 people here. They manufacture and selloverseas, as well as in Australia, pharmaceuticals. Two of their biggestmarkets are in China and Japan, and of course under a Coalition Governmentwe negotiated and finalised free trade agreements with both China and Japan togive opportunities to export companies like AstraZeneca and others here inBennelong to sell and manufacture their goods overseas. This is all aboutcreating jobs and opportunities for local businesses and John Alexander is alocal champion for businesses that create opportunities and provide jobs forlocal people. In contrast Labor is hostile to business. Bill Shorten has infact declared a war on employers and has said that it would be in his politicalinterest and to his advantage to fight with businesses such as this that areproviding jobs and opportunities for the Australian people. I'm here supportingJohn Alexander, a local champion for local businesses and local jobs. JA?

JOHN ALEXANDER: Thank you very much Julie. AstraZeneca is really a great contributor toour economy. Not only are they working towards getting better health outcomesbut just recently the announced a further $100 million investment in plant andequipment to build their capacity to export, especially to the number onemarket which is China. We congratulate them on this initiative and the greatthings they do for our economy, for employment and growing jobs, and fordriving foreign income.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Yes Minister, you and the WA Liberal Party have beenlavished with Chinese donations. How much access did that buy them?

JULIE BISHOP: All donations to the Liberal Party whether it's inWestern Australia or anywhere else is transparent and it is declared on the AECwebsite. What I can tell you is that Chinese donations have not impacted anyway on Australia's foreign policy and that's quite self-evident. We areconsistent and principled in our foreign policy unlike Sam Dastyari whoaccepted money in exchange for changing Labor's foreign policy position on verysensitive issues. Sam Dastyari was reading talking points that could have beenwritten by the Chinese Government. In relation to donations to the LiberalParty it does not impact on our foreign policy and that's quite evident and itcertainly doesn't mean that we would give overseas business peoplecounter-surveillance advice in order to avoid what Sam Dastyari thought was anintelligence operation. I think the contrast could not be greater between Sam Dastyari'sbehaviour and that of the Coalition Ministers and Members of Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Could I ask you about your meetings with Mr Huang,how many times have you met him and could you give us any details about thosemeetings?

JULIE BISHOP: I was invited by the University of Technology Sydneyto open the Australia-China Research Centre and I was informed that Mr Huanghad donated money to that Centre. When I arrived at that event I was met byTanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen, Bob Carr, Sam Dastyari, the whole New South WalesLabor Party seemed to be there but I was invited in my capacity as ForeignMinister by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney. Ibelieve that is when I met Mr Huang. I have no recollection of any othermeeting with him although it's possible he could have been at events that I'vebeen present at as well.

JOURNALIST: Both the Labor Party and China are saying that theGovernment's statements have damaged the relationship with China, could youtell us what you're doing try to repair the relationship?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't accept that at all. We have robust discussionswith China. We are consistent, we are pragmatic and we're principled in ourrelationship with China and I have constant contact with Chinese Officials andwith my counterpart Foreign Minister Wang Yi. He's visited Australia twicerecently and I've met with him most recently in overseas during the APEC andASEAN East Asia Summit conferences. We continue to have a comprehensivestrategic partnership with China. They're our largest trading partner. We havea strong exchange when it comes to tourists and students and it will continueto be a positive relationship. There will be disagreements from time-to-timebut the Coalition Government is open and frank, as we should be, and what wesay publicly we say privately. The relationship will continue to deepen andbroaden as time passes.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you if the leaks about Senator Dastyaritipping off Mr Huang about phone being bugged – can I ask if those leaks camefrom you or your office?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely not and they certainly did not come fromthe Government. They certainly did not come from ASIO. What I can say is atlast Senator Sam Dastyari has acknowledged that he is unfit to be in theAustralian Parliament. Now why didn't Bill Shorten sack him when everyone knewthat his position was completely untenable as he had been absolutelycompromised by his own behaviour. The question is now, is Kristina Keneallybeing lined up for the vacancy in the Senate? First, Sam Dastyari should resigneffective immediately, he shouldn't receive another cent in salary from theAustralian people.

JULIE BISHOP: Well I'm happy to jump in here JA. I can assure youBill Shorten has failed the most fundamental leadership test. He failed to sackSenator Sam Dastyari when it was quite clear that Sam Dastyari had compromisedhis position in the Senate. It was utterly untenable yet Bill Shorten held onto him. He just doesn't have the courage or the principles to be a leader ofAustralia.

JOURNALIST: Mr Alexander, two years agoMr Huang donated $20,000 to the Liberal Party in Bennelong when you were theMP. Was he buying your influence?

JULIE BISHOP: There is no equivalence between a donation to apolitical party which is disclosed on the AEC and a Senator receiving personalfunds paid for by a foreign businessman in exchange for which he changedLabor's foreign policy and he gave counter-surveillance advice. Sam Dastyari isutterly compromised. There is no equivalence whatsoever and at last he'sresigned but that should take effect immediately.

JOURNALIST: Minister, should Australia be sending a Minister toBeijing for the 45th anniversary and why has it been so long sinceyou and the PM have been to China?

JULIE BISHOP: We have a relationship whereby it's China's turn oneyear to visit Australia and my turn the next year so I will be going to Chinanext year as part of an ongoing relationship. Foreign Minister Wang Yi hasvisited Canberra and I met him in Canberra. He visited Sydney and I met him inSydney. It's a two-way relationship. They come to Australia, I go to China andwe see each other at difference places around the world in different forums. Inrelation to the 45th anniversary we will be represented at a highlevel. There are often anniversaries, indeed every 5-10 years there can beanniversaries and we are represented at an appropriate level on each occasion.

JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, Tony Abbott has accepted flights from anAmerican organisation, Alliance Defending Freedom. Should MPs accept flightsfrom foreign not-for-profit organisations?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't know the details of that but I'm assuming it'sbeen disclosed on his Register of Interests. I don't know the details.

JOURNALIST: Well, should MPs accept flights from foreignnot-for-profit organisations?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't know the details of this particularcircumstance but if it's on his Register of Interest I'm assuming that that'show this disclosure has come about, but I don't know the details and when Ifind out I can make a further comment.

JOURNALIST: There arereports that the Prime Minister approached Kristina Keneally with anAmbassadorship to the Vatican. If she's unfit for public office why would shebe a candidate?

JULIE BISHOP: I have oversight on all appointments that areultimately made by the Prime Minister but I have oversight and I have neverheard of Kristina Keneally being offered an Ambassadorship. Let's remember sheis a failed former Labor Premier. She was Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi's choicefor the leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales and she presided over oneof the most corrupt and incompetent governments in New South Wales politicalhistory. She's now Bill Shorten's pick for the seat of Bennelong but as we seethe Sam Dastyari matter play out we can see that she's got a backup position totake Dastyari's spot in the Senate. This isn't about the people of Bennelong,this is all about Kristina Keneally's ambition. It is not all about her, it'sactually about the people of Bennelong. They deserve a local champion and theyhave that in John Alexander.

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